Friday, December 31, 2010

Nuture

Do you know the power of one little word?

Last year was the first year I chose a word to focus on. It was Simplify. Although outwardly it may seem that I did lots to complicate my life, I really did take my word to heart. I worked hard to let go of things that weren't working anymore, to put new systems in place, to find additional resources and support, to work smarter, not just harder. And at the end of one year of focusing on the word simplify, I feel it has touched a lot of aspects of my life.

Now I am ready to choose a new word for 2011.

N-U-T-U-R-E.


This year I am planning to nuture many different areas of my life - my body and physical well-being, my personal relationships, my creativity and my spirituality.

I like the word nuture because it is a verb - an action word. It can mean to feed, nourish and protect; to support and encourage; to bring up, train, develop or educate. And the results of nuturing something usually means growth, change, enlightenment. I like that.

Specifically I like the idea of focusing more of my limited energy on things that matter most - my family and my outer and inner self - to acheive growth. Usually at the end of the day I have given all I have with so-so results. Most often I feel devoid of energy, of passion, of feeling. I hope that by dedicating some time towards nuturing myself, I will regain that passion and love of life and be able to pass it on to the people that matter most.

I look forward to seeing where this one little word might lead me, and documenting it in some creative way I hope to share with you along the way.

Happy 2011!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gearing Up for Christmas

Remembrance Day is about remembering and honoring our veterans and soldiers currently engaged in conflict. For me it is also the day that I start focusing on Christmas.

I spent an hour or so this afternoon updating my Cut the Crazy Binder and making some lists. I also surfed a bit, which I haven't done in a LONG time! Here are a few posts I love and want to bookmark for future reference.

http://penelopeloveslists.com/organize/recipes-for-a-stressless-christmas-morning/


http://cutthecrazy.blogspot.com/2009/10/decorating-in-steps.html

http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/free-christmas-templates?lpgStart=1&currentslide=14&currentChapter=1

http://www.marthastewart.com/christmas-index

http://listplanit.com/2010/09/list-of-pages-to-include-in-your-holiday-binder/

http://listplanit.com/2009/10/list-of-ideas-for-creative-holiday-correspondence/

Now onto the lists!

PS...I HAD to get a new Christmas theme for the blog to get me in the spirit...I got this one at LeeLou Blogs!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - and Menu Plans in General

It's nice to have a place to store my weekly menu plans again. We have been eating WAY too much take out these last several weeks during the move so it's time to get back into planning on a more regular basis.

A few friends have asked me why I menu plan, thinking it was pain the you-know-where, but I am here to tell you that it is a simple and straighforward process that really saves me time and money. I have read lots of different blogs and even a couple of books on the subject, all of which have helped me to streamline my own menu planning process. Here are some of my tips:

First of all, I plan right here on my blog. That way it is posted for me to refer back to for the coming week and also into the future. I can also link to my recipes easily (I have most of the recipes that I frequently use listed in a Recipe index you can find up on the menu bar) and I don't lose it like I would a paper plan!

Truly, the process is simple.

I start by looking in fridge, freezer and pantry to see what I already have on hand(especially meats) and decide what I have available to cook.

I also look at the calendar to see what is going on and what kind of dinner is appropriate. This really depends on whether or not all four of us will be at home for the meal, whether we are having company join us and whether or not we have some kind of activity before or after supper.

Then I just list a meal I know everyone likes for each night. Lastly, I check to make sure I have all the necessary indgredients to make each meal and if I don't, I add those items to my grocery list - which is now much shorter than it used to be!

I used to look at the grocery store flyers on the weekend to see what was on sale and plan menus around that, but that did take a lot of time - perhaps more than the few dollars I ended up saving was worth. Where I DO save money is in two simple facts:
1) I have ingredients on hand to make a fast, nutritious and tasty meal at home instead of buying fast or prepared food which costs more.
2) I am only buying what I need and will use for the week so there is far less waste.

I also use coupons (although I am not a fanatic!) and shop sales to stock up - especially on meats and staples.

That's about it! Really, it's not difficult and once you have done it a couple of times it will only take you 15 minutes to plan your meals for the week. Why not try it? For 15 - 30 minutes of planning you get a week of peaceful evening dinners. Well...I can't guarantee that, especially if you have rambunctious boys like mine, but at least there will be a little less stress over what to serve for dinner!

So with all that in mind...here's my weekly menu plan:


Monday: Cheesy Tomato Fish Bake, Rice, Side Salad

Tuesday: Swim night - Chicken breasts done in the crockpot with some bottled BBQ sauce will be waiting for us to serve on hamburger buns along with a salad and raw veggies for the boys.

Wednesday: I am heading to visit my BIL's and (soon-to-be) SIL's new place for a ladies Home Decor Show and Party. I'll leave good ol' spaghetti with meat sauce (already made and in the freezer) for the boys

Thursday: Swimming (last night!!!) Tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks will fill us up when we get home.

Friday: Homemade pizza and green salad

Saturday: We're hoping to go to Calaway Park for a couple of hours of rides and have a picnic dinner. I'll pack some bunwiches, juice boxes, some fresh fruit like cherries or strawberries and we'll get an ice cream at the park for dessert!

Sunday: Baked Ham, Schwartzies Potatoes, steamed Broccoli and Carrots.

For lots more meal planning ideas and inspiration, check out Orgjunkie every Monday! And if you try menu planning, I'd love to hear how it goes!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New News

Wow...it's hard to believe it has been over two months since I posted. So much has happened:

Move to new house? CHECK
Find tenants for rental property? CHECK
Hire a nanny? CHECK
Start new job? CHECK (Well, official start is mid-August, but I've already been a lot of hours put in!)

Yeah, it's been crazy, but good. It's nice to have a new start, and we have had our share of them lately. We love our new house and are busy settling in before nanny comes to live with us and I go back to work. And I decided to start a new blog to partly commemorate all this newness, but also for a practical reason. My new job is as an administrator of a large urban high school and although I won't be posting anything controversial or negative on my blog, I decided I didn't want my name in the title of a blog or website...a little more anonymity is in order. So, I have transfered all the content of my old personal blog for future reference and will start posting here on a more regular basis again. If you have my old blog marked as a favorite you may want to bookmark this one or follow it in your favorite reader. I will be deleting my old noreensmith.blogspot.com blog in a month or so.

I am excited to share our new home, new recipes, organizing ideas and of course bits and pieces of my cute little family with you!

Friday, May 7, 2010

What's for dinner?

So as of today this is what's in my freezer...

4 Steaks

2 pre-made Chicken Cordon Bleu
1.5 boxes Fish Sticks

8 pieces Salmon

6 Hamburger patties

4 lbs Ground beef

2 packages Chicken Thighs
3 packages of Chicken Breasts

2 Hams

1 Turkey

I NEED to clean out the freezer by the first week in June, so my challenge is to make dinners for the rest of the month without purchasing additional meat. By rough count I can make 21 meals, not including leftovers from things like the hams and turkeys. I may need to purchase the odd pantry item to complete a recipe, but I should be good.

We're having Pizza tonight and I am out Saturday so the boys will have Mac & Cheese, but I will start menu planning with just these items. We'll see how it goes!

Have you ever done an Eat from the Pantry challenge?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gearing up for another move!


I have spent the last three weeks moving my Sharing Memories Scrapbooking website from Wordpress to work as a custom domain on Blogger. It's all working now, but it was a tonne of work! I didn't have time for any other blogging, that's for sure! But now that it's all OK, I am back, and now I have to start gearing up for another kind of move!

We are only 4 -5 weeks away from taking possesion of our new house, completing some small renos and moving in! Yikes!

There is still so much to do. (Hey...if you have any no-fail moving tips I am all ears!) I am determined NOT to move stuff like broken or outdated toys, too small clothes, old linens etc. I am in the process of getting rid of all those items and we are planning a mother of a garage sale later in the month!

I decided I better take that approach with food as well. I would love to be able to move an empty chest freezer and maybe only a small box of essentail pantry items...wouldn't that be great? SO just like back in January I need to create a month long use-up-what-we-have-eat-from-the-pantry-or-freezer-so-I-don't-have-to-move-it plan!

It might take a few days to write up the meal plan, but I am committed to just buying fresh dairy and produce over the next few weeks! There might be some pretty unorthordox dinners in there somewhere...just so I can use stuff up! Anyway, check back for the plan tomorrow or Wednesday and wish me luck!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Organizing the week

Is it really Monday again? I can't believe time goes so fast. It's a snowy morning here...perfect for staying in, making some lists and feeling a sense of accomplishment from ticking things off it. I am working on switching the boys clothes over from winter to spring and I actually will have a post about organizing kids clothes in the next little while.

I'm working on some other projects as well...Album kits for a group of ladies who want to start Faithbooking and new Page Paks for Sharing Memories Scrapbooking (I have new papers and goodies I can't wait to use in some new page paks!). And I am trying to get items sorted for a big Garage Sale in May prior to the move (and getting lots of tips and inspiration from Money Saving Mom's Clear the Clutter Challenge. I think I am going to have a purge party for my girlfriends when I have it all sorted...I have TONNES of candles and goodies from my days as a PartyLite consultant!

It's all good.

It's also...


...so here's the meal plan for this week:

Monday: Jambalaya ( I use Zatarains Jambalaya mix and add chicken, ham, sausage or shrimp - whatever I have on hand) with Veggies and Dip

Tuesday: Porcupine Balls with Rice and Mixed Vegetables

Wednesday: my poor little Sammy will be having minor surgery today, so food will be the last thing on my mind. It will probably be leftovers, especially from last night as the meatball recipe makes lots!

Thursday: Fish Sticks and Oven Fries, Veggies and Dip

Friday: Resuming Pizza night...it's been a few weeks since we've done a homemade pizza!

Saturday: Grilled Steaks (hot dogs for the boys since they won't eat steak), Baked Potatos, Asparagus and Caesar Salad

Sunday: Chicken and Stuffing Bake, Mashed Potatos, Steamed Veggies

Have a great Monday!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We're Back!

And what a lovely little break we had!

It was so nice to have a good visit with Shane's family, eat in restaraunts (no cooking and no dishes!), play and read with the boys without having distractions of house and home, swim in the pool and soak in the Hot Tub and generally relax and go with the flow.

On Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny paid us a visit (don't know how he found our hotel room, but he dropped off a couple of baskets with fun and yummy treats!)



We didn't have an Easter egg hunt since we were in the hotel, but the weather wouldn't cooperate anyways. (I am so envious of folks who can have outdoor egg hunts in shorts and spring dresses!)
The boys got dressed in their finest and I of course wanted a great brothers-in-matching clothes picture. Yeah...not so much...


First Grayson was "helping" Sam stay still, then I jsut couldn't get them to look at me at the same time. Oh well...



We had a great dinner (lunch) at Shane's aunt's house


and got to visit with Great Granny, Grandpa and other aunts, uncles and cousins.



As much as Shane and I enjoy visiting, swim time was always the highlight of each day for the boys! Grayson can stand up in the shallow end of the pool and Sam is fearless in the water. Both boys were leaping of the edge after a matter of minutes.


I was so pleased to have time to read my new book and catch up on podcasts for my Library of Memories class. (I am excited and reenergized to get back to my system to continue to categorize photos and make some new layouts. Stacy Julian is brilliant!)

Now it's back to laundry, cooking, cleaning and organizing. I have some big tasks ahead of mein the next few weeks...renting out our Dalhousie house, hiring a nanny for August and starting to get ready for our June move. It's a good thing I DID have a break!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why I Relish Road Trips


We're heading out on the road tomorrow to visit Shane's family for Easter. Not everyone loves driving for six hours, but I do.

I LOVE road trips.

I love those six hours it takes us to drive to see Shane's family.

I can actually sit quietly and do NOTHING.

I am not obligated to fold laundry, clean my house or run after the kids.

I do hand juice boxes and books back to the boys and occasionally change the CD, but that's about it!
It's a lovely time to read, sit and think, take a catnap, listen to some music, or chat with hubby. It's something I really look forward to.

We head out to see the in-laws twice a year - Thanksgiving and Easter. Over the past few years I have come up with a few things that help us have a good trip.

1) Re-usable packing list. I keep it on my computer, update it with anything new/different, print it out and I'm ready to pack.

2) Food. For our road trip I always pack some bunwiches, juice boxes and water bottles, portable fruit like bananas & apples, baked treats like banana chocolate chip muffins and cookies, munchies like trail mix or pretzels, and a few candies or treat size chocolate bars that come in useful as bribes in the car! If the weather is good we stop for a picnic lunch at a rest stop about 2.5 hours into the journey. It lets the kids run off some steam. If the weather is crappy we simply eat in the car. I always bring lots of wet-ones and paper towels for those inevitable spills!

2) Travel toys. Grayson is allowed to take whatever toys/books he wants that fit into his backpack and I pack a selection toys/books for Sam.  I also try to bring a few new dollar store items to bring out when the boredom hits.

3) Comfort items. Grayson and Sam both bring a stuffed animal and a cozy blanket so they can rest a little bit more comfortably. Grayson doesn't nap at home anymore, but he will inevitably fall asleep in the car!

4) Music. We don't have a DVD player in the car but we listen to a variety of kids and grownup music, as well as books on tape. A change in music can change the atmosphere in the car.

5) Just for me. I usually pack a book I have been meaning to read, a magazine to flip through and my computer. I have been known to sort digital photos and digi-scrap in the car for sure! I also bring along earphones so I can listen to music when the boys are sleeping or listening to something different.

Those little things make a big difference in getting ready for, and having, a nice journey. And for more specific tips for traveling with kids, check out this post.

Whether or not you are traveling this weekend, have a safe and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

hydraSense

A week or so ago I wrote about the fact that I was lucky enough to be asked to be a hydraSense ambassador and that I received a box full of their products. Let me tell you a little more about the products and then I have a great deal to pass on to you!


I have been using hydraSense products as an adult for several years. Congestion Relief is a mist of seawater that really helps with my sinusitis. It took a little bit of getting used to, but it does a great job of cleansing the nasal and sinus passages without any medications. There are three strengths of mist to choose from according to your comfort level and you can use it as often as you need to without worrying about rebound congestion.

Needless to say I was very pleased when hydraSense came out with products for babies and kids, and we have used the Easy Dose nasal drops since Grayson was a baby. Saline drops are often recommended by doctors to relieve nasal congestion, and the hydraSense drops and sprays are easy to use and effective.

Their most recent product is genius - hydraSense has developed a new type of nasal aspirator that works so much better that the old squeeze-blub type. I was always afraid of sucking too harshly when I used it, and I know that Grayson and Sam both hated it. The hydraSense nasal aspirator uses mommy (or daddy!) powered suction to gently withdraw excess mucuus from baby's nose. Yup, you literally suck it out! Now, it's not nearly as gross as it might sound, because there is a filter that stops any mucuus coming into the inhalation tube. It works really well, you can see the mucuus you are removing and is so much gentler for baby! You can watch a short video on how it works here.

If you would like to try the hydraSense aspirator, go here and sign up for the hydraSense Dophin Club. When prompted, enter the code MC2010 to get a coupon for $8.00 to be used towards the purchase of the aspirator (a savings of OVER 50%!) You will also receive a welcome package as well as special coupons and offers! It's a great deal and a great way to keep everyone in your family healthy without drugs. Give it a try and feel free to spread the news AND the coupon code to all your family and friends!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday


Yup...that time again. I am happy that I only have to plan for four dinners this week as we are heading out to see my in-laws for the long Easter weekend. It's not a vacation per se, but I'll take any excuse to stay in a hotel with a pool and not have to cook for 3 days!

Monday: Dijon Baked Chicken, Rice and Broccoli

Tuesday:  Grilled Hamburgers, New Potatoes (simply boiled and served in skin with butter!) Baked Beans, Veggies and Dip
Wednesday: Homemade pizza (we never did get our pizza made last week!)
Thursday: Clean out the fridge night or Breakfast for Supper!

I'll also be doing a bit of baking this week to take along in the car with us - Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Here's the recipe we like for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins. It makes 1 dozen medium/regular size muffins and 1 dozen mini-muffins. I think I got it from a "Company's Coming" cookbook of my mom's but I didn't write the source down (now I know better!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Grease 12 regular muffin tins and 12 mini-muffin tins, or use paper cupcake liners.

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking POWDER
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips

1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup milk
3 mashed bananas
Place first 5 ingredients in large bowl, mix well and set aside.

Beat egg then add in oil, milk and bananas. Pour this wet mixture into the dry mixutre. Combine only to moisten...batter will be very lumpy!

Fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Depending on your oven's hotspots and the way it behaves, you may have to take the mini-muffin tin out 3 or 4 minutes early. Watch for the muffins to get a light golden brown, then check for doneness with a toothpick and take out of oven.
We love these for snacks anytime, but especially for road trips!!! They freeze and pack well. Enjoy!

And make sure to check out all the best menu plans and recipes on http://www.orgjunkie.com/

Monday, March 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I love that we are getting into the season for fresher produce and lower prices! I visited the new Wal-Mart Supercentre the other day to see if it was as good as everyone said and I was thrilled! I have shopped for staples and dairy products at Wal-Mart for a while now as their prices are lower even than many grocery stores sale prices, but I didn't like having to stop at another grocery store to pick up meat and produce. Anyway... when I was at Wal-MartI picked up a pound of strawberries for $1.97 - a buck cheaper than anywhere else! - as well as bagged salad and cantaloupe at really good prices. I had a look at their meat, but I'm not so sure I am ready to buy Wal-Mart meat! Has anybody tried it? Any comments?

I have a sick little boy at home today so I better get moving. Here's what we're eating this week...



Monday: Ginger-Orange Salmon, Rice and Steamed Mixed Veggies

Tuesday: Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches and Oven Fries, Veggies and Dip

Wednesday: Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, Green Salad

Thursday: Parmesan Chicken (I add grated parmesan cheese to extra-crispy Shake & Bake) Rice, Broccoli

Friday: I am heading to a crop so they boys will have a buffet of leftovers!

Saturday: Grilled Steaks (hot-dogs for he boys as they don't like steak) Baked Potatos, Asparagus if available or mixed Veggies.

Sunday: Since we are heading out of town for Easter, I might have the whole family up for a little pre-Easter supper - Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatos, Stuffing, Carrots, Peas, Fresh Rolls, Green Salad and a Strawberry Swirl Cake for dessert!

As always...the best menu plans and recipe ideas are on http://www.orgjunkie.com/!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Freebies and Swag

The Fed Ex guy came to my house today with a box for me. I signed for it and tried to remember what I had ordered. When I opened it, there was a package of Chips Ahoy cookies! (Maybe a $4.00 value?)  I forgot I had taken a survey not long ago and had indicated that. yes, I would be willing to try out some cookies and report on my "findings"! What a nice surprise! We opened them, did our taste test, filled out the short survery and now can enjoy the remaining cookies. For FREE!



A little later, the postman delivered our mail and another box for me. This time it was a selection of products from Hydrasense (probably a $40.00 value)  - again for FREE. I had signed up to receive coupons and was chosen as a Hydrasense ambassador. They sent me a large sampling of products as well as a code I can share with other moms for significant savings (more on that at the end of this post!)



In the past few months I have also received free full size laundry detergent ($8.00 value), cereal ($5.00 value) and cleaning supplies ($6.00 value). How you ask? It's easy! Surveys & Product Testing! And I have also recently discovered another nifty site where I can earn items for free just by using the internet. Read on my friends!

Surveys:
I have done a lot of Focus groups in my time - the pay was good, but you had to leave the house and spend at least an hour or so answering questions and discussing products or services or ideas with a group of strangers. Then recently I found out about TNS  - a huge marketing research firm which does online surveys through http://www.mysurvey.ca/. You can sign up for an account and have surveys delivered to your inbox. Each survey gives you points which you can redeem for CASH, Air Miles or other products and services. Sure it takes a while to build up enough points, but the surveys are usually quick and easy, and you get the odd little perk like those free Chips Ahoy cookies! Money Saving Mom also has a list of survey sites you can check out, but many are for US residents only. Although you won't get rich completing surveys, I think you can makea few extra bucks or get some nice little perks and gift certificates this way.

Product Testing:
There are a variety of product testing opportunities you can easily sign up for. A while ago I signed up on http://www.urbanmoms.ca/ as a Go2Girlz product tester (that's who I tested Sunlight Green Clean laundry detergent and Affresh cleaner for). My recent delivery of Hydrasense was courtesy of  http://www.momcentral.ca/. In exchange for the prodcut, you are asked to answer a series of questions and provide your opinion on the product. Ifigure we as moms do that anyway...we are always telling each other about our latest find, or to stay clear of such-and-such a product becuase it's no good.  

You can also check out this posting that lists current and upcoming surveys and product testing opportunities. It's nice to get a freebie once in a while, especially when it's soemthing you already use or are interested in using, and usually the products are family/children oriented!


Swagbucks:
Intrigued by a post by Jen of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, I investigated and signed up for Swagbucks. Swagbucks is an online portal dedicated to helping you earn digital dollars called "Swag Bucks", which can be redeemed for exclusive swagbucks.com merchandise. For example, you can redeem 450 swagbucks for a $5 gift certificate at Amazon.ca. I have been using the swagbucks toolbar as my search engine for about 3 or 4 days now and already have 285 swagbucks. At that rate I can probably earn and redeem for a GC by next week. And I haven't even scratched the surface of this yet...I know you can earn more swagbucks by completing special offers etc., and also by referring people. SO...if you are interested in getting a few freebies just by doing what you normally do when surfing the internet, click on the banner below. I will earn a few swagbucks by referring you and then you can pass on the info to others in your own circle of friends and family and earn points for yourself! 
Search & Win

I will keep updating you with how my accumulation is going as well as any tips and tricks I may find out in the process!

Hopefully you will get a few freebies based on this information! So, now I am off to have a free cookie and suck the yuckies out of my 22 mo. old's nose! What fun!

(PS...I will be posting the information on how to get an $8.00 coupon for Hydrasense in a separate post later tonight so it can be esily referred back to! Check back later on! (or, become a follower of mine so you get all the info easily. Hey I haven't done too much about getting followers...should I? That's a decision for another day I guess!)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Done Deal!

It's official...the house is ours! It passed all inspections and appraisals with flying colors and we signed off on everything last night! We are thrilled and so excited!

I am sure the excitement will pass however when I start to sort and purge and pack. Did I REALLY choose the word simplify as my word of the year????

Monday, March 15, 2010

This and that and food!

Good Monday morning!

I had a very good weekend - I was at an all-day crop with lovely ladies on Saturday and a nice family day yesterday. It was gorgeous weather and we got out to the park and did a bit of spring cleaning. Even the fact that we lost an hour of sleep didn't bring us down!

Not too much news on the new house front...the inspections and appraisals all went well and we have signed off on one condition with just one more to be finalized by Wednesday. Hopefully we'll be closing the deal and celebrating on St. Pat's day!

And I am hopeful that I may find out my placement for next fall from the school board this week. I talked with my superintendent last week and she was saying that admin appointments will hopefully be complete over the next couple of weeks. It would be nice to know by Easter.

On the scrappy front, this week I am teaching the second class of the SDU course at Michaels as well as getting ready for the HUGE Crop 4 Kids charity event on Saturday. 100+ ladies will be there and I need to get my class materials and make & takes together. I have two posts almost ready to go for the website as well...one for the organization series and one for our limited St. Pat's day Page Pak. It's been far too long snce we have had some new material up there!

Hopefully after this week (ie: the house conditions and major crop) are over, I will get started on the packing and the hunt for a nanny. I am a little nervous about that one!

Anyway...getting organized for the week also means getting a menu planned, so here it is:

Monday: I head off to teach tonight, so a Rotisserie Chicken picked up from the grocery store along with Potato Salad, Fresh Buns and Veggies & Dip makes an easy meal all of use can eat at different times. I also will use some of the chicken for Chicken Salad sandwiches later this week.
Tuesday:  Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta, Green Salad

Wednesday: Saucy Baked Chops, Baked Potatos, Broccoli. The broccoli will be our green food in honor of St. Patty, but I think I will also do some cupcakes with green icing for dessert!

Thursday: Chicken Salad sandwiches, Veggies and Dip

Friday: Homemade Pizza - I make the dough in the bread machine and topped with tomato sauce, lots of cheese and some cold cuts like pepperoni and ham. A Caesar Salad for Shane and I, and Veggie Sticks for the boys round it out.

Saturday: Another night I am out for the Crop 4 Kids, but I think Shane can manage cooking some Fish Sticks and Oven Fries for him and the boys!

Sunday: It's been a long time since we had a nice family dinner so I will have my dad and Shane's mom over for Roast Beef, mashed Potatos, Yorkshire Puddings, Carrots, Broccoli and Gravy. Yum!

As always, you can find the best meal plans every Monday at http://www.orgjunkie.com/!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Big News

Yes, the big news I alluded to is that we found a house! A wonderful family house. On a cul-de-sac within a circle. Next to an awesome school. With a workable kitchen, stainless steel appliances and a gas stove (oh my!) With a sunny south facing, private, treed back yard. I am definitely excited and I think I am in love!

The story behind it is quite a coincidence. As you know we have been looking for a new house casually for quite a long time and with more focus in the past month. Most of the houses coming up on the market just weren't cutting it, and the one we did like went so fast that we didn't have a chance to put an offer in. I knew we would find one eventually, but I was getting a little frustrated.

Bu never underestimate the power of "putting the word out". My dad happened to be talking to a friend of his from church and his friend said "Oh, my son is going to be selling HIS house...maybe Noreen should get in touch with him" and they kind of shared a laugh about it. But when dad mentioned this to me I immediately wanted to contact the son to find out more. The house sounded great, was in our price range and was so close to a school that I really had hoped the boys could go to. It turned out that the seller had gone to the same high school as I did and we had a lot in common. We chatted for a while and I arranged with him to go and see the house. I loved it right away and brought Shane back to see it. We agreed that it was a great fit for our family and decided to put an offer in. The seller accepted it, and we are just getting inspections and appraisals done right now. Hopefully by the end of the week it will be all wrapped up!

We had never done a private sale before but it was easy and we couldn't ask for a better experience. I am so looking forward to moving our little family into this new house which will grow with us and accomodate us for several years to come.

Keep your fingers crossed that it all pans out and I will report back as soon as it is a done deal!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Quick menu plan

Quick post...big news to follow tomorrow, but for tonight, just wanted to post the menu for this week:

Sunday: Manicotti, Salad, Garlic Bread

Monday: Rotisserie Style Crock Pot Chicken, Rice, Steamed Veggies

Tuesday: Speedy Salsa Chicken Quesadillas, Veggies & Dip

Wednesday: Hamburgers with Fixings, Baked Beans, Coleslaw

Thursday: Jambalaya (I use Zatarains rice/spice mix and add leftover chicken and flash frozen shrimp), Green Salad

Friday: Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Mixed Veggies and Gravy

Saturday: Leftovers

Back tomorrow to let you in on our news!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reno update

It's March! How did that happen? February flew by and here we are on day 6 of our house update. So far, so good! Here's what we've accomplished:
  • The electrican changed out some light fixtures and fixed a couple of wonky plugs.
  • We have new flooring in the front entrance, kitchen, ensuite bathroom and the back hallway.
  • Although we didn't replace all the interior doors, we did go ahead and replace all the door casings to a nice wide profile molding, and all the doors will get a fresh coat of paint.
  • Missing closet doors have been replaced and all the baseboards in the house were changed out to a more substantial 4 inch trim that will be painted the same white as all the rest of the trim.
  • Half of the painting is done and it is all looking pretty great!
The biggest issues have been trying to keep a 20 month old toddler out of work areas and finding a quiet place for him to nap. Grayson had two nights of "camp-outs" in the basement while his room was being painted and Sam is in a playpen in our room tonight as his room was painted today. The kitchen is 95% done, and it is nice to have all the appliances back in place...we have just about had it with take-out! And I am sick of cleaning...every evening after our contractors leave I get out the vaccum and cleaners and get to work! Needless to say, scrapping and computer time have been non-existent!

 
The hunt for our next house continues, and although we aren't seeing much come up on the MLS, we do have a lead on a private sale. A friend of my dad's son is looking to sell his home. It seems to be in a good location, but we'll see. The conditional sale on the house we really liked hasn't gone through yet, so there may be an outside possibility that it will come back on the market.

 
I have spent a fair bit of time in the basement with the boys in the last few days and have started purging and organizing things like the boys clothing, tools and reno supplies etc. I have come across a lot of decorative objects that haven't been used at all in this house and was considering tossing them, but since I am thinking of possibilities for the next house, I reconsidered and decided to keep them until we finally pruchase one. I have started following a few home blogs and am enjoying dreaming a little bit about redecorating and cozi-fying our next place. I never really loved this house and sadly, I didn't put a lot of effort into decorating and prettying it up. I hope I will LOVE our next house and will put more attention into how it looks and more importantly, feels.

 
Because the kitchen was out of commission last week many of the meals I had planned weren't made, so most of the menu plan for this week will be a revamp of last week.

 
Monday: Leftover Chinese Food...hopefully our LAST take out meal for a long time!

 
Tuesday: Skillet Cheeseburger Pasta, Veggies and Dip

 
Wednesday: Cheesy Tomato Fish Bake, Rice, Green Salad

 
Thursday: Leftovers

 
Friday: Pizza (homemade this time - not take out!) Caesar Salad

 
Saturday: Grilled Steaks (Grilled Hot Dogs or Chicken for the boys since they don't like Steak!) Baked Potatos, Asparagus

 
Sunday: 2 Step Pork Chops, Mashed Potatos, Mixed Vegetables

 
As always...get inspired with hundreds of meal plans at http://www.orgjunkie.com/!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UGH.

We got a call late last night that the house we were hoping to make an offer on after having our contractor look at it is now Conditionally Sold.

Back to the drawing board, er, MLS listings.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Is that my life rolling away?

Have you ever felt like your life was rolling down a steep hill and you were running behind it frantically trying to keep up? Man, that's what the past couple of weeks have felt like around here. Between house-hunting, meetings with bankers and 6 different contractors, organizing the new scrapbooking classes with Michaels, a three day water shortage and miscellaneous other life events I honestly don't know which way I am going. It has been two weeks since I have made a menu plan and I have been winging it which I HATE! There has been far too much takeout for supper. I was so excited for Library of Memories to start, but I have only made it into the online classroom once and haven't done a thing with my photos or albums yet. I have 500+ new items in my Google Reader that I know I won't get to. And I am missing my God-daughters birthday because I am so unorganized.

When I am overwhelmed with events like this my first reaction to to shut down - I just want to go to sleep and wake up when it's all over. But, then I shake myself and get to each of the items in order of priority. I find that focusing on one thing as it needs to be dealt with is my best way of getting it all done. Most of the time I am a multi-tasker - I always seem to have 15 things on the go at any one time. But in time like this I seem to be able to focus in on getting only ONE thing completed before starting on the next. Deadlines are very good motivators for me.

On the good news front... I think we have found a house that will work for our family and we got great news from the bank that we don't have to sell our present house after all. We are going to rent it out which will make the move so much easier not having to coordinate posession dates etc. I am meeting one of our contractors tomorrow at the potential house to see if a few renos can be completed and what the ballpark cost would be, and then if all is well we'll go ahead and make an offer on it. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

On to a meal plan for the week...nothing fancy but at least I know that it is done.



(See, even a totally optional Menu Plan Monday in blog-land is a great motivator for me! Of course, when I have time I check out all the amazing menu plans on http://www.orgjunkie.com/, I will!)

Monday: Fish and Chips with Coleslaw

Tuesday: Lasagna, Garlic Bread and Salad

Wednesday: Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Veggies and Dip

Thursday: Baked Teriyaki Salmon, Rice and Broccoli

Friday: Pizza Night!

Saturday: 2-Step Pork Chops, Mashed Potatos, Mixed Veggies

Sunday:  Someone, please take me out for supper!


Hopefully we'll make it through the week! We are having flooring installed on Wednesday and the painting begins on Friday, so I am going to try and take some before and after pictures to post, but please forgive me if I am an absentee blogger again for awhile.

Make sure to head on over to Sharing Memories though...I AM making time to post all the fabulous creations the new design team is sending in!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weekly Menu

After cleaning out the pantry and freezer in January and serving soup all week last week to sick boys, I am finally back to planning for a "normal" week! Here's mine...but make sure to go to http://www.orgjunkie.com/ for hundreds more ideas!



Monday: Perogies and Ham Sausage with Veggies & Dip

Tuesday: Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken, Rice, Mixed Vegetables

Wednesday: Speedy Salsa Chicken Quesadillas, Veggies & Dip (We have a lot of leftover veggies from Sunday's birthday party!)

Thursday: Shane at a meeting so the boys and I will have buffet of leftovers!

Friday: Homemade Pizza, Green Salad

Saturday: Girls night out! The boys are on their own! (My bet is they'll have Kraft Dinner or Soup)

Sunday: Ham, Schwartzies' Potatos (I make a half recipe when it's just the family) Peas & Carrots, Homemade Dinner Rolls

I won't have a big grocery shopping list since I did a big stock up shop last week. CO-OP was having their 10 for $10.00 sale and although I spent $236.00, I still saved huge! Drum roll please....


Between the great sale prices, value savings card, gas coupons and vendor coupons, I saved $98.53! Awesome! I even got some free items...just like my money saving friends in the US! For example, Bush's Baked Beans were on sale for $1.00 and I had several $1.00 off coupons. FREE BEANS! It was great watching the total come down and down and down! And yes, I know this is still a very large amount of money, but the pantry and freezer are now once again well stocked after last months Eat From the Freezer cleanout! Wow...it was a bit of a high saving all the money...I can see whay people get "addicted" to couponing!

Did you get any great deals this week?

Birthday Party Recap

We survived Grayson's party. Whew!

No, actually it was really great and all this kids had a super time! We held it at the VRRI, a local recreation facility and the kids had an hour with an instructor in the gym with lots of equipment and games and fun. The trampoline was a big hit as were the parachute games!





The kids ran off a whole bunch of energy and were pleasantly tired when they were fnished in the gym! Then we had a great private room for the rest of the party. I had crafts ready (yeah, you know me!) but with lunch, cake and a few presents, the time was up before we knew it. (As a matter of fact we didn't even get all the presents opened before moms and dads were arriving to pick up the party guests.) Grayson wanted a construction theme for his party so we found plates and decorations with diggers on them and there was a great cake with removable toy mighty machines.



Everyone enjoyed themselves (especially the birthday boy!) and the best part for me was no mess to clean up! We headed home for an afternoon rest and then had Grandpa over for supper (and finished off the cake for dessert!) It turned out to be a really great party for my big five year old boy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Weekend Reading for Mommies (and Daddies too)

I sat down tonight to relax and catch up on the blogs I follow using Google Reader (I love using Google Reader...I can see just what I want to all in one place! If you don't already use it, you can check it out here.) Anyway, I had no intention of writing a blog post, but so many items I read tonight resonated with the Mommy in me (like feeling guilty for not spending enough time with the boys, keeping things organized, documenting this precious time in their lives etc.) that I had to do a quick post as a place to capture and share them. Hope you can make time this weekend to read (and watch) these and be inspired.

1) Sherri at Simple Mom was talking today about allowing yourself  Your Parental Permission Slip . This rang true for me...in so many ways. I'm so sleeping in tomorrow.

2) & 3) Even though Grayson is only five years old and in pre-school, I already have hoards of STUFF that comes home with him - some of which I want to keep and incorporate into his scrapbooks, some that could be documented in other ways and some that can just simply be recycled. Ali Edwards talks about scrapbooking with your kids school stuff here, and Rachel at Simple Mom has a great idea for photographing your kids stuff here. And although I don't have a link to specific post about it, I also love Stacy Julian's School of Life philosophy and have already set up two Rubbermaid file bins (one for each boy) with a hanging folder for each grade of school...hopefully it will keep the school clutter corralled. (Speaking of Stacy I am so glad that Library of Memoires has started at BPS again - this is my second time taking it and I am as pumped as the first time!)

4) Although I often make use of a timer for time-outs and for taking turns, Tiffany at Simply Modern Mom shares five positive uses for a timer here. (This is a lovely blog that I just came across recently and I am having a great time reading through the archives - I especially like the spin on Date Nights!)

5) Katrina Kenison, the author of one of my favorite books "Mitten Strings for God" published a new book this past fall - "The Gift of an Ordinary Day." In this video she reads one of the chapters from it. Get your tissues ready and then go order yourself a copy of the book here. Mine is on it's way.



Have a great weekend...I'll report back on Grayson's birthday party on Sunday!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Last night there was a lot of fog and it seemed so dreary. But this morning dawned bright and beautiful with a coating of sparkling hoarfrost covering all the branches of our bare tree. SO beautiful against the bright blue Alberta sky. I don't mind winter when it looks like this.



Wednesday, February 3, 2010

5

My baby is a big five year old boy today! Wow...where has five years gone?

Like many moms I wax poetic every year on my kids birthday. I recall all the cute, precious, funny, crazy and adorable things they have done in their little lives. Their accomplishments and milestones. Their challenges and shortcomings. Most of all their blossoming personalities.

In honor of my BIG boy's special day here's a Five at Five list all about Grayson.

1) You are a HAM! As soon as you see the camera coming out you pose and smile. Your sense of humour is developing and you tell a mean Knock-Knock joke!



2) You are curious. Yes, just like your favorite monkey George, you are always questioning and wondering. "Why" is one of your favorite words.



3) You are sweet. I love how you still want to hug and kiss mommy every day. And you can creep into my bed for sleepy cuddles any morning for as long as you like!




4) You are sociable. You love to go to school to see all your friends. You love playdates. You love to chat to everyone you meet. (Hmmm...this might be a problem down the road!)



5) You are smart. Your vocabulary is expanding. You can do basic addition. You are reading short words. You can figure out how things work and you love to build. I hope you always want to learn more and more and more!




Unfortunately, Grayson is sick today of all days! He came down with a little flu bug on Monday and is still running a temperature. But, we will celebrate with family and friends this upcoming weekend and his lovely teacher has assured me he can be the helper in honor of his big day when he returns to class tomorrow! And, I think we'll have to send cupcakes...because what is a special day without cupcakes?!

Happy Birthday Little Man!
Love mommy

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Heart Scrapbooking

I know the title of this blog suggests I have an unhealthy addiction to scrapbooking and really, I do! But I haven't posted a lot about my scrappy pursuits on this blog lately - I tend to do most of my scrappy blogging over on my business website. So I guess I either need to start posting about scrapbooking here or take the reference to scrapbooking out of my header!

Anyway...here's a little tease of what's going on over at Sharing Memories Scrapbooking...our new Valentine products will be up next week! I love hearts and red and pink, so it was fun creating these new items! (More images and the full descriptions of these products will be up by mid-week.)


Also, today is the deadline for submitting an application for the design team. I know there are lots of people out there who want to apply to design teams but don't think they are "good enough", but I think we all have something to offer! So c'mon...send in your application today! I want you to share your talent! (You can get all the details here.)

OK...off to finish prepping for tomorrow's all-day crop...I am so excited!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SIMPLIFY: Moving?!

After lots of talking and thinking, hubbs and I have finally made the FIRM decision to pack up and sell. Not that we're moving anywhere far away or exotic...just to a different house within the NW part of Calgary.

What? Am I nuts? I thought I was SIMPLIFYING this year!!! How does making a major household move fit with this goal? OK...here's my rationale (perhaps more for convincing myself and not my dear readers!)

1) We moved to this house for good reasons, most of which do not exist anymore. The house is on the small side and the layout isn't optimal for us. Yes I could purge and purge and purge, but would still be a little cramped. Moving to a larger space would allow for better organization and set-up of the things we DO have (not that I want to get more stuff - just organize the pared down posessions a little better!)

2) I am returning to work next fall. Both Shane and I have busy jobs that have somewhat unpredictable hours. We have decided that the best child care avenue to pursue for our two young children is to get a live-in nanny. So, we need a house that can accomodate that. If we get the right nanny, it will definitely simplify my life as a working mom.

3) Choosing a home in a family friendly neighbourhood with a K-9 school, childrens sports and extra-curricular programs and lots of young families will simplify our commuting for school, programs, playdates etc.

4) Shane and I each need space to pursue business and personal work at home. Our shared office doesn't really work for us. and My little scrap corner of the family room just won't cut it if I continue to grow my scrapbooking business. So looking for a home with a dedicated office space for Shane and an additional bedroom or other type of closeable space for me would be ideal.

5) Our present house (while in good shape) would need some renovations to work for us. Choosing a house better suited to our needs means we don't have to live through the drywall dust and noise and dirt of another major renovation.

So with all that in mind, we are going for it! Our realtor came over last night and we discussed what needed to get done around here and what we want in a new home. First the work of prepping our house for sale begins - a little painting, decluttering, cleaning, tidying and staging! Whew...I know it will be a lot of work, but I am excited about the change and I am raring to get going. I have to prepare for the crop this Saturday and then select the new design team and get them sorted out, but by the beginning of next week I hope to dig in and start getting the house prepped.

For now the only other question is...anyone wanna buy a cute little blue house?


Monday, January 25, 2010

Is January Over Yet?

We are in the home stretch of the Eat From Your Pantry Challenge, and I think we've done pretty good!

I haven't saved as much as some of the others who are taking the challenge as groceries seem to be so much more expensive here in Canada than they are in the States. When I see the amount that Money Saving Mom and $5 Dinner Mom are able to save and spend on their groceries I am blown away. I spent a fair amount of time this month researching couponing in Canada and we just don't have the same kind of system. We rarely can get FREE groceries by stacking coupons - most stores here just don't let you double (although thanks to Taya at Simply Frugal I did find out that London Drugs will accept an instore coupon as well as a manufacturer's coupon - thanks Taya!) I just feel lucky when by chance I have a coupon for an item that I need and it's on sale somewhere! I do review the grocery store flyers on the weekend and make my lists according to what on sale. And this month since I didn't need to buy any meat I saved about $100.00 on our groceries, so that is positive. But milk and produce and diapers still are expensive! (I actually saw on one blog a photo of a 2L carton of milk marked at .75 cents! I can't even get a 250 ml container fo that cheap! Sheesh!) Anyway...I'm not complaining, I'm just sayin'. Finally, I am thinking one of the reasons for my grocery bill remaining higher than I expected was not getting creative enough with breakfasts and lunches, so I think that will be my next challenge - source out some new recipes and new ideas to save a bit of $ there!

In summary, I learned a lot this month and I felt really organized. I did save money and I did use cash, so I met a lot of my goals! All in all a success I would say!

So here is the final menu plan for January (it's a pretty easy plan to make up...I'm just slotting in the final unused meals from my original 20 meals!)

Monday: Meatloaf with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Peas ( I didn't make this last night as we ended up going out for dinner with my MIL - a nice surprise!)

Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner...Pancakes, Bacon and Scrambled Eggs.

Wednesday: Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Veggies and Dip (I also didn't make this last week as I was down with flu-like symptoms after getting the H1N1 vaccination and didn't feel like cooking at all. We had soup and sandwiches instead.)

Thursday: Leftover Buffet

Friday: Weekly Pizza night - I always feel like this is a cop-out, but my boys don't complain!

Saturday: I am at an all-day/evening crop so I am leaving one of the Baked Spaghetti casseroles I made mid-month for Shane to heat up for himself and the boys. (PS...Usually I try not to do two pasta dishes in the same week, but these are extenuating circumstances!)

Sunday: Chicken Broccoli Divan with Rice and Salad.

As always...visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for lots more menu plans! And read about the successes (and failures?) of those who "Ate from the Pantry" this month over at Money Saving Mom!

I made it...now what's the plan for NEXT month???!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Boys

These two boys keep me busy every day.





It's been a while since I wrote about them, so here's an update on them both - a snapshot if you will, of this moment in their little lives.

At 19 months, Sammy is into everything. He is a climber - couches, chairs, beds - whatever he can shimmy up on to! He isn't talking yet, but he certainly understands what WE say and boy does he holler (well, squeal is more like it) when he feels we are not understanding HIM! He is sleeping and eating well (actually he will eat anything in sight). He enjoys songs and music - Old MacDonald, Head and Shoulders, Twinkle Twinkle and anything by the Wiggles - and loves to dance. He has an infectious smile and has discovered how to make silly faces. He adores his big brother and wants to do whatever Grayson is doing. As such he often runs too fast and falls too hard! But he can also hold his own when Grayson tries to assert himself - Sam has been known to give Grayson a head butt when he thinks he has been treated unfairly! He is full of mischief and alwasy needing to be told "no, no, ta, ta Sam". He will come and give you a hug as if to say "sorry" when you catch him doing something wrong! He is wearing size 18 months to 24 months clothing and he has slimmed down from the overt chubbiness he had as a baby. He likes cars and trucks and all things "boy", but he also loves to cuddle with his soft blankets and his lambie. People look at him and say he is a mini-me. But when his crazy curly hair is standing up, I think he looks like a mini Mr. Heat Miser...behold:




See what I mean? (And if you want to see the whole Mr. Heat Miser/Mr. Snow Miser video from the movie A Year Without Santa Claus...just to reminisce, you can watch it here!)

Grayson will be five in two weeks (where does the time go??? I look at photos of him as a babe and can't even remember how small he was. Sigh...) He is LOVING school and can't wait to go everyday. He is now enjoying drawing and writing and doing connect the dot puzzles. He is reading short words and tries sounding out the signs he sees wherever we go. He asks what words mean. He is learning to tell time. He navigates the computer like a pro. He is enjoying his piano lessons and has a real ear for rhythm. He is soaking things up like a little sponge. On the flip side, he can be too rough with Sam and he doesn't always share well. He is trying to assert himself but it comes out as being defiant and he has spent much more time lately sitting and crying in time-out. Listening is not his strong suit unfortunately! He is very sweet when he wants to be and I love the mornings when he creeps into our bedroom and wants to climb in to bed have a cuddle with me. I don't know how much longer he will want to do that, so I am cherishing every moment - even if it means interrupted sleep for me! He is still slight for his age - tall and slim. He is 42 inches tall but only weighs 38 pounds. He is still in his car seat because he has to be 40 pounds to move to the booster. He is wearing 3x tops and 3 bottoms, but a few size 2 pj's still fit him! I keep telling him to eat, eat, eat, but he would rather be off doing something else...ANYTHING besides eating! (He is definitely Shane's son in that respect!) He is a funny, smart, crazy, good little boy.



These two boys are the centre of my world. Throw in their daddy and I have my own little universe. I'm a lucky woman...I am very, very blessed!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SIMPLIFY: Money

Another area I seem to be constantly working on organizing is money. Which account is it in? How much do I have left? Terrible. This is silly really, as I don't have a lot of money that I need to worry about. I have no paycheck, and now that we have reorganized our bank accounts to take care of joint household bills, I am certainly not dealing with huge amounts! I take out a set amount of money each month for groceries, stuff for the boys, gas and a little pocket money for myself. The problem is that I always seem to get to the end of the money before I get to the end of the month.

My hubbie and folks like Dave Ramsey have it right - they use CASH. Cash is king apparently and I never knew it. So in order to simplify, I am going to go cardless and use cash. But I didn't know how I should organize all this cash since I never really carried any before!

Kelleigh Ratzlaff to the rescue! This papercrafting designer has a great tutorial and pattern to create your own cash envelopes. This tutorial has been linked to so many times on the blogs I follow that I truly do not know how I found this project but I am so glad I did! I downloaded Kelleigh's template and created 6 pretty envelopes from my scrapbooking papers that I can organize and keep my cash in. It was an easy project with very satisfying results.



I have used the envelopes for the past couple of weeks and it's a pretty simple system. Put the money in. Use the money. Put the receipts in the envelope. When the money is gone, the money is gone. And so far I am staying on track with it. If you think these would help you, do go to Kelleigh's blog and check out more of her cute templates!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SIMPLIFY: Calendar

My one little word this year is SIMPLIFY. I hope to use it as a touchstone to guide me through a variety of areas in my life that need, ahem...a little assistance. One area is using a calendar efficiently.




Being a SAHM right now, I have a different things on my schedule than I did when I was working outside of the home. And although I have tried to organize myself in terms of appointments as well as obligations around the house (read "housekeeping"!) I never really found a system that worked. I have tried all sorts of calendars - Wall, Desk, PALM, iPhone, Outlook, Daily Dockets, Cozi, just to name a few. They all had their merits, but I never really got into them and they slowly fell off my radar and were never used. But I think I have finally found that works for me. Really. I know I've said this before on this blog, and I am really hoping I won't jinx it by sharing it here, because this one is really good. It's from Motivated Moms and it's genius.

It's part chore chart, part appointment calendar, part menu planner and part TO-DO list. I have been using it for about 3 weeks now and haven't tired of it yet. My house is clean (ok, not sparkling, but still very acceptable!), I have a central place that I am regularly checking for appointments and I am actually completing and crossing things off my to do list! Each day there is a checklist of daily chores - sort of like minimum maintenance - including basic things like making beds, wiping out bathroom sinks, laundry, empyting trash etc. It also reminds you to take some quiet time, read to your kids and excercise (OK...I haven't been crossing THAT one off enough!!!) Each day also has a few specific chores designed to get and keep your house in order - today I was reminded to change our handtowels, clean two light fixtures, maintain my houseplants, clip my kids fingernails and dust their bedrooms. It took all of 25 minutes. Tomorrow I am supposed to check prescriptions, mop the kitchen floor, clean out my fridge drawers, dust the living room, wash the porch rug (which I don't have) and clean out my car. Doing a few things like this everyday is the key to maintaining order and cleanliness in the house...not trying to do it all in a two or three hour period before your company comes for dinner and then forgetting about it for another 2 weeks! Each day also has space to record your appointments and to jot down notes or To-Dos.

The calendar is a download that you purchase and print out at home. You can get it in a few different configurations to suit your needs. I chose the Half-size Page Per Day Planner with Scheduled Bible Readings (because, yes, I am negligent in that area too). I printed the pages, cut them in half, hole punched them and repurposed my old Franklin Covey day planner binder to house it all. After a few days I got the idea to use the blank backside of the previous day to jot down things related to my business and blogs - stuff to do, stuff to post, ideas to work on, links to check out etc. It is great to have everything in one place and I really see myself using this system for the long haul.

Whichever style of planner your choose, it's only $8.00 to download. A bargain I think! And I am so delighted with it that I became an affiliate of the chore planner. Yup, you can click on the "Motivated Moms" link in my sidebar to read all about it. If you decide to purchase one of these little babies, I will receive a small amount of money for promoting the planner. It really doesn't need promoting however - you'll see it and love it. I know I do, so go & check it out for yourself!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekly plans

I am ready to tackle another week of eating what I have in my house right now! The grocery bill HAS been less this month since I haven't been purchasing meat etc, but I really didn't have a lot of dry goods stockpiled, so the regular breakfast, lunch and household supplies still have to be bought!

I am doing well with paying in cash though, so I hope to keep that up as it really has cut down on impulse buys! (And later this week I'll share my cute new envelopes with you!)

OK...Week #3 in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge has us enjoying:

Monday: Shake & Bake Chicken, Mushroom Rice and Broccoli

Tuesday: Loaded Baked Potato Chowder, Buns, Salad

Wednesday: I found more ground beef in the freezer than I had accounted for in my original 20 meals, so we'll use it for Homemade Hamburgers along with Oven Fries and Coleslaw

Thursday:  Shane is out at a dinner meeting, so the boys and I will clean up the leftovers

Friday: what else...pizza!

Saturday: Baked Macaroni and Cheese along with Veggies & Dip

Sunday: Meatloaf & Gravy Mashed Potatos and Peas

You can check out oodles more menu plans at I'm am Organizing Junkie. I pick a couple links at random each week, just to see what other folks are up to and to get a couple new ideas.

As far as my first week of weight loss went, well...it didn't! In fact I gained 1.5 pounds!!! Yikes! No excuses - I just didn't follow through AND I really pigged out on Saturday night when we went out. I had such yummy Greek food and I ate ALL the Pita, Tzatziki, Roasted Potatoes, Greek Salad and Souvlaki that was on my plate! So I'll try again this week...eat breakfast everyday with no cream in my coffee, have smaller portions of the main dinner meal, drink more water and excercise AT LEAST TWICE. Just wait 'til next week you little weight loss ticker...you'll see some movement then!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adaptation and a new recipe

Brace yourselves...hubby and I went out on Saturday night. Without the kids. Yes, we did. I know it's hard to believe but we actually got ourselves organized enough to do it and to enjoy it! There was a Home Renovation and Recreational Properties tradeshow in town over the weekend, so we decided to take it in and go out for dinner afterwards. Shane's mom graciously babysat and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

But since I wasn't going to be home for dinner I wanted to make something easy for my MIL to heat up for herself and the boys. I had planned on having Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce on Wednesday night and Meatballs and Rice on Saturday. I decided to switch the meals around and then to make a Baked Spaghetti for Saturday night instead. I looked at a few online recipes for baked spaghetti, but didn't have all the ingredients on hand. So in the spirit of eating- from-the-pantry, I improvised and it turned out great! I want to jot down the recipe here so I can refer to it again.

Baked Spaghetti


1 454 gram box spaghetti
1 lb ground beef (if using extra lean there is no need to drain!)
1/2 onion, chopped fine
About 1 tbsp Italian Herb mix (or a little each of Oregano, Rosemary, Basil to taste)
S&P to taste
1 680 ml can or jar favorite pasta sauce
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded cheese ( I used a mozza/cheddar combo since that's what I had on hand)


Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes.


While pasta is cooking, brown ground beef along with onions in large pot/skillet until ground beef is cooked through and no longer pink, and onion is translucent. Drain if necessary. Add spices, salt & pepper, pasta sauce and parmesan cheese. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until flavours are combined and mixture is hot. 


Drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce to pasta and toss/stir to coat. Transfer pasta and sauce mixture to a greased 9 x 12 baking dish or to TWO smaller greased casserole dishes (this is what I did and ended up with one meal to eat right away and one to freeze for later!)


Top with shredded cheese and cover. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 - 40 minutes (if cooking the frozen casserole, thaw first and then heat in the oven).

One small casserole served my MIL and my two young boys on Saturday night and we had enough leftover for Sunday night for all four of us, so I would say that a small casserole would serve 4 adult portions, and the large would be double - 8 portions. (Note that I also served garlic bread and salad/veggies & dip with the casserole.) My little guys loved it and cleaned their plates! This is a keeper!

A note on cost...I have been following the $5 Dollar Dinner Mom but because food prices seem to be so much more expensive here in Canada, I haven't pulled off a lot of $5 dinners! But this one was a great deal - especially because it made TWO dinners for us! Here's the approximate breakdown:

1 454 gram box pasta - $1.29
1 lb ground beef - about $1.80
1 680 ml can pasta sauce - $1.33
1/3 cup parm cheese - about  $1.25
1 cup shredded cheese - about $2.50

So for around $8.00 I made two hearty casseroles - making each one only $4.00. Not bad! Add veggies or salad and bread and it probably goes just over the $5.00 mark. It has stretched my meal plans too...even though I didn't buy any extra groceries, I now have an additional full meal frozen and waiting to be used on a busy day! And because we ate the leftovers tonight, I still have all the ingredients ready to go for the Chicken and Stuffing bake I already had planned. Love it when that type of thing happens! I feel like - "da-da-da-da...SUPER MOM!"

In an effort to save even more cash, I spent a little time trying to clip and match some coupons today. Thanks to a post on Simply Frugal a while back, I found out that London Drugs allows you to double coupons! I never knew!!! So I took the flyers from the Sunday paper and plotted out my best buys this week. I am heading to London Drugs and Safeway tomorrow (they are next to each other in the mall so I can easily shop at both stores) and will pick up a couple of good deals on Tuesday at Superstore. I will let you know if I am successful at doubling my coupons and how much I actually save! It took me about 45 minutes to sort it all out, so we'll see what my  hourly savings are and if it's truly worth it!