Friday, February 26, 2010

To My Sweet Katie

Dear Katie,

Today marks one year since I had the awesome chance to hold you in my arms for the first time. I anticipated your birth for what seemed like forever. The day you were born was one of the most amazing days of my life. After a long, hard labor, I was indescribably happy to finally see the sweet babe who made my dreams of motherhood come true.

Watching you grow and change has been an unbelievable experience. A year ago, you were a helpless newborn with a good set of lungs. You screamed the moment your whole body was out, actually. You cried for a solid two hours every night for your first few weeks, but quickly became a champion sleeper, going seven hours straight before you were six weeks old!

Right away, we knew you were a strong girl. Before we left the hospital, you were holding up your head like a pro. At just two days, you rolled over for the first time from your tummy to your back. Just before your two month birthday, you added rolling from back to front to your repertoire. You started crawling at five months, and finally got good at walking a few weeks ago. Now, you're everywhere all the time and keep me on my toes!

You enjoy acting like a "big girl." You walk around, eat mostly big people food, and act like you know exactly what we're talking about when we have a conversation. Most of the time, you'd rather run around a play than be held. However, when it's time to nurse, you revert back to your baby girl self and love to have some warm milk and a good snuggle with mommy. This time is precious to me, and I'm so thankful we made it all the way to your first birthday with breastfeeding. It's been good for both of us, and I think we'll keep it up for a while yet.

Becoming a mommy has made my world a more beautiful place. Your sweet (seven-toothed) smile lights up my life. Even though I don't usually know what you're saying, I enjoy your conversation so much. I love how you've become my little buddy since you started walking. You follow me around and want to do everything I do. You try to be helpful, and it's absolutely adorable. You're especially interested in helping me with the dishwasher. I've tried to teach you to help with folding laundry, but you take things out of the pile I point to instead of adding the newly folded item most of the time. We have a great time together--I wouldn't trade staying home with you for anything.

Katie, you are truly one of God's most precious gifts to me. May He give you many more years, and may He continue to grow and develop you that you may be used mightily in the advancement of His Kingdom. I love you more than I can say, my sweet girl.

Love with all my heart,

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday and Your Life, Your Blog.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lunchtime at the Murch House

This week, FishMama's Ultimate Recipe Swap is lunch foods. Since Ben works near home, we usually eat lunch as a family. Here are some of my lunchtime go-tos:

::Quesadillas. If I have some homemade tortillas on hand, quesadillas with cheese, beans, and sometimes meat make for a quick, healthy lunch. You can also add corn, lettuce, or whatever else sounds good to you! I serve them with sour cream and salsa.

::Sandwiches. Normally, our sandwiches are grilled cheese (sometimes, I spice them up a bit, but they are usually just cheese & cream cheese on buttered bread) or peanut butter & banana (love this combination)! Healthy lunch meats are expensive, and I try to avoid serving the heavily processed ones with nitrates.

::Leftovers. We often eat dinner leftovers at lunch time. I try to remember to heat them in the oven before lunchtime rolls around, as I've been trying to avoid the microwave as much as possible.

::Snacks. A lot of the time, we eat snack foods for lunch. Crackers and cheese, granola bars, fresh fruits and's easy, quick, healthy, and tasty.

What do you do for lunch at your house? If you/your husband works, do you pack lunches?

This post is linked to Ultimate Recipe Swap.

Swag Bucks

If you look at the buttons in my sidebar, you will find one for Swag Bucks. I heard about them a long time ago, but didn't really look into it until a few weeks ago. Basically, it is a search engine, but you earn points randomly for searching. The points can be redeemed for gift cards and other prizes. I am getting close to having enough points for an Amazon gift card, and several bloggy friends of mine have gotten literally hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards this way. Why not get paid for something you're going to do anyway? Today is Swag Bucks' second birthday, and they are doing some fun things to celebrate (like giving out lots of points). If you haven't signed up, go on over and check it out. :)

Another way to earn points is by referring friends. So, when a friend signs up using your link, you would get Swag Bucks when they do (up to 100).

The Lightlings: Review

I recently had the opportunity to review the book The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries. It is the first of his children's books published by Reformation Trust.

The Lightlings is about a race of tiny beings who represent humanity. They are created in a perfect world and experience the fall and redemption. According to the Reformation Trust website, "In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again."

We are always on the lookout for Scripturally grounded books to add to Katie's collection, and this definitely meets the mark. It is a wonderful introduction to some of the most important concepts in Scripture (creation, the fall, and redemption) in the form of a story children will easily understand. There are some words in the story that I think young children would need to have explained to them before they continue with the story. In the back of the book there are discussion questions to aid parents in teaching their children more about the principles set forth in the story.

In addition to the wonderful story, this book has absolutely stunning illustrations. The vibrant color and detail are sure to help hold a child's attention.

All in all, I would definitely recommend parents add this book to their child's library. Quality books that so clearly set forth Biblical principles are hard to come by in our day, and I am looking forward to reading this one with Katie over and over again.

This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday.

Disclaimer: I am being compensated for this review with a copy of the book. However, the opinions contained in the review are mine and are in no way influenced by my compensation.


A year ago today, I looked like this. I was in early labor, and I think I was actually on the phone with my midwife in this picture. It's the only picture we have of me at full term. I was two days past my due date and oh-so-anxious to meet my sweet Katie Lee. Has it really already been a whole year?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some of God's most wonderful gifts...

My groom

My daughter

 My mom and dad

My grandpa and grandma

My family

My mother-in-law, father-in-law, 
and all 9 of my siblings-in-law

This post is linked to Top 10 Tuesday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are a quick, easy, inexpensive, and tasty breakfast. We eat them pretty frequently. Made with whole wheat flour, they can be a healthy way to start the day.

2 cups whole wheat flour (or 2 1/2 cups spelt flour)
2 tablespoons sucanat (any natural sweetener will work, as will sugar)
2 teaspoons. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons of melted butter (I have also use coconut oil, but when you add the milk, it gets hard and there are chunks of it in the pancakes)
2 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 mashed ripe bananas (opt.)

Mix all the ingredients together and cook on a griddle. Top with real butter and real maple syrup! We enjoy eating them with sausage and fresh fruit on the side sometimes, as well. One batch of these serves our family of three (Katie's a big eater at breakfast time!) with a couple pancakes left over.

This post is linked to Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesday.

Menu Plan, February 22-28

This is a big week at our house! Katie is turning 1 on Friday (can't believe it!). We'll be spending Thursday and Friday in North Carolina with some of my family, celebrating Katie's and my Grandma's birthday. My parents will join us in North Carolina, and then spend the weekend here. It's going to be a lot of fun and sweet fellowship.

Here's what's on our menu this week. What are y'all fixing?

Breakfast~whole wheat banana pancakes with real maple syrup
Lunch~out with my sister-in-law :) (we have a BOGO coupon for CiCi's--makes for a pretty inexpensive lunch out!)
Dinner~beef stroganoff, brown rice, steamed broccoli/cauliflower

Breakfast~bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit
Lunch~grilled cheese, tomato soup

Breakfast~bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit
Lunch~grilled cheese, tomato soup
Dinner~Italian Cream Cheese Chicken Casserole

Breakfast~French toast with real maple syrup, fresh fruit
Lunch~snacks on the road
Dinner~we'll be in North Carolina through Friday

Breakfast~cranberry apple muffins, scrambled eggs, sausage
Lunch~broccoli cheese soup
Dinner~homemade pizza, salad

Breakfast~cranberry apple muffins, scrambled eggs, sausage
Lunch~at church
Dinner~at the farm

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pine Cone Research accepting applications

One of the ways I've found over the past few years to bring in a little extra income is by doing paid surveys online. My favorite company is Pine Cone Research. They pay $3 per survey, and the checks come within a few days of when you complete the survey.  You definitely won't get rich doing this, but I have made about $30 with them over the past few months. If you're interested, head over to their website right away to apply as they are currently accepting applications, but registration will close up quickly!

HT to Money Saving Mom!

Toilet Paper Fail

I am the worst about remembering to buy paper products. I guess my frugal side hates spending money on things I know are just going to be used once and thrown in the garbage (especially when I could use the same grocery money to buy healthy food for my sweet family!). As a result, we often have no paper napkins and no paper towels. However, I do try to keep toilet paper on hand since it doesn't have a suitable cloth alternative.

This week, however, was a different story. I actually let our toilet paper supply get down to one square before I remembered to pick some up while Ben and I were in town. Definitely could've caused someone a problem!

This post is linked to Friday Fails.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Kitchen Fairies

I married into a really cool family, and I like living down the street from them. I've gotten comfortable enough with them that they can come over even when the house isn't spotless (good thing-otherwise they may never come over. Ahem.). So, yesterday afternoon three of my younger siblings-in-law came over for grilled cheese and a movie and my kitchen was a mess complete disaster. And, to top it off, as soon as the movie was over, Ben and I were heading out to have dinner with some friends at their house. I was really dreading coming home to a destroyed kitchen (especially since that means waking up to a messy kitchen as well if you get home late), and commented that I would love it if the kitchen fairy would come clean my house while I was gone. They asked who the kitchen fairy was and I played along, telling them she was a fairy who cleaned kitchens for mothers of babies Katie's age.

When we walked into our house at 10 o'clock last night, Ben asked me with a somewhat surprised tone, "Did you clean?" I said no, assuming he just couldn't see the mess because it was dark. Amazingly, when we turned the lights on we saw an absolutely spotless kitchen. As  it turns out, four of my younger siblings-in-law (17, 16, 13, and 11--and the youngest three are boys!) took it upon themselves to be my "kitchen fairies" and cleaned my kitchen from top to bottom, including mopping the floor.

How's that for an amazing surprise? And aside from the blessing of actually having the kitchen cleaned, a spotless kitchen encourages you to keep it spotless.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Sweet Girl

This is a picture I snapped this morning while Katie and I were playing. She is walking but still stumbles frequently, and as you can see by her hands above her head, she's somewhat melodramatic about it. :)

This post is linked to Wordless Wednesday and Wordful Wednesday.

Valentine's Day

Last year was our first married Valentine's Day, and I was just about to burst, at almost 39 weeks pregnant (aah, the memories!). We decided we were going to forgo celebrating on the 14th with everyone else in the country, and have a quiet night out after Valentine's Day. That's what we did last year, and it happened to be our last date before Katie was born. We decided it worked out well, and opted to do the same this year.

So, we declared Monday our own, personal Valentine's Day and spent the entire day together. We started off with a nice breakfast at Cracker Barrel while Ben's family kept Katie. Then we came home and I started making lunch while Ben ran out to rent a couple movies from RedBox. When he came home, he surprised me with flowers and chocolates (awww). And, don't tell anyone that we ate them all in one day. Ahem.

Lunch was not a smashing success, and dinner wasn't either, unfortunately (note to self: trying two new recipes in one day isn't the best idea). But, we had a wonderful day together despite. Plus, we were able to have a quiet meal out, and flowers and chocolates were a lot less expensive February 15 than they would have been the 14th. That definitely works for us!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Super Easy BBQ Chicken

One of the first church potlucks we went to after we were married, I decided to bring chicken in my (then) shiny, new crock pot. It was a bridal shower gift and I was so excited to use it for the first time (seems like so long ago--I don't think I even knew I was pregnant yet). It turned out really good, and I have prepared it the same way several times. I put it frozen in the crock pot, poured a bottle of BBQ sauce on the chicken and let it cook on low all night. I have also put it thawed in the crock pot first thing in the morning and let it cook up until lunchtime after church.

It has always been a hit, and is especially good shredded up and served with some extra sauce on a hamburger roll. So easy, and my hubby loves it! What are your favorite potluck recipes?

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Ultimate Recipe Swap, and What's in Your Crockpot.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Plan, February 15-21


We are officially making efforts to eat healthier, natural, whole foods. We adjusted our grocery budget to allow for this, and I am excited to dive in head first. This menu plan is somewhat based on the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat, but with several modifications.

Breakfast: Date with my hubs! :)
Lunch: Coconut Corn Soup, bread & cheese
Dinner: Salad, Chicken w/ coconut peanut sauce, green beans

Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal
Lunch: Coconut Chicken Salad
Dinner: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Breakfast: Leftover baked oatmeal
Lunch: leftover chicken salad, fruit
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Coconut Smoothie
Lunch: Cream Cheese Roll-ups, crackers, carrots
Dinner: Cesar Salad, Beef Stroganoff, Steamed Broccoli

Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
Lunch: Meatloaf sandwiches
Dinner: Leftovers

Breakfast: Eggs with cream cheese, toast
Lunch: Cream cheese roll-ups, crackers, carrots
Dinner: Indonesian Coconut Steak, fruit, salad

Breakfast: Cheese omelet, toast
Lunch: cheese, crackers, fruit
Dinner: at the farm

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Super Savings Saturday: Quality Meats

High quality meats are a high priority at our house. If you've ever seen Food, Inc., you probably have vivid mental images as to why. In fact, I very rarely buy any meat at the grocery store aside from nitrate free sausage and organic, free range eggs. Lately, we have been eating mostly ground venison which my in-laws have been kind enough to share with us. Commercially raised meats are all-too-often filled with hormones and antibiotics, and fail to provide the same nutritional content of meat from properly raised animals.

That said, I was thrilled to see my grocery store had some hormone/antibiotic free beef on Manager Special this week. I was also quite happy to see they have started carrying organic, free range chicken for only $2.50 per pound at regular price. I snatched up some of each. While both the beef and the chicken were much more expensive than regular, commercially raised meats, the high price is definitely worth it to me. I was quite thankful the Lord provided some higher quality (though not perfect) meat for us this week at a reasonable price. I was also able to get some fresh organic garlic on Manager Special for $0.69, but that seemed slightly incidental compared to the meat. :)

While I love a good deal and the thrill of saving more than I spend at the grocery store, I love even more providing quality, nourishing foods for my family, especially when I can get them at great prices! Be sure to look around at the Manager's Specials and/or reduced for quick sale items at your grocery store. I know at the Kroger I shop at, they often have natural/organic products reduced for excellent prices. The meat, of course, can be frozen or cooked right away to avoid it going to waste. I try to stay flexible with my meal plan and alter it to include items I get at an unexpected great price, too.

This post is linked to Super Savings Saturday.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Big Muddy Fail

After spending most of the day at the farm this past Tuesday, we decided at the last minute to have my in-laws over for homemade pizza. My sister-in-law, Hannah, agreed to come over before everyone else to help me get the meal ready.

The driveway at the farm is about 1/3 of a mile and is also unpaved. We have had quite a bit of snow/sleet/rain in the past several weeks. It's melting now, resulting in thick, cold disgusting mud all over the place, including the driveway. As we set off, I got my trusty Volvo station wagon stuck in some of the thickest, gooeyest looking mud I've seen. Not wanting to run in the house through the almost-freezing rain, I decided to honk the horn and hope someone would come out. A minute or so later, my husband and his brother came running across the yard to rescue Hannah, Katie, and I from the mud.

When they got to the car, I got out so Ben could get it unstuck. The tires were spinning and I was standing pretty close to the car so he suggested I move, which I did. He had some trouble getting our car out, so Sam decided to push it some. Once Sam gave it a shove, the car sped right out of the mud, and I quickly learned I had not backed up enough. I got splattered in mud, literally, from hood-covered head to cloth-shoe-covered toe on my left side (I guess wearing cloth shoes was a secondary fail, come to think of it!). Major fail!

And as a little side note: My mind thinks in terms of blogging, so as soon as I got over the shock of being muddy, one of my first thought was "This would make the perfect Friday fail." So, I went around my house in my muddy clothes trying to find the camera to get a picture to go with this post, only to find out the camera was at the farm. Alas--I'm sure you can picture it somewhat in your mind's eye. ;)

This post is linked to Friday Fails.



One of my favorite things about mornings is getting to sit around the breakfast table with Ben and Katie. I loves Ben's conversation and Katie's adorable attempts at conversation. Ben is self-employed, making it possible for us to have a nice breakfast together most every morning, and I hope it stays that way. I would love our children to grow up with many fond memories of a couple meals each day around the table with family. In addition to the good company is, of course, good food.

Ben and I both really enjoy breakfast foods, and our little Katie has really taken a liking to them as well. Eating a healthy breakfast is important to energize you for what you need to accomplish throughout the day. So, I make it a point to fix a healthy, filling, homemade breakfast for our little family pretty much every day. Some of our regular breakfast fare includes eggs scrambled with sausage and cream cheese, baked oatmeal, and whole wheat banana pancakes (and don't forget the real maple syrup!). We both enjoy breakfast cereal, but usually save it for the days when we get a late start or need to rush out. Since it's not the healthiest breakfast (though I do try to serve it with fresh milk and fruit), I only buy it when I can get it very inexpensively.

One common problem with cereals is the high amounts of sugar they contain, so when I found out General Mills had decided to cut back the sugar in their cereals marketed to children to below 10 grams per serving, I was pleased. While it doesn't necessarily make the cereals healthy, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

We recently had the opportunity to try out four boxes of General Mills cereals. We actually just opened up the fourth box of cereal this morning. It was tasty, and its ingredient list was much less offensive than some.I think cereal served with quality milk and fruit is certainly better than no breakfast at all, especially in light of the following:
Studies also demonstrate the benefits of eating breakfast. A 1998 study showed that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better at school. Compared to children who skip breakfast, children who eat breakfast score higher on tests, are less likely to miss class or be tardy, have fewer reported discipline problems, and make fewer trips to the office.
What does your family do for breakfast?

Free cereal and information was provided by General Mills, through My Blog Spark.

Photo by Joits

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And the winner is...

The winner of the lovely apron from Marie Madeline Studio is commenter #253, A Still Small Voice! Congratulations! I have sent you an email regarding the details.

Thanks to all of you who entered!

Covenant Farm Puppies

My in-laws breed labs at their farm down the road from us. There are few things as cute as a little lab pup, in my book!

Ben took this picture of some of the puppies at my in-laws' farm a couple weekends ago when we got a huge snow. I thought it was absolutely adorable. I, personally, prefer snuggling up inside, but they seemed pretty happy to spend the day in their igloo.

 This sweet litter was born early yesterday morning. Their parents are Rob Roy & Annie, two of my favorite dogs on the farm.

This post is linked to Wordless Wednesday and Wordful Wednesday.

Save LOTS of time with Google Reader

I love blogging. I also love reading blogs. There are SO many great ones out there. In fact, there are over 50 I read regularly. And I know I could add many more to the list, but I do have a life outside the blogosphere! For a long time, I went over to each blog daily (though, I did not read as many back then) to see if they had been updated.

Then, I discovered Google Reader. Perhaps I'm the last person in the bloggy world to start using a feed reader, but I'm sure glad I did. Google Reader is attached to my gmail account, and I am able to read all the blogs I want to in one place without going to several websites each day. The updates just come in automatically. If you have a google account, you will see "Reader" at the top of the screen--click that, and you can subscribe to as many feeds as you want.

One feature I absolutely love is the ability to star posts, just like you can star emails in G-mail. If there is a post I want to link to, comment on, come back to to read more thoroughly, or a post with a coupon/deal I want to take advantage of, I star it so I can find it easily when I have time.

Google Reader has saved me immense amounts of time while enabling me to read and learn from more blogs than I would be able to without it! For information about it, go here.

Do you use a feed reader? If so, which one, and what do you like about it?

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Things I Love Thursday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Friendly Reminders

::Tomorrow is the last day of my 100th post giveaway for a Marie-Madeline Studio custom apron. Be sure to have your comments in by 9 PM, EST. Don't forget to leave a separate comment for each bonus entry.

::Tomorrow is also the last day to get $10 off of a HAVA Sling from Nurtured Family, with the code HAVA10! Read my review of the HAVA, and then head on over and get one for yourself. It is definitely the best price you'll find for one. They also make great gifts for new moms or moms-to-be!

This is a picture of Katie in our HAVA while my sister-in-law and I 
were getting apples ready for baked apples at suppertime. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Introducing the Covenant Homemaking Store!

If you look at the top of the page just below the header, you'll see a new link to my new store online store! It has a variety of books and products I love. I hope you enjoy it! If you have any suggestions for items you'd like to see added, please let me know.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

I got this cake recipe from my sister-in-law back when Ben and I were courting. It's his absolute favorite cake, and with good reason! It is rich, moist, and delicious. It has coffee in it, but the flavor is not overly strong. I personally don't like coffee, but I find this cake quite enjoyable. It would make a great treat for your Valentine.

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 brewed coffee, cooled
1-1/3 cup sour cream

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Note: You could substitute whole wheat pastry flour for the all purpose flour, sucanat for the sugar, and organic dairy in order to make this cake quite a bit healthier.  I'm not sure of a healthy substitute for powdered sugar, but you could use organic powdered sugar.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and sour cream.  Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Beat in chocolate, coffee, and vanilla until blended.  Gradually beat in confectioner's sugar.  Spread between layers and over the top and sides of cake.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

This post is linked to Mouthwatering Monday, Tasty Tuesday , Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays at the TableUltimate Recipe Swap, Cooking Thursday, DIY Day, Finer Things Friday, and Foodie Friday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Menu Plan, February 8-14


I really enjoyed cooking almost every night this past week and having dinner at home with Ben. We spent a lot of the weekend with family (including a couple days being snowed in). I liked the balance and am planning to do it again this week. Cooking at home, I had opportunity to make a few homemade breads with freshly milled flour, which was a treat! I am planning to do that again this week and try to implement more grain soaking as well. 

Here's what we're going to eat this week:

Breakfasts: eggs with sausage & toast, baked oatmeal (still trying to work out how to soak this with good results!), banana pancakes

Lunches: grilled cheese with baby carrots, quesadillas (with homemade tortillas that I actually did make finally!),leftovers

Dinners: homemade pizza (used this crust recipe last week and it was the best I've ever made) with salad, chili with cornbread, beef stroganoff with brown rice and steamed broccoli, dinner out, dinner at a friend's house, dinner at the farm

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Good deals on bulk items for your pantry

Coombs Family Farms 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup Grade B, 32 Ounce Jug
I just got a great deal on Organic Maple Syrup I wanted to share with you all. I haven't ever seen it for this price before, so I was pretty excited. I paid $16.83 for 32 oz. shipped! If you go to Coombs Family Farms 100% Pure Organic Maple Syrup Grade B, 32 Ounce Jug and choose the "subscribe and save" option, you save an extra 15% on the already reasonable price of $19.80, and shipping is free. You can choose to receive it every 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, or 6 months. Once your order goes through, you can cancel the subscription--or keep it if you want to receive the Maple syrup regularly. 

There are actually several healthy bulk items you can get at great prices this way. Today, I also ordered Organic Coconut Milk and Organic Unsweetened Coconut using the "Subscribe and Save" option. The prices are much more reasonable than our local grocery store and health food store, and with free shipping included, you can't beat it! Ordering food bulk from Amazon has been one of the best ways I've found lately to save money on getting real, healthy foods for my family.

What do you do to provide "real food" for your family at reasonable prices?

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday and Frugal Fridays.

Super Savings Saturday: Kroger Sales

This was another good week at Kroger for combining sales with coupons, plus I got some great manager's special items--all organic produce at that! I also got some snacky foods. These will last us a looong time--don't worry. We don't just sit around eating Chex Mix all day. I usually buy groceries and plan meals based on what we have, so what you see pictured is not all we're eating this week.

Some of the highlights:
::8 oz. Kraft Natural Cheese, $0.49 each (sale with coupon)
::Chex/Cheerios Mix, $0.49 each (sale with coupon)
::Valley Fresh Steamer, $0.49 (sale with coupon)
::Hunt's Tomatoes, $0.49 per can (sale without coupon)
::Two 2 lb. bags of Organic Baby Carrots, $0.89 each (manager's special)
:: 2 Organic Cesar Salad mixes, $0.89 each (manager's special)
::Package of Organic Romain Lettuce leaves $1.99 (manager's special)
::5 lb. bag organic oranges, $1.99 (manager's special)

In all, I spent $29 and saved $44.

Did you get any great deals this week?

This post is linked to Super Savings Saturday at Money Saving Mom.

Be sure to check out the giveaway I have going on right now for a Marie Madeline Studio apron!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Limiting computer time

I only spent about an hour on the computer today, and amazingly enough the world did not come to a screeching halt! My blog readers didn't disappear, my friends on twitter survived without me (most of them are at Blissdom anyway!), and there weren't any urgent e-mails that lacked a reply because I was gone.

Instead of sitting at the computer, I...

::cleaned my house. Glorious! It was slightly ridiculously messy.
::played with my daughter, who WALKED around the house It really is amazing to me to see her walking around. How did the last almost-year go by this fast? How did my little, teeny, helpless newborn become a "big girl" in the blink of an eye?
::hung out with my hubby. He's really an amazing guy, and I always love getting to spend a day with him. And, with all the snow on the ground, it was a great day for snuggling up at home.
::made dinner. We had pasta with homemade sauce, steamed broccoli, and homemade (from freshly ground spelt) braided cheese bread . I have been cooking more meals at our house this week instead of eating with Ben's family almost every night. I love their company--don't get me wrong! But, I also love being able to cook yummy, healthy food I know my husband loves.

Today really helped me to see I could accomplish a lot more with my time online if I focused on the things I needed to do, knowing I had a time limit. It was also a reminder of how all I can do when I'm not on the computer for hours, and of how much I really enjoy doing those things! Not to mention, there is such a satisfaction in sitting down at the end of the day after spending most of the day serving my family. When I spend a whole day on the computer? Definitely not quite so satisfying. Limiting my computer time is going to be a permanent habit for me, I hope.

My plan is to limit myself to two hours during the day  while Katie is asleep, and perhaps a little more when she's down for the night. I want to spend her wake time with her. She's growing up way too fast! I'm going to try to discipline myself to keep a to-do list for when I'm online so I am sure to accomplish the highest priorities first.

I'm hoping limiting my computer time will help me to focus on the finer things in life, and pour myself into glorifying God first and foremost in my tasks of wife, mama, and homemaker. It's amazing how fast the hours go by and it's way too easy to forget all you're NOT doing when you get wrapped up online.

How do you manage your time on the computer?

Photo by laffy4k

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reuse Your Ziplock Bags

There was a time when I I scoffed at my mom for washing and reusing her Ziplock bags (and her tin foil). I mean, why in the world would you bother with the effort when you could buy more for so cheap?

Then I was introduced to the real world of a newly-wed, one income budget and suddenly I wondered why in the world anyone would throw away a Ziplock bag after one use. In my mind, it's almost like throwing away tupperware. Now, I salvage every freezer bag I can, with the exception of those used for raw meat.

It's not much of a hastle to rinse/wash them out when I wash the dishes, and I just drape them over the other dishes on my dish drain and they usually dry out within a day or two. I often use bags to store baked goods in the freezer. Some of them don't really need to be washed as I'll just be using them for the same purpose again, so I fold them up and leave them in the freezer door for next time (thanks to Crystal's suggestion). I often just fold used tin foil up and put it back in the cabinet where I store the roll of foil so I remember to use it if there's a piece the right size.

So, what about you--do you save your freezer bags and/or tin foil?

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100th Post Giveaway!!

I can't believe I have actually made it to my 100th post! When I started blogging here, I had no idea all the fun I'd have, or all the people I'd "meet" who are such a wonderful encouragement.

In honor of this milestone, I am hosting my very first giveaway and I am really excited about it! Marie Madeline Studio has graciously agreed to give one of their beautiful, custom aprons to one of my readers! Just imagine yourself in one of these, putting to use all of those pastry skills you learned from various friends and/or schools!

This is the Chic Sisters design, which is my favorite! 

The ladies behind Marie Madeline Studio have been absolutely delightful as we have gone back and forth about the specifics of this giveaway. They are a mother-daughters team, and have been in business since 2007. I have been admiring their work for quite a while and I was just tickled when they agreed to do this! So, while I am waiting for my apron to arrive, y'all can enter here for a chance to win one of your very own! I don't know about you, but very few things get me "in the mood" to get things done around the house than donning a fun apron!

This giveaway is for 1 (one) apron of any style from Marie Madeline Studio. Once the winner is selected, I will put her in touch with Marie Madeline Studio so she can choose the style and fabrics. They will then make the apron and send it out.


In order to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment on this post! Be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Comments will close Wednesday, February 10 at 9 PM, EST. I will use to select the winner, who will be announced Thursday, February 11.

For bonus entries (and be sure to leave a comment for each one you do!):
::Go to the Marie Madeline Studio website and look at their aprons, and let me know which style you'd choose and which fabrics you'd like it made out of if you won.
::Follow me on Twitter here. Leave your twitter username in your comment.
::Tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post and leave a link to your tweet.
::Subscribe to my feed via a feedreader or email, which you can do at the top right hand corner of the site.
::Blog about this giveaway with a link to this post and leave the link in your comment

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Baby steps to eating "real food"

One of my goals this year has been to improve our diet, providing more natural, nourishing foods for my family. Beginning on the journey to eating healthier foods can sometimes be so difficult! I know I scratched my head and wondered where in the world to start. Donielle has an excellent post today called Where to Start on a Real Foods Journey. I would definitely encourage you to check it out if this is something you've been thinking about!

I know I often feel inadequate in my efforts to feed my family healthfully on a budget. There is always something else I could change or add to improve the quality of what we consume. It's nice to have a reminder to take it a step at a time and do what you can!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Baking Day Results

My baking days did not go exactly as I had planned. Starting Friday night and going through Saturday, we got a lot of snow. For part of the weekend, our pipes were frozen leaving us without running water. Saturday, I brought ingredients to my in-laws' house to make the chocolate-fresh cranberry scones I was planning to make. Once I got it all together, I found out their oven needed some repairs. So, that dough is ready to be baked tomorrow. Last night, I began soaking grains for today's baking.  I also soaked a few pounds of pinto beans. Here's what I ended up with:

These Giant Breakfast Cookies turned out quite tasty! I soaked the oats and whole wheat flour last night, substituting yogurt (watered down) for the butter milk, since that is what I had on hand. I also used Sucanat instead of honey, and coconut oil instead of butter. They are definitely not typical, dessert-y, ultra-sweet cookies, but they are tasty,filling, and healthy enough that I let my 11 month old have part of one. They sort of remind me of a muffin or a cakier granola bar. They will definitely be added to my regular rotation of recipes. I think it will make a nice grab and go breakfast on Sunday mornings, especially.

This was my first attempt at making homemade tortillas. I followed the recipe at Keeper of the Home, except I completely forgot to soak the flour for these last night. I was kind of bummed out about that, but I guess I can do it next time. There will definitely be a next time! I used freshly ground spelt flour and these turned out absolutely wonderful! The flavor is way better than store bought tortillas, and they are much healthier. In fact, they only have spelt, coconut oil, water, and salt. Much better than the long, yucky ingredient lists on some store bought tortillas. My sister-in-law helped me roll these out, which was such a help! I may look into getting a tortilla press, since I think these will become a staple at our house.

This was my first time cooking dry beans in the crock pot, and I am so pleased with the results! It was so easy! I had a ham bone in the freezer which I added to the pot while the beans cooked all day, and it added a really nice flavor. 

I am going to put some flour to soak tonight for bread and pizza dough so I can make those tomorrow. I accidentally let myself run out of Sucanat, so I am going to use maple syrup in the bread, and raw sugar in the pizza crust. Since there is so little sugar (1/4 cup for 4 pizza crusts), I am not too worried about it. I'd prefer to use Sucanat, but we are snowed it, so I have to just use what's on hand.

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Papa's Dip

My father-in-law's chips and dip have been a weekly tradition at the Murch house since way back when Ben and I were "just friends." They have evolved over the years from a cold brick of cream cheese with salsa poured over it (that stage was before my time) to a warm cream cheese and salsa dip with meat, beans, and corn. While not necessarily the best for one's waistline (unless you're trying to grow it!), this recipe has been a favorite since I first had it almost 5 years ago. It doesn't have exact measurements for all the ingredients, and can be easily adjusted to accommodate your family's tastes and what you have on hand. With the Superbowl coming up this weekend, I thought it would be a fun recipe to share with you (though, we don't have a TV & won't be watching. ;)

Papa's Dip:
-1.5-2lbs ground meat
-1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 can whole kernel corn
-1 container of fresh salsa, drained (this is optional, but adds a nice flavor--you can also used canned salsa that is more "authentic" tasting, or Rotel tomatoes))
-3 bricks (8 oz. each) of cream cheese
-1 jug of regular salsa (the kind my father-in-law gets is Kroger brand, and it comes in a big plastic jug instead of glass jars)

First, brown the meat. Just as a heads-up, my father-in-law uses a 5 qt. skillet for this recipe. If you don't have one, you might want to make it in a pot. You can chop up a pepper and/or onion if you'd like and add it to the browning meat. Once the meat is done, add in the black beans, corn, and fresh salsa.

Next, spread the meat mixture to the sides and place the cream cheese at the bottom of the pan. Cover it with the meat to help it soften quicker. Heat for 5-10 minutes and turn the cream cheese over. Once it's soft enough, stir it in. Once the cream cheese is incorporated, add the jug of salsa. Stir it all together and heat through. Serve hot (though it's also tasty cold) with tortilla chips.

This recipe makes enough dip for a full meal for our whole family--10-12 people depending on the night. 

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