Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Playing in the Snow!

Today the wind died down and even though it was still really cold outside the kids braved the elements and went out to play. Will climbed up in the attic to get the sleds down so they could all have fun in the yard.

Will, Amy & Katie

At this point, they were close to freezing. But I had to get my pictures!
Then we added in the cousins...Charlie & Samantha!

The kids were just about frozen when they came inside. Red cheeks and frozen fingers. It looks like snow but its really ice now, it is packed solid.

We hit the road tomorrow for points south. The weather is turning nasty up here in the next 24 hours and we are getting out of Dodge!

Monday, December 28, 2009

On the Road

We are traveling. This is going to be our new after Christmas tradition. We are going to try and stay home for Christmas and then travel between Christmas and New Years. We are still figuring out this blended family tradition stuff. I really think this was our most relaxed holiday yet.

Saturday we got up, loaded the RV and the kids and drove to Granny's house in GA. After dinner we opened gifts. Mom had already bought me and Greg and combo gift, but she surprised me with some "mad money" just for me to spend. The mind is working but I haven't spent any yet. Then my sister and hubbie and my niece and nephews came over on Sunday to have Christmas again. We let "Little Ceasars" cook lunch and all ate our fill of pizza. More gifts and lots of fun.

Monday morning we pulled out of Mom's driveway...not an easy feat on a hill in an RV, and started on our trek to VA to Greg's parents house. Greg (being the super homeschool dad that he is) found us a battlefield to visit (Cowpens in SC), so that we could get another stamp in our National Park Passport. Several years ago we got an annual pass for National Parks and its something we have thoroughly enjoyed having. After our picnic lunch we started heading north again. Keep in mind that it snowed up here a week and a half ago---14 inches. In Winston-Salem, NC we started noticing patches of snow, but here in VA is small patches of grass and lots of snow....2 or 3 inches still of snow and its COLD! (Us Miss. Magnolia's may freeze) Its really pretty and I hope tomorrow to get some pictures. And more Christmas frivolities tonight. So we've had 4 days of Christmas. My sister in law just came through and told me it was getting colder tonight and the wind was supposed to really blow, great colder weather!

The RV has some generator issues, so we may have to go home and not camp. We'll have to see what tomorrow holds. We have camped in the winter with no heat and its not fun. Camping in a tin can is not cozy, in fact its downright cold.

I was blessed with 4 new cookbooks for Christmas this year...Once A Month Cooking, An Amish Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter, A Church Potluck Cookbook & Feed your Family for $75 a week...there will be new recipes on our Menu's. Then I've gotten new books to read and gardening magazines to ponder. Greg & I bought the "Entrepenuer Boot Camp" set from Vision Forum, so we are listening to the CD's during all of our driving time...and getting some good ideas about starting a business sometime in the future. We are also diving into financial books to strengthen our knowledge of the Lord's way to best use our resources. We've got all the Dave Ramsey books, which we follow, and we ordered some Larry Burkett books last week.

We are going to be making some changes with our tv viewing habits, our Bible reading times, coming together as a family to accomplish goals, and habits/character traits/attributes we want our children to develop and build upon. We have got lots of plans for projects at home. I've already got some Christmas gifts in mind for next year, that I need to start working on...51 weeks to go! We have 2 Mission Trips we are taking, Honduras the end of Jan. and Ohio the end of June.

2009 was a great year. We were blessed with Katie's miraculous, speedy recovery from shattering her ankle (jumping in a moonwalk inflatable, long story, freak accident). We visited with family in GA, VA & TN. Greg is in his 3rd year of graduate school, completing his Masters and making awesome grades. The older boys are all employed or doing well in college! Amen! The younger 3 are enthusiastic homeschoolers who are learning more and more every day. And I am blessed and so thankful to be a homemaker, a wife, and a stay at home mom!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We've had a very calm & peaceful Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. This is the 2nd Christmas that we have celebrated in Mississippi. The others, we have been in GA. I'm with Greg...this is going to be our new tradition. We can travel and see grandparents between Christmas & New Years (we are leaving tomorrow).

Yesterday started with making homemade waffles for breakfast. Then Greg & I went to run a couple of last minute errands. The traffic wasn't bad, but Borders Book Store was packed and they didn't have what we wanted. Hobby Lobby was relatively uncrowded! We also spent alot of time with Katie, Will , Amy & James playing the Wii. We did the bowling and the "whats your age" fitness test. Last night we did a snack supper...scallops rolled up in bacon, popcorn chicken, bagel bites, Rotel cheese dip & chips, tater tots, & little egg rolls. Then we went outside to take pictures of our house with the lights all turned on, bright & cheery. Amy made us chocolate fondue and dipped marshmallows into it. Note to self: next time use milk chocolate not semi sweet. It was rich and good and gooey. Then we all watched "White Christmas", great Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye movie. More Wii bowling and then off to bed with Visions of Sugarplums dancing in our heads.

This morning started with loaded stockings & candy bags and then the gifts. My kids must have been good this year cause Santa fulfilled their wishes. We are thankful he left us a Wii Fit Game because we have eaten lots of goodies and more to come. James cooked our breakfast and it was good. My darling husband gave me new books to read, cross stitch patterns to stitch, a necklace, and some gardening magazines. Guess I was good too this year! Greg & Katie made us shrimp & grits for lunch. Super yummy & a new Jackson family tradition. Andy & his girl Amy Kate and Sarah (Rob's girlfriend) are on their way over so we are doing grilled steaks and baked potatoes for dinner. Soon all of our kiddos will be under one roof & that makes me a happy mama!

Hope your day has been as blessed as ours!

Mama we are coming to GA tomorrow! Love You!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas!!!!!!

T'was The Night Before Jesus Came...

'Twas The Night Before Jesus Came'
written by Unknown Author

'Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed.
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter.
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be THE DAY!

The light of His face made me cover my head
It was Jesus! returning just like He had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said "it's not here" my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without a sound.
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was true after all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Swag Bucks

I've been reading on different frugal blogs about SwagBucks where you get "paid" when you use their tool bar to search on the internet. But, I wanted to test it out before I recommended here goes.

Click on the swagbucks button located to. the right on my blog and it will take you to their website. Then you download their search bar onto your computer. Instead of searching for stuff through google, you use the swagbucks bar (powered by google, if I remember correctly) and earn swagbucks. The first weeks after I downloaded this, I randomly searched to see if I could find some swagbucks and was somewhat successful. Now, I just type in websites that I am going to visit and sometimes the bucks pop up (it will tell you if you have found one, or two or however many and you just claim your bucks) they will be automatically credited to your account. Just claim them and keep right on going. The toolbar will keep a running total of your bucks.

On their homepage you can click on the prizes button to see what you can win. I have used 45 bucks go claim $5 in Amazon cash ( you credit it to your amazon account just like a gift card) and I have done a $5 paypal payout to my account. I've done the Amazon 3 times. I ordered Greg a book for Christmas and it came now I can officially and publicly works.

Why click on my button on the blog? Cause like everything else, I will get credited a buck or two when you sign up through my blog. I am now saving my Amazon credits to pay for goodies throughout the next year.

And it doesn't cost you a Swagbucks come up several times a day when you type facebook into the search instead of hitting the facebook link in your favorites.

So please give this a try! It can only save you money!

***Neat thing about the book...I heard about this book on The Dave Ramsey show and wanted to get it. Its "QBQ, Question Behind the Question" by John G. Miller (practicing personal accountability at work and in life). At Borders this book was $19.99, I found it on Amazon for $4.99 (like new condition). Besides the book being in perfect condition...its autographed by the author. What a cool bonus I was not expecting. I gave the book to Greg last night and he discovered the autograph!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Andy & Rob are 22 !

Happy Birthday Rob & Andy! They are 22 today.

Being twins they share a bond that none of the rest of us "get". They finish each others sentences, like the same things, eat the same foods, watch the same shows and read the same books. And sometimes they do things that we just can't believe....see the picture below! (I can't pose this stuff people...I just seize the opportunity and catch it on film) This is slightly disturbing on several different levels but we love them anyway!

And then they pose for the picture below and "all is right with the world".
Left to right are...Amy Kate, Andy, Rob & Sarah.
Happy Birthday boys, We Love You!

Christmas Cookies


If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookies is the test & thus calorie free.
If you eat a Christmas cookie while drinking a diet soda, the cookie has no calories because the diet soda cancel out the cookie calories.
If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Its calorie free...goes back to rule 1. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free also.
Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. this is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.
Any calories consumed during the frosting of the cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.
Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have 3 and green ones have 5 ~ one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!
Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street" have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.
As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.
Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate.

AND we all know how calories like to CLING.
Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. Its a rule.
So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies ~ we only get them this time of year!
I can't claim credit for that brilliant piece of dietary rules...I copied it from an email my sister sent to me this morning.
However, let me reiterate and clarify a few things, just in case it didn't sink in..cookies have no calories if you eat during a movie, right out of the oven, with a friend, steal from anothers plate, are stressed, lick the icing knife, are broken or drink a diet drink.
This sounds like the beginning of a great new Christmas tradition to me...invite all your friends over to bake, decorate and consume. You eat off everyone else plate and no calories! And just to be "Miracle on 34th Street"...better safe than sorry.
Changing from red to green was stressful...time to go find some Christmas cookies!
Happy Munching!!!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Frugal Friday Post - Staying Home

This time of year there are so many places to go, things to see, sales to hit & people to visit. Everything is vying for our attention and our money. For the next week, folks will be frantically shopping, wrapping, planning and strategizing how to get it all done. Christmas comes every year on December 25, its not a surprise to anyone, so how come folks leave everything till the last minute? The best bargains are found when you shop around and plan ahead.

Starting today, we will be celebrating 4 birthdays in 7 days. James turns 26 today, Rob & Andy turn 22 on Monday and our Lord's birthday is Friday! What a great week! Greg is taking us all out to eat dinner at Backyard Burger tonight (last time we all went out was in Sept. for my b'day, not a frugal night but a fun family night)

We are staying home for Christmas this year. So the next week will be full of cooking, celebrating, playing games, doing crafts, reading books, eating goodies, watching movies, wrapping gifts, and keeping Christmas secrets. None of these cost anything.

So many people have forgotten what fun you can have at home, they constantly want to go, go, go and be entertained. Many people wander around shopping malls buying stuff they don't need and can't afford because they are bored (I used to be one of them). Then what really gets me, is folks who plan all kinds of activities, play dates, movie mornings etc. when their kids are out of school because the kids will be bored and they don't want to fool with them.

So here are some ideas for things to do when you are at home.....
1. Play a board game. We like blokus, monopoly, scrabble, yahtzee & dominoes.
2. Cook a special treat. Right now in your pantry, you probably have the ing. for cookies, or brownies or a cake.
3. Watch a Christmas movie or tv special together.
4. Listen to Christmas music.
5. Play a game system together...Wii, Nintendo, Play Station. I don't play these too much but I do love the Wii bowling (I used to bowl on a league in my younger days).
6. Make christmas cards, gift tags etc. Construction/scrapbook paper, stickers and markers are great things to make holiday cards.
7. Pop popcorn & drink hot chocolate, nice & cosy!
8. Attend church together: wonderful message, great music!
9. Turn everything off and read a good book.
10. Enjoy your family while they are still young. Our kids are 26, 21, 21, 20, 16, 15, & 13. Believe me, they grow up too fast!

Have yourself a merry, joy filled, stressfree, family fun Christmas!

Hop on over to Frugal Fridays at for more frugal ideas!

26 Years Ago

26 years ago, at 8:54pm, I became a Mom for the very first time! James Steven McDaniel arrived on the scene with a tiny bit of blonde hair and big blue eyes. It was love at first sight! What a perfect Christmas gift!

I remember holding him for hours and just looking at his little face. Well, when I could get him away from his Granny & Grandaddy Bill. My daddy was thrilled to have a boy to take fishing and out in the woods! They had a really special relationship.

We didn't hold James for long though...he started walking at about 9 1/2 months. I remember sitting in his bedroom floor and he toddled out of the room, then came back, waved and kept on walking. He hasn't slowed down since.

On his 1st birthday, Mom & I took him to see Santa. I ended up sitting on Santa's lap with James in my lap to take a picture. On his 2nd birthday, we took him again and James wouldn't get anywhere near him. I told Santa it was James' birthday and Santa got everyone in line to sing the Happy Birthday song.....he was James' friend then and he happily went to sit on Santa's knee so I could get the picture.

So a big, loving Happy Birthday to my oldest child! I love you James!

The above picture was taken at my birthday in Sept., I made James take off his UGA hat because we were in a restaraunt...he was reaching for it to plop back on his head. The only time he doesn't wear it is in church, other than that its pretty much on his head!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Kitchen is Reborn!

This year my kitchen got a much needed, much wanted, much dreamed about, much anticipated makeover! (Can ya tell I was excited?) I honestly don't know which part I was more excited about...its a toss up on several areas. First was the NEW, large, convection oven with flat cooking surface on the top. My original oven was tiny and cooked unevenly on the one rack we could use in the middle. If you cooked on the top rack, the tops of everything burned ~ cooking on the bottom rack resulted in burned bottoms of everything. And sometimes, even the middle was unpredictable. We love to cook and bake so this presented many problems. Also, Greg had to mutilate some of my cookie sheets, so that they would even fit. Enter, Donna's new toy! Now some folks just may not get this excited about a new appliance but I did.....hence the picture!

This oven is great! I can cook of 3 different racks at the same time! I can cook 2 pans of cookies together on the same rack. Its a miracle! And now, you may be wondering about the fate of my former, tiny wall oven. Its still in the kitchen. Its the storage "cabinet" for my Pyrex & Corning Ware dishes. Works well for me!

My next favorite renovation was the kitchen floor. The kitchen, dining room, & entry hall were all covered with a faux brick tile. I can honestly say...I hated it. It was uneven and uncomfortable. Standing on it for too long a time, made my feet, legs, & back ache. So my wonderful family took great pleasure in busting up the tile. (Its a great tension reliever) Thats was a mess quite like nothing I had ever experienced. Then Greg bought me these gorgeous, flat, easy on the feet tiles and they were installed on the kitchen floor. Before these were purchased, I tested them in the store. Many tiles look flat but aren't really, these passed the test. The grout is done and its the color of mud. Thats the best way to describe it. We've got 7 kids & 2 dogs. Mud colored grout worked well for me. And if you look closely at the counter tops, you can see that they were resurfaced with a beautiful granite looking formica.

Today my new beautiful kitchen will get another workout. The girls & I are cooking Christmas goodies. On the list is Haystacks, Brownies (both of those the girls bribed Rob with for him rearranging their furniture), chocolate chip muffins & cookies, fudge, and Christmas Crunch.

Here is the recipe for Christmas Crunch

16~2oz. squares vanilla candy coating
6 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Cheerios (original)
2 cups pretzel sticks (we usually break into thirds)
1 3/4 cup mini m & m's

Microwave the candy coating at high for 3 minutes or until melted, stir after 2 minutes.

Combine cereals & pretzels in a bowl and stir. Pour melted candy coating over cereals and mix well (a wooden spoon is great for this step). Then add the m & m's and mix again.

Spoon mixture onto 2 wax paper lined cookie sheets (with sides) and let cool in refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Break into bite sized pieces and store in an airtight container.

*You can also add 2 cups cashews, but my family just prefers the cereal and pretzels. I add the m & m's last because they tend to melt and bleed into the chocolate if you add sooner.

My kids and husband love this treat and it usually doesn't last too long!


Or as Julia Childs would have said "Bon Appetite"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you ever Wondered where the Lord is leading you?

The beautiful group of young adults belong to Greg & I. Back row is Katie (holding Hershey), Rob, & Andy. Seated in the front are Allen, Will (holding Mack), Amy & James.

Have you ever wondered what was going on in your life? Have you ever looked up and realized the Lord was moving and leading but you don't know where? Have you ever realized that the Lord was smoothing a path for you, your husband, and/or your children but you don't know to what end? Do you ever think like me or just sit back and let things happen and never wonder?

The Lord is moving in our lives and we don't have any answers to any of the above questions. We just feel his presence and action in our lives. Its a very hard thing to put into words, but he is definately in some decisions we are facing & making. He has brought different books, CD's, radio broadcasts, etc. to our attention. He has multiplied and blessed in ways that amaze us. Looking back over the last year, so much has happened & changed but you don't realize this until you take the time to stop & think about it. Greg will be eligible for retirement in 7 years or so and some of these decisions are post-retirement thoughts & prayers. Alot of planning & praying will be happening over the years to come.

We have got 7 amazing children. The Lord has blessed them with employment & decent wages. The Lord brought Andy & Allen new jobs this past year. Several of our children are praying about decisions that will greatly change their lives. We are privileged & honored to be able to pray for them. We are thankful for good grades for our college students (Rob & Greg). We were blessed to take Katie, Will & Amy to Oklahoma on a Mission Trip in June and watched the Lord work through these 3 young adults as they worked with & loved the Indian children. They seem to have a heart for missions and that is exciting. We were made keenly aware that Will has a tender heart & a gift for working with pre-schoolers. These 3 also got to serve at VBS this summer and had another fun week of working with children. Greg & I were offered the opportunity to travel to Honduras in Jan. & cook for a mission teams of doctors, childrens ministers & construction workers. This will be our 3rd trip down there in 4 years. Katie came to me and asked if she could go also, so she is going with us. Then the Lord paved a way for Katie's friend Shelby to go also. I can't wait to see what the Lord does on this trip, these 2 young ladies are excited for this new adventure.

The Lord is leading us to visit new places, experience different cultures & worship styles, read new books, learn new skills, & minister in different ways to others.

We don't know what the future holds. But we are excited about the possibilities! And are "waiting on the Lord" to see where he is leading or what doors he is opening next.

Please go to the list of blogs that I read and visit Jennifer at Saving & Giving. She has got a great post today about her family...Not making it to church on Sunday. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Its worth taking the time to read.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal Friday - Shopping

Did you know shopping can be a very frugal experience? Most people would think those 2 words ~ shopping, frugal ~ don't really go together but they can. It just depends on "how" you shop.

Yesterday, the kids and I went shopping. They still had several Christmas presents to buy for several of their older brothers. Before shopping, we fortified ourselves with lunch at Chick Fil A, using our stash of coupons. Many, many stores are competing for your money, so they are offering some deals to make sure you shop with them. They found some great deals on things they purchased.

We found some gorgeous glittery ornaments at Penneys that they all 3 loved. My comment was, we can make that. So the hunt was on. First was Hobby Lobby. We did get the glitter glue there using a 40% off coupon. Their ornaments were 1/2 price but that still made the box $10. Next, we went to Target. We got boxes of ornaments for $2.50. Altogether we purchased the 2 boxes and the glitter glue for less than 1/2 the price of the original ornaments at Penneys. But, we have double the amount of ornaments. This will be an art project within a couple of days.

When we were at Walmart last spring we found Wilton Gingerbread Cake kits for .25. Since we don't eat our houses (they are just for decoration) I didn't have a problem buying the kits. Thats another art project next week. We will add some more candy & icing to the kits.

My husband and I shop year round. If we find something cool, we buy it and put it up for Christmas. Most stuff goes in the back of our closet and we try to make a list or we will forget about some purchases. Last year all the boys got Polo shirts. We found them at an outlet with 1/2 off the clearance price, which made them affordable. I have found cross stitch kits for $1, books on clearance, or books free on Paperback, boxers & sleep pants at Old Navy for .99 or less, some great surprises at the $1 store, etc. Just keep your eyes open and have a little extra cash so that when you find these bargains, you can take advantage of them.

Stocking stuffers are fun purchases. The girls like girly, feminine stuff...bath gels, nail polish, makeup kits, cutesy pencils & pens, etc. Last year we did all candy in the stockings. The girls requested a seperate bag as a gift with girly stuff, they didn't want to miss out on the pampering. This year the stockings will be a mix of stuff. All year long, I have sent off for samples of various products, found stuff in clearance bins, bought candy clearanced after Halloween, and taken advantage of coupons/sales to get some stuff almost free. The All You Magazine from Walmart has been a great source of coupons. Plus the programs at Walgreens & CVS with the extra bucks you earn when you purchase certain products.

Ask your kids what they want for Christmas and birthdays. I am very guilty of buying stuff they want AND more stuff that I want for them. I am getting better but still not recovered from this habit completely. Honestly, this year I have more stuff like this for Greg than the kids (should excite him).

I realize that shopping for some people is a chore. They want to get the predetermined item, purchase it, and exit (Dave Ramsey talks about this in Financial Peace). I like to SHOP. Look around, compare prices, see whats available. Sometimes Greg shops with me, he loves the clearance racks at Belks...great deals for just a little money.

I have read some awesome blogs in the last couple of days with great gift ideas for little ones, gifts baskets for all ages, coupon gifts for family & friends, etc. There are tons of ideas out there just waiting to be found. Have fun.

And MERRY CHRISTMAS (I don't do Happy Holidays).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent & Fabric Softener

About 10 months ago, I decided to experiment with making homemade laundry detergent. I had read about this on other blogs and thought it sounded intriguing. I was willing to give it a try especially since the ingredients for the detergent cost much less than 1 bottle of the liquid I was already using. First, I did alot of research because I wanted to make sure it was safe for use in a High Efficiency Washer. I didn't want to have suds spewing from my washer. The following was a recipe I found on

Clothes Washing Detergent

1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1 bar Ivory Soap

Grate the bar of Ivory into a large saucepan, add 6 cups of water. Heat & stir until soap melts. then add the washing soda & borax, stir until dissolved.
Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot tap water into a 5 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture & stir. Then add 2 gallons water & stir again.
Let soap sit for about 24 hours & it will gel.
Stir one final time.
Use 1/4 cup per load (front load HE washer)
Use 1/2 cup per load (top load washer)

*I buy the Ivory soap at Kroger when the bars are 3 for $1. The bucket I got free for asking in the Kroger bakery department. My mom saved me some of her detergent bottles and after the final stir I transfer to these other bottles. Its just easier for me to pour out of instead of using the big bucket daily.

And just how much do I save using this.....I was spending $10-$12 twice a month for detergent. This cost me about $6 in supplies for the first 3 buckets of detergent which equals about 1/2 cent per load. I still have plenty of the borax and washing soda (get on the detergent aisle at the grocery or walmart). Those 2 items will probably last another year, I buy the Ivory when I find it on sale and store in the cabinet. So $22 per month (average) for 10 months is $220 but I spent $7 for the same amount of time for my supplies (did have to buy another 3 bars of ivory). So I have saved $213 just in laundry detergent costs for the year! Thats exciting! I would much rather spend that money on food and not on something that will be washed down the drain.

*You can also put a small amount of the detergent on clothes stains. Just drop it on and rub it in, then wash as usual. Works really well and you just saved more money not buying a stain remover!

Homemade Fabric Softener

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 cup hair conditioner

Combine ingredients & mix well. Put into a pourable container (I use an old fabric softener bottle). Shake well before each use.
Use 1/3 cup in each load in place of commercial fabric softener.

*I buy the vinegar in the largest bottles walmart sells ~ price is less than $3 a bottle. Hair conditioner is usually Suave because I can get it for about .50 a bottle at Kroger with their sale and my coupon they double. I bottle of conditioner makes 2 batches of softener. I haven't really figured out the price savings on this, its not as significant as the detergent, but its still at least 75% or more cheaper than using Downey.

*Put the ing. in the bottle in the order shown, it will mix up better and not foam as much. I did the conditioner first one time, I had a really foamy mess on my hands.

*My bottle is big enough to double this recipe. Instead of measuring the conditioner, I just put in 1/2 of the bottle...even when doubling it. It still works great.

****For white loads, I just use vinegar in the rinse cycle and not the conditioner. It works great and your towels are more absorbent. And the vinegar smell rinses away so your clothes will not smell like pickles!

Making the softener takes less than 5 minutes. Making the detergent takes 10-15 minutes. These were very worthwhile and profitable experiments for our family.

Oh yeah, I read that instead of buying the expensive cleaners for the flat top, ceramic cooking surface, to use baking powder and a damp plastic scrubber instead. So I gave it a try...looks just as good as the ceramic cleaner just need to use a tiny bit more elbow grease!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Appreciation & Acknowledgement

In this busy, busy time of the year lets remember to show appreciation and acknowledge kindnesses. It is so easy to "forget" to say thank you or I appreciate the job you did or thanks for your hard work. Do you ask people to do things for you & thank them or do you expect them to do something for you & then you forget about it? You may not think its a big deal, but it is.

Unfortunately, the world is full of folks who want everything and give nothing. I am not talking about material possessions but instead am talking about returning favors, asking if you can help, praying for each other, speaking a kind word, or saying Thank You.

As a Mom, I am guilty of wanting to get everything done and sometimes forgetting the help it took to get to "done". My girls are wonderful kitchen helpers...from cleaning out & loading the dishwasher everyday, wiping off the counters, keeping our tea & koolaid pitchers filled, and making us goodies. My 5 guys are wonderful, strong young men who help with outside chores, moving stuff in & out of the attic, decorating our yard for Christmas, keeping the pool clean, running errands, etc. Will is my #1 garbage collector, pool vacummer & dog feeder. My husband is a great provider, creative woodworker, lighting expert for holiday lights, computer & financial "geek", dreamer of the future, & indulgent homeschool dad (by indulgent I mean, I pick the curriculum and he buys it). I appreciate all of you and acknowledge publicly all that you do to make our house a home. Thank you!

Take time: to smile, to ask how someones day is, to pray for others, to see if you can serve another person, to be pleasant, to really listen to their concerns or hurts, give a hug, or say HI. I am sure there are many others. Look for opportunities to help & serve. Remember to say Thank You!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Varsity

We interrupt our regularly scheduled healthy eating to bring you "The Varsity". An Atlanta icon, that I grew up on, and now realize from non-Atlantans is an acquired taste. The Varsity has 4 in Atlanta near GA Tech, one in Athens near University of GA, one off Briarcliff Road, and one off Jimmy Carter in Norcross. I've been to all of them but my very, very favorite is downtown Atlanta. It takes up a whole city block and the echoes of "whadya have" reverberate through the joint. Some folks downtown have worked there for decades, it amazing.

On our recent trip to Atlanta, we ate at the Varsity for lunch the day before Thanksgiving. Since we didn't want to get stuck in the downtown traffic, we opted for the restaurant off Jimmy Carter. Same great, greasy food...not quite the same atmosphere.

My favorite Varsity meal...chili dog, fries & a coke. Greg loves the onion rings!

Mom, Greg, & Katie's Fried Peach Pies

Its all gone! Sure was yummy!!!

Will, Amy & Katie sporting their Varsity hats!

The meal tasted so good, that Will & I decided to order another chili dog for each of us. Then I decided (after devouring it) that the 2nd chili dog was probably not such a good idea. Just didn't agree with me.

The Varsity dogs come in several different varieties...chili dog with mustard, chili slaw dog, or Amy's personal favorite the naked dog. The traditional is the chili dog with mustard...don't add ketchup, it just ruins it. But you could add a big mound of raw onions to complete the yummy goodness. I didn't do that last time but I have in the past.

Mom's favorite drink here is a Frosted Orange. I'd just rather have a coke.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meal Planning & Slowing Down

I am joining Organizing Junkie for another Menu Plan Monday but mine is going to be a bit different this week. I have got lots of main dish ingredients that I can build multiple menu's around. So I am just going to list the entrees and fill in with whatever side dishes appeal to me that day. Right now, I have the majority of ingredients for 18 entrees. Here are the entree's
Spiral Sliced Ham
Split Pea Soup
Sloppy Joes
Red Beans & Rice (with sausage or chicken)
Grilled Hamburgers
Chicken & Dumplings
Ham & Potato Casserole
Chicken Pot Pie
Loaded Baked Potatoes
Smoked Ham
Pork Chops & Rice
Barbeque Chicken
**Baked Hamburgers
Macaroni & Cheese

The baked hamburgers are an easy peasy recipe. I got this from my mom...maybe you could think of it as flat meatloaf. Take a couple of pounds of ground beef and press it into a Pyrex rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Then bake (could it get any easier?). I usually bake at 350 degrees for about 20 or so minutes. Then I remove it from the oven and spoon off the grease and put it back in the oven for 10 or 15 minutes. Then cut into squares and serve. Greg's favorite sides for this meal are mashed potatoes, country gravy & green beans. Any leftovers can be for lunch the next day or you can put the square burgers on buns, top with mustard & ketchup and eat that way. Katie is my expert gravy maker & Amy is my expert mashed potato chef. My girls are turning into excellent cooks!

Now for the slowing down part! One of our very favorite Christmas traditions is "No School December" & watching all our Christmas movies (I really like the no commercials). With our churchs choral program over...we can slow down. We are going to take time the rest of this month to bake some goodies, work on crafts, listen to music, read books, watch videos, play games, gift shop, and enjoy each other. We also have 3 sons with birthdays this month, James will be 26 and Andy & Rob will be 22. I love this time of year!

During the busy holidays take time to enjoy your family. Make some memories.

THEY said it would happen!

THEY said it would happen. But sometimes THEY just don't know what THEY are talking about, especially in Mississippi. But this time THEY were right...THEY are the weather forecasters! My children were thrilled that THEY were correct on this forecast. In reading facebook entries on Friday night, it was very apparent that many other Miss. children were thrilled too! Since snow doesn't last long here, all the kids were outside at 9, 10 & 11 at night, mine included. In fact, I was outside at 10:30 taking pictures. It was gorgeous, but its all gone now! The first picture is our house on Saturday morning.

This is the pool and backyard on Friday night! Anyone want to swim?

One of my beautiful red roses in the backyard covered with snow. James gave me the rosebush for Mothers Day this year!
And then we have our totally excited 3 youngest children on Friday night. This picture was taken outside the church after choir practice!

If there are enough snowflakes in our yard to press together, Amy will build a snowman! This years Frosty was about 3 feet tall and he was sporting Dad's woodworking goggles and Mom's bamboo plant stakes! Notice there is no snow surrounding little Frosty, its all in his compact little body!
I know folks from the "frozen North" will laugh at our excitement over an inch of snow, but in Central Mississippi this is major news! Thank you Lord for this beautiful gift.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Movie Review

We got lots of our chores done today and took time this afternoon to watch a new Christmas movie we recorded the other night. Its a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie entitled "A Dog named Christmas". Wow, what a great family movie. There was nothing offensive or rude or scandalous in this movie and the language was CLEAN.

Its a great movie about a boy named Todd who hears about an adopt a dog for Christmas plea by a local animal shelter. Todd is 20 years old and has Down's Syndrome. He lives on a farm with his mom & dad.

I won't reveal any more of the story but check your tv listings and see if its coming on again. Great family movie but beware...your kids may want a dog! This one is a keeper!

Taking Time to Blog

Boy, lots has happened since I blogged on Monday. We got the menu's set up, laundry done, took all the fall decorations down & packed them away and unloaded the Christmas decorations from the attic. Katie, Will, Amy & I got busy and have most of the decorating done. The kids have also wrapped some gifts and put them under the tree. I haven't gotten that far yet.

Tuesday was Ballet & Jazz classes for the girls & I ran to Kroger to get stuff we needed for the rest of the week. All the kids will be here over the next several days and it takes alot of food to keep them fed. Praise the Lord for the full pantry and freezer. We just needed milk, juice and little stuff to round out the meals & snacks.

Wed. was a long and very full, fun day. It started with our quilting class in the morning. The girls got as much done as they could but had to stop for lack of an iron. The 3 moms all "meant" to bring an iron but we all forgot. But they accomplished alot. Then we had a great lunch at Arby's with my friend Marie and 3 of her kiddo's. Her daughter Shelby is going to Honduras with us in Jan. on our Mission Trip, so I got to talk to her about some more details. After lunch, we hit Walmart and had lots of fun shopping for a ministry our church is involved in every December. It blesses us to be able to contribute to this ministry and the kids look forward to this all year long. And then a couple of hours at home...we vegged in front of the tv watching the movie "Game Plan". If you haven't seen it, its really funny and touching, we really like it. Then dinner and church for choir practice. After that, we were beat. Early bedtime for everyone!

Tonight we have to be at church, but during the day we are staying home. We will be getting the laundry done and hopefully some baking done. Maybe watch a video or two. Our college boy comes for the weekend today, just in time for the church performances.

If you have a few minutes to spare, scroll down to my bloglist and click on "Plain & Simple Life" and watch all the U-tube videos about homeschooling that Deanna has posted. I have seen the "Addams Family" spoof before and really liked it, but they are all great! "I will Survive" may just well be my new favorite!