Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rain, Rain Go Away?

Today, it rained and rained.  Then, it rained some more.  I am not complaining, we really need the rain.  It has been too dry for too long.  Not to mention, April showers bring May flowers!   Of course, with the rain, came a day inside.  

I wrote a few weeks ago about having crafts on hand for frugal activities on the weekends.  Today proved that on hand crafts are perfect for rainy days.   Originally, today's plan's included my son's soccer game and errands.  The down pours that we saw cancelled the game and made me too lazy to leave the house unnecessarily.  Thankfully, last weekend I took my girls to Michael's Craft Store and had them pick out a bunch of crafts for future fun.  We left the store with paint by numbers, sculpey clay and Crayola Mosaic Magic clay.  Upon arriving home last weekend, I immediately hid the crafts in my closet for a rainy day.  My girls were the first to remember about these treasures today, and after lunch out came the crafts.

All 3 of my kids sat down in the kitchen at 1:00 pm to start working on them and did not stop until 4:30 pm.  That was 3.5 hours of rainy day activities that did not involve the TV, video games or computers.  Not an easy feat these days.  Not once, did they ask for me to turn on any electronics with the exception of Radio Disney.  We all worked on them together.  I helped my daughter with the paint by numbers while my husband helped the youngest with her Tinkerbelle Mosaic Magic.  My son, started a paint by numbers and finished a race care made out of Sculpey clay.  It was a fun afternoon for us.  I am not saying that the kids were not a bit antsy being stuck inside, they were.  But, the crafts really helped them forget about the fun of being outside in the Spring.

Tomorrow, I am going to have to go back to Michael's to stock up again on crafts.  They either used up or at least started on the crafts I bought last weekend.  No complaints from me though. I believe that creativity and imagination during childhood help in creating bright and successful adults.  Not to mention, crafting at home is very frugal.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Father Daughter Dance

Tonight my husband, Eric, took our youngest daughter to the Father/Daughter Dance.  The Girl Scout Council that both of my daughters are members of have a dance every year for fathers and daughters.  It has proven to be a great activity for my daughters.  Every year my girls have looked forward to participating in this fun event.

My husband does not always look forward to or have fun at the dance.  The first year, Eric really did look forward to the dance.  Like him, I was excited about the dance.  My daughter had a beautiful dress, I bought a corsage, Eric wore a suit and I took pictures.  I had visions of them dancing together, daddy and daughter.  It was a preview of the Father/Daughter dance that would occur at their future weddings.  In my mind, Father/Daughter dance was the perfect Hallmark moment that I was not a part of, but that was okay because it was going to be a bonding activity for my husband and daughter.  I could not have been more wrong about what the dance really was all about.

My dear husband came home 2 hours after the start of the dance.  He was sweating and crabby, and a bit disappointed.  It turns out that Father/Daughter Dance is not the Hallmark Movie event that I had pictured.    Instead, the daughters, immediately abandon their fathers for their friends. Any dancing that occurs, happens between the girls, dancing with each other.  Because they are young girls, a lot of screaming also goes on.  Young girls and screaming go hand and hand.  As we all know, dads do not always have a lot of patience for unnecessary screaming, especially from 300+ little girls.  Additionally,  because there are so many people in a small space, it gets very hot, causing all of the dads to sweat.  All of these components made it difficult for my husband to have a good time that first year.  Year after year he remembers that first dance, and year after year, history repeats itself.    

One thing did change this year that makes me a little sad.  My oldest daughter, Hannah, chose not to attend this year.  She was so excited to go, we bought her a dress and discussed how she would do her hair.  She left for school this morning, excited for the this evening's dance.  When she returned home from school today, Hannah informed that none of her friends were going to the dance, so she did not want to go either.  I could have forced her, but chose not to.  Instead, Eric took Maeghan alone and off they went.

Thank you Eric for participating in an event that you really do not like year after year for no other reason than your love for your children.  Year after year, you go with a smile, knowing that you will be ignored by your date.  Stuck in a hot corner, reading your blackberry and praying for relief from this obligation.  I know that you will go every year, until our dear Maeghan opts out because her friends are not going anymore, not even considering that it is a Father Daughter dance, not a friend dance.  You are a trooper and we are lucky to have you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Recently, I decided to start volunteering some of my time to help in the community.  I have always been active in my kid's school, but I felt I wanted to do more.  I have been getting burned out working with kids, and knew it was time to find something new.  So, I went out to the website  to start my search.  When I started with this search I knew that I had limited time, I wanted to work with adults and I wanted it to be something that kept me moving.  After some in depth research, I found Meals on Wheels.

I deliver meals once a week to seniors living in my community.  It has turned out to be incredibly rewarding, fun and easy work (physically that is).  The people are so grateful for the meals that are delivered and some are so happy for the conversation that comes with the meal delivery.  I believe that I am getting so much from this experience and plan on continuing with this volunteer organization for a long time.  

My girls even accompanied me last week for a delivery, and I feel they got a lot from the experience.  Like all parents,  I want all of my children to be compassionate and caring.  I also want them to realize how lucky they are to have such a rich life.  I am not talking about money and material items.  I am talking rich in love, family and friends.  By showing them the importance of volunteering their time and resources in community at a young age, I believe that I am on the right track in teaching them those things.  I also want them to realize that it is so important to give back to one's community in whatever way is possible.  We all benefit when we give our time to the communities that give us so much.

In the years to come, I hope to be able to give more volunteer hours to community and to organizations I care about and believe in.  Right now, my time is limited.  I also continue to volunteer in my children's school.  Next year, when my son is in middle school, I will need to spread myself out even more in my community.  But, I believe it will be worth it for both me and my kids.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.  I had every intention of celebrating this ever important day with Earth loving activities for the whole family.  My intentions were good, my reality made that impossible. I  felt guilty for a little while today because I felt I was not acknowledging this very important day to the extent that I have in the past.  But, after further reflection, I realize that my family and I are pretty "green" already and that we celebrate Earth Day, everyday.  Here is a list of the things that we already do.

1. 90% of our light bulbs are fluorescent
2. We use reusable, canvas shopping bags
3. We eat a lot of organic food
4. We belong to an organic CSA
5. We compost
6. Our washer and dryer is Energy star and the washer is HE
7.  Our heater, a/c and water softener are all energy star.  We replaced all of these things when we moved in to this house.
8.  Our heat is kept at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees when we sleep
9. My husband drives a car during the summer months that gets 35 miles to the gallon
10. I line dry our laundry in the summer
11.  I use non toxic cleaning supplies

I look at this list I am happy with our progress.  But we have a lot of room for improvement. Now, here is a list of the things we need to do to love our "mother" even more.

1.  We need new windows!  
2.  I drive an SUV, my husband drives one in the winter.
3.  I HATE being hot in the summer, I run the a/c colder than I should.
4.  I drive a lot more than I need to.  Especially in the summer.
5.  We get too many magazines.
6.  We should turn the water heater down a few degrees
7.  10% of our light bulbs need to fluorescent
8.  We buy too many products from China
9. We should plug our electronics into power strips that can be turned off when we are not using them.
10.  Our toilet has a leak that we keep ignoring
11. We have a freezer in the garage that we keep stocked, but, it is an energy sucker during the hot summer months.
12. I burn petroleum based candles
13.  We could wear organic clothes
14. I could buy our clothing second hand so that we are recycling

As anyone can see, these lists can go on and on.  I think that it is time for my husband and I to take a look at what we could do to improve our carbon footprint.  I like to think that when I write a post about Earth Day next year, I can add more to the list of things we are already doing.  I will probably never buy all organic clothing, it is too expensive.  I love candles, but have been trying to use more soy based, maybe I will convert to all soy by next year ( I doubt it).  The freezer is mandatory with our family.  So, I am guessing that by next year, we can accomplish half that list.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today is my Birthday!!

Today was my birthday.  I had a fantastic day!  Thank you Eric, Alec, Hannah and Maeghan.  You all made it such a special day for me.  It could not have been better.

My husband made a birthday cake for me.   My girls decorated the cake for me.  As you can see by the picture, they all did a great job. I loved it.  It made me very sad to eat the cake.  So, I took a picture of their beautiful work so that I can remember the first cake that my little girls made for me.   

My cake was very frugal.  The cake came from a mix that I had bought for .79.  My husband made the frosting from scratch.  It tasted as good as it looks. 

My husband took me out for lunch, instead of dinner.  We chose lunch for a couple of reasons. One, our kids are in school.  By going out for lunch, we don't have to hire a babysitter.  Two, lunch is cheaper.  My favorite restaurant in Milwaukee is a French restaurant.  It is generally very pricey.  But, I signed up for something (I can't remember what it was)and they have my birthday in their system.  Every year on my birthday I get a $20.00 off postcard for a meal during the month of April.  My husband and I had a French meal, wine included for me, for $26.04 plus tip.  A meal for dinner would have run us over $100.  It was a great deal and the meal was just as good during the day as it would have been at night. 

I had a great day.  Again thank you to all my family and friends who extended birthday wishes to me.  It is so appreciated. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Family Game Night

Tonight my family and I played a game together.  Apples to Apples Junior was the game of choice for us this evening.  We try to play a game once a week, but, I sadly admit that we are not always able to do so. 

My kids like to play games.  They usually have a good time and enjoy the family time together.  But, I have learned that there is a time limit to what we can do until fighting begins. Because board games involve a winner and a loser, my oldest children who have been rivals since birth become very competitive when it is clear that one of them will be the winner, instead of the rest of the family.  I can win, my husband or youngest can win, and they are fine with losing.  The attitude completely changes when that turns out not to be the outcome.  So, when that starts to happen, it is time to wind things down and end the game gracefully and without fighting.  It can be a challenge, but tonight we were successful, everyone ended the game pretty happy, in fact they want to play again tomorrow night.

We have always liked to play board games as a family.  It is such a frugal activity.  Of course the upfront cost of purchasing the game is required.  But, once the game is purchased, it will pay for itself in just a few uses.  The time together as a family is invaluable.  I love the idea of having time with my kids that involves thought and conversation.  The TV and computer are off and the phone is ignored.  Kids grow up so fast, I believe that it is so important to embrace these moments together, they won't be here forever.

Milk Shake Recipe

Here is the recipe for the milk shake my daughter made last night.

1 cup of milk
1/2 frozen banana
2 tbsp chocolate ovaltine
2 ice cubes

Put ingredients in blender and blend until thick.  

We had to multiply this recipe by five to make it work for our family.  I used 3 frozen bananas instead of 2 1/2.  You can obviously change the amount of the ingredients for your own taste.  Enjoy:)

Menu April 19th-April 25th

Here is our menu for the week of April 19th-April 25th.

Sunday April 19th - Salad People, Tortellini with Pesto, Cranberry Lemonade and Banana Chocolate Milk Shakes

Monday April 20th - Pot Roast with potatoes and carrots, corn on the cob, buttermilk biscuits

Tuesday April 21st - Pasta w/Red Sauce, Salad, Bread

Wednesday April 22nd - Leftover Pot Roast

Thursday April 23rd - Fish and Chips, Yellow Carrots and Beans

Friday April 24th - Pizza

Saturday April 25th - Steak, Shrimp, Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Red Peppers and Sliced Tomatoes

I departed from my normal Saturday Taco Night this week because I was lazy.  I did not have tortillas and did not want to go to the store.  So, I dug out some steak and shrimp out of the freezer.  Surf and Turf!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Salad People

Tonight I had help in the kitchen.  My daughter, Hannah, helped with the preparation of tonight's meal.  Yesterday, she went through some cook books, picked out some dishes and gave me a list of what I would need.  I am so proud of her, she really showed maturity today.

First thing on her meal plan, salad people.  We cut up strawberries, cucumbers, string cheese, bananas, cantaloupe, celery, etc.  We then took the pieces of produce and cheese to make salad people.  Everyone was able to make their own salad person.  My husband and son made aliens, my daughters made little girls and I made a down in out depressed person(at least that is what my husband said mine looked like).  It is really hard to be artistic with food.  I think he was being a little critical!  The great thing about this salad was my kids picked out what they wanted, so they ate it all.  My kids really did get their recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables today.  I heard no complaints, only compliments for my daughter's choice.

Next thing on her menu, cranberry lemonade.  This was lemonade made from scratch, no little packets (which I am guilty of using).  She used the measuring cups and spoons correctly, she needed a little guidance with the math, but she did great.  The lemonade turned out very tasty.  I had her cut the sugar in half which turned out to be perfect.  More sugar and that would have been some VERY sweet lemonade.

Finally, she made Chocolate Banana Milk Shakes for dessert.  YUM!  The best thing about this milk shake was that it did not call for ice cream.  We used frozen bananas and ice cubes. Seriously, it was the best milk shake I have ever had.  My son, Alec, wants me to emphasize in this blog how good the shake really was.  I think that this is a shake that could be served at breakfast.  I will pass on doing that though  because it turned out to be such a successful dessert.  I would like to start serving healthy desserts and this shake definitely qualifies.  We were able to use frozen bananas that had come from my husbands employer.  One day Eric came home with dozens of free bananas.  We cut them up and froze them.  We have a lifetime supply of bananas for smoothies, all for free.

I made the main course, since it required the stove, it was my responsibility.  I shopped my own freezer and found some tortellini, I threw some pesto in it and voila, dinner was served.  My daughter really did the bulk of the menu planning, the list and the prep work.  I just did the dangerous cutting and the very simple main course.  She even set the table.  I told her tonight she is hired!  She can help again next Sunday.  I wonder what she will have planned next week?