cooking (25) crafts (10) Fitness (1) gardening (3) Home Organization (10) kids (68) school (9) sewing (28)

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Take two on gardening in Southern Louisiana!  Last year, I started my garden too late, so everything just shriveled in the heat.  The only thing that grew last year was my herbs.

So this year, Jack and I started early!  Bryan built this beautiful raised garden for us!  In the front, we have a row of spinach, a row of lettuce, a row of broccoli, a strawberry plant, oregano, and thyme.  In the back section, we have two types of tomatoes, carrots, shallots, onions, garlic, and potatoes.  The onions, shallots, and potatoes came from my pantry so we will see how they grow!

I also planted some natural bug repellent: marigold seeds.

Inside, I am starting some plants that will get transplanted outside once they have some leaves.  I am starting basil, hot peppers, and sweet bell peppers, and cucumbers.  Obviously this will not all fit in this compact spot of dirt.  I have another garden on the other side of the yard.  I have a feeling I will be putting the basil and hot peppers over there.

If you would like to make a raised bed, it is really quite easy, especially if you have a talented hubby.  The sides are made with plain 'ol 1x8 boards.  Each corner is screwed to a steak, made from 1x2 boards.  I like to fill the beds with 3 parts gardening soil (for flowers and vegetables) and 1 part hummus.  It is hard to see in the photos, but each row of vegetables, is slightly raised so I can hopefully keep track of where my plants are.  I use popsicle (sp) sticks to label my rows.

The trellis was for my cucumber plants last year.  They didn't grow very well though, and I had a hard time training them to grow up it.  We will see what I use it for this year.  I think I will put my cucumbers in the back corner this year.  After my gardening success in Maryland, I thought I had this great green thumb.  Louisiana has really been a challenge!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Budgeting: Grocery Store and Household Goods

I spend about $600 a month in groceries and such.  This has a lot of people interested in how I do this. . . without coupons.  I am sure that if I took the time to coupon, I'd save even more money, but I have not found couponing to be really "up my alley."  My issues with couponing is that you usually have to buy all sorts of processed products--stuff we just don't use.  And to get the biggest bang for your couponing, you have to shop at a variety of grocery stores, big box stores, and every drug store.  I'm sorry, but I just don't have time for that while I am lugging 3 small children around with me.

So, yes, $600 isn't some amazing low number, but I think it is pretty good for a family of 5 (even if 3 of them are little people).

Soooo, how it breaks down: I spend an average of $125 a week at the grocery store  ($500 a month) and $100 a month at Sam's Club (one trip a month).

The food savings is really quite easy.  Just plan out your meals, making sure you only have 1 (if that) expensive meal a week.  I usually have 1 pasta meal to help stretch our dollar.  When I shop, I pretty much stick to the perimeter of the grocery store.  Going up those internal aisles will just cost you more money and will probably be not so good for your health.  Most of my dinner meals make enough for us to have left overs for Bryan to take for lunch the next day.

As you can see from the picture at the top, we use cloth napkins.  I made most of these with remnants of fabric that was on clearance at Hancock Fabrics.  With cloth napkins, I don't need to buy paper napkins or paper towels.  The only paper products I buy are tissues and toilet paper. If I really went "over the edge," I could keep small wash cloths in the bathroom in a coconut oil solution instead of toilet paper.  Wow!  Could you imagine coming over to my house and using the bathroom???  lol that is almost too funny, I think I might have to play a trick on my next visitors! :o)  I could also make my family members use hankies instead of tissues.  Anyway, I buy tissues and toilet paper (only use Scott) when it is on sale and/or in bulk so it really doesn't cost much.

Another area where people say they spend a lot of money is with cleaning supplies.  This costs me almost nothing!  What you see in the picture above is Shaklee's Basic H.  It is a concentrated liquid that you dilute to varying degrees for different purposes: the strongest strength is a degreaser, the next is an all purpose cleaner, and the weakest dilution is a window cleaner.  I bought this bottle of concentrate (about $14) over 3 years ago and it is a little over half full.  I don't use the window cleaning solution often, because I have a microfiber cloth that you just wet, squeeze as much water out of, and use to clean windows and mirrors--NO cleaning agents!  It works beautifully!  I purchase laundry detergent through amazon when I see a really good sale, and I purchase probably 1 bottle of dish detergent every other month.  Not bad, I probably spend a total of $20 to $30 a year on cleaning supplies.

Now for my floors.  I don't use any chemicals on my floors either.  I use a Shark, which cleans with hot steam, on my tile and hard wood floors.

Lastly, diapers.  Yes I spend $600 a month including diapering my kids.  This is thanks to the wonder of modern day cloth diapers.  For just over $200, I have diapered my children.  TOTAL.  ALL 3 of THEM!  Now, I have bought disposables to use when other people watch my kids or when I fell behind with laundry, or they got a case of diaper rash, but I buy the diapers on amazon and never pay more than 10 cents a diaper.  I also buy wipes on amazon.  (At one point I was use cloth wipes, but I got tired of having one more thing to wash and prep.)

On the subject of Sam's Club.  I think you need to be careful in these club stores.  I keep what I buy to a minimum.  I buy trash bags,  shampoo, body wash, soap for the dish washer, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, canned chicken (yes, I know that is that really healthy, and kinda expensive, but I use it on occasion in recipes when I don't feel like cooking a piece of chicken), and a few other pantry items.  I have been going less than once a month and spending less than $100 each time I go.

And speaking of bath products, I think I do pretty good saving on them too.  I get my hair very wet, lathering water into it so I only need a quarter sized dollop of shampoo.  I also use a quarter sized dollop of body wash.  I lather it in both hands, use one hand to lather up one arm and half of my back and chest, re-lather my hands, use the other hand to lather up the other half of my upper body, re-lather my hands one more time and wash my legs.  I haven't bought shampoo or body wash for myself in 2 and a half years!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 Goals

I think the idea of having New Years Resolutions is silly.  But goals?  That makes sense.  And yes, I myself am silly, since I guess resolutions and goals are essentially the same thing.

For some reason, I have decided to set some goals for myself this year.  And me being me, I am not just setting one.
1. Floss my teeth daily.  Yes, I am 30 something and still have terrible dental habits.
2. Read through the bible.  I am reading a bit from the NT, OT, Psalms and Proverbs each day.
3. Complete a sewing project each month.
4. Read 2 books a month.  I have gone through lists of books on other bloggers sites and picked out the books I want to read each month.  At least one of the books will be a "growth" type book, where I will focus on my relationship with myself, God, Bryan, or my children.
5. Exercise.  HA!  This one has yet to be touched. . .

Maybe it will help me keep with my goals if I post updates here on my little blog about my progress. . .

So far I have been flossing my teeth almost every night.
I have finished one book for January so far.  I read Glenn Beck's book "The Snow Angel."  It was a really good book, I couldn't put it down and read it in 3 days!  It is a tear jerker, a story really of redemption. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Meal Planning

Part 3 in my home organization!

Cooking is fun!!!  As long as I don't have to think about "What's for dinner?" or "Man, I have to go to the grocery store, what am I going buy??"

To overcome those two hurdles, I started making menus.  Once again, I just make a simple spreadsheet with a menu item and the supplies that have to be purchased to make that meal.  Currently, I have 10 weeks of menus.  I keep them in page protectors since cooking is a messy job.

After the spreadsheet, I have copies of all of the recipes.

When I plan menus, I consider a couple things:
1. I vary my meats each week.  Who wants to eat chicken every day???
2. I include at least one quick and easy meal each week.
3. I include one "family favorite" each week.  (like meatloaf or spaghetti or tacos. . .)
4. I don't plan to eat things on specific days, but you should plan to eat things with fresh produce or bakery goods early in the week for obvious reasons.
5. If a meal takes more than 30 minutes or needs to be marinated, I make a note of that on the menu page.
6. I also try to balance the nutrition.  I love me some Pioneer Woman, but I am not a rancher so I don't need all of those calories, so I balance my butter recipes with healthy recipes.

To avoid overwhelming yourself, plan no more than 2 weeks in one shot.  If you would like a starting point, I would be more than happy to share my current plans.

You might also notice that I have only planned 5 meals for the week.  We usually have one left over night/ a night that we eat out/ or a night where we eat sandwiches or pasta or something super simple.

Eat them up

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Daily Grind

I guess this is a part 2 of my home organization post.  I get all of my chores done early in the morning, but really the list of chores is so short that you could accomplish the tasks at any time during the day, as long as it works for you!

As soon as I wake up, I make the bed.

Then I go into the bathroom and wipe down the mirrors, countertop, sinks and toilet.
      *I never really have to clean the shower because I keep a clean cloth in the shower that we use to wipe down the walls after every shower.*

Next I make coffee and look over my daily plan so I know what needs to be done and what meals I will be preparing for the day.

If the kids aren't up yet, I unload the dishwasher, have my coffee and read my bible reading for the day.
If they are up, I get them dressed and make breakfast.  Once the kids are dressed I start of load of laundry.

After breakfast, Jack starts on his school work (something that he can do on his own-Math) and I do my daily chore (washing sheets, towels, dusting, or cleaning the floors).

Some keys to my success:
Get to bed early so I can wake up early and get stuff done.

Clean before it looks an area needs to be cleaned.

Do 1 load of laundry every day.

Next up. . . Meal Planning


Ahh, yes, you read that right.  As usual, I am a little behind in my blogging.  Better late than never, right??  The kids and I drove to Florida in mid-December to spend some time with my parents (while Bryan was working in Key West).  We had a very nice visit.  Bryan drove up and joined us about 4 days into our visit.  My sister and her husband flew down, my brother flew down, and my grandparents drove over to spend time with us all.  It was cray having so many people in one house, but it was nice to see everyone!

We went to a breakfast with Santa at my parents' church.  The boys got on Santa's lap without any problems.  Jack was funny.  He didn't want to tell Santa what he wanted at first because he said he already told Tan (his elf on the shelf) what he wanted.  Audrey refused to get close to Santa.  And Ayden just sat there like "whatever."

We went to the mall with my mom.  Jack just had to ride this train.  And of course, Audrey refused to get close to it.

My brother, Nick, with Ayden

 We spent a couple days at the beach.  The weather was great.  The kids had a blast playing in the sand and water!

Becky and Tom Ulmer
 Bryan and I spent an adult day at Epcot with the Ulmers.  It was nice to ride a couple rides, enjoy some shows, eat a dinner without little ones to feed, and walk through shops without worrying about little fingers!
Jack petting the sting rays

Playing in a hurricane tunnel
The little kids area


Playing with an interactive sports exhibit
Lastly, the kids had their day too!  Bryan and I took the kids to a hands-on children's museum.  It was a nice little place with stuff for all of the kids.  Bryan and Jack spent a lot of time in the sports thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homeschool Entrepreneur Fair

Jack, all set up and ready to go!
 In the beginning of December, our homeschool group hosted an entrepreneur fair.  The kids came up with ideas of what they could make and sell.  They had to stay at their booth and market their product and practice their speaking skills. 
Other families setting up
 Jack did really good explaining his product to people.  He made picture frames using old puzzle pieces and scrap cardboard boxes (all of my amazon boxes!) and a piece of ribbon to hang the frames. 
Jack's friend Adam.  He was a mobile joke booth.  Sooo cute!

Our little helper
The day was definitely a learning experience.  Jack spent more money than he made because he wanted to help his friends out and kept buying stuff from them.  But we got some Christmas gifts and I hope that Jack at least learned a lot in the process.

Planning. . . My Philosophy

I love being organized.  I have gone through periods of time where I have gotten out of my routine, and life just stinks!  I feel stressed, nothing seems to get done, and I am short with the children. 

I have 2 binders that I life by: My "Household Notebook" and my "Meal Planning Notebook."

Here I will introduce you to my Household Notebook.  This keeps me grounded and will allow for anyone to "fill in my position" if anything should happen to me.  The first page is the emergency information--great for babysitters to have access to.  I downloaded it from Organized Home (scroll down to "Emergency Information."

Next is my daily go-to section: Planning
My calendars are downloaded from Organized Home (scroll down to "Printable Calendars").  My Daily planners came from Desiring Virtue.  I use the blank planners and write all of my own stuff in.

Next up: Money and Finance
 This section will be great for Bryan if I come to an untimely end, since he really doesn't know what is going on in the house!  I created a budget with software that was on the mac.  All of the other documents are really simple spreadsheets.  The online acct info comes in handy since there are times when you have to create some wonky user name or password for an account.  My brain is limited to memorizing one, maybe two user name password combinations.  The utility directory is great for those of us that live in hurricane zones--I can just take this with me if we evacuate and I have our account numbers and contacts for the utility company.  It is also nice to have a spreadsheet with magazine subscription information like account numbers, customer service phone numbers, when the subscription ends, and who gave us the magazine.  In the vehicle records, I keep a record of insurance and registration.

Pheww, time for a simple one: Phone

You could also keep any phone chains that you belong to in here or playgroups, or school lists. . .

Another crazy Stephanie section: Home Management
There are so many mundane tasks that don't have to be done all that often, but who remembers to do them???  I found a 3 month rotating schedule that adds one small task to your list of chores for the day. Scroll down to "The Basic Household Cleaning List."

However, there are things that I do weekly:
Monday: Wash sheets
Tuesday: Wash towels
Wednesday: run errands/go grocery shopping
Thursday: Dust
Friday: mop and vacuum floors

For "Party Planners" I keep a list of ideas, to dos, people to invite, and thank you notes to send for the kids' birthday parties.
Vehicle Maintenance is pretty self explanatory. . .

Last but not least: Health and Fitness
I found blank medical records online that I printed off for everyone in the family.  These are great to take with you if you end of rushing anyone to the ER. (Although when Audie was taken to the ER the other day, I completely lost my head and forgot all about my binder!!!  How frustrating!)

And of course, if you were one of those people who is able to squeeze fitness into your life, you could get fitness goals/charts/idea in here.  It is one of my goals to get back into an exercise routine but I started having problems with my neck and there seems to always be a child up earlier than I expect.