Tuesday, November 4, 2008

No question about it, the best toy at my house for the last 8 years (4 kids and MANY visitors) is ....

There are much newer, fancier versions available and we've put one on our Christmas list this year (hint, hint, Granna). I found the picture on a "toys of the 80s" page and I think I got ours at a garage sale for 3 bucks. The only issue is the choking hazard (uses marbles) but kids of all ages have been interested in it and it's a great lesson in teamwork, problem solving, and creativity. Marbleworks -- it works for me.

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Friday, October 31, 2008

I love this site!! You ought to check it out.

Angel Tree
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - kids clothes

Not only does this easy, peasy idea work for me, it has REVOLUTIONIZED our mornings around here. I have a first grade girl (plus three other kiddos) who has a great sense of style and color and appropriateness ... usually. :) To end the morning battle (and maximize our clothing wear), we use clothespins. Yes, it's almost rocket science. Every Sunday afternoon, chica and I choose outfits (7-10) and clip both hangers together with a clothespin. Every morning she gets to choose ANY of the clipped together outfits. No more struggles - she gets choices; I get my morning back (as well as the night before - we used to try the lay it out - took so much time and conflict - did NOT work for us - limited choices do!).

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - organize your kitchen with index cards

My very best and easiest kitchen organization tip is to ALWAYS make a weekly (if not monthly) menu (I actually do both and find this works great - the monthly is just suggestions based on things in the freezer and very flexible).

I use a 3 x 5 index card that I keep clipped to a basket on the counter in the middle of my kitchen counter. I write my menu on one side and a running grocery list on the other. When I go to the store I can slip it in by back pocket with my credit card because I always have 2 to 4 "helpers" with me. Having the menu with me helps me replace items I can't easily locate and/or know whether we'll really use any of the cool deals I find on the bakery clearance rack or elsewhere. I also always circle the things I HAVE to have in the next 2 days or so. Occasionally I forget things or have to make a quick exit due to my helper situation - helps to know what I had to have and make sure I get those items in the very least.

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - freezer cooking - pork

I am a freezer cooking fanatic - nothing consistently works better for lessening the stress and increasing the peace around here. Last time I posted, I shared chicken recipes. My new favorite thing to freeze, cook and eat is pork loin. It's almost too easy.
1. Wait for pork loin to go on sale (around here it goes as low as 1.88/lb. and is often 1.99/lb.) Buy a big one (or two).
2. Label four quart freezer bags (not generic) "pork steaks", "pork roast", "pork tacos" and "pulled pork sandwiches".
2. With an electric knife, Cut the pork loin in half lengthwise and then each of those in half (like little bricks - faux tenderloins). Continue cutting one of the bricks into thinish "chops". Place these in the "pork steaks" bag.
3. Brown remaining three 'bricks' in a pan. Cool and place one in each of the other bags.
4. Add your favorite BBQ sauce to the "pulled pork sandwiches" bag.
5. Mix together 1/3 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. lemon juice, 1/4 c. soy sauce and 2 T Worchestershire sauce. Pour into "pork steaks" bag.
6. Seal bags well (squeezing out extra air)
7. To cook:
"pork steaks" - grill, discard (or boil for sauce) marinade
"pork roast" - use like a beef roast in a crock pot with onion soup mix, a little water and potatoes and carrots
"pork tacos" - add pork, package of taco seasoning and about 3/4 c. water to crock pot. Cook on low all day, shred by cutting with kitchen shears and add water if necessary. Serve on tortillas with taco/fajita toppings.
"pulled pork sandwiches" - cook in crock pot all day on low. Shred by cutting with kitchen shears and add more BBQ sauce if necessary. Serve on buns with extra sauce if desired.

You don't freezer cook? Try it - you'll like it!
Have no idea where to start? You could try my method here. My last post was also freezer cooking tips.

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - favorite freezer friendly recipes

I am becoming a freezer cooking fanatic - it works for me! My favorite recipes are dump recipes (as in take a zip-loc, label it and dump in the meat (preferably raw or with minimal prep) and then something else. Seal it up and freeze.

Here are several of our favorite chicken recipes.

Chinese Chicken Morsels
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 cups)
1 cup long-grain, uncooked rice *

1/2 cup lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (opt.)

Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Mix marinade. Put chicken cubes and marinade in 1 gallon freezer bag. Freeze.

To serve, thaw and remove chicken from marinade. Bring marinade to boil in a small saucepan. Place chicken cubes about an inch apart on broiler pan treated with nonstick spray. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 7 minutes, brushing with marinade once. Turn chicken cubes and broil another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to package directions.

Lemon Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup white rice, cooked (store uncooked) *

Mix all the spices and juice in a 1-gallon freezer bag, add chicken and freeze.

To serve, thaw chicken mixture. Preheat oven to 450. Place chicken in a 8x8x2-inch baking dish, treated with nonstick spray. Pour liquid over chicken. Bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken over and baster it. Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Serve over rice, if desired.

You don't freezer cook? Try it - you'll like it!

Have no idea where to start? You could try my method here. My last post was also freezer cooking tips.

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Note - if you'd accessed this post previously and came back for my wonderful recipes. Somehow, with my wonderful computer skills, I deleted the recipes - I guessed at which ones I used - we like these.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - freezer cooking tips

I love to freezer cook because I can't handle cooking dinner during the dinner hour without it. Things are just too crazy around here at that time of day. If you're just trying it out or trying to perfect your method, here are some tips.

1. If you're short on space, try doing all things that will go in a zip-loc or buy the shallow disposable pans. It makes a big difference in how many entrees you can get in a small space.
2. NEVER skimp on zip-loc bags! NEVER try a generic or store brand or non-freezer bag! You might be okay, but why risk a huge mess and lost money and time?
3. Use a straw to suck out extra air in the bag (poor chick's vaccum sealer) - just be careful that you don't make yourself sick.
4. Use a bag of frozen onions instead of chopping onions (it's time, money and tear effecient).
5. Cut the amount of chopped onions in a recipe by at least half if you're going to freeze it.
6. You don't freezer cook - try it you'll like it!
Have no idea where to start? You could try my method here.

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - two great books (one is free)

I LOVE to read! I read mostly for entertainment's sake but love to find good books that are riveting (real "pageturners") but also enlightening and challenging. I have found two that fit in this category for me lately.

The first one:

The second one:

The One Factor

I don't think you could regret the time you took to read either of them.

Great books! Enlighten your mind - change the world! It works for me!

Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - clutter control/guilt control

This is a very simple solution that has made a very big difference in the clutter around our house. I love my children dearly but I don't love all of the stuff they bring in the house. I hate to see their sweet little faces frowning when they find their treasures in Mommy's trashcan (how did THAT get in THERE?). Enter the solution - "The pre-trash". It is a dishtub (ours is green and lives in the family hub - the laundry room). In it goes anything I find laying around that isn't obviously trash (if in question, it goes in the bucket). If one of the precious children are looking for their precious belonging or creation the next morning, I know exactly where to find it. Every few days I can clean it out and trash anything lingering free of Mommy guilt (best to do it after kiddos are in bed and then take it to the curb - out of site - out of mind).

Works for me! Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - feedin' a gaggle of young'uns

My motto for myself has become "write it down". This works well when we have friends over for lunch. With my 4, just adding 2 extras adds a lot to my overtaxed brain. There's no way I'll remember all the orders in the midst of my pleasant reminders to not abuse the furnishings or the younger children. So, I just grab a sharpie and a stack of paper plates and a stack of disposable cups. I write everyone's name and lunch order (I provide an extensive gourmet menu of ham or PB &J - grape or strawberry) on the plate and name and drink order (the caffeine is ONLY for me) on the cup. Then I can spend my "free time" making sandwiches at a sane pace. Way better than having the advancing horde lined up at the kitchen island shouting out their "requests".

Works for me! Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Check this out! You'll like it!

You can also go here and leave your link for a chance to win some great music!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - "part of the solution"

Happy Summer!
What works for me is a mindset. Last summer I did tons of things just to keep everyone busy. We had a lot of fun but it just added to the number of things in my day. This summer we're still going to have fun but I'm going to focus on seeing my kids as part of the solution (to managing our family) and not part of the problem (making my busy days even busier). Hopefully, we can have a lot of quality time together this way and help them gain some new skills. My big kids (6 and 8 year olds) are going to do(and are excited about helping me with - some things more than others):
- couponing
- menu planning (weekly and "party")
- grocery shopping (produce picking, price comparison, etc.)
- freezer cooking
- meal serving (table arrangement, centerpieces, "presentation")
- gardening (planting, weeding, watering)
- painting an outdoor shed
- organizing cabinets and drawers
- little kid supervision
- preschool skills for little ones
- home speech program for 3 year old (they are amazing at this)

I'm planning to give choices and lots of rewards. I haven't fully implemented it yet but already it's made a huge difference in my attitude. I'm excited about what we can accomplish as a team AND the fun we're going to have!

Works for me! Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - scrapbooking with no time and littles underfoot

What works for me is getting the kids' baby scrapbooks done. I've moved on to digital scrapbooks for our new ones but definitely want to finish what I've started (the cute little toddler in the pic is not my current cute little toddler, that's my almost 1st grader). Plus, I think the lack of a baby book is how one of my sisters convinced the other that we'd ordered her from "Feed the Children". :) I don't have any extended time to get it done and if I would set it out on the dining room table my helpers would come along and artfully re-arrange it all. So, I hung (OK, begged my husband to hang) a magnetic whiteboard (walmart - $15) in a corner of my bedroom wtih a folding table and used my IKEA magnets ($1/set of 4-6). I use little snippets of time to work on a spread and get it exactly how I want it and then just another little snippet of time to glue it down. I'm using the same "snippet of time" strategy to get the digital one going.

Works for me! Head on back over to ROCKS IN MY DRYER for oodles of ideas!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - toys

Hi! With 4 kiddos and lots of loving family, we have LOTS of toys around here. And LOTS of our toys and games have LOTS of little pieces. When we're cleaning up the playroom or when I try to end up in the ER by stepping on one of those many little pieces, we send the lost and lonely pieces to the Lost and Lonely Toy Club.

Old Pop-up wipe containers with the pop top pulled off work best. You can deposit a piece without opening the lid and it doesn't easily spill when dropped. When it's full, pieces must be put away or trashed. It's definitely not rocket science but it Works for me!

Head on over to Shannon at Rocks In My Dryer for more great tips!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - getting kids to pick up their stuff

My best tip this week is called the "10 item pick-up". I've learned that the best way to get kids (or even me) to do the right thing (like pick up their own belongings) is to make it easier than doing it the wrong way (like dumping them wherever). Around our house if you leave out your belongings, like a backpack, I just say "Bubby, Backpack plus 10". He then has to pick up the backpack and put it where it goes and then pick up 10 other items that are out of place and put them where they go. I've also used this for potty flushing ("Flush plus 10") and a friend has adapted it for thumb sucking in a 1st grader - says it's worked great! It's easy to say it in a calm pleasant tone and not nag, because, hey, that's 10 fewer times I have to bend over and pick something up (it is best to keep the glee out of your voice). (If it takes too long to get started - it goes to 20). It works for me! For more great ideas go on back to Rocks in My Dryer!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Day in the Life (VERY LONG, but, hey, sometimes the days are long)

Cast of characters-
Dad (dad)
Bubby (8 year old boy, 2nd grade)
Boo (6 year old girl, kindergarten)
Buddy Buddy (3 year old boy)
Bear (2 year old girl)

Early morning—
Have to convince Boo that her classmates and teacher will still recognize her even though she lost a tooth last night (the other tooth is VERY wiggly – screams when I get my fingers within 5 inches of her face).

Mid morning –
I thought I was losing my mind. I opened a Diet Coke, set it on the counter, and then the phone rang. Then I changed a diaper and wanted my coke. Couldn't find it ANYWHERE! Finally I gave up, thought maybe I had just begun dreaming of Diet Cokes - time to quit! I'm a real addict. And then I found it, well not the can, that's still MIA, but my liquid energy has been located - in Bear's sippy cup. So, maybe I'm not an addict after all. Later, using my super sleuth skills and interrogation skills, I deduce that the dynamic duo worked together and took my coke. I think they recycled the can though. See, I am a good mom.

Lunchtime – Convince Buddy Buddy not to run around with the laundry buckets on his head or get mad at his sister when she won’t push him in her doll stroller.

Naptime –

Do some research for the new adoption/foster care/orphan support ministry we’d like to get going at church. Read a very inspiring article.http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/072207dnmetfoster.210016b.html. Read some more of Dr. Laura’s book Stop Whining, Start Living (I like it.)

Receive call from elementary school that Boo is in the nurse’s office for the fourth time today. Her wiggly tooth was bleeding again and “was concerned about it” (nurse’s words). I imagine she was actually freaking out. The nurse tried to pull it but couldn’t get in her mouth (BTDT). It’s stopped bleeding and they sent her back to class calmed down. I don’t need to pick her up early. (Hooray!)

Early afternoon – Find Bubby IN the recycling bin (it’s one of those large trashcans you roll out to the street). He said he was “creating”. This is what he came up with.

It looks strangely reminiscent of the beer guzzling caps at the ballpark. Makes a momma proud!

Late afternoon -
Bubby (dressed in knight costume)-- “Hey Boo, pretend that I can shoot lightning bolts through my fingertips!”
Boo(dressed in Ariel costume)-- “Pretend that I’m a beautiful princess and you want to marry me and this is the ring- Pretend that it’s raining and you give me your cape to use as an umbrella. Pretend that I’m a beautiful mermaid and I can swim like this and jump out of the water - Remember when you were pretending that you were a knight and were trying to kill me and I was a beautiful princess, mom’s writing that all down. (Now she finally takes a breath)
Bubby --Nuh, uh!

Dinner –

Dad’s going to be home a little later due to an emergency Home Depot run. To tide over little appetites and continue my crusade for everyone to eat healthier, I peel and slice a cucumber and announce it “Hors d'oeuvres”.

After I’ve patted myself on the back and then picked up the little pieces of cucumber from all over the den floor, I return to dinner prep.

At dinner B. Boo takes a bite of chicken, forgetting that she hadn’t used her front teeth in weeks, and the tooth comes out. We try to get her to swallow the bite she has in her mouth now because it’s about to bleed. No luck! To the bathroom we go. As soon as she’s back at the table, with her tooth safely inside her purple plastic tooth treasure chest the school nurse gave her today, I see Bear out of the corner of my eye. In my mother voice I say “Please don’t put Chicken in your nose” without even thinking. We take the chicken from her. A few minutes later dad says “What’s in her nose?” “Uh, oh”, says Buddy Buddy (he’s not much of a talker but is very perceptive). Yep, it’s the chicken. I begin the search for the elusive baby nose sucker (she 2, haven’t used it in over a year), while dad tries to convince her to blow her nose really hard. Finally the nose sucker is found and 2 small pieces of chicken (each the size of one of her fingernails) are retrieved from her nose. Hooray for dad!!

Sorry we didn’t take a picture of the nose, just the gums.
Amazingly enough, my food was a little cool when I began to eat. That’s why God made microwaves.

Sing a little Jesus Loves Me, spread a few blankets, give a few kisses and thank God for our many blessings.

Hurry to spend some time with dad and get to bed. Tomorrow will come early and most likely be as busy as today, put probably not as entertaining.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - perfect drawer organization

We love to eat fruit around here and I've begun using the berry (and grape tomatoes) containers for drawer dividers in "junk drawers", office supplies and make-up. They're much deeper than bought drawer organizers and allow me to see everything. I put a sheet of textured shelf paper under the containers (so they don't slide around) or make sure the drawer is filled and things stay exactly where I put them - unless one of my helpers gives them a new home. The big container is from some bakery brownies. That works for me too! Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - taking meds correctly

With 4 kiddos we have our share of prescription medications around here. To make sure we take it correctly (and dad and I or Granna communicate on who got what when), when I get home with the medicine I get out the masking tape. One piece goes all the way around the medicine bottle and I write the days it needs to be taken with lines to check off when given (2x a day would look like Mon __ __ T __ __, etc. starting on the day we began for the right number of days). Another piece goes right on the medicine syringe at the correct level (i.e. right at the 1/2 t. mark, etc.) with the child's name. I also use a piece of tape to write in big letters FRIDGE or WITH FOOD so we don't forget. Making sure we take all our meds used to be a huge headache around here but this has been fabulous for us. It Works For Me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Works-for-me-Wed. - perfect freezer cooking

For my debut on Works-for-me-Wednesday (so hopefully I did it right), I'd like to share my perfect freezer cooking plan. (See entry below) Enjoy! I'd love to help anyone who has questions. This has been such a blessing for us!
P.S. I LOVE all the great ideas I get from WFMW! Thanks!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Perfect way to 'freezer cook' (well, at least for me)

I've been experimenting with freezer cooking (aka OAMC) on and off for about 6 years. A year and a half ago we began the process to adopt from Russia and anticipated 2 or 3 trips to Russia and a difficult adjustment when we got home (we already had 3 kiddos - 7, 5, and 1). I took the waiting time to buy every freezer cooking book (I now own 9, I've read 5 others) I could find and find the best way to do it. I researched cooking co-ops, "BIG cooks", 'dinner station' type places, just cooking extra to build up a stock of food, dinner swaps, "make a mix" etc.

My goals were to:
1. save time AND money (sometimes hard to do both at the same time) and
2. serve things my kids (esp. my 8 year old who claims he doesn't like casseroles or sauces - we're working on it) AND my husband would eat (also difficult to do both).

My results:
1. In my ever so humble opinion, the best cookbook out there is the original (updated, though) -
"Once a Month Cooking" by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. Of the 4 dozen or so recipes we've tried we like about 3 1/2 dozen enough to do again. They are a good mix of dad and kid friendly (not gourmet but not stuff I could have just thrown together).
2. I don't find their method efficient enough. I think it takes more time and more money than necessary.

My method:
1. Find my own recipes (mostly through the OAMC book) and cut and paste to put together my own cookbook, sorted by the type of meat and meat preparation it calls for. Ground beef (raw), then ground beef cooked with onions, ground beef browned with taco seasoning, then chicken tenders (raw), etc. Meatless dishes are categorized by their most expensive ingredient.
2. Watch rock-bottom price meat sales. About twice a month pick recipes using that cheap meat (or meats). I use this order:

1. pick recipes (if I KNOW we like it, I often double a recipe)
2. buy meat
3. come home, prepare the meat (brown, slice, etc.) and put in labeled non-generic zip-locs (a few exceptions go in a casserole dish) with name, where to find recipe, cooking instructions, "go withs" I might forget and ingredients needed to serve the dish (starred in big letters on the bag). Sharpies are your friends.
4. keep things refrigerated as much as possible.

I can do all of this in an easy afternoon then (usually the next day) I
5. using the recipes, find all canned goods and fridge items needed to make all the recipes (I put all the fridge items in a dish tub in the fridge) and make a list of all the items I do not have in my pantry (leave the others on the counter - make sure you have enough for all the recipes you want to do)
6. Shop WalMart or your cheapest store (I coupon shop separately so often have most of what I need stockpiled).
7. Finish the recipes (keeping meat refrigerated as much as possible)
8. Refrigerate until cold then freeze flat a few at a time (you can then "file" them like files in your freezer, standing up on end)
9. VERY IMPORTANT - put them on your meal calendars - I print these http://www.organizedhome.com/printable-monthly-menus in pencil. I freely swap throughout the month but keep track. We try to schedule to eat everything within 2 months. If you did all chicken dishes just do about every third day and fill in the rest of the month when you do pork loin (my fave), ground beef, etc. next time (watch the repetition and put things out as far as you need to to keep a good variety).
10. The first two months may be a little rough but then it's heavenly. :)

Later I will try to post my best tips and favorite recipes. Now I'm on to tweaking my laundry system.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The first one

Um, hi...I'm new here...(sigh) (looking at ground, shuffling feet).

I've been watching friends play with this cool 'blog' thing and really enjoying reading some really good ones. I told myself that if the laundry was done today (it is) and dinner was planned (it is - Lemon Chicken and veggies) I would give it a try. Not one to read the instructions before I use a product, I'm sure I'll learn as I go (right? That always works, doesn't it?). I'm a stay home mom with 4 adorable children. I can say that because 2 are sleeping and 2 are still in the care of the local public school. I'm seeking to win the battle against the clutter and chaos that is our life and enjoy every minute of the kids when they're little. I get a lot of "wow, you have your hands full" but I'd really like to adopt more. My husband and some of my friends think I'm insane (maybe those are just my real friends and the others are just contemplating an intervention). You could blog from the "inside", couldn't you? Okay, see you tomorrow, my new blog, it's CARPOOL TIME!