Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done, but it has brought me so much joy! I want to encourage other moms on their journey, I'll share motherhood tricks, spotlight tips I've learned from friends, and I hope you will share your ideas. I will focus on secrets that help families stay balanced, healthy, frugal, creative, and closely knit. I will also share favorite fiction and nonfiction books that I have enjoyed. Many blessings to you on your mothering journey!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Root Beer Float Cake

My DH clipped this recipe from a magazine (I can't remember which one.) last year & I finally made it. It was yummy & a hit for our gathering with friends this weekend. Best of all, oh so easy!!

Yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
5oz vanilla instant pudding
1 ¼ c root beer
½ c oil
4 eggs

root beer glaze (2c confectioners' sugar with 3T root beer)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10inch bundt pan
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Bake 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, then invert. Spoon glaze over cooled cake.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Living on a Budget

Hillbilly Housewife is a website with a plethora of ideas for saving money in the kitchen. Their tools are pretty easy to scan for quick learning, but I could also spend an hour reading about all of their strategies. Here are some of my favorite parts of the website:

Cutting the Fat & Calories from Ground Beef
Magic Milkshakes (Frosties with no milk for a quarter!)
Emergency Menus for $45/week or $70/week (these include 3 meals & snacks!)
Healthy Thrifty Meals
Nutritious Meals at Minimal Costs
Menus to match Angel Food Ministries food boxes

So happy money-saving to you!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Date Night on the Cheap

My DH's brother and his wife took my DH and I to a wonderful birthday dinner a few months ago. We went to a fancy Phoenix restaurant, but sat in the bar during happy hour. We had a wonderful gourmet meal on the cheap and enjoyed wonderful company. They inspired me to research middle TN restaurants that offer appetizers/meals as part of their Happy Hour. Here's what I've found so far. I'd LOVE to hear of other restaurants that offer specials like these!


Mortons Steakhouse 'Bar Bites, Monday - Friday 5 - 6:30pm and 9:30 - 11pm for only $4 per plate.

Sambuca: $2 bottled beer, $3 house wine, $4 martini, 1/2 price appetizers from 4:30 - 7 pm and complimentary wine tasting from 5 - 6 pm (tasting only on the 1st Thursday of each month)

Rhythm Kitchen: Social Exchange with drink specials and free hors d'oeuvres from 5 - 8 pm

Sportsman's Grille, Half Price Select Appetizers daily from 4PM - 7PM

Tayst - 4-6 p.m., six different small plates are just $4 each. The portion-controlled palate pleasers include tempura shrimp dogs; a mini-meatball sub; cheese, olives and toast points; wings and fries; smoked salmon rolls; and shaved lamb leg. Glasses of wine are reduced by $1.50, and all well drinks are $4.

Radius 10,, happy hour Mon-Fri from 5-7 in the bar, but also mention the ad in The Scene for 25% off the entire menu during the same time (entrees included). Their specialty is shrimp/scallops/grits . The bar menu,is $5-7, but during happy hour, everything on the bar menu is $2 off (Tuna tartare with tomato fennel jus and avocado sorbet is $5, and seared lamb skewers with chimichurri and tzatziki sauce are $4. b They also offer two-for-one domestic beers, well drinks and house wines.

Flyte,, happy hour 4:30 -- 6:30pm, tues-sat. 1/3 off appetizers

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Laundry - Making Every Minute Count

I usually do 3 loads of laundry back to back. And I try to make every minute count. Here's the way I do it - do you have any tricks?

Carry all laundry to the laundry room.
Start running warm water in washer and add laundry detergent.
Sort clothes into piles - for us it's usually lights, darks and reds/browns
Change water temperature to cold (for everything but whites)
Add first load to washer.

Here's where I cut down the most time - between loads.
First move wet clothes to dryer, but don't start the dryer.
Start running warm water with detergent in the washer for load #2.
Then add a drying sheet to the dryer, check the dryer filter and push start.
Then change your washer temperature to cold and add your clothes.

I know it only cuts out a few minutes, but every minute counts in my house!! This way there's no standing around waiting for water to fill between loads and I don't get sidetracked on another task FORGETTING to add the laundry!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kid's Movies

Dora and Diego movies are a big hit in my house these days. And I'm okay with that, because they are really well done. I teach a lot about the developmental assets - building blocks that all kids need to succeed. Here are some of the asset categories, and examples of ways the Dora movies help to build assets in kids. Isn't it nice when media reinforces the things we want to teach our children?!!

Support - young people need to be surrounded by people who love, care for, appreciate and accept them. Dora & Diego are surrounded by a strong system of support.

Empowerment - young people need to feel valued and valuable. This happens when youth feel safe and respected. Dora & her friends use their unique skills and talents to make a difference. They encourage each other to try new things and courageously complete their tasks.

Constructive Use of Time - young people need opportunities - outside of school - to learn and develop new skills and interests with other youth and adults. Creative activities are a BIG component of this asset category, and Dora encourages creativity through music, drama, and role playing

Commitment to Learning - young people need a sense of the lasting importance of learning and a belief in their own abilities. I love that Dora teaches songs and Spanish!!

Positive Values - young people need to develop strong guiding values or principles to help make healthy life choices. Really good morals are represented in Dora movies.

Social Competencies - young people need the skills to interact effectively with others, to make difficult decisions, and to cope with new situations. The movies model the kind of healthy relationships I want my chidren to have.

Positive Identity - young people need to believe in their own self-worth and to feel that they have control over the things that happen to them. The Dora character invites children to participate in the storylines and celebrates the contributions they make to the successful adventure. I love the way my kids beam with pride while watching the movies.

I don't think I've ever praised a secular kid's movie series this much - I'm pretty picky about movies, books and toy! So if you don't have Nickelodeon, drop by your library to check them out for free!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Quick Cleaning Your House

I just read Crystal's article on Getting Your Home Back in Order. It's really a 2-hour step-by-step guide to cleaning your house. It's very similar to the way my DH and I manage our cleaning, but I've never thought to write it all down. The breakdown takes away the daunting dread of housecleaning and makes it feel much more do-able.

Crystal actually has two really good blogs: Biblical Womanhood and Money Saving Mom


My Little Easter Bunnies

I've never had an Easter Egg hunt with heavy coats, so this was a new experience. Nevertheless, it was a happy and worshipful Easter day. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Good Household Manager is Prepared

I hope you never have significant damage to your home, but we all need to be prepared just in case. This is heavily on my mind, as a former Bible study leader friend's home burned to the ground this week. :(

Rabbit trailing from (I love Amy's blog!!), I found the Simple Dollar's post on creating a home inventory. He gives really good and simple advice on creating a list of your home valuables.

The easiest thing you can do is to grab a video camera and walk around your house, stopping to zoom in on important labels/brands of valuables. If you don't have a video camera, just use a digital camera to take several shots of each room. (I'm reminding myself, because we haven't yet done this in our new home.)

But then follow the Simple Dollar's advice and create an inventory of your valuables. They decided to track everything worth more than $10, so that will be a good starting place for most of us. It's a daunting process, but it will help your insurance company go to bat for you, if you ever need it.

So while you're spring cleaning, you can make this a family project. :)


Cheap Decorating!

When we moved into our new home, my youngest daughter was only a few months old. There was no way I could muster the time and energy to paint murals in the kid's rooms, so I found another cheap and EASY alternative. Have you seen all the options for wall stickers or wallies these days? Walmart, Lowes, Joanns, and Target carry a good selection of kids designs for big and small stickers that adhere and easily come off walls - many in the $10-15 range.

So we have Disney Pixar Cars in the boys room, Winnie the Pooh in my daughter's room, and Dora & Diego in the bathrooms. We arranged some of them to look like wallpaper borders, used them as door decorations and combined collections to make murals. They are so flexible!

Best of all - we can rearrange the stickers whenever we want/need to, and it's easy to change themes in the rooms as the children's interests change. Oh, and it's fun for mom!!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Tips for Reading Books Aloud
Edited from Gateways to Early Literacy

I'm listening to Gramma read Ranger Rick magazine to my 6yr old. She's a teacher, so reading aloud comes very naturally to her. But it's not easy or natural to everyone, so I thought I'd share some tips that I compiled for a publication I wrote a few years ago.

  • Let your dramatic side flare by using a variety of voices, tones and volumes to reflect the characters and storyline.
  • Point to the pictures and words as you read the text.
  • As you repeat favorite stories, invite children to ‘fill in the blanks’ with key story words.
    Ask questions as you read, such as “What color is that car?” “How many ladybugs do you see?” or “What’s going to happen next?”
  • Add information or change words to help kids understand more words and explain the meaning of a new word.
  • Ask children to make predictions about the plot, the characters, and the setting.
  • Follow the cues of the children to respond to their age, background and any other individual characteristic or challenges.
  • Use props, costumes, or music to make the story come alive. You could even wear a crazy hat or dress up as a storybook character.

Click here to read the free e-book, Reading for Life, a list of 64 preschool books that promote healthy child development. If you like it, I hope you'll share it with teachers and friends. This is one component of the work I do with the Center for Asset Development teaching schools, churches, and youth organizations about character, service-learning, youth leadership and teambuilding.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Money Saving Mom

If you like to bargain shop, and you haven't yet discovered Money Saving Mom, you're in for a treat! She's the expert on shopping at Walgreens, CVS, Rite-aid and the like! Check out her post about cereals at Kroger this week - you can't beat 39 cent cereals!!


Hospitality Hints?

My kids/guest bath vanity doesn't have any drawers. I'd like to have a basket/bucket of sorts that holds toothbrushes, toothpaste, and maybe a hairbrush. With 3 little kids, I'd rather not use something ceramic/glass that might break. I'm afraid the area would be too moist for a basket. Do you have any ideas on something cute, practical, welcoming, and frugal?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Toasted Almond Chicken
(from Southern Living Easy Weeknight Favorites)

I made this for company tonight - it's a little bit tangy & perfectly yummy. The only bad thing is that it has a cup of heavy whipping cream that we haven't been able to satisfactorily substitute with evaporated milk.

1 ½ pounds thin cut chicken breasts
1 - 2.25 ounce package of sliced almonds
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of orange marmalade
Salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon of Paprika
3 tablespoons of butter
Chicken flavored rice

Open the package of almonds and put them all in a small skillet on medium heat with butter until they’re brown and toasted. Put half the chicken in a skillet on Medium high heat with 1 ½ tablespoons of melted butter and brown both sides (about 3 minutes per side). Set chicken aside on a plate. Brown the other half of the chicken and set it aside on the same plate. (It will not be fully-cooked yet.). Mix heavy cream, Dijon, and orange marmalade in the same skillet on medium heat. Add the chicken back in right away. Sprinkle with paprika (I only use a dash – put more if you like spicy food.) Add the toasted almonds. Cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes (until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is thick.) Stir occasionally. Serve over chicken flavored rice.

My DH and Mom are debating whether or not there is a word - satisfactorily. What do you think? :)


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Welcoming Guests

I love hosting guests in our home. Before moving 'to the country' we lived in a small 2 bedroom house that made entertaining quite a challenge. I love being able to give guests their own space in our new home, and we've had so many friends and family members come visit. I feel so blessed!

I keep a file called "Guest Preferences", so I can remember the little things that make individual visitors feel welcome. Then I can remember extra things to pick up at the store, or cooking preferences, or favorite places to visit during their stay.

Here is a sampling of the notes:

Gramma & Papa
Cinnamon raisin bagels
Instant creamer
Apple butter
No pesto, seafood or super-spicy foods
Diet pepsi
Braeburn apples
Chocolate raspberry or Amaretto coffee
Fruit tea

Jake & Jenn
No chicken on bones

Mama B & Papa Tom
Diet coke
Low sugar, low vitamin K

Holly & Jay
Vegetarian (chicken only)

Pete & Joy
Diet coke
Chocolate chip cookies

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Double Time with Little Extra Effort

I'm a work at home mom, so I do a lot of my work 1-3pm while my little ones nap. That means cleaning, cooking and housework have to happen while the kiddos are awake. They are good helpers and my DH is a huge help, so it's not usually too difficult to get everything done. But here are some tricks that are a BIG help to me right now:

When the phone rings, I grab a broom or a rag. It's easy to talk while sweeping, wiping down surfaces, or putting away dishes. I can give full attention to my friend AND keep up with my household duties.

I save most of my kitchen work 'til my 6yr old gets home from school. While he's having an afternoon snack and doing homework, I can do my chores in the room with him. It's a great excuse to spend a little extra time with him.

After dinner, the kids take their dishes to the sink, then I clean up the kitchen while DH plays with the kids or starts baths. I'm usually grateful for the break from kiddos, so I don't mind cleaning up. He's usually anxious to spend time with the kids, so it works well.

It's in the 1-3pm window right now, so I've gotta head back to work. Then we have a fun treat tonight with grandparents coming to stay for a few days.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Mega List of Freezer Meals

Lasts month a lot of bloggers were batting around favorite freezer meals. Last week, my friend Mary emailed me a huge list of freezer meals from Moms Budget.

You can even sort their recipes by type:

Beef Chicken Pork Vegetarian Soups
Stews & Chillis Pasta Chinese Style Spicy

So make a meal for your family & a friend in need. Or make an extra meal for families to pick up from your church freezer. Or make an extra meal for your freezer - to pull out on a crazy day.

Happy cooking!

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

More Snow - and Chocolate!

Tennessee is having crazy weather! We've been bouncing back in forth from sunshine to snow, from short sleeves to heavy coats for 6 weeks. It's March - and we just had our biggest snow of the season (3-4 inches). My husband was outside playing in the snow for 2.5 hours today - with the 3 children coming in a couple of times to warm up with hot cocoa and dry clothes. They had a blast building 4 snowmen, a 9 foot snow-worm, and a fort. They played snow baseball (hitting snowballs) and pushed my 3yr old around the yard in a big snow shovel. I had so much fun taking pictures!!

At the end of the day, they wanted to make snow cream again. After taking a few bites, the boys asked if they could try it with chocolate syrup. I almost said no (who has chocolate in snow cream??), but decided they deserved to be spontaneous and try new things. I put a few dots of syrup on the cream, and they loved it. I admit, it was good, but I prefer plain vanilla. So next time you make snow cream, try dotting it with chocolate syrup, and let us know what you think!

Happy snow night,

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Friday, March 07, 2008

I'm NOT in Charge!

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.

Psalm 144:1-2

These verses are very affirming to me in light of motherhood. I don't have to know all the answers - he trains me. He won't throw me to the lions - he readies my feet. He's a place of refuge for me - giving me a place to rest and gather strength. He's a battletower and fortress, where I can see the big picture, gather wisdom and put together a battleplan. HE is my deliverer and shield when I feel like I'm in battle with strong wills, temper tantrums, and whiny spirits. HE subdues people under me - HE is the one working within the hearts of my children to make them more clearly reflect the character of Christ. It's not about me. It's about being a vessel through which Christ can work in my home. That relieves a lot of pressure and gives me great encouragement. PRAISE GOD for his intimate companionship and sovereign strength.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tech Savvy Fashionistas

Amy at the Motherload had 2 great posts today. Actually she has a great post just about everyday, but I really liked these two:

Being Frugally Fashionable has a list of great stores for budget-minded fashionistas

Spring Cleaning Your PC is a user-friendly guide to computer care and cleaning

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Raising Godly Tomatoes

My friend Angie just forwarded me information about a new book, Raising Godly Tomatoes. I was delighted when I went online to explore the product. The author, Elizabeth Krueger, actually has a lot of the text online, as well as tons of good parenting wisdom. I particularly appreciated reading these topics:

Tomato staking as a parallel to raising children
Crying and whining (a huge struggle with my #2 child)
Siblings Squabbles

Elizabeth is a storyteller with lots of practical ideas. And key scriptures to cling to during our parenting journeys. If you have a minute for a cup of hot cocoa, sit down and read her online excerpts for a spell. You will be wiser for taking time to ponder her words.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

The Missing Sock

How many unmatched socks do you have in your house? That's what I thought - probably at least a dozen! Then you'll laugh at this morning's post over at Cool People Care, called Sock It To Me.

I usually stack up unmatched socks on one side of my sock drawer. Over time, they usually rediscover their old mate or a new mate. But some socks linger in the pile for a long time. I sometimes use socks for rags, but I honestly never thought about other people wanting my extra socks!

If you have other ideas for those extras, I'd love to hear them!

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Take Some Time

I spent the weekend with new and old friends at my church's women's retreat. The focus was rest, and it was a phenomenal experience. We started each segment with a woman praying scripture, then we had a concert of worship (a combination of singing, liturgy and journalling), then we had 2 hour blocks of quiet space with no talking. Being in a state park, it was a lovely time of reflection, prayer, personal goal-setting, and just listening to God speak. The whole experience was totally counter-culture, but exactly what people are unknowingly hungering for.

It was very reviving to my body, mind and spirit. I'm so grateful that I went on the retreat, and I can't wait to share more. But for now, I need to go spend some time with my sweetheart!

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