The waiting game

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How often do you find yourself in a doctors office waiting room or a crowded restraint waiting for your food to arrive when you start seeing the warning signs of restless kids? At the moment, that is where I send this post from. I’m waiting in a waiting room for the person I’m with to complete an ultrasound – and I’m surrounded by little kids being watched by a hospital attendant who looks like she’s moments away from pulling her hair out. I’ve been asked to move my coffee several times as they migrate from one area of the waiting room to another. As a single mom, this has been me many times and I can easily recognize now the signs of stress in my children and the adults around us when this type of behavior occurs. It starts with the inability to sit still, their voices get louder/whinier, the banging of silverware on the table ensues ….

To avoid these type of situations which can be disturbing to the people around you and embarrassing for you in general – try making what I like to call a “waiting game” kit. Items for this kit would be small so they can fit in your purse or diaper bag, but are also things you know can keep your children engaged for at least 30 minutes. Bring three different options and have one be sensory motor engaging. Some examples of things I often carry around with me are:

Crayons and small coloring books. You can even fold up coloring book pages or just blank paper. This is a classic activity that is engaging. I’ve gotten in the habit of just packing blank paper because that way if they don’t want to color, we can make a treasure map instead or whatever else our imagination conjures up. Another item that would be good is a small “role-play” toy like small dolls or actions figures. This allows kids to use their imagination and work out some impatience in free-play. Finally, something I’ve never gone wrong with is a deck of cards (unto, old maid, go fish, etc.). These are usually small enough to carry in a purse and engage you with your kids in order to pass the time.

Excited doing cartwheels

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I am a huge fan of savings. As a single mom, pinching those pennies can be very important at times, especially with these climbing gas prices. A great way I’ve been able to trim the pennies and save my sense has been the new Target App Cartwheel . This is so helpful as you can clip in store coupons to use on things you need (diapers anyone?!).

 

cartwheel

When you login, you are presented with several in store coupons that you can clip and either print (if you don’t have a smartphone) or clip and access easily using your smartphone app at the register.  On of my favorite brands, Up & Up recently had a 10% off coupon store-wide for their products (diapers, wipes, face wash, bandaids, paper towel, etc) and I cleaned house and saved money.  Now to talk myself out of those new shoes ….

Free your frivolous trials with sampling

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One great way to save money is to partake in sampling.  This way, you are trying before you are buying, which we all know can be helpful.  Before you begin looking for free samples you’d like to try, I recommend making a “junk e-mail address” with a free e-mail provider like Hotmail or Yahoo.  This way, you have all your updates, newsletters, coupons, etc in one e-mail account and can sort them easily.  Many companies and sites will use your email address to spam you with offers, so just my two cents but it’s better to send that stuff to something other than your main email address so you can look at it when/if you want.  Another rule of thumb I follow is never give out your phone number.  Many “free sample sites” are simply information farms who sell your information to the highest bidder, so unless you want to be spammed by telemarketers, avoid giving your number out.  Finally, I always avoid anything that asks me to pay shipping.  Often times you will pay outrageous shipping for a travel size of something (which you could have probably gotten for a lot less money if you would have just bought it at the store). 

 Many websites offer free samples , even popular ones like target.  However the samples are given on a first come first serve basis, so unless you are checking the site everyday, you may miss out on many of the samples.  Also keep in mind, samples from retail stores like this often require you to qualify for preliminary criteria such as age, sex, or location.  From my experience with free samples, companies that believe their product is good and will have you switching brands will offer the sample at no cost to you.  I’ve gotten free samples of ALL laundry detergent, organic laundry cleaners, wet wipes, diaper cream, diapers, chap stick, shampoo, etc and have saved myself tons of money in the process buying things at full price in a store only to discover I didn’t like them.  P&G is notorious for free samples and great coupons if you sign up on their website.  They are more than likely very present in your household already, so it can’t hurt to sign up and get saving on their popular everyday products.

 

 

Some free samples sites:

Finish Dishwasher products

Quest Protein Bars

Prilosec OTC (only for those who suffer from frequent heartburn)

Emergenc Supplements

Pantene (This is a new years giveaway so time is of the essence)

“Mug’o’cocoa” brownies

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Here is a fun spin on a yummy Christmas treat.

To make this I used boxed brownie mix, but instead of water I added a little bit of peppermint cream (you can make this by throwing heavy cream and peppermint extract or finely chopped candy cane bits into your blender and mixing until smooth). The frosting i just a plain butter cream I made with a little bit of the peppermint cream for flavor. The handle of the mug is simply the top of a candy cane broken off and stuck in the side. I threw a peppermint kiss, two marshmallows, and some mint cocoa mix on top for decoration – but you can get very creative 🙂

Aside

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Fall time is a great time for warm beverages and home made treats!  Also you can get bushels of apples for great prices, so stock up and get started making your apple butters, applesauce, and pies while the “gettin’ is good”.  Here are some of my favorite apple recipes:

 

Honey Applesauce:

Peel/core 10 apples

1 cup apple cider

.5 cups water

1/4 cup honey

1/4 brown sugar

1 tbs cinnamon

 

Put apples/water in large pot, mix in honey and brown sugar.  When apples are soft, mash and mix in the cinnamon.  Cook for a few more minutes.  

This applesauce is my favorite!  I like to heat it up and give it to the girls with some Graham Crackers for a yummy treat.

 

Stuff your turkey with peeled cored apple slices, I use granny smiths.  They give the meat a sweet very juicy flavor and are a healthy alternative to stuffing!

 

Core an apple (without slicing it).  Fill the hole with carmel, wrap in tinfoil, and freeze for 2 hours.  Take out of the freezer and cut width wise so that you have apple rings with carmel in the center.  Serve on top of toasts, cakes, muffins, or by themselves – make beautiful and yummy snacks for kids or friends!

 

 

 

 

Dinner Party Planning

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There are many reasons to celebrate for no reason … new fax machine at work, your brown thumb grew a green plant, or even something as simple as the end of summer.  I recently hosted a dinner party and for a few dollars, some crafts, and a yummy menu it was a happy success!  I got an idea for this cute place setting from a book at my local library.  I did not want to purchase new plates, napkins, etc … as I was on a budget – so here is how I got this look for $5.00 a place setting:

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Next plan an interesting center piece that compliments your place settings.  Find things from around your home and just rearrange them in a unique way.  Here’s what I did!IMG_1910

 

 

 

With a colorful vase that played on the colors of my place settings, some stacked ceramic plates, and a candle I made a simple but beautiful center piece for the table.  This was all stuff I already had in my home, so there was no cost to this elegant add!  You can even dress it up with tiny touches of cheap buys like burlap, freshly picked wild flowers/herbs, or something out of the ball park like old watch faces (simply remove their bands!)  The watch faces are a great add if you are celebrating the beginning or end of something.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The final touch on my table (not counting the food of course) was the mood lighting.  I wanted the table to be dimly lit so it was relaxing.  Using a wide nail, an old soup can, some decorative scrap paper, and glue I was able to make beautiful candle holders in just a few easy steps.  If you are having an early party and candles aren’t really appropriate you could fillthe can with fresh lavender and rosemary for not only color but a wonderful scent.

 

 

candle holder

Now that you’re “party pretty”, let’s talk dinner!  When you are planning your menu, plan for the feel of the event.  For example if you are having something with cool colors and a relaxing theme, don’t serve nachos!  🙂   It’s important to make sure the colors and decor match the food.  For crab bakes, items like sea-shells, metal pails, and newspaper are appropriately themed.  For warm dishes like roasts, a warm comfortable elegant environment works great I think!  For my particular dinner I served a slow roasted apple chicken with red skin potatoes, candied asparagus, and corn bread pudding.  (See recipes below)!  Remember it’s your party, and the sky is the limit!  So with some planning, craftiness, and without breaking your budget, you can hose an amazing dinner party that will leave everyone talking!

Apple roasted chicken:

1 whole chicken cleaned

3 medium granny smith apples

Brown Sugar

1 stick butter

Salt & Pepper

4 cups apple cider

Preheat oven to 375.  Melt butter and mix in brown sugar.  Stir as you go, consistency should be a thick cream.  Add 1 cup apple cider.  Next, add your apples into the bowl and coat them with your butter/cider/sugar mix then stuff your chicken with the coated apples.  Use the remaining mix and rub/brush it over your chicken.  Add a little salt and pepper to the outside.  Pour the remaining 3 cups of apple cider into the bottom of the roasting pan. (As it steams it will infuse flavor into your chickens skin).  Roasting times will vary depending on the size of your bird.

Red Roasted Potatoes

1 bundle of small red skin potatoes

Spreadable butter

Sea-salt

Wash and clean potatoes.  Rub the outsides with the spreadable butter and then sprinkle sea-salt over the tops.  Poke a few holes with a fork and place in a foil lined baking dish.  Cook about 45-50 mins @ 375.

Candied Asparagus

1 bundle of asparagus

Honey

Fill the bottom of a skillet with just enough water to cover half the asparagus as it lays flat in the pan.  Squirt some honey across the asparagus generously. Cover and cook on low, periodically turning the asparagus.

Cornbread Pudding

1 can cream corn

1 cup fresh corn

8oz sour cream

2 tbs Honey

1 tbs Brown sugar

paprika

1 stick butter melted

2 eggs

1 box jiffy cornbread mix

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine sour cream, eggs, melted butter, honey, jiffy mix, and brown sugar with a wisk.  Then add the cream corn and fresh corn and stir.  When the ingredients are thoroughly combined, pour into a glass baking dish and cook until the top turns golden brown.  This is not a dry cornbread, so it will be soft and “pudding” like on the inside.  If you want your cornbread to be more “pudding” like (my personal favorite), substitute the sour cream for heavy whipping cream.

**The plate setting image above which was used for my inspiration was taken from “Real Simple Celebrations”, a fantastic book full of neat ideas for party planning!  Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Simple-Celebrations-Editors-Magazine/dp/193340518X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379016627&sr=8-1&keywords=%22real+simple+celebrations%22

 

 

Canning creativity

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This is a great time of year to get into canning!  With the winter months coming up, many of your favorite fruits and vegetables will be harder to find in their prime states or for good prices!  Canning things like apricots, green beans, nectarines, plums, raspberries, etc… (see http://snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/summer-sizzlers/whats-available-summer)

Canning will keep those fresh tastes so you can fabulous nectarines in late winter.  I like the Ball canning jars for canning my creativity.  Some of my favorite canning practices are  nectarines stored in brown sugar and bourbon (always a tasty treat).  Blueberries in raspberry syrup (and vice versa) and raspberries stored in honey make excellent desert or breakfast toppers.  There is an amazing book called ‘Food in Jars‘ which I highly recommend if you are new to canning or need some guidance.  You can also save a bundle at the grocery store by making your own jams, sauces, canned fruits/veggies, etc.  There is no end as to how creative you can get with it too.  If you know you have a party coming up in a few months (or for big holidays like thanksgiving) you can give some of your appetizers/entree’s a real kick with your creative canned concoctions.  Another great thing about canning, is you can turn it into a party.  Have a canning party where everyone brings some of their favorite farmers market finds!  Have a variety of fresh herbs, juices, spices, etc on hand to allow people to get creative with their canning process.  Print off some cute tags on white computer paper, cut them out, and have them available with twine or string so people can label their jars!  this will be an easy party because you have the entertainment there, and all sorts of yummy food to snack on as you can!  If you don’t want to get messy, you could even keep it as simple as a canning exchange party if you know a few other people that can.  Set up the table with just a few small bowls and plates, colorful napkins and a few candles or fresh flowers for some pizazz.  Have everyone bring a few of their original canned products and have an exchange!  You can have a small tasting party too for those that want to show off their creativity!

Buy guide:

Food in Jars: http://www.amazon.com/Food-Jars-Preserving-Batches-Year-Round/dp/0762441437/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378401804&sr=8-1&keywords=food+in+jars

Canning Jars: http://www.amazon.com/Ball%C2%AE-Regular-Bands–Jarden-Brands/dp/B004YVOS0Y/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1378401870&sr=8-7&keywords=Canning

Jar labels: http://www.amazon.com/Ball%C2%AE-Dissolvable-Labels-Jarden-Brands/dp/B004NGVIIK/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1378402702&sr=8-7&keywords=labels