Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Review Is In :: Pocket Your Dollars, 5 Attitude Changes

Cover Art


Carrie Rocha, creator of PocketYourDollars.com, engages readers in Pocket Your Dollars to help change attitudes regarding financial stewardship. She shares ways to help pay down debt, avoid financial stress, and allow earners to keep more of what they make. Unlike many of the step-by-step financial programs available, Carrie’s plan begins with attitude adjustment which leads to behavior modification.

Throughout the first half of Pocket Your Dollars, Carries suggest there are five attitudes holding us back from succeeding in our financial fitness: 1.If I only had more money, 2.I deserve a treat, 3.It won’t happen to me, 4.I’ll fake it ‘til I make it and 5. I can’t afford it.

Carrie suggests, Personal responsibility is the core issue. When we believe that our financial problems are caused solely by a lack of money, we refuse to acknowledge our current situation as something we’ve brought about. We deny the fact that the power for changing our future lies within us. And if we continue to deny this fact, change will never come.

One of Carrie’s biggest contentions to keeping your dollars stems from the idea of treats as being the leaky toilets in finances. Every time we treat ourselves to something because we feel we deserve it – the chai tea, the quick lunch, the new shoes – we are giving our hard earned dollars away. Carrie suggests we replace the notion of I deserve a treat with the idea I work too hard for my money. By creating a larger than ourselves goal, we can create our own financial frame and stick to it.

In addition to creating our own financial framework, we need to be aware of our monetary priorities. Carrie outlines them as bills, financial leaks, goals, and waste. By writing down and prioritizing our entire spending, it allows us to get a better picture of our stewardship as well as our leaky toilets. Carrie writes “Quantify it monetarily and then prioritize to stay out of debt.”

Consumerism drives our attitudes. Everywhere we turn, there are things to purchase and ways to increase our spending. We buy new dishes because we like the pattern or new clothes, not because the old ones are worn out but because it’s a new season. However, these items are not long term assets. Consumption is not a goal of the affluent,” Carrie states. She suggests we change what we don’t like to what we do like about our current situation. We might not have the newest car, but we do have a car which runs good and gets us to work.

In addition to being financially thrifty, we must ensure we do not become misery along the way. “The I-can’t-afford-it attitude harbors guilt or shame when spending money. Addressing this underlying shame is important to relieving lifetime financial stress.” Carrie offers a way to overcome this shame through her happy and relationship tests.

In the second half of Pocket Your Dollars, Carrie addresses the skills needed to overcome our attitudes. She offers up her ideas in how to change your self-talk through idea supplementation; how to stand up to pressure via self-control, will power and distress tolerance techniques; how to stay in for the long haul using motivation; as well as, how to create a spending plan by acknowledging your predictable monthly and non-monthly expenses and your unpredictable emergencies.

When it comes to paying off your debt, Carrie encourages the use of the debt snowball method in which the bill with the lowest amount is paid off first, regardless of interest. By using this approach, it helps to boost our egos and offers us a positive win in debt management.

If you are currently working through your debt and looking at a better way to impact your financial goals, Pocket Your Dollars will give you a great start at changing your attitudes to change your behavior. Carrie offers plenty of great references on her website to help begin your journey to become debt-free.

___________________
Carrie Rocha owns and operates PocketYourDollars.com, one of the most popular personal finance sites on the web, helping readers enjoy life within their means. Carrie writes regularly for Bankrate.com and has been featured on Wall Street Journal Radio, Glamour, Yahoo! Finance, CNNMoney.com, FoxBusiness.com, and many other magazines and websites. Carrie lives with her husband and two daughters in suburban
                       Minneapolis, Minnesota.

{Please see my disclaimer policy in regards to this post.}

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Here's a Tip :: Make Your Own Bird Seed





I love feeding birds in the winter, but lately I've had to cut back due to the expense. To shy away from commercial birdseed why not make your own bird seed mix by buying peanuts, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn in bulk.

Home Organization :: Creating a Home Inventory



 
Recently, I had a friend whose home was burglarized while they were away. The thief did not take much, mainly jewelry and electronics; however, my friend had a hard time remembering all the items in her jewelry box and their value.  She commented how difficult it was to pick out what was missing and provide information to the insurance company. 

In a time of stress or disaster, having a home inventory can be very helpful. It does take time to create, but it will aide in recovery of stolen items by the police and/or replacement by insurance after a natural disaster. There are several ways to approach a home inventory: 1. write everything down you own, 2.photograph or film all your possessions, or 3.a combination of the first two with a little extra.  

Insurance policies and the companies that write them want to see documentation for your claims. Having a home inventory will not only speed up the process, but it will also authenticate your possession claims.

Please note, if you have a large collection or items of great expense, a regular home insurance policy may not cover those items. For instance, most insurance companies write a standard home policy to cover theft or damage of the entire contents with a maximum cap on certain items. Electronics cap out at approximately $2,500. If you were to have a large expense of electronics in your home (maybe you like to DJ on the side!), you would need to obtain a rider or a personal articles policy. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of those policies as your insurance provider will be able to address any questions.  

Typically, I like to make a record using Excel for books and DVDs in our home. I also like to keep a list of all electronic serial numbers and their descriptions. If I take pictures, I can import them into my inventory record to have everything in one location. For any collections we have, I do the same.

In addition to a written inventory, I walk through the home each year snapping close-up photographs of every room, making sure to include the date/time stamp. I take zoomed out pictures of the entire room for reference, as well.

If we’ve made a big purchase in the past, I hold onto the receipts for financial documentation. However, with the online paper trail we all have today, your bank or credit card statements would be of great use to document actual item cost.

Once you’ve got everything pertinent listed and photographed, make sure to keep it safe. I keep an electronic record on my computer, on an SD card in a safe, and as an online document. If I’ve printed photographs, they go into the safe with the SD card.

Be sure to update your inventory yearly. I like to do mine at the end of Spring Cleaning, which ensures not documenting items I have donated or sold during the cleaning process. Keeping up to date records is very important. If you spent hours one year building a home inventory and fail to add your purchases the following year, should a natural disaster occur, you may not be able to claim your newest purchases.

Creating a home inventory may seem like a great task at hand, but it will help note what you have in your home and be a security net should anything happen in the future.

Helpful Links:



Monday, February 25, 2013

Experimental Recipes :: The Toasted Ravioli



When you cook, do you ever crave something a little different? Maybe you're not really sure how to make it; you look up a few recipes combine what you like, and viola - a creation is born.

That's how the toasted ravioli went and I must admit, they were pretty tasty! Just make sure you serve them right away; they're not as scrumptious after sitting a while.
______________

Ingredients:

1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs (I use Delallo; I also added rosemary from the 
      garden)
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 package of fresh ravioli ( I used large bacon carbona (yum!) but you can
      use any size or flavor)
1 cup marinara sauce (Again, I use Delallo)

Prep a baking sheet with a non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the milk and sour cream into a small bowl. Gently whisk until smooth. Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in another small bowl.

You can either dip the ravioli into the sour cream mixture or using a pastry brush you can coat the ravioli on both sides. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture onto both sides of the ravioli. Place the coated ravioli onto the prepared baking sheet.

Cook approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until the ravioli are toasted and golden brown. While they bake, heat up the marinara sauce and place into a dipping bowl.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Texas Girl's Travels :: Palm Springs, California

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
- St. Augustine
 
While my husband is chapters ahead of me, I'm making my way diligently through the world. In November of last year, I had the opportunity to visit Palm Springs, California - an enchanted region of desert beauty. I don't think words could simply lend to its air; pictures barely capture the form of God's hand and man's creativity.
 
Simply Misplaced
 
 
 
The Living Desert
 
 
 
 
Feeding Uncle Pono
 


The Salton Sea
 
 
A Walk Along the Beach
 

 
 
 
 


Kiwi Crate :: Products that Fuel the Imagination



Single Crates now on Sale at Kiwi Crate! shop now ››

As a child, I remember being absolutely delighted when I received a package or a magazine in the mail. My boys are no different, especially my youngest.

Recently, I discovered Kiwi Crate - a mail box stuffer to engage the imagination of even your quirkiest child. Filled with materials and inspiration related to arts and crafts, imaginative play, and even science, the Kiwi Crate is sure to be a hit in your household.

Kiwi Crates are available on an individual or subscription basis and are suitable for children ages 3 to 7, although they have had 9 year olds as product testers whom thoroughly enjoyed the activities supplied.

In addition to the individual crate, the company will add a sibling pack, doubling your materials, for a minimal charge. They also offer party packs and e-gift cards as options.

The basic monthly subscription costs $19.95. It includes two monthly projects, the ability to cancel at any time, and free shipping.

I know I will be looking to Kiwi Crates for upcoming birthdays and Christmas gifts this year! Has your child ever received a Kiwi Crate in the mail before? If so, let us know about their favorite activity!

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{Please see my disclaimer policy in regards to this post.}

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dandelion Moms Project Kindness :: Making a Difference

DM-project-kindness
 
As you all know, I contribute monthly articles to Dandelion Moms, a place for beautiful, strong and resilient moms to gather online. Recently, the Head Dandelion herself, Melissa Northway, started Project Kindness - a simple idea with great potential. Melissa writes, "Much like a dandelion seed that blows in the wind landing at different places – acts of kindness can also be far-reaching. We don’t always know how much a simple act could affect someone’s life."
 
The best part about Project Kindness is the ease of partaking in the list of activities Dandelion Moms provides and the gratification of knowing you have had an impact on someone's life.
 
Project Kindness activities for February are:
 
Buy the person behind you at the coffee shop a cup of coffee or tea.

Purchase a bouquet of flowers and give it to the person you think needs it most. This could be a total stranger walking along the street, a good friend or family member!

Bake some cookies with your kids and stop by a police station and drop them off – who knows, they might let the kids check out a police car!

Women’s shelters are usually in need of clothes for the women and children who stay there. Contact your local women’s shelter and see what their needs might be
 
If you complete any of these Project Kindness tasks, Melissa asks you share them with Dandelion Moms on their Facebook Page as well as Twitter and Instagram (make sure to use #dmprojectkindness). You are also more than welcome to post your kind acts (and photos) on Texas Homemaking's Facebook page.
 
Our kind acts for February had us making several flower deliveries throughout the month to area nursing homes, as well as a bouquet to a dear friend whom needed a smile.
 
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Tea Party Treat :: Madeleine of Commercy Recipe



The Fare of France, otherwise known as the Madeleine of Commercy, is a delectable tea cake often confused with a cookie due to its delicate nature and simple portability.

Once described as the cookie with the greatest literary clout, the Madeleine found its way into Marcel Proust's prose, Remembrance of Things Past.

"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of Madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt LĂ©onie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little Madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea."
 
Created from a genoise cake batter, the Madeleine is a lightly sweet and irresistible shell-shaped dessert which has found its way to my heart. I often prepare these adorable treats for a variety of settings - most recently, for a tea party at the park.

While not difficult to make, Madeleines do require a thorough knowledge of the recipe and a special shaped pan. While there are many recipes for Madeleines (including chocolate ones!), I've used this recipe most often.

__________



Ingredients:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
a pinch fine-grain sea salt
2/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
non-stick spray
powdered sugar

Let's Begin:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat until it is slightly brown and gives off a nutty aroma, approximately 20 minutes. Strain through a fine meshed strainer to remove solids. Cool the butter to ambient temperature.

While the butter cools, prepare the Madeleine pan using non-stick spray and a light dusting of flour. All ridges and creases need to be properly greased and floured; make sure to repeat this process through each batch of Madeleines.

Mix the eggs and salt using an electric mixer (I set my KitchenAid to high) and the whisk attachment. The volume of the eggs needs to double or triple; mix approximately three minutes. Continue to mix on high while slowly adding the sugar. Mix for 2 more minutes or until it has come to ribbons. Now, fold in the lemon zest, vanilla, and honey.

Sprinkle the flour on top of the egg batter and gently fold the flour into the batter. Fold in the butter as well.

Spoon the batter into the molds, taking care not to fill them as the genoise batter will spread. I like to fill each mold about 2/3 the way full. Bake the Madeleines for approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Unmold immediately and allow the tea cakes to cool on racks. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

This recipe makes 2-3 dozen Madeleines.

Madeleines may be stored in an air tight container for up to 2 days, but are best when made mere hours before serving. I sometimes will melt chocolate and dip half of the Madeleines for an alternative to serving. I've also been known to add them to my cakes. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Travel Texas :: Mrs. Lee's Garden

 
"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the bird for mirth,
You're nearer God's heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on Earth."

Breathtaking and inspiring, Mrs. Lee's Garden showcases the beauty of Spring daffodils while delighting the senses of visitors. Open for just a brief moment (mid-February until the last blooms in March), Mrs. Lee's is a treat for the young and old.

 

Helen Lee's vision of golden hills stretches out approximately 28 acres and includes a 4 mile winding roadway, two lovely lakes, and a rustic cottage reminiscent of pioneer days.



The garden is open every day of the week during blooming season from 10am until 4pm. It is always a good idea to call ahead to ensure optimal road conditions, as it can be a little muddy at times.

 
While there is no cost to visit and enjoy the grounds, donations are always welcome to preserve and maintain Mrs. Lee's inspirational gift.



Nestled south of the little town of Gladewater, Mrs. Lee's Garden is located off of County Road 3103 and more information about the garden can be found here.

 

On our recent visit, the boys, Jake, and I enjoyed a lovely ramble through the countryside and were awestruck by the simple beauty of gold upon green. If you have not ventured to the garden, you don't want to miss out on Spring's bounty. This year is quite spectacular due to the rainfall East Texas has received.





Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count :: February 15th-18th, 2013

Waxwing2013GBBCflyer_250px.jpg

Don't forget, tomorrow begins The Great Backyard Bird Count. In a previous post, I wrote about the winter feeding of birds and briefly discussed the GBBC, as it is known.

Here is a great link on how to participate in this year's count. To get started, first you need to create a GBBC account on February 15th. Then, you'll need to count birds for at least 15 minutes on one of the days during the count. Finally, you will enter your results on the GBBC website once you've completed your count. Remember, the count ends on February 18th.

In addition to counting, you can also enter their annual photography contest. Photos may be submitted through March 01, 2013.

Educators, the GBBC website is full of great content to share with your classrooms or homeschoolers.

One of my favorite resources on the GBBC website is their printable tally sheet customizable to your zip code or park. Having this list and a great field guide makes it easier to encourage birding novices to take part in the count.

So, create your account, print out your tally sheet, grab your field guide and favorite pair of binoculars and get to counting!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

30 Bags in 30 Days :: Update #4


Update #4: This challenge has been completed! Wow! I could not believe how much went out of our house in the past 30 days. We gave things away to friends and family; we donated things to charities throughout our city; and best of all, we lightened our load. I have a new perspective on how we should spend our money and what we should spend it on. My husband has most of his garage back (we've got a few things to organize now) and the boys' rooms seem a bit more manageable. I imagine we may need to do this purging at least once a year, but we may do it before Spring and Fall Cleanings. I hope we don't have quite as many bags our next time around!

How did you and your family do? Does your house seem a little lighter; your pocket book a little heavier? How did the 30 bags in 30 days challenge help you?

January heralds the yearly purging of our home. During the next 30 days, our family goes through all the drawers, cabinets, closets and catch-all spaces to remove unwanted items for either donation, sale, or trash. While I don't commence my deep cleaning again until Spring, I do make it a habit to encourage my husband and boys to purge during the first month of the year.

I know a lot of people want to declutter or purge their homes; however, they often find themselves purging and deep cleaning which can become very overwhelming at times. I find that if you declutter first, you save yourself time later when you begin Spring cleaning.

If you want to join me, here is my month-long purging schedule. Feel free to substitute my items to better serve your needs. I'll post at the end of each week about my progress and any organizational tips or strategies I discover along the way. Let me know if you've got suggestions to share, too!

30 Bags in 30 Days

1. Junk drawer in laundry room
2. Cabinets in laundry room
3. School closet
4. Attic
5. Attic (holiday bins)
6. Under kitchen sink
7. Pantry
8. Filing Cabinet
9. Boy #1 desk
10. Boy #2 desk
11. Boys' closets
12. Closet (mine)
13. Dresser drawers
14. Jewelry cabinet
15. Magazine basket
16. Gardening cabinet
17. Bathroom drawers (mine)
18. Bathroom drawers (boys)
19. Toys
20. Craft bins
21. Garage (shelves)
22. Garage (tools)
23. My car
24. Cookbook drawer
25. Baking tools
26. Vase cupboard
27. Book shelves
28. Pet cabinet
29. Patio
30. Flower Bed

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Texas Homemaking :: One Year of Blogging




Texas Homemaking turns one this week! I can hardly believe it was a year ago I began this adventure of blogging. I've really enjoyed it and after 321 (322 if you count this one) posts and well over 18,000 views from 24 countries, I feel a little blessed to know I have an impact on others' lives.

Thank you all so much for taking this journey with me! I'm hoping to give Texas Homemaking a little make-over in the next month, so be on the look out!

- Michelle

Here's a Look into Last Week :: Odd, Busy, Hectic, Fun, and Scary!

Do you ever just wake up on a Monday and know the week is going to be a little different? Me too!

Let me tell you a little bit about last week and hopefully, you'll forgive the lack of posts!

First, let me say, last week wasn't bad by any means, just a little busy, slightly odd, and well, at one point down right scary. Monday marked the first week of no more speech  or occupational therapy for my youngest because it was no longer covered by our insurance. A change of which was the beginning of our interesting week (and completely unwelcome).

 

Tuesday was National Pancake Day and that meant we were headed to IHOP to meet friends and enjoy a lovely breakfast of towering pancakes drenched in syrupy goodness. Hooray!  I also got to spend a wonderful hour and a half with friends at our monthly Mom's Night Out at the local bookstore. Tuesday was a pretty good day.

Wednesday was hectic. We schooled, we played, we schooled some more, and then we cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned (of which, most has already been undone, but that's another story). After dinner, we went out as a family to run some errands just to make it home in time for my husband to realize he had a CHL class that evening (class began about the time the realization hit him!). In a hurry, we left the house again. I dropped him off and then dropped the kids off at church, and I came home and rested.

 

I think Thursday was the best day of the week. Thursdays are my boys' electives days at school. We went to park day where I taught my Junior Master Gardening class - it was all about landscape design. Then, we headed to a Black Violin performance (very cool!) at the University. I dropped off my eldest at band and went to a facilities meeting for the coming soon children's discovery center I am helping create. Yes, Thursday was a busy day, but a good day.

By Friday, we were worn out. In fact, it was hard to get up; it  was downright painful. In all my busyness of Thursday, I also weeded in my rose bed in order to get it cleaned out before Spring, as well as to review the Wonder Grip gloves for Charm magazine. I must have strained something because I could hardly move Friday morning. But move I did! My youngest had theatre class on Friday and while he was there, my eldest and I went to the library to study. Sitting in small chairs with a back ache is not a task for the feint at heart.

 

The best part of Friday was delivering a bouquet of flowers to a dear friend just to let her know she is loved and even when bad things happen, people are always there to support you. Making her smile was my blessing of the week.

Now Saturday rolled around (finally!!!), and we met friends at their deer lease for four wheeler riding, gun shooting, and gas station hamburgers! It was a blast! Saturday night, my husband and I were suppose to learn how to tango at one of the local dance classes, but my back was in no shape, so we came home and Red Boxed it as the rain rolled in.

BAM! (No, not Emerill) Here's the scary I mentioned earlier. Have you ever been jostled, no, thrust out of bed and sleep by something terrifying? I have, twice. The first time, we lived in California and Jake was not at home when the 4.5 earthquake struck about 6 miles from our house. I thought a giant was ripping my home apart. It, at the time, was one of the scariest moments of my life, until Sunday at 5am.

Light exploded through our room at the same time (maybe?) of the BAM! I immediately began running through the house, checking for fire, checking on boys, and not really sure what to do next except send my poor husband up into the attack to make sure the house had not been hit by lightening and was in the process of burning to the ground (talk about some kind of crazy). Well, it wasn't. However, approximately 10 feet from our bedroom window, lightening struck our 35 foot tall pine tree. I don't want to know if I will ever be more scared of anything later in life, because that was frightening.

 

Once the rain stopped and the sun came out, we were able to assess the damage. Wow! I had no idea lightening could travel down a tree in a spiral, boil the sap, and shred something so large. Incredible! Now, take your photos and hurry up, the Norris' are off to an archery tournament!

 

The boys did great at the tournament - 1st and 2nd place. We got to see family and enjoy the rest of the crazy week with them.

So, Monday (yesterday) I had grand plans of getting back on schedule, but here we are, it's Tuesday and you're finally hearing from me. Don't hold it against me, I'm just as normal as everyone else. Enjoy your week!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Freebies :: IHOP National Pancake Day February 5th!

 
IHOP National Pancake Day, February 5, 2013
 
 Don't forget tomorrow is National Pancake Day!

Since beginning its National Pancake Day celebration in 2006, IHOP has raised more than $10 million to support charities in the communities in which it operates. On February 5, 2013, guests from around the country will once again celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP and enjoy a free short stack of Buttermilk pancakes. In return for the free pancakes, guests will be asked to consider leaving a donation for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals© or other designated local charities.

The boys and I make this an annual tradition! See you at the IHOP tomorrow!

The Review is In & Giveaway :: Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle





Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing Melanie Shankle's newest book Sparkly Green Earrings, a memoir of motherhood. Through her charming chapter titles (like Shamu & the Chicken Spaghetti, We Don't Throw Sand, and Like a Band of Idiots We Go Down the Highway), Melanie joyfully shares her transition into Texas homemaking and becoming a Big Mama, as proclaimed by her darling daughter Caroline.

Along for the ride is her husband, Perry, whom supports her in the decision to leave the non-gratifying job in Pharmaceutical Sales to stay at home during Caroline's early years. While Melanie advocates this is not the book for those looking to find expertise on motherhood, she does contend it is a way to share the ups and downs we all face as parents. Melanie hopes her book, "...will keep you warm at night knowing someone else shares your brand of crazy." I can definitely relate!

Here's an excerpt from Sparkly Green Earrings:

"But as it turned out, my heart was the one that began to change. And I didn't go down easily. I cried over the surrender of the family I had always envisioned in my head and had to come to a place where I realized God had other plans for us. Truthfully, part of me felt like a failure and wondered why I wasn't one of those women who could raise six kids and homeschool all of them and serve milk and cookies every afternoon in some clever way like all the moms on Pinterest do."
 
 All I know is that this homeschool Mom doesn't serve milk and cookies to six kids either! I delighted in the silliness and the reality that Melanie shared in response to her new experiences at being a Mom. She tells all sorts of wonderful stories about catching vomit, discovering lice, overstrict preschools, birthday envy, travel adventures and more in this absolute page turner of non-stop laughs and "Oh, we've done that before" moments.

One of my favorite ladies in homemaking, Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman), agrees Sparkly Green Earrings is "Side-splitting, utterly relatable...nothing short of a delight." Beth Moore finds it to be "Profoundly insightful, witty and relatable...Relish this ride - you won't be sorry you took it."

If this sounds like the book for you, enter to win your very own copy from Texas Homemaking! After 48 hours, I'll announce a winner. Make sure to leave a comment on this post and I'll randomly select a winner.

_________________

Melanie Shankle is the author of TheBigMamaBlog.com. She is also a regular contributor to ThePioneerWoman.com, and she serves as the emcee for LifeWay's annual DotMom conference. She resides in San Antonio with her famly.

{Please see my disclaimer policy in regards to this post.}

Friday, February 1, 2013

Experimental Recipes :: A Groundhog Day Treat




One of my good friends shared this idea with me today via Family Fun Magazine. How cute are these adorable little Groundhogs??? I know my boys will love them at first sight!

I set out acquiring the supplies this afternoon - boy is it a lot, but definitely worth it! And along the way, I learned a few tips not shared in the magazine which I think are important for us home chefs.

Since tomorrow is Groundhog Day and we will be up watching Punxsutawney Phil, I'll have a little treat for them to brighten their morning.

Here's what you need (and you still have time):


  • Almond slivers or whole almonds if you're brave enough to make your own!
  • Peanut butter chips (Reece's)
  • Chocolate wafers (Oreos)
  • Milano cookies (Pepperidge Farm)
  • Chocolate icing (Betty Crocker)
  • Chocolate pudding (Snack Packs)
  • An icing bag or a small plastic baggie
  • And a cutting board, a sharp knife, a butter knife, and a smile on your face!
I didn't have almonds slivers on hand for the ears and teeth, but I did have whole almonds. While carefully using a ceramic knife I peeled the almond skin off and fashioned two ears and teeth from a single almond. This really isn't hard, but you do have to have confidence in yourself!

In addition to cutting the ears and teeth, I also cut the tips off of two peanut butter chips to provide a flat side to adhere to the Milano cookie.

Next, I assembled the Groundhog. Using an icing bag 1/4 of the way filled with chocolate icing, I carefully piped the icing as a "glue" along the edge of the ears (almonds), cheeks (chips), and teeth (almonds) and then adhered them to the Milano cookie. Once secure, I then piped eyes and a nose directly onto the cookie.

Make sure the hole in the bag you pipe the icing with is small, as you are working with tiny items.

Next, open the pudding and gently push the Groundhog into the pudding about 1/2 way or at least until stable.

Using a butter knife, scrape off the white frosting from the Oreo wafers (and proceed to eat said frosting!). Stack the wafers on top of one another. Using the butter knife press down on the cookies until they are crushed into small particles. Then, lightly sprinkle the particles on top of the pudding around the Groundhog. (Keep smiling, these are too cute!)

Set aside and make one for each member of the family! Serve cold and watch the kids enjoy this tasty treat!

DIY :: Pop-Up Valentines from Veritas Press


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Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and while I am not a huge fan of this red, white, and pink holiday, I do want to share an adorable find! One of my favorite curriculum sellers, Veritas Press, emailed me this fantastic pdf link for creating your own Pop-Up Valentines. It is fabulous! Along with the instructions, Veritas Press also included a little back story on Valentine's Day.

So, while I won't be making any, I do hope you and your family enjoy it!

Quoteables :: Eleanor Roosevelt

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Monthly Goals :: February 2013 and January's Recap



With each new year, I try to change and grow in positive ways to enhance my life and make the most of my time. I usually blog about my weekly goals each Monday, but this year I think I'm going to take away the small goals and work on reaching my larger goals on a monthly basis. We will see how it goes!

February 2013 Goals

Home

1. Begin designing out my backyard for this year's landscape remodel.
2. Continue filling my freezer with meals for the upcoming Spring.
3. Now that the house is decluttered, go through and repair items on January's list.
4. Get the car detailed and its oil changed.

Family

1. Learn how to Tango with Jake (date night)!
2. Take the boys to an archery competition
3. Enjoy Norland day!
4. Create a new therapy routine.

Volunteering

1. Get a Tea Party, Field Trips, and Camping together for our homeschool family.
2. Continue working on the initial build-out of the museum.
3. Build a garden fence; lay our beds out; and start seeds with my Junior Master Gardeners
4. With help from friends, put on a Food Showcase for kids in 4-H.

Personal

1. Finish reading Rick Warren's What on Earth am I Here for? and Melanie Shankle's Sparkly Green Earrings for reviews this month. Be on the lookout for a chance to win Melanie's book!
2. Make it a point to spend time with my friend's more this month. I feel January came and went and I didn't get enough friend time.
3. Continue working on 13 Things to Learn in 2013.
4. Update my blog (hopefully a new header), layout new articles, and write some new posts for Dandelion Moms.



January 2013 Goals

Home

1. Fill my freezer with meals
2. Take down all Christmas decorations - I did my part for removing all Christmas decor, but my husband is hoping to have time this weekend to take down the Christmas lights! At least we're not the only ones on the street who still have them up : )
3. Begin 30 Bags in 30 Days - This has been an eye opening journey on how our family spends on money and how much stuff we had that we never used.
4. Create new home budget

Family

1. Date night with Jake
2. Begin Term 2 for school
3. Help youngest with his sewing project - We've started with ideas and I'm under the impression he is ready to sew this weekend. I can't wait to see how his project turns out!
4. Encourage eldest in his endeavors

Volunteering

1. Lay out Secret Garden program
2. Begin planning Spring garden
3. Get Archery program up and running

Personal

1. Read Rick Warren's What on Earth am I Here for? - I'm still reading this great book and I should have it completed sometime next week.
2. File taxes - Absolutely thrilled we got this done!!!
3. Carve new letterbox stamps - As much as I wanted to complete this task this month, it seems the medium I needed was out of stock most of the month (or at least on the days I went to check). Moving this to February's goals!
4. Begin 13 Things to Learn 2013 - I'm learning things left and right, some of which isn't even on the list! This month I learned how to make Strawberry Crepes and I'm still in the process of learning how to design a museum.