Friday, December 2, 2016

5 Ways To Spend Less And Give More This Christmas

1. Buy gifts before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately there is so much holiday hype around Christmas, that I begin to lose the Christmas Spirit quick.  I try to avoid that by shopping early and intentionally, purchasing gifts that are unique to the recipients.
2. Avoid Credit Card Purchases.  Ask yourself when you are considering using a credit card: "Will I be able to pay this off when I get my next paycheck?" If the answer is no, don't purchase the item.  It has taken me three years once to pay off Christmas credit card purchases.  That's just wrong!  Creating a budget and shopping early and carefully to stay in that budget makes Christmas morning and the whole next year more enjoyable.
3. Avoid overkill.  Have you ever bought your kids too much for Christmas?  I have and I learned that at a certain point, the WOW! factor begins to fizzle out.  It's best to take purchases back before Christmas if you realized you might have over-bought.  Especially if you factor in what relatives are planning to give your children.  Children should be excited about those gifts as well so that relatives can experience your child's joy.
3. Limit expectations ahead of time.  When deciding to have a Christmas where we remember the reason for the season, scaling back the commercialism might be hard for some family members and helping children (and spouses!) prepare for the cutting back requires a little planning.  Begin by planning and emphasizing all the traditions that cost little money but create lovely memories.  Number five has great ideas to help family members appreciate Christmas more and Santa less.
4. It really is "The thought that counts."  Remember less is more--think of tasteful, timeless gifts.  Knowing that someone actually spent time thinking about you and what would truly be meaningful to you is a gift in itself.  It encourages empathy for others--a trait sorely lacking in today's world.
5. Simplify by
  • Helping out the less fortunate
  • Restoring meaning to the ritual of gift giving
  • Make your own traditions.  Identify which are really important.  8 Traditions To Add To Your Bucket List identifies traditions that are more on the "spiritual" side including having a birthday party for Jesus.  It is His birthday for Heaven's sake!

Friday, November 4, 2016

3 November Traditions to Do with Little Ones

1. This Thanksgiving, begin a tradition where your little ones not only help make the holiday special for others with this sweet decoration or hostess gift craftivity, but provide the makings for a casserole that will use up the leftover turkey.  Create this paper bag container for the ingredients to a Gobble Good Turkey Casserole!  Find the instructions at my post GOBBLE GOOD TURKEY CASSEROLE!
2. Another really nice activity for families to do on Thanksgiving Day while they wait for dinner to be ready is the Thankful Turkey Activity from the Idea Door!  (I scanned the turkey just in case the link is broken):  http://www.theideadoor.com/?s=color+turkey+blessings.
As an alternative to a printable, Preschool Alphabet has an arts and crafty Thankful Turkey.
Hopefully everyone will begin to focus on being thankful on this special day as they read the poem and write a blessing on each feather of the turkey.
3. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, check out my NOVEMBER TRADITIONS post that has some great activities for a special Thanksgiving "Family Night".

Friday, August 5, 2016

Brown Bagging It

Here is a list of lunch menu ideas to make lunch more interesting for kids or adults alike:
~Whole-grain bread for sandwiches, cut into triangles of course
~100% juice or chocolate milk frozen in nonglass containers that will thaw just in time for lunch and help keep the rest of the lunch cool.
~Cheese cut into strips or cubes
~Low-fat yogurt is always packed with a healthy granola bar
~Popcorn or pretzels alone or mixed with nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chips
~Peanut butter, tuna fish, lean chicken or turkey (instead of bologna), egg salad, can all be served on bread or in a pita or rolled up in a tortilla. 
~On weekends, make “icebox” cookies, which are our version of Pillsbury Cookie dough.  These slice-and-bake cookies are great for the lunch box, and I actually know what's in them since their made from scratch.
~Pasta salad keeps really well.  
~Little blocks of meat and cheese hits the spot.
~Leftovers for lunch such as Pizza is popular among children.  
~Lunch nachos:  refried beans, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, olives, and salsa, accompanied by a bag of tortilla chips.
~Bake ahead mini cupcakes and muffins and freeze them.  Pop into the lunch bag and by lunch they are thawed.
~Wrap tortillas with ham and cheese or cucumbers and cream cheese (use seedless cucumbers and dry off slices with a paper towel).
~Never use plastic baggies again by repurposing plastic containers with tight-fitting lids to hold chips, canned fruits, leftovers, etc.
~Use a deli takeout menu for sandwich combination ideas.  Try using bagels, pitas, leftover biscuits, hotdog and hamburger buns, and English muffins.  Try banana nut bread with cream cheese and jam.  (Note:  A thin layer of butter on any bread helps prevent soggy sandwiches.)
~Try kabobs of ham, cheese, pineapple, and cherry tomatoes on a skewer.
~Instead of individually packaged items, buy a family-size such as chips and put them into ziplock baggies yourself, then put these in a storage container so they are always ready and stay fresh.
~Beef jerky is also a fun snack to pack.

Friday, June 3, 2016

4 Tips for Pinners

I loved Pinterest from the moment I first discovered the site.  It’s like having a bazillion magazines sent directly to me to pore over infinitely.  Now I don’t forget what I have found or have to tear and paste pages and put them into a binder.  Also, I really enjoy looking at other Pinner’s boards to add to my own collection.  However, I never look at Group Boards (the boards that have people icons next to the title) because it’s too overwhelming.  The Type A personality in me HAS to get to the end of the list.  You try it! I promise you won’t get to the end of a 1000 pin board.

Of course Pinterest can be a solely individual endeavor, but if you are interested in other people exploring your Pinterest Pins, I have some tips based on my own experience:
1. Limit how many pins are on each board.  If there are enough to need to click a “get more pins” button, consider creating several new boards.  
2. Occasionally check boards to
            Eliminate pins you have pinned more than once
            Make sure your pins were placed on the right board
            Check links and make sure they go to the right place.
3. Pin directly to an individual blog post instead of the blog’s home page.  Before you pin, click on the post title.
4. Pins should directly link to their original source.  If the pin’s picture and description refers to a tutorial of a particular blog site, it should go directly to the blog with the tutorial--not to a blog that is linking to the tutorial.  That seems deceptive on Pinterest.
Final comments:
Doing a show and tell post about completing a project found at another blog is great, and sometimes the writer has improved on the original design.  They don’t want to do a tutorial but refer to a useful tutorial that inspired them.  Pinning your own well-developed post about completing a project with a link to the tutorial seems fair.  However, sometimes it feels as though I am being sent on a wild-goose chase to find what was actually pinned on Pinterest.  That seems deceptive too.  It's a big pet peeve for me and I do not put those types of pin on my Pinterest boards.  I just edit the pin and change the link to the original source in that case.  I hope these tips help other pinners.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Free Chalkboard Art & How-To

Pic Monkey can be used to make simple chalk art signs.
Ta Da! Here is the chalk art I put together using two tutorials.
TO DOWNLOAD/PRINT
I have many other favorite quotes about being an authentic person found in this past post.
I've pinned a bunch of chalk art sites on my Chalk Art Board at Pinterest:
Follow Heather's board Chalk Art on Pinterest.
The tutorial I followed was found at The House of Hawthornes:

My graphics were found at We Lived Happily Ever After:

Friday, April 1, 2016

Free Learning Websites


Wow! There are sooo many free websites for children.  This Computer Cafe PDF was created for use in a First Grade computer lab and the kids loved it!  They just clicked on a picture in the box for the site they wanted.  Download this to your desktop to have ready access to some of the best sites for kids.  You can print the Computer Cafe Menu and laminate to keep by the computer.  Circle sites the kids can go to that day if you want them to be at specific sites.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Real Food Storage Resources (not MREs)

The history of the world is the record of man in quest of his daily bread and butter. ~Hendrik Van Loon
Food storage can be a real relief even if it's as simple as a few home-cooked casseroles stocked in the freezer for those "bad days," or a cabinet full of cans of chicken noodle soup when you have a cold.  Becoming prepared can seem like an overwhelming task, but it can be as simple as buying two cans of diced tomatoes and putting one in storage and the other in the kitchen.  Continue this with the rest of the grocery list.

Strive to have 72 hours worth of ready to eat food.  Then make it a week's worth and eventually 4 week's worth.  Next multiply that by 12 and I'll bet you will have a year's supply of food.  Do the same with paper products, hygiene, first aid, etc.

Of course storing a year's supply depends on whether you have the room.  Maybe you only have space for 72 hours or a week--it's okay to do what you can.  There is peace in knowing you can "shop" your pantry and not have to run to the store for every little thing!

Here are some sites I return to again and again for food storage knowledge and inspiration:
The Family Homestead is a site I enjoy exploring for inspiration.
http://thefamilyhomestead.com/
LDS Church Provident Living site runs the whole gammut of preparedness training.  I personally have used this site to buy a year's worth of food storage.
Provident Living is a source for food storage purchases.  They teach about preparedness and gardening and much, much more.
Food Storage Made Easy is your food storage 101 class for newbies.
Preparedness Skills
Random Sampler of Great Ideas!  (Ensign, June 1974) Has a ton of useful information beginning with how to dehydrate all kinds of food from the garden and even meat!  It explains how to smoke and can fresh caught fish.  I get a thick sales paper each week in my mailbox that must be put to some use or thrown away.  An idea is given to turn newsprint into bundles that can be stacked and used like wood.  (Or make these cute pioneer haysticks with newspaper that I found at Martha Stewart).  Whether a camping enthusiast or survivalist wannabe, learning how to cook using a tin can is a useful skill.  Instructions are given for recipes, a buddy burner, stove and oven.
Food Storage Rotation
For the real enthusiast, the question is how to keep up with the food storage and rotate it out so that nothing spoils and is wasted.  "Tracking Our Food Storage," by Leslie O. Anderson (Ensign, Feb 1996) uses a system much like the old library cards where each section of food storage has a card or slips of paper that you pull when you take something from that shelf.  Then you put the slips with the grocery list and replace the items.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Family History Albums

More than ever, we are OBSESSED with getting that "great shot" of ourselves for today's photo albums--Facebook and Selfies! With all these great photos floating around, hopefully we're doing a good job of providing the story behind the photo...the who, what, where, when and how of the person pictured. "Our posterity has a right to know their roots without scrounging for them" (Elaine Cannon)
Providing "the rest of the story" is keeping our genealogy up-to-date!  As Ethel Jackson Price once explained, "Anyone can leave money to their children, grandchildren, etc.  But we are the only ones who can leave them our memories, and they are truly worth more than money."
I have scrapbooked for the last twenty years and the following scrapbook resources have remained on my shelf:
Scrapbooking with Memory Makers
This is literally the best scrapbooking book that I have found and I have looked at a lot of them. I have gotten so many good ideas for pages in my albums, such as creative ideas for all the leftover photos. (ISBN 0883639289) 
Family History Scrapbooking by Becky Higgins
Everything you need to know to get started (and be really organized) with family history scrapping. (ISBN 1933516623)
Timeless Treasures by Emilie Barnes
This is a charming little book that I kept (and I don't keep many) because of all the great family history ideas such as having everyone outline their hands on a sheet used as a Thanksgiving or Christmas Day tablecloth and then later embroidering this or turning it into a one-of-a-kind quilt. (ISBN 1565074289)
I found most of these books at my local used bookstore and I'm sure they can be purchased online for even less!  Remember to take time to do something meaningful with all of those photos, even if it's just a caption to go with each photograph on your phone.  And remember to leave your phone's password with someone you trust so the phone can be opened and pictures retrieved in the event of your passing.
If you are going to write about your days, you had better be doing something to write about. ~Caroline Eyring Miner

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries

As with everything else, I put off making the chocolate covered cherries (Christmas 2013) to the last minute.  That meant we had something to do while waiting to ring in the New Year (2014).  Chocolate covered cherries are a long process and I had never made them.  Ever since I had first tasted this delectable homemade candy (30 years ago!), I was determined to give it a try.
The fondant has to be made 24 hours ahead of time so I made it a full day ahead of New Year's Eve.  The cherries had to be thoroughly dried (save a small amount of the liquid).  Then on New Year's Eve we made Seven Layer Dip (which takes four hours to chill), chilled sparkling apple cider, and settled down to video-binge a long-anticipated cable series on DVD (we don't have cable).  
I dipped the very well dried cherries in the fondant which was melted in a double boiler.  These set on wax paper for one hour.  Then I dipped them in a mixture of chocolate chips and a small amount of shortening.  This worked very well, you just have to make sure you don't overheat the chocolate.  The chocolate covered cherries sit back on the wax paper for another two hours.  
We toasted New Year's Day with sparkling apple cider and the most divine chocolate covered cherries.  Then we blasted off our fire crackers for the whole neighborhood to see (since we live in the country).
Cheers!
I was surprised at how many different chocolate-covered cherry recipes there are out there.  Some seemed a little less demanding than this one.  Please let me know if you try this recipe and how it turned out for you.  I would like to try other recipes for chocolate-covered cherries if you have a favorite to share.
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHERRIES (print)
Prep: 1 hour
Stand: 24 hours
Cook:  1 hour
2-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 (10-ounce) jars maraschino cherries with stems
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon shortening
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to wash down sugar crystals from sides of pan.  Uncover and cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches soft ball stage or candy thermometer registers 236 degrees.  Pour mixture onto a marble slab that has been sprinkled with cold water.  (Do not scrap pan.)  Let stand 4 minutes.  ***I just used a clean kitchen counter***
  2. Using a dampened metal scraper, pull sides of mixture into center repeatedly to ensure mixture cools evenly.  When mixture develops a yellowish tinge, continue working with dampened scraper, stirring mixture in a figure-8 motion.  When mixture suddenly turns white and becomes too stiff to stir, knead with wet hands until smooth and creamy enough to form a firm ball (about 10 minutes).  Place fondant in an airtight container, and let stand in a cool place at least 24 hours before using.
  3. Drain cherries, reserving liquid; place cherries on paper towels to drain for several hours or overnight.
  4. Place fondant in top of a double boiler; melt slowly over hot (not boiling) water, stirring constantly as it begins to melt.  Stir in 1 tablespoon reserved cherry liquid.  (Fondant should have the proper consistency for dipping when candy thermometer registers about 140 degrees.  Temperature should not rise above 140 degrees.)  If mixture seems to thick for dipping at this point, stir in one more tablespoon reserved cherry liquid.  Remove pan from heat, leaving fondant over hot water.
  5. Working quickly and holding by the stem, dip each cherry into warm fondant, allowing excess to drain back into the pan.  Place cherries, stem up, on wax paper; let stand 1 hour or until firm.
  6. Combine chocolate morsels and shortening in top of double boiler; bring water to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cook until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan from heat, leaving chocolate mixture over hot water.
  7. Holding by the stem, dip each cherry into warm chocolate mixture, allowing excess to drain back into pan.  Place cherries, stem up, on wax paper; let stand 2 hours or until firm.  Store cherries in an airtight container at room temperature.  Yield: 5 dozen.
Per cherry: Calories 68 Fat 1.6 g
Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 1mg

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quick and Easy Piping Bag for Gingerbread Cookies

So much goes on during the month of December that things have a way of getting away from you.  That is why the gingerbread cookies didn't get made until Christmas Eve last year!  However, everything turned out great because I enlisted the rest of the gang on Christmas Day to frost the cookies while we waited for our special dinner to cook.  In order for everyone to have a piping bag, I grabbed some freezer storage bags and cut them as shown.
It is best to only put a small amount of frosting in each bag as shown because the frosting will get very warm and messy from gently squeezing it with your hand.  I made a few extra and filled and kept them in the refrigerator so that we could swap them out when the frosting was too warm.  
We found that crushed peppermint sprinkled on top was very tasty and the next time I make this frosting, I will add a smidgen of peppermint extract for flavoring.  Here is the frosting recipe that worked out so well for us.  
WHITE FROSTING
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or peppermint!)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until mixture is spreading consistency.  Use frosting to outline gingerbread and to make cuffs, collars, belts, and shoes.  Yield 2 cups.
I find it makes Christmas Day much more relaxing if there is another festive activity going on while the meal is cooking.  Are there any favorite family-oriented traditions that you enjoy on Christmas Day?

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