Friday, January 31, 2014

Fitness Friday-How to Eat Intentionally: 3 Tips to Help You Have a Healthier Relationship with Food

 I have lost weight successfully for the most part by calorie counting.  It's mundane, it's exhausting, but it's teaching me how to value the calories in food and understand what is really in a portion.  Here are some tips I find helpful so you can avoid the counting if it's not your cup of tea and still train yourself some healthier habits.

1: Portion size-use a smaller plate!  If it's not counting calories and using a food scale while clutching your measuring cup set, then perhaps a simpler method might be helpful.  Eat off of a smaller plate.  You might have heard this tip before, but this picture really helps me illustrate it.  The other day we had mashed potatoes, flank steak, and peas.  I weighed and measured both plates, they hold the same amount.  Tell me that the plate on the right doesn't look full and the plate on the left doesn't look like it's a little empty, like it could use more food on it... Not to mention, going for seconds requires more effort than just piling it all on your plate in the first place.

2: Dish up plates in the kitchen and leave the leftovers there.  I don't know about you, but when I'm at my parents' place, I have 2 adorable dogs lovingly and longingly staring me down wanting food.  When I'm at my in-laws' their dog does a more subtle "I'll lay down next to you and lean on you" approach while wishing for food.  Sometimes the leftovers are like that too.  If you bring in that whole pot of mashed potatoes-above and beyond what you scoop onto your plate as a portion, they will stare you down!  I haven't done a scientific study, but I'd go out on a limb and say you're 50% more likely to have seconds if the tasty goodness is there in front of you, beckoning you.  Having seconds isn't always bad, but putting some distance between you will make you think twice and expend a little extra effort to go back into the kitchen to scoop up more.  Or, another alternative is to make extra veggies and only put those on the table for seconds.
3: As I was plating up the above pictured delicious meal, I had to take the lid off of the pot of mashed potatoes to scoop up.  My first instinct was to put the lid back on to keep it warm.  But this is when I made a decision to eat intentionally.  I knew I had enough potatoes on my plate.  I knew I made extras so that I could put some in containers and send with my husband to school during the week.  If I'm going to put it in the fridge then I need it to cool down.  When my brain connected this train of thought, it became one of those silent victories where I was proud to leave the lid off of the pot-to intentionally tell myself "You have enough".

Maybe start by using just 1 of these tips if you need to take baby steps.  Retraining your habits is like losing weight-it doesn't happen overnight!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thrifty Thursday-1 Savings "Think Ahead" Tip (That I Bet You Never Thought To Do!)

I can't believe I never even thought of this idea, until a few months ago that is!  Here is a picture of a gingerbread kit I picked up at Big Lots.  Regularly $10, on clearance plus a promo sale for $0.80!  92% savings :) 

Of's the end of January, what do I need a gingerbread kit for?  Don't dismiss those wonderful after-holiday sales so quickly!  I talked in this post about opening your mind for creative uses for after-holiday sales, this time I'm going to talk about keeping your eyes peeled for the expiration dates. 

The pictured "Best By" date is over a year away!!!  I can stash this away and use it next Christmas, and only pay 8% of what I would next year when looking for a gift or fun project.  I actually did the same thing with Halloween candy.  I don't have the money to buy trick-or-treaters full size candy bars or anything of the kind...but I did find a way to buy some cuter-than-plain-tootsie-rolls candies for next year and that is by following this strategy.  I don't have a picture because they're up in storage, but I got the cutest little gummy eyes/ears/etc on clearance (50 or 75% off, I don't remember).  They expire well after this next year's Halloween. 

If the expiration date is before the same holiday next year, I default to the "creative use" theory.  I also saw at Big Lots a brownie pop kit that was Christmas Themed.  The only Christmas part to it was the red and green sprinkles.  You could get that and use different sprinkles, or dip them in nuts or coconut instead-be creative and use it for Valentine's or a birthday! 

Buying seasonal clearance deals can be a nice way to keep the dough in your wallet and score some deals that are better than regular store promotions.  An added benefit-you can also use coupons on clearance! 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weight Loss Wednesday! How I've done it so far...

Since Wednesdays are my "whatever" days, and I missed last week's Fitness Friday, my husband recommended I post today :)  Weight loss has been slow lately, but I'm continually chugging along.  I posted this on Monday on (where I track my food and exercise) on my 6th month anniversary of starting to lose weight and get healthier:

35 lbs down!

Some facts:

--My main motivator to get myself going was actually my brother challenging me to a sprint triathlon this upcoming August. Lots to lose and practice before then! I did my first 2 5k's last was I out of shape!

--My husband is my biggest supporter. He (at my request) is the holder of the key to the chocolate stash and my personal cheerleader. He could care less about jogging or the gym until I got into gear and it's great to see him lose some gut as well :)

--I have been the organizer of 2 Biggest Loser competitions so far with friends on FB. The first time, I got 2nd place :) We're half way through the 2nd challenge.

--For the FIRST time in my life, I actually feel like this is a lifestyle change. It was never right was always a diet then, with impending self-talk of failure. I have never once in these 6 months thought about "quitting". I was sick for over a month, I had horrible plantar fasciitis, I've been depressed in cloudy, foggy, cold weather...and I enjoyed myself during the holidays :)

--I eat chocolate and candy almost every day. I think that is actually a huge part of my success...if I feel like I'm deprived then it won't last.

--I'm still learning to develop healthy eating habits-I eat a lot less fast food now and I've come to love things like spaghetti squash a lot more, but portion size, cravings, and emotional eating are stills beasts to subdue...just like the weight-habits don't go away over night!

--I don't log food or exercise on Sundays. In addition to being my spiritual day of rest, it's my physical and mental one too!

--I get annoyed when people talk as if the scale is an evil thing that means nothing and losing weight to look good is a bad thing...No, the scale isn't the only factor, but that is the easiest way (at least for me) to gauge progress on a regular basis. I think losing weight for your health is huge...I personally don't want diabetes like runs in my family, and I want to have kids. But gosh darnit, I want to fit in cute clothes and be a hot wife, and THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! *Steps off soap box*

--I lost the 1st 30 pounds without a gym membership-anyone can do this!

--I have a wall of motivation. I put up pictures, certificates, and running numbers from my 5ks, and I have a before/during picture and a color-in chart where I get to mark every 2 lbs lost.

--I'm constantly surprised by what my body can do. Somehow I thought that I couldn't plank because I can't do a pushup. WRONG. I went out jogging today and felt like Tigger-so much bounce to the step! I was easily jogging along and realized that just 6 months before, I wouldn't be able to jog half as long before walking and out of breath! I kept telling myself tonight "I can make it to that tree" and then as I got to the tree "I can make it to that mailbox" and then "I can make it to that driveway"...and I kept pushing myself...and I will continue to, and I hope you do too!!! You can make it through today, and when you get through today, you can get through tomorrow, and this week, etc!

Holding up 35 lbs of water to represent my progress!  Not just "water weight" ;)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tasty Tuesday-DIY Herbal Tea Bags

Here's this week's video post.
To watch the video on youtube, click HERE.

A note to add to the video on whole vs ground spices:
Spices are always stronger and better the fresher they are and the more freshly they are ground.  The tea I made in the video was WAY too weak, in part because my spices are several years old, and partly because they came pre-ground (or in the case of the cloves, I didn't break or grind them when I should have).  I should have added probably double the spices I did for good flavor.

I also wanted to add a shout-out to my favorite local cupcake shop: Love @ First Bite!  There are cupcakes and then there are Love @ First Bite cupcakes, which are true to name!  Sooooo good!  They are doing a Kickstarter fundraiser to move into a new storefront (which they really need because their parking is pretty lame right now...hate to say it but it's true...)  Watch their pitch here and consider donating.  The clock is ticking and they have lots more to raise!  If you live in the US of A, you'll get a tasty thank you as part of your pledge (donation of at least $10 for a treat, but you can donate as little as $1)!

Cupcakes and DIY herbal tea, sounds like a great combo to me ;) 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Make It Monday: Altoid Tin Game Craft (Part 2)

For Part 1 ("Color Land and Tic Tac Toe") go HERE. 

Here's Part 2 in this installment of craft projects using Altoid and Sucrets tins. 

This particular tin is the "Roll & Draw and Gold Fishin'" tin.

As in Part 1-I used mod podge for the front and back of the tin.  This time because I don't need the back for part of the games it just has a plain paper to cover the nutritional panel. 

Roll & Draw

This is a version of a game I saw on pinterest with a snowman around Christmas time.  We played it with our landlord's kids and cousin and we all enjoyed it.  Even the youngest could play by rolling the dice, she just needed help with the drawing. 

For this, I made 4 different pictures that are easy to draw and have 6 different components-a house, face, dinner, and stick figure.  You can see those pictures glued on the inside of the tin.  I made dice again with the little cubes I got at Hobby Lobby.  In turn, you roll the die and get to draw the corresponding part of the picture.  If you roll the same number more than once, then you skip that turn.  The person to draw the complete picture first wins :)  I included little scraps of papers with a paperclip and 2 pencils (stole those pictured from our Scattergories game, but I also took some regular pencils, scored them, broke them, and sharpened them to size so they're small enough to fit).  While there are only 2 pencils, you can definitely play with more people, you just take turns sharing the pencils :)

Gold Fishin'

Again, going on inspiration from pinterest, I decided to add a magnetic fishing game.  Though, I know for older kids in particular, it's fun to have points as a bonus instead of just randomly catching fish.  I was partly inspired by this project I had made and know my niece and nephew loved. 
 The fish took forever and a day to do...but then again that's probably my perspective because I was also making 3 kits at a time ;)  Great project to work on while watching a movie.  I cut out felt and stuck in some small scraps of the sticky back roll of magnet I used for the buttons in the Part 1 kit.  Then I hand-stitched them closed and used a sharpie to write point values on the bottom side of the fish.  Since the points are facing down, I decided to have all of the fish be goldfish instead of different colors, for more surprise and fairness in fishing.  I have a little baggie that I put all the fish in for storage to keep it more organized. 

For the pole, I found these mini popsicle sticks at Joann's crafts-I was happy to find them because I didn't think they made short sticks like these but they fit perfectly into the tin!  If you can't find these, a regular size popsicle stick or dowel sawed and sanded down would work fine.  Using some hot glue, I tied and secured the string to the stick.  I used a small rare earth magnet on the fishing pole because it has to be strong enough to pick up the smaller magnets through a layer of felt.  Since rare earth magnets don't do well with glues, I decided to encase it in a small chunk of felt scrap and hand-sew it, connecting it to the end of the pole was easy and secure.  I made just 1 pole per kit, they'll take turns anyway right?

One small detail that might help is to test the fish with the fishing pole before you put the point values on the bottom sides.  If you test them, you'll figure out the polarity and be able to decide which side of the fish is the actual "bottom" by which side is grabbed more easily by the pole's magnet and making that the top. 

I hope you like this tin, leave a comment and let me know which of the games you like the best so far between this tin and Part 1!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Spiritual Pick Up Sunday-Discover and Develop Talents

I was asked by the regular teacher of the Sunday School class if I would be willing to teach this week's lesson.  The topic of the lesson was Talents.  I accepted and went home to read the lesson manual...and didn't feel like it was anything life-altering.  I know in Mathew we learn the parable of the talents and that we all have them and should develop them but I was struggling to see how this lesson was all that important.  It felt like a bit of fluff when I'm used to "meat and potatoes" is this supposed to help me live a better life or come closer to my savior?

I talked about it with my husband and I'm glad (as always) to have his partnership and help.  He helped me see that this is a huge part of God's plan for us.  Why are we on this earth?  To become the best versions of ourselves we can be, to reach our potential....this is the root of it, this is why we are given talents and why we are supposed to enhance them!

The first step in discovering your talents is to take some time for self-awareness.  What are you good at?  What are you naturally pulled to?  Asking friends and family can be a huge help.  Just taking time preparing this lesson made me think of some of my talents...some things that I guess I don't go through life thinking they are "talents", but really, they are.  I'm crafty, I can navigate sales and coupon, I can decently put into words how I feel.  I have friends and family that aren't as blessed in those areas and sometimes tell me they wish they could be like that, or that it's cool but just not something they can manage. 

The next part can sometimes be the hard part-work on it!  Work on developing your talents.  Piano players must practice (my in-laws may not be Beethovens, but they're pretty dang good in my books on the piano and I know they practice often).  I'm only half decent at any of my craft techniques because I've taken the time to learn from others-whether in person from friends and family, or through youtube videos and tutorials.  It can be easy to get discouraged because you're not as good as others at what you do, or they may seem to have more talents than you.  Don't be!  Do the best with what you've got!

Last, and very importantly: SHARE!  Share your talents, bless the lives of others with your talents and teach someone.  I am grateful for those who have used their talents to bless my life-my mother is an amazing seamstress and reupholstered a bench for us (a bench she made from a coffee table in the first place!)  She also made us decorative pillows for our couches-I don't even want to call them "store-bought" quality, because I think they look even better than that!  I appreciate her service and sharing.  I'm grateful for the talent of those that first taught me couponing because now I can share that talent with others-not only by providing tips, but I can get boatloads of free stuff for donations for those less fortunate-what a huge blessing that is! 
The bench and pillows :)
I encourage you to take the time and inventory your talents-be grateful for what you have and make a plan to improve yourself and share your gifts to bless others' lives! 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stock Up Saturday-5 Tips for Rotating Your Stock

Hey all!  Sorry I missed posting yesterday...I was having a bit of a Eureka-and-sewing-a-thon....I won't tell you how long I watched that show and was at the sewing machine...I'd be ashamed!  But to move on from that to today's topic:

Rotating Food Storage

I've come to learn how important this is because we just went through our sad little food storage at the new year to find a whole box of some food that is uncomfortably expired.  Here are a few tips that I plan to enact myself to make sure there's no waste:

1.  Buy a varied food storage.  There are the "long term" items (HERE is a list of items that will easily last 30+ years when stored correctly) and there are "short term" food storage items (i.e. your favorite pasta sauce when it's on sale-stock up and they'll have likely 1-3 years until expiration)---get a mix of both long term and short term items.  A big rule is always to get items you actually like-especially with the short term items since you will have to eat them more often to avoid spoilage. 

2.  FIFO-An acronym I learned in culinary school-First In, First Out.  Take the time when you're unloading the groceries to put them on the shelves according to expiration.  Remember that just because you bought one later than the other doesn't necessarily mean the expiration is later, you never know.  Take the time and don't get disappointed down the road to find the one in the back to be "uncomfortably expired". 

3.  Schedule regular inventory.  I'm thinking on a quarterly basis, or at least twice a year, we're going to do an inventory.  See what we have, and see what needs to be used up sooner than later.  When looking through our food storage around new year's I took out all of the expired food or foods that would expire within the next month.  My husband and I agreed on what to toss and what was ok.  I prioritized foods to eat and for the month of January our challenge is to try and buy as few groceries as possible, and go off of our food storage to use up items that might be expiring soon or looking like they've been in the storage freezer too long.  It has been a fun challenge for me to plan a menu (something I'm usually terrible at) and look up new recipe ideas just to use up the stuff we need to. 

4.  Plan long term menu additions.  You might do a great job of stocking up on 30 cans of pinto beans for the future, and they last 30 or more years....but in 30 years, assuming you haven't needed to get into your long term storage, what will you do with 30 whole cans of beans?!  One of my goals for this year is to plan a rotating menu so this isn't an issue.  Plan a couple of recipes that incorporate long term food storage items.  Eat them once every month or two.  Calculate it out so every year you will consume and then replace just 1 can of those 30 cans of pinto beans and you'll keep a fresh rotation!  Not to mention-a lot of people don't necessarily cook with dry beans, they take the short cut and use canned beans.  It's good to be able to actually cook with your items and make something you know you'll enjoy as well as something that will sustain you in need.  Some people don't love the idea of storing white rice in food storage because of its lack of nutrition compared to brown rice or other rices...but the fact of the matter is that white rice doesn't spoil as easily as others-perhaps buy some white rice for long term storage, brown rice for short term, make a pilaf with both, and you'll be just fine ;)

5.  Search out and have printed recipes.  You'll be amazed at what you can do with food storage items.  I've seen youtube videos on how to turn nonfat dry milk into yogurt and cheese-things you definitely wouldn't think to be able to enjoy in an emergency!  Especially when you are going through your inventory-this is a great time to get creative with what you need to use up.  PRINT those recipes!  That's one thing I know I'm slacking on.  Sure, I have them pinned on pinterest, or bookmarked on my browser...but in an emergency where we don't have power, I'm in serious trouble!

I hope these little tips have helped you think about how you manage your food storage, I know putting it down in words has helped me come up with a more concrete plan!  Here's a little bonus for you:

Last week I had a bit of a dinner party-13 people to feed at my little apartment...where there are usually just 2 of us.  It was a blast and I was so grateful for my food storage inventory because most of our meal was made with those "should be used soon" items.  We had a favorite of mine-Chicken Curry Broccoli over rice as well as a layered jello dessert.  With the curry, it called for cans of cream of chicken soup.  I had the exact number needed of cream of mushroom soup that needed to be used and it made a tasty substitution.  Of course rice was plenty as well ;)  I don't actually eat jello that often but I must have gotten several boxes on good sales before.  They were in the "need to eat stash" and so was evaporated milk-exactly what a recipe I found called for!  It took forever to make the layered jello but it was so fun and tasty-and the crowd loved it! 

Basically, make up half of a flavor/color as usual, pour it into your dish(es), wait half an hour (refrigerated) for a soft set.  With the other half of that flavor/color, mix according to the instructions but add evaporated milk for the cold water portion.  Keep going as many times as you'd like with different colors and flavors!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thrifty Thursday-Shop for Multi-Purpose Seasonal Sales

Today's post is so late because I've been busy crafting up a storm---look out Make It Monday!  While working on my current project, I thought of this money saving tip.  Look out for after holiday clearance sales for items that you might use in other applications other than the original intended use. 

I found a couple of gems after Christmas, one was a velcro that is used for hanging Christmas decorations-I like it because it's really thin and I used it for the first time today on a project.  The other thing I found was this cute "Best Gift Ever" giftbag-I can use these for ANY occassion :)  Valentine's, birthday gifts, etc. 

Short and sweet but something to keep in mind :) 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tasty Tuesday-When Life Gives you Buttermilk...Make Pancakes!

Hey there-welcome to a lovely Tuesday!  I mentioned in last week's post that not all of my homemade yogurt attempts worked out and I ended up with a large quantity of buttermilk.  I found this recipe (sorry I forgot which website I jotted it down from!) and we went to town making a double batch.  We proceeded to make up as many waffles and pancakes as we could, leaving enough for breakfast and then freezing the rest in portions.  So far it's been great and we just take a portion out at night to thaw for the next morning and then pop them in the toaster oven-delish!  Saves so much time doing it once and much cheaper than store-bought frozen waffles :)

3 Cups flour (I did mostly wheat flour)
3 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
-----------mix all dry ingredients in 1 bowl

3 Cups buttermilk
1/2 Cup milk (I used more buttermilk since it was home cultured "buttermilk" and not as strong as a technical store-bought kind)
3 eggs
1/3 Cup melted butter
-------------mix all wet ingredients in 1 bowl
Mix wet and dry ingredients well, but don't over-mix.  Cook them immediately on a flattop or in a waffle iron :) 

Sometime I want to experiment with different flavors like carrot cake pancakes or peanut butter pancakes, but for this time I'm ok with plain Jane. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Make-it Monday-Altoid Tin Games

I showed you last Stock Up Saturday the altoids that I got from Rite Aid on a nice sale.  Here's the first glimpse of the fun that I've been doing with them!

I am also making a set with some extra Sucrets containers I have so you can see the difference in style.  Each color of tin I'm working on will have 2 games in it-this one has "Color Land" (a twist I came up with when thinking of Candyland and Shutes and Ladders) and "Tic Tac Toe".

The front is decoupaged on, when you open it you have a plastic baggie with all of the game pieces.  This tin has 10 magnetic buttons and 1 wooden cube "dice".

The game board glued to the inside is "Color Land".  Each person picks one of the buttons as their token and follows the colored path as outlined.  A small wooden cube has been colored with matching colors (in mine it's red, yellow, and blue) and is rolled to choose which square you go to next.  First one to the end wins!  (cubes were bought at hobby lobby for $1.99, buttons are from my random button jar, magnets are sticky magnets from craft store, I don't remember the price)

On the back is decoupaged a Tic Tac Toe board and you use the 10 buttons (2 different colors) to play in the place of X's and O's.  I think you know the rules ;)

As for the magnets on the buttons-I used pretty plain magnets-with sticky backs on a roll that I cut to size.  I've seen some suggestions to use rare earth magnets, but that kind of power just didn't seem necessary, and while these won't cling if you shake it around, they do the job.  I don't love the idea of the rare earth magnets since they cost more, they don't cooperate well with glue, and strong magnets can be dangerous for children if swallowed (obviously with these small parts they're all a choking hazard and you have to know the level of your kids, but magnets can do some serious damage that you don't know about until it's too late!)

I'm really proud of how these cute guys turned out.  I'm planning on making 2-3 different game sets so stay tuned for more :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Spiritual Pick-Up Sunday

I don't know who all is going to read this.  Thank you for taking the time to visit or stumble upon my blog!  I don't know if you are a church-goer, if you are a Christian, or what your beliefs and habits are. 

I am a 29 year old woman with a wide variety of European heritage and a smidge of Native American (3 different tribes).  I have an Applied Associates in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science in University Studies.  I work from home most of the time but also occasionally substitute as a classified sub (secretarial, supervisory, etc) in my local school district.  I'm married to a wonderful man that fits me in every way-he's my puzzle piece!  I am the youngest of 3 children with loving parents and I hope to have some kids of my own.  I'm an animal lover, I'm a creative crafter, and I'm an advisor over 12 and 13 year old girls at church.  I believe in Jesus Christ as my savior, God the Father as my loving Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost, the spirit that helps guide us.  I am a Mormon-a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  

I was really touched today at church when we talked in Sunday School about why we share the gospel.  Most people know us for random different things-we don't drink alcohol, we are really big on families, and we send out missionaries as young as 18 years old to go teach about Christ's restored church all around the world.  Maybe you've seen them, maybe you've talked to them before.   If you get the chance to talk to them-do it!  You will not regret it, I promise. 

This was me, being one of those missionaries for 18 months in the country of Poland from 2006-2007.  I loved the opportunity to serve others, to teach about what gives me purpose in life, and I loved the people I met and the language I was able to learn! 

One of the things I loved about the language was understanding the roots of words and being able to dissect them.  One word that I love is "Zadoscuczynienie" (za-dough-sh-ch-oo-ch-in-knee-eh-knee-eh)....that's a mouth full!  Zadoscuczynienie means Atonement.  When I'm talking about the atonement, I mean the sacrifice of Jesus Christ-in 3 main ways: firstly the suffering he went through on our behalf in the Garden of Gethsemane, taking our sins and suffering upon himself, secondly his death on the cross, and thirdly his rising from the grave-resurrected, having overcome death.  Through his atonement we can overcome death, sin, and suffering.  We can be free, we can be happy.  In English, we look at the word 'atonement' and can dissect it into at-one-ment-the atonement puts us at one with the Savior and our Father in Heaven.  In Polish, when you dissect 'zadoscuczynienie' into za-dosc-uczynienie it reads: za-a lot-perhaps more than necessary, dosc-an given amount, uczynienie-a version of act or action.  The act is more than enough.  Simple.  Beautiful.  True!

Sometimes when I find it hard to express myself, I do it best by poetry.  I hope you'll enjoy and be able to feel a little bit about my feeling on the atonement and my Savior.  I make a lot of mistakes.  He makes it possible for me to pick myself up again and move on, have a clean slate, get over problems, and find joy. 

Written May 18, 2003

There are no words
yet created
There is no tune yet defined
For the love and the mercy
of our Savior; King
For my sins
He was crucified.

He has lifted my burdens,
lightened my cares,
On His side
I taste no more fears.

I carried a burden
strapped on by my pride
satan said I couldn't win
But now I know he lied.

My soul is full
my heart enlarged
No mortal words
can tell my thanks
My bosom burns
with holy fire
And once again
I've joined his ranks.

I want to spread the word
shout of his great joy
But there are no words
yet created
There is no tune
yet defined
For the love and the mercy
of our saviour: king
For my sins he was crucified.

These humble words, I know,
are not sufficient
For the praises my Lord deserves
but I try to express it
Can you feel my love now?
I want to say it
and show you
But how?

God lives and loves!

I testify that God is there for us.  His love and sacrifice and plan for us is so beautifully inexpressible!  There's nothing you could do to make him not love you.  There's nothing you've done that can't be forgiven-he's already done his part to take those burdens, you just have to do your part.  The act....truly was more than enough. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stock Up Saturday-More than Food Storage

Welcome to Stock Up Saturday everyone!!!  My tip this week about emergency storage is to think of other things you would need in a pinch aside from food.  I like to think of diversity when it comes to preparations. 

Do I think there is a zombie apocalypse coming our way?  Not so much.  BUT, I do believe that there could be a natural disaster, my husband and I could get in a car accident and have bills up to our ears, not to mention who knows how rocky things could get with political atmosphere-just because I haven't experienced chaos in my personal life doesn't mean it can't happen.  I do, however, have experience with financially being in a bind and needing to rely on our stockpile.  For example, I haven't had to purchase toilet paper for several months.  My couponing comes in handy here-I like Staples because they have great rebates and store rewards.  Anytime they have a 100% back in store rewards sale, we try to grab it, and then when we get the rewards back we try to either use them on items that are free with rebate (getting our cash back while getting 2 free items) or we use it on toilet paper.  You usually wouldn't think about an office supply store being the place you buy toilet paper, but there it is! 

Anyway you get it-stock up on other essentials (maybe buy an extra pack of TP every month for a stockpile if that's all you can do).  I posted this photo on Facebook the other day-I'm so grateful that we've stocked up on cold and flu season stuff when they were on sale that when my husband and I get sick-we don't have to go to the store (because who feels like that when they're sick?!...and spreading the germs?) and we didn't have to pay full price.  Plan ahead=be happy!  If you're not huge into the couponing and sales like I am, then maybe just plan to buy 1 medicine and 1 toiletry item each month for an emergency stash, to go along with that TP!

This week's unexpected stockup item was Kleenex tissues!  There's a chance they may not be available at your local Rite Aid anymore if you have couponers in your area, but it wouldn't hurt to look.  These Kleenex boxes are 174 count, regularly $2.49.  On clearance for $0.62-not bad!  But....then I printed off 2 $1 off coupons AND because I purchased 7 of these guys, I got a $1.50 catalina coupon back to use on a future purchase.  Essentially, I paid $0.84 for ALL 7 boxes!  That's $0.12 each!  Let me tell you-when we're sick, a box of tissues can go from full to empty in the blink of an eye!  (As for the altoids in the picture-they're on sale $2.29 each at Rite Aid and you get a $2 coupon back for your next purchase, so they're basically $0.29 each.  I got them for the containers-be on the lookout Monday for a craft project, BUT---they could be great to holding lint and petroleum jelly for an emergency fire starter.  See HERE for that tip.) 

Speaking of fire-1 last thought for today's post.  What will you do when your power is out to cook your food?  It has been over a decade and a half-since before I moved here, but all the locals still talk about the "Great Ice Storm" and all the damage done and power lost...I'll be honest that I haven't actively planned for that scenario, but I can say that I'm glad it was pointed out to me.  I'm grateful we have a large bag of charcoal leftover from last summer's BBQ season and we have propane for our camping stove.  If we had to, we could go in the back yard and cook some food-I plan to never be without a supply of fire/cooking aids from now on!  Not to mention warm blankets-and luckily we have several of them from awesome family gifts! 

For now-stay warm and make some plans to prepare for the future "what-ifs"!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Fitness Friday-Quick Plug for Free Helpful Tools!

It's been a busy crazy day so sorry it's so late and this will be short-I'm sure I've mentioned before, but of the weight I've lost so far, I've done it by logging my foods on you can get a free account there.  Also, I enjoyed a little time on with a free month trial-I was shocked by how much of a sweat I could build up in such a short time! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thrifty Thursday-3 Tips for around the house!

Hey everyone-here is a short video with 3 money-saving tips!  Sorry it's not the most professional...but hopefully worth it :)

For video, click HERE (

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~~~Homemade Yogurt SUCCESS!

I posted last week about my first 2 attempts at making homemade yogurt being a fail.  I was pretty bummed-I love the idea of being able to control the ingredients in my food and it is more cost effective to make it yourself. 

The first 2 batches that I made were a bust (or so I thought)-smelled like it cultured-like buttermilk, but didn't thicken at all.  I had tried a crockpot method as well as using a yogurt maker we got for free from our landlords...made in the 70's.  I also had tried them with skim milk and a cheap starter.

3rd time was a charm, as they say!  I used whole milk this time (my husband prefers whole milk) and I used a higher quality starter yogurt. 

Here's some basic instructions:
*Preface-there are several methods of making homemade yogurt.  Using a cooler (sounded like a hassle), using the oven light (mine wasn't warm enough), heating pad (mine has an auto shut off so wouldn't work), and crockpot-my favorite choice!

Take your milk (nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole-whatever floats your boat.  I've heard alternate milks like almond or soy work too but I've never tried.  Ultra-pasteurized milk is not recommended.) and heat it until it reaches at least 180 degrees F to kill the "wrong" bacteria.  Don't let it boil, stir often if doing it on the stove.  I did it on the stove this time instead of in the crockpot because I didn't want to wait forever for it to heat up.  *note: some recipes online say to just let it go for a certain amount of time as opposed to giving a concrete temperature...I don't like that risk.  In the next step if you're just a few degrees off, you can ruin your entire attempt and I hate risking I hate the idea of killing my yeast in breadmaking, or not having it warm enough to activate.  Anywho, back to the topic at hand....

Let your milk cool down to lower than 115 degrees F, 110 degrees is great.  Too low and your starter bacteria won't be active, too high and you killed them off!  I put some ice packs wrapped in hand towels around my batch because I'm impatient.  Once at 110-115 degrees, scoop a cup of it out into a bowl and add 2 Tbsp of yogurt starter per quart of milk.  Gently mix it in but don't over-mix.  This tempers the yogurt-remember these bacteria are alive...they're like me and getting into a blazing hot tub...they like to get used to it in stages ;)  Once you've mixed the yogurt starter into the cup of milk go ahead and add it back into the rest of the milk and gently stir. 

Yogurt-Spend the extra money and get the best kind you can get!  I got this Fage brand-it is plain/unflavored and when you look at the ingredients, all you see is milk and bacteria-nothing else.  You don't want gelatin, pectin, dried milk, or any other thickener to water down your starter.  And to ensure that you have actual live bacteria you should look for this little symbol on the container certifying that it meets the standards for "Live and Active Cultures".  Once you've made your own yogurt, you should be able to use a portion of it as your starter, though I've heard it can get weak over time and you'll want to buy the store bought starters every now and again.  And back to the process....

I then transferred it to the crockpot which I had preheated slightly (not over 115 degrees!).  You might have some scalded chunks like I did here-no problem, just strain them out before pouring it into the crockpot.  Cover the crockpot with its lid and then wrap it in thick towels.  I actually added a much thicker blanket in addition to what's pictured because our kitchen is pretty drafty. 

Leave it 8 hours/overnight and dance for joy when you open it up and it's scoopable!  You can let it stay in there longer if you want, it will get tangier.  I prefer sweet yogurt so I take the crock out and put it in the fridge for a few hours.  You'll notice some separation of the yogurt from the whey-no problem.  Save the whey, it can be nutritious in things like smoothies.  If you want thicker yogurt there are 3 methods- add extra dried milk powder to the mix from the beginning, add gelatin to thicken it up, or strain it with fine cheesecloth for a more "greek style" yogurt.

Dishing up: go to town with it-I plan to use it in homemade salad dressings and of course just eat it!  Here was my first delicious serving, with frozen berries, flax seed, almonds, and a bit of honey.  I've also eaten it with some homemade jelly mixed in-yum! 

So back in the beginning I mentioned that I messed up with my first couple batches of yogurt.  Funny story-I was using my massive quantity of failed milk to make buttermilk pancakes when I found out that 3.5 out of 5 of my little yogurt machine skim milk yogurt cups actually did set up!  I must have opened one of those that didn't and assume the whole batch was a failure...very odd that some did and others in the same batch didn't...So skim milk with the cheaper yogurt start DID a small quantity...If yours doesn't turned out like planned, turn it into pancakes, smoothies, or a creamy soup :)  Let me know what you like on your yogurt in the comments!

The first batch-skim yogurt, perfectly set up :)

Super old yogurt maker :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Make It Monday-Quiet Book Pages

4 of my friends and I got together and did some busy books for our kiddos (or future kiddos).  We each did 5 of the same back to back designs and then swapped them so we each have 10 different themes :)  I plan to do some more pages soon, there are lots of awesome ideas out there!  We used pellon for the base pages so they would be more durable than felt would be.  Here are the beauties...

Counting with beads/ribbon
By Lindsay
Matching Shapes
By Lindsay
Potato Friend
By Tiara
What does the fox say?
I dunno, but there's a barn party happening over here!
By Tiara
Color Matching Balloons
By Tia
What is in that wall pocket?  Well, let's just say that even though the king's horses and men can't put him back together again, we can!  In this puzzle :)
By Tia
So Cute!  Zip and Button it up!
By Jackie
So cute, and has a puffy shoe-By Jackie
Tic-Tac-Toe with velcro!
By Yours Truly
Twist the flag up, open the box and put in the envelope, velcro on different stamps!
By Me
This is one that I did aside from the group swap-a texture page.  I plan to make another one.  1 tip is to check out the fabric store's upholstery section, they have mini samples there for free that are perfect for this.  I of course bought some of these fabrics as well and just got a small amount.

 If your sewing skills are lacking (I'm proud that I made my first button whole the other day...pretty beginner!) then you can hand sew (a lot of mine was) and/or use hot glue-it was definitely our friend.  I haven't punched the holes for mine yet but the others did and those with kiddos said that they like them, though their kids are too young for some of the activities...they'll enjoy them for some time then :)