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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Books I've Read: February 2015

The Loyalty of Pawns by Theron Couch.  I received a copy of this book for free from a Goodreads giveaway.  Last April.  I'm trying to do better about reading free books right away.  This was one I was catching up on.  I wanted to like this book.  The description sounded interesting enough that I entered the giveaway for it, after all.  But I didn't really like it.

The premise is a near-dystopian future in which corporations have just as much, if not more, control of things as the government.  One such corporation has a project in the works that involves growing human soldiers programmed simply to fight.  I wish the author had gone more into the science behind these.  It really seemed like he didn't flesh out the idea at all.  Even if you're not going to describe it all for the reader, you as author should know all the background in your head, because it comes through in the writing.  How did they create these?  What would they do after the mission?  When [slight spoiler] Nicole actually starts to think for herself, why did that happen?  Would that happen with all of them?  None of this was addressed ever.

Each chapter started with a snippet from some news media report or interview.  I *think* this was a way to show the difference between what was actually happening, and what was presented to the public, but I didn't really get that until the end, so it didn't work too well if that was the point.

I didn't get a connection to any of the characters.  I got a sense of who I was supposed to be rooting for by the end, but I wasn't necessarily rooting for anyone.  And at the beginning, there were a lot of characters to remember.  This was the only book I made it through this month.  I'm a busy mom of four.  When I pick up a book, I'm hoping for memorable characters, or at least characters that are distinguishable from one another.  I had issues keeping them straight for the first half or so.

And finally, there were at least 4 typos.  I hate typos in a book.  That's why you have editors.  Overall, I give this 2 out of 5 stars.  I wanted to like it, but I didn't.

Total books read this month: 1. Total books read this year: 3. I'm going to have to step it up if I want to hit my goal of 30 for the year...

Friday, February 27, 2015

How To Clean Greasy Residue Off Of Pans

Let me preface this by saying that there are two groups of people who will read this post.  First, the people who think this is a great trick and want to try it immediately.  Second, those who wonder why I would even care about cleaning the bottoms of my pans in the first place.  To you, I say, because they look so pretty when they're nice and clean.  You can continue to think I'm crazy.  I'm okay with that...

I was doing dishes last night, and noticed the bottom of my muffin pans are seriously gross.  Greasy residue all over gross.  I tried scratching a bit with my fingernail and it came off, but who wants to do that? Not me. 
But I had an idea.  Baking soda to the rescue!  I dumped some on there and let it sit for a minute.
And then I grabbed one of those random sample toothbrushes that don't seem like they quite clean your teeth very well, and I got to scrubbing.
Just a few minutes later, the bottom of the pan was clean!  The toothbrush was not...If shiny pretty pans make you happy, try this trick today!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Recipe: Matthew's Soup

Earlier this week, we had Matthew's soup for dinner.  He came up with a list of ingredients, and I helped with the amounts.  It was similar to a few different soups we've had in the past, but the combination was all his idea, and he was very proud of the result.  Also, this kid doesn't always willingly eat all his veggies, and he gobbled down the whole bowl!  If that's not an argument for getting kids in the kitchen, I don't know what is.


  • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8oz. mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/3 cup barley
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients together in a large stock pot.  Heat to boiling, then lower to medium low heat and simmer about 40 minutes, until barley is cooked through and carrots are tender.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weekly Goals February 22-28

This pretty girl hit 3 months this week! She is growing up so fast!

Last Week's Goals:

  • Go to the library. Done! I am disappointed that they have a 90 day probationary period where you can only check out 3 books per card though.
  • Call the school and find out about kindergarten round up/open house.  Done! They usually have an open house but don't have a specific date scheduled yet. So I guess we wait a bit on that one.
  • Schedule dentist appointments for the three bigger kids. Not done, but I did get a recommendation for a good kid dentist so hopefully I can schedule those on Monday.
  • Do yoga 3 times. I was a slacker again this week.
This Week's Goals: (these are all things I consider fun but I don't always make the time for them, so hopefully I can this week!)
  • Do Iron Craft Challenge #4 project, something spring-y.
  • Finish reading The Loyalty of Pawns.
  • Catch up on my blog reading.
  • Bake brownies or bars that are Hannah friendly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #3: Something New

This time the challenge was to try something new.  I had plans of trying to crochet something, but apparently in the last craft supplies purge I finally got rid of the crochet hook I had never used.  So that was out.

So this time I let Jonah and Matthew take over and try something new.  I gave them each a plastic canvas rectangle and showed them how to stitch.  They picked the colors from my massive yarn stash.  They actually caught on pretty quickly.  I was impressed.  They've worked on these on and off for the past week or so.  I see presents for Grandma in their future...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Weekly Goals February 15-21

The boys had a lot of fun making Valentine's Day cards for several family members and friends this week!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Do Iron Craft Challenge #3, to try something new. I was going to try crocheting, but somewhere along the line I got rid of my crochet hook.  So I let the boys try something new instead (more on Tuesday).
  • Do something special for Jesse for Valentine's Day.  We had a "date night in" after the kids went to bed.
  • Send out valentines from the kids to their grandparents and a few friends. Done!
  • Pass my USPS test and hope for an interview. I passed!
  • Do yoga 3 times. I didn't do yoga even once. Finding a time to do it has been really challenging.
This Week's Goals:
  • Go to the library! We haven't been there yet, but I'd like to check it out, and also see what sort of online hold system they have (my current favorite part of any library).
  • Find out if the local school has any sort of kindergarten round-up, or if we can sit in on a day. Plus find out starting dates and whatnot in case we decide to go that route with Jonah next year.
  • Schedule dentist appointments for the three big kids.
  • Do yoga 3 times.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Weekly Goals February 8-14

I tried to make yogurt in the crockpot but it didn't turn out. Hopefully it will next time!

Last Week's Goals (which I mostly bombed):
  • Start working on the family 2014 photo book on Shutterfly. Does checking to see what freebie codes I have count? I think I'm more dreading how long it will take to upload all the pictures with our slow internet.
  • Finish unpacking our dresser, hanging a few pictures in the boys' room, putting diaper boxes in the closet. Not done.
  • Do yoga 4 times. I did yoga twice.
  • Finish Brick by Brick and start reading another book.  I did, and I started reading The Loyalty of Pawns by Theron Couch.
This Week's Goals:
  • Do Iron Craft Challenge #3 project, to try something new.  I think I'm going to attempt to crochet.
  • Do something special for Jesse for Valentine's Day.
  • Send out Valentines from the kids to their grandparents and a few friends.
  • Pass my USPS test and hope for an interview!
  • Do yoga 3 times.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Total Money Makeover

As some of you may know, we are fans of Dave Ramsey, and somewhere last fall we started doing the Total Money Makeover.  We got our emergency fund of $1000 stocked in just over a month (like 2 days over), and were ready to hit the ground running.  Jesse applied for a job in addition to his pastoral duties, and right after he got word that he was hired, he got a call to the churches in Iowa.

And so we had a couple months of upheaval as we prepared to move, moved, and got settled.  (And also, had Elizabeth, but we were actually fully prepared financially for her...)

So now we're here.  We have all of our accounts set up, paychecks are regularly deposited, and we're ready to get back on track.  Jesse wrote up a little sheet of paper yesterday that broke down how long it would take to pay everything back if nothing changed and we snowballed everything.

For our one credit card and several student loans, it will take...5 years.  Ugh.

Five years is a long time to live poor. To have a rice and beans mentality for food.  To do with what you have or do without.  To limit most of the extras.  To not take big vacations when you love to travel.

Big picture wise, it's half the time the loans require.  It's five years minus whatever additional headway we can make, anything extra that might come in.  Big picture wise, it sounds awesome and I'm super excited about it.

But in the short term, it's hard.  It's hard to not go out for coffee, or a meal (because with five of us eating, it adds up fast).  It's hard to have to budget months in advance to even attempt to meet up with family later this summer.  Worth it.  But hard.

I applied for a job this week.  If it works out, it should cut our repayment time at least by a third, if not more.  I won a $100 Dollar General gift card too, which I'll probably use for some of our toiletries, so that money can go into the loan payments.  Every little bit.  Every little bit.  I'm looking at getting back into Swagbucks to at least start paying for diapers again (we're almost through all of the diaper gifts we got for Elizabeth last fall, even with starting up with cloth again). Every little bit.  I'm just trying to keep that in my head, like the fish from Finding Nemo.  Just keep swimming...

Who has more get out of debt faster ideas for me?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #2: Love Is In The Air

Challenge #2 was to make something for someone you love.  I chose to commemorate the trip Jesse and I took this past April to Paris.  Also, the idea of doing this travel shadow box has been on my radar for at least four or five years.
This was actually a really simple project to do.  I totally didn't need to take so long to get to it!
First I painted what would become my shadow box. Any guesses as to what it is?  (It's from this) There are a lot of nooks and crannies to get to in that thing, by the way.  I have one more, which I'm thinking of making Minnesota Twins themed, but for now, this was enough painting.

Then I played with the layout of the things I wanted to use.  A map of the city, ticket stubs from the metro and a few of the museums we went to, business cards from some restaurants, a 5 Euro bill, the plastic bag from the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, a card from Laduree bakery (the home of some of the yummiest macarons in the world), and a few souvenir medals. When I actually put stuff in, I moved a few things slightly, but kept most of the layout the same.
Also, the reason I left the part of the map showing at the top is because that is where most of our travel was based around.  Kind of hard to see in these pictures, so you'll just have to trust me...

Once I got all that in the box, I realized some of the edges on the flat part were showing through, so I added a thicker band of black around the middle.
Luckily craft paint dries quickly, and I was able to get everything mod podged and hot glued in there after a quick coffee break.  I added two picture hangers to the back once everything was dry, and hung it up in our bedroom, along with some postcards we got at one of the art museums. I am also planning to hang up one of my 8x10 prints of the Eiffel Tower on the left side, but I need to get a frame for it.
I love this little decorative corner of our room now, and it's a fun reminder of an awesome trip!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Menu Plan February 1-15

We had a delicious spread for our Superbowl dinner, all homemade!  The cupcakes were from the freezer, as was the pizza crust, and the rest we did bit by bit over Saturday and Sunday, so it actually wasn't too hard.

Week 5 Challenge: Try 2 new whole foods.  We've tried a few new ones already.  First, along with our jalapeno poppers on Sunday, we had one Anaheim pepper.  That was good for the kids, who don't like spicy things, as it was more of a sweet pepper.  Last night we had a grapefruit after dinner.  Somehow I'd never tried one of those before.  I wasn't a fan, but Jonah and Hannah gobbled it up.
And finally, I attempted to make homemade yogurt using this recipe.  I think my temperatures were off, because by the time it was done, it was...basically milk.  Oh well.  I may try that again at some point.

Sunday, February 1
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Italian Soup
Dinner: Superbowl dinner - twice baked potatoes, chicken drumsticks, jalapeno poppers, sausage pizza, and monster cupcakes

Monday, February 2
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Chicken Pepper Bake

Tuesday, February 3
Breakfast: Eggs and Hash (sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onion, bacon)
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: BLTs

Wednesday, February 4
Breakfast: Eggs and Leftover Hash
Lunch: Hot Dogs and Macaroni and Cheese
Dinner: Crockpot Jambalaya

Thursday, February 5
Breakfast: Baked Blueberry Oatmeal
Lunch: Mexican Quinoa
Dinner: Leftover Jambalaya

Friday, February 6
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Mexican Quinoa
Dinner: White Chili

Saturday, February 7
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pears
Lunch: Black Bean Burgers (already made in the freezer), Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Southern Chicken Stew, Biscuits

Week 6 Challenge: No low-fat/nonfat products.

Sunday, February 8
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftovers from previous two dinners
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore

Monday, February 9
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Oatmeal Pancakes (already made in the freezer)
Dinner: Crockpot Chicken Butternut Quinoa Soup

Tuesday, February 10
Breakfast: Chocolate Pancakes
Lunch: Leftovers from previous two dinners
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas, Crockpot Refried Beans

Wednesday, February 11
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Crockpot Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili, Gluten Free Cornbread
Dinner: Ground Turkey Tacos

Thursday, February 12
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Leftover Chili and Cornbread
Dinner: Crockpot Italian Sausage, Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms over Rice

Friday, February 13
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Chicken and Black Bean Salads
Dinner: Leftover Italian Sausage Mix

Saturday, February 14
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Blueberries and Peaches
Lunch: Chicken and Black Bean Salads
Dinner: Crockpot Mexican Chicken Soup

Sunday, February 15
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Refried Bean and Cheese Tortillas, Fruit
Dinner: Leftover Mexican Chicken Soup

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Weekly Goals February 1-7

Elizabeth has been a lot more alert lately.  She's starting to develop her own personality, and just beginning to babble and coo.  I love it!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Put Elizabeth on the birthday board. Done!
  • Do Iron Craft Challenge #2 project.  Done! Look for the post on Tuesday.
  • Finish reading Brick by Brick. Almost done.  And I called it done enough to write a review.  I'll finish the book either later today or tomorrow.
  • Figure out yummy homemade Superbowl snack-y dinner. Done!
The boys got to stay up to watch wrestling with Jesse last weekend, so we made these monster cupcakes.  I froze half right away, and we're eating them as part of our Superbowl treats tonight.

This Week's Goals:
  • Start working on family 2014 photo book on Shutterfly.  I've done one of these for the past four years, and I really love having a picture summary of the year. Plus there's always codes for free books floating around, so I only end up paying shipping.
  • Finish unpacking our dresser, hanging a few pictures in the boys' room, putting diaper boxes in the closet.  These are a few lingering unpacking things that haven't gotten done.
  • Do yoga 4 times. I forgot to write this goal down last week, but it's kind of my standard exercising goal at this point.
  • Finish Brick by Brick and start reading another book.