Sunday, May 31, 2009

What I did this weekend...

Friday morning the younger three kids and I packed up our stuff, took the dogs and went to spend the weekend at the lake. It wasn't really swimming weather yet (as the last of the ice just melted off the lake a mere two weeks ago), but we still found lots to do.

It was rough, I have to say - all the lounging and napping in between - but what can I say, this weekend God was gracious and provided me with a much needed rest!

Hope your weekend was just as blessed,


Friday, May 29, 2009

Rhubarb - Love it!!

I have the opposite of a green thumb, I am a bad gardener. I have tried many times in the past and each time it is a horrible chore that causes bickering between me and my middle boys (who are the only ones I can convince to help me) and sometimes the results are not quite as satisfying as we hoped - I not exactly sure if it was due to our short season or my bad gardening, but I guess we all have our talents and mine is not really in the garden!

There are some things that we have had good luck with, and one of them is rhubarb. Rhubarb actually takes NO EFFORT on my part - honest. It is like a weed, and nothing, not hail, snow, too much rain, not enough rain, even dogs running through it will kill the stuff - it is hearty stuff!

Even better, I LOVE rhubarb, my middle son Justin shares my love and you can find either of us watching our rhubarb plant in early spring, just waiting for it to be ready to pull to make our first cake or crisp. Regardless of the snow we just had two weeks ago, my rhubarb is just long enough to start picking. We did not get much, but we enjoyed our first rhubarb crisp this week.

I do a lot of different things with our rhubarb, but one of the things that I started doing a few years back was canning it as a sauce (similarly to apple sauce). It is so good, I can't even explain to you how much we love it. We eat it with yogurt all summer long and then have lots put away for our long (long!!!) winter. I normally make two types, plain and cinnamon, both are great!
I don't have any pictures of the canning process yet, but I will give you the recipe.
Rhubarb Sauce
4 cups Rhubarb, washed and cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup - 1 cup Sugar, based on your preference
1 - 2 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
Place the rhubarb in a large saucepan, sprinkle sugar over top and stir to coat. Let stand in a cool place until juice appears, about 3 - 4 hours. Bring mixture to a boil and boil for about 30 seconds.
Pack hot rhubarb into hot canning jars, screw on lid and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Confirm lids have "snapped" within 24 hours, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Note: Pictures were taken by my super great son Jesse :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Love Languages

Think of some ways that make you feel loved - a word of encouragement, a special night out, a bouquet of flowers, breakfast in bed, your husband taking your hand when the pastor prays at church. Although all of these things are nice, there is probably one or two that would mean more to you than the others.

I love reading Gary Chapman books, one reason is because they are "easy reads" and I can get through the bulk of the book in just a few sittings, but mainly because they encourage me to re-evaluate how my everyday life plays out. I don't know about you, but sometimes I can get so busy doing, and marking things off my "To Do List", that I forget to take the time to evaluate if what I am so busy doing is actually meeting the needs of those around me - most importantly - my husband and children.

In Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages”, he explains that he believes that there is basically five ways that people show and receive love:

Quality Time
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

I believe that God put a desire in our hearts for each of these to varying degrees, but there will be one or maybe two that really stand out, that makes us feel loved, that without we start to feel unappreciated, undervalued and basically unloved.

I am sure that each of us can think of a time that we did not feel particularly well loved. I make the differention here from knowing in our heads that we are loved and knowing in our hearts that we are loved. How many times have you hears “I know that he/she loves me, but I just don’t FEEL loved”. Although there are times in our life that God will ask us to rest in the “knowing”, we want to feel well loved by our family and we want our family to feel well loved by us in return.

So how can we make sure that we are showing love to our husbands (and children) in the way that they most need and crave? A good starting point is to figure out your own love language. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is to think about what you desire most from your husband and think about how you show your love to him. Maybe you cook him a nice meal (Acts of Service), or give your husband a back run (Physical Touch), or are always keeping your eye out for special gifts (Gifts), or you tell him how much you appreciate him for working so hard for your family (Words of Affirmation) or maybe you hang out with him and watch all the hockey games (or baseball games for you Americans - Quality Time)

Since most couples do not have the same primary love language and we tend to speak in our own primary love language, it is important to identify and learn to speak your husbands. Sometimes you can easily see what your husbands love language is, but you may have to dig to find out. Similarly to figuring out your own, one way to do this is by thinking about how you believe your husband shows love to you, as people tend to show their love in ways that are meaningful to them.

I know that some of you reading this are thinking that you don’t feel very loved by your husband, so how can you act very loving towards him. It is easy to show love to your husband when you feel cared for, appreciated and loved, but how about when you are feeling let down, hurt, disappointed, and basically unloved? Being loving towards someone who is seemingly unloving towards you is not what the world tells us to do – but it is exactly what God tells us to do. Loving someone who is difficult to love is the closest any of us will every come to fully understanding Gods grace and love for us…fully, unconditionally, no matter how we behave, no matter whether we enhance His family or bring it disgrace. God sees our sin, our mistakes and still reaches out His hand and says “I will bless you and keep you, I will shine my face on you and be gracious to you, I will continue to look upon you with favour and give you peace”.

To learn more about Love Languages check out Gary Chapman’s books:
(can be found under My Favorites on the side bar)

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate

The Five Love Languages of Children (by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell)

The Five Love Languages of Teenagers

Other books by Gary Chapman:

The Other Side of Love: Handling Anger in a Godly Way

Loving Solution

Making Summer Cleaning Quick and Efficient - WFMW

Summer is almost upon us and nobody wants to spend all their time cleaning! I like cleaning more than most and even I can find a ton of things that I would rather spend my time doing in the summer than cleaning my house! So here are some super easy tips to help you keep your house clean quickly and efficiently so you can spend your time doing more enjoyable summer activities.

1. Every day
Schedule cleaning every day so that the job stays small. Every day you should:

Make the bed - A freshly made bed helps the whole room seem tidier and more orderly, and having it look clean and tidy will make you less likely to collect clutter (paper, clothes, etc.) around it.

Manage Clutter - When you leave a room, take a look around for things that do not belong and pick them put them back into their rightful spot to avoid clutter pile-ups!

Sort the mail – Sort the mail into four in-boxes: To Do, To Pay, To File, To Read.
Sweep the kitchen floor - Every evening after you finish cleaning up dinner, sweep the floor. This will help keep your floors clean and help and save you time scrubbing when you wash the floor.

Wipe down as you go – No matter where you are in your house get in the habit or wiping up spills or messes as you go and teach the children to do the same. Cleaning up spills, toothpaste, or make up is always faster and easier if done right away. Keeping disposable cloths in all the bathrooms make clean ups fast and easy for the whole family.

Load and run the dishwasher

Run one load of laundry - Fold and put it away too, keep on top of that laundry pile! No one wants to spend a whole day doing laundry!

2. Hang wet towels and bathingsuits
Have someplace for the kids to hang their wet towels and bathing suits to dry. In the summer we have an abundance of wet towels and bathing suits. If left in piles on the ground outside or in their bedroom, everything gets smelly and needs washing. But if there is someplace for these items to be hung to dry, you can get a couple of uses out of them.

3. Make sure you have the proper tools!
You don’t need every new gadget or tile cleaner, but you do need to make sure you have all the basics. Go through your tools and cleaners and make sure you have what you need. Don’t think that you need to have a different cleaner for every job. All you need is the basics:

- Glass cleaner
- Disinfectant
- All-purpose cleaner
- Powdered abrasive cleaner
- Furniture polish/Dusting spray

4. Store all your cleaning stuff together and carry it with you as you go.
I sometimes take on home cleaning jobs for extra cash, and there is one thing that I learned very quickly – it takes extra time if you keep running to different rooms to get what you need! I would get one bucket that I could carry and keep everything I needed in it and carry it from room to room. Here are some basics that I carry:
- Rags
- Extra garbage bags
- A garbage bag to empty into
- Cleaners (the ones above)
- Rags
- Scrubbing pad

5. Have a meal plan
Who wants to go running to the grocery store every day? Make up a weekly or monthly meal plan and grocery list and shop one day a week. Think ahead for impromptu picnics and such and keep your pantry and freezer stocked with some essentials – in my family that would be hot dogs/hamburgers, potato chips and marshmallows for roasting. I buy extra and hid them so that they are ready for when we want to run out the door.

6. Pick one day a week
Pick one day at the beginning of each week for doing things like grocery shoping, banking, filing and going through the mail you sorted.

7. Call for a 5-minute clean
My last tip is before you leave the house for your super fun activities, call out for a 5-minute clean. In my house a 5-minute clean means that everyone drops what they are doing and cleans madly for 5 minutes. If you have younger kids they are likely to think this is a fun game and the older ones (like cranky teenagers J ) can be reminded that it is just 5 minutes of their life that you are asking them to give up!
For more posts like this see:
Chore Charts and Lead Roles

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Coffee Good For Me???

Did you know that your morning cup of joe actually has more benefits than an early morning pick me up? I often try to get in a quick run once the kids get home from school and if supper is cooking and not needing my attention. So here I was, on my treadmill, watching Rachel Ray when I hear that coffee actually contains antioxidants, and that most Americans (and I am assuming Canadians) actually receive the majority of their antioxidants from coffee (not the best source, but the most consumed).

So this peaked my curiosity, what other health benefits are their to drinking your morning joe? Here is what I found out:

- Drinking one or two cups of coffee a day increases your sense of well-being and happiness due to the dopamine found in coffee (which also contributes to coffee being so adictive, but whatever, nothing is perfect!).

- Sudies have found that coffee may decrease your chances of getting some diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, colon cancer and Type 2 diabetes (although it is not benificail to people who already have diabetes).

- Coffee may make you less likely to die from heart disease, they think that it may have something to do with coffee’s anti-inflammatory effects.

- Coffee helps with your short term memory and can help preven long term memory loss and cognitive decline.

- Roasted coffee has some antibacterial properties – therefore, it may help fight cavities (without all the sugar that is!!)

So there you go! Who knew that my morning coffee was actually good for me??? I am going to really enjoy my coffee in the morning!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Interesting link

I ran across an interesting post this morning while browsing through Down-to-Earth blog. It is about the importance of homemaking and after a hard weekend, and feeling a bit under appreciated, this was just what I needed to perk me up and remind myself that my job as homemaker is essential and and important role in my family.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bringing Some Life to Your Pasta Sauce

Almost everyone has pasta sauce in their pantry – either homemade or store bought. Although I do not often reach for the store bought stuff, I often keep a jar around for those days that don’t quite work out the way I wanted and it is now the supper hour and I have nothing to serve. In my house, busting with 3 hungry teenage boys, having nothing for supper is quite the emergency, so sometimes I go for the jar of ready-made pasta sauce (Gasp – I know!!).

It is normal to go meatless in my house at 2 – 3 times a week, but I still want to add a nutritional punch to my quick meal. One of the best ways I have found is by doing some quick add ins from things I already have in my kitchen – like peppers, garlic, spinach and hot pepper flakes. I chop the veggies while waiting for the pasta water to boil and the pasta to cook.

Once the pasta has been cooked and drained, I pour the sauce right over the pasta and toss in all the fresh veggies. I don’t worry about cooking them or anything – I just toss and stir and then pile high the plates. We top ours with hot pepper flakes (for a kick of spice and a boost for our metabolism) and some parmesan cheese.

There you go, a quick meal in under 20 minutes!

Watch out! Bathing Suit Season Here we Come!!!

Oh no, with all the snow and cold weather, bathing suit season kind of snuck right up on us. I look outside my window and I can still see some snow – like the snow man that is half melted made by some young kids who thought a May snowstorm was fun. Yet I know that our outdoor pool opens in less then two weeks time and temperatures for the rest of the month are suppose to continually rise (PRAISE THE LORD!!!).

There are many super easy things that we can do that does not involve a complete overhaul of any sort. I am talking about consciously eating foods that naturally aid in boosting our metabolism and aids weight loss. So, for those of us that indulged in a few too many cookies (moi), it is time to start thinking about what we can do to kick start our summer season.

Fibre: Fibre gives your metabolism a boost simple by taking longer for the food to digest. High-fibre foods like beans, fruit, vegetables and whole grains therefore help burn more calories

Yogurt (and High Calcium Foods): Yogurt is a “super food”, it is loaded with calcium, protein and good bacteria. Calcium aids in natural weigh loss because it speeds up the process of breaking down the fat content of fat cells.

Vitamin C: Eating a diet high in Vitamin C – such as apples, red peppers, berries, broccoli – helps your body burn fat by liquefying it so the body can easily flush it out of the system. Broccoli is not only high in vitamin C, but also calcium, which also aids in weight loss.

Apples and berries: Pectin (found in many types of fruit) restricts the amount of fat our cells can absorb; it forces the cells to discharge fatty deposits so aiding natural weight loss, although for this to be the most effective you should eat them on an empty stomach.

Garlic: Garlic assists in the reduction of fatty deposits – in other words they are fat busters and are good for natural weight loss.

Whole grains and oatmeal: Not only do these keep you feeling full longer, but they increase your energy and naturally increase your metabolism burning fat and calories.

Olive oil: Olive oil is the oil of choice. It comes from natural sources, helps to keep your cholesterol levels down and is one of the fat burning foods.

Water: Are you getting enough? Probably not. An easy way to see how much you should drink is take your weight, divide it in half and that is how many ounces you should drink (For example, if you are 150 lbs, you should drink 75 oz or about 9 glasses of water a day). When you drink water it flushes out your system, removes toxins, and aids in food in their natural fat burning properties.

Green Tea: Studies show that green tea extract boosts metabolism and speeds up the rate at which your body burns fat. Green tea is said to be mood-enhancing tea and also contains anti-oxidants with anti-cancer and heart disease properties.

Hot Peppers and Spicy foods: Eating hot peppers can speed up your metabolism (up to 25% after eating!!!) and can also cool your cravings. That is good enough for me to add a bit of spice – but to me it’s not really good till you sweat!

Cinnamon: Cinnamon naturally lowers blood sugar levels – which is one of the most effective ways to maintain fat-burning capacity. Our blood sugar level can affect how hungry and how energetic we feel. It also determines whether we burn fat or store it. Therefore, adding some cinnamon to our food can helps fat not to accumulate in the body.

Well all this talk of food is making me hungry!!! Do you think that Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies would fall into these food groups???!!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist, it is just a cookie thing I guess!!

Blessings, Christine

(Just in case – here is the recipe)

Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 cup Margarine
1 cup Brown sugar
1 cup Granulated sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

1 ½ cup Rolled oats
1 ½ cup Flour
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 ½ tsp Cinnamon
1 cup Dark raisins

Cream sugars and margarine. Add egg, vanilla, and oats.

Mix dry ingredients together than add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Form dough into walnut sized balls. Place on cookie sheet and press down with a fork. Bake at 350 F for 8 – 10 minutes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making Your Own Household Cleaners

I have been on a quest this spring to find ways to live more simply, more naturally, and to save money in the process! For years I have advocated for making things yourself instead of buying it from the store – I don’t like pre-packaged foods as a whole; yet it never even crossed my mind to make my own cleaning supplies.

I never did have a ton of different cleaning supplies, just the basics – glass cleaner, disinfectant (liquid and powder), bleach, laundry detergent, fabric softener dishwashing liquid, and dishwasher detergent. I never really did believe that you needed many different products for all the different cleaning jobs, but mainly I did not buy them because I am way to cheap, or should I say frugal, to put out the money.

So why did I never make my own cleaning supplies before??? Honestly – it never even occurred to me that I could! I was just merrily going about doing what I always did, what I saw my mother do.

The more I researched natural methods of cleaning, the more impressed I was! Not only could making my own cleaning products save me money, but also it was better for the environment, it was better for the health of my family and they really worked! Honestly, it had me at “save me money”!

I don’t mind putting in a bit of effort if it will save me money, if it works better or tastes better (food that is!). What is a few minutes of fun concoction mixing worth anyways??? So here is the rundown on what you will need:

Vinegar – Everywhere I looked I was finding benefits and uses for vinegar. I will not talk about them all here today I will save that for another post, but vinegar is a deodorizer, disinfectant, antiseptic, natural fabric softener…and so on.

Borax - Borax is usually found in the cleaning aisle next to the laundry soaps. Borax is a natural mineral and has no toxic fumes and is safe for the environment. Borax is used as a natural laundry booster and a multipurpose cleaner – it cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens waters and even repels and kills bugs like ants.

Washing Soda – Washing soda, like Borax, is found in the cleaning aisle next to the laundry soap. It is a pure power that comes from natural deposits and is safe for the environment. It has been said that it has been used as a household cleaner for centuries – it cuts greases, neutralizes odours, and softens water.

Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, ¼ cup vinegar, 3 cups water, and 2 – 3 drops of essential oil (such as Lemon, Peppermint, or Tea Tree oil).

All Purpose Cleaner: ½ cup vinegar, 2 tbsp borax, 2 L hot water, 3 – 4 drops of essential oil.

Window Cleaner: Mix equal parts vinegar and water.

Rinse Agent (in your dishwasher): Vinegar (my dishes never looked better!)

Dishwasher Detergent: Mix equal parts borax and washing soda. Use 2 tbsp per load.

Slow Drains: ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup vinegar and 2 L boiling water. Mix and pour down the drain. To help maintain fresh, clog free drains, repeat this once per week.

Fabric Softener: Mix 1 L of both vinegar and water, add 3 – 4 drops of essential oil (such as Tea Tree oil, Vanilla, Lavender). Shake before use - add 1 cup of mixture in your rinse cycle as you would any liquid fabric softener.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap: 1 soap bar ( I used Sunlight, as that is what I could find, but saw lots of recipes for Fels-Naptha, Ivory, Kirk's Hardwater Castile or Zote bars), 1 cup Washing Soda, ½ cup Borax.
1. Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with 4 cups hot water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
2. Fill a 19 L (or 5 gallon) bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
3. Stir. If using a top load machine, fill the dispenser with soap. Shake before each use. (Note: If using a front load machine, fill the dispenser half full with soap and the other half with water)
Top Load Machine- ½ cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
Front Load Machines- ¼ cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

We had visitors this morning!

Such fun! We woke up to find to ducks in our front street. They waddled their way over to our yard and my middle son Jesse was able to get some pretty close pictures of them.
We think that they were probably grouchy over the snow too!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome to Alberta in Spring!!!

Greenery is just starting to come in...
The dog thinks it is great...

The tramp is up...

The fire pit is ready for our first weiner roast...

My flowers are just starting to bloom...


Friday, May 15, 2009

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

I had a craving for cake - well cupcakes to be exact! I really wanted to come up with a pumpkin cake recipe so I decided to pull out all my cookbooks and look over some cake recipes. I love fooling around with recipes till they are exactly what I want - the results tonight? Delicious!
Pumpkin Cake (or Cupcakes!!)
4 Eggs
1 cup White sugar
1 cup Brown sugar
½ cup Margarine
½ cup Sour cream
2 cups Pure pumpkin

3 cups Flour
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
½ tsp Salt

Beat eggs and sugar till thick and frothy. Combine margarine, sour cream and pumpkin and mix well. Add egg mixture, mix well.

Combine all dry ingredients and shift into wet ingredients. Stir until well incorporated (but do not over mix).

Pour into cake pans, muffin tins, whatever you desire and bake at 350 till a toothpick comes out clean when poked into the center of the cake.

Let cool before icing. My ideas – Cream Cheese Icing or Maple Butter Cream
Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fun Lemonade Award

I received this award from my good friend Tyler over at Titus 2:3 - 5, and although our interests may be different, our priorities are the same - God and family - and she has been an amazing friend and support over the years that I have known her.
There are some "rules" for the receipt and acceptance of this award:
1) Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post
2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude
3) Link to your nominees within your post
4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5) Share the love and link to the person from who you received your award
As you may have noticed, I am still new to the "blogging world", so unfortunately I do not know 10 people to nominate yet, but I am nominating those blogs that I enjoy reading and encourage me in my daily life serving both God and family.
Kristen at The Frugal Girl
Stephanie at Keeper of the Home
Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking (who I happened across when I saw our similar blog names!)
Who doesn't love lemonade??? Thanks again Tyler!

Spice up Your Life!

Eating spicy food can speed up your metabolism and decrease your food cravings. It has actually been found that jalapeno and cayenne peppers can raise your metabolism as much as 25% after eating! But the spices that are found in many spicy foods have many health benefits as well.

Curry’s is made out of many spices, but typically you will find a combination of turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, chilli peppers, cumin, cloves, ginger, cayenne pepper – all of which have amazing health benefits that go along with their great taste! I will just mention a few:

Turmeric - the main ingredient in curry, has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel disorder) and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also an antioxidant and cancer fighter by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.

Garlic – is an antioxidant and cancer fighter by destroys cancer cells.

Ginger - has long been known for its treatment of nausea and stomach irriation, but it also is a blood thinner and can help prevent blood clots.

Chili peppers – are high in Vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. Peppers are also a good source of most B vitamins. Increases metabolism.

Cumin – is a powerful immune booster and can fight off colds and flu. It can also aid in asthma relief and will encourage healthy hair and nail growth.

Cinnamon – is an antioxidant, can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabities and will aid with digestion.

Vegetable Curry with Rice

1 lg Onion, sliced
1 Green pepper, sliced
1 Red pepper, sliced
1 Cauliflower, broken into florets
1 Zucchini, sliced (optional)

2 tbsp curry paste
4 tsp Ginger, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp curry powder
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 cans Coconut milk (regular or low fat – whatever your preference)
1 tbsp fresh mint (optional - basil)

Cut vegetables into strips. Sauté in curry paste (add additional vegetable oil if necessary). Add ginger, garlic and curry powder and heat though. Add lime and coconut milk and simmer till desired tenderness. When done, sprinkle with mint and serve with rice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chore Charts and Lead Roles - WFMW

I am not a naturally organized person, like most others I need to work at it. Things do not automatically fall into place and left up to my own memory, appointments will be missed, bills forgotten and important tasks will never actually get done.

I found out a long time ago that to keep on top of having four kids, a husband that works shift work and a busy extra-curricular schedule needed a lot of planning so that I did not slowly go crazy! Lists are my friend, I have always loved making lists, but the basic list was not near good enough for trying to organize my week, so I started making chore charts. Don’t groan, these are not some hi-tec lists that are complicated and tell you what to do every moment of the day – these charts are guidelines of who is responsible for what and when. I found that if the kids were always responsible for the same thing, for an entire year or on a rotational basis, they were far less likely to argue, roll their eyes, make comments about how it is not their turn and other such complaints.

In our house I sit down every August and do up a chore chart, for both kids and adults, for the entire year, based on skill levels, ability, and typical commitments (like p/t jobs). Each person in our house has a “lead role” in at least one area, meaning they are responsible for making sure that job is getting done and being done well. I have the lead role in:

Indoor & Outdoor Cleaning
(supporting – kids)
(supporting – Jeremy)
(supporting – kids)
Children – schooling, activities, etc.
(supporting – Jeremy)

My children have both lead roles and supporting roles:


Lead Role - Snow removal
(supporting – Justin, dad)

Supporting Roles - Vehicle care, Home maintenance


Lead Roles:
Lawn care – weed whacking, mowing, fertilizing (supporting – Tia, mom)
Dog care
(supporting – Tia, Mom)

Supporting Roles - Vehicle care, Home maintenance


Lead Roles:
Garbage and recycling
Downstairs pantry
(supporting – Tia, mom)

Supporting Roles - Snow removal, Vehicle care, Home maintenance


Lead Role – Indoor plant care

Supporting Roles - Lawn care, Dog care, Downstairs pantry

This works for me!!

(If you have any questions or want further information about how this works for me – just let me know!)

Happy organizing!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spicy Carrot Bran Muffins

Muffins can always be found in my kitchen at least once a week. I tend to make large batches and freeze them so that the kids can grab them in the morning, for an afternoon snack (or a midnight snack for the teenagers!) or for their lunch.

I make alot of different types, but a few seem to be the favorites - carrot being one of them.

Hope you enjoy - let me know how they turn out for you!

Spicy Carrot Bran Muffins

1 ½ cup Flour
1 ½ cup Natural bran
¼ cup Wheat germ
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Nutmeg

2 Eggs
¼ cup Molasses
¼ cup Honey
¼ cup Vegetable oil (any type of shortening will do)
1 ½ cup Sour milk or Buttermilk
1 cup Carrot, grated
½ cup each raisins and/or walnuts (optional)

Combing dry ingredients and make a well in the center.

Mix wet ingredients and pour into well. Stir just to combine. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 400 for 12 – 14 minutes.

Enjoy with a big cup of coffee for breakfast!


Who needs a home alarm?

Someone came to our home the other day and tried to convince me of the benefits of having a home security system – all the while my dogs barked, watched and were ready to “protect” if they saw the need. I stood there thinking “are you serious? The wind can’t blow our trees around without my dogs noticing and throwing a fit!” The poor guy tried to explain that strangers would not be able to get into our home (like they could!), that our kids would not be able to sneak out (like they would dare!)

Now if I could just train the dogs to be quiet on command I would be happy, but since I am still working on that I will try and be thankful for the time being for yappy dogs protecting our home!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Boys Will be Boys

You know boys, no matter their age you just can't get them out of trees!!! Here is one of my middle boys and my hubby sawing of some branches that got broken from a storm we had late last summer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mom's Mother's Day Cake - Carrot Spice Cake with Butter Cream Icing

This is my most popular and requested cake and this year will be made for my mom for desert at our Mother's Day celebration!

Carrot Spice Cake

4 Eggs
1 ½ cups Brown sugar
1 ½ cups Grated carrot (aprox. 3 large)
2/3 cup Vegetable oil
2/3 cup Sour cream

2 ¼ cups Flour
1 ½ tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg
½ tsp. Allspice
1 ½ tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt

In large bowl beat eggs and sugar until frothy. Mix in grated carrot, oil and sour cream, blend well.

In a separate bowl mix together dry ingredients. Mix into carrot mixture. Pour into a greased 9X13” pan (or two round cake pans for a double decker cake). Bake at 350 F for 40 – 50 minutes.

Butter Icing

(This is what I typically use for cake decorating. You can not taste the cornstarch and it makes the icing fluffier and less sweet tasting)

¾ cup Butter
¼ cup Milk (or cream)
2 tsp. Vanilla
2 - 4 cups Icing sugar
1 - 2 tsp. Cornstarch

Beat butter until smooth. Add the milk, vanilla, and 2 cups the icing sugar. Beat until smooth. Do a taste test. Depending on consistency and sweetness, add the desired amount of icing sugar and cornstarch.

Ice cooled cake and enjoy with a cup of tea, good friends and family.

Hope that everyone is having a blessed Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Homemade Yogurt - Not as Scary as I Thought!

I kept on find posts about making your own yogurt and since I LOVE to cook and I LOVE to save money – I thought hey, I could totally make my own yogurt too!

So Tuesday I took the plunge and did it. It was way easier than I thought it would be. It may take hours to be done, but I put in maybe 5 minutes of effort (honest)! I decided to make the recipe from Nourishing Days that I could make in my crock pot, recommended from Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking, who promised that she had made it and it was as easy as 1, 2, 3. I also found a good recipe at The Frugal Girl, which I think looks good as well.

Wednesday morning I uncovered the yogurt that had been culturing away all night and put it in containers. I added strawberries to one container, blueberries to the other container, left one container plain, and put chocolate in the last container (which I then poured into plastic popsicle containers and froze to make yogurt pops for the kids). In my excitement for waiting for the yogurt to get cold, I even decided to make some cinnamon almond granola to sprinkle over top.

So afternoon snack time came and I tried some blueberry yogurt with granola – and it was good! Okay, normally I am not surprised when what I make turns out well (I am actually sort of amazed and grouchy when things don’t turn out like expected – not that I am a gourmet cook or anything, I just have high expectations of things always going well in the kitchen). But this was one recipe that I was leery about, random thoughts kept entering my head…what if it has spoiled and I put in my mouth…what if nothing happens and it just looks like milk…what actually is “live active cultures” and if I don’t know what it is then how do I know I got the right stuff…

The yogurt is not as creamy and thick as I would normally like, but the fact that it costs way less and I know exactly what I put into it (which I deem healthier) makes it taste all the better (yes Tyler I am that FRUGAL, which is not the same thing as cheap!!!)! This morning my eldest son made everyone smoothies with the plain yogurt – peanut butter and banana, his favorite. I think it sounds yucky, but all the kids like it and it was a good and healthy way to start their day.

I am still planning on fooling around with the recipe, like trying whole milk next time to see if it ends up thicker, and maybe making a fruit sauce to add that will add a bit more sweetness on top of some fresh fruit, my rhubarb will be growing soon so I will make sauce for my son Justin who is waiting (not so patiently) so that will also make a nice addition. We will see what I come up with, but if you have any recipes and ideas for me that you already do I would love to hear them!

There are a lot of benefits to making your own yogurt. Some store bought yogurts are heat-treated to increase shelf life, which kills the bacteria and its healthful attributes. Often flavoured yogurts often contain additional ingredients; as well as sugar and fruit, they may contain everything from artificial dyes to preservatives and sweeteners (natural or artificial), to ingredients that enhance flavour. Thickeners or stabilizers such as gelatin are commonly added to create a thicker texture and increase shelf life. While not harmful, thickeners and stabilizers are used instead of more nutritious (and costly) dairy ingredients such as milk powder, which can also thicken yogurt and increase its shelf life.

The health benefit for eating yogurt are abundant. Yogurt is a rich source of calcium, causing strong teeth and gums, further, the calcium works with the live cultures found in yogurt to increase absorption by the bones, which reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis. Calcium also encourages weight loss and weight maintenance. It is the active live cultures that give us such a powerful nutritional punch. These "live cultures" are the good bacteria our bodies need to fight infections and disease. Good bacteria has a lot of health benefits:

- Helps to keep your colon clean and free of wastes, reducing the risk of colon cancer.

- Aids in total digestive health.

- Prevents imbalances in the body’s yeast levels, preventing yeast infections.

- Help you to absorb the nutrients in other foods, further boosting your immune system.

Regardless of whether you buy or make, yogurt should be a staple in your diet. So here is the recipe so if you are brave, frugal and are Passionate about cooking you can give it a try!

Homemade Yogurt

Pour 2 L of milk in your slow cooker and put it on low. Heat on low for 2 ½ hours.

Unplug your slow cooker and let cool in the pot for 3 hours.

Remove between 1 – 2 cups of the warm milk and sir in ½ cup of yogurt with live active cultures (I found one at my local grocery store that was all natural with pro-biotic cultures). Mix well.

Put the mixture in the slow cooker and mix well.

Wrap the entire pot in a blanket or thick towels and let culture over night for 8 – 12 hours.

Store in jars in the fridge. The yogurt will take 6 – 8 hours to become cold and good to eat.


Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, Mushrooms & Thyme (edited to add health benifits)

My family loves pasta and it is a standby for those days where everyone is busy and needs a healthy and satisfying meal that is easy to throw together before we run out the door again for our evening activities. Growing up I did not eat very much meat, and although I have developed a taste for meat as an adult, I still really enjoy vegetarian dishes (I also enjoy the money I save by omitting the meat!) and, if made right, even my meat loving boys enjoy a good vegetarian meal.

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic, Mushrooms & Thyme

4 – 5 cups Diced mushrooms
1/2 cup Extra-virgin Olive oil (good quality)
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
2 – 3 Cloves garlic
2 tsp Thyme

1½ - 2 lbs Linguine
Parmesan to taste preference

Sauté mushrooms in a bit of olive oil till cooked, add garlic, thyme and the rest of olive oil and heat though.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water. Combine pasta and sauce, adding pasta water to thicken sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top.

Serve with crusty whole grain buns and you have a satisfying, yet simple meal. For more recipes see Simple and Nourishing.


Health Benifits (added for ET at Titus2:3-5)
Mushrooms are very low in calories Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium (which can reduce blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke).
High in copper. Rich source of copper, riboflavin, niacin, and selenium (fights diseases and cancer)
Fights colds and flu.

Smell has a natural calming effect and has even been used to treat depression
Cleanses your liver
Prevent diseases and cancer.
High in vitamin C
Can cure indigestive problems

Aids digestion
Fights colds and flus, particularily respiratory problems
Relieves mentral cramps
High in vitamin K, iron, manganese (lowers cholesterol), calcium and fibre

Helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
High in vitamin C, B6, manganese and selenium
Helps prevent weight gain.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

50 Money Saving Tips!!

1. Be happy with what you have.
2. Use old grocery bags to line trash cans.
3. Buy energy efficient light bulbs.
4. When replacing your appliances, make sure they are energy efficient and look into any tax credits you may be eligable for "going green". Lots of states/provinces have income-tax credits or deductions for taking energy-conservation measures.

5. Plug all of your "power hungry" items on a power strip with a timer. Program them to get turned off completely every night. Over the course of a month, it works out to the same time as if they were off for an entire week.

6. Instead of a whitening mouthwash, use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water (rinse then brush your teeth for the best effect) - it may not taste as good but hydrogen peroxide is a natural whitener and anti-bacterial!

7. Lower the water level in you toilet. You can fiddle around with the float in the back of the toilet so it lower the water level a bit or you can put large mason jars in the tank of your toilet to limit the amount of water being drained (but keep the lid off the jars there will always be fresh water flowing into them). This will save you tons of water for everytime you flush the toilet.
8. Your dryer is one of the biggest energy drains in you home - the less you use it the better!
9. Buy a water saver for your shower - you probably will not even notice the difference and will save you TONS if you have teenagers showering!!

10. Wrap your hot water heater and insulate your hot water pipes. You loss a lot of heat as it comes from the heater to the faucet - insulation is cheap and you will get hot water faster and cheaper.

11. Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. Often we have the water hoter then we actually need. Fiddle around with it, turn it down 10 degrees at a time and see what the perfect temperature is for you.

11. Turn your heat down - put on a sweater or toss an extra blanket on the bed.

12. Install heat reflectors on the back of your heat vents, causing the heat to move towards the middle of the room instead of up your walls.

13. Don't go shopping to often - limit the amount of times you hit the Wal-Mart.

14. Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

15. Don't bring your children grocery shopping with you - the frequent requests, bickering, crying or running through the aisles will distract you and may cause your resolve to weaken and therefore give in to an impulse purchase. Whenever possible, shop solo.

16. Don't bring your spouse grocery shopping with you - the frequent requests, questioning items or selecting their own unneeded items will end up costing you more. Leave your spouse home with the kids!!

17. Buy in bulk - but only if you are going to use all of it.

18. Buy perishables in season - they will taste the best and be the cheapest.

19. Shop at warehouses instead of grocery stores.

20. Buy store brand items or generic brands instead of name brands - sometimes they are even better!

21. Cook your own food instead of buying prepared food.

22. Have a meal plan and a grocery list before you shop.

23. Decide how much money you are going to use on eating out each month. Take it out in cash - once the money is gone thats it.

24. Shop for major purchases late in the month - many times retailers are anxious to meet their monthly sales quotas and will be ready to make a bargin.

25. Buy floor models when buying furnature or appliances.

26. Freeze candles before using them - they will last longer.

27. Don't play the lottery.

28. Don't carry around excess cash and use your ATM sparingly. It is harder to track where your money is going if you use cash instead of debit.

29. Find a bank with no monthly fee.

30. Have a budget and record ALL your purchases - know where your money is going!!

31. Bundly your phone/internet/cable services, here in Alberta it will save you quite a bit.

32. Don't put anything on your credit card that you can't pay off in full at the end of each month.

33. If you do have credit card debt (or even if you don't, but often use your credit card), fight for a lower interest rate. Keep asking to speak to a supervisor till you speak to someone who has the power to make the change. If you keep getting a "no" then find out what steps you need to make to work towards geting a lower interest rate (sometimes you need to be making certain monthly payments on time in order for them to implement the change).

34. Always pack your lunch for work (or your hubbies lunch) - this will help you have cheaper and healthier food choices.

35. Never skip breakfast - eat before you leave the house to avoid having to grap something while you are out.

36. For date night, make a game out of taking turns planning romantic and frugal nights out. See who can plan the most romantic night out with the least amount of money spent. Get creative!! The reward should be creative too :)

37. Put your cleaners in spray bottles - you will use less.

38. Look at your budget every six months to re-evaluate your spending and bills. Phone competitive billing companies and see if they can give you a better deal for your business.

39. Take up hobbies and sports that are low cost or free - that goes for the hubbie and kids too!

40. Have a budget for holidays/special occations/birthdays. Save ahead of time for the extra expense and stay on budget.

41. Put yourself on an allowance - decide what you want to spend and stick to it.

42. Limit all eating out - not only is it typically unhealthy for you, but it is a drain on your wallet - save eating out for one special night each month. The kids will look forward to their McD night!

43. Whenever possible car pool, walk, or ride a bike.

44. Use old newspapers to wash windows.

45. Use less dishwasher detergent - mine works fine with about 2/3 of the recomended amount.

46. Make your own rags out of old towels.

47. Have your kids save up for part of the "big ticket" items they want.

48. Put on lights that kids often leave on on sensors, so they will turn off automatically when no one is in the room.

49. Make shorts out of pants that still fit around the middle, but have gotten too short on your child.

50. Okay, here is my favorite money saving tip that I ever got - "never take finanical responsibility for anything that eats - children, spouses, pets and plants".

So there you go, my best money saving tips - these work for me!

Happy Saving,


My FAVORITE Peanut Butter Cookies

Well if you know me at all (or have read any of my cookie posts) you know that I LOVE COOKIES! It’s an addiction really, I love to bake cookies and I love eating cookies, honestly I can't even tell you which I love more. I don’t know what I am going to do when all my kids move out and I have no one to help me eat all those cookies! Although my dear son Jesse promises to live within walking distance of my house so that him and his kids can come to our house for after school and work snacks, bless his thoughtful heart.

Out of all the cookies I make, the simplest is always the best.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened
1 cup peanut butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
2 eggs

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 – 2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Cream together margarine, peanut butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Drop tablespoon amounts onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 7 – 9 minutes.

Enjoy with a big glass of milk!


Ready, Set, CLEAN! – Part III

I am sorry about the delay in posting my fun spring cleaning list, regardless of my busyness with dance, I am determined to get my spring cleaning done and out of the way! This week I am going to tackle my bathrooms and kitchen, which are pretty big jobs when you actually start getting into it.

- Clean out all products and items from under the sink and cabinet areas, throw out all barely there, not liked (therefore not used) and expired cosmetics, beauty products, medications and vitamins
- Put aside all items that somehow migrated to your bathroom, but do not belong
- Wipe down cleared areas, put items back

- Remove all barley there (1 tsp of jam being saved), not liked (something that no one in your family will use), or expired condiments and food items from the fridge and freezer and throw them in the trash
- Move fridge and stove and clean underneath
- Clean outside of the fridge and stove
- Clean inside of fridge and freezer
- Vacuum refrigerator grill and coil
- Clean inside of the oven and under stove elements
- Empty pantry: wipe down shelves, get rid of expired or not liked items, re-organize items and put back
- Wipe down the outside of all the cupboard doors
- Empty all drawers and cupboards, remove anything broken or no longer used and wipe down insides

Happy spring cleaning!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dance Recitals

Well the craziness of the two weeks leading up to the end of dance - therefore the year end recital - has officially begun! For the next two weeks my days will revolve around hair, makeup, costumes, dress rehearsals and finally the big night (or should I say FOUR nights).

Honestly, I can't complain. I love dance and watching my daughter on stage. Now I might be a bit biased, but she is so beautiful she takes my breath away!

Next year Tia is wanting to go competitive, but she also is on the track team, volleyball team, basket ball team and the badminton team! So I am thinking that this dance studio is just right. For the last two years she has done both Jazz and Lyrical (this picture is of last years Jazz number - Tia is in the middle) and this year, as always, I am sure Tia will amaze us.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is the day that the Lord has made and we should rejoice and be glad in it!

Today I am thankful for:

- The bright sunshine that is heating up our Alberta prairies.

- That we have leftover pancakes in the fridge for breakfast (and I got to them before all the kids, he, he, he).

- That the majority of yard work was done yesterday, so my plan for today is to read a book in the sunshine (hmmmmm, with a cold glass of ice tea).

- For big families and hot water tanks that are empty for only the last person in the shower (sorry Brandon :) ).

- For the longer days of spring and summer that make you feel your days actually are longer.

- For a 4 kids, 2 dogs, a great husband, parents who live near by and great friends! Who could ever be borred or lonely with all of that? I LOVE my life!

Have a beautiful Sunday,

Friday, May 1, 2009

You Are What You Eat???

Here are some interesting facts that I came across:

(It was in Uncle Johns Bathroom Reader - but hey, I picked it up one day to see why all the boys in my house liked the book so much. I have to say, it had some interesting facts as proven below).

Chicken McNuggets - the main ingredients in Chicken McNuggets is NOT chicken. a McNugget is actually made up of 38 ingredients, mostly chemicals and corn derivatives (56%!!!). One chemical found in a McNugget is (0.02%) is tertiary butylhydroquinone - which is actually a burtaane, also known as lighter fluid.

Cool Whip - Cool whip actually containes NO cream or milk, instead they use a combination of water, corn syrup, coconut oil and palm kerner oil!

Red Bull - An 8.5 oz can actually only has as much caffine as a regular cup of coffee - the "energy" comes from a stimulant known as taurine, which is naturally occurning in the bile of oxen (although you will be happy to know that today it is synthesized in labs).

Twinkies - One of the many chemicals that you can find in a Twinkie is ethylene oxide - another use for ethylene oxide? It was used in grenades durig the Vietnam war!

Magic Shell - You know those chocolate syrups that hardens into a thick cand shell when poured over icecream??? Ever wonder how it hardens? The effect comes from a combination of soybean oil and paraffin wax.

Makes you wonder what is in some of the other processed foods you eat eh???