Friday, July 31, 2009

Frugal Friday: No More Juice Boxes

This spring I decided to stop buying juice boxes. They're expensive, full of sugar, and create alot of garbage! The problem is, I got used to having them at my house available all the time. How was I going to break my kids (and me) of this habit!

It all started when I saw a case of covered plastic thermal drinking cups for $1.00 at a garage sale. Ah ha! These will be easy to fill, stick a straw in, and the kids can run around the yard with them.

Hmm, how about when we need to run errands? I fill our plastic water bottles with ice, then water or juice and it stays cold for a long time. I bought a bunch of them for $0.50 each at our local thrift shop.

I also picked-up some thermal plastic drinking cups with a straw from the thrift shop. My hubby loves these filled with ice water when doing the yard work and my kids love them filled with homemade smoothies.

I don't know how much money I've saved this summer, but it must've been alot :) Sorry Sam's Club :(

For more great frugal ideas visit Frugal Fridays at Life As A Mom.

Recipe: Lemon-Lime Chili Chicken (Slow Cooker)

This was a delicious way to use new potatoes, onions, zucchini and yellow summer squash which are now in-season and available at produce stands and farmer's markets.

I fed five 8 year old girls this along with boiled fresh new potatoes and they gobbled it up! Be sure to add a dollop of sour cream on your plate to dip the spicy chicken into.

The recipe is from the cookbook "Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes Vol. 2" page 282.
I also found the same recipe online at DLife here.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

"I believe the most important priorities in the world are

nature, personal goodness, family, and friendship."

I loved this line in her book. This is the autobiography of Waris Dirie, a famous fashion model who tells her story of escaping her nomadic Somalian family as a 13 year old, after her father has arranged her marriage to an old man.

"But Papa, he's so old!" I still couldn't believe my father thought so little of me that he'd send me to live with an old man like that.

"That's the best kind, darling! He's too old to run around, chasing after other women, bringing home other wives. He's not going to leave you - he'll look after you. And besides" - Papa grinned proudly - "Do you know how much he paid for you?"

"How much?"

"FIVE camels! He's giving me FIVE camels." Papa patted my arm. "I'm so proud of you."

Her story takes you from her childhood living in a Somalia with her nomadic family. They live in the desert raising there animals in a constant search for food and water. She's a happy girl and loves her life in the desert. She even begs her mother for the young girls "right of passage" to have Female Circumcision at age 5. This is, obviously, something she didn't know anything about other than there were great celebrations when her older sisters had it done.

"Even though I suffered as a result of my circumcision, I was lucky. Things could have been much worse, as they frequently were for other girls. As we traveled throughout Somalia, we met families and I played with their daughters. When we visited them again, the girls were missing. No one spoke the truth about their absence, or even spoke of them at all. They had died as a result of their mutilation - from bleeding to death, shock, infection or tetanus. Considering the conditions in which the procedure is performed, that isn't surprising. What's surprising is that any of us survived."

Her story had me captivated from the beginning and I read the book within a few days. It's been a while since I've read a book this quickly but I had to find out how she went from a nomad to an international model. It was facinating to read her story of survival from her escape crossing the desert alone to ending up in London. Her flight to London was the first time she'd ever seen a flushing toilet or a white person. When she arrived in Hethrow airport she saw an escalator and snow for the first time.

Waris Dirie has remarkable courage and inner-strength. Her fighting spirit comes through in everything she does from figuring out how to escape in the desert, to how she'll deal with the photographer who discovered her and followed her for years in London.

She later became Special Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund to join the fight to stop female circumcision. To find out more about this program here. She's also started the Waris Dirie Foution to continue her fight.

"When I imagine that this year two million more little girls will go thorugh what I went through, it breaks my heart. It also makes me realize that each day this torture continues, angry women like myself will be produced, women who can never go back and recapture what was taken from them."

Waris Dirie Books
Her books Desert Flower, Desert Dawn, Desert Children and Letter To My Mother became international bestsellers. Waris is now working on a new book to be released in 2010. There will also be a movie coming out "Desert Flower".

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Yes, it's true. I've never tried or made this bread before.

Almost every mom I talk to has some family recipe for zucchini bread or happy memory to share about how delightful it tastes. So, when my friend gave me a huge zucchini from her garden the other day - hooray! - I referred to some of my favourite cookbooks. The recipe I tried was from Southern Living's 30 Years of Our Best Recipes P. 37 (hey, who can argue with 30 years!).

I had my daughter and her friend (both 8 years old) measure all the ingredients and mix it together. I've found it to be a great way to teach fractions and that teaching goes much smoother when our daughter has a friend to learn with. They each had a bowl - one for dry ingredients, one for the wet ingredients. They were excited just from the smell of the batter.

Always willing to lend a hand, our dear son (3 years) got one of his trucks to help with clean-up, once the loaves were in the oven.

This was soooo delicious! They really turned out perfect! I had to use parchment paper instead of a coating spray and it couldn't have worked out better. Much easier to take them out of the loaf pans to cool on the wire rack. The recipe made 2 loaves so my daughter's friend had one to take home.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Preserving Summer's Bounty: Blanching and Freezing Vegetables

For those of you, like me, who are intimidated by canning to preserve all this wonderful in-season produce here is a nice alternative. Stephanie over at Keeper of the Home blogged about blanching and preserving summer's bounty. She's included lots of great pictures and a step-by-step process on blanching and freezing.

Find her article here Keeper of the Home or by clicking on the title above.

Shared via AddThis

Buying Local: Where & How?

This spring is when I really started to think about buying local food and in-season produce . It never really crossed my mind as to where our food came from before. I love a good sale at the grocery store and use coupons regularily.

Then, one morning while having my coffee and looking out at the beautiful fields around my home, I started to think about it. I wonder where this coffee came from? Last fall we joined the Arbor Day Foundation (for $10 we got 10 free trees!) and received a panphlet promoting their shade grown, fair-trade coffee. I didn't realize lots of trees were cut to grow most types of coffee. Once I started thinking about food and it's sources I couldn't stop.

FARMER'S MARKETS ~ As I didn't know very much about local food or where it comes from, I thought the best place to start would be the farmer's market's. My first trip was an exciting one! I bought flowers, soap made from emu oil, homemade pasta, spice mixes, potatoes, onions, zucchini, tomatoes and lots more. I was careful to watch the farmer's signs to see where the food came from and was pleased to see that (most of the time) they'd advertise if it was from out-of-state. They were all very friendly and willing to discuss their wares and offer recipes.

PRODUCE STANDS ~ I also found a local produce stand, Mindy's Farm Fresh Produce 913-731-5365, which she run's out of her husbands business warehouse. Her husband, father and brother and other family all have farm's nearby and she sell's that produce here. So now, whenever we're low on fruit like watermelon or cantelope, I drop by and pick some up. So easy! She's open all through the week so I don't have to wait for a farmer's market day and she's located right by our local grocery store.

LOCAL EGGS ~ A friend of mine down the road has chickens and I buy her eggs at $2.00/doz. It's local, free range, grass fed, and I even know the chickens names! Free range organic eggs are around $3.22 at Sam's Club! Best of all, we love to visit her farm and play with the animals! There's always signs around and advertisements in the paper selling eggs so even if you don't have a friend with a farm, their easy to find. My friend has now begun to tell me how they slaughter and eat their roosters but I don't think I'm quite ready for that.. yet.

HOW TO FIND ~ So far, finding local food and in-season food is pretty easy here in the heartland. I'm not sure what I'm going to do once winter comes, but am reading about canning and preserving to see if maybe it's something I can do. I've also found a few good online guides,, to help me where I simply type in my zip code and it tells me everything that's nearby.

HARVESTING/U-PICK ~ I'll be going peach picking soon and am hoping to pick apples in September. I also found a good guide for local u-picks I also signed-up to help "glean the harvest" with our local St. Andrew's Society An article in the Family Circle '09 magazine on Garden-Variety Giving (pg. 73) inspired me to do this. Amy Grey, a mom who had too much left-over in her garden one year, donated it to the local food bank then started a non-profit called Back Yard Harvest.

MY LOCAL FOOD GUIDE ~ As I continue my journey this year, I'll share all my experiences here. I often hear how much time and effort it takes to figure this all out. Maybe by refering to my guide on Local Food on the right-hand menu it will make your journey to local or in-season food a little bit easier. It's affordable, easy and sooo delicious!

NEXT STEPS ~ Buying local meat; making home-made bread in 5-minutes, crock-pot yogurt, seasoning mixes from scratch; and signing-up with a CSA!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Recipe: Oatmeal Cookies

In my family I am famous for these cookies. They're one of my personal favourites! It's one of those recipes I can make "with my eyes closed".

When you gotta load up the kids and run errands, throw some in a snack bag & you've got the perfect take-with-you snack! Don't forget to pack a drink too as these make you thirsty.

These are the perfect cookie jar cookie! Wait until you smell them as they're baking - heavenly!


2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon hot water

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups flour

(also works well if you'd like to use 1-cup whole wheat flour and 1-cup white flour)

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 package dark chocolate chips or raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs until frothy. Beat in sugars. Beat in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg.

In a seperate bowl (I use a 1-cup measuring cup) combine baking soda and hot water. Stir to blend. Beat into above mixture.

In a seperate bowl combine flour, oats and salt. Mix into wet mixture.

Place parchment paper on cookie sheets (I bake 2 cookie sheets at a time), and drop by tablespoonful (or less) onto sheet. Bake about 8-10 minutes.

Take out of oven and let cool on cookie sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely so they don't stick together in the cookie jar.

They'll get eaten as quickly as you can make them sometimes. Especially if you make them when your kids have a playdate!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Family Activity: Iwig Family Dairy, Tecumseh, KS

We recently took a drive to visit our local independent dairy, Iwig Family Dairy in Tecumseh, KS. I was curious about this dairy after purchasing tasting their delicious milk. I had so many questions about this new-found milk and thought it'd be a fun field trip for our family.

We drove to their dairy just south of Topeka and it took just over an hour. Our drive took us along the old Santa Fe trail and by some beautiful scenery. The prettiest spot that we drove through was Overbrook, KS where they had this display on a hilltop symbolizing one families journey west.

Kansas is full of unexpected places, like this, where you come upon a dairy along side an elementary school. We drove down the driveway, past the house, the cows in the pasture and found their barn with the store inside. Outside there were lots of sweet baby cows penned and ready to be petted.

In the store we found lots of fresh milk, cheese, ice cream, butter and friendly service. I was full of questions which they were only too happy to answer.

Why is the milk in glass instead of plastic?

The gentleman told me that they believe their milk tastes best and maintains it's freshness longest when it's at it's coldest possible temperature. The glass bottles maintain this desired temperature and protects the milk from any harmful chemicals which are found in plastic.

Why does your skim milk taste so creamy?

They specially blend milk from different types of cows to achieve this taste. They also don't inject their cows with hormones and feed them only the best! Most of all, it's because their cows are loved, appreciated, cared for, and each have a name not a number.

Do you bottle and deliver your own milk to the grocery stores?

Yes! Their bottling is done on the backside of the store behind a looking glass where you can watch. It comes straight from the cows, goes through the pasturization process, to the bottles, then loaded on their trucks for delivery. Of course, this is explained in my simple terms, but I can assure you their are lots of check points and extra steps during this process.

Are you inspected like the other dairies and big producers?

An inspector was there the day before our visit. This dairy is expected to meet all the standards and regulations of any other dairy.

Can I find your milk all over Kansas?

No, because they are still trying to grow their business and have an agreement with other independent producers, like Shatto Milk, not to compete directly in the stores with them. Therefore, if your grocer carries Iwig milk then this will be the only such independently produced milk in the store.

We tired different flavour samples like root beer milk, chocolate cookie milk, and orange (tastes like a creamsicle). They were all delicious! I purchased some butter to try as well and will blog about how it bakes later.

I can buy my Iwig milk from our local Price Chopper for $3.49 + $2.75 refundable bottle deposit. I believe it's well worth the extra cost to have healthy, great tasting, hormone-free local milk. Although the glass bottle is heavy and slippery when you take it out of the fridge, I understand their reasons for using it.

Why not visit your local dairy today and find out where your milk comes from? There are other dairies you can visit locally such as Shatto Dairy or the Emerich Family Creamery 785-396-4347 . You can also look up your local dairy on
Here are some links to articles on local milk in the Lawerence Journal in 2002, 2006 and 2007 and in the Topeka Captial Journal in 2007. KC Kids Fun has blogged about their great field trip to Shatto Dairy and Food Person has also blogged on the tastiness of local milk.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green and Frugal Cleaning: Vinegar

Wise Bread is one of my favourite sites for green and frugal tips. I read their article "30 Household Products Vinegar Can Replace".

I already use vinegar and water to clean my windows, tile and shower doors. I'm so pleased to now have a full list (and recipies) of other great uses! Who knew you could use it to remove the onion smell from your hands, be used to remove grass stains from cloths, treat acne, or as a window defroster in your car?

Vinegar is cheap (2 pack of 1gallon jugs $3.38 at Sam's Club), easy to find, doesn't have harmful fumes or harsh chemicals and it's a GREAT cleaner (nothing else would get my shower doors clean or my bathroom mirrors streak free!).

It's also not harmful to our septic tank or our 3 year old son, who loves holding the spray bottle to help mommy clean! For health questions about vinegar, go to the National Institutes of Health.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monthly Organization Round-up

Thank you Organization Junkie for this monthly challenge!

This month's challenge was to organize your make-up and hair accessories. I'm pleased with how my make-up is currently sorted, as I only use 3 pieces of make-up; lip liner, lipstick and mascara :)

The only thing I had to sort was my daughter's hair accessories. I do this about every 6 months or so, but it still ends up in a mess. As girls get older, they outgrow their hair accesseries just like their clothing. A close friend with younger girls receives all our unwanted hair items. This took me only 20 minutes to complete this sort and clean-up.

I placed 2 small hat boxes at the back of one of the drawers for clips and elastics, then made a tray for big clips and hair bands. In the bottom drawer I've placed only her travel vanity bags.

So quick and easy! I feel very accomplished getting this done before back to school!

Family Activity: It's Time for County Fairs!

The Mom's at KC Kids Fun created a listing of all the local county fairs that will be happening over the next few weeks.

Here's a listing of what will be happening this week (July 18th-25th) here in Miami County.

18 - 25 Miami County Fair & Rodeo

19 - Youth Rodeo 6:00 p.m. Rodeo Arena

20 - Sanctoned Kiddie Tractor Pull 4:00 p.m.
Building # 5 *Registration 3:30 p.m.

21 - "Frontier Twirlers" Square Dance Exhibition
7:00 p.m. Building # 2

Mutton Bustin & Sweethart Crowning
8:00 p.m. Rodeo Arena
$3.00 admission or $1.00 in advance from Sweethearts

22 - Rotary Fair Parade 7:00 p.m. (Downtown Paola)
For more info:
Free Entertainment 8:30 p.m.

CARNIVAL 6:00 P.M. TO 10:00 P.M.

23 - Rodeo * Grand River Rodeo Company 7:30 p.m.
CARNIVAL 6:00 P.M. TO 10:00 P.M.

24 - Project Auction 6:00 p.m. (Building #5)
Kid's Night 7:30 p.m. (Building #5)
Rodeo* Grand River Rodeo Company 7:30 p.m.
CARNIVAL 6:00 P.M. TO 10:OO P.M.

25 - Chris Cake's Breakfast 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. (Building #5)
Livestock Premium Auction 9:00 a.m. (Building #5)
Demolition Derby * 7:00 p.m. (Rodeo Arena)
CARNIVAL 6:00 P.M. TO 10:00 P.M.

*Tickets for ATV Flat Track Race, Rodeo, and Demolition Derby $8.00 in advance, $10.00 at gate. Children under 6 years old are free with an adult. Advance tickets available from Queen and Princess Candidates of Fair Office through 5:00 p.m. Thursday, July 23rd.

Target Deals: So much Free w/coupon this week!

Thanks Money Saving Mom for the listings of all the great coupon deals at Target this week!

I can't believe how much you can get for free or nearly-free, just by taking the time to print or cut a few coupons. She has links to these coupons on her site and listings of where you can find the other cut-out coupons.

Be sure to check-out her great site, and find out how to save. Who doesn't love free stuff?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

I learned alot from this book and what the Chinese people experienced through the 1930's-40's. It was beautifully written. I was taken from Shanghai, to the country-side, to Los Angeles seemlessly by Lisa See's vivid descriptions. I could smell the food, hear the streets, and feel the cloths on me as she described them.

I had no idea the plight of the Chinese people during this time and it was heartbreaking to read. I have a much better understanding of their customs and culture now. I admire how these families stay together no matter what.

I love a story that can take me away, fill me with emotion, teach me something new, and inspire me. This novel does exactly that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipe: Zucchini Beef Skillet

Thank you to Gina @ Home Joys for this delicious recipe. What a great way to use up small zucchini.

I changed the recipe a bit by adding some Tastefully Simple Green Tea Peppercorn Seasoning, which I purchased at the Wednesday morning Overland Park Farmer's Market a few weeks ago. I served this meal with garlic bread and grated parmasan cheese on top.

It was easy to make and smelled wonderful cooking!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gardner Farmer's Market

This is our year of discovering the local farmer's market's around us and trying to eat in-season produce as much as possible.

This week we tried the Gardner Farmer's Market. It's is open June, July and the 1st week of August on Friday's 3:30pm until sell-out. We were hoping to find peaches, berries and plums and other in-season goodies! So, I loaded up the kids, my son's wagon, and off we went.

I checked the website first for directions or an address but it only indicated the corner of Main and Sycamore St.. Can't be that difficult to find in a small town right? It was actually pretty easy.

Like all small town farm market's it's not big and had maybe a dozen vendors. The vendors are what brings the charm to these markets. They know their product well, and usually offer samples and recipies too.

I bought the kids popcorn to eat while we strolled around and enjoyed the live jazz playing. The first thing I like to do is look at everything then decide what to buy. I even try to buy a little from each vendor as the prices are all similar.

We saw lots of corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, honey, potatoes, homemade bread & baked goods, jam and preserves, jalapeno candy!, bbq and more. We sampled some of the jalapeno candy and it was actually good! Hot, but good!

I bought a huge zucchini (gonna try to make bread with it), onions, cherry tomatoes (which our son eats like grapes), blackberries (shh, I'm hiding these from the kids so I can make fruit roll-ups), honey, honey bug-lotion (to send to Iraq), green beans, 1 jar strawberry jam & 1 orange marmalade, and bbq to take home for supper.

On our way home we stopped at our favourite local BBQ place, Hillsdale Bank BBQ, and picked-up a bottle of their famous sauce "The Sauce" for $3.20

We also stopped at our local cofffee-shop for a bag of The Roasterie coffee. The owner was kind enough to grind the beans for us at no extra charge. We're now trying to buy local when it comes to our coffee and this seems to be a good local choice

Slowly we're reaching our goal of eating in-season, and supporting our local community. It takes some effort, but what I'm finding is it's usually very affordable and easy once you begin to figure it all out. I hope this post inspires some of you to do the same and offered some useful tips.
Share your stories with us!

I Just Won 1 Swag Buck on

I've been registered to this search site for a few weeks now and am curious to see what all these Swagbucks will get me. Watch for future blogs and see!

I Just Won 1 Swag Buck on

Shared via AddThis

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cutting Coupons in KC: Coffee-Mate Wheel of Fortune Game

Cutting Coupons in KC: Coffee-Mate Wheel of Fortune Game

Check out Amy's post from Cutting Coupons in KC. She's a member of the Coffee-Mate Brew Crew and gets to try lots of samples and even gets gift cards for participating! I just signed-up myself :)

Recipe: Sausage & Bread Bake

Last night I had a package of monster brats that needed to be cooked. I didn't want to do the same old thing by grilling and serving them on a bun, so I looked up something new to try.

I pulled out my "Reader's Digest Just One Pot" cookbook (linked below on, that my husband bought for me, and tried the Sausage & Bread Bake on page 200. The recipe called for 1lb of sweet Italian Sausage so I improvised with the Brats and used ground sage instead of sage leaves.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pound (500 g) sweet Italian sausages
2 cups (200 g) day-old bread, cut into small cubes
4 leaves fresh sage, torn
4 large eggs
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) chicken broth or stock (see page 56)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F (180C/gas 4)
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or flameproof casserole over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, and parsley until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the sausages and cook until browned, 7-8 minutes. Chop the sausages into thick slices.

Drain the fat from the pan, pouring 4 tablespoons into a large bowl and discarding the rest. If there is not this much fat in the pan, add extra olive oil.

Mix in the cubes of bread, sage, and sausages. Season with salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs lightly, then stir them into the chicken broth. Pour this liquid over the sausage-and-bread mixture. Stir well.

Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes more. Servc hot.

Serves 4 * Prep 25 min * Cooking 70 min

It smelled wonderful while it cooked on the stove then baked in the oven. It was made and served with the following items bought at our local farmer's market's:
  • parsley, that I grow on our back deck
  • onion ($0.50)
  • corn-on-the-cob ($5/doz)
  • cantelope ($1)
  • eggs ($2/doz), I buy these from a friend nearby
The brats were on clearance at Price Chopper for $1.67. What a deal!

Although this made for a delicious supper, I would recommend it for brunch when you have company visiting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Monthly Care Package to Iraq

Today I mailed our monthly care package to our "adopted" soldier in Iraq. I read about this program in a magazine, looked up the website and thought why not? We always wanted to do our part to support our troops but hadn't quite found a way and this was it!

I signed-up online and, within a few days, received a confirmation phone call, then we received an email with our soldier's name and shipping address. I requested a female soldier as I'd be more familiar with what she might like to receive. Our soldier is 19 and is serving in Iraq.

Our commitment is to send care packages monthly and correspondence weekly for the length of their deployment. We've sent two boxes previously with lots of goodies. The website has lots of ideas for what you can/can't send and there is a survey your soldier can fill out with their preferences.
This month we're sending DVD's, gum, tea, power drink mixes, tuna, candy, etc. Last month we sent pain relievers, itch relievers, lotions, shampoo, magazines, candy (always), and other personal care items. I try to change it up each time, so next month I'll be sending mostly books.

The post-office's large flat-rate boxes are only $11.95 to mail to Iraq. I can stuff it as full and as heavy as I like. It's just so easy to make these care packages and send them!

We are so thankful for her service in Iraq.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome to My Blog

I hope you find this to be a great information resource. My goal is to share my favourite blogs, links, recipies, tips and ideas with all of you. Being a woman, wife, and mother is a journey of discovery and having good inspiration available makes the road less bumpy.

Enjoy! :)
Related Posts with Thumbnails