Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Money Earning Ideas for Christmas

Here are some ideas to get you started on earning some extra cash for Christmas.

1. Mystery Shopping: I have been a mystery shopper for about six months now. It is a fun and easy way to earn money. If you are interested in mystery shopping, go to . They have everything you need to get started. You can view a list of legit mystery shopping companies, you can view their job board, and most importantly you can connect with other mystery shoppers. The discussion forum was very helpful to me in deciding which mystery shopping companies I wanted to work for.

Most of the shops that I have performed were at a local grocery store. I was reimbursed $9 in groceries plus an extra $10 for my time, which was about 40 minutes. I've also performed shops at casual dining restaurants and chocolate shops. In all cases I was reimbursed (up to a certain amount) for my expenses and then paid a nominal fee for my time.

In my experience, I was always paid promptly and in full. I took time to review other mystery shopper's feedback to ensure that I worked with only the best companies. Be sure to NEVER pay to become a mystery shopper or to be put on a mystery shopping list. The pay to work scenarios are generally scams.

Generally, when you sign up for a shop you will be given a time frame in which to perform that shop and a set of explicit instructions outlining what you need to do in order to accurately perform the shop. After said shop is complete you will then have a window of time in which to enter your findings online. Some companies have brief yes/no type questions to answer, while others require more lengthy answers. Be sure to do the research ahead of time to know just what is expected of you.

2. Online surveys: There are many online survey companies. I work with two in particular that pay in a timely fashion. Pincone Research is the first online survey company that I signed up with. They are not always accepting new applicants, so you'll have to check back with their website often. They pay $3 per survey. The surveys are short (approx 10 to 20 minutes). For each survey you complete they will mail you a check.

The second company, which I JUST signed up for, is Cash Crate . If you sign up, please be sure to use me as the person who referred you. The same basic principle applies here. Fill out surveys and get cash. I have read a lot about this site, and it comes highly recommended from many of my fellow bloggers.

3. Swagbucks: I LOVE Swagbucks! Seriously. It is sooooo easy. Just sign up at to get started. Basically, you are rewarded points for using Swagbucks as your search engine. Instead of using google or bing or any other search engine, use swagbucks instead. You get the same results. You can then cash in your points for prizes. I've cashed my points in for cash via paypal, for Starbucks gift cards, for gift cards, etc. It is just that easy. If you do sign up for Swagbucks, please be sure to use me as the person who referred you.

None of the above ideas will get you rich, but it is always nice to have a few extra dollars in your pocket. As I have earned cash and prizes from each of them, I have been saving it aside for Christmas gifts.

I will soon be doing a post on how to save money with online purchases. Since I am far too busy to shop my life away at Christmas time, I prefer to do much of it online. By combining promo codes, sales, and cash back sites you can get some pretty good deals. More to come soon...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cool new rebate!

Happy Friday, everyone!

I came a across a rebate that may interest some of you. If you purchase three 5 pound bags of potatoes, you can submit for a rebate to get one of them free (up to $5.00).

The small print reads that all three bags have to be the same brand, but can be purchased at different times between 10/1/09 and 11/16/09.

Follow this link for the rebate form:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Couponing 101

Many of you have been inspired to start couponing and have asked for some additional information. I will now step on my soapbox and give you my rundown on couponing.

Change in mindset:

If you are like most people, you purchase your grocery items as they need replenishment. This is the way I shopped for a long time. I had a list on the refrigerator and added items as I saw that they were getting low. I would then make my weekly trip to the grocery store and sometimes I would have a coupon for the items and sometimes I wouldn’t. Usually I ended up paying full price for my groceries since I needed them regardless of a sale price or corresponding coupon.

To save money on groceries, you MUST stock up on items when they are at their lowest price. My general rule of thumb is to purchase approximately six months worth of an item if I find it at rock bottom (lots of times free) prices. I would remind you to check out expiration dates on your purchases before you stock up though. You don’t want to buy six months worth of something only to realize that it all expires in a month’s time.

Sales on certain products are cyclical. For example, peanut butter is generally at its rock bottom price in late summer/early fall to correspond with back to school time. Summertime is when you will find commodities like bbq sauce and crackers at their rock bottom prices. After a while, you will get to know these cycles and be better able to judge how much you need to buy to tide you over to the next sale. As an example, I like to keep a lot of crackers on hand in my house. We eat them for snacks, we use them with cold cuts and cheese for a quick main course, etc. Before I began couponing and shopping sales, I would pay anywhere from $2.00 to $3.50 for a box of crackers. This summer when crackers were on sale and I had coupons for them as well, I was able to get all of our favorite crackers for free. We have been eating them for about five months, and we still have a pretty big stash of them in the pantry to last us several more months. That one example, probably saved my family roughly $30. Another example that comes to mind is toothpaste. Toothpaste is something that everybody needs. Before my mindset change, I thought nothing of paying $3 for a tube of toothpaste when we ran low. Now, with my new found knowledge, I wince at paying more than $.25 for toothpaste and would only do that in an extreme emergency since I regularly now get toothpaste for free.

Compiling a coupon stash:

Often times the best deals to be had come about by purchasing multiple quantities of a certain item. Also, if you find a great deal on something that your family regularly uses you’ll want to get more than just one.

Building up a coupon stash is easy and can be done using multiple resources. The first major coupon resource is the Sunday newspaper. Generally there are two to three inserts: Red Plum (RP) and Smart Source (SS). To get multiple copies of these inserts you either need to buy multiple Sunday papers or obtain the inserts from family/friends. I have three subscriptions to the Sunday paper. Each newspaper costs $2.00, so if I use more than that in coupons the paper pays for itself. The second major coupon resource is the internet (IP). There are many good coupon resources on the internet. One drawback of internet printable coupons is that they may not be accepted at all stores. Also each computer is usually only allowed to print two of each kind of coupon.

Coupon Storage/Organization:

There are many different schools of thought on the best way to store and organize all of these coupons you collect. The three most widely used are: 1. A coupon binder or 2. dating and filing whole inserts 3. a coupon organizer. There are pros and cons to both methods and you’ll need to experiment with what works for you.

A coupon binder is basically a plastic binder with clear baseball card holder or picture holder inserts. The supplies are not very expensive and can be found at most office supply stores. The biggest advantage to this method is that you can have all of your coupons with you when you shop. If you find an unadvertised deal, you can act on it. The biggest disadvantage to this method is the time it takes to clip and file all coupons. I personally use this method. The coupons in your binder should be organized in some fashion for quick access. Some people organize by category such as personal care, frozen goods, canned goods, cereal, etc. I organize mine in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

If you do not wish to spend the time clipping coupons and don’t want to lug a binder to the store with you, you may benefit from the insert filing method. Each Sunday you write the date on the front of the coupon inserts and file them in chronological order. You then clip the coupons as you use them. Most websites that match up grocery sales and coupons will tell you which insert contains the particular coupon that you need. There is also a helpful website that allows you to type in a product and then returns the location of any corresponding coupons. The drawback of this method is that you do not have extra coupons with you when you shop, so it is more difficult to take advantage of an unadvertised sale or clearance item.

A coupon organizer can also be used for coupon storage. I used this method when I first started couponing, but my stash eventually outgrew my organizer. These organizers are basically small accordion style folders. I’ve seen them at the dollar store, Wal-mart, online, etc. You still have to spend the time clipping coupons and they are not always easily found inside the organizer. The advantage is that they fit neatly in most purses so that you’ll always have your coupons with you.

Getting Started:

The best way to use coupons is to combine them with a sale price. I’ll give you an example of a deal that my grocery store had recently: Smithfield bacon is normally $4.99 per package. My local grocery store marked the price down to $3.00 per package. The Smithfield website had $3.00 off of one package of bacon coupons available. So with the sale price and coupon, I was able to get the bacon free. Other examples can get more complicated using sale prices, rebates, and double coupons. There are many websites that do your weekly coupon matchups for you. They take the time to review your store’s weekly sale flyer and find corresponding coupons and rebates. I like to use be centsable’s grocery gathering . They list coupon matchups for your local grocery stores as well as national chains such as Target, Wal-mart, Walgreens, etc.

There are many of you Minnesotans that reading this blog. I found several MN specific sites: and . Be sure to check out other reader’s comments too. Often times other shoppers share the great deals that they got so that you can get in on it too.

Where to shop:

I rarely ever do all of my shopping in one spot. I generally go to Walgreens and Wal-mart for my personal care items; and I frequent Albertson’s, Safeway, and Target for my grocery items.

I’m running out of steam so please let me know if you want more specific information on any certain area. My suggestion to getting started is to pick one deal and do it. Once you do this a few times, you’ll get the hang of things and feel confident enough to try more complicated deals.

Happy shopping!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Award!

Thanks Geri at Heart & Soul Cooking! Geri has been so kind in welcoming me to the blogging community. Please head over and check out some of her mouthwatering recipes.

I had toyed with the idea of starting a blog for quite a while and am glad that I finally did it. I have met some really great ladies and learned a lot from them. I love being part of such a neat community.

Neno's Award—-Rules and Regulations
1. As a dedication for those who love blogging and love to encourage friendships through blogging.
2. To seek the reasons why we all love blogging.
3. Put the award in one post as soon as you receive it.
4. Don’t forget to mention the person who gives you the award.
5. Answer the award’s question by writing the reason why you love blogging.
6. Tag and distribute the award to as many people as you like.
7. Don’t forget to notify the award receivers and put their links in your post.

I am passing this lovely award on to some fabulous blogs that you really must see:

Cara at

Alison at

Fried Rice

Barrett makes the BEST fried rice! He is graciously allowing me to share his recipe with you all. This is definitely a hit with our entire family.

8 mushrooms (shitake would be authentic but we usually use crimini because they're cheaper) finely chopped
3 tbsp oil (either peanut or evoo)
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced carrot
2 large cloves garlic minced
Pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
1 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger (Barrett tries to sneak in quadruple this amount, but the flavor is then too strong. Can you tell he loves ginger?)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 cups cooked rice (we use jasmine rice but you can use plain white or brown rice instead; we also cook our rice in chicken broth for extra flavor)
1 cup cooked meat diced (you can use pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, ham, etc. We generally use bbq pork from the deli section of the grocery store)
1/2 cup frozen peas defrosted (sounds like an oxymoron)

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Pour in eggs, swirl the pan so the egg forms a large thin pancake. Lift the edge of the egg to allow any uncooked egg to run to the center. As soon as the egg has set, turn it out of the pan onto a cutting board. Cool, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and heat the remaining oil over high heat. Add the scallions and carrots and stir fry for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, chile if using, and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute more. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil and rice and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the meat, peas and reserved egg, cook, stirring until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Can garnish with sesame seeds and scallion.

Note that the meat and vegetables used are suggestions for traditional fried rice, but you could use whatever you have on hand that needs to be used up. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As many of you know I started "couponing" last winter and haven't looked back since. It has saved my family soooo much money. With very little effort I have cut our monthly grocery bill by 2/3's. No kidding...

I've also tried to get many of you to join me. I can talk until I'm blue in the face, but a picture is worth a thousand words. So, I'm posting pictures of my shopping trips today along with my savings to try to inspire some of you to get on the couponing bandwagon.

I'm am MORE than happy to help anybody get started. If you are interested, send me an e-mail. I don't like to see my friends and family waste money by paying full price.

This weekend I plan to post an article regarding the "basics" of couponing. I'll also include links to some of my favorite sites.

Today I shopped at Wal-mart, Target, and Albertsons. Here is my loot:


My items were worth $80.49, but I paid $9.99 after coupons. That's 88% savings.

I bought: 3 Airwick I Motion Sensors, 2 Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereals, 3 Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, 4 Suave Shampoo/Conditioner, 2 Suave body wash, 3 Glade candles, 1 Glade reed diffuser, 4 Pull Ups baby wipes, 4 Reach Floss, 3 packages Schick disposable razors, 2 Hormel Completes meals, 1 Zantac, and 1 hand sanitizer.


My items were worth $20.25, but I only paid $2.27. That's 89% savings.

I bought: Palmolive dish soap, 4 Ronzoni Healthy Harvest pastas, 1 Skippy Peanut Butter, 1 bag Chex Mix, 2 Neosporin lip balms.


My items were worth $62.52, but I paid $15.56. That's 75% savings.

I got 2 Prego pasta sauces, 4 Marie Calendar frozen dinners, 1 box Kix cereal, 5 boxes fruit snacks, 1 Fiber One toaster pastry, 2 Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes, 1 Chex Mix, and 2 Yo Plus yogurt 4 packs.
You can do it too. It just takes a small amount of effort and some know how. Are you inspired?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Easy Freezer Inventory

Last year we purchased a chest freezer to replace our upright. I learned very quickly that one of the biggest drawbacks to the chest freezer is that you cannot visibly scan your freezer inventory.

Each week before I shop, I make a menu plan based on what I have on hand in the freezer. (More about my menu planning three column system in a later post.) With my upright freezer it was easy to open the door, choose a few items to use that week, and make up my menu. When we first bought the chest freezer, I found myself digging through the contents weekly no matter how hard I tried to keep them "organized".

Being the inventory accountant that I am, I knew that an ongoing listing of my freezer contents was necessary. How was I going to keep up my inventory ledger? One day while shopping at Wal-mart the answer hit me. I could use a magnetic whiteboard! My whiteboard cost me roughly $5.00, but has probably saved me that much in electricity since I don't have to have the freezer lid open to rummage around anymore.

The board is magnetized and stuck to the side of my freezer that is visible from my kitchen. Right next to the whiteboard is a magnetized eraser and marker. When I add/delete contents from my freezer I update the whiteboard list by erasing a line or adding another item at the bottom of the list. If I am feeling really ambitious I might even add the date that the item was placed into the freezer.

I am linking this post to Tammy's Recipe's Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Patch

We did our annual pumpkin patch visit this weekend. We went to Hoffman Farms near Canby and were very impressed. We've gone to the Pumpkin Patch on Sauvie Island before, but it took forever to get off of the island and we didn't like that. We've also gone to Bauman's Farms near Woodburn, but they charge a $10 admission per person, and that seems pretty steep for a pumpkin patch visit.

Hoffman Farms had everything we wanted and they did not disappoint. Brady's wish list item was a train ride. While they don't actually have a train, they have a tractor decorated to look like a train which pulls you around their acreage. Madeline's wish list item was animals. They had all kinds of animals from domestic to exotic. It was my first time ever seeing a live camel. They also had a tiger, lion, porcupine, alligator, donkeys, cows, horses, emus, alpacas, etc. There were several inflatable slides and bouncy houses for the kids to run off their energy. If you're in the Portland area, I would encourage you to check it out. You can purchase each activity separately or you can buy a $12 wristband for each kid. We definitely thought that the wristband was worth it as it allowed our kids to do the inflatables and "train ride" as frequently as they wished.

I also got some pumpkins to cook up and freeze. I'm looking forward to lots of yummy pumpkin treats and of course the roasted seeds. If anybody has a good recipe for pumpkin seeds, please let me know.

Smoked Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup

My family in Minnesota has a bunch of snow on the ground - and I'm jealous! I decided to pretend that we were having the same weather here in Portland and made a batch of Smoked Sausage, Kale and Potato Soup to warm me up.

This is a very simple recipe that can be made fairly quickly. The sausage really gives the soup a good flavor.


4 ounces smoked fully cooked sausage (such as kielbasa or hot links) sliced into rounds. I use the Hilshire Farms Kielbasa.
2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3/4 pound small red skinned potatoes, thinly sliced

1 cup dry white wine (may omit and use additional broth instead)

5 cups thinly sliced trimmed kale leaves (about 3/4 of medium bunch)

1/4 Tbsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed


Saute sausage slices over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes.

Add chicken broth, sliced potatoes and white wine and bring mixture to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

Add kale and caraway seeds to soup. Simmer soup uncovered until potatoes and kale are very tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: You can use any kind of greens you have on hand with this recipe. Tonight we used mustard greens, and thought that it was just as good as kale.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Turkey Pizza Burgers

Tonight I was in the mood for pizza, but we had turkey in the fridge so I combined the two. This recipe received a thumbs up from all four of us. My daughter, who has never ever taken more than one bite of any burger, ate HALF of hers. That is the highest honor a recipe can receive.

1 lb ground turkey ( I used extra lean ground turkey breast)
1/4 cup pizza sauce (you can use store bought or try out this recipe from my friend Cara's blog)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 Tsp Fennel Seed
Mozzarella Cheese shredded

Mix the turkey, pizza sauce, garlic, Italian seasoning, and fennel seed together. Divide the mixture into four patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.

I grilled my burgers on my George Foreman grill for eight minutes. You could also pan fry or broil your burgers until they reach 160 degrees.

After burgers are cooked top liberally with shredded mozzarella cheese and let rest for a few minutes.

We constructed our burgers on Orowheat sandwich rounds. They are thin, 100% whole wheat, only 100 calories and very yummy. They sort of have the appearance of a thicker pizza crust. I broiled the buns until they were toasted and then rubbed them with a garlic clove.

We topped the burgers with more pizza sauce, a bit of mayo, and some of our favorite pizza toppings: tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives.

This was a very fast, satisfying, delicious and healthy meal. It gave us so much energy that we went directly to the park afterwards to soak up the last hour of sunshine for today.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Morning Glory Muffins

I have had muffin baking on my to do list for over a week now. Tonight I decided to go for it. These morning glory muffins are a great way to start your day. They have fruit, vegetables, fiber, protein, and lots of other good stuff. The best part is that they are healthy AND they taste great!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 apple - peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup raisins
1 egg
2 egg whites
3/4 cup apple sauce
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, apple sauce and vanilla.
In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in carrots, apples and raisins. Stir in apple sauce mixture until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full. (The batter is very thick.)
In a small bowl, combine walnuts and wheat germ; sprinkle over the muffin tops.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Birthday Baby Blue

My big hearted daughter has taken it upon herself to make sure that every pet in our family has a birthday celebration . Earlier this year we had Tigger's one year birthday (Tigger is our cat) complete with cake, gifts, singing, etc.
Today Madeline and her grandmother arranged a very nice birthday party for Mollie's puppy, Baby Blue. Madeline worked very hard to paint a ceramic dog dish for Blue, which you can see in the picture below. The project took her over two hours to complete. It was such a thoughtful gift. She also made a very elaborate birthday card to go with the gift.

We had a nice dinner, followed by the presentation of gifts and cake, and then it was play time in the yard. I think that Blue had a good birthday.

Madeline and Brady Update

Madeline has now been in first grade for about a month and is loving it. I received an invitation to attend her school's assembly since she was to receive an award. She was the first student of the year in her class to do so. I was so proud of her. I'm such a sap - I totally cried watching her. I just cannot believe how grown up she is. When did that happen?

Anyway, the assembly was very cute. The award winners from each class were announced and then got to walk the red carpet. They were also seated in a special VIP section for the rest of the program. Here she is walking the red carpet, with her award, and also with her school's vice principal and counselor.

My little Brady has now been in preschool at the Sunshine School for three months. He is doing so well there! I cannot believe how much he has changed in such a short amount of time. Tonight they held an open house where you could meet the teachers, visit classrooms, see friends, etc. He was so proud to show us around. Of course our tour was fast since Brady doesn't believe in walking. Here are a couple of pictures of him showing us how he plays, with his teacher Mrs. Jaimie, and with his bff Tabor.

An Award

I have been awarded the prestigious "One Lovely Blog Award".

Thanks to Cara for the encouragement. If you haven't checked out her blog, you really must do so soon. She is a foodie, awesome mom, and all around great girl.

Now, I need to pass the torch to another blog. I'm weighing my options carefully. Stay tuned.

For those of you who want to know a little more about me: The answers are required to be one word.

1) Where is your cell phone? Purse

2) Your hair? Ugh

3) Your mother? Leader

4) Your father? Sincere

5) Your favorite food? Pizza

6) Your favorite drink? Water

7) Your dream last night? None (I believe you must have a certain amount of uninterrupted sleep in order to dream. Maybe when the kids are 18ish I'll get to that point again)

8) Your dream/goal? Happiness

9) What room are you in? Cubicle

10) Your hobby? Familytime

11) Your fear? Illness

12) Where do you want to be in 6 years? Here

13) Where were you last night? Gym

14) Something you aren't? Spontaneous

15) Muffins? No

16) Wish list item? Time

17) Where did you grow up? Minnesota

18) Last thing you did? Shopped

19) What are you wearing? Clothes

20) Your TV? Entertainment

21) Your pets? Tigger

22) Your friends? Loyal

23) Your mood? Content

24) Your life? Busy

25) Missing someone? Always

26) Vehicle? Oddysey

27) Something your not wearing? Jacket

28) Your favorite store? Kohls

29) Your favorite color? Pink

30) When was the last time you laughed? 12:30 PM

31) When was the last time you cried? Last week

32) Your best friend? Barrett

33) One place that I go over and over? Work

34) One person who emails me regularly? Terry

35) Favorite place to eat? Mom's

FREE Snow White DVD!!!!

I know that many of you have little girls who love the Disney princesses. I plan on upgrading Madeline's cassette and here's how I'm going to do it for FREE:

Both Toys R Us and Walmart have the DVD/Blu Ray combo pack for $19.99

Here is a coupon for $10 off (hover your mouse over the yellow $10 off coupon button to choose the coupon for the US). You can print this coupon twice per computer by hitting the back arrow on your browser a few times after the first coupon prints.

Submit for the $5 Hefty Rebate (this takes a while to come up on the screen)

You've just gotten yourself a free movie. This would make a great Christmas gift. As an additional bonus, Toys R Us also has a deal this week where you can get a free Snow White baking set with a $25 Disney Princess purchase. Since the DVD is $19.99, you'll also have to buy another princess item for $5.01 in order to get the baking set.
Now here's another freebie for the mommies: Go here and enter your information to get a free meat thermometer. No strings attached. Score!
(Thanks, It's Hip to Save!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Broccoli Beef, Fajitas, Crockpot Apple Cake

We have set a goal for ourselves to eat in more often. It will help keep our eating and spending habits healthy. I'm all in, but Barrett sometimes needs coaxing.

In order to make this adventure more fun for all of us we've started "restaurant nights". This is where one member of the family picks out what they would eat if we were going out that night. I then find a copycat recipe and try to recreate the restaurant meal - only a healthier version.

This weekend we visited a pizzeria, a Chinese "restaurant" and a Mexican "restaurant". Here are the recipes:

Pizza: Since the goal is health, I went with a whole wheat no rise crust that I saw on Sno White's blog. I also borrowed the pizza sauce recipe from my friend Cara's blog. The pizza dough recipe has a yield of two large pizzas. I made one large for Barrett and I, and then two smaller pizzas so that the kids could each top their own. We used turkey pepperoni, yellow peppers and mushrooms.

Chinese Broccoli Beef: This is a recipe that I adapted from allrecipes.


1 small onion sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
2 tablespoons white sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound boneless round steak, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger root
2 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chopped fresh broccoli

In a small bowl, combine flour, broth, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir until sugar and flour are dissolved.
In a large skillet or wok over high heat, cook and stir beef and onion 2 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Stir in broth mixture, ginger, garlic, and broccoli. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

I served this with steamed rice. To make my steamed rice more flavorful I use chicken stock instead of water.

My kids love to eat this meal (and most anything) with chopsticks. I ordered the cutest animal training chopsticks for them.

Fajitas: I won't give you a whole recipe for fajitas since it is rather straight forward, but I will give you my spice mix for taco/fajita seasoning. Once you use this, you'll never use one of those packets again!


1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
To prepare the meat filling for the tacos/fajitas : In large skillet, brown 1 pound ground beef, chicken, turky, shrimp, etc.
Add spices& seasoning and 2/3 cup water; mix thoroughly.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Crockpot Fat Free Apple Cake: Yummy! I again borrowed a recipe from Sno White. Follow her directions and enjoy! I love baking in the crockpot, what a novel idea. We set about our Sunday activities and then enjoyed this when we got home.

One last note. I read about a cute idea that I'll be trying with the kids soon. We will be making "menus" by cutting pictures out of the weekly grocery ads and pasting them onto construction paper. The menus can be further decorated to suit your childs creativity. The kids love to play chef to Barrett and I by "cooking" up goodies for us in their play kitchen. These menus will be perfect!

We had a free weekend!!

Wow, the weekend went fast. I was so happy to see this weekend arrive. It was the first one in quite a while where we had NO tournaments, birthday parties, other parties, practices, etc. It was all ours to do with as we wished. In usual Mandy fashion, I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish. I checked off about half of the items. The other half will have to wait for another time.

I had a really fun time with the kids on Saturday at the movies. This gave Barrett some peace and quiet in which to watch his football game. Madeline's school offers a package of 10 movie tickets for $7 for kids. The adults are admitted free when they accompany a child. The movies are second runs and the theater is an older one, but the kids don't care. I also like these kinds of kid fests because I feel less self conscious when Brady has an outburst or twenty during the movie. He was really into it and would yell things like "Oh no!" or "Why did they do that?" We saw Up and all really enjoyed it. This is by far and away the best cartoon movie I've seen yet and the kids wholeheartedly agreed.

We also did another one of our family's most favorite frugal weekend activities. We pack some treats and park near the airport runways to watch planes landing. I open the sunroof and the kids stand on the front seats, stick their heads out, and watch to their heart's content. This gives Barrett and I snuggle time in the backseat. :) If you live in the Portland area and haven't done this with your kids, I highly recommend it. Park either on Marine drive right by the runway or over near Cascade Station (Ikea). We feel like we see more planes on the Cascade Station side of the airport. Bring something to keep them occupied between planes since it can be a few minutes between.

Since Halloween is coming up soon, I've begun to think about costumes. Brady's is easy as he will be wearing the Batman costume that he refused to wear last year. He was too afraid of his costume to put it on. This year he cannot wait to wear it. Madeline has a few ideas for hers. She wanted to be a Christmas present or a cell phone. Both of which would be pretty easy to do. I'm thinking...get a box, cut arm and head holes and decorate appropriately. I'm sure we'll have fun putting it together. I'll post pictures of the in progress and final costume once we get to that stage.

If you need some great ideas for easy and cheap costumes, you MUST check out ! I love this website and magazine. There are so many great ideas here.