Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow Day Fun

Finally we got some snow here in Upstate NY. We had the day off from school this past week and enjoyed some time playing in the snow. I love that I get snow days too. The three boys and I made a snowman an snow forts. We topped the day off with snowmen pancakes. I had a little trouble getting the pancakes to actually look like snowmen but once I add the marshmallow eyes and chocolate chip nose and mouth, it was clearly a snowman. Now I have make pancakes at least once a week and I know the boys like them but they were so excited to be eating Snowmen Pancakes! Here's our favorite made from scratch recipe:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoon oil

Sift dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Easy!! Makes about 20 small or 7 large.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I bought this chair at a garage sale for $1 this past summer. With a little paint, fabric, and time it looks like a new chair! I prefer to use Old Village brand paints on furniture. I had some Philadelphia Brownstone left over from another project. I purchased the fabric and cushion for the seat at Joann's on sale. I used quilt batting, that I had, to pad the back. Total spent on materials: $20. Check out more Frugal Friday ideas at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nagging-To-Do List

Alright - here is an update on my nagging to do list. Anything in bold is recent - I even added another to do. In fact, given enough time, I could probably add quite a few more. I am pleased with the progress I have made so far. But I do wonder, will this list ever end or am I always going to be adding to it?

Everyone has one - the list of things you have to do but keep putting off. My list seems to grow with every day. Amy at Mom Advice has a post about the amount of energy a nagging-to-do list can take. I think about my nagging-to-do list ALL THE TIME but I usually don't actually do anything on the list. Not any more! I have been putting in a concerted effort to get some items checked off my list. Here is what is on it and what I have accomplished so far:
  • Finish sunflower craft
  • Finish burlap wreath craft - Finished!
  • Call for hair appointment - made the appointment!
  • Return shirt to Target - returned!
  • Paint bedroom(first need to finish getting wallpaper down) All wallpaper down and walls washed - ready to be primed!
  • Register son for little league - Registered!
  • Email cousin about summer visit - Email sent!
  • Get car inspected and oil changed - Done!
  • Renew Driver License
  • Finish envelop craft - Done
  • Finish painting and recovering chair(got for $1 at a garage sale this past summer)
I am sure there are more things I should add to this list, especially since I have finished some of this list. I am trying to accomplish at least 4 of the more easier items on this list each week. I am also trying to tackle at least one larger project on this list each month. Maybe, just maybe I can get my bedroom painted this year!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Working Mama Mondays

Successful Menu Planning
I was never a big menu planner until recently. I would halfheartedly try to think about what we were doing to eat for the upcoming week but I never stuck to any real menu plan. This led to a lot of eating out and wasted food. When my husband and I decided to get a handle on our finances, one area I wanted to focus on was cutting our grocery bill. Enter the menu plan. There are many blogs/sites out there dedicated to menu planning. I love the tips and links on I'm an Organizing Junkie. I try to post our weekly menu here to give myself some sort of accountability but I don't always get to do that. Even when I don't post it, I still am planning! Each Sunday I plan out what we will be eating for each meal for the upcoming week. This is a bit different than what I used to do. When I did try to plan our meals, I only focused on dinners. Now that two of my boys need lunches pack, I include lunch and breakfast in the plan. I take into account all of our evening obligations, whether I or my husband are going to be absent from dinner time or if we need a quick meal. I also account for any school lunches my children want to buy that week. *

*An aside note here: I realize purchasing school lunches may not always be frugal but for some reason, I hate packing lunches. I will be the first to admit I do the happy dance when I realize someone is buying lunch and I don't have to pack them one!

I limit breakfast to a choose of two items and I keep in mind what I know my boys like. Mornings are a bit too hectic to try new food so they stay pretty constant with either toast, cereal, bagel, or pancakes. Lunches usually consist of a main food item, fruit and/or veggie, a yogurt, and a dessert item. I also include a snack for their midmorning break at school. They purchase snack milk each day. My husband is easy to pack for; soup, veggies, granola bar and a fruit. I won't even begin to try and explain my lunches. At this point I am trying to follow a low/no gluten diet for health reasons.
Dinners tend to be very basic in our house. I don't have the time to prepare complicated meals. Each dinner tends to be be a main food, side dish of some sort of carb, fruit and veggies. Nothing too exciting or adventurous but it works for us.
Here is our plan for this week:
Breakfasts: Choice of chocolate muffins, cereal, or toast
Lunches: cheese and crackers, leftovers, salad, or soup
London broil, onions, veggies, Annie's Mac and Cheese for kids
Roasted Chicken, mash potatoes, cut up apples, salad
Pancakes and Sausage
Marinated Chicken breast, cheddar and onion muffins, veggies
I think that there are a lot of positives in utilizing a menu plan each week. No more waiting until the last minute to realize the meat need for that night's meal is still in the freezer. We don't eat out as much and I feel we are saving money in the long run. There are many people who plan their meals based on what they already have in the cupboards. This way, they can really slash their grocery bill. Check out this post explaining how to do this. I am not there yet but some day I want to be! Happy Planning!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Decluttering Week Wrap up

With the kids and myself off on Winter break this past week, it seemed a good idea to get some decluttering done. Here are a few items that left my house this week:

4 t-shirts(husband)
4 shirts (me)
1 pair of shoes(husband)
7 pairs of shoes (me)
3 stuffed animal toys
Letter magnetic toy
2 books
misc. small toys
Large stuffed superman
plastic floor train playset

All of these things are making their new home at the salvation army! I was able to clean and reorganize my tupperware cupboard(not that it is going to stay organized for long). It is amazing how many tops I have but no matching containers. Do they run off in the night? There are still many rooms, closets, and nooks and crannys that still cry out to be decluttered. I am trying to go slowly with this so I won't get stressed out when I don't have the time to do everything I want to do immediately.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wrist Warmers

Every winter I curse the glove companies. Why can't they make gloves that cover kids wrist, preferably covering up to their elbows. My kids' gloves always ride up and leave their wrists exposed. They are constantly complaining that the snow gets inside their sleeves. A friend of mine had purchased a pair of gloves that were much longer and seemed to really cover their son's wrists. Unfortunately these gloves are expensive. I already have a ton of gloves for my boys and I really didn't want to buy any more gloves. Recently, another friend of mine mentioned the wrist warmers she made her daughter. The directions for these are so easy, anyone can make them! Take a pair of old socks or you can use socks that have no matches. Cut the toes off and make a small hole on the side so your thumb can fit through. Slip your hand through and that's it. No sewing, no patterns! So easy. I am going to attack our pile of unmatched socks and make some more of these babies! Thanks Jen!

Vacation Week

Our vacation week is flying by! I still haven't had a chance to get a lot of bulk baking or cooking done but I have accomplished a lot. I made chocolate waffles from here as well as chocolate muffins from here. They were both delicious and my children gobbled them right up! I made meatballs for dinner and smoothies for snack today. Man, I am tired! The boys have been taking turns having friends over this week. Today was my youngest son's turn and he was so excited to have his two friends over, one of which was a, gasp, girl. But it was ok as he told his brothers, "she's girl but she is fun". Cute. We made shamrocks using the idea from here and oobleck. I also got a few things checked off my nagging to do list!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cleaning on a dime and be good to the environment!

I have to admit, I hate cleaning. Well not actually cleaning, I hate picking up. If all I had to do was just clean the house, I would have such a sparkling clean house. It is the clutter and picking up that gets me. Anyways, enough of that rant. I found an awesome book that has helped me make my own environmentally friendly cleaners. Clean house, Clean Planet by Karen Logan has changed my thinking about cleaners. We now only use environmentally friendly, nontoxic house cleaners. At first I was a little concerned that I didn't have my handy Clorox wipes to kill all of the cold and flu germs that float around. But in the last 2 years that I have been making my own cleaners, we haven't had an increase in illnesses. In fact, we really haven't had many contagious illnesses. The recipes for cleaners are easy and quick to make. One of the best tips was using a pumice stone to clean hard water stains in the toilet bowl. You can purchase pumice stone at the hardware store. They don't scratch porcelain and work fabulous, you just have to get past the yuck factor of having to actually put you hand in the toilet bowl! One other thing that I like about the book, is that Karen Logan breaks down the cost of each recipe and compares the cost to ready made cleaners. That is one of the reasons I was able to get my numbers man on board without a lot of convincing! Go purchase a copy yourself and get cleaning!
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays


I have always felt I was unlucky. I don't win raffles that often, never got a winning scratch off lotto ticket, never win 50/50 raffles. You get the point. But the other day something happened that made me stop and realize I am lucky!

I was driving to work with my youngest strapped in his car seat. It was dark and rainy. I was on a three lane highway that had the far left lane closed for construction. I was in the middle lane when out of no where there was a car in my lane coming straight at me with no headlights. Since there was a barrier to my left and cars to my right, I really didn't have a lot of options. Thankfully, the car turned into an opening between the barriers and a head on collision was avoided. Wow. That shook me up. Had me rethinking this whole unlucky thing. Really, does it matter if I win lotto scratch offs? Does it matter if I win the 50/50? Yes, the extra money would be nice but I don't need it. So I started to think of all the areas in my life where I am lucky. I have a wonderful husband and three awesome, healthy, and loving boys. My husband and I both have good paying careers. We have a house, we have food, we can pay our bills on time every month. I am so lucky!!

Working Mama Mondays

Weekly Planning
One of the handiest tool a busy mom needs to have in her box of tricks is the ability to plan ahead. I am a big planner and I love to make lists. Some days there is so much information rattling around in my mind that I find I can't relax until I get it all out. I find putting it down on paper helps me clear my mind and I usually find I don't have as much to do or remember as I thought I did.
Enter my weekly planning.
Each Sunday evening, I sit down and figure out what has to get done that week. I look at what activities the children might have, any evening meetings or obligations that my husband and I may have that week. I then make a list of additional things that I have to do that week, whether it is an errand that has to be run or a phone call that needs to be made. After I do that, then my husband and I decide who is going to do what. I usually am the errand runner. The area where I work has many of the stores that I would need to go to and I get out of work earlier than he does. My husband usually takes the phone calls, I don't have a direct phone line, only voicemail. I do make the appointments for me and the children since I usually take them to the appointments. An example of our weekly planning would look something like this:
  • Monday: Oldest son's scout meeting(Steve take him)
  • Tuesday: Middle son's scout meeting(our house, I am den leader), Steve to take youngest to run a few errands
  • Wednesday: Scout committee meeting(me), Grocery shopping, Snack milk money for older two boys
  • Thursday: Steve teaches a college course on this night.
  • Friday: Movie night
  • Return some items to Walmart
  • Bank
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Pick up Prescriptions
  • Crickets for lizard
Phone calls:
  • middle son's homeroom parent (I'll take this call)
To do list
In addition to this list, I also make a menu plan for the week. I certainly keep our evening obligations in mind when I am planning our menu for the week but more on menu planning next week!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Planning Gone Bad

I have a confession to make....I didn't do a menu plan this week. This resulted in eating out THREE TIMES!!! Grant one of the times was just Steve and I and it had been planned as a date for Valentine's Day! As an aside, the last date the two of us went on was back in October! We needed it. The other two times we ate out were because we were too tired to think of dinner. See where no menu planning gets me! This coming week the kids and I are off from school so I have a chance to turn the whole week into freezer cooking week. I think I am going to try and get some baked goods made this week as well as spend a bit more than 10 minutes on our dinners. Our freezers are pretty stocked up on meat so I really have a lot of choices to pick from this week. Here is the menu:
French toast, Pancakes, or Toast
Kids: pizza, pancakes, sandwiches, cheese and crackers
Steven: leftovers, salads and soups
Me: leftovers and salads with tuna or leftover chicken
Roasted Chicken 2xs
Pasta with meatballs
Sliders(mini hamburgers)
Marinated Chicken breasts 2xs
Pizza Pockets
fruit, smoothies, pretzels, goldfish

For more menu ideas, check out I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Burlap Wreath

I love coming across easy to do crafts. I recently found this burlap wreath here, courteously of MomAdvice. I made two, the one pictured and another I gave to a friend for a Christmas gift. The one picture is hanging in my dining room and I absolutely love how it came out. I used burlap that I had left over from covering shrubs for the winter. I purchased burlap from Joann's for the wreath I made for my friend. I think I like mine better but I hope my friend likes hers! She suggested I make more from old burlap feedbags. I think that would look cool. Get me some feed bags Jen!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sunflower craft

I found this great idea to make sunflowers out of burlap and canvas here. It took me awhile to get around to making them but I think they turned out quite nicely. I had planned giving them to a friend for a late Christmas gift but she informed me she "hates sunflowers" recently. As she obviously didn't know my plan, I am not offended - she will just get another homemade craft I made from burlap and a wire clothes hanger (more on that craft later). The kids were actually able to help me with this craft - my youngest and oldest helped sponge paint the canvas, my youngest also helped stuff the flowers and he also helped find sticks for the stems. It was a very low cost project - about $2 for the canvas, the burlap was about $3 and I had the stuffing, paint and sponges. Not bad for $5!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Comparison Shopping

Target has some nice deals this week, so does CVS, as well as Price Chopper!

I took a few minutes this afternoon to compare which stores have the best prices on the same items.
  • Target and PC have Progresso Soups on sale this week.
Target - $1.40
PC 2/$3
That's no brainer on which is better.
  • They both have Bounty Paper Towels Giant 8 Roll on sale.
Target - $9.99
PC - $10
A penny difference but you get credit towards gas if you purchase the paper towels at PC. Don't forget the the $1.00 off coupon from this Sunday's paper!
  • Again, both have Yoplait yogurt on sale.
Target - 10/$5
PC - 10/$5
Once again, PC gives credit towards gas.

I try to spend some time going through the PC, Hannaford, Target, and CVS Sunday ads. I could include Rite Aid too but I feel four stores are more than enough for me. I have found that the Hannaford I typically shop at does not accept Internet coupons so I usually only shop there for a few items, maybe not even every week. PC and Target tend to be my favorites along with Walmart. I have found Walmart usually has lower every day prices on a lot of items. I will make a Target run for the soups as well as Fiber One Bars which are on sale for $2.33. Go here and get a .40 off Fiber One Bars and $1.10 off 3 Progresso soups.

Working Moms

Working moms verse stay at home moms...a debate you never want to get into with either side. I have the best and worst of both worlds - 10 months of the year I am a working mom, 2 months I get to stay home. There are definitely ups and downs to each and I find the decision to work or stay home to be very personal. Each person is different and each person has to make the decision that is best for their family. Some mothers have to work outside the home but wish they could stay home. Some mothers stay home with the children but yearn to be back in the working world. There are some days I wish I could stay home and many a summer day that I wish I was at work. There are going to be good and bad days regardless if you stay home or work outside the home. After having read through many awesome blogs, I noticed that there aren't a lot, that I found, geared towards working moms. Since I am a working mom who is trying to be frugal and eco-friendly, I am going to start blogging about what I know. Each Monday I am going to be posting various tips, strategies, and advice to help those mamas who work outside of the home. If you aren't working outside the home, don't worry, many of these post can still work for you. So join me each Monday for Working Mama Mondays!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A day in the life of....ME

Working outside of the home is very hard. You not only have a lot of responsibilities at work, you still need to try and balance the family life. Many people choose to have one parent stay at home, while other families, mine included, just can't afford that option. There are days when I feel I will not make it through one more day and other days where I just love having two jobs, work and home! As a teacher, I do get to experience the best of both worlds and couldn't pull off the school year without the assistance of my husband. But until those lazy days of summer are here, I run my butt off. So - just to give people an idea of what my day is like, I have decided to give everyone a peak into the craziness that is my day to day life. (Just in case you are curious)
  • 5:30 - Wake up to the annoying alarm clock to realize my husband and I are not alone in the bed. We have been joined by 2 of our 3 boys at some point during the night. My youngest is actually completely naked! (He had wet his bed during the night. Being the very thoughtful child that he is, he stripped off all of his clothes and climbed into bed with us. He didn't even wake us up!)
  • 6:30 - out the door with my youngest carrying at least 4 bags and whatever toys my son feels he can't live without.
  • 7:10 - Drop off youngest at babysitter's - race to get to work
  • 7:30 - 3:00 work - out out at lunch to run some errands, must eat lunch in hurried bites between classes
  • 3:00 - leave work right on time
  • 3:15 pick up youngest at babysitter's and go get older two at their school which is 25 minutes away
  • 3:45- drag youngest into the older kids' school and pick up older two and race to get to doctor's which is 15 minutes away, give kids animal crackers in the car so they won't be cranky
  • 415 - Miracle - we get to the doctor's office on time AND get in to see him on time!
  • 4:45 - finish with doctor's appointment - head for home
  • 5:30 - get dinner on the table (children hate dinner and begin to complain) Daddy home!
  • At some point the complaining has stopped, some kids choose to eat, others will have to wait until breakfast! - time to get older 2 boys working on homework, maybe start some Valentine's cards?
  • Dad is in charge of finishing homework, play time, clean up kitchen and bedtime - I leave to run errands; return library books, pick up prescription at one store, grocery shopping at another(turns out to be quite relaxing and QUIET!)
  • 8:00 - errands done -go home and unpack groceries (youngest 2 make their way downstairs and chat with me while I put the last few groceries away)
  • Back to bed - find Husband and oldest son passed out in our bed.
  • 8:30 - everyone in bed, including Daddy - downstairs straighten up kitchen (not really needed since Daddy did this), pack lunches and bags for next day, spend some time on computer
  • 8:45 - Youngest comes downstairs to tell me he needs to use the bathroom - send him to the bathroom but he did not get there in time - send him upstairs to wake up Daddy and have Daddy help him get new pjs
  • Get clothes ready for next day(this could comprises of checking to see what is least dirty and wrinkled, depending on energy level!) Tonight, I iron a pair of pants.
  • 9:00 - youngest downstairs AGAIN to tell me he needs me - take him back upstairs, threaten to close his door if he gets out of bed again.
  • 9:15 - Check on oldest two - one asleep - oldest playing his DS. Give lecture to oldest the he is not allowed to play the DS in bed on a school night. Lecture, apparently not appreciated, oldest gets ticked.
  • 9:20 Finish up downstairs, take dog out one last time
  • 9:45 - Night time bathroom routine
  • 10:00 - Fall into bed, asleep in with minutes (and I use to have insomnia!)
Exciting isn't it! Exhausting more like it but it is our life for now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Unexpected Expenses

Finally we are getting ahead with our finances. Or so I thought! January has been the bad car karma month for us. It started when my husband took his car in for an inspection and oil change. That little trip cost us $800. Two days later the car wouldn't start for him. Fuel pump problems and we spent $700 more. Another few days later, an engine light came on. HE stopped at the mechanics and turned out to be an oil leak. Cha-ching.... $200. Well, not to be outdone, I took my car in for an inspection and oil change and came out with 4 new tires and $700 poorer. I also got the bad news that the front and rear end break pads will need to be replaced in the next 8,000 - 10,000 miles. WOW! That was an expensive car month! We had hoped to buy a used car for my husband this spring but after putting that much money into his car, we are going to put that purchase off until next spring. It is frustrating to have had to spend so much money all in one month but we can't not have cars. Hopefully February will be kinder and gentler on our wallets.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Decluttering Update

So I have been trying to declutter my house one small tiny baby step at a time. This weekend, my husband's t-shirt drawer was the target. I didn't do the actual decluttering, I was just on the sidelines, cheering him on! He has two large drawers devoted to t-shirts. These drawers were overflowing to the point where not one more shirt was going to fit in them. I had even had to start piling shirts on top of the dresser! My husband was a trooper and got through both drawers in no time flat. He tried on many shirts to see if they still fit and was able to discard many which were way too big(he recently lost a bit of weight, 30 pounds and counting!) He discarded many shirts I absolutely hate and shirts that fit but just didn't look good. He even kept 2 or 3 that he wasn't thrilled with but I love on him! I now have a nice pile of shirts to cut into rags and he has 2 neat and not filled to the brim drawers! Not too bad for 10 minutes.

Decluttering accomplishments to-date:
  • Linen cupboard
  • Under bathroom sink
  • My sock drawer
  • Husband's t-shirt drawers
  • Kids' rooms
  • Toy/craft closet
  • Family room toy box(sort of cleaned out but there were too many kids around to really get rid of stuff!)