Saturday, April 30, 2011

Weekly Menu

Another successful week of meal-planning! Now, if I could decrease my weekly spending on groceries, I'd consider this a true success! :) I clipped coupons last Sunday and today I can't find them - go figure. Yes, there are areas of my life in need of some organization - but I've got a 10 pg history research paper; 7 pg education paper; and statistics exam to finish over the next few days!

Saturday - steak kabobs; tossed salad; and sauteed mushrooms
Sunday - low fat turkey burgers (we splurge on this every now & again from Fresh Market); pasta salad; and corn on the cob
Monday - baked chicken tenders; Asian cabbage salad; and fruit
Tuesday - mini-honey mustard loaves (5 dinners); mashed potatoes; and corn
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Asian Chicken & vegetables (5 dinners)
Thursday - Turkey & Swiss sandwiches, chips, and fruit
Friday - leftovers

What are you having this week?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Front Porch Makeover -- Curb Appeal Part I (BEFORE)

It's that time of year when I find myself with a list of to-do's a mile long. Who am I kidding? I always have a list of to-do's a mile long! Anyway, it's seems spring gets me itching with things I want to do around the house. Where I think I will find time to do these projects is another story? Have I mentioned I work full-time, go to school full-time, and have a family? :)

Anyway, the weather here has been GORGEOUS the past couple of days which has ideas twirling about the outdoors. I don't mind digging in the dirt in sprucing up the outside. There is the WISH LIST of "to-do's" and the reality list of "to-do's" as well. :)

Here is a pic of our house... it's a simple ranch style home and it works for us. Nothing fancy :) I've never been able to get the entry way just right. This is usually what I start out with each and every spring --- I plan to add a hanging fern by the front door & the flower pots by the front door will be filled with lots of color (usually impatients, geraniums, & a sweet potato vine). I LOVE to infuse color by using flowers. Needless to say, that will make a BIG difference, but it never seems like enough -- it doesn't say cozy & welcome as much as I would like.

Things I'm pondering...

1. I found the rocking chairs at Goodwill last summer. They were well-weathered and a steal at $15.00 a piece! I brought them home and spray-painted them. Not convinced I love the red, which now has a weathered look.... what do you think?

2. When we moved here several years ago, we added the concrete pad in front of the sidewalk. In the past, we have used it for a parking spot - but now we do the car switcharoo. Should I attempt to make that more of an outdoor living space? If so, what would you do?

3. The area to the left of the front door seems blah & bare. In the fall, I have a lovely sign that is hand-painted with a pumpkin and fall colors that says "The S****'s". I love the sign and had hoped to get some additional seasonal ones, but the seller no longer exist on eBay. I have yet to find anything I like or similar on etsy or eBay.

4. Additionally, in the space to the left of the door -- the white chair seems to small for the space, but hey it was FREE! :) I've considered moving the large flower pots to the corner of the concrete pad -- trying to find a small bench for the door area OR another type chair and maybe something like a sofa table (obviously for the outdoors) to go on that wall that I can add some decor too.

5. I would like to paint the front door a classic black -- the rest of the house is a light grey with white trim -- on my wish list, I would paint the whole house. :) Does the front door need a wreath?

6. I think I need to invest in a welcome mat more inviting... LOL! The one we have is super cheap -- the black with "welcome" just doesn't say cozy to me. :) And, I'd love to add a light by the front door (currently it is overhead).

What are your suggestions?

My main goal is make it feel more cozy and welcoming & as always design on a dime (the cheaper the better!).

PS - I love my seasonal flags (I don't care if they are "yestersday" -- I love them), so don't tell me to ditch them. *smile* And, we usually freshen up the flowers beds with fresh pine needles as well. :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do you coupon?

Have you tried couponing? Are you a seasoned pro? I have tried before (10+ years ago) and failed miserably. Frankly, I think I had no clue what I was doing! I've been reading alot on blogs recently about huge savings from couponing. I would love to get our weekly budget for groceries down to $50 per week. In order to make this a reality, I know I need to invest some time and energy into couponing. I do have a few criteria...

  1. I will not buy something just because I have a coupon for it - IF it is not something I normally use, I won't but it.

  2. I will continue to prepare healthy meals for my family. In other words, I'm not stocking up on Totino's pizza because they are on sale and I can get them free.

  3. I will try to make couponing a game vs. a chore. How much can I save this week?

Here are a couple of websites I have enjoyed browsing...

Homemaking Mom -- One of the reasons , I like this website is because she doesn't stock up on "junk". You can tell she trys to buy healthy!
Total Kitchen Makeover -- Again, she shops reasonably & offers great tips for produce, etc.
Southern Savers -- This is the "big daddy" of them all -- helpful hints, gettings started and a coupon database

Do you have any tips or advice to share?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Are you easily distracted? Once upon a time, I was a very focused young lady. I had my list of "to-do's" and focused on getting my list accomplished it. I tend to do well with list - whether they are for cleaning, errands, schoolwork - I enjoy checking the box off to see the task completed. Once I became a mom, it has become harder for me to stay focused on my list. It seems that I am more easily distracted now. Not necessarily because of my son (perhaps I could use this excuse when he was a newborn, but he's TEN now!) -- there are lots of things I "should" have done this weekend -- a take-home history exam due Tuesday; a 10 pg research paper due May 3rd; a 7 pg research paper due May 10th; more cleaning... but instead I was distracted. I've put the take-home exam off which I may regret *ugh*.

As I sit in church on Sunday, it's hard not to notice some of the distractions. I try very hard to stay focused on our Pastor who has a specific purpose -- to deliver the Message that God has laid on his heart for us to receive. However, some Sundays it is harder than others -- paper rattling; people in front of you whispering; children crying; people looking around and you can "feel" they are looking in your direction; candy wrappers being opened; people yawning (or some snoring!).... you get the picture I think! There are SO MANY things that can distract us away from the Message. However, I think we need to try as hard as we can to put blinders on (as the picture above) and really focus our mind & heart on what we need to hear.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekly Menu

This is week #5 of menu-planning for my family & I love it! I'm trying to assemble and prepare all the meals on Sunday afternoon which makes dinnertime painless! :) You can get lots of other meal planning ideas here.

Saturday - We had an early Easter dinner with my parents. Ham, roasted asparagus, deviled eggs, fruit salad, corn on the cob, baked potato salad & yeast rolls. YUMMY without a doubt!

Sunday - Grilled steaks (found a 3 pack on-sale at Food Lion for under $10); leftover baked potato salad & steamed veggies

Monday - Crustless Spinach quiche & sliced strawberries

Tuesday - Baked Pork Chops (5 Dinners); corn on the cob & applesauce

Wednesday - Fellowship Meal at church - BBQ, slaw, baked beans (I have missed going on Wednesdays nights. It's been a challenge with super-husband working evenings; me catching up on school work; and super-son having soccer practice). Our class is providing the meal - we are skipping soccer, so I can help serve & clean up.

Thursday - Grilled Chicken Salad

Friday - leftovers or sandwiches

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I love the colors of Easter - beautiful pastel eggs; gorgeous azalea blooms; Easter outfits full of frills and occasionally an Easter bonnet. While these are all wonderful things about the Easter & spring season, let us not forget the reason of the Easter holiday. Thousands of years ago - it was a very dark & sad day that our Savior hung on a cross for my sins and yours -- tortured and bleeding for our transgressions. But, what a glorious day it was when they found the tomb EMPTY that morning -- Praise God - He Lives! I hope you know Him and have a personal relationship with Him. For in Him, you will find peace, comfort and best of all EVERLASTING life!

Enjoy one of my favorite songs -- reminds me of Easter... "In Christ Alone" By Avalon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are you ready for summer?

You should totally head over to my friend, Sally's blog & check out how she has made areas of her home serene beach retreats!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Decisions, decisions...

Life is a constant whirlwind of decisions. We make lots of decisions on a daily basis that we don't even think twice about. There are other decisions that we mull over in our head, over and over and over. And there are times we make impulsive decisions like eating two candy bars without a blinking an eye only to regret it 30 seconds later or reacting with words & quickly realizing our mouth needs a filter.

I've made my fair share of poor decisions in life. Some of have been expensive lessonsm, and others have helped build character (in hindsight of course). Not sure why I'm rambling about life tonight... but life is a longitudinal journey. If you've made decisions you regret, pick yourself up - dust yourself off and move forward. You won't gain anything by drowning yourself in the foolishness of the decision that can't be reversed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekly Menu

Saturday - We had dinner out with friends! I enjoyed the time with friends, but I don't enjoy eating out as much as I used too. It seems like a ridiculous amount of money to spend - Am I officially getting old?

Sunday - Salad & Baked Potato (carried forward from last week)

Monday - Chicken Pie, Green Beans, Applesauce

Tuesday - Taco Casserole (Emily Bites) I've tried this recipe before & made a few modifications. I added some corn we had leftover from last week & used Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning to reduce sodium.

Wednesday - Busy night! Super-son has soccer from 6-7p. I have a meeting for a group presentation at school at 7pm. It will likely be leftovers or sandwiches tonight!

Thursday - Hot Dogs (I plan to cook them on Wednesday night, so they will be ready on Thurs) It's my late night at school.

Friday - Leftovers or Homemade Pizza

What are you having this week?

Friday, April 15, 2011

If the shoe fits...

In a post earlier this week, I mentioned Fleet Feet Sports. Our local store is AWESOME - they practice customer-service the old-fashioned way!

One of the things, I learned while participating in the No Boundaries program was shoes matter. For as far back as I could remember, I always experience shin splints when exercising. I assumed it was an issue I would have to deal with it.

Fleet Feet has a Fitlosophy. I really thought it was just a gimmick to sell some shoes, but having experienced no shin splints for 3 years - I can say a good pair of shoes really does make a difference. You can truly feel the difference!

If you are starting an exercise program or are having issues in your feet/legs while training, I would HIGHLY recommend get fitted for the proper shoes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Run for it!

WARNING: long post :)

In January 2009, I participated in a 5K training program with Fleet Feet sports. It was one of the best experiences of my life. My personal goal was to run the 5K at the end, but I ended up doing intervals (walk/run) which was fine – but I still want to completely run a 5K. Shortly after the program ended, I allowed stress in my life to consume me and completely lost focus. I wasn’t happy with myself – I wanted to eat healthier and exercise, but I was having difficulty pulling myself out of the funk.

During the spring and summer of 2010, I kept riding by a community gym advertising Zumba. I rode past day after day thinking there was no way I could get my groove on! In late summer, my neighbor & friend – Deb – asked me to try it out with her. Umm..ok.. I think – y’all I have NO RHYTHM, but I had so much fun! Within 10 minutes of starting the class, I was sweating and an hour flew by before I even realized time was up. It felt good and rewarding to be doing something for ME. I convinced another friend, Angie, to try it as well. It was like a girl’s night out each time I went. In the fall, the gym started basketball – so we wouldn’t be able to use the facility any more. I was disappointed because I had found something that met several criteria:

• It was fun.
• No one else had rhythm either.
• It did not require a monthly gym membership

I was determined not to allow excuses become “reasons” I didn’t exercise. To be successful, I knew I needed accountability, something I enjoyed, and something that did not require a big investment. In late October, I convinced Angie to meet me at 5:30am on Mondays & Wednesdays for a 2 mile walk. It felt good in so many ways!

In December, I asked her if she would be willing to do Monday-Wednesday-Friday. She was agreeable and we increased to three miles as well. We could have made tons of excuses during the winter – it’s too cold, it’s raining, there’s snow on the ground, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, it’s the day after Christmas - BUT WE DIDN’T. We kept at it regardless of the time, the weather, or the holidays.

Currently, we are on our first week of interval training (walk 2 min/run 1 min) and we will slowly increase the time & duration that we do. Exercise has become a big stress relief for me – it is the best form of therapy I can think of. I am extremely grateful that Angie has stuck with me through the cold, rain, and snow (& deer, barking dogs, skunks). If it wasn’t for her, I’m sure I would not have been successful because “snooze” would have been more appealing!

The whole point of this extremely long post is – do what you love and love what you do! JUST DO IT!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is dinnertime chaos?

Is dinnertime chaos? Are you struggling with meal-planning?

I've latched on to this concept of 5 Dinners in One Hour for the past three weeks. I can honestly say - it has made meal-time a breeze. Overall, I'm quite happy with the recipes we've tried so far. This week, I tried to do a mix of 5Dinner meals coupled with some ingredients I had on hand to make some of our favorite meals. I've written brief reviews of the "new" recipes we've tried so far - just look for my weekly menus.

I strongly encourage you to explore meal-planning because it can save you signficant time and money! Today, Michelle posts about another menu-planning option "e-mealz". You can click here to read more.

Are you a weekly meal planner? If so, what works best for you?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Weekly Menu

Saturday: Chicken noodle soup & grilled cheese sandwiches (It was much cooler here today & weather was perfect for it.

Sunday: Lasagna & Garlic Bread

Monday: Tex-Mex Roll-Ups (5Dinners)

Tuesday: Salmon Patties, Mashed Potatoes, and Sweet Peas

Wednesday: Chicken Tenders (5Dinners), Corn, and Applesauce

Thursday: Turkey Club Sandwiches

Friday: Salad & Baked Potatoes

Friday, April 8, 2011

Is it summer yet?

I had plan to write this really awesome post on exercise this morning & my journey on becoming more active. However, let's just say -- it was one of those mornings and I'd be better off to save that post for another day. I have alot of "irons in the fire" right now and I was exhausted last night. Work has been managable, but I have alot of projects at school right now (read that -- papers, papers, papers)... I'm stressing about fall semester which is how many months away! Seriously, I need to get it together! My plan for tonight is to crank out a 5 pg paper tonight and enjoy the weekend. We'll see how that goes! Enough whining!

I wanted to share this with you....

I mentioned my friend, Sally, earlier this week -- but she posted this afterwards and I had to share. She is an amazing and talented artist in my opinion! She has shared step-by-step instructions on creating these for your own walkway or garden. You can read more here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Decorating Cents

I don't have time to watch alot of TV, but when I do HGTV is one of my favorite channels. I particularly enjoy watching every day folks transform their homes into "livable" comfortable spaces (not swanky designer rooms that can't be lived in). Decorating is something I enjoy, but something I certainly don't consider myself "good" at. I have visions in my mind, but often have difficulty implementing. I'm hoping once I finish with school I can put more emphasis on learning the tricks of the trade. Until then, I will drool in blogland through some of my favorite blogs...

Thrifty Decor Chick -- I admire her ability to use TOOLS and she has really fun & creative projects!

All Things Handcrafted -- My friend, Sally, who has an AMAZING eye for pulling rooms together & repurposing as well as recycling items into treasures! You'll love her posts so far for the week.

Young House Love -- stumbled across by accident, but love their projects and advice! I especially like browing their "mood boards" tab.

So, what are your projects?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Storms in Life

Last night, we had a spring thunderstorm -- lots of rain, thunder, lightning (literally brightened the bedroom with flash) and strong winds. Often storms make us feel very vulnerable. We may have a roof to protect us, but we don't know where the next bolt of lightning make strike or whether the strong winds will circulate into a tornado.

Our individual lives can often seem the same way. Health issues can leave one wondering what's next or how to afford the medical care needed. Unemployment leaves feelings of emptiness and even loneliness - how will I make it financially? Other storms in life may be from broken relationships or unraveling addictions.

Regardless of the storm in our life, God has promised us that He will protect us. Even when you feel like your boat is ready to capsize -- He is with you. During storms in my life, I find music to bring great comfort. A couple of my favorites -- "He is with You" - Mandisa & "Love Has Come" - Mark Schultz

To know the strength of the anchor, you must weather the storm....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Superson!

Happy Birthday to Superson! We had a fun weekend celebrating with family. On Saturday evening, we went to Funigan's - video games; mini-bowling; rock wall; soft-play area. He had a great time.

Time really does fly! It does not seem like it's been 10 years since we were patiently awaiting his arrival. He was due on March 27th, but didn't want to make his appearance until he was forced. LOL! We arrived at the hospital around 530am on April 4th to be induced. It was a very uneventful labor and delivery (quick too)! They broke my water around 8am and at 2:02pm - we welcomed baby boy to the world!

We are so blessed to have him in our lives. He has taught me so much more about life than I could have ever learned on my own. I pray that God will continue to mold us together as a family and give us the wisdom we need to guide his path for the future. "As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." I LOVE YOU to infinity and beyond!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Weekly Menu

Sorry ya'll -- but it's easier for me to post my menus on the weekend and don't ask me why but it's easier for me to start with the current weekend - so there! :)

  • Saturday - Family Celebration for Super-Son's birthday at Funigan's! Cheese pizza and birthday cake

  • Sunday - Grilled Burgers and Homemade Baked Fries

  • Monday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SUPER-SON! Make Ahead Spaghetti & Meatballs with Italian Bread (5Dinners) Review: I was a little leary of this recipe from the beginning. I'm not sure why - I make lasagna without baking the noodles all the time & we love Italian food! Anyway, I'm disappointed to say this was not a hit. :( I ended up making a pot of noodles and sauce after the "make ahead spaghetti" came out of the oven. I'm not even sure how to describe it - but it was mushy (real techincal term I know!) and the meatballs (I used Armour brand) were terrible. Next time, I would make-ahead my lasagna recipe OR brown italian sausage (or beef) to have ready for spaghetti & sauce on the night you plan to have spaghetti. (It would actually probably take less time to do that vs. waiting for this to bake anyway). You never know how it will taste until you try. 0 out of 5 stars

  • Tuesday - Roasted Sausage, Peppers & Onions (5Dinners) -Review - This recipe smelled delicious while it was in the oven - yum! Even superson wanted to know what the good smell was :) It tasted as great as it smelled. If we were not watching what we ate - I would give this recipe 5 out of 5 stars, but since we are I would have to rate it 3 out of 5 stars. It is not WW friendly unless you allow for the points and it's high in sodium. I need to look at alternative options to "lighten" it for next time. I knew it would be high in sodium, but I didn't realize how high in points it would be until I ran it through the WW recipe builder. However, if you are planning ahead - you should be able to accommodate this recipe in to your WW plan for the day (I was).

  • Wednesday - Slow-Cooked Asian Beef & Broccoli with Brown Rice (or Chow-Mein Noodles) and Fortune Cookie :) (5Dinners) Review - 4 out of 5 stars for this one! The meat was very tender, but I would say be very careful not to overcook. We had with chow-mein noodles for some crunch. It's a little higher on WW points, but doable if you plan your meals.

  • Thursday - Chicken Salad Pitas (5Dinners)

  • Friday - Leftovers or Homemade Pizza :)

I'm assembling our "5 dinners" this afternoon, so I'll try to post a pic later!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's the buzz about Shaklee?

I'd been reading in blogland for several months about this company called Shaklee. The feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of their cleaning products. According to most accounts, if you were not using Shaklee - then you were not getting your house clean. Now, let me tell ya - I love a clean house, but we have trouble keeping it that way. I mean c'mon peeps - we live here on a daily basis! :) Anyway, last month I decided to give their mini-household cleaning kit a try -- I figure worse case scenario - I don't like it and I'll send it back for a refund. Let me tell ya -- I'm likin' it! My favorite product so far is Scour Off.

It smells like yummy goodness - CHERRIES! You wanna hear something better than that -- I applied it with my bare hands - no gloves - no worrying about a product eating the skin off your hands! Anyway, I tried it on one of the "thingies" -- (becuase I don't know the proper word) on my stove Friday night. Now, I'm embarrassed to even show y'all this pictures - but my blog is all about keepin' it real. This is the before picture, "in-process" picture, and after picture...

I realize it is not sparkling clean, but I do believe it looks a lot better than before. I hear Shaklee is waiving their membership fee this month. If you are reluctant like I was this is a great time to order. Once you are a member, you are a member for life. I need to take advantage of this special myself (remember, I wasn't sure this stuff would work - so I paid at the non-member price). Cruise on over to a Bowl Full of Lemons for more information on the special.

Happy Cleaning Y'all!

I'm such a LOSER!

Do the scales make you feel that way? I hope not. I started Weight Watchers (again) in October of last year. The good news I was not at my heaviest weight, but I had some pounds to lose. The weight loss has been slow & steady with random weeks of "maintains". Two weeks ago, I had a big gain 1.2 lbs. I realize that is not an Earth shattering amount, but it got my attention. I had been playing on a slippery slope... eyeballing the plan, but not really working the plan for 3 or 4 weeks. After that weigh-in, I had a talk with myself and reminded myself of all the reasons I started this journey in the first place! With super-husband's health issues over the past 3 years, the reality of how short & fragile life can be has been etched into my mind. I want to live a healthy life for ME! Let's face it folks -- we only have one life to live, so we might as well make the most of it! Why do I love Weight Watchers? Well, I'm glad you asked....

  • It's a sensible approach. It's learning to control your portions and your triggers. It teaches you to take advantage of whole grains, fruits & vegetables, and healthy oils.

  • Accountability. I have tried the online only version of WW, but I need the meetings. Our WW leader, Mary, keeps it real and I LOVE that! Everyone in that WW room knows how you feel and has been where you are -- there's power in numbers!

  • Community. There is a ton of information on the WW website -- recipes; exercise ideas; and a variety of helpful hints. If you have a question about WW, the answer is probably there!

ALL of that to say, I'm proud to be a LOSER this week! 3.6 lbs to be exact! Today the scales were the encouragement & motivation I needed to keep truckin'!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Was it worth it? Meal plan... 5 dinners...1 hour

We have completed a week of 5 Dinners in One Hour, so I thought I'd give you my two cents!

  1. First of all, Michelle offers you a free week trial of recipes. Quite frankly, this is the only reason I tried it. You really have nothing to lose to request the free trial and see if the recipes interest you. Just visit the page and on the right-hand side you'll see a place to request a free trial. Really, it's that easy!

  2. Secondly, a couple of our local grocery stores offer online shopping. You place the order online and pick-up. In general, we save more money this way because we stick to our grocery list. Tonight, when I placed my order I entered only the 5 dinner one hour items first -- $48.86 (before tax). This included some of the pantry items listed that I didn't not have & did not account for any coupons I may have had toward some of the items. I don't know about you, but our family of 3 could not eat out for dinner 5 nights for $50.00.

  3. Easy-peasy! I made all of the dinners & cleaned up the dishes in LESS than an hour last Sunday afternoon. Every night this week, dinner was on the table in less than an hour after getting home. There was no stress and fuss about meal time because it was DONE!

  4. We have stretched the meals to include leftovers for lunch and I think we will have 2 more dinner meals this weekend from the meals this week. You can't beat that!

As a busy wife, mom, student and oh a full-time job too - I am loving the meal plan! Remember, you can modify the recipes to your families taste or reduce the amount (I did on a couple b/c we are family of 3) OR you can freeze for a later date! So run over to her blog and sign up for the free trial - you'll be glad you did!

PS - I reviewed the recipes we tried this week here.