Friday, November 6, 2009

My Latest Potty Training Experiment

Every mom reading this has gone through (or will be going through) the potty training nightmare. My oldest daughter seemed to get potty trained overnight. My memory might be a bit fuzzy, but I don't remember having the difficulties I have had with my 2 nd daughter. Maybe its because she is the middle child? Or maybe its just because she is stubborn. Not sure which.

I have tried everything from special potty charts, a potty party (decorating the bathroom with balloons and streamers etc), a stamp book, special treats, letting her choose special panties from the store...but nothing has worked as successfully as I would like. We still keep having the accidents. I even got to the point where I would just put the pull-ups on her because I was so sick of changing her clothes and cleaning up messes.

Today we tried something new. And cross your fingers..it seems to have worked great! She loves to play learning games on the computer on Starfall.com. and I limit her time on there to once per day. She will ask me continuously if she can go on the computer to play again. So I decided to turn this into her reward for going potty.

This is what we did. I had my daughter help me make her new potty chart. We traced a large circle on a piece of contruction paper. Than chose another color for the background sheet. After cutting out the circle, we traced in onto the center of the second paper. Then like a pie I sectioned it into 6 pieces and cut them out. I made a little pocket under the pie chart to hold the pieces. We pinned it onto a cork board so it would be easy to remove and put on over and over again.

Now here is the premise of this chart. Every time she goes potty without an accident she gets to put a pie piece on the chart. When she puts all 6 pieces of the pie on the chart than she can use the computer for 15 minutes, (we use a timer for this so there is no arguing). We made it 1 pie piece for a successful pee-pee on the potty & 2 pie pieces for a successful poopie on the potty. But if she has an accident than 1 pie piece would be removed.

Let me tell you I have never seen my daughter so eager to sit on the potty ever! She spent all morning trying to go even when she didn't need to :).

I would love to hear your potty training success stories. Please email me at tflowers@optonline.net and I may include your story on my Blog!

Thank you - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fraud On Your Computer .....Sometimes Sneaks In Under The Radar

I thought I would share something disturbing that happened to me recently. Fraud through by computer disguised as Anti-Theft software.

I had received a pop up a few weeks ago saying I had a Trojan Virus on my computer and that I needed to purchase this anti-virus software to get rid of it. So not knowing much about this stuff, and not having my husband around at the time. I purchased it.

Then it would run these scans every few hours stating that there were several viruses that had to be deleted. When my husband saw this pop up he tried to run our MacAfee Virus scan. But it had been disabled by the new one. After some research online we discovered that this "Anti-Virus" software that I purchased was actually a virus. It posed as a Anti-virus software, even putting tiny harmless viruses on the computer so it had something to delete. We followed the instructions we found online to rid out computer of this virus and after about 10 tries, deleted it and reinstalled our MacAfee.

Now the day after we deleted this virus my bank account was getting pinged small charges that I did not make (Poker Casino charges in Ohio, and other random things). I contacted my bank as soon as I noticed this a few days later. They agreed and believed it was fraud. They said having purchased the virus software with my bank card, they now had my information. The fraud division of my bank had seen this scam several times before with different software names. Said that I was lucky I picked up on it quickly as others were not so lucky and had major identity theft.

So beware of this scheme as it comes in under the radar and seems legitimate. Knowing now that having the MacAfee was enough to thwart any viruses. I feel awfully silly for falling for this scheme. I was fortunate to receive all my money back. I hope this helps even one of you from falling prey to this.

Sorry For My Absence.....

Hi ladies,

I must apologize for my absence recently from this Blog. Personal issues kept me from keeping up with my posts these past few months. I do appreciate your patience and loyalty though. I will be posting more regularly again.

I would appreciate any ideas or interests that any of you ladies would like to see.

Thank you - Tamra

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June - week # 3 - Summer Sandal Blister Survival


I don't know about you, but I really hate when I get blisters from wearing my summer shoes after the long winter. It ruins my feet for days after. Used to be I would suffer through wearing a pretty pair of sandals then have to wear compfy slip on flats til the blisters healed. And those unsightly bandaids! So I am thrilled to see that there is hope! I love my sandals and flip flops and all the pretty summerness of them all. Puts me in a great mood to put on a pair of pretty strappy sandals. Just because I am home with my kids doesn't mean I have to wear sneakers to run after them! I always say that I feel my best when I look my best. And lets face it, if I can wear a pretty pair of sandals and still run around with my girls...well thats just perfect! Don't get me wrong I still love my ballet flats, but for summer its nice to let the pedicured toes out to play too! Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

Summer sandal saviors

Right, left, ouch. Right, left, ouch. Right, left… I’m throwing these shoes in the nearest trash can! Sound familiar? There’s nothing like the excruciating pain of a blister to ruin the joy of new summer footwear. I used to think early summer blisters were inevitable, but I’ve figured out a way around them.With the proper cushioning, blisters can heal quickly, if not be prevented entirely. No matter your choice of footwear — from wedges to stilettos to strappy sandals to flip-flops — we’ve got you (and your feet) covered:

For Flats: Foot Petals Heavenly Heels, $4.95, footpetals.comWide, thick pads stand up for the most violated area of the foot: that poor heel. When you’re breaking in new flats, the back of your heel is a hot-zone for blisters.

For Stilettos and Heels: Profoot Care Velvetex Moleskin, $2.85, amazon.comOh, the pinky toe. So often a victim, especially when the weight and pressure of a high heel bears down. Wrap it in moleskin and replace often.

For Strappy Shoes: Peda Bella Cushioning Strap Strips, $3.99, footsmart.comThin, adhesive — and, best of all, inconspicuous — cushions protect the foot and ankle from fashionable-yet-painful straps.

For Flip-Flops and Sandals: Kiwi Select In Between the Toe Cushions, $31.45 (for 6 pairs), shoebuy.comSure, flip-flops and other flat sandals seem like they’d be comfortable, but the space between your toes will tell you otherwise. Wrap these around the base of your sandal thong — and walk a mile in your own shoes!
*Article found in the Skinny In The City newsletter

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June week # 3 - The Expense of Bringing Home Baby

Welcoming a new child into the family is a joyous occasion for all, but the additional expense associated with a new bundle of joy can also be a big worry for some parents, especially in this economy. A recent survey found that the average American family spends a whopping $2,577 on baby-related items when a new baby comes home.Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help bring down the cost of all the "things" you need for a newborn baby.

New parents, take note: online classified websites and places that offer nearly-new items for cheap or even free will serve you well. Believe it or not, the baby won't know the difference between a new crib and a gently-used one.The summer months are most common for new arrivals. That means many expectant parents are looking right now to purchase baby-related items, and need to find the space in their homes to store them. Here are a few ideas to help new parents find the items they need without spending more than they can reasonably afford.

Secondhand sites. Venture beyond the old standards like eBay.com and Craigslist.org. Posting "wanted" ads for furniture and infant accessories at FreeCycle.org could turn up treasures that are absolutely free and connect you with other young parents in your neighborhood. Also, don't overlook second-generation classified ad websites like Kijiji.com ("Kijiji" means "village" in Swahili). This is a free, local, family-friendly website that caters to over 1,000 cities and countries around the world. Kijiji's staff takes every precaution to make sure that local families have a safe place to buy, sell, trade and connect.

Mommy exchange. Purchase the items secondhand that babies grow out of quickly. Look for gently used cribs, rocking chairs, changing tables and strollers. Then, as your baby grows out of them, re-list them on the Internet for other local mothers to enjoy.Hold off on hand-me-downs. As their children graduate from strollers to tricycles, most parents decide to donate those expensive baby items or hand them down to a friend or family member. However, the items their child no longer uses could easily earn them much-needed cash. Only 7 percent of parents said they resell baby items once their child has outgrown them, which means a whopping 93 percent of parents are missing out on potential cash.

Make the most of your space. Stop house-hunting out of your price range just because you're bringing a little one home. Instead, find "hidden" storage space in your current residence. Use hooks, bookcases, shelves and ceiling racks to create extra space. Over-the-door shoe racks are also great for organizing baby's various lotions, potions and small accessories.

Re-purpose a room. Think outside of the box when considering how to use the rooms of your home. Transform your dining room, guest room or home office into a nursery, or carve out space for baby in your living room or bedroom. Hang screens, shelves, curtains or have a temporary wall built to separate each space.

*Article found in the Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter

Monday, June 15, 2009

June week # 3 - low fat coconut shrimp recipe - yummy!


Bake up a low-cal shrimp fest


I found this write up this morning and thought the recipe sounds so yummy! I will be trying it myself this week. Let me know how you like it! - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)


Coconut shrimp is always a favorite seafood dish, but most recipes are breaded, fried, and loaded with calories and fat. A restaurant coconut shrimp meal can have up to 900 calories and over 30 g of fat — yikes! But you can create your own tasty, figure-friendly version at home.


Shrimp is a very healthy source of lean protein, and it’s one of the few foods that contain vitamin D — one serving has about 1/3 of your daily need. Shrimp has gotten an unfair bad rap in the past because of its cholesterol content. Though the numbers may be high, dietary cholesterol actually has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels; it’s trans fat and some types of saturated fat that are the biggest culprits. You’ll notice this recipe does have a few grams of saturated fat, but that comes mainly from the coconut. Recent research suggests that most of the saturated fat found in coconut (lauric acid) may actually be a cardio-protective fat. So go ahead and enjoy this coconut shrimp guilt-free! Serve it with brown rice, couscous, or a mixed green salad.


Baked Coconut Shrimp

Serves: 5

Total time: 1 hour (including marinade time)


Ingredients:
¾ cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pound of uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined (may buy fresh or frozen)
½ cup flaked coconut
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Nonstick cooking spray (or foil)


Cooking instructions:


  • Preheat oven to 425°F.

  • In a shallow bowl, combine coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar.

  • Add the shrimp to the marinade and toss to coat evenly.

  • Place the bowl in the refrigerator, and let the shrimp marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  • Prepare a large baking pan either by coating in nonstick cooking spray or by covering in foil.

  • Remove bowl from refrigerator.

  • Take shrimp out of the marinade and place on baking tray.

  • Sprinkle the flaked coconut evenly onto shrimp prior to baking.

  • Season with the cayenne pepper.

  • Bake 7-8 minutes or until shrimp are pink and firm.

Nutrition content: Per serving (about 15 shrimp): 180 calories, 6 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 18 g protein, 8 g carbohydrate, 137 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 296 mg potassium (6% daily need), 137 IU vitamin D (35% daily need)


*recipe found in teh Skinny In The City Newsletter

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June week #2 - The Checkbook Balancing Act

I came across this next question/answer segment in a newsletter I read this morning. I thought it was such a great thing to pass along as I am sure there are more of us that don't reconcile our checkbooks often enough, or even know how to. - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

Q - Dear Mary,I have an "embarrassing question" for you. I will soon be 70-years-old, and I have never been told how to balance a checkbook. People just assume I know. Is it too late to learn? Bobbie Y., e-mail

A - Dear Bobbie,You're not the only reader who's ever been embarrassed to ask a question about money and finance. I filled a book with these questions and my answers. A great book I would recommend is "Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card? And Other Financial Questions We're Too Embarrassed to Ask!" I think you'll have fun reading it, and you'll learn a lot in the process.

You should balance your checkbook monthly to catch the bank's mistakes. There are great software programs and online tools that will do this for you. Some of them are free. Check out Wesabi.com, Mint.com and Quicken.com. Here are the basic instructions to reconcile your checkbook against the bank's statement:

Step 1: Determine if you have outstanding checks that haven't cleared your bank. Using your statement, check off your cleared checks in your checkbook register. Make sure that the amount of each cleared check is the amount you recorded.

Step 2: Verify that each deposit recorded on your bank statement is also recorded in your check register, including your direct deposits. Make sure the statement shows all deposits you made. Check off your deposits just as you did for your checks.

Step 3: For ATM withdrawals or debit-card purchases, check off each transaction on the bank statement against your check register. If your statement has items that have cleared that aren't in your checkbook register, record them now.

Step 4: Check your bank statement for bank fees, such as monthly fees or those for (gasp!) bounced checks, and record them in your register. Record any interest earned in your register, too.

Step 5: Go through your checkbook register or duplicate checks and list checks that have not cleared the bank. These will not be listed on your statement. Make note, also, of outstanding debit-card purchases or ATM withdrawals that have not cleared the bank. Total all of these items.

Step 6: List any outstanding deposits that were not included on your bank statement. Total these deposits.

Step 7: Using a piece of paper, your checkbook register, or the form on your bank statement, list the ending balance shown on your bank statement. On another line, enter the total outstanding deposits. On a third line, enter the total amount of your outstanding checks.

Step 8: Using a calculator, enter the ending balance on your statement. Add the total for outstanding deposits. Finally, subtract the total for outstanding checks. This should equal the balance shown on your checkbook register. If you have never reconciled your checkbook, this will be your new balance from which to start.

*information taken from the Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June week # 2 - Yummy Outdoors Recipe

Picnic season is officially in full swing. Here is a creative recipe that would make a simple but splashy meal to eat in the great outdoors, since it is good served hot or cold. This easy chicken dish takes little time to assemble and is impressive looking. As a bonus, it is high in fiber and low in fat, which makes it a perfectly healthy addition to your recipe repertoire. So here it is, another healthy cooking recipe from the Quick & Healthy Cookbooks:

Rolled Chicken and Asparagus

1 pound skinless
boneless chicken breasts
24 to 30 asparagus spears (tough ends removed)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut chicken breasts into 8 or 10 strips, each about 1 inch by 5 inches long.
  • Wrap each chicken strip in a corkscrew fashion around 2 or 3 uncooked asparagus spears. Fasten with toothpicks. Place in a covered baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with lemon juice, green onions, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove toothpicks. Serve hot or refrigerate until chilled and serve cold. Serves: 4.

Cook's Note: One serving is a good source of fiber. When preparing the asparagus, snap off the fibrous end and soak the tips in water to remove any dirt.

Nutritional Information: Carb Servings: 1/2Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat

Nutrient Analysis: calories 151, total fat 2g, saturated fat 0g, cholesterol 65mg, sodium 82mg, total carbohydrate 6g, dietary fiber 3g, sugars 2g, protein 28g

Source: Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, 3rd Edition, © 2008 Brenda J. Ponichtera, R.D.; Published by Small Steps Press, publishing health conscious books for the general population, a division of the American Diabetes Association; retail $18.95. To order call 1-800-232-6733 or visit QuickandHealthy.net. Also available at local and online bookstores

*Recipe taken from the Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter

June week # 2 - Matching Up Linens

I am always scanning newsletters for great tips to pass along and this next one I have taken to use myself. It saves me time and keeps everything neat and tidy in my linen closet. no guess work involved. - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

I have an easy tip for matching linens. When I take sheets out of the laundry, I fold them and stuff all the pieces of each set into one of its pillowcases. Then, when I make the bed, all I have to do is pull a pillow case out of the cabinet and everything is there, already matched up! Lauretta B., e-mail

*tip taken from the Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June - week #1 - Is Shell Fish High in Cholesterol?

As some of you know I recently had my father-in-law come to live with us after a major heart surgery. So we have had to rethink alot of what we eat and do our best to make heart healthy meals. We all love seafood in my house, so I was curious to find out if the cholesterol in shell fish was OK for him to eat. Shrimp is a staple just like chicken around here. Here is an article I found in the Skinny In the City Newsletter this morning. - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

Fact or Fiction: If you have high cholesterol, you should avoid shellfish like shrimp, mussels, and clams

Verdict: False

You may have heard that shellfish is high in cholesterol. And while that’s somewhat true, it ends up that dietary cholesterol, found in shellfish and animal products, has less of an effect on the cholesterol levels in our blood than “bad” fat does. In fact, less than half the cholesterol we take in through food is absorbed. Meanwhile, saturated fat and trans fat are the biggest culprits when it comes to increasing artery-clogging cholesterol (LDL). Shellfish have no trans fat and only trace amounts of saturated fat, meaning it’s a good choice for people watching their cholesterol. On top of that, shellfish is a great source of lean protein and contains vitamin B12, niacin, iron, phosphorous, and zinc. Not to mention, it fills you up for relatively few calories. Now that we busted that myth, feel free to enjoy shellfish — shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, scallops, and clam — a few times per week!

If you’re trying to bring your cholesterol down, focus on limiting saturated fat, found mostly in animal products such as egg yolks, dairy products (except non-fat, of course), and high fat meats. Trans fat, which is found mostly in packaged snack foods like cookies, chips, candy, and cake, should also be limited. The American Heart Association recommends that we keep our daily intake of cholesterol to 300 mg a day and less than 7% of our daily calories should from saturated fat. Here’s a list of how much cholesterol and saturated fat is in certain foods:

Cholesterol and saturated fat (per 1 ounce, unless otherwise noted):

Heart healthy:
Mussels and clams: 19 mg cholesterol, .05 grams saturated fat
Shrimp: 55 mg cholesterol, .08 grams saturated fat
Scallops: 15 mg cholesterol, .04 grams saturated fat
Lobster: 21 mg cholesterol, .03 grams saturated fat

Not so heart healthy:
Whole milk: 5 mg cholesterol, .6 grams saturated fat
American cheese: 27 mg cholesterol, 5 grams saturated fat
Cream cheese: 31 mg cholesterol, 6 grams saturated fat
Butter (1 pat): 6 mg cholesterol, 1.4 grams saturated fat
Prime rib: 24 mg cholesterol, 3.5 grams saturated fat
Lamb chop: 26 mg cholesterol, 3.5 grams saturated fat

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June - week #1 - Snack Ideas For When You Are In The Car

Hi ladies! Me again!

Those of you who know me, know that I am always trying to think of ways to make my life easier with the kids. And snacks is always top on that list. Lately we have been in the car a lot on long trips between PA and NY. The following tip has made my life easier and the kids think its fun too.

I purchased a shoe box size bin for around $4, to put in the back of my car. And 2 really small boxes that were 2 for $2. I also purchased a box of snack size storage bags.

I purchased a bunch of full bag treats like:
pretzel sticks, Craisens (dried cranberries), Kix cereal, peanut butter crackers, trail mix* (we get the yummy kind with the nuts, chocolate, peanut butter and yogurt chips and cranberries and yellow raisins - Walmart brand flavor is 'Indulgence'), graham crackers (I get the store brand flavors honey & chocolate - then break them into 4's and put half honey and half chocolate in the snack bags).

I filled the snack bags with the treats and loaded up the plastic shoe box with them. Now before we go on our trips I let the girls take their small snack boxes and pick 3 treats for the long ride. And they know that they are not to ask for anymore. But they feel in control of their snack choices and they love it. It makes it special, like an adventure. Pop in a movie and they are set for the ride.

This has saved me many times from stopping unnecessarily during the trip. We still have our scheduled potty breaks and the places we know are the cleanest ;). But this helps stop the tantrums that can come when you stop at a place with junk food like most of the rest areas have. And it helps me stay on track with eating as well. when you are hungry on a road trip you sometimes make unwise choices to eat (fast food). I pack sandwiches if I know it will be around lunchtime. usually something easy to eat in the car like peanut butter and honey. wont slip apart like cold cut sandwiches, don't need to be in a cooler, and easy to hand back to the kids.

This also works great when you take the kids shopping. I bring each child a water bottle and they get to pick one snack from the bin before we enter the store. Great when grocery shopping. You don't hear all the begging for junk food snacks when their belly's are satisfied with a yummy treat they chose themselves.

Hope you enjoy this tip. I know I do ;) - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

*Trail mix - Just be aware that chocolate may start to melt if weather is hot. during summer I sometimes keep these treats inside an pack a cooler with snack bags of fruit (grapes, cherries, blue berries, apple slices, orange slices) for long trips and throw the trail mix in the cooler with it.
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June week #1 - Some Great Kitchen Tips

Hi ladies! I just got my daily Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter and she had some great tips in her Tiptionary section. I thought I would share these creative solutions to common problems we all have :). Hope you enjoy! - Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

ICE CREAM SAVER. You can eliminate freezer burn on your ice cream by storing the container upside down in your freezer. It really works! Jan C.

QUICK COMPOST. Even though we compost our kitchen waste, it takes too long to break down when we need the compost now to start our garden. So, we help ours along this way: Every night, we grind up produce peels, leftover coffee grounds and filters, and other items that compost loves, in our food processor. This gives the breakdown process a head start. V.L., Texas

BONUS TREAT. Prevent ice cream from dripping out of the bottom of a cone by pushing a marshmallow into the cone before adding the ice cream. The marshmallow stops drips and is a little extra treat after the ice cream is gone! Brenda S.

SHINY STEEL. We have stainless steel appliances in our kitchen. I always battle getting them to look nice and clean without buying expensive polishing cream. Recently, I tried rubbing olive oil on them and they look wonderful! My husband even commented on how nice the refrigerator looks. Julie J.

MEATLOAF CUPCAKE. For a new twist on meatloaf, I fill the cups in a cupcake pan with the meat mixture and bake for about half an hour. This creates perfect individual-sized servings and I freeze leftovers for quick grab-and-go-meals. Cupcake meatloaf is also a great solution for singles and kids love them, too! Mary, Maine

OUTDOOR KITCHEN. My family enjoys eating outdoors. I've found a cheap way to keep foods chilled on the table on a hot day. I was inspired by expensive trays designed hold a serving bowl over ice, but I make my own for free. I save two-piece domed plastic containers from take-out meals. To travel, I pack the food in the bottom portion of the container and cover it with the lid. I keep it in the ice chest until we're ready to eat. When I unpack the food for our meal, I take the lids off the containers and fill them with ice. Then, I set the bottom portion atop the ice-filled lid and the food stays cold. Lynn

REPAIR WONDER. I had my food processor for more than three years when I started having difficulty getting the cover off the bowl and the bowl off the base. It seemed like the plastic parts had expanded, and I was beyond my warranty period. A new bowl, cover and pusher would have cost about $90. I solved the problem by rubbing the rims of the bowl and lid with vegetable oil. It works like new again! Kris, Wisconsin

*tips taken from the Everyday Cheapskate newsletter

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June week #1 - Stay-at-Home Adventures

This summer, a cash shortage need not eliminate the idea of a family vacation. Clever and creative parents can turn time off work into an amazing vacation experience, without leaving town.

Make a plan. Determine the dates of your "staycation." Create a schedule and itinerary that includes activities and meals. Make a big colorful chart and allow the kids to participate in the planning.

Notification. Let everyone know the dates you'll be on vacation. In the same way you would not be available if you were flying to another country, they need to know you will not be available during your vacation.

Think like a tourist. Do an Internet search for the name of your town plus the word "tourist." You'll be amazed at what you discover. We're talking hiking trails, bike paths, community events, museums and playgrounds that you may not know exist. Look for special deals and coupons local merchants are offering.

Change the rules. This is the fun part. Decide to break all the rules during your stay-at-home vacation, within reason. Unplug the phone; sleep in late; stay up later; watch videos; play games; go on bike rides; explore places you've never been. A few days of junk food is not likely to create any serious problems.

Camp out. Kids love to camp, so haul out your basic camping gear (borrow or rent if you need to) and set it up in the backyard. Create a fire pit so you can sit around the campfire late into the night (be sure to use proper care and be mindful of local rules and guidelines). Brush up on campfire songs. Determine that you'll cook, eat and sleep outdoors during your camping vacation.

Unplug. This is the challenge for parents on staycation: Everyone has to surrender cell phones and computers to a central holding area for the duration. Sure, it will be an adjustment, but possibly the best move of all. Let the mail collect, to be opened when you return home. When you are not taking some well-deserved naps, let your kids know they have your undivided attention. That will make this a true vacation because you "vacate" the normal routines and stresses of life.

Story tapes. Check your library for audio books suitable for the whole family. If you're looking to buy, a terrific Internet source is Great Tapes for Kids at GreatTapes.com. Tapes, DVDs and CDs start at about $10 plus shipping and handling, not a bad buy if they become family favorites. I recommend "King Arthur and His Knights" and "The Three Musketeers/Robin Hood," all told by Jim Weiss who spins tales so that a five-year-old can enjoy them. Other family favorites include stories of fantasy and hope such as "The Golden Drum," and "Little Heroes" by masterful storyteller Jay O`Callahan.

Memories: Be sure to take lots of pictures and let the kids help to create a scrapbook of memories. Don't be surprised when they call it the best vacation ever!

*Ideas taken from the Everyday Cheapskate Newsletter

June week # 1 - Busy Moms Survival Guide


Ever feel like you’re so busy you don’t take time for yourself?

I feel that way all the time! A new mom has a million things to do and is least likely to do something to make herself feel like an individual, rather than a feeding, diaper-changing machine. I am a mom of 3 little girls and I can defiantely appreciate the book If You Give a Mom a Martini: 100 Ways to Find 10 Blissful Minutes for Yourself by Lyss Stern and Julie Kappas.

If You Give a Mom a Martini is chock full of great ideas for moms and all women. In general, women are less likely than men to do completely selfish acts and if we do, we’re more likely to feel guilty afterward. But if you don’t take time for yourself, it’s easy to burn out — which will not only affect you, but those around you, too. By taking ten minutes daily to relax, you can actually slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce anger, and improve concentration — in a nutshell, improve your health!

This book, with a foreword by Christie Brinkley and contributions by celebrity moms like Kelly Ripa, gives you quick ways to indulge yourself guilt-free. Check out the smartly written beauty advice, website suggestions, product reviews, and tricks to distract your kids (“Hey, look over there. It’s Elmo!”). Whether you’re giving it as a gift or keeping it for yourself, try out some of the authors’ ideas.

Every good woman should get at least 10 rejuvenating minutes per day — that’s an order!
*Book review taken from The Skinney In the City Newsletter

Friday, May 29, 2009

May week #4 - Let the Summer Grilling Begin!

Turkey Burgers
1 pound ground turkey, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon dried minced onion, 1 egg, 1/2 cup crushed crackers
*Preheat grill on high. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, using your clean hands. Form into 4 patties. Place patties on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until well done. Serves: 4.
*Any type of cracker will work, although cheese flavored crackers will make these burgers memorable.

Ranch Burgers
2 pounds ground beef, 1 egg - slightly beaten, 3/4 cup crushed saltine crackers, 1 onion - finely chopped, 1 package dry ranch dressing mix.
*Preheat grill on high. Place all ingredients into a bowl, mix well and form into 8 hamburger patties. Place patties on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until desired doneness. Serves: 8.

Italian Burgers
1 pound ground beef, 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, 1 egg, 1/4 cup steak sauce (like A-1), 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
*Preheat grill on high. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Form 4 patties. Grill about 5 minutes each side, or until cooked as desired. Baste with additional steak sauce if desired. Serves: 4.

Blue Cheese Burgers
3 pounds ground beef, 4 ounces blue cheese - crumbled, 1/2 cup fresh chives - minced, 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon dry mustard,
In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
*Preheat grill on high. Form mixture into 12 patties. Grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Serves: 12.

**Recipes found on the Everyday Cheapskate newsletter

Monday, May 4, 2009

May week 1 - Quick & Healthy Tip of the Month

Stocking and organizing your pantry should be part of your spring-cleaning. So that you can easily find what you want, keep like things together such as spices, seasonings and extracts; cereals; pastas, rice and beans; canned meats; canned soups; baking products; puddings and gelatins; dressings, jams and vinegar; canned vegetables and sauces; canned fruits; fruit and vegetable juices.

A well-stocked pantry will save you time and money because you'll have foods on hand to put together a meal in a moment's notice. This will prevent needless trips to the grocery store or restaurant.

This healthy tip is provided by Quick & Healthy cookbook author, © Brenda J. Ponichtera, RD, ScaleDown Publishing, Inc.; scaledwn@gorge.net; All rights reserved. Visit QuickandHealthy.net for more recipes, menus and healthy tips.

May week 1 - Mexican Food for the Health-Conscious

You might be surprised to learn that Mexican food can be quick and healthy. Here are two recipes to create one delicious meal: Baked Chimichangas with Spanish Yogurt Sauce. Round it out with a salad or fresh fruit for a dinner that is easy to prepare and will be enjoyed by all ages. You don't even have to tell the family how healthy it is!In fact, we believe that you will enjoy this meal so much that you should consider doubling the recipe and freezing leftovers for lunch or another dinner.

Chicken Chimichangas
4 (8-inch) or 8 (6-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups cooked and cubed chicken
3/4 cup salsa, thick and chunky, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated, reduced-fat cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
Spanish Yogurt Sauce (optional, recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Mix chicken, 3/4 cup salsa and cheese in a medium bowl. Set aside. Warm tortillas until pliable, about 5 seconds each in the microwave or in a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Wet one side of tortilla with a small amount of water and place wet side down. Spoon filling ingredients onto dry side of tortilla. Fold tortilla around filling and lay chimichanga, seam side down, on baking dish. Repeat for each tortilla. Bake for 15 minutes. Garnish with Spanish Yogurt Sauce if desired.

Serves: 4.VARIATIONS: To make beef, pork, or turkey chimichangas, substitute ground or diced beef, pork, or turkey for chicken.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: Carb Servings: 2Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat Nutrient Analysis: calories 260, total fat 5g, saturated fat 2g, cholesterol 50mg, sodium 544mg, total carbohydrate 27g, dietary fiber 2g, sugars 5g, protein 24g

Spanish Yogurt Sauce
This goes well with Mexican food, over baked fish or over sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.

1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1/2 cup salsa, thick and chunky
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix yogurt, salsa, parsley, cilantro and cumin together in a bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

Makes 1 1/2 cups. Serves: 6.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: One serving equals 1/4 cup
Carb Servings: 0Exchanges: 1 vegetable Nutrient Analysis: calories 27, total fat 0g, saturated fat 0g, cholesterol 1mg, sodium 129mg, total carbohydrate 4g, dietary fiber 0g, sugars 4g, protein 2g

*Recipe found on Everyday Cheapskate newsletter. Source for both recipes: Quick & Healthy Recipes and Ideas, 3rd Edition, © 2008 Brenda J. Ponichtera, R.D.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April week #4 - Yellow Underarm Stains

How do you get rid of those ugly yellow underarm stains in white shirts?

My teenage daughter gets yellow stains under the arms of her white uniform shirts. I have tried vinegar, ammonia, lemon and baking soda paste. We have tried different deodorants. Nothing seems to help, so I have had to buy a lot of white shirts over the last three years. Do you know how to get rid of these yellow stains? - Stephanie

Nothing is quite so unsightly as dingy yellow perspiration stains in white garments. Not only are these stains ugly, they can weaken the garment's fabric and harbor odors. Perspiration stains are organic, much like blood and grass stains, albeit more stubborn. Your best results will be with an "enzymatic" laundry product. The enzymes actually "eat" the protein in organic stains.

A laundry pretreatment product for all kinds of stains, especially those that are organic is best. Removing the stain may require some repetition.

If the stain doesn't come out, do not put the garment in the dryer because that will set it. Keep repeating until it comes out. If the stain is very old and has been heat set, you may have no choice but to throw that garment away. In the future, make sure your daughter always wear a good antiperspirant. That will help stop those stains before they get started.

You can find a great Enzyme pre-treatment on my website www.quixtar.com (IBO referral# 3345643). You will find it under categories: home, laundry, pretreatments. It is the SA8® PreWash with Enzymes Liquid Spot Treatment and it only costs $9.45 and will last your forever. I use it all the time and it works wonders. Just treat the underarms when you take the shirt off before you wash it and the stains will not even appear at all.


Monday, April 20, 2009

April week # 3 - What’s for lunch?

More often than not, sandwiches are on the menu. Portable, satisfying, and fairly inexpensive, they’re a quick and easy way to refuel midday. But put the wrong stuff between the bread and the wrong bread around the stuff, and you’ll be consuming more than enough calories for the rest of the day. Check out my guide and start lunching your way slim!

Step 1: The Bread
With so many tasty but less-than-healthy options available including ciabatta (460 calories), focaccia (320 calories, 10 grams of fat), heroes (250 cal ories), and even wraps (typically over 300 calories, 8 grams of fat), it’s easy to order the wrong thing. Your best bet? Sliced whole wheat or multi-grain breads for only 80 calories and 2-3 grams of fiber per slice. If you can’t ignore your craving for a fresh roll, indulge the Skinny way, and take the top layer off the bread for an open-faced sandwich.

Step 2: The Insides
Open up a sandwich these days and you’ll rarely find a basic PB&J (don’t knock it — filled with heart healthy fat and protein, it’ll keep you full for hours). Instead, menus are full of endless tempting concoctions. A rule of thumb: When it comes to meat, the simpler the better. Choose turkey (105 calories for 3 ounces), roast beef (165 calories for 3 ounces), or grilled chicken breast (120 calories for 4 ounces) instead of tuna, egg, and chicken salads (all with more than 250 calories and 20 grams of fat per ½ cup serving). Skip the cheese (100 calories and 8 grams of fat per slice) and add lots of fresh veggies (instead of grilled veggies, which soak up fat) for a tasty crunch, plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Step 3: The Condiments
Sure, they add flavor to your sandwich, but spread on too much of the wrong thing and you’ll find yourself spreading out! Ditch the biggest offenders — mayo and Russian dressing (10 grams of fat per tablespoon) — and go with deli or Dijon mustard for just 5 calories per teaspoon. Not a mustard fan? Sprinkle on vinegar or shake on a touch of salt and pepper for minimal calories with tons of tangy flavor.

Step 4: The Sides
Don’t give up chips completely — I think it’s sacrilegious to eat a sandwich without some sort of crunch on the side — just choose right. A 1-ounce serving of potato chips will easily set you back 160 calories and 10 grams of fat. Go with soy chips (70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat per serving), whole grain pita chips (130 calories, 5 grams of fat per serving), baked potato chips (130 calories, 1.5 grams of fat per serving), or even a bag of baby carrots — all the crunch for just 25 calories in a ½ cup serving.

Make any of these combos yourself for about 400 calories and keep those afternoon energy slumps at bay. See ya later, vending machine!

*These tips found in the Skinny In The City Newsletter

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April week # 2 - Portion Control?

Rising obesity rates have us all playing the blame game. What led to the epidemic — carbohydrates? Saturated fat? High fructose corn syrup? Too much protein? Or did our ever-expanding workdays cause our ever-expanding waistlines?

While all these factors have surely played a part, there’s something simple that we often overlook: portion control. Plain and simple, we just eat too much. Twenty years ago, a typical portion of spaghetti and meatballs was 1 cup with three small meatballs. Today, it’s 2 cups with three large meatballs — that’s 500 calories versus 1,025! To burn off the extra 525 calories, you’d have to clean your house vigorously for 2½ hours or run (pretty fast) for nearly an hour. Although we’ve lost sight of real portion sizes, we can downsize our bodies without giving up the foods we love if we just refocus. Here’s your visual cheat sheet:

1 serving of fruit or vegetables = 1 cup, or the size of a tennis ball
1 serving of chicken, fish, or meat = 3 ounces, or the size of a woman’s palm or a deck of cards
1 serving of whole grains = 1/2 cup of cooked grains or 1 slice of 100% whole grain bread
1 serving of pancakes = 1 4-inch pancake, about the size of a CD
1 serving of pasta or rice = 1 cup of cooked pasta, or the size of a woman’s fist
1 serving of dressing = 1 tablespoon, or the size of your thumb, tip to the top joint (1 teaspoon is about the size of your thumbnail)
1 serving of potatoes = 1 small (3-ounce) baked potato or ½ cup mashed potatoes, about the size of a small computer mouse
1 serving of cheese = 1 ounce, or about 4 dice stacked on top of each other
1 serving of nuts = 1 ounce, or the size of child’s handful

And remember, when dishing out your food, fill half your plate with vegetables, ¼ with protein, and ¼ with a complex carbohydrate.

*Information found in the Skinny and the City Newsletter

April week # 2 - Magic Eraser?

MAGIC ERASER.

Use toothpaste to remove pen or magic marker from a hard surface like stained wood, plastic, baby doll faces, walls or flooring. It works better than anything I've ever tried! Don't use whitening varieties on colored surfaces.

*Information found in the Debt Proof Living Newsletter

April week # 2 - Melted Crayons Or Gum In Your Dryer?

STICKY SOLUTION.

What a mess if you ever get gum or crayons melted inside the dryer. Here's what to do: Get some old towels, pop them in the dryer and run on hot for a few minutes to soften the wax or gum. Then, make a paste of Cascade automatic dishwasher detergent and hot water. With a damp cloth, use this paste to scrub off the gum or wax. Go over the entire inside of the dryer, and make sure you rinse it off well. Run a load of old towels just to make sure it's all gone.

*Information found in Debt Proof Living Newsletter

April week # 2 - Sticky Stickers.....

RESIDUE REMOVAL.

Have you ever pulled a sticker off of fabric only to find it has left residue or part of the sticker backing? Take a piece of a brown paper bag and place it over the area. Set your iron on low/medium and iron over the bag. The heat will melt the glue and the remnant of the sticker will adhere to the bag.

*Tip found in the Debt Proof Living Newsletter

April week 2 - Goodwill Online?

DESIGNER DEALS.

Goodwill is no longer just a chain of walk-in thrift stores. Their website, shopgoodwill.com, is the first Internet auction site operated by a nonprofit organization. It's a great place to browse high quality donation items from across the country. You can find designer items like purses or shoes that are in great condition for a fraction of the retail price.

*Information found in the Debt Proof Living newsletter

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March week # 5 - Another Great Book Recommendation


Confessions Of Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Review from Amazon.com:
If you've ever paid off one credit card with another, thrown out a bill before opening it, or convinced yourself that buying at a two-for-one sale is like making money, then this silly, appealing novel is for you. In the opening pages of Confessions of a Shopaholic, recent college graduate Rebecca Bloomwood is offered a hefty line of credit by a London bank. Within a few months, Sophie Kinsella's heroine has exceeded the limits of this generous offer, and begins furtively to scan her credit-card bills at work, certain that she couldn't have spent the reported sums.
In theory anyway, the world of finance shouldn't be a mystery to Rebecca, since she writes for a magazine called Successful Saving. Struggling with her spendthrift impulses, she tries to heed the advice of an expert and appreciate life's cheaper pleasures: parks, museums, and so forth. Yet her first Saturday at the Victoria and Albert Museum strikes her as a waste. Why? There's not a price tag in sight.
It kind of takes the fun out of it, doesn't it? You wander round, just looking at things, and it all gets a bit boring after a while. Whereas if they put price tags on, you'd be far more interested. In fact, I think all museums should put prices on their exhibits. You'd look at a silver chalice or a marble statue or the Mona Lisa or whatever, and admire it for its beauty and historical importance and everything--and then you'd reach for the price tag and gasp, "Hey, look how much this one is!" It would really liven things up. Eventually, Rebecca's uncontrollable shopping and her "imaginative" solutions to her debt attract the attention not only of her bank manager but of handsome Luke Brandon--a multimillionaire PR representative for a finance group frequently covered in Successful Saving. Unlike her opposite number in Bridget Jones's Diary, however, Rebecca actually seems too scattered and spacey to reel in such a successful man. Maybe it's her Denny and George scarf.

I LOVED this book. Couldn't put it down. I was anxious for her and so wanted things to work out in her favor. Even after time and time again it didn't. I can relate to some of her circumstances from long ago. Wonderful, easy, enjoyable read. I can't wait to read the rest of the series! On my way tomorrow to get the 2nd one :). Hope you enjoy - Tamra (a.k.a. the Frugal Mom)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March week # 4 - Another Deodorizing Microwave Tip

Hi Tamra,
You can also put a cup of water and either squeeze a lemon wedge or lemon juice, bring it to a boil and let it sit in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes and then wipe out the microwave.
Dawn, LI NY

Thank Dawn - can't wait to try it!
Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March week # 4 - Deodorizing Your Microwave

I reheated some seafood leftovers the other day in my microwave and was having a horrible seafood smell whenever I used the microwave after that. I wiped it down with cleanser and that only worked a little.

So I took a cup of baking soda and left it in my microwave overnight and in the morning the smell was gone! Amazing!

I would love to hear any tips you may have too. tflowers@optonline.net or post a comment to this blog post.

Thanks - Tamra

March week #4 - Pizza Stone Cleaner

Hi ladies,

I wanted to share a great tip my friend (and Pampered Chef lady) Cheryl told me about. I was having trouble keeping my stoneware as clean as I would like. If you have stoneware pans you know what I mean, they get greasy and just don't feel as clean scrapping them as you do when you use soap, water and scrubby with your regular pans. I use my stone bar pans nearly everyday for cooking everything.

She suggested keeping baking soda in a cheese shaker near your sink. When cleaning your stoneware shake with the baking soda and scrub. It works great! And now that I use this handy cleaning tip I feel good using them and that they are clean after each use.

Thanks Cheryl!

Monday, March 16, 2009

March - Week #2 - Great book recommendation

Review taken from Amazon.com:
Jack and Laurel Cooper are two hardworking, loving Christian pillars of the community who die in each other's arms one night in the bed-and-breakfast that they own and operate. The event calls their three grown children home for the funeral, including their youngest son, a fugitive from the law who must face an outstanding warrant for his arrest and confront his one true love, now engaged to another man. As events unfold around the funeral, the three children discover a treasure trove of family history in the form of Wednesday letters-notes that Jack wrote to his wife every single week of their married lives. As they read, the children brush across the fabric of a devoted marriage that survived a devastating event kept secret all these years. It's a lovely story: heartening, wholesome, humorous, suspenseful and redemptive. It resonates with the true meaning of family and the life-healing power of forgiveness all wrapped up in a satisfying ending.
** This book was wonderful. A quick and enjoyable read. I couldn't put it down. And being a mom with little time to myself, it was a pleasure to make the most out of it with this book.
- Tamra (a.k.a. The Frugal Mom).

Friday, March 6, 2009

March week # 1 - What do you do with all that paper!


I don't know about you but I am buried under all the projects and pictures my kids finish at home or that's sent home from school with them. I didn't want to throw them out, but I found that i wasn't enjoying them anyway in piles all over my counters.

So I started a binder to keep all the best work that I want to keep, enjoy and show off. I also have a bin than I put all the finished work in to sort later. It has worked out great. I can see the progression in their talents as they grow and its a self esteem boost when they see mommy putting one of their work in the special book. I still hang up some pictures they make. But now we rotate them.

What you need: a 3 ring binder, clear page protectors, dividers. If you have multiple children make a separate section for each. Place some of the clear protectors between each section. Slip in the artwork and enjoy! Great for sharing with the grandparents too.

This is also great for school work that is sent home. You can make a new binder each year and save the most important things you want to show them as they grow. It will make everything easy to find. And your children will see how much you cared to save these projects.
*And as Dfleib commented you can use them to cut out the ABC's . Here is what we did in our playroom. Now every time I look at them I am reminded that this is my daughters art work. Thanks for the reminder Dawn.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

March week # 1 - quick tip: toys everywhere!

Quick tip: Get yourself a catch all

Keep a bin in your living room so at the end of a day (or if company comes a knockin') you can do a quick clean up and toss all the toys in and tuck it away. I have a pop up toy bin I picked up at Walmart for a few dollars that works great. when the kids go to bed I tidy up, toss the toys in and can carry all the toys to the playroom and put them away quickly. Then I can relax without the mess.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March week # 1 - Your at home diaper center

So now that I have eliminated my changing table I had to figure where to put diapers and wipes for easy access at changing times. Luckily I had this idea from my last 2 girls. I had purchased 2 canvas shower caddies (one for upstairs and one for downstairs), you know the kind they sell for college dorms. It has a large center and multiple pockets on the sides for all your necessities like baby lotion, diaper rash cream, Aquaphor, stinky diapers trash bags (got these at the dollar store 100 pack) etc. I fill it with diapers and a package of wipes and it is small enough to store anywhere. I just refill when the diapers get low. Everything is right at my finger tips when I need it.

**This also works great in the kids bath time area. Perfect to store bath toys in the center, and baby shampoo, baby wash, conditioner etc around the sides. Helps keep everything neat and tidy. And since these are made for shower caddies they are fine to store the wet toys.

March week # 1 - A Kool craft idea for kids.

I would love to take credit for this idea but alas it came from my dear friend, Ms. Betty the children's Librarian from one of her story time classes.

What you need:
several different flavors of Kool-aid drink mix packets, white paper & a spray bottle with water.

Spread out the paper, let the kids sprinkle some powdered drink mix on the paper in any design they want. A few different flavors works best. Then spray with a water mist and watch the colors emerge! Its a great art project for the kids. A really pretty effect too.
Thanks Betty!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feb week #4 - Sliders, a better option for burgers.

Hi ladies,

A good friend of mine, Ginny, had a great idea for burgers. As Americans we always expect BIG portions. Like Big burgers. Well she had recently made what she called Sliders, which are just mini burgers really.

I tried her suggestion and made these for dinner. I made enough burgers for us to have a few if we wanted. I know how my husbands appetite is much bigger than mine. We had side dishes too like salad, & sweet potato fries. But amazingly after one slider we were both full. It was surprisingly satisfying. Martins potato rolls has a small burger bun that is whole wheat, too. Besides, the slider is perfect size for kids. Get creative with the burger toppings if you want too.

Delicious. And I didn't over eat! Thanks for the great idea Ginny.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb week # 4 - Half Colored Coloring Books?

What do you do when all your coloring books are mostly colored in?

Do you keep them or chuck them?

Here's my solution: Tear out the blank sheets and store them in a folder or box. And throw out the used books. (Don't forget to recycle!) This saves so much room! I went from having a bin full of half colored books to having one stack of blank pictures that they could easily access.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feb week # 4 - Recycle your changing table


When my daughter was born a year ago (wow has it really been that long already!) we put a changing table downstairs in our main living area to make things easier. Rather than running up to her bedroom every time that is.

Well now that she is almost a year, and not sitting still during diaper changes, the table is sitting there unused taking up space. So I had to decide to get rid of it or recycle it into something we could use. I am a big fan of organizing things. So what better use than as our kids craft center.

I removed the changing pad, add some accessories and wala it was done. My kids love to draw and color like most kids their age. So I had bins of paper, coloring books, crayons, markers etc. Everything was spread out in different places. Now I have them all in one place and accessible.
I used bins to store things like play dough and the accessories to go with it, painting things, extra paper etc. In the drawer I used plastic organizers to separate and store things like pencils, safety scissors, stickers, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners and erasers, tape. and on the top surface I used paper sorters to store my colored paper, white paper and other drawing tools. We also used plastic containers to store crayons & markers. This way the kids have easy access to the colors when they are using them and its easy clean up too.
I hope this tip has inspired you to find creative ways to reuse things in your home too.
.

Feb week #4 - Kids craft idea - Bird feeders

My daughter Morgan came home from preschool last week with a bird feeder they had made. I was wondering why she made this so early when it is still so cold out? Well of course as soon as we got home Morgan wanted to hang it up outside. So we hung it on the tree outside our sliding glass doors so she could watch it. Expecting it to be hanging there for months til the birds came back, I was so surprised when it was covered with lots of pretty birds. We all enjoyed watching them come back all day to feed. It was so nice to see this wonderful sign of spring coming.

We made more today since the other was bare. it was so easy I thought I would share.
  • Take an empty toilet paper roll, punch 2 holes in it for the string, spread peanut butter all over and roll in bird seed (you can pick up a small bag at Walmart for a little over a dollar). Attach the string and hang it up.

Enjoy watching the birds come from all around. Spring is almost here!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Feb week # 3 - A Winter Bake Recipe

Believe it or not, we’re nearing the end of the winter season. And while you may be excited to shed your parka, don’t forget about one of the best parts of cold weather — acorn squash. It’s still available in grocery stores, so take advantage.

This baked side dish offers a delicious twist on winter veggies. The brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg give it a sweet taste — almost like a low-fat, high-fiber dessert sharing a plate with your main course. Plenty of nutrients make an appearance, too: Say hello to vitamins A, C, and B6 as well as thiamine, magnesium, and potassium. Serve this alongside any meat, chicken, or fish, and I promise it’ll keep you warm until tank top season.

Sweet Potato, Squash, and Carrot Bake
total time : 30 min serves 6

Ingredients:
½ pound sweet potatoes
2 pounds acorn squash (about 1 large)
3 medium carrots
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Non-stick cooking spray

Cooking instructions:
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Peel sweet potatoes and squash and cut into one-inch cubes. Peel carrots and cut into one-inch slices. Take a baking pan with sides and lightly coat it with cooking spray. Place the vegetables in the pan, and sprinkle with the olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well to coat evenly. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Nutrition Facts: Per serving (½ cup): 125 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g fat, 2 g protein

*this info was taken from Skinny and the City Newsletter 02/20/2009

Feb week # 3 - Metabolism 101

Summer is coming and I am sure like me, you are thinking about getting ready to bare your winter hidden body. One thing I was wondering is how many calories I should be eating each day and how do I boost my metabolism. I know that I eat more than I should and don't exercise enough. My thought is if I could just eat less and exercise more I should be OK right? So I did a little research on how to find out your personal calorie limit. I found some interesting info on www.quackerricesnacks.com. They also have some yummy recipes for low calorie snacks.

Most calories are burned simply by basic body functions such as breathing, circulating blood and keeping cells functioning. Beyond that, anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of our daily caloric needs are determined by physical activity, which is why fitness is such an important component of our daily lives.

So here is how you can determine where your personal daily caloric intake should be:

  • Step #1: Take your body weight in pounds and multiply by 10 calories. Example: 150 pounds x 10 calories = 1,500 calories.
  • Step #2: Take half your body weight and add it to the number from Step #1 to obtain your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn every day to breathe, pump blood and hold your pen at work). Example: 150 pounds/2 = 75 1,500 calories = 1,575 calories.
  • Step #3: If you engage in resistance training at least 2 hours per week, add an additional 100 calories.
  • Step #4: For every 10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise achieved, add an additional 100 calories. Example: A 150-pound female who weight trains twice per week for an hour and does 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise needs an additional 400 calories, for a total of 1,975 calories per day

To keep your calorie-burning engine running efficiently, you should eat every 3-4 hours for a total of 4-6 small meals per day. To figure out calories per meal, divide your total calorie goal by your goal number of meals. Example: 1,475 calories / 5 meals = 295 calories per meal or snack.

Approximately 25 percent of every main meal should consist of a starchy carbohydrate, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain cereals and breads, corn, peas and potatoes. A protein-rich food such as non-fat cottage cheese, round steak, skinless chicken breast and fish should make up another quarter. The remaining 50 percent should be colorful fruits and vegetables.

Follow these three guidelines and your metabolism will be humming for a healthy you! Lets do this together. I would love any weight loss or exercise tips you could share. I look forward to hearing from you at tflowers@optonline.net.

Good Luck! Tamra

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb week # 3 - Stroller Tip

Hi ladies,

When my oldest daughter was a baby (she's now 5), when we would go for walks with the stroller she was forever dropping her bottle or sippy cup and her snack cup too. I can't even tell you how many we lost!

Well a friend had given me a great "tip"that I had used all the time and had forgotten about til this weekend when I was at the zoo with my kids. I had my 11 month old in a stroller while my other girls ran from animal to animal. And with this new "tip" that I will share with you in a moment, we had no worries she would drop or lose her cup on the dirty floor.

OK so here it is.... you take an ordinary shoe lace (or string of any kind) and tie one end to one of those rings that connect and have one small opening. You know the ones that you can use to attach toys to a car seat. Well that end connects to the bar on the stroller and tie the other end to one of those rubber bands you get from your produce. The rubber band is perfect to slip around a bottle, sippy cup or snack cup. Make sure the string is long enough, yet short enough to not hit the floor when they throw it overboard (and you know they will ;-) ). So if they throw it over it just dangles til you are able to retrieve it. Wala! No more lost or germy cups!

I hope this tip helps you as much as it does me. Especially with spring right around the corner, we will be strollering it a lot :-).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feb week # 2 - Organization tip

Here's a tip that has saved me a lot of time in the mornings...

When putting your kids laundry away place the clothes in the drawers by outfit. This way you can just grab it and get them dressed quickly. I was organizing their clothes by shirts in one drawer, pants in another, etc, etc... And then I would have to hunt for something to match each. By organizing them by outfit it makes life so easy, especially on school days.

Feb week # 2 - Great Quote

"Into each day put equal parts of Faith, Patience, Courage, Work, Hope, Fidelity, Liberality, Kindness, Rest, Prayer, Meditation, and one well-selected resolution, put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkle of play, and a capful of good humor"

(most recent Pottery barn catalog pg 90)

I just thought this was great! hope you enjoyed it too.... Tamra

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Feb week # 2 - This Weeks Menu

Sunday: London Broil, onions & mushrooms, baked potatoes & salad
London Broil (if cooking in oven): Let meat rest to room temp. preheat oven to 400 degrees. set rack 6-7 inches from flame. When oven reaches 400 degrees, switch to broiler. Place London Broil on a baking sheet, season meat as you prefer. I drizzle with olive oil and use Montreal Steak seasonings as a rub. Broil for 15 minutes turning once halfway. remove and let rest 5 minutes.
**Sabra Hummus is also a great accompaniment to the meat.
*left over London Broil will be used for fajitas later in week.
Onion & mushrooms meat topper: saute' onions & mushrooms with a few pats of butter and some soy sauce. yummy.
Baked Potatoes: for easy baked potatoes, poke potatoes with fork and place in microwave. Cook til soft. if you want the skin crisp, after soft, put on rack in oven. serve with your favorite toppings. (suggestions: butter, sour cream, chives, vinaigrette salad dressing or try a dollop of sour cream mixed with Savory Garlic & Herb soup mix)

Monday: Pork Chops, Fried Rice & Broiled Veggies
Pork Chops: marinate with favorite marinade. Cook under broiler til done.
Fried Rice: Get a box of Instant Brown Rice from Walmart. Cook in microwave according to directions. Takes only minutes. When rice is cooked, drizzle some olive oil in a pan & heat, pour the rice in and stir. sprinkle with onion and garlic powder. add frozen peas. add soy sauce for flavor. cook til peas are heated through.
Broiled Veggies: slice up veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower) and throw in a Ziploc. Also add green onions/scallions whole or sliced in half long ways (just cut off ends and straggly green tips). sprinkle oil & soy sauce. shake to mix. put on baking sheet and sprinkle with garlic 7 onion powder. cook under broiler for 20 minutes.

Tuesday: Creamy Black Bean Soup
(sent in by Claire M. of Hawley, PA - Source: Southern Living magazine, February 2009)
Soup recipe: Ingredients: 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup), 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cups vegetable broth, 3-15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed, 1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chile's, undrained, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon lime juice
Cooking instructions: Saute onion and garlic in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 4 to 6 minutes or until tender. Stir in broth and next 4 ingredients, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro and lime juice. Let cool 5 minutes. Process soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor (I used a handheld stick blender in the pot instead) 30 seconds or until smooth. Return to Dutch oven, and stir until blended. Serve with desired toppings. Makes 6 cups.
Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, tortilla chips

Wednesday: Steak fajitas
use the left over London Broil from Sunday & slice thin strips. Cut up onions & peppers & saute'. Add fajita seasoning. serve with flour tortillas, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole.

Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Friday: mini meatloaf burgers
to make: chop meat, egg, onion soup mix, ketchup (this helps keep it moist and gives it a nice flavor), bread crumbs. mix and make into mini burgers. cook and eat with salad or on a roll. I like them with sauteed onions & mushrooms with melted cheese. yummy.

Saturday: Valentines Day with your kids
Heart shaped mini pizzas: Roll out the dough. Use a heart shaped cookie cutter and cut out into hearts. Place onto a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, garlic and onion powder. Make sure they are a few inches apart as they will get bigger as they cook. Bake the heart crusts for about 5-10 minutes. keep an eye ob them so the don't get brown. take out and put sauce and cheese and favorite toppings. my favorite topping is diced canned tomatoes (Italian flavored) or brochetta, fresh basil & slices of fresh Mozzarella cheese. cook until gold and bubbly.
You will have individual heart shaped pizzas for everyone. let the kids help with their toppings.

Valentines Day with your Sweetheart - Go out to dinner! (if you can get a sitter)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Feb week #1 - Our FAV New Treat

Going back to the list of snacks I posted the other day, The Frozen Graham Cracker Sandwich has become our new favorite. They taste like little ice cream sandwiches. Actually if you would prefer ice cream, go for it. you can use yogurt, ice cream (light/regular/sugar free). Its the perfect size for mini ice cream sandwiches. Break the graham crackers into 4's. You will have little rectangle treats. We make a few batches each week and store them in Ziploc bags. This way the girls can choose there favorite flavor. And for those of us who are trying to shed those unwanted pounds (ie: baby weight) its a perfect size to curb the sweet tooth. My father in law is a diabetic with a huge sweet tooth. So we make them with sugar free ice cream and he loves it.

Apple Cinnamon: take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) mix with some cinnamon apple sauce and spread on some Cinnamon graham crackers. Freeze. This one is so yummy. try the chunky apple sauce.

Strawberry Vanilla : take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) and spread on both sides of a graham cracker. slice thinly some strawberries and place on top. and sandwich the 2 sides together. and freeze.

Peach Vanilla: take vanilla yogurt (or ice cream) and spread on both sides of a graham cracker. slice some canned peaches thin and lay on top. sandwich the 2 sides together and freeze. (you can use canned pears too).

Chocolate pudding: take some chocolate pudding and spread that across the graham cracker make a sandwich and freeze. (for an extra yummy treat spread some whipped cream too).

I would love to hear your versions of these snacks too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feb week # 1 - Repair Don't Replace....

Not all companies are starving for business these days. In fact, some are setting records for increased business. Repair businesses and thrift stores are doing well during these financially turbulent times. That makes sense. After all, it is usually cheaper to repair than to replace, and that gently-worn clothes can be found for a fraction of their new price tag.

Take a look in your local area...most have a Mommy and Me Consignment shop or something like it. Kids grow out of clothing so fast that sometimes it is such a waste to spend full retail on them. I have found that often the clothing still has tags on them. Never worn. Not only can you purchase gently-worn clothing for yourself and your kids, but you can sell yours to. And if you sell through a consignment shop you get a discount off of purchases there too.

I have boxes and boxes of children's clothing and maternity clothes in my attic. I know they will never get used again in this house, so it makes sense to sell them. It makes me some money as well as frees up space in my attic. If you are really ambitious you can take pictures and download your items onto Ebay. This takes more time and energy, but you will probably make a few dollars more this way.

Check out your local Craig's List. You can purchase items inexpensively, as well as sell items. http://www.craigslist.com/

I hope this post gives you some ideas to save money and make money - Tamra

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb week # 1 - Limit their snacks?

I don't know about your kids but mine would snack all day long if I let them. I got tired of running to the kitchen every 5 minutes and then having my girls not eat their dinner.

We came up with a snack token system. I had the girls help me make 3 tokens for each of them. I cut out large circles and wrote the word snack on them. I let them decorate their own tokens. We made 2 pockets out of paper to hold them in. Again they each were able to decorate them as they wished. One was the start pocket, and the other was the finished pocket. We taped them on the wall in the kitchen. Each time they asked me for a snack, I would let them take a token from the start pocket and place it in the finished pocket. When the start pocket was empty they could have no more snacks that day.

The first day we did this they thought it was great...until they used their tokens up before lunch. And they realized they could have no more for that day. The second day went a bit better but they still used them all up before dinner. Now they have learned to spread them out so they have 1 snack between breakfast and lunch, the second between lunch and dinner and the 3rd they save for dessert. I love this system, it saves me from running around all day and teaches them to savor what they have.

Feb week # 1 - More fun snacks for your children (and adults)

As we all know, kids love dessert and snacks. Here are a few yummy snacks that will get them (and you) excited every time. You will find it hard not to partake in the snacking with them!

1. Pudding cones: give them sugar free pudding in a small ice cream cone. (make sure you have bibs and lots of baby wipes for this yummy treat! they will enjoy this one completely, but it is a bit messy. perfect for eating outside. This is one of my kids favorites rather than ice cream cones) **Don't store extra cones in the fridge with pudding in them - the cones will get soggy
2. Painting with pudding: give them a plate with pudding and a graham cracker and let them have fun finger painting with it. you can give them a bowl of berries on the side to help with their masterpiece. They can lick their fingers and make pretty pictures too.
3. Yogurt cones: serve vanilla yogurt in an ice cream cone with some fruit mixed in. Add some honey wheat germ sprinkled on top.
4. Homemade apple rice pudding: left over rice, mixed with applesauce, sprinkle of cinnamon and vanilla yogurt. top with a little jam in a smiley face design. (Or if you have older kids try making a face out of Craisens) *fill some Dixie cups with extra and put in a Tupperware that is deep enough and you will have enough to last a few days.
5. Warm soft apple slices: cut up apple slices and wrap in foil. place in toaster oven and cook for 20 minutes. They will be soft, warm and yummy. Serve with some vanilla yogurt on top or just by themselves.
6. Sweet tortilla treat #1: take a soft tortilla shell, microwave for 10 seconds. spread with peanut butter and thin sliced bananas (or try apple sauce). roll up and its perfect for little ones to hold and eat.
7. Sweet tortilla treat #2: take a soft tortilla shell, microwave for 10 seconds and spread cream cheese and jelly. roll up.
8. Quesadilla triangles: take a soft tortilla and lay flat sprinkle with cheese, and fill with left over cooked veggies, or avocado slices. fold in half and warm in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. slice into triangles. perfect size for little fingers. You can use colorful veggie varieties of tortillas for a little fun.
9. Frozen graham cracker fruit snacks: take a graham cracker break them into the small rectangles, spread with a fruit flavored yogurt, top with another cracker and freeze. This is so yummy you will help yourself to a few too!
**Freeze in a large Tupperware without a lid. After they are frozen place them into a Ziploc bag to store in freezer. I have found that the Tupperware lids crack if you open them when they are frozen.
***We bought a few different flavors of yogurt (strawberry, peach, blueberry, mixed berries) and this gives a choice. It tastes as yummy as an ice cream sandwich. If you are really ambitious you can use vanilla yogurt with thin strawberry slices, and freeze.
10. Fruit filled ice pops: take an ice pop tray (you can pick up small ones at a Dollar Store or Target for $1) fill with some of their favorite fruit (strawberries, blue berries, raspberries, pineapple, bananas...) and then top with apple juice, orange juice (or any juice you have). freeze.
11. Frozen yogurt pops: fill an ice pop tray with a fruit flavored yogurt and freeze.
12. Fruit filled jello cups: make some jello and fill some Dixie cups with fresh fruit. fill cups with the jello and let set in fridge. serve by themselves or with a spoon of vanilla yogurt or whipped cream. *If you have a Tupperware deep enough you can store them and have enough to last the week as a special treat.

Love to hear your favorite kid friendly snack ideas. Email them to me at tflowers@optonline.net. I hope your kids enjoy these as much as mine do! Tamra

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Feb week #1 - this weeks menu

OK ladies...we are going to make 4 easy croc pot/slow cooker meals this week. Set them up in the morning before work or after breakfast for a yummy meal you don't have to worry about much til dinnertime. Take a look at your weeks menu and anything you can prep on Sunday or the night before will help make this a quick meal week. slice up veggies needed and put them in Ziploc so you can just dump them in in the morning. I love using the slow cookers or croc pots. Makes dinners a cinch.

Superbowl Sunday - (croc pot meal #1) Sausage & Peppers with Penne Pasta or rolls
In a slow cooker/croc pot add 1 onion sliced & 1 pepper sliced and a few garlic cloves crushed on bottom. Add Italian sausage & a jar or 2 (enough to cover sausages) of your favorite tomato sauce, a cup or 2 of Marsala cooking wine (or any wine will do). let cook all day on low. set this up early in the day and let cook. Serve on rolls while watching the Superbowl or with pasta.

Monday - (croc pot meal #2) Cream of Chicken & Rice soup
cream of chicken and rice soup: saute' onions & mushrooms with a little olive oil. In a croc pot add uncooked chicken breast cut into cubes, add the sauteed onions and mushrooms. a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, 4 cups chicken stock & 1 cup Marsala wine. Let cook on low all day. cook rice according to directions on box and add to soup before serving.

Tuesday - Roast Turkey Breast, baked Sweet Potatoes & Spinach Salad
*left over turkey breast, chop 2 cups into small bits and store in Ziploc for turkey ring on Thurs.

Wednesday - (croc pot meal #3) Pulled Pork. (easiest meal all week)
pulled pork: place a pork roast into the croc pot, cover with your favorite BBQ sauce and let cook all day on low. If you like it spicy add hot sauce. It will be so tender and just pull apart. Serve this with rice and veggies or put on a roll like a pulled pork sandwich wit a salad on the side.

Thursday -Turkey Cranberry Ring, and Salad
(A Pampered Chef recipe). What you need: 2 packages (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls, 1/2 c mayo, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 c chopped turkey, 1/2 c chopped celery, 1/2 c dries cranberries, 4 oz shredded Swiss cheese (or 6 slices chopped up), 1/2 c walnuts. How to make: mix together in a bowl all the ingredients. On a round pizza stone lay out 1st package of crescent roll dough like a star in a circle facing out. Corners of large end of dough should touch. Then 2nd package of dough facing in. Roll or pat center ring of dough so it sticks together. Spoon mixture around the ring (some filling will be exposed), then fold dough over like a present til it meets and looks like a wreath. (If you don't have a round pan you can do the same with a rectangular) bake 25-30 min at 375 degrees. Slice and serve with a salad.

Friday - Christina's Vegetable tomato Bean Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Vegetable Bean Soup: 6 cups water, about 2 tbsp chicken stock or bouillon cubes that are enough for 6 cups. 1 can diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 1 can red kidney beans and any other beans you like can be added, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, 2 bay leaves, basil or oregano if you want them. Combine first 6 ingredients into a large sauce pan. Add your seasonings to suit your taste. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally and watch often so it doesn't burn. A good alternative to the frozen vegetables and beans is the frozen Rancho vegetables.

Saturday - (croc pot meal #4) Moms Beef Stew
In croc pot add Stew meat, 1 bay leaf, 1 onion soup mix packet, potatoes peeled sliced, carrots & celery chopped, 1 onion cut up, 1 can tomato paste, water (enough to cover ingredients), beef bouillon. You can add any veggies you like to this pot. Cook on low all day. Serve with some yummy soft bread.
*If you like it with a thick gravy you may have to thicken with flour and water. Although the starch from the potatoes should thicken it.
to thicken: in a cup mix water with a few spoons of flour til no flour clumps (If you use a fork to stir it works well). Turn croc pot on high...stir in flour and water mixture slowly and it will thicken as it starts to bubble.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jan week # 4 - Bottle and Cup Labels

Just thought I would pass along a great tip for labeling your child's cups or bottles. Especially works great when there are a bunch of kids around with the same cups. (ie. play dates, daycare, multiple children of your own).

You know those thick rubber bands that keep your veggies together at the grocery store? Keep them. Turn them inside out to the blank side. Take a ball point pen and write your child's name on it. Fits around all sizes of cups and bottles.

I have 3 kids and 2 do not read or spell their name yet. So I had them each pick a shape and I wrote that on the band with their names. This way my 3 yr old could recognize which cup was hers and which was her sisters. (ie. heart, smiley face, star, flower).

If you have any organization tips you would like to share please pass them along to me at tflowers@optonline.net. I'd love to share them. Thanks - Tamra