Family Photo Friday

It's Friday once again. The last one of January, which is cause for much rejoicing! Most of us in the midwest are ready for spring. Anyway... we're in the middle of a computer upgrade and at the moment I don't have a way to download pictures from my camera. But this week I did have access to my new printer/scanner and was able to scan some old pictures. So here are a few "blast from the past" pictures of me, about 13 years ago when I worked at a Christian summer camp for inner city kids.

Dressed up as an Indian princess for a role in a mystery theatre

A camper and me

This was me with my boss Lisa - who took a chance and hired me that summer without having ever met me! We've been friends ever since. Not to mention that my husband and I owe her big time - without her hiring my husband to work there that summer and me to work there that summer, we never would've met!

This is a favorite photo of mine - me on the steps of the camp's candy shop where I worked all summer, serving a snack to each group of campers each day.

I love photos because I love memories... and photos are the best way I know to recall memories. But it's the memories that make the photos valuable.
So go make some memories with your family this weekend (and take some pictures to remember the occasion)!

Works for Me Wednesday - DIY Taxes

Last year was a first for me - I did our taxes by myself. And it turned out to be SIMPLE. There are hundreds of places you could spend money on tax prep. We went that route for years (mainly because we had income from another state = paying federal taxes plus 2 state taxes = somewhat complicated). But now our taxes are fairly straight forward, so doing them myself is easier than I thought it would be.

My suggestion: go here to learn more about using the FreeFile system (income less than $57,000, you qualify for FreeFile). You still need to have all your paperwork lined up, of course. This system helps point out errors in your return as well as makes suggestions of credits for which you qualify, which is very helpful (and meant $1,000 bigger refund for us last year because I missed a credit we qualified for!) You can expect refunds within 10 business days, with direct deposit.

Needless to say, with a system that takes your hand and walks you through the process, there's no need to put this off until April 15th!

It works for me!

Tuesday Time Out

It's Tuesday. We made it through a few very busy days and still have a few more very busy days to go. The to-do list looms large. But in the middle of it all, I've been more and more conscious of the need to be "all there" for my kids, to be real with them and actually engaged with them. It is easy to just sit at the computer while they play and only half-hear what they are saying, even questions directed towards me. It's easy to be busy cooking, cleaning, whatever... and not really be engaged with the other people in the room. For some reason this issue has come to the forefront of my mind lately and I'm working on spending more "quality" time with my kids, looking them in the eye, really listening to what they have to say, tuning in to them and tuning out the distractions. Easy? No way. But worth it? Absolutely!

The to-do list doesn't go away and still requires my attention. But it's a lower priority than people in my life.

Today we were running errands to the bank, post office, etc. While out for only 1 hour, we saw 2 separate hearses and funeral processions. Made me think again of the fragility of life and about priorities. Souls will last. Everything else will pass away. In those terms, it's easy to see where we should invest ourselves, our time, our energy.

I'm off to do just that! :-)

Menu Plan Monday

A new week = a new menu plan! We have a busy week before us, but planning a menu is one small thing that can save headache and hassle later on. Here's what we're planning to eat this week:

  • ham and bean soup
  • cheesy rice skillet
  • breakfast for supper (scrambled eggs along with pancakes or waffles)
  • homemade mac and cheese with ham, side of veggies
  • meatloaf and baked potatoes
  • pork chops and rice, veggies
  • Date Night (use a gift card we received for Christmas)
Happy eating, to you and yours!

Family Photo Friday

As I type "It's Friday" I find myself singing the Hallelujah Chorus. :-) Indeed, Friday is here once again. And on my blog, Fridays mean Family Photos. Here are a couple from our week (well... it's been one of THOSE weeks, so actually all of these are from one day this week)

My son, bless his little heart, wanted to help me out. He did. He vacuumed the entire living room floor and still didn't want to be done! He is very much the helper - wanting to be a part of everything from hammering nails with Dad, to browning meat with Mom, to helping Sister dump the trash. He is a helper through and through!

My daughter got a free McDonalds shake this week (thanks to an educational freebie coupon I received from my homeschool group). In a surprising turn of events... she shared the shake with her brother! :-) Such a rare moment this was, so my husband grabbed the camera to take this photo. No, honestly, my kids have their moments but are getting better at sharing, playing together and being kind to one another. Definite progress is taking place!

Grandma R sent home a play easel for my kids. How fun! One side is a magnetic board (that came with upper and lower case magnet letters). The other side is a chalkboard. You'd think the chalkboard was invented literally yesterday the way my kids raved about it! We have already found many ways to tie this in to homeschool projects and school work.

That's a glimpse into my week.
Tune in next week for the next installment of Family Photo Friday!

Deals around Town

I'm excited to report on some great deals we found in the last week.

My best deal was last week's 8x10 photo collage from Walgreens for free! I made a Christmas 2009 collage and it turned out great.

We also picked up free Starkist Tuna Pouches, Steamfresh frozen vegetables, Suave deodorant, and Oikos yogurt at Kroger this week.

At WalMart we got the above items for free: Stayfree pads, Kotex pads, Johnson's and Johnson's Q-tips, Band-Aids, toddler meal in a cup and 3-pack Ivory Soap.

I picked up two free packs of Mentos gum at CVS this week.

Kroger was also running some good deals on meat (not free, but the lowest price we see per pound around here), so we stocked up on ham and chicken - spending a little extra this month to save some money for the next couple months.
For Christmas we received a Seal-a-Meal machine, so here you can see how we turned one large package of chicken breasts into four smaller packages of cubed, seasoned and cooked chicken. These are very versatile and will make 4 meals.

If you want in on the "freebies" in your area, check out Money Saving Mom for all the details and deals.

Potty Training

In case anyone is wondering how potty training is going for my 2-year-old little man, I think this picture sums up my son's "who needs underwear?" sentiments. :-)

Menu Plan Monday

Monday once again is here. Another week is before us. Do you have a plan for what your family will be eating this week. We have stocked up on meats this month, during some recent sales. We will be eating from our stockpile this week and probably next week too, not needing to make any grocery store runs (with a possible exception of buying some more eggs).

  • Breakfast for supper (have a large supply of homemade pancakes, waffles on hand)
  • Homemade mac and cheese with diced ham, side of peas
  • Porkchops, stuffing and homestyle potatoes
  • Venison roast, baked potatoes
  • Crispy, country chicken, mixed veggies and homemade biscuits
  • Meatloaf, potato wedges
  • Beef and rice skillet
We have a number of items on hand for dessert options. My hubby has been itching to try this carrot souffle recipe. Never had a souffle before, but this may be the week! '

Happy eating to you and yours!

Family Photo Friday

It's Friday! Yippee! Here are a few photos from our week.

First up, my son, the sweet little snitch :-) I'm glad he's snitching, though. He really doesn't eat much, but would still be content to just drink milk all day long. So I'm happy to hear him say that he wants to eat and I'm trying to keep healthy snacks (like these raisins) handy for him to munch on.
It was a "cuddle up with a blanket" kind of week at our house. Cold. Some sickness going around. My son grabbed a blanket and laid on the floor to "weep" (that is, sleep, to this 2-year-old).

And my daughter was cuddling with a blanket too (a new afghan, really... new and homemade by Grandma R). When I look at pictures of my daughter these days, I can see how she is now less little girl, more little lady. Growing up.

Happy Friday, one and all!

Praying for Haiti

This beautiful picture was taken in Haiti - a country now trying to recover from a devastating earthquake. Whether you know anybody in Haiti or not, would you take a moment now to pray for all of those in Haiti right now? There are many Christian organizations that work in Haiti, especially in orphan care. All of those workers could use prayer support. Thanks.

Works for Me Wednesday: Card Displays

Each year we find a way to visually display all of our Christmas cards, pictures and letters. I think these are just too precious to leave sitting in a basket somewhere, never to be looked at again except when it comes time to toss them. So here is what we did this year, using a doorway.And here is a previous year's "wall" of cards. We just start in the middle and keep expanding out and up and down as we receive more cards.

When Christmas is done, we have a unique idea that keeps that holiday cheer going on a little longer. We remove one card or letter per day, re-read it and then pray for the family the card is from during that day. This keeps us thinking of family and friends well into the new year and is a tangible reminder of our obligation and privilege to pray for others.

It works for me!

2009 - The Year in Photos

Our story may be unique, I know. But 2009 was a great year for us. A year of changes, a year of growth, a year of faithfulness. Here is a pictorial review of our year.
January - lots of fun in the snow

February - lovebirds

March - time to move, our house is SOLD!

April - Easter time, all dressed up cuties

May - a trip to the circus was a highlight for all of us

June - hosted Spanish foreign exchange student "Edu" for 4 weeks

July - a month of travels; many weekend trips to Indianapolis and one longer trip to Wisconsin
August - celebrating birthdays, including my daughter's 6th birthday with her first ever themed, guest party (Princesses, of course)

September - a month for field trips - to the fire station and to a local train show

October - many hours of fun outside, playing in the leaves

November - portraits for my son's 2nd birthday

December - celebrating having a home big enough to host family for Christmas; also thankful for a new roof, new siding and many other projects we were able to accomplish in our first 9 months in this house!

We look forward to what 2010 will hold!

Menu Plan Monday

Ok. It's Monday. Do you know what you're eating this week? :-) We'll be enjoying these meals this week, all compliments of our freezer and pantry. No additional grocery shopping this week (we stocked up last week).
  • Chicken pot pie
  • Homemade pizza
  • Homemade spaghetti (on menu last week, didn't happen)
  • Breakfast for supper (homemade waffles, scrambled eggs)
  • Meatloaf and baked potatoes
  • Venison roast, butter-baked potatoes
  • Porkchops, stuffing, onion skillet

I have lots of options for desserts right now: ice cream, brownie mixes, pudding mixes, banana bread.

That's our plan for the week. How about you? Make a plan. You'll be glad you did!

Family Photo Friday

The first full week of 2010 is coming to a close. Friday is here again, so I'll share a few photos from our week.

My sweeties, all cuddly with their new blankets (Christmas gifts from Aunt Karen)

My son adores his daddy. While I was folding laundry one day, he pulled out this shirt of Dad's and walked around with it draped on him like a toga. "Daddy, Daddy" he repeated. Then he laid down and wanted the shirt to be his blanket. So cute.

I was cleaning the table after supper. I turned my back for a moment. When I looked again, my son had grabbed the whole pan of chicken tetrazini and was digging in! Whoa, hold your horses there, buddy!

That gives you a glimpse into life at our house this week.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Christmas Commentary, Part 2

With some of our extended family living nearby and others a few states away, our Christmas celebrations always end up being spread out over two weekends. Instead of dreading this, I LOVE IT! Instead of feeling like Christmas is over and done with in a day, we usually are still celebrating into January. This year, Christmas Day was spent in Wisconsin with my family. Then we returned home to host the Christmas celebration for my husband's side of the family. I will say once again "Thank You, Lord" for a bigger house so we even could host Christmas this year [and bless my mother-in-law with the gift of her NOT having to host it :-)]. We enjoyed a wonderful meal (potluck style with everyone bringing something to share), a short program put together by the kids, and then opening gifts. Afterward, some people left while others hung around for desserts and a few games. It was so nice to be together with family.

Here are two nieces and my brother-in-law playing TO BETHLEHEM (a very fun Christmas board game). They were all good sports, even to the point of wearing a towel to keep the hot dessert sun off their heads on the journey "to Bethlehem."

My daughter and her cousin playing dress up - they have so much fun together and stayed up late after gift opening to dress up, play with their new games and check out all the new toys.

So we are now done celebrating Christmas 2009. I am pondering, though, as I think ahead to Christmas 2010 the idea of celebrating "The 12 Days of Christmas" in the traditional way - starting on Christmas Day and going for the next 12 days, discussing a part of the Christmas story each day, making it last a little longer. Already our own family Christmas is a very small affair - we give 3 gifts or less per person - but I'd love to add more elements of the true meaning of Christmas and less of the materialism that bombards from every direction during the holiday season. We'll see...

Snow Fun

While in Wisconsin last week...

and here in Indiana this week, we have had PLENTY of snow,

which makes for snow fun!

Let it snow! Let it snow!

Menu Plan Monday

It's the first full week of the new year. I resolve to be more consistent in menu planning. This is a huge time-saver for me - a little forethought and way less stress at supper time each night. This is also a huge money-saving for us - stocking up on what is on sale and then using what we have on hand. My hubby is a creative cook and he has been helping me come up with delicious and unique meals that have clean out our pantry. Here is what we came up with for this week's menu:

  • Homemade mac and cheese and ham; salad on the side
  • Homemade pizza (with ham, black olives, pineapple, anything else we want to throw on it)
  • Chop Suey, homemade biscuits
  • Chicken and Rice, salad on the side
  • Chili
  • Tuna sandwiches, side of peas
  • Homemade spaghetti
That is our plan and just having a plan is a big sigh of relief for me.

What about you? What will you be eating this week?


Happy New Year!

2010 is here. For us, 2009 was a year of abundant blessing for which we give all thanks to the Lord, our God! We are anxious to see what more 2010 could hold for us. One thing we know - we will celebrate 10 years of marriage in May 2010! We're starting to make plans to celebrate this milestone.

Next week I will do a 2009 Recap post, with the highlights of our year.

But for now, we are preparing for our last Christmas celebration, so I've got to run. Be back next week!