Friday, July 30, 2010

A few easy ways to earn a little extra

My husband is self-employed, and we are working towards growing his business. While we have steady income from his work, and I also work a couple hours per day from home (for my parents, who own a business in Florida), we stick to a pretty tight budget. However, over the last couple years, I have found a few simple ways on-line to add a little bit here and there. I have traded points on My Points for a few restaurant gift cards over the past year. They have gift cards for just about any store you can imagine though, not only restaurants. The main way I earn points is by clicking through links in e-mails they send--usually a handful every day. The points add up kind of slowly, but it only takes a few seconds of my time for each e-mail, and when we get to go out to a nice dinner together for free, it makes it totally worth the wait! If you choose, they also send surveys out that you can do which earn you a lot more points than just clicking through e-mails.

::Swagbucks. Recently, I have started doing all my internet searches through Swagbucks instead of other search engines. Randomly throughout the day, I get awarded swagbucks for searches. The points can be exchanged for gift cards or other merchandise--my favorite way to use them is for $5 Amazon gift cards. One of these costs 450 swagbucks, and you can get just about anything from Amazon. You also get points when you refer friends (so, if you sign up through my link, I'd be most appreciative!). Swagbucks also recently added a paid survey section to their site, and you earn pretty generous amounts of swagbucks for doing their surveys.

::Paid Surveys. This is something I was introduced to several years ago by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom. Many marketing research companies will pay you to take surveys about products. You definitely won't get rich doing this, but if you need some extra money and have the time, it is a nice way to add a few dollars here and there to your pocket change. Occasionally, you get to try out nice products before they even hit the markets, too. My favorite survey company is PineCone Research, but they are not accepting applications right now. Two other companies I have been paid by are American Consumer Panel and Toluna. Recently, I signed up with some of the other companies listed on this post, but haven't actually received a check from any of them yet.

Have y'all tried any of these things out? Did they work for you?

This post is linked up to Frugal Friday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Winner of the Marie Madeline Studio giveaway

The winner of the lovely Marie Madeline Studio Bag, selected by, is Lanny! Congratulations! I commented on your blog and hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks to all the rest of you who entered, and of course, thanks to the lovely Long ladies from Marie Madeline Studio for sponsoring the giveaway! For those of you who didn't win, I just saw that my sweet friend Myra from My Blessed Life is giving away a $35 Marie Madeline Studios gift card this week. Head on over and check it out!

Timesaving Tip: Click Unsubscribe

Am I the only one who gets several e-mails everyday that I don't care to read? Over the years, I've submitted my e-mail address for various coupons and deals, among other things, with no actual interest in receiving ongoing emails. Usually, I just delete them and move on, but now we live in the country and have dial-up and deleting e-mails takes longer than it once did. Plus, who wants unnecessary clutter in their in-box?

Last week, I finally decided to make a point of unsubscribing from everything that comes in that I'm not interested in before I delete it. My in-box is already less cluttery, and it only takes a little bit of time to scroll to the bottom of the e-mail and click "unsubscribe."

Less clutter in my in-box and less time spent deleting unwanted e-mails definitely works for me! What do y'all do to keep unwanted e-mails from ever reaching your in-box?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Menu Plan, July 26-August 1

I can't believe August is already upon us! It has been a busy summer around here, and the next few weeks look like they'll be on the busy side as well. We've really enjoyed spending time with family and friends in recent weeks, and look forward to more of the same in August. Regardless of busy-ness, we still have to eat, though! So, here's what's on our menu this week.

Breakfasts: baked oatmeal with blackberries (instead of apples), scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, Cheesy Hashbrown Pie (this recipe is new to us), "Country Boy" (this is Ben's favorite breakfast--I'll have to share the recipe with y'all. It's really pretty easy!)

Lunches: grilled cheese, quesadillas, PB & J

Monday~Beef Stroganoff, brown rice, steamed veggies
Tuesday~Spaghetti and Meatballs, salad, steamed veggies
Wednesday and Thursday~Ben's Grandma will be visiting, so we'll be eating with family at the farm
Saturday~ BBQ Chicken Pizza, salad
Sunday~at the farm

What are y'all cooking up this week? If you need some meal planning inspiration, be sure to check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marie Madeline Studios Giveaway!

I have a really exciting giveaway for y'all this week! The lovely Long ladies of Marie Madeline Studio (who hosted my 100th post giveaway) have graciously offered to give one of you a Brooke Shopper Bag in the fabric collection of your choice!

The Long ladies sent me a Brooke Shopper recently, and I was (yet again) so impressed with the beauty and excellent quality of their work. The bag is delicate looking and lovely, while still very sturdy (it's lined with canvas and covered in cutesy fabric) and made to last! I have enjoyed using mine (who wouldn't love using such a CUTE bag?!). It's nice and spacious with handy pockets inside.The large shopper is perfect for taking to market, or bringing when you go garage-saling with your mother-in-law (ask me how I know!). And, it's definitely spacious enough to take out with you to house all necessary toddler paraphernalia. ;)

In order to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment on this post!

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 fabrics, and decide which collection you'd want your Brooke Shopper made of.
::Follow me on Twitter here. Leave your twitter username in your comment.
::Tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post and be sure to @mrsmurch in 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

This giveaway will close on Wednesday, July 28 at 8pm. A winner will be chosen randomly and announced here.

This giveaway post is linked to Giveaways Galore.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Menu Plan, July 19-July 25

Sorry this is a day late going up. I typed it up Sunday but just didn't get around to posting it yesterday. Katie keeps me pretty busy these days. :)

Breakfasts: grilled egg sandwiches, biscuits and gravy,
Lunches: rice and bean burritos, PB & J, sandwiches, leftovers, snacks

Monday~Ritzy Chicken, steamed mixed vegetables
Tuesday-Sunday~Some out of town friends are going to be visiting, so we'll probably be eating at the farm quite a bit at dinnertime. However, I have ingredients on hand for a pot chili with cornbread as well homemade pizza with salad in the event we decide to stay home some.

What are y'all cooking this week?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Amazing deal on Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are not a replacement for a healthy diet during pregnancy, but they can certainly help tie any loose ends. I take Rainbow Light Prenatals because they are food based, so the nutrients are easily absorbed by the body. In addition, , and I was able to get them for $21! they contain some herbs to help with pregnancy discomforts and they have pro-biotics to help with digestive health. They have been recommended to me by more than one midwife as the best prenatal vitamins on the market. 
I bought a big bottle when I found out this baby was on the way and it is just about empty, so I was researching the least expensive way to get them and decided to go with Amazon. Normally, a bottle of 360 tablets (a 4 month supply--you take 6 per day) would cost well over $60 at the health food store, and a little less on amazon. This morning when signed in to place my order, they were priced at just over $21! Plus,  I had a $5 gift card that I got by using swagbucks, making them just over $16. And, I signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime at checkout, giving me free 2-Day shipping as well (if you do this, make sure to cancel it if you don't want to pay for a year subscriptions!).

If you're trying to get pregnant, you are pregnant, or you're nursing, I highly recommend looking into this great deal!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tropical Traditions Organic Raw Honey Winner!

Thanks to all who entered this giveaway! chose comment number 24...

Janice- m8usi@ was the winner!

Congratulations, Janice! I am sending you an e-mail with instructions for claiming your prize.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pregnancy Update: 17 weeks

This pregnancy seems to be flying by (though admittedly on some days, it seems like December will NEVER get here!). I simply can't believe I'll be at the halfway mark in just three weeks (and possibly in my next update, I'll be able to tell y'all if Baby is a he or a she)! I think having a toddler to chase around all day makes time go by a lot faster.

We had a check-up with our midwife on Friday and all seems to be well. My lab work from my first appointment was great. I am only up one pound so far for the pregnancy--which is fine since I'm still hanging on to some of my Katie weight. Baby's heartbeat was good and strong at 150 beats per minute, and much to my happy surprise I felt my first definite baby kick while sitting on the sofa at my appointment. What a thrill that was! I have felt Baby a few times since then, and it's kind of like being pregnant for the first time all over again--I get so excited every time. :o)

Thankfully, I am pretty much 100% back to my normal self, aside from needing a wee bit of extra sleep at night (about 9 hours instead of 8). I've finally started going for a brisk walk about 5 days out of the week. My mother-in-law has been joining me and we bring Katie along in the stroller. It's been quite nice (albeit kind of hot!). I'm really hoping the consistent exercise will help my labor be a little shorter than my labor with Katie was.

I am so thankful to the Lord for a healthy and not-too-difficult pregnancy thus far. How are you other pregnant mamas faring these days?

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kitchen Tip: Flax Seed Meal as an Egg Substitute

Bob's Red Mill Golden Flaxseed Meal, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4)
 A few months ago while I was at Kroger, I found a bag of flax seed meal reduced for quick sale and picked it up, figuring I could add some extra nutrition to baked goods and such. After I got home, I was reading the bag and saw that I could use it as a substitute for eggs in a pinch! I was quite surprised--I had no idea there was a suitable egg substitute for baking (I had heard of possibly using soy flour but--ick!).

Per the bag's instructions, I use 1 tablespoon of flax seed meal and 3 tablespoons of water for every egg the recipe calls for. I have used this substitution several times when I've been low on eggs and it hasn't been at all noticeable in the end result. So, it works marvelously, it's cheap, AND it's healthy. Sounds good to me!

Have y'all found any good, frugal substitutes to use in a pinch when you're baking?

For more kitchen tips, check our Tammy's Kitchen Tip Tuesday!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Menu Plan, July 12-July 18

Here's what we're planning to eat this week. We are really enjoying the great prices on produce and have been "splurging" on some seasonal treats, like organic blueberries and rasberries, and other delicious fruits!

Breakfasts: blueberry muffins, baked oatmeal, egg sandwiches

Lunches: sandwiches (PB&J, grilled cheese), snacks, leftovers

Monday~roasted chicken, salad, glazed carrots, seasoned brown rice
Tuesday~Chili, cornbread
Thursday~date night
Friday~Ritzy Chicken, steamed green beans, fruit salad
Saturday-Sunday~leftovers or at the farm

What are y'all cooking up this week? Need some menu-planning inspiration? Be sure to check out OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Babies don't keep

When Katie was born, I had no idea how fast the newborn stage would pass or how much I'd look back and long for just one more day of Katie as my little baby when it was over.

Somehow in the last 16 months, she went from this:

2 1/2 days old {{heart melts}}
To this:

Just a few days shy of 16 months {{heart still melts}}
I really think one of my biggest regrets as a first time mama is that I didn't savor those early days with my precious baby as much as I could have. I was blessed to stay home full time from the day Katie was born, but I was in a hurry for things to get back to normal. I wanted the house clean, I wanted to cook, I wanted to be on a schedule. While these things are all good, very few things are as fine or as fleeting as the blessed opportunity to snuggle with your newborn babe.

It seems like I blinked my eyes a couple times and she went from a helpless, squirmy, all-I-want-is-mama newborn to a "big girl." She runs, she talks, she learns new things every single day, and she even  plays all by herself (sometimes. She still loves to play with mama!).

I am doing my best to take time to cherish every day at home with my sweet girl, because I know these days, too, are fleeting and one day, by God's grace, she really will be all grown up (*tear*). And, when sweet Baby #2 makes his or her appearance in December, I am going to try to worry less about stuff that can wait and focus on really savoring and enjoying having a newborn again (y'all--I can't wait!), because as the oft-quoted poem says,

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

Checking your receipt is worth your time!

Last week when I did my grocery shopping, the total was quite a bit more than I was expecting it to be. Since I don't use a calculator when I shop (though that's definitely not a bad idea!), I figured I had just not kept good track and mentally kicked myself as I handed over my debit card (one good reason to shop with cash--you *can't* overspend!). 

Upon checking my receipt trying to figure out where I went wrong, I noticed a couple items that didn't ring up at the sale price I was expecting. I took my receipt to customer service to get back what I thought would just be about $6 or $7. I was shocked when the lady at the customer service desk told me my store card hadn't scanned properly, so NONE of the items I bought that were on sale rang up at the right prices. She refunded me over $20, bringing me just about back to what I was planning to spend!

I am so glad I looked over the receipt and went to customer service. Those extra 5 minutes saved significantly more than I was even expecting them to--about the equivalent of over a quarter of our weekly grocery budget!

Do you take the time to check your receipts when you go shopping, or do you trust that everything rang up fine and move on?

This post is linked to:
::Frugal Friday.

Tropical Traditions Organic Raw Honey: Review & Giveaway

**This giveaway is closed**

As you have probably noticed if you've been around here long, we try to stay away from refined sugar. The healthy alternatives I typically use are Sucanat (which is dehydrated cane juice) and Organic Grade B Real Maple Syrup, because I can get them at reasonable prices. Sucanat works great for baking and the maple syrup is nice for topping pancakes and French Toast.

One natural sweetener that I've known is very healthy but haven't used much since we moved to Virginia (I had a great, affordable source for it in Florida) is raw honey. It is just loaded with enzymes and other good stuff and is wonderful for baking with (though, of course, it's no longer raw) and using in tea. When Tropical Traditions contacted me about reviewing and giving away some of their Organic Canadian Raw Honey, I was thrilled. We are still working our way through our jar, but I have been quite pleased with the quality and taste of the product, and love using it, knowing all the good nutrition it is packed with.

One thing that amazed me is the strict standards for certified organic honey. From the Tropical Traditions website:

In order for honey to be certified organic, the beehives must be placed in isolated areas miles from the dense population, industry, traffic congestion, and farm fields treated with chemicals and landfills. Second, a bee’s flying range is determined by their natural instinct which tells them to stay within their natural four mile range from the hive location. Finding area which can be certified organic is extremely difficult, which is why there are so few certified organic honeys on the market. 

Tropical Traditions has kindly agreed to let one of y'all try out their delicious raw honey! In order to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post saying you'd like to be entered. Easy enough, hm? For bonus entries, you can do each of the following, and be sure to leave a separate comment for each one:

::Follow me (@mrsmurch) and Tropical Traditions (@troptraditions) on twitter.
::Tweet about this giveaway and be sure to include @mrsmurch and @troptraditions in the tweet.
::Subscribe to the Tropical Traditions newsletter.
::Subscribe to the Covenant Homemaking RSS feed.
::Blog about this giveaway and leave a comment with the URL of your post.

The giveaway will close Wednesday, July 13 at 8pm and I will announce the winner shortly after that.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product

This post is linked to:
::Things I Love Thursday.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Little Sunshine

Katie just discovered this [mostly] empty kitchen cabinet yesterday, and she fits just perfectly. 
She has really enjoyed climbing in and out while I work in the kitchen.

I hope y'all don't mind a little mama gushing! This sweet baby toddler (!) brings so much joy to our lives. Her antics of late have added so much fun to our days. She also talks nonstop (no idea where she gets that--ahem!), and I can actually make out quite a bit of what she says now. It's amazing to think that by the end of this year, we'll have two precious babies to enjoy!

Happy (almost) Wordless Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trying Again

On January 1, I had grand intentions of reading through the Bible in 90 Days along with lots of other bloggers, led by Mom's Toolbox. I didn't do it. So, when I heard there was another Blogging Through the Bible in 90 Days beginning, July 5, I toyed around with joining in, and finally yesterday morning I decided to give another go. Though I'd prefer to get up early and read the entire day's reading in one chunk, I've found that reading throughout the day as I have extra time is working out well for now. At the end of day 2? So far, so good. Only 88 days left. :)

Since Katie was born, I have struggled with getting back into the habit of rich, daily time spent in God's Word. I'm hoping this time around, the Bible in 90 Days plan will, by God's grace, help me get back to where I should be (before I'm chasing TWO babies around instead of just one!). One reason I am especially excited about this fast-paced read through the entire Bible is that in the past year or two, many of my theological views have changed and matured, and I'm excited to read through the Bible with themes in mind that were completely off my radar in the past when I've read through Scripture.

Even though it's a couple days into it, it's not too late to join in, and you could still catch up! If you're interested, head over to Mom's Toolbox and check out this post with all the details. Let me know if you decide to give it a try.

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

This recipe goes back to Venezuela, where my mom was born and lived until she was 12. I remember my grandmother making it when she lived with us when I was a child. It is pretty simple to make (and only uses one pot!), very delicious, and can be frugal and quite healthy as well. Mom made some when I visited last month, and I decided to take pictures and share the recipe with y'all.

To make Arroz con Pollo, you'll need:
-1 whole chicken, cut up, or 2 or 3 pounds of legs and thighs
-1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice (you can use white if you want), along with 3 cups of water or chicken broth (adds extra flavor and nutrition)
-1 can of small, pitted black olives, drained
-1 small jar of pimiento peppers, drained
-1 jar of capers, with a little bit of the juice reserved

Begin by browning the chicken pieces in a mixture of olive oil and butter (a cast iron dutch oven works best, but if you don't have one, another heavy pan will do). Cook until the chicken is golden and crispy, and then remove from the pan. 

Reserving some of the drippings, add in the brown rice and water or broth, as well as a little Tumeric to make it yellow, if desired. Bring to a boil and cook covered for 20-30 minutes. After that time, add the chicken to the pot and let it finish cooking with the rice, about another 15-20 minutes. If you are using white rice, put the chicken in the pan as soon as you start boiling the rice. 

Once the rice and chicken are cooked, stir in the drained can of olives, the drained jar of pimientos, and the partially drained jar of capers.


This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Tasty Tuesday.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Menu Plan, July 5-11

I'm planned to get this up first thing this morning, but my poor baby has been sick (again) all day. :( Thankfully, she's been able to keep all her food down, but she's had a fever all day, and at one point it was getting close to 105. I'm really hoping she'll be feeling all better tomorrow. I just can hardly stand to see her so sick! It just breaks this mama's heart.

Here's what's on our meal plan for the week:

Breakfasts: scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, baked oatmeal (with blueberries instead of apples), egg sandwiches, blueberry cranberry bread, biscuits & gravy

Lunches: grilled cheese with tomato soup, snack foods, salad with chicken, leftovers, PB & J (or bananas)

Monday~Chicken Parmesan, Salad
Tuesday~BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, fresh veggies with homemade ranch dip, Annie's Mac & Cheese
Wednesday~Chili, Cornbread
Thursday~Burgers, glazed carrots
Friday~Homemade Pizza, salad
Saturday~leftover buffet
Sunday~dinner at the farm

For hundreds of other menu plans, check out OrgJunkie!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stomach Bug Blessings

Last Tuesday night while we were in Florida, Katie got her very first stomach bug. Besides spitting up as an infant, she had never thrown up before. It started in the car on the way home from the grocery store about 8 o’clock. The first time, I thought maybe she had caused herself to throw up because she was flipping out while I tried to get daddy on the phone for her (I made the mistake of asking if she wanted to talk to him BEFORE I was actually had him on the phone). So, we got home and I got her bathed and in her PJs, and after a snack and another chat with daddy, I put her down for the night. A little while later she was crying, so I went to check on her, and as it turned out, she had thrown up and fallen asleep in it. Ugh—my poor baby!  In any case, after that happened, I was not going to put her back to bed by herself. After another throwing up episode, I flipped out (what can I say? I’m a new mom) and begged mom to call a friend from church who was a pediatric nurse. Never mind it was after 11. Ahem. But, Karen called back, gave us advice, and calmed this mama down quite a bit. How sweet is that? She got out of bed and called us even though it was after 11.

We covered the sofa up with towels. Katie slept on my chest, and woke up to throw up throughout the night. Mom helped us get settled in, and then I looked over and she was settling herself in on the love seat across from our sofa in case I needed her during the night. She proceeded to get up during the night every time Katie threw up to bring us a wet cloth to clean up with and changed out the towels protecting the sofa. Can you believe that? My mom is really amazing, and still just as nurturing as she was when I was a little kid.

Thankfully, the stomach bug was over for Katie early Wednesday morning. It didn’t really occur to me that I might get sick. I guess I had a notion that moms don’t get sick from their children (ha!). We arrived home late Thursday night, and almost as soon as I woke up, I learned how wrong that notion was and spent the rest of the day throwing up. My sweet hubby waited on me hand and foot all day. I pretty much spent the entire day in bed. He watched Katie all day, and even changed all her diapers. While she was napping he went out and picked up some groceries and rented a couple movies (ones he knew I’d like). Then, when I threw up all over our bedroom carpet late Friday night, he cleaned it all up. I didn’t ask him to do any of what he did—he just did it. What a wonderful, godly man I am married to. Poor Ben came down with the yucky virus on Sunday night.

I was thinking about how miserable it was when my sweet Katie was sick, and then when I got sick and I couldn’t help but think how much worse it would have been if I had been on my own! A mom who stays up with me all night and helps clean up my baby’s throw up and a husband who cleans up my throw up? They are both amazing gifts from God, and truly finer things.