Friday, November 27, 2009

A Bit of Time Away

It's been over a week since I've posted.   I am currently on vacation visiting my in-laws in Florida and prior to that was really consumed with getting ready to leave as well as trying to get a jump on some of my holiday shopping, decorating, etc as we won't be home until December 2nd.

We are staying in The Villages - an active adult community between Orlando and Ocala that is incredibly huge and a great place for my inlaws to live as well as for us to visit.   I hope to share a few photos over the weekend of the community and what we have been doing.

We had a nice Thanksgiving although it turned out different than planned.  We ended up moving the 17 person party from my mother in law's home to her neighbors, as hosting it here wouldn't have worked that day.  Those of you that we are close to know that we are facing some family challenges right now so you understand...I don't want to share more publicly out of respect for my family's privacy.    All in all it was a day to be thankful for...a day that we shared with family we don't see often as well as my inlaws friends who weren't able to be with their own families for the day.

I hope this holiday also found all of you healthy, happy and thankful for the blessings in your own live.  I miss blogging this past week, but need to take this time to be here and involved in the moment....blogging can wait until later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Organized Christmas - 6 Week Countdown to Christmas - Week Three Gifts and Giving & Week 4 Get Cooking

I’m still trying to follow Cynthia Ewer’s Organized Christmas Countdown at Organized Christmas. This is actually Week 4 – Get Cooking Week, but I’m still working on Week 3 – Gifts and Giving Week. My Get Cooking Week isn’t going to happen until we get back from vacation after Thanksgiving. If I can get most of my shopping done by the end of the first week in December I’ll be thrilled. As I said in my last post the point is to keep chipping away at what needs to be done and not stress about being behind.

Tasks I’ve completed in the past two weeks are:
  • Purchased Holiday Stamps
  • Ordered Photo Calendars for Grandparents (already received)
  • Started Selecting Photo’s for the Calendars
  • Started Shopping (I’m making some headway here – more to follow)
  • Emailed my Sister In-Law for gifts ideas for my Nephew and Niece

Tasks I need to complete this week/weekend are:
  • Declutter Décor (remove Halloween and excess regular décor. We won’t be here for Thanksgiving so I’m going to skip decorating for it and will move onto Christmas Décor early)
  • Establish Holiday Clothing Needs
  • Inventory the Gift Box
  • Buy a few supplies for my daughter’s homemade gifts and keep making them
  • Get gift ideas for our parents – other than the grandparent type gifts
  • Keep Shopping!!!!
  • Plan my Baking and Gifts From my Kitchen Lists
Today my daughter has a half day of school and I have a parent teacher conference at 3:40. I’ll be dropping the kids off with my parents at 2pm returning around 5ish for supper with them. My plan is to tackle some shopping before and after the conference. I’ve got some gift cards and coupons to work with so hopefully I can get a lot for less.

Here are some of the deals I am working with:

  • Kohl’s – 20% off entire purchase and I have $20.00 in Kohl’s Cash from shopping last week
  • Toys R Us - $30.00 in Gift Cards from purchasing Hasbro Games and for purchasing over $75 in merchandise
  • Amazon.Com - $20.00 in Gift Cards from Swagbucks
So now I have to get to list making and psyche myself up to head out shopping this afternoon. My goal for this holiday is to have all gifts purchased and wrapped by December 16th. I don’t mind baking and crafting the week before Christmas – I actually enjoy it. But I hate heading to the stores and feeling overwhelmed. I want to enjoy making cookies with the kids, decorating the ‘bird’ tree with the neighbor boys, visiting with family and friends and just appreciating my blessings.

Check out Organized Christmas for great ideas on creating a low stress, high fun, frugal holiday for you and your family.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Links I Liked

Here's a few links that I enjoyed over the past week:

Rachel Anne from Home Sanctuary presents Have Fun with Your Man
Caring for our marriages is vitally important to the foundation of our homes and families. Check out Rachel Anne’s tips on how to connect (or perhaps re-connect) with your man and have some fun.

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home shares her Goals and Plans for a Slower Season
Do you tend to find a slower pace during the fall and winter seasons? I’m yearning to get to that place but it seems for us it won’t be until after the holidays. Stephanie shares her favorite slower paced things to do when the days get colder and we want to stay indoors.

Susanne Myers at Hillbilly Housewife provides some tips on the Perfect Time To Clear Out The Toy Clutter–Tidy Tuesday
Here’s a task we really need to undertake in our house before Christmas comes. I need to get the kids on board to help get rid of some things they don’t use anymore.

If you have any links you liked this week that you'd like to share with me and my readers - from your own blog or others -  please leave the link in a comment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 16th - The Use It Up Before Vacation Week

We’re leaving for vacation next week and I’m trying not to shop this week. My selections are pretty slim and I’m getting very low on meat in the freezer. So I put together a very basic menu using things I have or can ‘create’ from leftovers. I don’t have any recipes or links to share this week as these are either my tried and true or ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ meals.

On another note I’ve been struggling with a few things over the past week – my attitude and sanity being the biggest. I’ve been snapping at everyone, screaming at my kids and dissolving into tears far too easily. I’ve also managed to drag myself into a state of inactivity and am behind on a lot of things that are important to me. This morning I’ve promised myself that I’m going to stay positive this week no matter what kind of challenges I’m facing. I’m going to stay active and take some time for myself to de-stress and recharge before it’s too late and I turn into that raving lunatic mom (yeah you’ve seen her in your own mirror too now haven’t you????). So that said I’m going to post this menu for the week and get off the computer to accomplish some other tasks.

Here’s what we’re eating this week:

Monday – Pasta, Broccoli and Meatballs

Tuesday – Chicken Pot Pie

Wednesday – Breakfast for Supper

Thursday – Hamburger Helper, Corn

Friday – Pork Chops, Rice, Green Beans

Saturday – Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli

Sunday – Pork Fried Rice

For more great menu ideas check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge - November - How Low Can You Go????

Aldi Shopping Trip - $62.48

Yesterday I shopped at Aldi and managed to keep my total to $62.48. With the exception of milk, lunchmeat and a few incidentals I should be able to keep my spending under my $250 dollar target for the month. In addition to grabbing milk, eggs, English muffins, coffee, flour tortillas, frozen juice concentrate, and a few other weekly necessities I stocked up on butter, 5lbs of ground beef, yeast and cheese.

The next week and a half are going to take some careful planning to keep from shopping.   I plan to Christmas shop tomorrow and we are headed to Florida for vacation the following week.   I generally do a Stop and Shop Peapod order to be delivered when I return from vacation but am going to forgo that treat to myself this time.

A Little Bit of Freezer Cooking

My dinner menu for Tuesday was Roasted Chicken. I had a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters that I purchased frozen for 4.99. So on Tuesday I undertook thawing the whole bag and cooking it all. We used 3 legs for supper that night and the remaining 7 legs I cooked between the crockpot and the oven. I’ve stripped all the meat and have separated and frozen it. I’m going to make stock with all the bones and scraps tomorrow.

Today my dinner menu was Spaghetti and Meatballs. I made 3lbs of meatballs – some I put into my own sauce along with hot Italian sausage. The remaining meatballs I froze individually and then popped into a large freezer bag.

So basically for a little bit of ‘extended’ dinner preparation I now have already cooked chicken, already cooked meatballs, chicken stock, and spaghetti sauce with meat in the freezer for future meals.  It took a little bit of extra time and planning but it will make a few nights during the coming month a lot easier.

Veteran's Day November 11, 2009

Honoring those who have served and are serving our country...

thank you for your courage and your sacrifice.

Today we visited my grandfather's grave at the Veteran's Memorial Field Cemetary in his hometown.  He was a World War II Army Veteran who served in France, England and Germany for four years.  This is the first time I've ever brought my children to a cemetary.  Surprisingly it was at my daughter's request that we visit the graves of soldiers today - so I told her I knew a special soldier we could visit.   Lately I am very impressed with her grasp on our country's history and the things that are important for us to remember and respect.  It was a bittersweet moment for me today - pride to be the granddaughter of a good man and sorrow that my children and he won't know each other. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Links I Liked

I’m a bit behind on reading blogs this week but I did find a couple notable posts I wanted to share with you:

One Mom’s Guide to Avoiding Swine Flu Naturally by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home
A subject that has most moms concerned right now is the H1N1 flu as well as all the other ‘nasties’ that seem to be roaming the school halls with our kids. Stephanie gives some common sense advice as well as a few natural tips on keeping healthy and fighting off viruses. Mind you as she says this is ONE MOM’s advice and we don’t all agree on how to best keep our families healthy.

In our home we are attempting to prevent illness by:
  • enforcing increased hand washing
  • using antibacterial gel in public places where we can’t wash as easily
  • instituting earlier bedtimes
  • avoiding large public gathering places (the mall playpit being one)
  • increasing our vitamin C intake
Hopefully we can all avoid getting sick this winter or at least minimize the effects of any germs we do encounter.

Ultimate Recipe Swap : Make Ahead Meals by Fishmama at Life as Mom
This post by Fishmama provides tons of links by other bloggers sharing their own Make Ahead Meal ideas, tips and recipes. I need to spend more time checking out the links here and getting some make ahead ideas for myself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 9th

I actually wrote my menu yesterday but am only just getting it posted this morning.  In addition to trying to stretch the pantry and freezer I'm feeling a bit low on creativity and inspiration.   My menu just isn't thrilling me but it does take advantage of what we have on hand in the house along with a few things I plan to pick up from Aldi tomorrow.

Here's what I'm planning for the week:

Sunday - Cubed Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Monday - London Broil, Rice Pilaf, Broccoli

Tuesday - Roasted Chicken Legs, Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday - Spaghetti and Meatballs, Salad, Rolls

Thursday - Soup and Sandwich Night

Friday - Chicken Quesadillas, Mexicorn, Rice

Saturday - Homemade Pizza

I guess after typing up the menu it doesn't sound so bad.   Maybe it's just me that's willy nilly today.....oh well - have a great day.   I'm off to get my house under control after a busy weekend.

For more menu plans and hopefully more inspiration than I've lent today check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Organized Christmas - 6 Week Countdown to Christmas - Week Two Reality Check

I’m following Cynthia Ewer’s Organized Christmas Countdown at Organized Christmas. This is Week Two – Reality Check Week. I’m behind on quite a few things this week after having my daughter home sick. So I’m trying to cram some of my Week Two Christmas Tasks into this weekend and will carry the remaining into next week. The point is to start accomplishing what needs to be done and not stress about being behind.

Tasks I’ve completed this week are:
Purchased Holiday Stamps
Ordered Photo Calendars for Grandparents
Started Selecting Photo’s for the Calendars
Started Shopping (ok I only bought 2 items….but I started!)

Tasks I need to complete this week/weekend are:
Establish Budget
Declutter Décor (remove Halloween and excess regular décor. We won’t be here for Thanksgiving so I’m going to skip decorating for it and will move onto Christmas Décor early)
Establish Holiday Clothing Needs
Inventory the Gift Box

I hope to have next week's checklist posted earlier and to devote more time to planning and task accomplishment.   Shopping is a big task for me to get working on.   I have a Toys R Us list and plan to get there in the next few days.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monthly Grocery Challenge - November - How Low Can You Go????

How Low Can You Go???

$65.57 Shaw's Trip

I finally got to the grocery store this morning. I had hoped to give BJ’s a try but it’s too far and I didn’t have time to get a November coupon booklet from the store to plan my shopping. So instead I went to Shaw’s with a mid-sized list and a handful of coupons. I spent $65.57 today – my savings were VIP Card $31.85, Manufacturer Coupons $3.85, and Store Coupons $2.35. Not too bad and I did get a few good deals including:

Jennie-O Turkey Breast Sliced - $4.99/lb
Russet Potatoes - .99 for 5lbs
Bumble Bee Tuna - .88 each
Keebler Snack Cracker Packs–1.88 minus .55 coupon doubled–Paid .78 each
Malt-O-Meal Cereal – BOGO–2.79 minus .75 coupon doubled–Paid .65 each
Scotties Tissues – BOGO–1.79 minus .50 coupon doubled–Paid .40 each

My total for the month including today’s purchases along with a few items from the market over the weekend comes to $85.23. I have $164.77 remaining in my budget for the month. I’m thinking that an Aldi trip next week will probably get us through until we leave for vacation the week of Thanksgiving. Looking good to meet my goal so far!

Getting Back on Track

My daughter headed back to school today.   She is fever free but still has a lingering cough.   I opted to keep her off the bus though so my son and I dropped her off and will be picking her up at the end of the day.  I've also decided to have her skip dance class tonight - she doesn't need the extra energy output and I'm trying to avoid exposing her to additional germs.   We'll do a makeup class next Saturday.

I'm a bit overwhelmed and a bit behind on the list of things I had hoped to accomplish this week.   One plus to being home is that I haven't spent money - that needs to change today though as my son and I are headed out to Shaws shortly to catch the last day of this week's sale (the one I made my list and prepped my coupons for).  Other than that I think I am going to take things slow today - even with the overwhelming task list.   I'm feeling a bit of something coming on - my ears are a little stuffy and my throat a bit pinchy.   If we weren't so low on some necessary groceries I wouldn't bother to go today.   That said though I think both DS and I could use a brief outing - we're a bit stir crazy.   Hopefully later on today I'll have a November Grocery Challenge post up with pictures.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Keeping It Real - Priorities and The Things I Stress About

Yesterday I wrote about priorities as a mom being subject to whatever comes your way. While my post yesterday was for the day, lately I’ve been struggling with my priorities overall. Right now I’m a stay at home mom – after being a ladder climbing career woman for almost 20 years. My oldest is 6 and attends 1st grade and my 3 year old is home with me. Some days I feel like Super Mom – I accomplish a lot of household tasks, I do fun and semi educational things with my son, I get dinner on the table and help my daughter with her homework. Other days I feel overwhelmed and certain that I am not focusing on the most important things.

Some of the things that I get stressed on are:

My son is 3 and doesn’t know his letters and can’t count past 3. Am I failing him as a mom? Does he need preschool or should I put together a homeschool curriculum for him? My oldest was in daycare and learned most of these things in that environment.

My daughter needs more focus on her homework – she is a good student but not overly ambitious. Do I push her harder? Do I make it her responsibility to do more than what is ‘just’ required? Is just dance lessons and Daisies enough or should she engage in more extra-curricular activities?   Can I handle more activities????

I am frugal on a lot of small things. I hang dry my clothes, shop sales with coupons, menu plan, keep my electronics on light strips that I shut off, stretch leftovers and pack lunches for my daughter and husband. I did just initiate a refinance on our mortgage - which is a big thing. But I know we need to close a financial gap and that the continuous slow tapping of my severance isn’t good. Do I need to work harder at saving? Do I need to suck it up and go back to work full-time? Is there more that I can do from home to make money?

I have holiday planning, vacation planning, winter survival planning, organizing the house and the kids, my husband, and myself and ahhhhh… many things running through my brain. On top of it I added this blog to my list of things to do. Honestly though this is the one thing I feel is for me. Selfish or narcissistic as it sounds, I find myself energized by writing this blog and receiving positive feedback on what I put out. I have so many creative ideas that I want to implement and I get so excited about them – I just don’t have the time to get to all of them quick enough. The excitement for a project that is all my own has been awesome for my brain and my self-worth.

I just needed a chance to vent and also to let my readers know what’s real. I read a lot of blogs about homemaking, frugal living, homeschooling, cooking, parenting, faith, etc and sometimes after reading these I feel incredibly inadequate. However since I’ve been writing myself, I know that a blog is often ‘life edited’ for readers. Yes mine is that quite often – but for the moment I wanted to keep it real.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Classic Family Dinners Giveaway from Recipe Lion

Recipe Lion has a giveaway contest for one copy of Mark Peel's "New Classic Family Dinners" cookbook.  The book contains more than 200 recipes which were all tested in Mark's home kitchen - without a kitchen staff doing the work.  I've got my entry in already.   Check out this link to enter the contest.


Priorities when you're a mom sure do change quickly.   Today on 'Dawn's Agenda' I had planned to write a few blog posts, work on my Christmas Planning Tasks, do several loads of laundry and get to the grocery store.   Instead I will be snuggling on the couch watching silly kid videos, serving breakfast, lunch, snacks and cleaning up after each, playing board games and reading books.   The only possible trip outside the house is to the Dr's office.

Yes my oldest is still running a fever.   Yesterday she hovered around 100 degrees for most of the day then climbed up to 101 by dinnertime with an increased headache and sore throat.  She is still sleeping right now so I'm not sure what her status is yet this morning.  If she is still not feeling well I'll get her in to the Dr - but regardless she has to stay home from school until she is fever free for 24 hours.

So Dawn's priorities for the day get shoved aside as I step to the plate for my most important job.....mommy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - November 2nd

Grocery Challenge Menu - How Low Can You Go??? – Week One

I’m trying to keep my grocery spending to $250 this month for my November Monthly Grocery Challenge. As a result I probably won’t have the most exciting menu plans over the next couple weeks since I plan to use the pantry as much as possible. Most of our meals will be the ‘tried and true’ kind that use inexpensive ingredients I always have on hand and that I know my family will eat. I do need to shop but I'm not sure when I will be leaving the house in the next few days as I have one kid sick with flu type symptoms. The few items I do want to pick up for this week’s menu are potatoes, coleslaw veggies and salad fixings.   Maybe tonight or tomorrow night I can get out to the store after my husband gets home from work.

Monday – Pasta with Broccoli and Sausage (I have sausage in the freezer that I will brown with onions and mushrooms. Then add chicken stock from the freezer and broccoli. Pour mixture over pasta and season with parmesan cheese and black pepper)

Tuesday – Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff, Green Beans

WednesdayThyme Pork Chops, Sweet Potato, Broccoli (we didn’t make these last week so I pushed them to this week)

Thursday – Slow Cooker Chicken (boneless chicken pieces with cream soup and chicken stock), Rice, Corn

Friday – Sirloin Tips with Onions and  Mushrooms (I have some bottled marinade to use on these), Mashed Potatoes, Salad

Saturday – Meatloaf, Baked Beans, Coleslaw

Sunday – Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (will make sauce from canned tomatoes I got on sale), Salad, Rolls

Also to make this week: Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread for the Election Day Bake Sale, Tuna Mac Salad for my husband’s lunchbox, molasses or gingerbread cookies for snacks.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Money Saving Mom's "Becoming a Work At Home Mom" Series - Part 2

Starting with Small Things (Part 2)

Part 2 of Crystal’s “Becoming a Work At Home Mom” series is posted at Money Saving Mom. Each post I read has me anticipating the next one! In Part 2 Crystal shares with us the small things she started doing to earn an income from home. If you’re interested in learning more please check out this post at Money Saving Mom as well as all the comments posted.

I would have to say this is the stage I am in right now – dipping my feet in the water and seeing how things feel. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to make quick cash is to sell off items on Craigslist or eBay. I also use Swagbucks and have earned about $20 in gift cards. (See this post for more information on earning prizes and gift cards by using Swagbucks.) I haven’t tried any of the survey sites and I’m not sure I want to take that path – it sounds like an investment in time that doesn’t pay a lot. I really am enjoying blogging and while it hasn’t paid off yet I feel good about building something and having a tangible ‘product’ out there in the world. I like writing and am hopeful that this experience will hone my skills and perhaps open the door to future writing projects.

Do you do things from home to earn additional income? What things seem to work best for you and what kind of advice do you have for someone starting out?