Saturday, August 31, 2013

Toasted Raviolis

I was making dinner and I was without an interesting side dish so I decided to make toasted ravioli.  I went to the internet to find a few options and see if there was anything complicated.  I found this recipe.  I didn't have exactly the same ingredients but I figured that it was close enough.  I got out everything that I thought that I would need before my hands got messy.

First, I mixed the egg and milk in a bowl.  I had plenty with the one egg since I was planning on doing a double breading and it turned out that we only double breaded a few because we were hungry!!

Then, I put the breadcrumbs in a bowl and added basil and Parmesan cheese.  I used a mix of homemade breadcrumbs made from chips and some Panko breadcrumbs.

I opened the package of raviolis and put some of them into the egg mixture.

I made sure that the raviolis were covered in the egg mixture and then placed them in the breading mixture to coat. 

When they were coated, we put them on a plate to rest until all of the raviolis were done.

Then, my mom fried them while I was getting the rest of dinner on the table and the side of dipping sauce.  We left them on a paper towel to get some of the grease off.

Final result was a tasty side dish for dinner that was unexpected and different.

The inside wasn't as juicy as I wanted but I think that is based on the raviolis that I used and not the process of cooking them.  I haven't had them as a cooked pasta for awhile so I don't really remember what they tasted like boiled and in spaghetti sauce.  Of course, they aren't mozzarella sticks so I am not sure exactly what I was looking for but they were tasty.

I would make them again but I think that I would fry them at a lower temperature.  My mom was in charge of frying so it was not the best time for me to making helpful hints like turn down the heat because I would have gotten an answer like, "then do it yourself".  It was great to get help in the kitchen but it takes effort with both my mom and I leaving in a good mood.  Do you ever cook with your mom??   Does it go better then it does with my mom?  It is best to keep your opinions to yourself sometimes and just enjoy the dinner!

Toasted Raviolis

Package of raviolis (I used cheese)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Basil (optional)
Pizza or Spaghetti sauce for dipping

Mix egg and milk in one bowl.

Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan Cheese and basil in another bowl.

Put defrosted or refrigerated raviolis into egg mixture to coat.  Then, put in breadcrumb mixture to coat.  Let sit on a plate while completing all of the raviolis.

If you would like to do a second coat of breadcrumbs, coat in egg mixture and then breadcrumbs again.  It makes a thicker coat but not necessary.

Put in hot oil with enough room that they don't touch.  Flip ravioli to cook evenly.  Remove and drain on paper towel before serving with side of pizza or spaghetti sauce.

Bones are Forever Book Review

Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs was sitting at the library on the new release section when I saw it.  I wasn't totally sure but I didn't think that was the last one of the authors that I had read.  I picked it up and figured that even if it was the last one that I could just return it.  I was so excited to learn that I hadn't read it!!!  I was reading two other books when I picked this one up so I had to be patient.

 In this book, Temperance Brennan (known by Tempe by her friends) is brought to the scene of a crime which unearths three dead babies.  She is haunted by the case and the babies and starts to search for the mother who is missing after leaving the hospital. Andrew Ryan, her ex-boyfriend, is heading up the investigation and his counterpart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ollie Hasty, also one of Tempe's past relationships, are working on the case with her.  The follow the clues to Edmonton and then Yellowknife but other crimes keep popping up along the way to distract from the motive that they are there to discover.  I don't want to give away all of the surprises but I hope you pick it up and see for yourself.

This is a great book and hard to put down.  The bad part is it isn't the best book to read before going to bed with some of the details that are shared (which is my best time to read books).  I know that I like all the books by this author so if you haven't read Kathy Reichs before, please take time to check out this book or some of her earlier works first.  They are all great books and give you the background of the characters.  Just try to find another time farther away from bedtime to read them.  I hope that you check it out at your local library or bookstore and let me know what you think!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greek Yogurt Scones

I decided that I had to make scones that my friend talked about on facebook.  I am all about trying every recipe for scones but her's used Greek yogurt and I didn't have any.  When I got a deal on Greek yogurt (okay, I got it for free), I wrote my friend Sam an e-mail to tell her that I needed the recipe.  She sent it over immediately.  Thanks Sam!!

I made them the next day and they were wonderful! They were easy to make and didn't use any milk which is a nice change from my regular recipe.  I got out all the ingredients (which extra yogurt since I didn't know what I needed when I bought it).

Then, I mixed all of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.  I added the frozen butter which I probably won't use next time.  I didn't cut it up and the pastry blender wasn't strong enough to take on the butter.

I mixed it until it was fine and looked a lot like the dry ingredients before I even added the butter.  With the pastry blender, it is kind of easy because I go until no butter sticks to the pastry blender.

Then, I mixed the yogurt and the egg in a measuring cup.

 When they were mixed, they were a little more runny.

However, I changed the recipe a little because I like to have the sugar topping on my scones.  I put a little of the egg whites into another bowl while I was cracking the egg.  Of course, if you skip this step, that is fine (or forget as I often do).  Sometime when you get a break, you can use a whisk and beat these until they are frothy so that you can use them to coat the finished scone before they go into the oven.

Mix the chocolate chips (or other toppings) into the mixing bowl.  I used a cup which made them super yummy but you can cut back to 1/2 cup.

I mixed the chocolate chips in with the other dry ingredients and the butter so that they were evenly distributed.  If you forget to add the toppings at this stage, it is fine to add them at the end but it is a little easier to get any of the toppings more even in the batter if you mix them first and it helps without over mixing.

Add the liquid ingredients from the measuring cup to the mixture.

Mix with a fork until blended and then knead a little in the bowl to pull the dough together.  If it is too sticky, add a little more flour until it becomes workable.  It should form a nice ball like this:

Place the ball on a cookie sheet and press out until you get a bigger oval.  This rises so don't worry that your final product will be too skinny but this needs to be thinner in order to cook all the way to the center.

Top with frothy egg whites and it gets shinny coat.  If the dough is too sticky when you are flattening, you can put some of the egg down to help you smoosh without it sticking to your hands.

Sprinkle sugar on top.  I use regular granulated sugar but you can also use a grainier sugar like sprinkles or natural sugars.  The important step that I often miss is scoring the scones.  Cut down the center line first and then cut the slices.  Usually it cuts into 8-10 depending on how much you flattened the dough. I normally have one that is cut in and doesn't have any edges which is my son's favorite piece.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  You can see my cuts a little better on this overall picture.  With this recipe, let it settle until it cools off so that the inside can continue to cool.  I am normally not patient but it lead to a perfectly cook scone.

The inside was really fluffy and soft.  My husband was a little leery when he saw the yogurt container and totally changed when he had his first bite.

Everyone had our slice and packed up one for Aunt Kim and she shared with her co-worker.  They both loved theirs too!  The great part is that the leftovers were almost better then the original ones because they were still soft and tasty. 

If you are interested in making them, below is the steps that I did.  I hope that you enjoy them too!

Greek Yogurt Scones

2 c flour
1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold or frozen
1/2 c Greek yogurt (I used french vanilla)
1 egg
1/2-1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400degrees.

Combine first 5 ingredients.  Cut butter in with pastry blender (or two forks and use hands to crumble).  Add add ins

In measuring cup, measure yogurt.  Crack the egg and separate a little of the whites into a separate bowl. Mix the rest of the egg into the yogurt.  Stir until smooth.

Add yogurt mix to dry mix with fork.  Knead with hands until dough forms into ball.  Dough will be sticky.

Put on cookie sheet and press down to spread the dough out.  Whisk egg white and put frothy egg whites on top of the dough.  Top with sugar.  Cut into 8-10 wedges.

Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool because the inside cooks a little more so you need to let it set.

Games with Books Review

Games With Books: Twenty-eight of the Best Children's books and How to Use Them to Help Your Child Learn-From Preschool to Third Grade by Peggy Kaye was on display at the library.  I decided that it sounded exactly what I was looking for so I picked it up.

 The book suggested 28 books with a variety of activities based on each one.  Each book and activity was a great suggestion and there were even ideas on what would be best for each age group.  There were some books that we already had like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (Classic Seuss) by Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, Katy No-Pocket (Sandpiper) by H. A. Rey, and Blueberries for Sal (Puffin Storytime)by Robert McCloskey which I pulled out to read in the future when we needed our next activity.  I kept a list of the other books so that I could pick them up later at the library.  I can't wait to check out a bunch of them when I can prepare some of the activities for us to do to follow up after reading.

My first one that we read was Martha Blah Blah and here is a link to the post with the activities that we did.  It was great and my son had a blast.  I think that we could do a great job reading a book and doing an activity everyday if I had enough time to plan the day before.  It is a lot of work to have everything ready and activities planned but it is well worth it. This was a good book with lots of information that the kids would enjoy reading and enjoy all of the alphabet crafts after you are done!

I hope that you check this out at your local library or bookstore and see what you think.  If you are looking for something to advance your interactions with books to give your little ones more understanding, this is a great book for you.  I enjoyed reading it and took lots of notes.  I enjoyed the few activities that I have tried and look forward to working a few into our school year as it starts.  Let me know what you think when you check it out!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Take the Emotion out of Budgets

Does thinking about money confuse you or upset you?  Do you think that because you are a woman, you can't do finances? 

I like to manage the money but it still does get me confused sometimes.  I take that opportunity to read more books and try to understand the things that I didn't get.  I over think things and it get confused quickly when I get down in the details.  Many experts say that most women don't like to hear about money because it upsets and confuses them.  I am very sad when I read that because I hope that all women are strong and take part in their financial future whether when they are young and growing up or older in a relationship.   hope that you aren't one of those people who gets confused or overwhelmed but take a deep breath and step back.  Don't over think and read a few websites or books to find some answers to questions that you have.

More questions are raised when you think about things....  Do you get to count your interest paid as savings or do they want you to put an additional $375 per month in your bank account or the difference if your interest isn't that much?  Do you get to deposit your tax returns and call them savings for the year?  Do investments count as savings like adding to a 401K or other retirement account? 

None of these decisions are life of death.  I count all of my expenses and money going out at the top of the spreadsheet.  I track all of the money coming into the house at the bottom.  At the end of the year, I look at the total difference and determine how much my bank account should have increased.  If the total is close to the same then I know that I did a great job.  If the total is drastically different, I know that I have to do something better to track the difference in the figures.

The first year is always the toughest and each year I customize the spreadsheet a little better to fit what we have going on.  We added our FSA (Flexible Spending Account) checks to the income.  It is part of the money that we get back after filling out all the forms because it is taken out of my husband's pay check pre-taxed.  

I like to say to make a rule and stick to it.  If you are going to count your interesting from your bank accounts, list them for the whole year.  Don't stop because it is too much work to add it monthly.

What do I have to give up to stay on a budget?

I hope that you look only at the numbers to see what things add to and don't think about giving up your morning coffee and lunches out to make the budget work.  There are always ways to fit things into a budget but you just have to make your priorities.

My cousin wanted to get her nails done but she couldn't go every week because it is cost prohibitive.  If you can go 4 weeks, stretch it to 5 weeks and see if you have any negative impact.  My cousin wanted to have her nails done and figured out by adding a week and another week what the longest she could possibly go was and made that her new budget.  My sister in law liked to get her hair cut and dyed so she did the same thing to stretch the time between appointments.

You don't have to go without but you just have to go with moderation.  It is best to cut back right away and figure out what you can add back in.  It is almost like a diet because you think that there is one thing that you will really miss but you miss something totally unexpected.  Eating lunch out with colleagues, the afternoon snack from the vending machine or a bottle of soda when you are checking out at the store.

If you plan ahead, anything can be created cheaper.  Create a different lunch with your friends at work.  Bring lunch and eat together in the lunch room or find a place near the office to have a picnic.  Decide to do a pot luck where a few friends bring things from home to share.  Wouldn't it be great if you brought a crock pot of soup to lunch which cost you less than a meal out and all of your friends enjoyed it.  You like to pick up a snack or a soda at work but it is much cheaper if you buy in larger quantities and bring it with you.  I always have ice tea, water and snacks with me because you never know when you will be caught needing some food.  If you have fresh tea and homemade cookies, you won't be tempted to see what high calorie and expensive snacks Starbucks has to offer.  You spent very little and still have a great snack while saving valuable budget!!

Do you feel like you deserve all of the things you are currently doing?  Do you feel like you work hard so you should be able to eat out and spend money?

I hear this one the most often and I am not sure where it comes from and you need to take it out of your vocabulary.  Whether you say it or think it, stop!!

No matter what you are doing for a living, you work hard.  I don't doubt that you work hard but if you can't afford to spend the money and are going into debt, you need to figure out what you can afford.  If you can't afford all of the things that you are doing now, you can't have it.  Just because you work hard doesn't mean that you deserve to get anything. 

Everyone works for what they have and you don't deserve what your neighbor has.  Nothing about this life is about keeping up with your neighbors but just keeping up with your needs.  Balancing your budget means that you can get what you need and a plan the things that you want.  Work your budget and you will have a happier and easier life!!

Stay positive and creative and you will not be giving up anything.  Just change your point of view and do some planning!!  I promise that it will be well worth it.

If you are interested in this post, here is the link to all of the posts in the series:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kids Reading: Martha Blah Blah and Alphabet Soup Game

Martha Blah Blah by Susan Meddaugh was the book that my little man picked out when he got to pick a free book at one of the thrift stores that we got a coupon for from the summer reading program.  I was super excited to get to read it but it got put to the bottom of the pile a few times because there were so many books from the library that kept coming home.  I finally pulled it out after reading Games with Books by Peggy Kaye and she mentioned that it was one of her favorites. 

In this book, Martha stops being able to talk because the letters are taken out of the alphabet soup.  She learns this by visiting Alf Abbott who was fired from making the letter A along with 12 other letter makers.  Martha goes to the office and talks to Granny Flo but because Martha is a dog, Granny Flo doesn't see her and thinks that it is Granny Elsie talking.  If you have seen the television show, the book is just a little different then the television show but still holds the same charm and the final result that all of the letters are added back into the soup so Martha can talk again.

After you read the book, pull out the supplies to play a game!!  In the book by Peggy Kaye,

Games With Books: Twenty-eight of the Best Children's books and How to Use Them to Help Your Child Learn-From Preschool to Third Grade, she suggests a few activities after reading the Martha Blah Blah book.  She used a bowl but I used a play pot from our play kitchen.  I picked out 6 letters (which my son insisted were upside down...probably leftover from the fishing game)

I grabbed one of the spoons from the play kitchen to stir the letter soup but it frequently turned the letters over and was quickly left on the table instead of in the pot.

The game is started with trying to remember the 6 letters in the pot.  We pulled them all out and said the letters and put them back in repeating the letters.  My son wanted to do them in the same order which made it easier to remember for me so that seemed good but I am sure that every kid will have their own way of doing it and remembering the letters.

We stirred the soup and then my son closed his eyes and I pulled out one of the letters and hid it.  He wasn't able to guess the first letter (which I think was because he was so excited to play the game that he was closing his eyes a lot before it was time).  Then, we did all the other letters and he got them all.  After he got one correct, I put that one back into the pot.  The hardest part for me was to make sure that I pulled different letters for each of the six rounds.  We only had the first letter that didn't get picked and my son wanted to play again.  I explained that he needed to have super concentration to do it again with different letters because the other ones would still be in his head and we should take a break before playing the next game.  He has been talking about it all day!!!

I hope that you can pull some things from around your house to make this neat alphabet soup game!  I promise that it was a big hit and I hope that your little ones are as interested as mine was!  A great book and a wonderful follow up game to help letters and memory.  Let me know if you try it and how it works with your kids!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Month End Coupon Organization

Month end organization time.  Remember to print coupons because some go away at the end of the month....also remember to check back in a few days and see what new ones have appeared!!  Don't want to miss any great coupons or not have them when you need them at the store.  Just around the corner is the start to school so take this time to get yourself organized for what is ahead and clean out the expired coupons!

Check the following sites:
This is a good time to remind you to clean out all of the expired coupons and put them in the recycle bin!!  I try to remember to clean out my coupon basket but I usually end up going to the store and realizing that so many are expired that I can't find the ones that I am looking for before I get organized.  Make sure that you get cleaned up so that you can find the coupons you need to save money!!

Make sure you don't miss a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 8/26

Monday- Buffalo Chicken Wraps with mac and cheese and garlic green beans
Tuesday- SW Spiedies with white rice and corn on the cob
Wednesday- Basil Chicken with pesto pasta or Leftovers
Thursday- Out of Town
Friday- Out of Town
Saturday- Out of Town
Sunday- Out of Town

I had a hard time with last weeks meal time because every time I looked at the calendar, I would choose the following week.  We had the beef stir fry that I was supposed to make this week last week so last weeks schedule had a lot of crossing through. We might change one of the nights to pancakes for dinner but we will see where the week takes us :)

Wow!  Just realized that I need to work on next months meal plan.  Lucky for us that my mom bought a little bit of chicken at Aldi's for me when she went with me.  I cut it up and it made 10 meals so we have enough to make it through next month without adding too much more to the grocery list although there is still a list of things that I didn't get yet this month (oops!! but have you seen the pricing on oatmeal when it isn't on sale?).  We have had another great month and I hope to make a few more fun recipes next month.  Stay tuned for a recipe review of everything that I made for the month next week.

Good thing that this is the end of the month because I already spent the grocery budget and we are going to be needing a few things.  Going away was a good plan to end of the month :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekly Goals 8/25

Well, I dropped my camera and messed up the lens!  I am now using my husband's big monster camera with the special lens.  I have no idea how to download pictures on it so I am a little slow getting everything posted.  I hope that we can find some one to fix it so that I can get back to working!

I am so tired after this week that I need a break but we are planning a busy week next week too!!  I guess this is what the end of the summer brings you when you realize that summer is coming.  I get a break when school starts :)  I hope that you are all enjoying the end of your summer!

Last week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family- We had a great week and got lots of time together even though my husband has had to work late because the beginning of school is almost here!
  • Teddy Bear Dance Party- We went to the Teddy Bear dance party and brought the Teddy Bear that we just got from Aunt Kim's work a few days before.  My little guy didn't really know why I was shoving it in the bag but he was okay with bringing it along.  I was glad that I did because he sang and danced with it and had a fun time.
  • Friend's Birthday playdate- We went to a friends house for a playdate and my little guy was the biggest guy there.  He had a blast and all the littler ones were following him around.  It was so funny to have him in the opposite arrangement because with our neighborhood, he is the youngest and it might have been a little ego boost to be top dog for a morning :)
  • Pirate Ahoy storytime- I brought our pirate gear to storyime just in case other kids were dressed up.  They weren't so he took his stuff off quickly.  I have to say that storytime can really range with the people that lead it.  Although the subject was interesting, the story teller was not great.  She was soft spoken and seemed annoyed by the kids.  At one point she said that she couldn't even hear herself reading the you think that is going to stop the kids from talking?  Umm, none that I have met.  I have seen librarians that can get kids to shut up instantly and she was the opposite :(
  • Playdate at the park with a friend- As promised to my little man who said the day before that his life would be over if we didn't go to the park, we went to the park.  He played with two of his library friends and some of their friends.  They had to leave to have lunch at home and then we had or other friend come and play.  We were there until well after 4 pm when both boys ran out of water and the mom's were very dehydrated because we were out of water long before!
  • My Gym Camp- It is his favorite day of the week and he had a blast at the animal themed week.  It was hard to get him to leave this week but he got stamps and walked out hand in hand with his best friend.
  • Fun Flicks- They played a few fairy tales today.  If I didn't have somewhere to get to after it, I would have been disappointed.  They are supposed to go for 45 minutes and they only showed three and it went for 30 minutes.  We had grandma with us to enjoy the movies and it was an interesting time with the fairy tales that we might not have read too many of.
  • Musical Teddy Bear party- It was Music Together and I think that Grandma and little man had a good time singing and dancing with their teddy bears.  We forgot ours at home but there were plenty to share.  I got a koala bear :)  Glad we got to enjoy that with grandma.
  • Emergency Management and Safety Fair- It was a busy weekend with family in town and a million things to do but I thought that it sounded fun to head out and enjoy a morning together doing something different. It was great!!  We had lots of fun things to do there and got to see lots of friends to visit with.  We got lots of great things to bring home with us :)
  • Friend's Birthday party- My son loves birthdays and any reason to celebrate!  He loved the bounce house and we had trouble getting him out.  He was exhausted but had a great day.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I had a million things to do on Thursday while I didn't have my son for a few hours and I didn't get to cut them.  I kind of knew that was my last window but hoping that I can get a little time to cut the inserts from last week and this week at the same time soon.
  • Get coupons on Friday- I got my coupons at CVS today and I was super excited to check out the summer clearance too!  There were lots of great deals and my mom and I broke the bank with the amount that we got.  I will post the picture soon!
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I shut off the computer every time we left the house and every night.  I am getting to be a lot better and doing it and I feel a lot better about not wasting the energy and having a safety hazard on when we leave the house.
  • Continue to read Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister- I finished it early in the week and then started Bones are Forever (a new release which had no renewals so I had to finish before it was due back at the library) which I finished by Thursday.  Finally moving on to the other book that I was supposed to start next.
  • Read next book Plantation by Dorothea Benton Franks- Started reading it and I am really enjoying it.  I thought it was going to be the same characters as the previous book so I was a little confused when I started but now I think that I like this one even better than the other book that I read.  When I finish, review will be posted!!
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I kept the kitchen as clean as possible this week but it was still a mess.  I am going to have to stop cooking or something because keeping everything clean is a nightmare.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I was off the great week where I cleaned all the dishes every night and kept the dishwasher run so that I didn't have a pile of dishes to go in when it was cleaned... this week was the opposite.  I think that we got all the dishes done at the beginning of the week and then it was a little fight to keep up.  My husband washed them all but one on Tuesday night.  Hoping for better later in the week, I cleaned all the dishes all day long on Thursday and we had leftover night.  I just had to clean up the pancake pan and sausage pan from cooking things to stock the freezer.  Being frugal means a lot more dishes!!
Blog Goals

  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- I got all my posts up this week and tried to get up a few of my grocery shopping adventures by my camera broke so it was a challenge.
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- I got a bunch of posts up for the rest of the month and now I have to work on a few for next month.
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family 
  • Pottery Barn Storytime and get book for summer reading
  • Storytime at the library
  • My Gym Summer Camp
  • See extended family out of town 
  • Go to NY State Fair
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Continue to read Plantation by Dorothea Benton Franks
  • Read next book by Debbie Macomber or Robyn Carr
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Joy For Beginners Book Review

Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister was the last book in the list that I hadn't read by this author.  I was super excited to get to read it but then a little sad that it was about different characters.  That thought was quickly gone when I got interested into the new characters in this story.

At the very beginning, all of the friends get together at a dinner party to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer.  Kate tells all of her friends that she is going to do something to celebrate her new lease on life if they are all do the same.  They all agree and she assigns them things that they have to do such as making bread, getting rid of books from an ex, and Kate's trip to the white water rafting through the Grand Canyon.  The book is broken into chapters where each character gets a voice to tell their story.  Caroline, Daria, Sara, Hadley, Ava, and Kate are the main characters and the titles of the chapters.  Through the book all of these friends go through their story and overcoming the challenge that Kate has given them with the help of their friends.

I hope that you check out this book and all the books by this author at your local library or bookstore.  It is a heartwarming story about friendship and overcoming fears in your life.  I hope that you take some time to read this book and follow the though provoking journey through all of the characters doing new and different challenges.  

Do you have anything that you have wanted to do and haven't found the time to do?  There are a million and one reasons and I know that I don't get things done because I always make my son the priority and don't work on things that I want to get done.  I am not sure if there are any big and new challenges that I want to do and haven't done but I am still thinking about it and I am sure that I will find something to add to my bucket list.  Do you have a list of things that you want to do?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Easy Organizer Book Review

The Easy Organizer: 365 Tips for Conquering Clutter by Marilyn Bohn was in the new section at the library so I decided to check it out.  I grabbed it while I was checking out my son's book choices.  I was glad that it was easy to read and started while still in the library.  I went through it pretty quickly without getting any earth shattering ideas on how to make things better or easier.  This short 200 page spiral bound book was a quick read and provided an outline on how to organize all of the parts of your house.

 The book was laid out in sections like the following:

Key Organizing Concepts
Entryway and Items that Leave the Home
Kitchen and Dining Room
Paperwork and Home Office
Living Areas
Children's Toys and Artwork
Clothing and Accessories
Bathrooms, Linen Closets and Laundry Areas
Crafts and Hobbies
Storage Areas

Each section had numbered ideas of the things that you can do in your house with those areas.  Most of the ideas were providing the standard information like touching papers once, filing papers, and put clutter in organization baskets.  If there is a particular area that you need ideas, feel free to skip to that area and see if there are any helpful tips but the book suggests reading the first chapter before skipping around. 

My problem with organization (and I am sure many others) is that I don't have enough room to give everything its place.  We don't have a coat closet, craft room or a play room in our house so following the ideas in those chapters is a little far fetched for how our house is set up.  I have gone through most of our stuff and tried to get more organized but there are many times that things have to be moved to areas that don't make sense because that is the only area with room.  I think that the best advice is check out another book with ideas closer to your problems like limited space.

I am not sure that I would recommend this book but if you are interested in finding out more information, please check it out at your local library or bookstore.  It has a lot of steps and you could check each one off as they are completed.  It would be a great to do list but didn't give me a bunch of new ideas.  Let me know if you have read it what you thought!!  I love to get feedback and hear about others thoughts :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Budget Busters

Are you ready for Step 5?  If you missed Step 1 , 2, 3, or 4 check them out and determine your expenses and income and how to make a spreadsheet (here and here and here and here).

 Dr. Oz and experts list the four budget busters:

1. In the budget but you under calculated
2. Impulsive purchases
3. Forgotten Bills or Expenses
4. Emergencies

We don't have a lot of under calculated expenses or impulse purchases but bills often change.  I try to keep a record of last years bill amounts so that we can estimate the bills for this year off of those.  It is always hard to remember that the electric bill spikes in the summer because that air conditioner goes on.  Most bills are cyclical and doing the spreadsheet year after year really helps to have a base line to calculate.  The first year is the hardest because you really have to think and calculate but it is way better to over estimate instead of underestimate.

We don't do impulsive purchases.  We always find things that we like and we make a list of things that we want or might need.  If they are things that we still want or need after 30 days, then we think about how we can best get them or when we need them.  We used to buy everything impulsively before a budget but now we know that it isn't in the budget then it doesn't get purchased.  If you have trouble sticking to that then you have two choices, budget a certain amount of money that you can spend on impulse purchases a month or stay out of the stores (or off the computer if online is your weak area).

After doing our spreadsheet for five years, we don't have a lot of forgotten bills or expenses but it is bound to happen especially the first year.  You forget to calculate school supplies and clothes for the kids or getting hair cuts.  These things add up quickly but it you write a list of all of the items that you think that you spend money on, you can add those items to the spreadsheet (or create a second spreadsheet if yours is getting too big and too complicated).  Most of the bills that are forgotten are the bills that are set up automatically.  Do you have your gym membership pull monthly or yearly out of your checking or credit card?  It is still an expense and needs to be recorded on the list.  The other items that are forgotten are those things that only come up once or twice a year.  Don't forget Christmas presents, gifts for birthdays and other occasions, taxes, and more!  They might not seem like a lot but when you are budgeting, forgetting to include gifts will be really sad later when you don't have any money to spend on them!!

Also, if you are not paying off credit cards, you need to have a column for interest so that you can see how much money you are wasting by not paying off all of you bills when they are due.  Many people forget that part of the bill and it stacks up quickly making it hard to overcome debt.  Make sure you are aware of where your money is going and how much you are spending just to use your credit cards.  It might give you a second thought when you pick up an impulse purchase at the store!

We have most of our extra emergency expenses listed into our credit card line because we pay them on credit card (we get points that get transferred back to the card as a statement credit).  If there is an emergency to repair our car or replace the air conditioner, we do use our credit card but we pay it off in full every month. If the company doesn't take credit cards, we get a cashiers check.  Either method we are using our savings which we have set aside for just such emergencies.  We do have emergencies every year and they luckily seem to stay about the same even though the emergency changes.  This year it was a big car repair for my husband's truck, new tires for my car and a new air conditioning unit.  Last year, we got some masonry work done to fix our front stairs and walk way (and probably some car repairs).  If you have a weakness with credit cards, make sure you set up a system that works for you and that you can continue to support without going into the negative by using credit cards and not paying them off.

Do you prefer to figure out based on the percentages or filling in your actual information into a spreadsheet?  I am much more comfortable filling in the spreadsheet and getting all of the information where I can see them and play with the numbers.  If the numbers are still showing that money is going into savings and things are in the positive then you are in a good spot.  If the numbers are in the negative, you have to figure out how to cut some expenses and fast (but more on that in another post).

When I was deciding to stay home with my son, I used the spreadsheet to convince myself that we could do it and make ends meet.  I didn't know how but when I saw it in black and white on the spreadsheet, I realized that we could make it work without using all of our savings.  We just cut a few expenses and we work really hard to not spend our savings and use only the money coming in.  It is a challenge that I accepted when we decided that I would stay at home and we have been really good about making ends meet and still putting a little money into savings every year after all the expenses.

After you set a budget, it is important that you don't let all your hard work go to waste.  Don't bust your budget with these common mistakes.  I hope that these made you stop and think and add a little cushion on your spreadsheet to help make sure you don't bust your budget.

If you are interested in this post, here is the link to all of the posts in the series:

Figured out expenses
Figured out our income
Made a Spreadsheet
Making a Budget
Setting Your Budget and Spreadsheet
Budget Busters
Take the Emotion out of Budgets

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Harris Teeter Super Doubles Trip #3

I didn't have the best plan on what I was going to get but I had a fist full of coupons that I was planning on using and a rain check for Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice.  I got a few free things including the Fishers Trail Mix, Imagine Baked Potato Soup, and Liberte Yogurt.  I also got super cheap Mrs. Butterworth syrup for $0.09.  It is always good to stock up on those There were a bunch more great deals including the Johnson's and Johnson's Baby Shampoo for $0.50 (instead of the retail of $4.19)!!

I love when you go home with a bunch of things that are good meals to eat.  I was excited to try the soup and the Fisher snack mix.  The pasta and the egg rolls will be great meals to have in the freezer ready in case the meals don't happen on a busy day.  Sometimes I leave the grocery store and feel like I don't have any food to eat but this wasn't one of those trips!!

I went to the check out and the cashier (who obviously knows me) asked if I had any rain checks!  Duh!!!  I was so interested in getting the deals that I didn't remember to get the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice.  I thanked her and told her that I would check out and be back to get the rain check stuff in another transaction.  I put both transactions in the same picture and added the totals below.

 I think that I got some great deals but when I added up my total, it seemed a little high but I realized that I could have spent more than that on the Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice which is a really scary thought!

Total OOP $13.16 + $9.23= $22.39
Total Savings $67.32 + $14.94 Ocean Spray RC= $82.26


Kid Reading: Press Here

I have seen this book everywhere and I didn't think much about it until we saw it at the library.  Press Here by Herve Tullet was sitting in the library waiting to be read.  This is what the cover looks like and the rest of the book has similar brightly colored pictures of dots.

Although this is not a complex book, my son found it thoroughly entertaining!!  I wasn't sure which way it was going to go because I hadn't even checked out the book for the first time by myself like I prefer to do.  My son read it himself and preformed the actions asked for on each page.  If it said press the yellow dot, he pressed the yellow dot.  If it said to shake the book, he shook it.  It was a little loud for the library because there is clapping later in the book but there was no stopping him because he wanted to get to the end of the book.

At four (and being a strict rule follower), he didn't try to change things and see what the next page would look like.  I am sure that older children would be trying to see all different ways that they could make the book "not work" but it seemed the perfect fit for my son's age.  I think that this is a great book for any one just starting to read because it gives them not only reading but activities to keep them entertained.  There is a short window where kids will probably find the book entertaining so I suggest that you see how your kids like it.

There are tons of activities that you can do along with the book if your child enjoyed the book.  I was working on a few ideas to see what would be most interesting for my son.  I decided to offer a combination of sticker dots and bingo "dotters" (my son's name for them) to make his own book.  He decided that he wanted to use the Bingo  "dotters" but he also wanted to write all his own words so I wrote them in a notebook and he copied them but they took up most of the page because he still writes pretty large.  But the cover was super cute and he enjoyed the process!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sisterhood Everlasting Book Review

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares was another book that came up on a search so I grabbed it on the last trip to the library because I knew that I was getting close to the end of the other book.  I am so glad that I did because it was amazing!!!  If you have read the other books in the series, I highly recommend that you read this one.  If you haven't, start at the beginning and read quickly to get to this book!!

In this book, the author continues with the characters from the previous Sisterhood of the Traveling Pant characters in their grown up life, 10 years after the last book.  Tibby, Lean, Carmen and Bridget are starting their own lives in different places and feel like there is something they are missing.  They are having trouble staying in contact with each other through their changing lives until Tibby sends them all tickets to go to Greece to meet up.  They all met up through the flights and got into the airport in Greece at the same time.  What greeted them was totally unexpected and changed their lives forever!  I hate to ruin books so you need to pick it up and see for yourself but it was a really emotional journey for all of the characters and kept me on the edge of my seat.

I loved the book and enjoyed getting a closer to the characters that were in the previous books.  This provided a look into the things that are really important in life and not only has the characters questioning their lives but it makes you think to.  I hope that you look this up at your local library or bookstore.  It is a emotional and well written book that I think that any fan of the series should follow up and read!!  I hope that you pick it up whether you are a fan or not because it is a great book!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 8/19

Monday- Leftover Breadcrumb Chicken Fingers
Tuesday- Breakfast for Dinner- Pancakes
Wednesday- Garlic Herb with grapefruit chicken with chicken rice
Thursday- Roast Beef Sandwiches
Friday- Pizza
Saturday- Leftovers/??
Sunday- Leftovers/??

Most of the month is already behind us and I used up most of the store in the freezer (with the exception of the chicken broth).  I am looking forward to keeping better tabs on using what is the oldest instead of the first thing that comes to mind in the future.  I hope that I can work out a better system but it looks like the way that I have been doing it hasn't wasted too much food but it is a little hard to make sure that I am using up everything in a timely fashion.  I hope to start doing more freezer cooking to stock up the freezer with other things that might be helpful once the school year starts.  This is a great step in that direction to get lots of space cleared out! 

Dinner is going to be moving around because we have a bunch of things going on and the grandparents just announced that they are coming into town for the weekend starting on Thursday.  I hope that you have a great week planned (possibly less crazy then our week)!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cinnamon Monkey Bread Muffins with pizza dough

Okay, stay tuned for my story of how this blog post went wrong.  I had a rough draft of this recipe and some how it got posted on August 13th...not sure exactly how because I don't really remember doing it but it went up without pictures or any of the information that I thought that I wrote in my draft... went searching to see if there was anything else with what I thought that I wrote and I couldn't find it...  I think that I might be loosing a little sanity but here is the actual recipe that I made (and perfected over multiple experiments).  Sorry if you read this post the first time but I took it down and fixed the original so that I wasn't confused again later.  I guess doing too many things at once is too much for my sad mommy brain!!

One night, I had some extra pizza dough after we had dinner and I was going to make fried dough or cinnasticks for dessert but then I saw this recipe.  I changed my mind and made these Cinnamon Monkey Bread Muffins.  I figured that it was worth a try and the oven was already warm from the pizza.  I got out all the ingredients but decided that I was only going to make 6 since I wasn't sure how the pizza dough was going to turn out.

Then, I mixed the cinnamon and brown sugar together in a bowl.

I melted the butter and mixed in the corn syrup.

The original recipe called for Pillsbury Dough dinner rolls which was not something I had but I decided that I would make it with the pizza dough and see how they turned out.  On the first batch of six muffins, I followed the recipe and directions exactly.  

I rolled the dough in the butter mixture.

Then, I put them into the cinnamon mixture.

Rolled them around until they were covered.

Then, I put them four or five balls into a greased muffin pan.

I put them into the oven to cook per the recipe until they were nice and brown.  They rose a lot and got a little on to the muffin pan.

I took out the first muffin before it had time to cool so it fell apart on my plate.  Try to fight the urge but it was really yummy smelling so hard to fight the urge to get it into my mouth.  YUM!

The finished muffin cooled and was ready to test.  It was light and fluffy as you can see from the piece that I bit through.

They were a little dry since we are not normally an icing family (except my son who would eat it off a spoon).  I tried it with a little pumpkin cream cheese frosting but it just wasn't hitting the spot.

 So I changed up the recipe a little.  I added white sugar to the cinnamon mixture and then dribbled a little more butter and cinnamon mixture over the top when they get into the muffin tins.  They were yummier.  

The next morning, I made them again but decided not to use corn syrup and the brown sugar and just dip the dough into butter and cover with cinnamon and sugar.  I dribbled the extra butter on to the top and shook a little cinnamon and sugar mixture on top before baking.  This made the muffins a little more like sticky buns which was exactly what I was looking for.  There was a gooey cinnamon mixture to dip the pieces in.  

They are good warm out of the oven or even cold later that day (our didn't make it too much farther).  I did have two that made it past breakfast.  One got heated in the microwave upside down so the goo got a chance to drip through the muffin again and the other one got eaten cold.  They were all fabulous!

I made them for my mom when she came to visit and she was super excited and said that it was way better then using the store bought dough!  I agree and it was just as easy.  Sadly, now every week when I make the pizza dough (recipe makes two crusts), I use the extra dough to make these yummy muffins!!

Final recipe listed below:

Cinnamon Monkey Bread Muffins

Pizza Dough (whole pizza crust probably makes 18 muffins)
2-3 tablespoons butter (or margarine) per 6 muffins
Cinnamon and Sugar mixture (done to your taste but we like a lot of cinnamon)


Preheat your over to 350 degrees

Start by combining your cinnamon and sugar in a medium bowl (or a shaker which is how we do it in our house).

Then, melt the butter in a small bowl or measuring cup. 

Heavily grease the muffin cups of a standard muffin tray.

Next, roll your dough into balls. Put into butter and roll around.  Remove and put into cinnamon sugar mixture.  Roll around until completely covered.

Once evenly coated, drop four to five sugared dough balls into each muffin cup (depends on how big you made them).  Don't fill up muffin tin because they are going to rise a lot.  Top with leftover butter and sprinkle on a little of the cinnamon and sugar.

Bake at 350* for 20 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes before eating.