Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

It's Fall and that means Pumpkin Bread!!!

Here is my favorite recipe for pumpkin bread. Not only is it delicious but it is also so moist and SUPER easy.

1 spice cake mix
1 15 oz can pumpkin

Mix together. Put in greased loaf pan (or three small loaf pans). Bake at 350* for 45-60 minutes.

Variations -
*apple pie filling or two cups applesauce and one spice (or yellow) cake mix
*peach pie filling and one spice (or yellow) cake mix
*lemon pie filling and one lemon cake mix (this is a favorite)
*blueberry pie filling and one lemon (or yellow) cake mix

Two cautions -
*raspberry pie filling and lemon cake mix makes a delicious flavor but it's full of raspberry seeds
*cherry pie filling and chocolate cake is delicious but hard to know when it's finished baking because the pie filling is so gooey

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Game of Economizing - Part 2

More Economizing Tips I've Learned Recently

1. I make simpler dinners now. I love the one-dish dinners that contain a protein, carb and vegetable. It cuts down on dishes to wash and my kids usually don't mind the vegetables. It also means I don't always have to have a salad or another vegetable on the side.

2. We turn the heater down and wear more sweatshirts. My kids love to wrap up in a blanket on the couch. Luckily we have TONS of quilts to use.

3. Along the lines of #2. This summer I saved $120 a month by turning the air conditioning off and the fans on. Seriously - $120! The only time this doesn't work is when the humidity is above 75 or 80%. Those days are killer and the A/C has to be turned on.

4. DH hung a clothesline for me along one edge of the carport. I don't mind hanging out the laundry and it saves a ton if I don't have to use the dryer as often. I'm hoping that when harvest is over he'll make me a real clothesline for next summer.

5. We really missed our garden this year. We moved too late in the summer to plant on here but have it all planned out for next year. We loved the fresh produce and being able to can/bottle some for the winter, too.

6. How many Christmas cards and pictures can a person actually save? I save the ones from immediate family and have a huge stack. This year I might (still thinking about it) email the letter and picture to most of our list. It will save a ton on printing fees and postage.

7. Aldi's is my new favorite grocery store - again. I shopped there when we lived in Hutchinson. Now that we are back near an Aldi's I shop there again. I can find most everything I need and it has helped with the food storage while keeping within the food budget.

8. Make Christmas gifts - I have tons of fabric scraps and can use them for lots of things. I like to make pot holders, aprons, and appliqued dishtowels. I also make "jingle socks" and hooded towels for children. I will post tutorials soon. I know of a family that always does "a priceless gift" for each family member. It has to be something that doesn't cost them any money. I think that is a great idea.

9. I've stopped using prepared mixes and boxed dinners and have started making more things by scratch again. This has cut down on the garbage we produce and has saved us quite a bit of money. If I start the dinner in the morning (and at least get the casserole prepared and ready to throw in the oven) then I have time to make things from scratch.

10. I am no longer brand-loyal on most things. If it's on sale and it's something I need then I get it, even if it's not the brand that I usually use. I am also a fan of the store brands for most things. You can save a lot by purchasing store brands. Sometimes, though, a national brand that is on sale is cheaper than the store brand - especially if you have a coupon.

11. Homemade laundry soap - I haven't tried this yet but I am anxious to. I haven't found a store that sells washing soda and no one will order it for me. I might have to order it online. I'll post the recipe in another post. My friend Tanya swears by this stuff, as do several of my cousins.

12. My NUMBER ONE money saving tip is using coupons. I was not a believer that 50 cents here or a dollar off there would add to big savings but I am a believer now. I will devote a full post to using coupons in the future but until then, here is one of my favorite coupon sites - Sign up as a follower and you will be emailed when she updates her blog. She gives you tips, tricks, ways to stack coupons on a sale and generally save money. Also make sure to check out her instructional videos on the right side of her webpage.

I'll leave you with a final thought - a poem that my mom first quoted to me when I was leaving for college -

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without!

I didn't appreciate it then, but I certainly appreciate it now!

I would love to hear your favorite money-saving tips! Please post a comment or a link in the comment section.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Game of Economizing - Part 1

This morning, while I was putting dinner in the crockpot, my mind turned to ways we, like the rest of the United States, have been economizing. We probably should have been economizing all along but we haven't been. We've been living "high on the hog" for many years - at least until the prices of things, like gasoline and milk, have started jumping higher and higher. With the expenses of our recent move and other expense-incurring happenings, it has been necessary for me to either go back to work or find ways to save money at home. It has almost become like a game. Here are the ways that we've been saving money.....
1. Inconvenience Foods - This is what prompted me to think about the ways we economize. I was peeling and cutting carrots. I probably have not done that in YEARS - there was just no need. I always purchased baby carrots. They were quick, easy, but certainly not cheap! A bag of baby carrots in our neck of the woods is close to $3. A bag of regular carrots only $1.44. That's a savings of more than 50%. Combine that with a roast I found on sale at WalMart and five potatoes and you've got a great dinner! (Recipe - Put the roast, peeled and cut carrots and potatoes in the crockpot with a package of dry onion soup mix and a cup or two of water. Cook on high for six hours or so.)

I have also started buying a full head of green leaf lettuce instead of the bagged lettuce. Again, it's usually half the price. I *hate* to make salad but this game of economizing has made a believer out of me.

2. Recycle Clothing - The other day my DH and I were in the basement sorting through some things (okay, we were trying to make a pathway through all the totes and boxes that we have carted all over the country but have rarely opened). We found a box of clothes marked "Boys - 4T". Guess what!!! I have a boy who is size 4T and he was in desperate need of winter clothes. Like most parents, I have saved clothes from the older children to use on the younger ones. My problem has been that I haven't always been good about sorting and marking them correctly or digging them out when I do know where they are. It's just easier to pick up a pair of this or a larger size of that when I'm at WalMart. However, I estimate that I saved close to $50 by opening the 4T tote and puting the sweatshirts, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, socks and shoes in Tuff's drawers. I was lucky that the sizes and season were correct.
3. Recycle Halloween Costumes - The above picture is of a friend's children. Batman and the witch costumes are borrowed. The large jack-o-lantern was made last-minute when another costume didn't work out (idea courtesy of; vines courtesy of the fake houseplants). The baby pumpkin is a costume that all four children have worn their first Halloween - a fun family tradition. (I just talked to my friend and she said the total cost of the Halloween costumes was less than $5 - and that was for the face paint and the brown pipe cleaners on top of the jack-o-lantern. My friend is all for borrowing and exchanging costumes with friends. You don't have to give them away - just lend them. Really, what else are they going to do - sit in the dress-up box over the holiday? They might as well be enjoyed!)

4. Garage Sales and Goodwill - Two more great sources for inexpensive clothing are garage sales and thrift stores. My mom and sister are great thrift store shoppers. They are always dressed to the nines and have rarely spent a lot on their outfits. I am not as good at finding things for myself but frequently I can find fabulous things for my kids - most of them so close to new-looking that it's impossible to tell that I bought them at the thrift store.

5. Ebay - I totally love ebay. I have been an ebay purchaser for many years but have only recently discovered the massive amounts of clothing on ebay. I recently purchased this white dress for my daughter for $15 plus shipping. The trim alone would have much more than $15 if I had attempted to make it. I have also bought brand new ties, skirts, piano books and birkenstock sandals (off season to get the best price). I am just in love with ebay!
6. Boys Haircuts - I bought a set of hairclippers years ago and have pulled them out to start using them again. I can save $20 every six weeks by cutting my boys' hair. Sometimes it looks better, I'll admit, but in my defense, the youngest is a moving target. I had my mom do it last time they were here to visit so the boys will look great for the next few weeks. If you don't know how to cut hair, take your son to the barber and watch how he does it. Ask questions and learn how to do it. I used to trade babysitting for haircuts when we lived in Fargo. She was a hairdresser so we traded three hours of babysitting for one haircut. I knew I was going to end up watching her kids periodically anyway so it was great to get a free haircut out of the deal!

7. School pictures are soooo expensive. It would cost be more than $90 to have all three kids' pictures taken at school. Instead I can have their pictures taken at JCPenney, Target or even WalMart for less than $10 a child. That's a savings of $60.

8. When we moved into this house the previous renters had two garbage cans. We only need one so I canceled the second one - save us $7 each month.

9. When we first signed up for the internet here, we opted for the middle-of-the-road speed. Our computer isn't that fast so the internet didn't seem fast even on the second speed. I downgraded to the lowest speed (of the high-speeds) and haven't noticed a difference at all. A savings of $10/month.

10. Our house phone has an answering machine attached to it. While I like that voicemail will take messages while I'm on the phone, I'm really not all that popular or all that important. It's not like phone is ringing off the hook and I need to have that feature. For a $5/month savings, I disconnected the voicemail and we are back to using the answering machine on the phone.

11. If we connect a phone cord from the satellite dish box to the phone jack we will save $6/month on our bill. I have the phone cord sitting next to me on the desk, I just don't know where to plug it in. I'll call the company in the morning and have them walk me through it.

12. When I make a pasta dinner I add extra pasta to stretch it a little. This lets DH have a good lunch the next day that 1) doesn't cost a lot extra and 2) is more filling than a sandwich.

13. My kids take home lunch instead of eating a school lunch. School lunch costs $2 here and I can make it for a lot cheaper than that. My kids still eat lunch at school but it's usually only a couple times a month now.

14. I love, LOVE, L.O.V.E that I made dessert on Friday night without having to go to the store. I forgot that I didn't have a dessert in mind to make for when company came over that night for dinner. I ran down to the basement and saw all the bottles of apple pie filling that I canned last year. I called my friend and she gave me her yummy apple crisp recipe. Luckily I had all the ingredients for it in my food storage. Woohoo!!! Gotta love that year supply! (And it was a dang good apple crisp. I even had some for breakfast the next morning. Oh come on, it was apples an oatmeal. Totally breakfast foods!)

I'm only about halfway through my list of economizing tips, but I think I'll go to bed now and post the rest another day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barf Bucket

If flu season hasn't hit your neck of the woods, beware - it'll be there soon. This little tool was shown to us by a nurse at an Enrichment Meeting in Hutchinson, Kansas. I love this tool because all you have to do is lift up the top bag, tie the top of it in a knot, and throw it away. The new layer is ready to go for the next round. If you set it on a towel to catch the drips then you don't have to touch anything germy and cleanup is a breeze. My kids have named it THE BARF BUCKET!

The last time we had the stomach flu hit our house, my oldest complained of a headache the night before. I knew we were in for it because the only time he gets a headache is when he's going to be sick. At midnight he woke up with a stomachache and I set the barf bucket on a towel by his bed. At 5:30 in the morning he still had a bad stomachache. At 6 a.m. I heard him throwing up in the bucket. By 6:15 he felt much better, took a shower, and spent the rest of the day on the couch, watching cartoons - with the barf bucket, on a towel, next to him!

To make a barf bucket, first, take an ice cream bucket or a small waste paper basket. Next, line it with a plastic bag (grocery bags work fine as long as they don't have holes in the bottom). Third, rip up a bit of newspaper and lay it in the bottom to absorb the vomit. A folded paper towel or a couple of napkins work fine, too. Repeat the entire process with another bag. I usually do three or four layers of bag/newspaper. I keep one of these at the ready at all times.

P.S. If anyone can come up with a cuter, less disgusting name than barf bucket, please let me know. The name really bugs me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bib Tutorial

In my quest for the perfect baby shower gift (one that doesn't cost a lot or take a lot of time, but is still hand-made), I have started making bibs to match the burp cloths and self-binding receiving blankets. The bibs are very, very easy. Just follow the tutorial for the burp cloths. The only thing different is the shape and adding the velcro at the end. For the shape, either use your favorite bib as a pattern (see picture) or draw one out on a piece of brown paper or pellon. For the velcro, just machine sew it on either end of the flaps when you are completely finished.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Burp Cloths - Tutorial

1. Draw a pattern - I like the burp cloths to be bigger than normal. I had two very spitty babies. K threw up for the first six months of her life - she even had to have an upper GI with a barium swallow (yucky x-ray for a baby). Tuffer threw up for an entire year. The only thing that helped a little was a weekly visit to the chiropractor. These burp cloths are about 17 inches long, 9 inches at their widest part, and 8 inches at the narrow middle. I've given lots of them as gifts and everyone always comments on how large they are - perfect for spitty babies. Just freehand a drawing until you are happy with it.

2. Cut out the fabric, making sure to leave extra fabric for a seam allowance. Pin, right sides together. Sew around the edge, leaving a 3 inch hole for turning.

3. Clip the edge of the fabric so that when you turn it it doesn't pull and bunch.

4. Turn the burp cloth right side out through the hole. Press the seam so it's not inside. I usually put a knife through the turning hole and run it along the inside of the seam and then press. Pin the turning hole closed.

5. If you have decorative stitches on your machine, sew around the burp cloth about one inch in from the edge. If you do not have decorative stitches, top stitch around the burp cloth about one inch in from the edge. Hand stitch the turning hole closed.

Note: I love to make these to match the self-binding receiving blankets. I usually make sure I buy enough flannel to make a blanket and two burp cloths (about 1-1/4 yards of each print will do it - or 1-1/4 yards of the back and 1 yard of the front.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Snickerdoodle Cookies (Makes 24 servings)

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
3 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350*F
2. Mix butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs and vanilla thoroughly.
3. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in separate bowl.
4. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
5. Chill dough and ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes in fridge.
6. Mix cinnamon and 3 Tbs of sugar.
7. Make 1" balls of dough and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture.
8. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crackly on top. (If you take them out of the oven when they are still a little short of being done, they will be super-chewy and super-yummy!)

(I didn't chill the cookie sheet and they turned out fine.)

These are seriously the best cookies - EVER!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Medical Journal

Here's my tip - a Medical Journal for my kids. The idea originally came from my mom almost 11 years ago when JJ was born. She suggested I get a small notebook and write in it every time I take them to the doctor. I didn't take the advice until Tuffer was born. I wish I had used this notebook when JJ and K were babies. It has been so valuable. Since we move a lot, I have a detailed account of what past doctors have said, medication dosages, frequency of illnesses, etc. It was very handy when K had frequent bladder infections. I was able to tell them how many times in the previous six months they had occurred and what different types of treatments and tests we had done. It has been wonderful in keeping track of JJ's medication evaluations and also Tuffer's growth. It's just a simple 5x7" notebook with a pocket in front where I keep the shot records (also handy to bring along to doctor appointments when you move a lot).
I divided the notebook into four sections (positive thinking that we might have a fourth child someday) by putting a round sticker on the top right edge of a page. If you have more than four kids you might want to divide the books and have one for boys and one for girls. This has been the handiest thing ever. Every entry has the date, the reason for the appointment, weight and height of the child, diagnosis, tests performed, treatment given, and anything else I feel is important to write down.