Thursday, May 30, 2013

S'mores - A love affair between a five year old and his favorite snack.

For Memorial Day, the kids kicked off summer with one of our favorite backyard traditions, S'MORES!!  I caught our middle child taking his s'mores very seriously...

I think I will let the pictures tell the story of this little love affair. :)


(so many options)


(stacking must be just right)


(the "press")


(technique is everything)


(steady, steady)


(oh, how I love you)


(victory...)


Ahhhhhh...the good life!


Does it get any better?  

Elizabeth


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Little Pink Slippers

Today I bought little pink slippers for my three year old daughter.  She has been anxiously awaiting the beginning of ballet class.  She flutters around the house with graceful little arms and legs that are trying to find their coordination.  During these moments, I can't help but stop and watch her (absorbed in her on little world).  She truly believes she is a ballerina princess.  

After purchasing the shoes and registering her at the ballet school (where I grew up dancing), I couldn't help but wonder what the story would be for her shoes.  Will these be the first of many ballet slippers or will they get one wear and then thrown to the bottom of her closet?  Will these shoes spark an adoring love of dance that she can share with me?  Will they lead to other shoes that support her through hours of grueling rehearsals (while she loves every minute and drop of sweat)?  What will their story be?  Years from now when she graduates from college, will ballet slippers still be an every day part of her life?  Maybe the shoes will be only a fond memory of her childhood or maybe they will be part of her future?  So many questions, so many possibilities, so many dreams... all from a pair of little pink slippers.






Elizabeth


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Three Siblings, Three Best Friends

We have had such a lazy day.  It rained earlier so the kids have pretty much played in the loft and I did countless loads of laundry.  While folding, folding, folding and then more folding I enjoyed listening to them interact with one another.  Their ages are 8, 5, and 3 (two boys and one girl) and 90% of the time (well...maybe 85%) they get along.  Sometimes it is the boys together, sometimes it is little sister with one of her big brothers and a lot of the time it is all three playing together.  As I was listening to their imaginative conversations, I realized they have become close friends, not just siblings.  It is such a blessing to watch.


hanging out in their bedroom
(Notice, the floral sheets next to the camo curtains.  About six months ago our daughter insisted that she wanted to move into the boys' room.  The boys were very excited about the idea so we moved her bed into their very camoflauged bedroom).

I know their relationships will change with age but I hope they always consider one another as a best friend.

The only child,
Elizabeth :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

First Aid Travel Kit with FREE PRINTABLE

Whenever we go on a family vacation, I end up throwing our first aid items in either zip top bags or a small bucket.  Since we leave next week, organizing and updating the first aid items was on my to do list.  I decided to make a "med kit".  This is what we used when I was in high school drill team.  We used it when we traveled and performed off campus.  Come to think of it, the med kit was used daily.  When you have that many teenage girls in one location, someone is always in need of something. :)

I purchased a small fishing tackle box at Wal-Mart.  I think I paid around $8.  Then I went through our first-aid items in the house and began to load it.  Below are the items included in our med kit (you may need a few different items for your family).
  1. hydrogen peroxide
  2. survival wrap (those silver blankets that come in first aid kits)
  3. gloves
  4. cotton balls
  5. gauze pads
  6. burn treatment pads
  7. cleansing wipes
  8. thermometer with probe protectors
  9. bandages of all sizes
  10. hand sanitizer
  11. children's allergy relief
  12. children's ibuprofen
  13. syringe
  14. adult ibuprofen
  15. adult allergy relief
  16. aspirin
  17. gas relief
  18. anti-bacterial cream
  19. anti-itch cream
  20. tweezers
  21. clippers
  22. chap stick
  23. small pair of scissors
  24. two brown paper lunch bags (can be used for hyperventilating or if someone gets sick)
  25. Epipen *


This is the tackle box I purchased at Wal Mart.


Here is a picture of all the items I put in the tackle box.  The scissors and brown paper bags are not pictured.  I added those after I took the photo.

I decided to print large labels stating that it was a med kit.  I want the kids to understand that this is not something for them to play with.  Also, I would hate for my husband or son to accidentally grab this "tackle box" on our next Cub Scout fishing trip.

I also labeled the back of the box.  Ok...I labeled each side, as well.  :)

Free Printable Labels:  I have included the labels for you.  I used Avery EcoFriendly White Shipping Labels (which use Avery Template 5163).



* After clicking (click here to print), you will be sent to a Google Doc page.  From there select "file", then select "download".  The image will download to your computer and then you can print from there.

If you decide to use a tackle box or some other organizational bend, having a prepared and organized med kit is essential.

Happy Organizing!

Elizabeth




Thursday, May 23, 2013

Household Budget / Management Binder with FREE PRINTABLES


My family recently went through a major life change.  It was one of those changes that you really never see coming until it is literally knocking on your door.  For the past couple of years, my husband and I discussed how nice it would be if I could resign from teaching and stay home.  However, we built our family on a two income budget and we just never had the guts to cut that income in half.  Earlier this school year, my son was enduring some serious struggles at school.  A very long and stressful story later, we decided that we didn't have a choice.  I needed to resign and begin homeschooling.  The decision was literally a leap of faith.  We had no idea if it would work, if we would have the money for our bills, etc.  We did believe that God would provide and see our family through this very tough season. 

Seven months later, we are doing better financially then we did with two incomes (crazy, I know)  It is a true blessing from God.  We always joke that we could have taken the "plunge" so much sooner.  I have had many friends and family members ask just how did we go from two incomes to one.  I will be the first to tell you that there is nothing fancy behind this budget plan.  It is simple and to the point.  Most of it has been inspired by Dave Ramsey (here) and close friends/family who also live on one income.  

Before we could put our monthly household budget into action we had to take care of some debt.  
  • We cut the day care  bill completely.  We have three children (one in public school and two in full time daycare).  Since I was going to homeschool our oldest child the other two did not need to be in daycare - everyone stays home with me.
  • We refinanced our home for a great interest rate.
  • We were very fortunate to have an opportunity that allowed us to pay off my car.
  • We called our phone/TV/Internet company and negotiated our monthly payment.  We did the same with our electric company.
  • We pretty much cut all eating out and fast food runs.  We have slowly added those back in but it is very limited.
  • We decided to implement the "envelope system".  We pay our bills with checks or online banking.  All other expenses are paid for in cash ONLY.  If there isn't any cash for an item we don't purchase it that month.  I will admit this was a bit of an adjustment for the kids.  They didn't quite understand why we couldn't run through a drive-thru or go out for ice cream just because we had the urge.
  • We also surround ourselves with friends and family that respect and honor our budget.  What I mean is, we no longer "keep up with the Joneses".  We are happy with the blessings we have been given.  We are no longer concerned with what everyone else has.
At the beginning of each month, I go to the bank and withdraw cash for certain items.  Those items are highlighted in blue on the household budget sheet below.  Then I go home and sort the appropriate money into envelopes and label the envelopes.  Now everything is allotted and ready for the month.  I also list the purchases for each category on the outside of the envelope.  That way I know exactly where the money went.  For example, if I allot $50 for clothing then I want to know exactly how I spent that $50.  My husband and I also allot "blow money".  That is a certain amount set aside for each of us to spend as we like throughout the month.  Some months there isn't any "blow money".  That is always our last expense calculated because it is not a necessity.  I keep all envelopes, cash and the household budget sheet in a binder.  It is essential to keep everything together and organized.

BINDER

Household Budget / Management Binder

labeled envelopes kept in pocket of inside cover
Sharpie, calculator, pencil kept in zipper pouch

inside cover sheet

Household Budget Sheet
*Remember, everything highlighted in blue is allotted cash for envelopes.


PRINTABLES

* I used Avery EcoFriendly White Shipping Labels (which use Avery Template 5163).


* After clicking (click here to print), you will be sent to a Google Doc page.  From there select "file", then select "download".  The image will download to your computer and then you can print from there.



Binder Cover Page

Household Budget Sheet







Envelope Labels Sheet 1



Envelope Labels Sheet 2
(I included several blank labels for any extra expenses or other categories that you may need)


I keep everything organized in page protectors and in one binder.  I also keep a calculator, pencil, and Sharpie in a zipper pouch at the front of the binder.  It is also helpful to keep all home management items in the binder, as well (i.e. birthday/anniversary dates, home project ideas, chore charts, etc.).  Currently, I have all of my pack lists for our upcoming vacation located in the back of the binder.  Over the weekend, I will divide and organize our money envelopes for vacation spending.  This has made it so easy to keep track of everything.


Like I said, our budget is as simple as it gets.  However, it is my hope that someone will benefit from the ideas above and the free printables below.

Elizabeth




Thursday, May 16, 2013

Father's Day Free Printable

So the kids and I are in agreement, they have the best dad on the planet!!! :) 

I thought it would be fun to have the kids answer a questionnaire about Daddy.  It will be part of his Father's Day gift along with the photos we took yesterday (click here to see photos).  I made the questionnaire in three different colors (the kids' favorite colors).  I figured they would appreciate it.  My kids are great at reminding of small details, like their favorite colors. :)

* After clicking (click here to print), you will be sent to a Google Doc page.  From there select "file", then select "download".  The image will download to your computer and then you can print from there.  




I can't wait to see their responses.  I think this questionnaire and the photos will be a great gift!  

Elizabeth

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Father's Day Pictures

Today, the kids and I decided to take pictures for Father's Day.  I remember when my oldest was a toddler I stood him up in my husband's boots and took his picture.  Let's just say the photos are priceless.  Now that we have three kids, I thought it would be super fun to dress all of them up in his clothes.  I told them it was a surprise so they could not spill the beans.  We will see how long the secret is kept. :)

I am just a beginner with my camera.  I have owned it for three years but I have really never learned what it can actually do.  I really just get by with a few Photoshop tricks and luck.  So, if you are a really   great photographer feel free to leave suggestions in the comment section. :)

Needless to say, we had a great time.  The kids loved putting on his clothes and trying to walk around.  My husband is a over 6 feet tall and has a big build so it was hysterical to see the kids in his huge clothes.



It makes me giggle at how big the clothes look on their tiny bodies.

Precious

Look how big I am!

Anyone who knows my husband really well has seen him in this shirt a millions times.  He wears it all the time. :)

So proud to be in Daddy's clothes.

His three blessings - Happy Father's Day!!!

The kids will be so excited to give these to him.  Hopefully the secret will stay a secret! :)

Elizabeth



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rosemary Chicken

I love one pot/pan dinners.  It makes clean up so quick and easy.  The other day I was looking through my cookbooks and stumbled across this Rosemary Chicken and Roasted Vegetables recipe (Campbell's Recipe Collection).  It sounded delicious and most importantly all the ingredients go into one pan.  Perfect!  I did not have the exact ingredients on hand so I modified where needed.  I do that a lot.  The best part about cooking is that you don't have to be exact.


Here is what you will need:

3lb. whole fryer chicken
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
4 medium red potatoes, quartered (I used 6-8 small red potatoes cut in half)
2 C. fresh or frozen whole baby carrots
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces (I did not have celery on hand so I left it out and the dish was still very good)
12 small white onions, peeled (I had a medium yellow onion that I cut into large pieces)
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed
1 C. chicken stock
1/2 C. orange juice

Brush the chicken with the melted butter.  Place the chicken and vegetables into a roasting pan.  Season with rosemary.  Stir the stock and orange juice in small bowl and pour half of the stalk mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Roast at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Stir the vegetables.  Add the remaining stock mixture to the pan.  Roast for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

**Butcher's Tip (a.k.a. my wonderful husband who happens to be a third generation butcher) :)
To help keep the meat juicy, roast the chicken breast side down.

Like I said, I don't think you need the exact ingredients for this recipe.  Just use what you have in your pantry.  Just wing it!  I know it was a bad joke.  Wing it, because it is a chicken... :)  I promise I will get out of the house later today. :)

Elizabeth

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monster Cookies

Cookies!  Cookies!  Cookies!  Everyone in my house loves cookies with a glass of milk any hour of the day.  During the holidays, I love to use recipes that have been passed down in our family.  However, on a normal day it is always a toss up between chocolate chip, oatmeal, or M&M cookies.  Monster cookies incorporate all three.  SCORE!!!  Actually, you can put any type of candy, nut, dried fruit, etc. in monster cookies.  That is why they are so great, just use what you already have on hand.  I like to use my standard chocolate chip recipe and modify some of the ingredients.




This is what you will need:

1 1/2 - 2 C. flour (start with 1 1/2 and add more if needed)
1/2 C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar (I always add a tad bit more because I love it so much)
2 eggs
1 C. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C. chocolate chips*
1 C. M&M's*
1 1/2 C. oatmeal*

*The add-ins can be whatever you have on hand.  Also, use as much of a certain add-in as you like.  For example, I love M&M's so I add extra to the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

When making this recipe, do not worry about mixing wet ingredients separate from dry ingredients.  I literally dump the butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and vanilla into my stand mixer and mix on medium.  Then I add the add-ins (chocolate chips, M&M's, oatmeal) and mix on low.  Last, I add the flour half a cup at a time until I get the desired texture.  As my kids would say, "easy-peasy".

Place the cookies on a cookie sheet using a medium sized cookie scoop.  If you are not using a nonstick cookie sheet or baking pad, you should spray the sheet with a nonstick cooking spray.

Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.  My family likes really soft cookies, almost under done.  If you like a well done cookie, up your baking time to approx. 12-14 minutes.

While your waiting for the first batch to finish, grab a glass of milk and enjoy the dough, it is A-Mazing!!!

Elizabeth





Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Italy Cups

If it has spaghetti sauce, cheese, and meat my kids will eat it!  One of our favorite "go to" meals are Little Italy Cups.  It is something I just threw together one night and has since become a family favorite.

You will need:

1/2 C. shredded mozzarella
1/2 C. cottage cheese
1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, garlic powder (to taste)
1 egg
large refrigerated rolls (8 rolls)
1/2 lb. ground beef
Italian seasoning (to taste)
1 C. jarred spaghetti sauce (start with one cup and add more if needed)
1 egg





In a bowl, mix together mozzarella, Parmesan, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and egg.  
(set mixture aside until needed)


In a medium pan, brown ground beef and drain grease.  After meat is drained, add spaghetti sauce and mix well.  I always add a little extra Italian seasoning at this point.  If you are not sure, just do what tastes good! :)


Next, spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Using your hands, flatten each refrigerated roll and push down into each muffin cup.  


Using a small cookie scoop, spoon the filling into each cup.


Now top the filled cups with one scoop of sauce.


Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 11 minutes (or until rolls are nice and golden brown).



Top each cup with a small amount of shredded mozzarella before serving.

Make things easy on yourself and serve these with a bag of salad!

Enjoy!!!

Elizabeth






Friday, May 10, 2013

Summer Activities: Family Teamwork Activities

Today's summer activities post will focus on family teamwork activities.  Our family loves projects.  It seems like we always have something we are working on.  My husband is such a patient person.  Whenever he has a projects (i.e. the backyard, building, painting, etc.) he allows the kids to help with each part.  He guides them with tools and explains all the details.  The kids love every minute of it.  It also helps teach the kids about teamwork and how families should always work together.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

1.  Clean the garage (this sounds horrible but it can be turned into a game)

2.  Dinner and a show for grandparents (the kids can help prepare and serve the meal, they can also put on a play or lip sync a song)

3.  Make a family scrapbook or cookbook (my kids love to get in the kitchen)

4.  Set up and play a family relay race or scavenger hunt

5.  Put together a puzzle as a family

6.  Go for a nature walk

7.  Build and help the kids run a lemonade stand / bake sale

8.  Help the kids cook dinner/dessert and take to a friend

9.  Ding Dong Ditch

10.  Lay in the backyard and look at the stars

11.  Camp out in the backyard

12.  Plant new flowers in the yard

13.  Build something as a family (last year we built a cover for our patio, the kids helped with every step) pictured below

14.  Family movie night

15.  Paint and redecorate their bedrooms or play area

16.  Let the kids help plan and prepare for vacation

17.  Take a picnic

18.  Make a new family summer tradition (we always go to the fireworks at the Texas State Aquarium)

19.  Put the kids in the pajamas and park at Sonic for ice cream (there really isn't any teamwork in this - it is just a lot of fun)

20.  Do something nice for a grandparent or neighbor


learning how to run a drill

using a handsaw

helping pant the slats for the patio cover

There are so many things a family can do together.  It makes amazing memories for the kids and the parents.  I would love to hear about your family teamwork activities.

Elizabeth

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summer Activities: Water

I thought I would take the next couple of days to highlight some of my favorite summer activities.  If your kids are anything like mine, the key to a great summer is keeping them busy!  My husband and I have learned the hard way.  When three children become bored, trouble begins!  :)  Last summer, I vowed to make sure they had a memorable summer filled with activities, outings, and LOTS OF FUN!!!

Today's list will highlight water activities.

1.  Water balloons

2.  Water balloon pinatas (fill water balloons with small prizes and water, hand from a string or high location, pop open with large stick)

3.  Sprinkler play, baby pools, visit a pool

4.  Ice Excavating (see picture below)

5.  Water colors (great for a rainy day)

6.  Fly swatter bubbles (fill a pan with bubble solution, dip fly swatter in solution, swing fly swatter around for lots of little bubbles)

7.  Homemade popsicles

8.  Wash the family cars

9.  Water writing (using squirt guns and your driveway, write letters, names, words, or pictures)

10.  Activities specific to our local area:  Texas State Aquarium, Beach Day, visit a sea turtle hatchling release


Beach

Sprinkler (which turned into just the hose)

At one point, all three kids squeezed into this baby pool!

Ice Excavating - army men for the boys

jewelry for the girls


Pool time!

The most important part about making a summer memorable, slow down and enjoy each moment!  And...make Pinterest your best friend!

Elizabeth