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Friday, June 27, 2008

penny pinchers and picky eaters...

...don't go well with rising food prices. At the beginning of the month when I swore off a diet consisting almost entirely of processed foods I didn't realize the scope of the challenge I was taking on. I knew it would be hard to give up the junk food, but what I didn't realize was how difficult it would be to find a variety of healthy alternatives that we could fill our tummies without emptying our bank account. Over the past three weeks I've picked up a few things that I thought I'd share with anyone else out there who's looking for healthy and affordable options. It's nothing fancy, but what do expect for a $50 a week food budget? Please keep in mind some items carry over from other weeks shopping trips. The goal is to coordinate meals that will use every last mushroom, green pepper, and leaf of lettuce before they go bad in my crisper drawer AND to make things my picky children husband will eat.

Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta.-
I buy one of the big jars so I can stretch it for two meals.
Any leftover veggies from earlier meals get thrown into the sauce or put in a toss salad.
I have a bag of ravioli in the freezer that I alternate with the regular spaghetti noodles to mix it up from week to week.

Tacos
Flour tortillas last for a number of meals around here especially since we switch it up with mulit-grain tortilla chips for taco salads. We get a good helping of lettuce and tomato with this meal too (getting more fresh fruits and veggies into our meals is a priority)
It also helps that we have a farmer in the family who sells us fantastic hamburger at an unheard of price.
My friend Jennifer gave me a recipe for seasoning that is tasty, doesn't have the bad stuff in the store packets, and is more affordable. I've also made chicken fajitas by marinating the chicken in Italian dressing for 30 minutes prior to sauteing and then adding some chili powder to the oil in the pan before tossing in the veggies.

It goes without saying that buying in bulk and freezing dinner size portions of meats can save money too. It's so nice to pull out a Ziploc baggie of brats instead of having to buy them in small packages each time. If I buy buns for burgers or brats I feel OK about paying extra for the whole grain kind since we get two meals out of a package of eight. Brian will use the left over bun for his tuna salad sandwich during the week or I'll slather them with PB&J for a picnic at the beach.
We're also not above eating brats on hamburger buns or hamburgers on brat buns.

A staple meal around here are chicken kabobs with mushrooms and green peppers. Brian has a secret ingredient that makes these kabobs my favorite meal next to a steak from Biaggi's. While he's outside grilling the chicken to perfection, I'm inside making couscous. Notice who gets the easy job. :)
Sam doesn't like peppers or mushrooms so we always have a bag of baby carrots on hand.
If there's extra chicken Brian will grill it with the kabobs so we can have Chicken Cesar Salads the next day.

I follow the dirty dozen list and purchase organic peppers and strawberries, but conventional bananas, kiwi, mushrooms, and carrots.


Speaking of bananas...
My kids get their fill of potassium everyday for sure.
They eat them as snacks at the park.
They eat them for breakfast (or lunch) sliced with peanut butter on them.
In fact, that's exactly what they had for lunch today. As well as this concoction:
I steamed frozen veggies (Brittany's family uses frozen berries a lot, - another great money saver).
And then use that water (where some nutrients escaped to) to make my couscous. Two servings filled the kids and I up - something that's hard to do sometimes. These kids are bottomless pits!
Sam only likes carrots right now and I'm OK with that. This was the first time he's tried couscous and I'm thrilled that he likes it.
I had no doubt that Julia would dig right in and sure enough, that's exactly what she did.




You wouldn't know it by the way they are eating, but they both had huge bowls of Grape Nuts with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

Another breakfast food that we actually rarely eat for breakfast is eggs. Last night I made scrambled eggs with green onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and tater tots for Julia and I, plain scrambled eggs for Sam, and sunny side up eggs for Brian. For the most part I don't consider myself to be a short order cook kinda mom, but plain ol' scrambled eggs gets boring for most of us.

The tater tots were originally purchased for Tater-Tot Hot Dish as were the veggies from lunch today. I love Tater Tot Hot Dish! I also love that it's easy and filling. I recently found my box of cookbooks and am anxious to try out a homemade white sauce from my More With Less Cookbook. Here's my current recipe for the hotdish if you aren't familiar with this Midwest Meal:

Brown 2 pounds of hamburger, drain
Add 1 can cream of whatever soup
Add one bag of frozen mixed veggies
Transfer to deep baking dish and top with tater tots
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes
Enjoy!

I think I've covered the main things we eat around here... Oh wait! How could I forget pancakes!?!!?!?! When we get to the end of the week and our fruit bowl and crisper drawer are getting bare I pull out the pancake mix. The kids gobble them up faster than Brian can make them on our little frying pan.

While this particular brand of pancakes is delicious, I won't be getting any more when it's gone. Instead, I am going to make a batch of homemade mix from my More With Less cookbook. My family has prepared foods from the cookbook for decades. I "borrowed" my mom's copy years ago but lost it during a move. A few years later my cousin, Deb, gave me a new copy for Christmas (along with homemade bread, organic chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, a spider plant descendant of our great-grandmother's plant which was planted in dirt from the family cabin in Northern Minnesota). The cookbooks is perfect for families who are trying to get away from processed foods and save money at the same time. I've already tried a few of the recipes and will share the results in upcoming More With Less posts.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

RUN Forrest Sam! Ruuuunnnn!!!

We were looking for a change of scenery on Sunday so we decided to walk up to the baseball field. Sam has been enjoying batting practice for a while now so we thought we'd acquaint him with a few more of the rules of the game. Brian made bases out of the gloves and explained that after he hit the ball he should run to each base. Wwwwhaaack!!!! We all stood and watched as the ball sailed over Brian's head. "RUN SAM!", we yelled... and he did...all the way to first base, holding on tight to the bat the whole way. Next lesson: Drop the bat before you run.

Then came the moment I will never forget as long as I live. It was the bat sailing through the air instead of the ball. He may hit the ball like his Daddy, but he throws the bat like his Mommy. (I broke the catchers nose once in a Jr. High softball league.)









I'm so glad I caught that first throw on "film" because he's never did it again. From then on he was running like a champ from base to base - even if he did run out of the baseline most of the time.


Maybe there's hope that Julia only inherited Daddy's baseball skills.

Monday, June 23, 2008

By the numbers

6 - the number of months it took us to kill 3 goldfish
2 - the number of well behaved children living in this house
10 - the number of times a day I revel in that fact
1 - the number of freckles on Julia's face (near her hairline)
3 - the number of freckles on Sam's face (near his nose, hairline, and jawline)
10,000 - the number of freckles on my body
1 - the number of weddings I've booked for this year so far
2 - the number of books I'm in the middle of reading
20 - the number of books my kids read in a day
40- the number of minutes Sam sat on the couch this morning listening to a book on CD
2 - the number of loaves of bread the kids and I made last week
22 - the number of days until we are hosting a retirement party for Brian's mom at our house - hence...
2 - the number of hours we spent cleaning out the garage on Saturday
3 - the number of hours we spent at our beach on Friday
8:00 the numbers on the clock lately when I get up in the morning
60 - the number of minutes Julia will read books in her crib in the morning
20 - the number of times I run over to the office for park related business in an average week
3 - the number of times I've called the Sheriff's office this month
22 - the number of hours before Brian's mom goes in for knee replacement surgery
5 - the number of weeks before my mom moves an hour and a half away
49 - the number of days until I become an aunt for the first time
3 - the number of picture perfect weekends we've had this summer
40 - the number of fish Sam and Julia caught the other night
1,000 - the number of mosquitoes that attacked us on our hike last week
10 - the number of things I should be doing instead of blogging
1 - the number of tents I'm going to put up in our front yard today
70 - the number of days since I've used cloth diapers (that streak ends today. I cringe just thinking about the number of disposable diapers I've wasted since right before we moved)
54 - the number of days we've lived in this house
8 - the number of boxes I still have left to unpack
0 - the number of things I've put up on the wall in this house
16 - the number of steps Julia just walked down like a big girl
90 - the number of minutes I spent cleaning up after two graduation parties held in the park over the weekend.
countless - the number of snuggles I'm going to go give my kids right now!

Have a great week everyone!

By the numbers

6 - the number of months it took us to kill 3 goldfish
2 - the number of well behaved children living in this house
10 - the number of times a day I revel in that fact
1 - the number of freckles on Julia's face (near her hairline)
3 - the number of freckles on Sam's face (near his nose, hairline, and jawline)
10,000 - the number of freckles on my body
1 - the number of weddings I've booked for this year so far
2 - the number of books I'm in the middle of reading
20 - the number of books my kids read in a day
40- the number of minutes Sam sat on the couch this morning listening to a book on CD
2 - the number of loaves of bread the kids and I made last week
22 - the number of days until we are hosting a retirement party for Brian's mom at our house - hence...
2 - the number of hours we spent cleaning out the garage on Saturday
3 - the number of hours we spent at our beach on Friday
8:00 the numbers on the clock lately when I get up in the morning
60 - the number of minutes Julia will read books in her crib in the morning
20 - the number of times I run over to the office for park related business in an average week
3 - the number of times I've called the Sheriff's office this month
22 - the number of hours before Brian's mom goes in for knee replacement surgery
5 - the number of weeks before my mom moves an hour and a half away
49 - the number of days until I become an aunt for the first time
3 - the number of picture perfect weekends we've had this summer
40 - the number of fish Sam and Julia caught the other night
1,000 - the number of mosquitoes that attacked us on our hike last week
10 - the number of things I should be doing instead of blogging
1 - the number of tents I'm going to put up in our front yard today
70 - the number of days since I've used cloth diapers (that streak ends today. I cringe just thinking about the number of disposable diapers I've wasted since right before we moved)
54 - the number of days we've lived in this house
8 - the number of boxes I still have left to unpack
0 - the number of things I've put up on the wall in this house
16 - the number of steps Julia just walked down like a big girl
90 - the number of minutes I spent cleaning up after two graduation parties held in the park over the weekend.
countless - the number of snuggles I'm going to go give my kids right now!

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice


Grandpa brought Sam a new fishing pole yesterday and the whole family went down to the lake to watch the kids fish with Grandpa. I can't wait to share the fun shots I got of the excitement.... eventually. For now we're headed to the library for a kids program and then to the beach. I couldn't think of a better way to welcome summer in. Don't worry, I'll be sick of the sun before you know it and be back in the house to post more pictures.

Happy Summer Everyone!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I can see clearly now

It was about time I stretched my photography muscle again. It will be a year in September that I purchased my digital SLR and in a short amount of time I found a couple of settings that worked well for me and that's where I sat...in my comfort zone. I knew I could do better. I knew that I had the right equipment and somewhere buried inside of me I still had the knowledge that could take my work to the next level. I made a baby step in that direction this morning when I took these portraits of Julia.












The timing couldn't be better because I am about to send out a huge email to my contacts to offer them a summer portrait session deal. Our lives are so hectic here at the park that I don't have the time to put into processing orders. Instead for any session booked after today, I am offering all clients the opportunity to purchase the copyright to all the proofs from their portrait session for a one time fee of $100. That comes out to about $1 an image. It's a win-win situation. You get free reign to print portraits to your hearts desire and I get a few more hours a week to spend with my family. If you aren't on my contact list and would still like to take advantage of this offer, send me an email at 4theloveoffamily@gmail.com and I'd be happy to book a session for you. I typically come to your house, a park of your choosing, or in some instances it might be possible to do your session here at our park.

I have had the pleasure of designing a number of photo books for clients and if that is something that interests you I will make the time to create a special keepsake just for you. An 8x10 hardcover book costs $100 and is filled with 30-45 of your favorite images.
This link will take you to my bookstore where you can preview the books I've designed:
See my published books

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - A boy and his (mom's) hammock are not soon parted.

I waited 10 years to lounge in this hammock. Looks like I'll have to wait a little longer.

Looks can be deceiving

On first glance life here is relaxing and simple. A hammock I purchased ten years ago in Costa Rica is right at home in our front yard, we've enjoyed more family meals on our porch than inside the house, the kids spend hours outside driving their cozy coupes around the driveway.








We can even walk to campfire programs without leaving home.



In case you are turning green with envy or are about to click over to a different blog because you can't stand my bragging let me assure you that there is more to the story. MUCH more.






Take this picture for instance: Sure, the kids have a big driveway to play in, but it also gets used by huge wedding receptions to park the band's full size semi. The Gator behind Julia is also parked in the driveway because (especially on the weekends) we are constantly running out to the campground. Notice the big black garbage bag in the back of the gator? A camper decided it was too much work to drop the bag off at the dumpster on her way out so I got to retreive it from her site. At least she put her garbage in a bag. The guy at the site next to her left 30 bottles on the ground for me to pick up.

Those types of things I can handle.

Double bookings at the same shelter?

Not so much.
Saturday didn't start off well and it most definitely didn't end well. With one family breathing down my neck I spoke with the other family about their shelter permit. An hour later, both groups were grilling and getting on with their parties. I on the other hand was hustling through the grocery store so I could get back to the office on time for my regularlily scheduled office hours from 1-3 (which usually becomes 1-4).

Now look in the way background of the same photo and you'll see two tents. Up close they look like this:

The bride and groom set these up Saturday morning for their evening reception. All fine and dandy until a storm rolled in and lifts the tents up in the air only to drop them back down on 50 people sipping fruity cocktails. Thank goodness my in laws were here so they could hustle the kids into the house while Brian drove through the campground to check on campers. I ran to the barn to assess the damage. One lady had a bad bruise, but it was the woman on the ground unconscious that got my blood pumping. Four firemen who happened to be attending the wedding took over the first aid while I scrambled to call for an ambulance. It was chaos. I don't know how rescue workers do their jobs day in and day out.
The young lady was transported by ambulance while the other injuries were treated on site. I never did see my kids again that night. Grandma and Grandpa put them to bed while I tried to tame the crowd that got back into the party mode rather quickly after the storm. I was really hoping they'd call it a night so I didn't have to worry about the noise from their live band. The show went on though and donning one of my many hats I wear as part of this gig, I became the Party Pooper when I had to tell the band that the show was over. In a nice way of course. :)

Forty minutes later I mopped the last guest out the door and then spent the next 15 minutes telling them they needed to go back to their campsites or go home. Drunk people are not fun. Calling the Sheriff's office is not fun. Working 14 hours in one day is not fun.

Do I still love it here? You bet I do! (Even after the raw sewage spill I dealt with on Sunday afternoon.) You might have to wait a little longer for me to post anything though because I spend all week recovering from the weekends. That, and I haven't quite perfected the art of blogging from my hammock. I'll get right on that....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

That's my Sam

My favorite son. My pride and joy. This past month has been my most favorite as a mom. Both kids have been on their best behavior and Sam, especially, makes my jaw drop every day with his good listening, sharp whit, and love for his sister.













Happy 44 month birthday baby boy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

on the rise

It's becoming increasingly difficult to buy a loaf of bread for under $3 especially if I want to get good quality whole grain bread. The kids and I went to the grocery store to purchase a few items to have a picnic at a local park. Here's what I bought:
1 apple
1 nectarine
1 loaf of bread
1/5 of a watermelon
10 ounces of deli meat
small container of mashed potatoes
buns for our hamburgers tonight
a bunch of bananas (the really ripe ones so I could get them for 39 cents a pound)

total cost: $16
Darn this healthy eating business. McDonald's would have cost me $6.

Since we go through a lot of bread now that we don't eat crackers, chips, Goldfish etc... I have decided that perhaps I should take a stab at making my own. I've done it before when I was 18 and living in a tent in the Montana Wilderness. If I could do it under those conditions why shouldn't I be able to make some yummy, nutritious homemade bread in my modern kitchen? I might even be able to convince Brian that he doesn't need his own loaf of white bread anymore (or at least guilt him into eating what I slaved over in a hot kitchen). A girl can dream right?

Does anyone have any recipes they'd like to share? We don't have any food allergies, but Sam doesn't like nuts.

Schooled



I learned a few things at my baby sister's high school graduation last Friday night:

1. It takes 30 minutes of Pomp and Circumstance for 850 graduations to enter the auditorium.
2. High school grads are looking younger and younger than ever before.





3.Fashion goes out the window if you forget a spare outfit for your daughter who had a blowout
4. Sam is capable of sitting quietly for 2 1/2 hours if he has a new toy
5. It takes 45 minutes to give 850 graduates their diplomas
6. Kara graduated with at least ten people who's last name is Anderson
7. There's always someone who trips and falls on stage
8.Never say "I'll meet you over there" when that place turns out to be a staging area for 850 grads
9. I've never been prouder of my sister.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I might have to change the name of my blog

Not for the same reason I changed my photography business name, but because having the number 4 plastered everywhere reminds me that I'm one measly cent away from paying 4 dollars at the gas pump. I remember when we hit three dollars a gallon that we didn't just hop in the car and go whenever or wherever we pleased. Now that it costs us a minimum of $8 to go anywhere other than our tiny town, I've had to cram as many errands into each trip. Yesterday when I picked up my milk order I also made a quick stop at a park where Sam's playgroup was gathering, an even quicker stop at the library to return books, to Wendy's to get a salad, and then it was off to another park to meet Mck Mama, her sister, and her college friend.
I remember the second summer Brian and I were married that the gas price didn't budge for three whole months. We paid $1.39 a gallon time and time again. Now $1.39 will barely get me home from the gas station.
I don't know what it costs to fill my tank because it's been a month since I bit the bullet and filled 'er up.
What I do know is that we'll be staying home more this summer than ever before.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big Finale - day 7 of swimming lessons

Look at how comfortable he is swimming on his back. This is a skill they usually master in the next level. If only we could get past the going under water part...



Totally submerged! Wahoo!!!!

Less than two weeks ago Sam would NEVER have agreed to put his face in the water like he does now. My bubble was burst a little when we went to the community center after lessons so Julia could swim too and he reverted back to his old ways. It was a good reminder that I'll have take the same baby steps that her teacher did.

Fingers crossed that Julia doesn't develop the same fear Sam had.

Sink or Swim- Day 5 of swimming lessons














It keeps getting better and better especially when he ends a lesson by saying, "Swimming lesson are fun Mom!"

Sink or Swim - Day 4 of Swimming lessons


I think the pictures speak for themselves.

That's my boy!


Have a good morning!

It's back to school season and whether your kids start before or after Labor Day new routines are on every mom's mind these days. T...