Saturday, June 30, 2007

One of the reasons I love living in a small town

This morning, in just under an hour, I completed the following:
  • Dropped off the utility bill to save a stamp
  • Mailed a package and several letters at the post office
  • Returned a book, renewed another, and selected a free weekend movie from the library
  • Cashed a check at the bank
  • Bought some potatoes at the farmer's market
  • Took my son to the park to play on the swings

Since I walked and pushed the stroller, I also got a workout, and we had the added benefit of fresh air before the day gets too hot. I call that a productive hour!

I know this isn't possible where most people live; our house is a ten-minute walk from our downtown area, and the businesses I frequent are pretty close together. For the most part, I enjoy running errands here, especially in warmer weather when we can leave the car at home. The flip side of this is that bigger stores with more competitive pricing and variety are a longer drive. As a result, we've learned to "stockpile" errands so that we can make the most of a trip to a larger town.

Is anyone else able to walk for some of your errands, instead of driving? If you can swing it, it's such a great way to save gas and get some exercise!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Family heritage dinner

My mom had the coolest idea while my sister and I were both visiting her and my dad with our families last week: a dinner focusing on our heritage. She asked a few relatives to send family recipes and memorabilia, and the meal was centered around these items.

Here's the crew ready to dine--sorry the photo's so dark. From left: husband Eric, Mom, son Nathan, niece Emily, Dad, brother-in-law David, and sister Monica. Missing in action: I took the picture, and my niece Rachel was scooting around on the floor.

For our place settings, we used silverware and Haviland china that belonged to the family of my father's grandfather. So elegant!

We grilled meat for supper, accompanied by Golden Glow Salad (Granny's recipe), chips with my maternal grandma's special dip, and my mom's doctored-up baked beans. Yum!

Dessert consisted of apple crisp (there's an apple orchard in our family's history), homemade ice cream (our own summer tradition) and "Pride of Iowa" cookies, shown above. This recipe, reprinted exactly, comes from my paternal great-grandmother. I was especially excited to try these treats since I now live in the Hawkeye state.

Pride of Iowa cooky

1 c. white sugar

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. margarine

2 eggs

2 c. flour

3 c. uncooked oatmeal (quick oats)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla or almond flavoring

1 c. nuts or raisins

Mix sugars and margarine; add eggs. Mix well and add remaining ingredients. Bake in 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

My mom made photocopies of the various family recipes she received and gave them to my sister and me. After the kids were in bed, we sat outside and looked through photos, letters and newsclippings from past generations. We enjoyed learning the stories of relatives, some we know, and some we never got to meet--tales of war, business and romance preserved on photographs and bits of paper.

I asked to keep one clipping, which I'd like to frame--I was fascinated by the idea of an egg farm:


It was a memorable evening, and I appreciate all the thought and effort that went into it. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chacos

(We arrived home safely last night, though more delays with our airline made for another long day. It was good to be with loved ones in Colorado--I'll share more about our trip tomorrrow.)

Anyway, after wearing the same pair last week for everything but a wedding, I wanted to share about my absolute favorite sandals: Chacos. I had heard several people say how much they liked them, and a few years ago when embarking on a trip to Europe, I decided to purchase a pair (in black). They were more of an initial investment than I would normally make, but they have been totally worth it in my estimation. I will say that they needed some time to be "broken in," but after that it's been smooth sailing. I wear them almost daily in the summer and strongly recommend them. Now if only I could find an equally comfy pair of shoes to wear in the winter--any ideas?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mama and son

Thanks to Jenny for capturing this moment. It was great to see you, my Wild Honey friends!(But we missed you, Susan!)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Going green": Santa Fe Enchiladas

The other night for dinner here in Colorado, my mom fixed one of our favorites, an original dish she created called Santa Fe Enchiladas. The recipe was inspired by a meal she and my dad had on an anniversary trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. These enchiladas are so yummy that I had to share--I love Mexican food, and I'm always up for a dish that requires only five ingredients!

My husband and I don't even use utensils when we have this--we serve it up with tortilla chips--delish!

Santa Fe Enchiladas

1 can green enchilada sauce (numerous brands are available--my mom prefers Hatch; in Iowa, we purchase Old El Paso or Las Palmas)
1 can black beans
2 c. cooked, chopped chicken
a dozen corn tortillas
1 1/2-2 c. shredded cheddar or colby jack

Preheat oven to 375. In a greased 9x13 pan, pour and spread some of the sauce in the bottom. Layer several tortillas across sauce. Cover tortillas with a scoop of beans and half the chicken and cheese. Then pour on the rest of the sauce and repeat layers: tortillas, beans, chicken, cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Colorado or bust!

Well, we made it here safely! Thank you to everyone who left tips and encouragement about traveling with our son, Nathan.

It was a long day of travel--the airline had a nationwide computer malfunction, which caused numerous glitches as you can imagine. Our initial flight was delayed, causing us to miss our connecting flight by a mere five minutes! We were then placed on stand-by for the 2nd flight. I actually burst into tears of relief when they called our names. Arriving, and being warmly welcomed by Grammie (my mom) was even more sweet due to the travel issues.

Our son only slept about 45 minutes on the entire nine-hour journey, but did pretty well considering. Thanks to A for the great tip about offering a bottle of water/sugar water in addition to nursing. He loved that!

The fun thing is that Nathan's first-ever flight ended up being in first class! We were the last people to board because we were waiting for a gate check tag for our stroller, and the attendant gave us the last two seats, which were in row 1--wahoo! We thank the Lord for His faithfulness in getting us here, though I can't say we're looking forward to the return trip!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Halving fabric softener sheets

I read about this last year in a magazine article on saving money around the house and figured it was worth a try. When I purchase a new box of Bounce sheets, I get out the scissors and cut them in half. It doesn't take long (It's a good movie-watching project), and I love that our supply lasts twice as long. We haven't had any static cling issues since starting this, so I guess it's working for me!

My mom's alternative solution is to use sheets more than once (two at a time the second go-round); she stores them in a wide-mouth vase in a cabinet above the dryer.

For other uses for fabric softener sheets, click here and scroll to the 5th frame.

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for lots of great ideas!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Traveling with a baby

My husband and I are flying to Colorado tomorrow with our 6 month-old, and we are pretty anxious about it. Our son is not the most "portable" baby--doesn't fall asleep just anywhere, is not easily content, etc. Thankfully, our two flights are short ones (if all goes smoothly), but we do have a layover and a 2-hour drive to the airport.

If you've traveled with a baby and have encouragement or advice to share, we would very much appreciate it! (No horror stories, please--we've heard enough of those already!)

We know prayer is powerful, and I also need to be mindful of the comforting words from Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Thank you in advance for your responses!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Homemaking inspiration

Last week I went to the library to check out The Complete Tightwad Gazette, as Meredith recommended their strategy for kids' clothing storage. On the same shelf, my eye caught the title Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield (a fellow Iowan!). Being my mother's daughter, I promptly brought both books home to an already tall stack of things I want to read.

I read most of Organized Homemaker over the weekend--it is full of great ideas! In a section called "Wars with Drawers" (referring to the kitchen), I came across the following question: "Have you ever tried to shut a drawer that was so full you had to nestle everything together so the drawer would close?" Rather than guiltily slink down in my chair, I instantly jumped up and ran to the drawer where this always happens! At the author's suggestion, I quickly removed all the items I don't use on a regular basis (apple corer, extra veggie peeler and space-consuming funnels) and I moved them to the back of a more spacious drawer. Such a simple change, but I was excited. Problem solved! Also in the kitchen section, Schofield has lots of great tips on storing spices, another of my clutter problems. Wahoo!

This is a fun and practical book--if you don't already have ten books in your pile, Organized Homemaker is one to check out!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Make your own mix: fajita seasoning

I'm interested in trying various homemade mixes (no/less preservatives and packaging, cheaper in some cases, and I'm just plain curious) so I plan to test one every so often and will review it here.

One of our favorite meals is fajitas, and though the seasoning mix is not expensive, I wondered about making my own. After an on-line search, I found this recipe and decided to give it a try. It does call for 11 ingredients (whew!), but we had everything on hand except the chili powder, which I omitted. The nice thing is that the recipe makes enough for 3 batches, and the instructions for making the fajitas are exactly what is printed on the back of the store-bought packages.

During last night's supper, I told my husband that the fajitas were made with a homemade seasoning mix. He said they were delicious, and even some of the best he's ever had, so I guess it's a keeper! I was a little more mixed (no pun intended). A few bites didn't seem very flavorful, and then I'd get a bit of a zinger. Overall, though, I think we liked it enough to stick with it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Simple cards

I feel a little silly calling these "homemade" cards--they're really just assembled. But I have fun with them, and wanted to share some of my very simple approaches:


For the first card, I took a small piece of decorated chipboard and added "thanks" using an easy rub-on, then attached it with two small round brads to a piece of folded cardstock. For the 2nd card, I used one of my favorite things: Scrabble tiles. You can buy old sets for $1 or so at garage sales and thrift stores. Cute and simple. (The cardstock pattern was pre-printed.)

Card #3: A simple black rub-on can have a nice impact on light cardstock. Card #4: I just taped a pre-printed embellishment onto this card--so easy! Card #5: Using my sister's "trademark" style, this is a photo clipped from a magazine.

I did make a 6th card, with a swirl stamp design, but it did not show up well in the photo. I think it took me more time to set up and put away my supplies than it did to make the 6 cards.

Megan, these are going in the mail to you today--enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Random little giveaway winner

Thanks to all who left comments on this post--I enjoyed reading your clutter confessions and appreciate your suggestions for tackling my clutter. This motivated me yesterday to finally organize my out-of-season (winter, maternity) clothes--hooray!

As promised, I entered commenters' names in my little drawing and my husband selected one. The winner is Megan! Megan, I will leave a comment on your most recent post with my e-mail address so I can send your prize (and I'll post photos of the notecards before I send them).

Thank you again for commenting!

Shoe recycling

I had no idea you could do this until I read about it here. So cool--Nike started a program called "Reuse-a-shoe". Used athletic shoes (any brand) can be mailed or dropped off at a number of sites around the country (and even around the world)--the shoes are then recycled into athletic surfaces and fields for kids. What a creative way to recycle!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wise words

Last night I was reading the first chapter of Proverbs and many words stood out to me in the first 7 verses--I so want to strengthen these qualities in my life!

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young--let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance--for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Random little giveaway

The small booklet pictured here is full of great ideas on, what else?, conquering clutter in lots of different areas in your home. I would like to send this little treasure to someone who leaves a comment on my previous post "Clutter confessions." To be entered in the random drawing, just leave a relevant comment (clutter confession or tips on my clutter problems) by Thursday, June 14th at noon CST.

In addition to the booklet, I will send the winner a set of my homemade cards. Wahoo!

I look forward to reading your comments!

Clutter confessions

OK, ladies, fess up! We all have at least one dreaded clutter area--whether a closet, drawer or both.

I regularly run through a mental checklist of what needs to be organized in our home, but there's always something I don't quite have a handle on. For me, paper clutter is the worst. I often tear craft and project ideas from magazines and then never do anything with them (the pages or the great ideas!); instead, I stash them in a bin where they look somewhat presentable but are just taking up space.

The second area that always looks cluttered to me is the kitchen cabinet shown above. I'm not a big fan of the lazy susan, anyway, but there are just so many bottles in there, and if I spin the cabinet too hard, they sometimes fall over. I do have a small rack above the oven with the dozen spices I use most, but the rest are jammed in here!

Third, I'm never quite sure what to do with out-of-season clothing. I seem to have started multiple "systems" with various items in one of three places--yikes!

Now it's your turn:
What is one of your dreaded clutter areas?
Any ideas for one of my three listed clutter issues? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cardmaking

I love stationery, and it's important to me to send notes and cards for special occasions and just to say "thinking of you". Purchasing wedding and birthday cards can quickly add up, and I've found that I prefer making my own. Not only are they more personal, but I save money (as long as I don't go overboard buying stuff to make them, which I don't thanks to fun money). With all the cute crafty and cardmaking supplies out there, it doesn't take much time or even artistic ability to make cards. (Though of course time and artistic ability can produce more spectacular cards!)

My current favorite cardmaking item is cardstock pads (brands include Making Memories and Diecuts with a View). The cardstock comes in many colors and patterns, is pre-scored, and easily fits envelopes from office supply stores (so much cheaper!) I'm also a fan of this and these.

Anybody else make your own cards? What are your favorite ideas and supplies?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Le jardin

I was recently asked to share about our garden. I would feel like an imposter attempting to give advice, as my husband is by far the main gardener in our household. But I can tell about what we've planted and how it's going, and I'll certainly post recipes using our fresh produce as its harvested.

This year we planted onions (white, yellow and red), potatoes, romaine lettuce, spinach, green beans, green and red peppers, and tomatoes. We're also trying again to grow pumpkins. Last year a friend told us that "any idiot" can grow pumpkins. Well, we must be idiots, because nothing came!

We planted in late April and early May--using starter plants for the peppers and tomatoes and the rest started from seed. We have had lots of fresh romaine and spinach already, and both have been tasty and mild (but flavorful) compared to last year's bitter mesclun mix.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sun "bleach"

A couple of weeks ago on Works for Me Wednesday (I'm so sorry I don't remember who posted this and was unable to find it), I saw a tip about getting out, um, unsightly baby stains. Since the solution was free and natural, I thought it was certainly worth a try. One morning this week I took a white lap pad with a large offensive spot and set it out on the porch to soak up some sunlight. When I brought it inside in the afternoon, I was amazed--the stain was almost completely gone, with no effort of mine! I plan to set it out on another sunny day just to see if the stain goes away completely, but a huge improvement was made.

Maybe some of you were already aware of this, but I'm glad to make the discovery!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Games to play in the car

If you're planning a road trip--or several--this summer, as we are, this site should be part of your travel prep! It's filled with ideas for things to do in the car for kids of all ages.

We're actually leaving today on an overnight trip--4 hours in the car each way--and I'm excited to try some of the listed baby activities with my son.

Making road trips more enjoyable works for me! Head over to Rocks in My Dryer for lots of great summer activity ideas!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

For fans of Jane Austen

Thanks to my friend Susan for sending this quiz--"Who is your Jane Austen Boyfriend/Husband?"

According to the results, my husband: "is most like Mr. Knightley of Emma! He probably gives you kind lectures to help you in certain matters, though he does these out of true devotion and in your best interests. Others look to him for his wisdom and good sense. He is generous and steadfast, though not afraid to politely argue with you. The two of you enjoy a challenging, sweet partnership and are most likely very active in your community."

I would say this is pretty accurate. I don't think either of us are fans of saying he gives me "lectures," but he certainly offers his opinion in a caring way as the results say and I'm grateful for that. He is definitely wise, well-respected, generous, and steadfast--all wonderful qualities.

Compact fluorescent bulbs

My mom mentioned that she recently tried a CFL bulb and was disappointed by the lack of brightness. We've noticed the same thing, so I went to GE's site , which is very informative, with a long list of answers to frequently asked questions.

According to GE, "Because the wattage of a CFL bulb is much lower than that of an incandescent, you can use higher wattage CFL giving you the equivalent light of a higher wattage incandescent. For example: If your fixture says not to exceed 60 watts, you can use a 15 watt CFL to get the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb or use up to a 42 watt CFL and increase the amount of light."

There's a chart on the website that indicates standard bulb and CFL equivalents. I'll have to check the wattage on the bulbs we're using to determine if we should be using different ones. (Hope this helps, Mom!)

Anyone else tried CFL bulbs--what do you think?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Wanted: feedback

So my sister set me up with a new sitemeter--wahoo! I see the number of blog visitors growing, but I don't know who's visiting. If you're reading my blog, and you obviously are if you got to this sentence, please leave me a comment! I'd love to know who you are, how you got here, and if you're learning anything from what I write. Reading your comments motivates me to keep blogging. (I'd also love to check out your blog if you have one--thanks!)

Ready or not

This fun website for moms was featured here--lots of great organizing, activity and gift ideas!

(I signed up for a free trial of this which I found out about here.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Eating off the land

Last night for supper, we enjoyed fresh-picked spinach from our flourishing garden, eaten alongside walleye my husband caught a couple weeks ago. It feels so satisfying to eat local food, especially when we had a hand in growing/catching it!

On that subject, here is a thought-provoking quote from one of our favorite writers, Wendell Berry:

"The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical. . . The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free."

Note: I feel somewhat hypocritical posting this when yesterday's recipe included highly processed mayo and crescent rolls. I am not claiming to give up convenience foods altogether, but I am trying to be more intentional when making food choices.

S-P-E-L-L-B-O-U-N-D

In connection with last night's broadcast of the National Spelling Bee, I'd like to recommend the documentary Spellbound. It's a fascinating look at this intense competition--if you enjoy unique true stories, then you should check it out!