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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As Close As It Gets

I love, love, LOVE the salad that they have at The Olive Garden. When I was pregnant with Becca I used to crave the salad there. The price just isn't always right for eating out there so I had to make do with my once yearly visits.

That is, until my older brother managed to make a replica that tastes pretty much the same. It is delicious and everyone in this family gobbles down a huge bowl of it faster than thought possible.

Place one bag of salad in large bowl. Add sliced onions (purple work best). Add pickled banana peppers and olives (we don't like black olives so substitute green in their place), adding a bit of juice from each jar into the salad. Toss. Add in croutons and Italian dressing. Toss again. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

I think I may have to run out to get some salad mix as I'm craving this for lunch now!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Two matching pairs of mittens.

I brought our hats and mittens out of storage last week to wash and dry them. It's been cold here for awhile but my children will not wear hats or mittens unless it is totally freezing outside or if they plan to play in the snow (which we have not received yet, knock on wood). It's pretty good weather around here if we aren't wearing hats or mittens yet at the very end of November.

I seemed to have gotten off track. My point is that when I pulled the hats and mittens out I realized that neither boy has a matching pair of mittens/gloves. Mittens are like socks in this house...they seem to just disappear. I don't know how it happens because I even have a good system in storing our winter outerwear (stay tuned for this exciting storage solution...or, uhm...don't, as it isn't really that exciting but I'll show it to you anyway!).

Mittens are now on my shopping list. Let's just hope we don't have to use them for awhile yet.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


My mother-in-law is the queen of leftovers. She saves most of everything leftover and sticks it in the fridge for later use. I have a lot to learn from that as I always give everything less than a serving to the dogs. Lazy and wasteful on my part.

My in laws were here for a visit this past week. After they left on Wednesday I was busy preparing Thanksgiving goodies for the next day and didn't feel like cooking much of anything else. When lunch time arrived I looked in the refrigerator and felt a bit overwhelmed seeing all the bits and pieces of food that my mother-in-law had put away. Not ungrateful, mind you, as it was a lot of food and worth saving. I just didn't know what to do with it all.

There was leftover cooked ground beef from the tacos, along with diced onions and shredded cheese. On the counter was a tomato that needed using up sooner rather than later. I looked in the cupboards and saw some whole wheat tortillas and decided to make a breakfast burrito.

I sauteed the onion and tomato in some butter and threw the ground beef in right before it was done. I put that into a bowl and scrambled up some eggs in the same skillet that I had sauteed the onion mixture. I threw the onion mixture back into the eggs when they were finished and sprinkled some cheese over it all. I then put it into the tortilla and folded it up.

We all enjoyed it this way. There was a bit of the egg mixture left in the skillet so I ate the rest of it as I would eat scrambled eggs...with a bit of ketchup on it. Yummy!

This is teaching me to save all those little scraps. It reduces food waste and also makes the grocery bill lighter. Sorry doggies...you'll have to look elsewhere for leftovers now!

Following: Penniless Parenting

Friday, November 26, 2010

Raise Your Hand if You're Insane!

Did you go shopping this morning? You better have your hand up in the air then!

Seriously, I was crazy enough to think that if I arrived a few minutes after 5am to Walmart that I would be able to get my hands on that $198 laptop. I got up at 4:40am, threw my clothes on, and realized that I had woken Joe up. Not wanting Ben to have to deal with a crabby, sleepy toddler so early in the morning when he had to leave for work in a few hours I made a quick decision about bringing Joe along. I threw some shoes and a coat over his pjs. I then proceeded to pick my younger sister and brother up from down the street and we arrived at Walmart right about 5am, which was opening time (we do not have a 24 hour Walmart).

Right away I knew that we were in trouble when I saw the parking lot filled, along with cars parked alongside the road and in adjoining store parking lots. Uh-oh. I drove around looking for a place to park and decided to drop my siblings off at the door so that they could look for the laptop. I found a parking spot soon after and ran into the store with Joe. Immediately I saw a line of people waiting to checkout which stretched from the front of the store to the back. In less than 10 minutes these people had grabbed cart fulls of things and were ready to checkout. Wow!

After asking several sales associated I found out that the laptops were already gone...all in less than 10 minutes. I have an inkling that maybe there were only a few laptops in the store to begin with. Onto the $2.97 hand mixer (I rarely use a hand mixer but figured that for less than $3 I could store it for those rare occasions). Nope, those were sold out too. The only other things I was interested in were the $1.97 movies. The checkout line was wrapped around those displays and those people would not budge from their spot. Besides, would I want to stand in a LONG line just to purchase a few movies? I called it quits and left for home without buying a thing.

I did go back around 11am just to get some movies and there were still several fairly decent ones left. I think I purchased 12 movies and the majority of them will be hidden away for Christmas gifts. Luckily, by this time, the store was 1/4 as crowded as it was early this morning.

I will never try to go Black Friday shopping early in the morning again. The hoards of people, all crabby and mean, was insane. Watching carts being filled with immense amounts of stuff and being pushed into others was sickening. No one was polite or nice or merry. My younger siblings (age 17 and 14) felt sick watching this hoopla as well. We were all happy to get out of the store and breathe some fresh air.

The thing is, a lot of Black Friday sales aren't even good deals, unless you were specifically going to buy that item beforehand. The prices are cheap, yes, but so is much of the stuff. I saw people throwing toys into their carts on impulse just because the prices were low. If you spend $100 on things that you had no intention of getting in the first place, are you really saving money?

Christmas HAS become too commercialized and the sheer amount of materialism is deranged. Cheap junk goes into the cart to be wrapped and handed out and forgotten at the bottom of the toy box or high on the shelf just a few days after Christmas. I can't say that I haven't fallen into that "buy, buy, buy" mentality before. I hope that this year will be different. We are doing Christmas a bit differently in this house this year (more on that later) so maybe that is partly why I found this morning, watching all the shoppers, to be disgusting. At this point, any Christmas shopping that I will be doing will be online or at small family shops.

So come clean, how many of you went shopping this morning? Did what you find make it worth the madness?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

*I am thankful for my wonderful husband of close to 10 years. He comes home to us, his family, every night. He supports us so that I can be a stay-at-home mom and gets up every morning to go into work without complaint. He works overtime and is on call and yet still manages to come home and help me with dishes or taking care of our kiddos.

*I am thankful to have three very happy and healthy children. Though hyper and stubborn at times they are loving and caring as well. Becoming a mother is the greatest miracle that life has to offer. I am thankful to be able to watch them grow and mature and become wonderful people.

*I am thankful to have such a large extended family and a group of friends that are there for both the laughter as well as the tears.

*I am thankful for our freedom, and especially thankful to those who have or are fighting for our freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech. The freedom to be who we are.

*I am thankful to have a warm, comfortable house. Food on the table. A house filled with love.

What more could a person ask for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Box Full of Savings

Would you pay $15.70 for this complete outfit?
How about this one?

Are these adorable outfits worth $15.70?

Or these?

Each of these pieces cost well over $15.70 each when bought new. Brands such as Gymboree, Naartjie, Mini Boden, Hanna Anderrson, Gap, and Land's End all are fairly expensive. So each of these photo groups are worth $15.70, even when bought second hand.
I didn't pay $15.70 for each photo group though. I paid $15.70 for everything shown above. How? By using ThredUp, where you can swap your children's outgrown clothing for items that will fit your child. I have written about ThredUp before here and can't sing enough praises about it. You pay just $15.70 (which is $5 plus the cost of shipping) to pick a box. Most people stuff those boxes quite full, and by rolling the clothing you can fit a whole lot more in each box. Everything seen above was from one medium size postal priority flat rate box. It was the best box I have received thus far and just goes to show how awesome this service is. The pictures above do not give the clothing justice.
I've traded over 8 boxes of my own children's outgrown clothing and have picked just as many and have not been disappointed yet. This is not a paid or sponsored post from ThredUp, I just enjoy their service so much I have to share (yet again!). If you are thinking about joining you can click on the square box over here-----------> and sign up through that link to get two months free PRO membership.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Looks Like

She's enjoying her toy.
Maybe a little too much.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simple and Satisfying

I've enjoyed a good pot of baked beans with bacon and a skillet of cornbread ever since I could remember. It's a very simple meal but also very satisfying. For me it defines "comfort food".

I love my Grandma's cornbread recipe. I had stopped making it for awhile and started using the Jiffy boxed cornbread mix but tried the homemade cornbread again last week and we all raved over it. Maybe it tasted better because I knew it was my Grandma's recipe, or the fact that Joe helped make it with me. Maybe it was the dabs of butter and the dribbles of maple syrup. Whatever it was, I don't think I will be going back to the boxed mix.

Grandma's Cornbread

Combine in bowl: 2 cups cornmeal

2 cups flour

4 T. sugar

8 t. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Stir in: 2 cups milk

2 eggs

1/2 c. vegetable shortening

Beat until fairly smooth, 1 minute. Pour into a 9x13 pan or two 8x8 pans. Bake at 425 degrees 20 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched with fingertips.

*Note: I half this recipe and bake it in a skillet that was greased with bacon grease, it adds a delicious touch.*

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Stocking Up

I've made it my goal to pick up the loss leader items at the grocery store each week and to stock up on them whenever possible (often times when a price is really good there will be a limit on the number of items you can purchase).

Yesterday was the beginning of a two day sale at our local grocery store. After running some errands I stopped in to take advantage of the sale. I was able to get this:

for $34.04. The potatoes were on sale for 68 cents for a 5 lb. bag so I purchased 2 (the limit). The cream of mushroom/chicken was on sale for 50 cents so I purchased 4 (again, the limit). The 93% ground beef was on sale for $1.88 lb. when purchased in a 10 lb. tube. I paid $18.10 for that and divided them up into ziplock bags to go into the freezer. The sugar was on sale for 97 cents for a 5 lb. bag so I got the limit of 1. I also found large specialty salads that are usually marked $4.99 for 99 cents each and bought the last two. Along with some ziplock bags, chips, bologna, and three little treats for the kids.

I will continue to stock up on the loss leaders each week and am trying to keep a fully stocked pantry.

I have to go back to the grocery store as my in-laws are arriving later today from out of state to visit a few days so I need to stock up on groceries. I hope to grab a few more bags of potatoes and another bag of sugar while I am there.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It Pays to Complain

The old adage "the customer is always right" still rings true, for the most part. Companies want to hear feedback from their customers and see in what areas they are doing good and in what areas they need to work on.

Years ago if there was a product or store that I had issues with I stopped frequenting that store whenever possible or halted buying a particular product. Then I bought a computer and had access to the wonderful thing we call the internet. Having the internet at your fingertips makes it so easy, as well as free, to research companies and get their e-mail information. No writing out handwritten complaints or wasting money on a stamp. Just write a few sentences and send it off for free. Or better yet, fill out the simple forms on their own website.

90% of the time that I have had a complaint I have received a message back from the company, and a lot of the time they will even send a refund or free coupons for another of their products. It is a way for a company to know that something wasn't satisfactory as well as a way for them to make it right for the customer.

For example, we had an issue with a box of diapers a few years ago. Half the tabs on the diapers would fall off when we went to put the diaper on. Instead of throwing out the whole package and calling it a loss I contacted the company, who sent a mailer to mail back some of the diapers for product testing. They also sent a coupon for a free package of diapers as well as some high value coupons. Another time I was using some facial cleansing puff pads but several of the pads had a rough, sharp edge that actually cut my face. I wrote the company to let them know and they had me send back some of the pads and sent several free coupons for their products. The list goes on...

This is not to say that one should send false complaints just to get free things or refunds that they do not deserve. In fact, one should not expect anything in return. Complaining about a product that is not up to par does not automatically net you freebies, but is a public service to let those companies know that something isn't right. An apology or explanation of their products is enough, but those free will offerings are an added bonus. Only complain if there is something truly to complain about.

It is better to write a company and get things off your chest than to boycott them without letting them set things right first.

Complaints aren't the only things that pay off...compliments do as well. If something is my all-time favorite product or I found a new product that I absolutely adore, I write the company to let them know that. Often times they are thrilled beyond belief to hear a compliment (I assume that the complaints far outweigh the compliments...who thinks to send a thank you note to a company?!) and will in turn send a coupon or two to their valued customer. One time I received a box of goodies from a company just for telling them how much I liked their stuff! :)

Keep this in mind the next time you have a complaint or a compliment...they truly do want to hear from you!

Following Life As Mom

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Is what I find
When I download
My pictures from my camera

He is caught redhanded

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free For All

I've written before about Freecycle and about being a trash picker but I thought I would reiterate it again.

I do not think that everything that is free is worth taking, mind you. I pass by about 98% of free things that I run across. A lot of times, another person's junk is really, well, junk. And yet, there really are good things to be found. Why pay for something when it can possibly be found for free?

Take these, for example:

Last week this unopened box of 64 size 4 Pampers diapers was being given away on Freecycle. My son wears size 4 and luckily I was the first to respond so got them! I checked at Walmart and these are $20! I was able to get something that I need (well, I don't need them, my son does), that I would have bought anyway (though we use cloth diapers we also use disposables...it's about a 50/50 with the two), for free! This lady also offered to drop it off at a family business here in town for quicker pickup. This was a shop that we frequent anyway so there wasn't even a hassle of pickup.

There are Freecycle groups all over the country. If our tiny county has one than I'm sure there is one around you. It's free to sign up and use and all you do is receive e-mails when someone in the group lists a free item. If it is something you are interested in you just e-mail them back and then set up a time to pick the item up. I love this group more for giving away than for getting as we have listed numerous things (scrap metal, old washing machines and couches, toys, box of pots and pans, chairs, and more) and just set the items out on the curb and they were all taken. It's a wonderful way to get rid of items that you no longer need and that others could use as well as keep these items from the landfill.

This is not a paid or sponsored review. I just love Freecycle so much and had to share again of my good deals!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Right Now...

...the two oldest are at Tae Kwon Do with daddy and Joe is watching Curious George. I should be cooking supper right now but we had such a late snack today that I'm not hungry and therefore sitting at the computer instead.

...I'm freezing. I keep turning the heat up but still don't feel warm. It's technically been warmer than average the past few days but I have felt colder than average.

...I'm probably feeling cold because I've been feeling sick the past several days. Something has been going around town (and the extended family). The sore throat is a pain (literally!) but it is the extreme tiredness that is hard to deal with. Hence my lack of blog action as of late.

...my house is in one of the worst states it has ever been in and I have just a few days to prepare for a visit from the in-laws. I did get all the clean laundry put away today, isn't that enough?! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Basic Oatmeal Cookies

Beat with wire whisk: 2 eggs
Beat in: 1 cup oil
Beat in: 1 cup sugar
1 t. soda
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Stir in: 1 1/2 c. flour
3 c. oats
Drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes @ 350 degrees.
Additions you may want to add: coconut, chocolate chips, raisins, or nuts.

This is one of our favorite basic cookies. They are oh so easy to make and with additions you can make several types of cookies. Our favorite is to add chocolate chips and coconut (like the above photo).

I found this recipe in one of my all time favorite cookbooks "Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's" by Rita Van Amber. There are several books in this series (I have four of them) but the first volume continues to be my favorite.

The recipes are simple and don't call for odd or expensive ingredients. When I need frugal meals these are the first cookbooks that I turn to. Included throughout the book are stories about growing up during the Great Depression and how people survived. History and cookbook all in one!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tie One on for Size

The kids had their testing for new Tae Kwon Do belts on Tuesday.
On Thursday we attended the ceremony and watched the children get their white with orange striped belts. This is their third belt and they are doing great in class.
It was bittersweet watching the ceremony as I couldn't help but think about my Grandma throughout it. My Grandma was so excited when she heard that the kids were taking Tae Kwon Do classes and would ask them about their class and what they learned each time we saw her.
She once even asked "I wonder if a 82 year old woman could take those classes?" Believe me, she would have tried too, as she was up for anything!
I had planned on inviting her to come with us to class to watch the kids some time, once she was feeling better after the radiation. She never got that chance.
But maybe she did get to see that ceremony on Thursday. :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Have a Little Faith

The most important thing in my Grandma's life was her faith. She was a very devout Catholic and never strayed from her convictions. While I learned almost everything about my faith from her during her life, it was her death that taught me the most.

It was the peace that she had during the Last Rites. The look of pure joy as she accepted her last Holy Communion. Her grace. Her kindness. Her selflessness. She was a living example of what being Christ-like means.

She didn't just touch me with her faith, but also my husband. It was with some of her guidance (as well as a fabulous Priest) that my husband became a convert in 2004. I can't recall if she is was his Godmother but she was both there for his Baptism as well as both his and my Confirmation (and I do recall that she was my sponsor). Her love of the Latin Mass is what brought my husband to the Church, as we started to attend those masses and that is what lead us to that fabulous Priest. Even after moving to another town we continued to travel to the Latin masses, though in the last year stopped going as frequently. As a matter of fact, my husband stopped going to church altogether, except on special holidays. Her death, along with her beautiful funeral, has brought him back to the faith. For that I will be forever eternally grateful.

I have to admit that I had become a fairly lukewarm Catholic these past few years. Neither hot nor cold but rather just going through the motions. My Grandma would always speak to me about religion when I visited and said several things that made me think, but that I never really got until she was gone. While watching her receive her Last Rites last Sunday I finally got it.

My Grandma's life's work reminds me of the quote by St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel Always; When Necessary, Use Words." She preached by example and taught by her actions. Don't get me wrong, she was a strong willed woman and would speak about her religion whenever she got a chance, but she lived by her words. There was never an attitude of 'Do as I say, not as I do' which you see all too often in the Christian community.

Let me just say that I have learned more in this past week about my true faith than I have the rest of my 28 years of life. And I can thank my dear Grandma for that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Queen of Frugal

If I ever questioned where I got my frugal genes I wouldn't have to look too far to figure it out. While my mom is a coupon queen and does wonders with shopping and combining coupons with sale items she will be the first to admit that she isn't always frugal in other areas. Some of it comes from my dad, I know. I used to laugh when he would tell us to close the door 'because we aren't heating the outside' or continually turn down the thermostat when he noticed my mom turning it up. I now find myself doing the same. I definitely got some of my thriftiness from him.

I got most of it from my Grandma though. She truly was the queen of frugal. She went from a fairly comfortable financial family to a poor one. That didn't faze her and she was able to make a comfortable home from almost nothing. My Grandpa was a veteran of WWII and unfortunately as the men returned home from war they weren't able to find good work or were treated without much respect in the jobs they were able to find; especially the ones who were still dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (which was not a diagnosis back then). Dealing with job losses, job switches, and injuries during the first few years of their marriage, along with a couple babies in just a couple years must have put a big strain on them but my Grandma managed. She wasn't the type to let things get her down for long.

She had 10 children in 17 years time. This was in a day and age when there were no such things as garage sales and consignment shops. She made many of their clothes and patched and mended to make things last so that several children could get use out of it. I can't imagine trying to clothe my three children without the resources of garage sales and consignment shops, much less 10! I remember my Grandma taught me how to darn socks and even gave me a darning kit at my Bridal shower. Unfortunately after several moves I can't locate it. Doing little things like darning socks can save a lot of money, especially in a large family.

Feeding a large family, on a tiny budget, was also a specialty of hers. They grew a large garden, canned a lot, raised ducks and chickens, and made most everything from scratch. I can't even image how much work it would have been to make three meals a day for 12 people, clean up after those three meals, as well as care for the smaller children and take care of the house.

She wasn't just frugal when she was raising a family. She grew up through the Great Depression and had the mentality of "Waste Not, Want Not", which I was reminded of again at her Wake on Friday where several pieces of her artwork and sewing was displayed and the beautiful quilt draped over the coffin that she made had little sayings stitched into it...the above quote being one of them. I'm sure many of her children and grandchildren had seen her save something off of some one's plate, or even take something off the top of the trash to be saved for later. I think she was a bit flabbergasted at some of the excess, or waste, that we produced around her. I don't blame her, as growing up it must have been close to a 'sin' to even throw half an apple away. She saved every little scrap of paper to write notes on or to let the grandchildren color on, never throwing it away until it was completely covered. Even the bowl of crayons is ancient, probably dating back to when my aunts were little girls...well over 40 years ago. Maybe they are even antiques...if a crayon can be an antique, that is. :) She even felt like a bubble bath was an indulgence, and remarked one time how she really did indulge and had several inches of water in the tub! This makes me a bit sad, as I regularly partake in filled tubs of steaming water filled with bubbles and feel she should have had the same right, and yet proud because she stood up for her convictions - she thought it was a waste so didn't do it!

Early in her marriage she even bartered for items that they needed. I doubt I have the whole story straight but there was a bachelor man that lived above a bar who either had a lot of nice furniture or happened along a lot of nice furniture being thrown out in the area. She admired a buffet that he had and so traded him some home baked bread loaves for the beautiful wooden buffet with a large mirror. She also got a large cabinet from him by doing the same. 50+ years later those items are still in her home. Wow, if only we could trade some home baked bread for some quality furniture these days!

I could go on and on but you see my point. Learning from my Grandma about making do formed me into who I am today. I'm not nearly as frugal as she was, but I feel bad using the earth's resources for things that I don't need to. I feel bad having an excess when others around me are going without. I strive to teach my children that the important things in life aren't things.

As my mother once questioned my Grandma when she was a young girl, "Are we poor?" My Grandma pointed around the room...at my mom's younger siblings playing, the warm wood stove, the cookies baking in the oven..."We might not have a lot of money, but we aren't poor."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Homeschool Blog Awards

Imagine my surprise to learn that I was nominated for the Homeschool Blog Awards. I am up against quite a few big blog names so feel quite honored.

Want to vote for Trenches Of Mommyhood (or another of your favorite blogs)? Click on the button below and then search for #16 "Best Variety". You'll find me there. :)

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!

What Happens Next?

Thank you all for your condolences after my Grandma's passing on November 3, 2010. Her wake and funeral were beautiful and went exactly as she had wanted. But, what happens now?

This morning I worked on trying to get the house back to normal after a week of being gone. The laundry is piled up and every inch of the house needs to be picked up and organized. I thought it would help to have so much to do to keep my mind busy. Instead, the work, combined with the grief, seems overwhelming. I don't know where to start.

I figured maybe working on my blog would get me back to normal but the only thoughts that were flowing were ones of my dear Grandma. So I'm going with the flow. This week my blog posts will be dedicated to my Grandma and things that I learned from her. While most of you never had the privilege to meet her I can tell bits and pieces of her story. Especially during my teen years and my days as a new mother I learned the most from my Grandma. But through out her life, as well as her death, I've learned. She has also left behind stories, artwork, her family, and her faith...so I will continue to learn from this amazing woman. She may have left her earthly body and gained her eternal salvation in Heaven, but she hasn't left us. Her story continues through all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

This week I will be sharing parts of my life that she has shaped. May I do her story justice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality. ~Emily Dickinson


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