Homemade Sandwich Cookies

I took these to a picnic over the weekend and they were a huge hit!  Everyone loved them and said they taste a lot like Oreos.  Of course, I handed out the recipe to everybody it seemed.  These are super easy to make and would be great for a bake sale too!

2 boxes devil’s food cake mix**

2 sticks of margarine, softened

2 eggs

1 can store-bought white or vanilla icing

1/2 cup (approximate) confectioner’s sugar

Combine cake mix, eggs, and butter in a bowl.  You’ll end up mashing it together with your hands to get it all mixed up into a fairly stiff cookie dough.  Form dough into balls using a measuring teaspoon.  Place on cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper) and bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for a few minutes before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.  

Combine icing and confectioner’s sugar and beat with electric mixer until fairly stiff.  Spread icing on bottom of one cookie and top with another cookie.  I like to just turn half of my cookies top-side down and squirt the icing on them using a pastry bag.  It really cuts the time and potential for mess.

This recipe makes about 3 dozen sandwiches.

**I like devil’s food cake mix the best but you can use any flavor you want.  Strawberry is particularly good and so is lemon.  You could always choose a different flavor icing to complement your cookie flavor.

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Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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My Son, The Bug Catcher

Me:  Whatcha doin’?

Smarty:  Catching bugs.  I’m looking for a Red Velvet Ant.

Me:  Smarty, you picked one of those up the other day and it stung you!   Stay away from those things!

Smarty:  Yeah, but I won’t get stung this time.  I’m gonna outsmart ’em.

Me:  Yeah, well, good luck with that one.

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Crochet for the Special Olympics

As I’ve mentioned before, I am learning to crochet.  While at the grocery store yesterday, I picked up a copy of Crochet Today magazine.  In the Sept/Oct issue, there’s an article on knitting or crocheting scarves for 2009 Special Olympics athletes.  This is the second year for the Special Olympics World Winter Games Scarf Project by Coats and Clark.  

There’s no set pattern to be used for the scarves, only set colors.  You must use Red Heart Super Saver yarn in both delft blue (#885) and white, as they are the official colors of the Games.  You can attach a note to the recipient,if you attach it firmly to the scarf.  How neat is that?  What a special treat for us to be a part of such a special time!  

If you wish to participate, the finished scarves must arrive by January 15, 2009 and should be sent to:

Special Olympics Scarf Project

3150 West Main Street

Boise, ID  83702

You can find more information about this project here.  And you can find easy patterns here and here.

I’m in, are you in?  If you decide to participate, I’d love to see your finished product. 

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 10:09 pm  Comments (4)  
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Grocery Shopping on a Budget….Again!

Back when I was single, grocery shopping meant stopping by the store to pick up something for dinner on the rare occasion that I wasn’t eating out or eating at my parents’ house.  When I first got married, we grocery shopped twice a month (on payday) and just bought whatever we felt like eating at the time.  We still ate dinner out fairly often and stopped by the store if what we had at home didn’t sound appealing that day.  A year and a half later, we were a single-income family of four buying diapers and formula and going broke.

We decided that we needed a budget (and quick!).  We sat down and figured the cost of our bills and necessities and set an amount for groceries and gas.  That amount was quite small!  But, we had to make it work if I was to continue to stay at home with the kids.  This called for some planning.

Since Hubby only got paid twice a month, I needed to get enough groceries to last from payday to payday. So, I sat down and made a menu.  I had to not only plan 15 meals for our family, but they had to be inexpensive meals!  Lucky for me, Hubby will pretty much eat whatever I put in front of him without complaint.  Me?  Not so much.  I like steak and shrimp and pork chops and the like.  We couldn’t really afford stuff like that though.  

I started clipping coupons and planning my menu from the grocery store sales papers.  I made more stuff from scratch.  I used more fresh vegetables, especially during the summer months when the in-laws would provide squash and okra from their garden.  Since I was raised on meat and potatoes, I don’t get full on just veggies the way Hubby does.  So, I started making casseroles.  They had veggies for Hubby and were more filling for me.  Broccoli Casserole, Squash Casserole, and Spinach Pie quickly became staples on the menu.  I also chose meals like hotdogs and tacos because they are fairly inexpensive.  We ate frozen pot pies and tater tots because that entire meal only cost $5!  I also added a lunch menu for myself and the kids and planned enough so Hubby could take leftovers to work for lunch.  

Once my menu was made, I made my grocery list.  I checked the cabinets and fridge first and only added things to the list that I needed.  I eventually memorized the  layout of my grocery store.  I made my grocery list by aisle, making it easier to shop without missing something on my list.  I still do this.  I’m obsessive like that.  

As I go through the grocery store marking things off my list, I keep a running total of how much I’m spending.  I just round up from the amount to the nearest dollar or half dollar and keep the total going in the margin.  By rounding up, I’m essentially figuring in the sales tax.   This way, I know how I’m doing on my budget and if I see that I’m able to come in under the planned amount, I can then buy special snacks or something new to try.  If I see that I’m going to be over budget, I may try to change out a more expensive meal for something cheaper.  

I have to admit that I’ve gotten away from my grocery budgeting these past couple of years.  I still make my menu and I still shop from my menu but I don’t always keep that running total as I shop and I don’t always stick to the list.  This is how I end up spending over $200 at the grocery store!  With Hubby’s new truck payment, we’re back to hard-core budgeting again.  We’re back to limiting the amount of times we eat dinner out and I’m back to composing a menu of inexpensive meals.  I’m back to clipping coupons – especially for baby food and diapers.  I’m also keeping a running total while I shop again.  So far, the past two times I’ve gone to the grocery store I’ve spent $40 less than usual!  I love that!

So, what do you do to save money at the grocery store?  I’d love to hear some of your tips and tricks!  Oh, and do you know your grocery store by aisle or am I the only weirdo that does that?

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Shining My Sink Without All The Chemicals

As I’ve mentioned before, I am using FlyLady to get my house in order.  The first thing FlyLady tells you to do is to shine your sink.  Why?  Here’s what FlyLady says….

This is your first household chore. Many of you can’t understand why I want you to empty your sink of your dirty dishes and clean and shine it, when there is so much more to do. It is so simple. I want you to have a sense of accomplishment. You have struggled for years with a cluttered home and you are so beaten down. I just want to put a smile on your face. When you get up the next morning, your sink will greet you and a smile will come across your lovely face. I can’t be there to give you a big hug, but I know how good it feels to see yourself in your kitchen sink. So each morning this is my gift to you. Even though I can’t be there to pat you on the back, I want you to know that I am very proud of you.

Go shine your sink! – FlyLady

She’s right,  you know.  It does give you a great sense of accomplishment and it makes you feel so much better about your home.  For me, it was contagious!  Once the sink was shined, I just had to clean the counters.  And then I had to do the bathroom sinks.  And then the bathroom counters.  You get the picture.  

Anyway, FlyLady uses things like AJAX or Comet and Windex to shine her sink.  I started out that way but I’ve since stopped using cleaners like those.  Instead, I use things like vinegar and baking soda.  Since I enjoy my shiny sink so much, I’ve changed the way I shine it, without losing the shine!  Here’s how:

  •  Fill one side of your sink to the rim with hot water and add 1 cup of bleach.  Allow to sit for one hour and then drain it.  Repeat with the other side of the sink.  You don’t have to do this every time; I only do it once a month.  The bleach really helps keep the drains smelling fresh and takes care of any stains around the drain.  This is one thing I still do that FlyLady does.  
  • Spray the sink with a mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of warm water.  I keep this on hand at all times to clean with, it’s my all-purpose cleaner.   
  • Dampen a paper towel with the vinegar/water cleaner and wrap it around a butter knife.  Use this to scrub really well around the edges of your sink (where it meets the countertop) and around the edge of the faucet.  You probably won’t have to do this every time you shine your sink – just as needed.  
  • Using a sponge, wipe the sink really well all over.  Make sure to wipe down in the sink and along the edges, as well as around the faucet.  
  • Rinse the sink well.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda in each side of the sink.  With a sponge, scrub the sink with the baking soda just as would with AJAX.  Make sure to get around the edges and all over the faucet, too! 
  • Rinse the sink really well to remove any residue left by the baking soda.  
  • Use a dry dish towel to wipe all the water off of the entire sink.  You may want to let it sit for a few mintues after this to make sure it’s good and dry.
  • Spray the sink with a glass cleaner.  Right now, I’m using up the last bit of my Method peppermint glass cleaner.  After that, I’ll be using a mixture of water, ammonia, and alcohol.  You can find some good glass cleaner recipes online.  I’ll be posting the ones I’ve found soon.  
  • Now, your sink should be nice and shiny!  If you have a stainless sink, you can also dab a little olive oil on a paper towel and rub it all over your sink for a little added shine.  

You don’t have to go through the whole process every single day.  I don’t.  Like I said, I do the bleach thing once a month or so.  I do shine my sink daily though.  I do the vinegar/water cleaner every time I cook and then clean up my mess.  I do the baking soda and window cleaner twice a day – morning and night.  

If you’d like to see the way FlyLady does it, you can find her instructions here.  Happy Shining!

If you have a good recipe for household cleaners, I’d love to hear it!

Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bedwetting

My seven year old son has started wetting the bed a lot lately.  He was never a bed wetter until about the age of 5 or so.  I don’t know why it happened but suddenly, he started wetting the bed about once a week or so.  These past few months, he’s been wetting the bed five or six times a week!  That makes for a lot of extra laundry. 

Hubby says not to get upset with him over it.  He assures me that it’s just a phase and it will pass.  He says I will only make it worse for the boy if I fuss at him.  Hubby was a bed-wetter and he says his mother fussed at him sometimes about it and it really didn’t help matters.  I’ve read that somehow bedwetting can be hereditary.  If one or both parents wet the bed, chances are the child will too.  Perhaps my mother-in-law was right, having a new baby would cause the boy to have “middle child syndrome” and now he’s started to wet the bed.  I don’t know.

I’ve spoken to his pediatrician about it.  I asked him why on earth this would start happening now.  He said that bed wetting in boys is more prevalent because boys often do not develop the hormone that concentrates urine during the night (antidiuretic hormone or ADH) until later than girls.  I don’t know about you, but I didn’t realize there was a hormone that concentrates the urine while we’re asleep!  I did some research and here’s what I found….

“Recent medical research has found that many children who wet the bed may have a deficiency of an important hormone known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH helps to concentrate urine during sleep hours, meaning that the urine contains less water and therefore takes up less space. This decreased volume of water usually prevents the child’s bladder from overfilling during the night, unless the child drank a lot just before going to bed. Testing of many bed-wetting children has shown that these children do not have the usual increase in ADH during sleep. Children who wet the bed, therefore, often produce more urine during the hours of sleep than their bladders can hold. If they do not wake up, the bladder releases the excess urine and the child wets the bed.”

Now, the pediatrician says it should pass soon.  He could give him a synthetic hormone until his body produces the antidiuretic hormone but he’d rather not.  We’d rather not either.  There are, however, some steps we can take to help him to stay dry at night.  Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  • Limit the amount of drinks he has after dinner (usually 6:00 p.m.).
  • Caffeine and carbonated drinks are generally not allowed in the evenings since these can irritate the bladder increase the chances of a wet bed.  We don’t allow our kids to have caffeine anyway but we’ve noticed that even when he drinks a Sprite in the evening, he almost always wets the bed.
  • Make sure he urinates before going to bed.
  • Wake him up before we go to bed so he can urinate again (just for safe measure).

I try to be understanding, really I do.  But I just get so tired of having to wash “pee sheets” every day.  I keep a plastic mattress cover on his bed so at least his mattress is staying dry.  I try to not let my son see my aggravation because I can see that he’s just as aggravated with himself.  And that makes me feel sad for him.  He tries so hard.  He really does not want to wet the bed. 

I found a product called Under Jams by Pampers.  They are kinda like Pull Ups/Good Nites but they aren’t as bulky and they have a lower cut waist so they don’t show out the tops of their jammies.  They are only available at two stores in my area and they are around $18.99 for a package of 27.  I’m not sure my guy would even be willing to wear them so I signed up online for a free sample.  If he wears the sample and likes them, I’d be more than willing to pay $20 a month for dry sheets.   I’ll let you know how they are when we get the sample to try.  

Do you have any suggestions to help my fella stay dry at night?  I need all the help I can get.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 1:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Easy Shepherd’s Pie

I found this recipe for Shepherd’s Pie not too long ago.  My kids love it and it’s super easy!  We had this for supper last night and there was none left!

You’ll need:

1 lb. hamburger

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

1 jar brown gravy

3 oz. cream cheese (softened and cubed)

garlic (to taste)

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

mashed potatoes (you can use instant if you want – make enough for 6 servings on box)

 

Brown hamburger and drain off fat.  Add mixed veggies and brown gravy.  Cook and stir until heated and veggies have thawed.  Pour into 9×9 bake dish.  If you’re making real mashed potatoes, add garlic to potatoes while cooking.  If you’re making instant potatoes, add it to the water while it’s heating.  Once you have your garlic mashed potatoes, stir in cream cheese and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.  Spread on top of meat/veggie mixture, sealing the edges.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar.  Bake at 400 degrees until meat/veggies are bubbly and cheese is melted.

That’s it!  Super easy and super yummy!  Enjoy!

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Back to School Time & We’re Prepared!

Today is the first day of a new school year for my boys.  It’s so hard to believe that they are already in the 2nd and 4th grades!  Heck, it’s hard for me to believe that either of them is already old enough for school.  Where does time go?  

They were so excited last night they could hardly get to sleep.  They picked out what they were going to wear (right down to their underwear) and laid everything out so it would be ready to go this morning.  Their backpacks were packed up with new notebooks, paper, pencils, and all the other things on their lengthy school supply lists and placed by the door.  

This morning ran so smoothly!  They hopped right out of bed and came to breakfast.  Since their clothes were all ready for them and showers were taken last night, they were able to get dressed without having to search for anything.  They brushed their teeth and combed their hair and were ready for the bus a full ten minutes early!  I even had time to pack hubby’s lunch!

I know this morning was different because it was the first day of school but I want to be this prepared every morning.  This year, I am going to make the boys lay out their clothes at night so we don’t have to disagree about shirts or search for someone’s left shoe again.  Yes, this year we are going to get prepared the night before.  I think the whole family could benefit from a little preparation!

So, tell me, what do you do to be prepared for your morning?  Do you do something special for the first day of school?

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Doing something nice for ME!

When I started staying home with my kids, I quit getting hair cuts.  I quit wearing make-up.  I started wearing t-shirts with holes and/or stains.  In other words, I let myself “go”.  I thought that, as a stay-at-home mom, my focus should be on my children and my home and not on myself.  

One day, I was walking into the post office in my usual state of attire (hair unwashed and pulled into a ponytail, ratty old t-shirt and shorts, and my Birkenstocks) when I bumped into my husband and a female co-worker coming out the door.  He had helped her carry some heavy packages from their office across the street.  They were laughing and talking about something as they were coming out the door and the sight of my husband laughing and smiling with another woman infuriated me!  Not that my husband was doing anything wrong or even that I thought he was doing anything wrong, but it made me so jealous.  

She was not much younger than me, only a year or two.  But she was slim.   Her hair was styled in a cute and trendy cut.  She was wearing makeup and pretty jewelry.  She had on a nice dress and heels.  And there I stood, feeling like a frumpy old housewife with a kid on each hand.  I wanted so badly to be her at that moment.  I was jealous and I hated her for looking so nice and smiling with my husband.  

I decided that I was tired of looking like a frumpy housewife so I decided to make some changes in myself. Money was tight so I couldn’t afford to go to the trendy salon on the corner for a new cut but my pastor’s wife had been cutting hair out of the parsonage for a while so I asked her to cut my hair.  She was delighted and confessed that she had been dying to get her scissors hands on my hair for quite some time.  It was all one length and halfway down my back which was not a good combination for my fine, thin hair.  She was so kind to only charge me $12 for a wash, cut, and style!  

Over the next few months, she cut more and more off of my hair until I, too, had a cute and trendy hairstyle.  I began to wear makeup and I began to wear nicer clothes whenever possible.  Remember, I said money was tight so I couldn’t afford to go out and buy a new wardrobe but I did shop the Belk clearance racks and found some great deals!  

The best thing I did was when I started walking each evening.  After we put the kids to bed, I would meet a friend (usually the pastor’s wife) and we would walk all around town for an hour.  This not only helped me to shed a few pounds but it gave me an opportunity to get out of the house and do something for myself.  I felt better, slept better, and had much more energy.  Best of all, it was free!  You don’t have to spend a ton of money to do something for yourself.

Since moving to the town we’re in now, I haven’t made close friends like I had in the last town.  I stopped walking in the evenings.  I stopped wearing makeup unless we were going out.  I started wearing ratty old clothes again.  My hair had gotten to all one length, halfway down my back and I was sporting a ponytail every single day. One day, a couple of months ago, I looked in the mirror and decided that I needed to pull myself out of the frump I was falling into again.  

I’ve started going to the salon (our move came with a substantial raise) and wearing makeup again.  I bought myself some nice clothes.  I started wearing perfume and earrings.  I even bought myself some sexy underwear!  You’d be surprised how much better you feel when you know you look good under your clothes.  Try it, seriously.  I feel so much better and my outlook on life is better, too!

So, how about you?  What do you do to feel good about yourself?  If not, I encourage you to start doing something, even if it’s something small, today!

Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 3:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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Zucchini Bread

 

The neighbor behind us has a (huge) beautiful garden and has supplied us with a ton of zucchini this summer.  With the zucchini abundance, I decided to make zucchini bread.  Here’s my recipe:

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

3 t. ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 c. vegetable oil

2 1/4 c. sugar

3 t. vanilla extract

2 c. grated zucchini (leave the skin on)

1 c. chopped walnuts

Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.  *I don’t actually sift it, I put it in the bowl and stir it up with a wire whisk.  The flour I buy is pre-sifted and I’m too lazy to sift it again. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add “sifted” ingredients to creamed mixture, and beat well.  I find that at this point it’s getting a bit thick.  If it gets hard for my mixer to mix up, I go ahead and toss in some of the zucchini for added moisture.  Once you’ve gotten everything mixed up, stir in the zucchini and walnuts until well combined.  

Pour the batter into two greased and floured 8 x 4 inch pans.  Bake at 325 degrees for 40 -60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  I find that it actually takes closer to 60 minutes but I don’t want it to get dry so I start checking it at 40 minutes.  Cool in the pans on a rack for 20 minutes before removing from the pans to cool completely.  

When I eat zucchini bread, I like to spread cream cheese on the slice.  YUM!  

Do you have a good zucchini recipe?  I’d love to hear it.  With all this zucchini around, it would be nice to have something new to try.

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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