Archive | February 2012

From Dave Ramsey: 29 Way to Leap Out of Debt

In honor of Leap Day, Dave Ramsey has posted 29 great ways to LEAP out of debt. For those of you who don’t have debt, there are still great money-saving ideas. Check it out…

Leap Day Activities

It comes once every 4 years so why not do something fun. While we are having a regular school day (we are usually finished by noon), we are adding in a few Leap Day themed things. For some great ideas check out

At our house, the school-aged kids are writing a letter to themself to be opened on February 29, 2016. Our Little Man is coloring a picture of a frog. We are then putting those away with a picture of them from today to be opned in 4 years. This should be a fun activity to encourage writing (or coloring) skills and add some introspection. I just hope I remember to get them out in 2016!

We are also eating a leap-themed dinner. Follow me…toads leap. Mushrooms are called…Toadstools. So we are eating mushroom rissoto! (Okay it is a stretch but no one here likes frog legs.) You can also try an old traditional recipe for Leap Year Cake

Happy Leap Day!

Family Pictures: Tips for Taking Your Own Portraits on a Budget

We love pictures at our house. We prefer to capture still images to video. We have bins of pictures we have taken (or had taken) and external drives filled with picture files. We just love pictures.

For years when the kids were young I am embarrassed to say that we often took them to portrait studios and paid too much money to have pictures taken, even though we both have some background in photography. Overwhelmed with a couple little ones, taking pictures at home seemed out of our reach. But after too many trips to the photographer with delays, crying kids, and way-too-staged portraits, we have started taking pictures ourselves or having family friends help out (for those all-in family portraits).

For us, capturing the family at play is a huge part of our “portrait” experience so we look for times at parks, the beach, hiking, at the park, snow play – anything fun that captures the spirit of our family. Capturing the family in these settings is often free and lets you really get the essence of who people are and your family dynamic. These memories are much more valuable than staged pictures.

But sometimes you just want a nice portrait of a child or the family. So how can we do this on a budget? Become your own photographer. Here are some essential parts to do this:

Buy a tripod for your camera. Tripods can be purchased at camera or electronics stores or your favorite ‘Mart. You do not need a heavy-duty tripod. Something small, portable and light-weight is best. We purchased ours for around $15 and it came with a carrying case. It is super-light and easy to carry and set up. We use it all the time. This will help you get better quality pictures. Plus this will allow you to use the timer settings on your camera to take group photos with you in them.

Next make your own backdrop. This can be as simple as a sheet or large piece of fabric. Solid light colors tend to work best because they will not distract from the true subject matter but you can get quirky with prints and patterns too, especially if you keep the outfits simple. Hang the backdrop from a crib side for littler kids or from the fridge, a doorway, or a large bookcase for older family members or group shots. Be sure that your fabric is large enough to have some on the ground, as this will offer a better background and more shot options.

Use props you have. You have plenty of interesting props around the house. Take pictures with favorite toys or blankets. Use flowers from your yard or purchase an inexpensive set at the store and see what the kids do with them. Blow up balloons and let the kids play. Gather seasonal items and let the kids go at them (fall leaves, Christmas decorations, Easter Eggs, etc.). Even pillows can make fun pictures if you encourage your kids to relax and have fun!

About Me…or How I Became a SAHM #8

Upon returning home from vacation at the beginning of August we had the undeniable impression that we were to head to the mission field internationally. We just weren’t sure where yet. We began to pray and seek out opportunities for teaching positions (the fastest way to get into most countries).

Things were moving quickly. Almost immediately we began to get interest from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. We started researching the area, mission opportunities, and housing. Things were quickly falling into place and Husband was asked to come to Chicago for an interview. This was no small feat for us on no income, but we prayed, our family prayed, our church prayed, and we decided to send him to the interview. We prayed that God would either blow the door wide open or slam it shut. And boy did He!

During the interview it came up that we have three kids, something that was on all his applications and paperwork. But the actual person doing the interview became disinterested when that fact came up and one day later the door to Abu Dhabi slammed shut. We were disappointed but we knew that God had answered our prayer. What a crazy 10 days!

So now what were we to do?

To Be Continued…

Organizing Medical Records

Keeping up with medical records can be a chore. No one wants to spend a lot of time going through these papers and pieces of information. But accurate medical information can literally be a life and death matter. So keeping up with these for our family has to be a priority. Plus, who wants to have to look up all that information every time you see a new doctor or need to fill out a form for school? Here is a quick and easy way to keep medial information organized:

TIP: As medical related paperwork makes its way into your house, file it immediately as a medical record or a tax document. (In some cases you can deduct all or a portion of your medical expenses. Consult your tax professional or the IRS code for details.) Staying on top of filing this paperwork will reduce the stress related to finding it and having the right information accessible for the right people.

Head to your computer. Any copies of x-rays, medical findings or significant diagnoses can be scanned into your computer, eliminating a lot of paperwork. Also, many places, especially imaging (x-rays, MRI) and specialists will put relevant medical information onto CD for you. Now you have important papers and records that you can access via your computer, making them easier to share with doctors and other places that need the information. Increasingly doctors are making email and web-based tools available to patients for us to add medical records and get appropriate information to and from them, so keeping things electronically will just make that process easier for you.

While you are on the computer, set up a file for each member of the family that will contact a summary of their medical history. This should include all allergies (specifically drug allergies), surgical history, current medications, specific diagnoses that are for chronic (long-term) or recent conditions. Also include current symptoms. We use this Medical Information Template. This way, when you visit the doctor, whether new or old, you can print this form and take it with you. When the PA, nurse, or doctor ask a question, refer them to the form. Doctors and their office staff love patients who come prepared with this information. I can’t tell you how many times I have had doctors thank me or ask me if I could give them a blank copy to put on their website so patients can easily provide summary information. It will make your visit more efficient and more productive, as well as more pleasant in all likelihood.

TIP: When meeting a new doctor for the first time, be sure you know their first and last name. When a doctor comes into the room and calls you by your first name, but introduces himself as “Dr. So-and-So” you are armed and can respond back with “Hello, George, I’m Mrs. Smith.”  This helps set the tone for a professional relationship where you, as the patient, are respected and not belittled. Plus it often gets a good laugh. I don’t care if a doctor calls me by my first name, but if they expect me to use formal titles, they should extend the respect to me too.

Saturday Project: Tee Shirt Quilt

I have always wanted to make a quilt. When my kids were little (newborns and at 2 years old) I made each of them blankets that they still sleep with and under today (10 years later!). But I have never tackled a quilt. We own a lot of quilts collected from family and various points of travel all over the world. I love the art and skill that goes into making these items.

In addition to acquiring quilts from various travels, we have also acquired tee-shirts. From school spiritwear, team uniforms, vacations, and just favorite comfy tees, we see to have more than our share of “memory” tee-shirts. I got the idea a few years ago to keep all these tees and turn them into pillows and a family memory quilt. We have also acquired a number of patches from various trips and the plan is to sew (or iron) these onto the tee-shirt quilt.

My favorite thing about this quilt is that it is never finished. What is a small throw today could be a king-sized bed cover in 20 years. We can just keep adding to it as we experience more cool things that we commemorate with tee-shirts.

After looking through literally dozens of blogs and websites with instructions for this project, I found one (via Pinterest) that I liked the best. Rather than re-invent the process, I am just going to give you the link to the instructions I prefer…. Tee-Shirt Quilt . Be warned, this blog comes with music attached, which at first I thought was not the best, but it actually really grew on me and now I want the playlist!

Happy Saturday Everyone!

How to Use Pinterest to Stay Organized

Pinterest is all the rage right now. As a graphics person I really enjoy pinboards and the online version is no exception. While it seems that most posts on Pinterest are people planning weddings they will never have, with men they will never date, only to move into homes they will never own so they can fill said homes with clothes and furniture they will never buy, and get away from it all on trips they will ever take, while simultaneously exercising like mad and preparing decadent cakes and desserts,  Pinterest can actually be redeemed to offer a great way to organize.

Before we being, let me just say that spending time focusing on things you don’t have and probably never will is a recipe for discontentment and unhappiness. If you find that in using Pinterest you are focusing on things you don’t and will never have, or on people outside of your marriage, it is time for a Pinterest fast. Lay off it for at least 1 week and focus on what you have in your life.

Back when I worked and had an office I had the walls covered with cork and dry-erase magnet boards. On said boards were notes and pictures that inspired me and helped me organized and perform whatever projects I was currently working on. So as I tackle the job of wife and mom, Pinterest has become the place for that. Think of Pinterest like your Favorite bookmarks for your internet browser. Only now, instead of having lists of sites, you have photos of what you were interested in on that site.

Start by creating boards along the following themes:

Organization – for ideas that you will use to keep your household  organized                                                                                                      Cleaning – for ideas related to keeping your house and its contents clean                                                                                                                     Home Schooling – not just for people who actually home school, but for everyone with kids to include educational ideas that you will implement at home                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Recipes – for things you will actually cook                                                                                                                                                                                            Kids’ Activities – for things you will actually do with your kids                                                                                                                                         Vacation Planning – for a real trip you will actually plan to take in the next 12 months                                                                                        Kids’ Birthdays – for items relating to your kids’ current birthday party theme or gift ideas                                                                                   Date Ideas – for activities or places you can and will actually go  and do                                                                                                                Christmas – for decorating and gift ideas                                                                                                                                                                                     Easter – for decorating and celebrating ideas                                                                                                                                                                          Fitness – to include exercise plans you actually will use and inspirational quotes or music that gets you moving                                     Inspirational Word – for signs and sayings that inspire you to be who God intended                                                                                                       Style – for various photos that depict your personal style and the vision you have for your home and life

Yeah, that’s a lot of categories for boards. But the trick to organization is being specific. Now, instead of bookmarking websites as favorites, use your PinIt application (you can get a PinIt button for your favorites toolbar from the About drop down menu on Pinterest) to pin pictures from your favorite websites onto the appropriate boards. When you want to know the recipe for that yummy chicken you saw, or how to do that paper craft with your kids, go to your Pinterest boards, and in the upper right of the picture will be a link to the site or article from which  you “Pinned” the photo. This will save space on your computer, and give you a great way to visually organize all your favorite websites and things you would like to try!

Happy Pinning!

Week of 2/27 Dinner Menu

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 2/27 Grocery list

Monday: Chicken, Broccoli, Mushrooms over rice – saute chicken with broccoli and mushrooms, make a gravy in the pan from chicken stock, and serve over rice

Tuesday: Meatball Subs

Wednesday: Risotto – You can save money by making this with broken spaghetti instead of the expensive risotto pasta. I serve ours with chicken and mushrooms, covered in parmesan cheese.

Thursday: Pizza cups with cheese sticks – For this you will need wonton wraps. Place them open in a muffin tin and fill with pizza toppings. For the cheese sticks, cut string cheese into 5 pieces and wrap in a wonton wrapper; fry.

Friday: Chicken Marsala – Put 3-5 boneless chicken pieces, 1 bin of mushrooms sliced, 1 c. chicken stock and 1 bottle of Marsala wine in the crock pot on high for 4-6 hours. Thicken sauce with a roux before serving over mashed potatoes and with a salad.

Saturday: Chicken broccoli alfredo pasta – make your favorite alfredo sauce and serve with sautéed chicken & broccoli

Sunday:  Hot dogs (grilled), corn

Week of 2/27 Breakfast Menu

Here is the grocery list for this week’s menus: 2/27 Grocery list

Monday: Orange Muffins

Tuesday: Egg Bake

Wednesday: Whole Wheat Pancakes

Thursday: Blueberry Muffins

Friday: French Toast

Saturday: Scones with Lemon Curd

Sunday: Lemon Poppy Muffins