Friday, November 25, 2011

Back to the Basics: A Few Book Reviews


     Having visited Pennsylvania Dutch Country recently I have been on a big Amish novel kick.  While this infatuation of mine definitely stemmed from visiting the area I really do believe my continued love for these novels is the simplicity of life.  Now don't get me wrong, no one's life is simple, however there are so many endearing qualities of Amish life.  Lot's of family, nature, and quiet time.  Tons of home cooked food and fresh grown produce.  No wondering what to wear or how much gas will cost this week.  Yes they deal with having to hand wash everything, hand make everything, and the physical labor of growing their own crops - it's not candy land but it is just really gratifying to sink into that world of theirs and know that my heart yearns for many of their tightly held principles (obviously technology is not one of them).  Without further ado here are my reviews for the second and third books in the Rose Trilogy by Beverly Lewis.

The Judgment:

     In this thrilling sequel we follow Rose Kauffman and her family's stories as they deal with a simple lifestyle.  Rose a true hearted Amish girl is tested in love and in faith as she struggles to see how other's potentially allow their faith to fall behind.  As her sister Hen also struggles through a major life crisis it is great to see family rally around one another.  With many trials and tribulations in this part of the series you are sure to be begging for the final installment.
The Mercy:

     The final installment of the Rose Trilogy this story solves all of the loose ends and provides many twists and turns all the way through the final pages. While some of the plot lines are easy to guess ahead some of the details are so surprising and left my heart feeling warm.  This series painted the picture of a girl with a big heart who honestly wants to follow her faith and her dreams all at once.  The conclusion is very final which is a huge relief in a series like this and it all makes me want to go live in or near an Amish town. 

Overall I delighted in all of the characters, tests, and transformations that occurred during this series and look forward to reading more Beverly Lewis novels in the future.

(Please note that none of the above links are affiliate links. I.E. I do not receive any compensation but rather want to point out some novels I really enjoyed.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Pumpkin is Orange!

This past week a very exciting thing happened in our garden: the pumpkin turned completely orange! And for that we are giving thansk - well for that and a whole plethora of other things!

.094 lbs

.42 lbs

9.937 lbs!

.03 lbs

.93 lbs

.72 lbs

1.06 lbs

3.84 lbs

A very blessed week at: 17.031 lbs!

Annual Total: 163.598 lbs

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Crafts

In honor of Thanksgiving we watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!
Read plenty of Thanksgiving books.
And did the following crafts.

We made handprint mayflowers and talked about the long voyage the pilgrims had.

We used pinecones from our Big Bear trip to make turkey's and talked about how it is a more recent tradition but a good one at that.

We use old toilet paper rolls to make corn cobs and talked about
how hard it was to grow vegetables.

We also made this pilgrim hat out of a clay pot to adorn our table.

Lastly we made turkey handprints and talked about the things we were thankful for!

(For more detailed instructions google each craft and you will find several sources).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Meal Plan

We are so blessed to be spending two separate days celebrating Thanksgiving this year and I am also continuing the training process at my old job (I am training someone else) so this week is a bit different than normal. At any rate we have some great food planned and are looking forward to lots of family time and the start of Christmas preparations!  Happy eating all!


Granola Bars, Applesauce, Eggs
English Muffin Sandwiches, Blueberries
English Muffin Sandwiches, Grapefruit
Muffins (flavor tbd), Oranges, Peanut Butter
Oatmeal with craisins, Juice
Omelets, Toast, Juice
Cinnamon Rolls, Juice


Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Carrots, Applesauce
Chicken Nuggets, Peas, Apples
Turkey Sandwiches! Cranberry Sauce, Green Bean Casserole
Quesadillas, Black Beans, Oranges
Hot Dogs, Mac N Cheese, Peas
Leftovers or Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Snacky foods before Thanksgiving


Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Corn
Mexican Food with Family
Szechaun Chicken, Fried Rice, Veggies
Thanksgiving: Green Bean Casserole, Cranberry Sauce, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie (our contributions)
Pizza, Salad for Family Movie Night
Thanksgiving 2: Ham and Green Bean Casserole (our contributions)
German Pork Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

45 Mile Commute by Choice

Two years ago today we moved our family 45 miles away from my husband's work and my parents and where no one we knew lived.  Yep we used to live about 3 miles from hubby's work and about 12 miles from my parents home then moved out to the cow farms (literally - we see one from our master bedroom and smell them every time we go outside).  What in the world would make us up and move so far away...LIFE and the dream to live it. Here are some of our reasons for moving 45 miles away:
  1. Desire for an actual house with a yard.  We knew in our hearts that the lifestyle we wanted for our family included outdoor playing and Christmas decorating.  We wanted a garden and streets to ride bikes on, we wanted a true single family home with neighbors more likely to grow old on our street than to rent out next year.  Sure it exists where we moved from but they are few and far between.
  2. Price.  We didn't want to be so strapped to make payments on our "home" that we couldn't actually enjoy other things in life.  Permanent things like $500 HOA payments and fines for washing your cars weren't in the plans for our lifestyle.  For HALF the price of homes we were looking at in our old community we bought DOUBLE the home and 8 TIMES the land (it's only a quarter acre but still). 
  3. Own vs. Rent.  We wanted to own our home versus continue renting and owning was much more difficult where we lived than was renting. Also we aren't big on moving and had hoped to find a long term home rather than a starter home (our hopes are to stay for a loooong time - more than 20 years - having the girls visit from college or show their own kids their childhood home sounds great to us).  Sure we may move again but why buy a home with the thought that it would work for now but we would eventually have to leave. 
  4. New vs Old: Having a newer home that wouldn't require many repairs was a big factor for us.  We are not qualified to do major home renovations and would not have wanted to spend the resources needed to such work.  Old homes in our old area met most of our criteria but the risks of an indoor pipe bursting, termites, or needing to replace a roof and all of the insulation really didn't appeal to us.
  5. Short Sales & REOs: We looked for a home for over 2 years (really off and on for 5) and everything was a short sale or REO and even then the homes were being bid up more than $100,000 making them astronomically ridiculous.  We walked in to the model homes picked one, filled out paperwork, and before we had reached home we were approved and in escrow on our home. Plus we got to choose everything!!!!!!!! From insulation and wiring to carpet and paint colors!
  6. Hours.  My husband's hours at work changed for the better meaning he would get off of work at least a half hour earlier than before and given that it took him at least 15 minutes to get home before we only ended up out 15 minutes a day of waking hours (he leaves before we are awake) and yes sometimes it is longer - like when a tanker explodes on the freeway causing a 3.5 hour commute.  But the trade off wasn't too bad.
  7. Following our Hearts.  In the end we followed our hearts; our new home - though far - was the first time we felt at home in any place we had visited.  It just felt right and that was what we had prayer for - that God would let us know when we had found the right home.  The one in which to raise our family in.
My advice to anyone looking to purchasing a home and shying away from areas that might not seem right (trust me I naysayed my husband's ideas of moving away for 2 years before finally giving it a chance) is to move past any qualms and look - let your heart tell you yes or no (as long as your bank account and paychecks are also in agreement). 

Two years later I still love where I live.  We were blessed with amazing neighbors, a growing community, land, indoor space, and amazing amenities around us.  3 years ago I would have laughed if anyone said I would be living where I do now but I love it and I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Home Warming Foods Meal Plan

     As a family we spent this past weekend up in Big Bear Lake!  We had originally planned to hike, fish, and play outside in the sunshine - except they uncharacteristically had a huge storm last week and another inch and a half of snow this weekend!  We spent the weekend by the fire, building snowmen, going on toboggan rides, and occupying a very sick two year old!  Anywho the point of this is that the cold weather made us crave warmth and our meal plan this week proves it: almost everything involves the oven which inevitably warms the home...hoping it stays "cool" this week!


  • granola bars, oatmeal, blueberries
  • pancakes, pears, eggs
  • carrot muffins, kiwi, peanut butter
  • french toast, apples
  • cereal, fruit
  • oatmeal w/craisins, milk
  • eggs, toast, apples


  • egg salad sandwiches, carrots, blueberries
  • peanut butter sandwiches, graham crackers, pears
  • tuna, crackers, cheese, grapes, carrots
  • chicken nuggets, carrots, applesauce
  • leftovers
  • salami, crackers, cheese, pears
  • chicken quesadillas, black beans, corn


  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Lasagna, Salad, Garlic Bread
  • Tomato Basil Soup, Grilled Cheese
  • Chile & Corn Bread, Salad
  • Mongolian Beef Stir Fry, White Rice
  • To Be Determined: Dinner with Family
  • Indian Chicken Dish: Surprise by Hubby

Pureed Pumpkin for Pie Filling
Juicing: We are adding juicing to our morning routine  - we will let you know how this works for us after we have done it for awhile!

What are your favorite home warming meals?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grocery Deals - Yes there are some GREAT deals right now!

With the holiday's fast approaching sales are finally becoming available.  By sales I mean stock up sales!!!!!!! Okay yes retail sales have been awesome too and I have scored some Christmas gifts for prices well under budget and that definitely makes me happy, but so does a full pantry!

Ralphs and Stater Brothers have the best sales this week so those are the ones listed below but I did want to point out that Albertsons's has Butterball turkey's Buy One Get One Free with a $25 purchase.

Ralphs Deals:
  • Foster Farms Bone in Chicken Meat - @ .97/lb = Stock Up Price
  • Broccoli or Cauliflower @ .88/lb = Stock Up Price
  • Roma Tomatoes @ .88/lb = Great Price
  • Hansen's Apple Juice @ 1.99 = Great Price
  • Ritz Crackers @ 1.99 = Great Price (coupons available)
  • Hass Avocados @ 1.00 = Good Price
BUY 10  SAVE $5
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce @ .99 = Great Price (last year's low was .49)
  • Annie's Mac N Cheese @ .69 = Excellent Price (Coupons available)
  • Bumble Bee Light Tuna @ .69 = Great Price
  • Del Monte Canned Vegetables @ .49 = Stock Up Price 
  • Swanson Broth @ .49 = Stock Up Price (coupons available)
  • Campbell's Cream of Mushroom or Chicken @.49 = Stock Up Price (coupons available)
  • Hormel Chili w/beans @ .99 = Great Price (coupons available)
  • Stove Top @ .99 = Great Price (last years price was .49)
  • Craisins @ 2.49 = Good Price (unless you can find them in bulk)
  • Hormel Pepperoni @ 2.49 = Great Price
  • Last week the Challenge Butter was included but not in ad - if it is included there are $1 off coupons making it a great deal!
Stater Brothers Deals:
  • Bartlett Pears @ .79/lb = Excellent Price
  • Stater Bros. Canned Veggies @ .69 = Good Price
  • Black Grapes @ .99/lb = Great Price
  • Broccoli @ .99/lb = Excellent Price
  • Italian Zucchini @ .99/lb = Great Price
  • Hass Avocados @ 1.00 = Good Price
  • White Onions @ 1.00/lb = Great Price
  • Ground Beef 81% @ 2.59/lb = Good Price (it goes as low as 1.99 at Albertsons a few times a year)
  • Sun Vista Beans @ .99/big can = Excellent Price for canned beans
  • Thomas' English Muffins @ 1.99 = Good Price
  • Tomato Sauce @ .39 = Great Price
  • Cool Whip @ .99 = Great Price
  • Kraft Dressing @ .75 = Great Price
  • Kraft Mac N Cheese @ .75 = Great Price recently
  • Nabisco Snack Bags @ .75 = Excellent Price
  • Corn Nuts @ .75 = Great Price
TIP: My grocery tip for this week is that I don't always buy the same things.  For instance english muffins are on sale so I might buy them - but I definitely wouldn't buy them at regular price!  Variety is one way to keep your grocery budget lower!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When Your Dreams Change

     Having worked with my dad these last two day's and experienced once again the concept of working outside the home I thought I would write a post on when dreams change.  Growing up I always wanted to be a mom, I also wanted to work in corporate America.  While attending college I struggled to figure out exactly what industry I wanted to work in. Low and behold I ended up working in insurance and loved it! However while in college I also met my soul mate and got married (best decision ever)! We decided together that when we had kids I would stay home with them.
     Along comes my first pregnancy and well we aren't quite ready for me to stop working, so for the first two year's of Big C's life I worked outside of the home.  I was very lucky to take her to work for the first year (but please believe me when I tell you it is extremely difficult!) and then my mom watched her while I worked not quite full time during the second year.  Shortly before little C was born I started staying home full time (except that I worked for my family's business and well if you have ever worked for family you know that work doesn't ever quite end with as much finality as any other type of job)!
     In my head I had tons of notions of what staying at home would be like - pretty crazy ones.  Ones in which we played all day, did crafts, baked, and basically had a ton of fun.  Cleaning, discipline, loneliness - none of this came to mind.  Boy were my dreams out of whack with reality!  Staying at home was a lot different than I had expected - it wasn't bad, not by any means - it was just different.  Plus how do I answer the never ending questions of what do I do and what will I do once the girls are older...hmm well my dream now is to raise my kids - while at home.  Once they are gone I would love to volunteer...but those are dreams and they might change.  I don't have a crystal ball and I can't tell you what I will be doing tomorrow let alone when my kids are 18.  So my current dream is to enjoy every day doing whatever it is I am called to do that day!
     In order to clarify more about two very different dreams I have compiled a list of my favorite things about working and my favorite things about staying home.  Let me be clear that this is not an argument or an attack on either opinion but rather the things I love(d) most about two very different points in my life! In order of how these events impacted my life:

The Things I Loved About Working Outside the Home:
  1. Interaction:  Social interaction with different people (although almost always on the phone) - I had daily conversations with 10-20 unique personalities every single day.  Usually about topics that were important to their livelihood and in which I could see how my actions were affecting them and their businesses at that moment in time.
  2. Accomplishment: I knew what my job was and what had to be done, I could measure how much I had accomplished in a day by crossing visible tasks off of my to do list.  Along with this I also loved how if something had to get done immediately I could shut out the rest of the world and get it done.
  3. Time with my dad: Now this one isn't for everyone but since I worked with my dad I got to see him and talk to him for hours every single day.  Now that I don't work and he still does it is a lot harder to talk to him as often and in as much detail.
  4. Monetary pay: Of course I received remuneration for my work and while money is definitely not the most important thing I did of course enjoy receiving a pay check.
  5. Alone time: The drive to and from work and my lunch break were times that I got alone to do what I wanted (within reason) and in which I was not solely responsible for anyone else!
  6. Praise: While I try to be humble and not be foolishly prideful I have always been an overachiever and while working I loved the fact that clients and co-workers would praise my work helping me feel like my time was worthwhile.  (Kid's just don't seem to say gee thanks for disciplining me mom)!

The Things I Love About Staying Home:
  1. Spending every waking moment with my kids - watching them stumble, fall and grow. 
  2. Nurturing their spirit, souls, and personalities.  Watching quirks and traits appear out of thin air.
  3. Being a relaxed mommy who gets most of the important things done every day which leaves time for family nights and weekends. Relaxed mommy can play tickle war and Lego's for hours on end.
  4. Having time to cook fancy full course meals during the week and provide home made treats and snacks that I otherwise wouldn't have time to do.
  5. Getting up and ready whenever we want in the morning then having a fully home cooked meal!  This is amazing!
  6. Wearing sweats and tennis shoes whenever I want!
  7. Being able to coupon and bargain shop so that we have extra money to save and play.
  8. The ability to have a sick day without even thinking twice which means that much more time to snuggle, read books, watch movies, and eat soup.
  9. Never truly knowing what the next day will look is always a surprise and just when things start resembling a pattern it gets all changed up again!  Keeps my mind sharp!
  10. Being the one to tell daddy all the new and exciting things the girls are learning or doing straight from my own eyes and not just relaying someone else's story of what happened that day!
  11. Hearing my kids say "I love you mommy" 20+ times a day! (okay not every day but there sure are a lot of days like this)!
  12. Knowing that every day only happens once and that I am following the calling God has put in my heart to be with my children 24 hours a day.
  13. This list could go on and on there is so much I love about my life right now!
Whatever your thoughts on staying home I hope you can see the joy I have had in two different situations thus far in my life!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Meal Plan + A Tip

This week will be a little different for us as I have an obligation early in the week that will keep busy for a couple of days and later in the week we have a little special plan for some extra family time (I will share more next week after our plan is complete)! Anyways we are super excited for all of this great food!

Each week I am now going to try and give you an tip on how to increase the benefits of your meal plan and hopefully to help your grocery budget shrink (unless you are already at the lowest possible point)!

TIP #1: My first tip meal planning tip is that you should really meal plan the whole week - any meals you eat including snacks.  Count out what you actually need (i.e. 5 plums, 2 heads of lettuce etc etc.).  Obviously you will have times when you cannot follow your exact plan but you should have things in  your pantry to get you through some hiccups.  Without a full meal plan you are either going to run out of food or throw spoiled food away and both would be a bummer.  So try to meal plan for this week (or next) with a whole food plan!


Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Applesauce, Yogurt
Cereal, Yogurt, Frozen Blueberries
Chocolate Chip Muffins, Yogurt, Plums
Donuts, Plums, Yogurt
Sausage & Veggie Omelets, Peaches
Eggs, Bacon, Toast, Pears
French Toast, Ham Steak, Blueberries (frozen)


Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Snap Peas, Plums
Egg Salad Sandwiches, Goldfish Crackers, Applesauce
Loaded Baked Potatoes, Pineapple, Snap Peas
Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Snap Peas, Pineapple
Cheese, Crackers, Salami, Fruit
Hot Dogs, Chips, Carrots, Oranges


Fire Island Ziti, Garlic Bread
Moroccan Chicken, Rice, Cauliflower
Grilled New York Steaks, Baked Beans, Broccoli
Hamburgers, Baked Potatoes, Corn
Southwest Chicken, Long Grain Wild Rice, Brussels Sprouts
Spaghetti, Meatballs, Salad, Garlic Bread

Baking/Extra Cooking:

Homemade Applesauce
Chocolate Chips Muffins
Peanut Butter Softies

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Homemade Applesauce!

Cheap apples at the stores this week - made me really wan to make this:

Homemade canned applesauce!
I searched the Internet high and low and didn't find a recipe I liked so
I took a whole bunch and combined them all!

Start by washing your apples!

Core and slice your apples.
Then peel them.

Place peeled apples in a large dutch oven.

Add 1.5 cups of water.

 Add 1/2 cup brown sugar.
(You could do sugar free but I used "sour" granny smith's)

Add 1 cinnamon stick - for a light cinnamon flavor.
If you love cinnamon applesauce increase to 2-4.

Bring the water at the bottom to a boil over high heat.
Then stir.

Cover and cook on medium heat for 30-35 minutes.
Stirring every 15 minutes.

When they are done cool for a minute or two!

Puree with a stick blender stuck right into the pot.

Here is your end product!!!!!

Delicious Applesauce!

6.5 lbs of apples (at least two kinds - I used Granny Smith & Gala)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 and 2/3 cups of water
1 cinnamon stick

Wash, Core, Slice & Peel Apples.
Combine everything into the dutch oven.
Bring to a boil on high heat.
Turn it down to medium heat, cover, and cook 30-35 minutes.
Blend with stick blender.
Cool and eat or can it using a water bath!

Happy eating!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Garden Update!

2.76 lbs of tomatoes/chilies.

1.125 lbs of tomatoes

.531 lbs of cucumber

.84 cherry tomatoes and Anaheim chilies

1.45 lbs of tomatillos

This week's total: 6.706 lbs

Annual Total: 146.567 lbs!!!!!!!!!!