Thursday, September 25, 2008

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Quite a number of years ago, I wanted to make sloppy joes but didn't have a can of sauce. I posted a question on a board somewhere (can't remember where) asking for a recipe to make from scratch and someone replied very quickly. And I haven't bought the canned sauce again since!

Every time I make it, I change it a little depending on what I have on hand and what I feel like (spicy, mild, etc.), but here is a general idea of my recipe:
2 lbs. ground turkey or lean beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
Optional: chopped green or red pepper, jalapeno
1 can tomato sauce
2 T worcestershire sauce
2 T dijon mustard
2 T honey
2 T cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground meat and onion. Mix in all the other ingredients. Allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes to thicken sauce. Serve on homemade whole grain buns with a slice of cheese.
My family just loves these! And they are healthy and wholesome, too!

If you would like more kitchen tips, check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays over at Tammy's Recipes.
For more great ideas, check out Make It From Scratch where creativity and frugality meet!

We All Scream for Ice Cream...Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter!

Yesterday, I was reading Passionate Homemaking and saw her recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It looked so easy (and my kids are always begging me to make ice cream - that ice cream maker sits around doing nothing most of the time) and I knew my family would love it. So I decided to try it. Yummmmmmmm! And I don't normally like chocolate, but this uses cocoa powder and tastes just like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup!Here is her recipe, but I made a few changes. First, I don't have access to raw milk, so I just used whole milk and heavy cream (cheap here in Mexico). Also, I just ground up some fresh peanut butter and used honey and sucanat in the ice cream. So all in all, it is pretty healthy - as long as you don't eat a quart in one sitting:-) It is also pretty inexpensive, considering that a 1/2 gallon of good ice cream costs about $5.00! This probably was less than $3.00 total.I can't wait to try her Coconut Ice Cream recipe - that is my FAVORITE flavor!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today is Carnival Tuesday! Don't Miss Out!

I just wanted to make sure you don't miss out on these wonderfully inspiring carnivals:

The Carnival of Homeschooling - Old West Edition - is being posted by Miss Jocelyn over at A Pondering Heart (still can hardly believe she is only 17!! I am so impressed!)

The Make It From Scratch carnival is hosted over at Chez Artz today.

And don't forget to check out The Homesteading Carnival hosted by yours truly!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homeschooling When You Just Don’t Feel Like It (and Neither Do Your Kids!)

I think this happens to all of us regardless of what our “job” is. There are many days that my husband doesn’t feel like going to work and I remember how much I used to HATE Mondays! After a few days away from work, I just did not want to go back.

Well, why do we think homeschooling will be any different? I do admit that it is much easier to love and I love it much more than any job I have had in the past. But still, when other things in life start to pile up and your brain, at least, is busy will a dozen (or million) other things, there are still times and days that I just don’t feel like homeschooling. The danger of this is that no one else is in charge and it is TOO easy to just “skip” a day, or two….

When the newness of your curriculum wears off, or you get to the middle of a unit study and have run out of “fun” things to do, or since the temps are starting to cool off and it is actually pleasant some days to be outside, this is when you need a change, and idea, an inspiration.

I have a few different ideas that may help through these times. First, if you are feeling “burned out” (either you or your kiddos), don’t hesitate to take a day off of school to do something different. You can still count it as a day of school if you play educational games or take a field trip or watch educational videos. Don’t you realize that they do this occasionally in public schools for the same reason? And it still counts as a school day for them.

Another thing that may be happening is that you are bored – yes, bored – with your day-to-day curriculum. Even a great unit study curriculum can get boring if you leave out the fun stuff like cooking, crafts and games. Sometimes, especially when we “get behind”, we try to get through the bulk of the material and leave out the “fun” stuff – GUILTY! You can often tell when this is happening by your kids asking, “How come we never do fun stuff anymore?” Ooohhh, that hurts! Here I am the great unit study teachermom who always does thrilling and exciting projects with her kids and then I get that question!! Think perhaps I have forgotten that learning needs to be fun? Perhaps I have gotten caught up in getting done and set aside the things that really make the learning stick?

Well, the cure is simple – do the fun things! Don’t be ruled by the curriculum, make the curriculum work for you and your kids. Take time today to cook a meal that goes along with your unit study, read a fun book that enhances your topic, play a game with your kids that helps them retain what they have learned recently. Do a science experiment and have fun with it! How about a craft project?

Ok, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this pep talk is aimed directly at me and we are going to have a “fun” homeschooling day today!! Yeah!! And I hope some of you have benefited along the way.

Confirmation Code: GDXCXVC23296986

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Homesteading Carnival #66 - Happy Birthday Edition

Since this carnival comes up right between my two childrens' birthdays (Sept. 14 & 23), I thought a birthday party theme might be fun!

First we make the preparations: PLANNING THE MENU - here are some great recipes to consider:

Dora Renee' Wilkerson presents Salmon Patties and Fried Green Tomatoes posted at The Jud-King Family.

Alex presents Mango Salsa Recipes posted at Home Life Weekly. I actually made Mango Salsa for this party, but used a simple mix of mangoes, green onions, cilantro and Tajin (a powdered chile and lime mixture very popular here in Mexico).

Danielle Hull presents Zesty Salsa posted at Danielle Hull.

Rachel presents The Excellent Baker - Apple Crisp posted at Rachel's Reasoning.

Stacy presents Roasting Tomatoes posted at Delighting in the Days.....We had a cookout with hamburgers, sausages and chicken. I was able to get a fantastic deal over Labor Day weekend at Fresh & Easy, a new market chain that has some great deals!

INVITATIONS - buy or create your own:
You could get some great ideas for invitations from Miss Jocelyn as she presents Decoding The P31W Graphics posted at A Pondering Heart.

Then you need to GET THE HOUSE READY - this could include decorating and getting rid of pests:

Decorology presents decorology: Get that "simple life" feeling in your home posted at decorology.

MBB presents How To Kill Roaches And Get Rid Of A Home Cockroach Infestation posted at Money Blue Book Personal Finance Blog.Next, we need to BUY THE CAKE - or we could make one with this recipe:

Mexican Redhead presents Fluffy Yellow Butter-Cake posted at Go Therefore And Be Light.

We ordered a cake from Sam's Club - they really do make a great cake at a very reasonable price!

We also need to MAKE SURE ALL IS READY FOR THE PARTY - this might include a baby in your house:

Tomato Lady presents Homemade Baby Wipes posted at Little House in the Suburbs.

With a house full of guests, you might want a few tips on How to Save Water Indoors (a few tips) posted at HowToMe.

And if you are having a GARDEN PARTY, consider these entries:
toad sticker presents Liquid organic fertilizer posted at The Prepared Christian.

Piedro Molinero presents More About Butterfly Gardening posted at DIY Gardening Tips.

And don't forget THE GIFTS - you could buy them or make them yourself like this recycled water bottle holder that I made out of colorful plastic grocery bags.

Chickens might be interesting as Carole DeJarnatt presents Is it Moulting, Molting, or Snowing Feathers? posted at Fowl Visions.

Of course, you could also consider goats: Jacque presents New Goat Kids?? :O posted at Walking Therein.

We celebrated at our friend's house in Phoenix this year and had a wonderful time! My son, the musician, received a Takamine guitar and my daughter received some electronics - like a portable DVD player and a sound system for her room. And they both used some of their monetary gifts to buy clothes.Well, that's a wrap on this birthday party edition of The Homesteading Carnival! Don't forget to submit your articles for next weeks' edition hosted by

And thanks to CyberGifs for their free birthday graphics!

Recycled Water Bottle Holder

This has been on my mind to do for quite awhile, and I finally collected enough colorful shopping bags to make enough "plarn" to make a couple. I got the pattern from Cindy at My Recycled Bags. It was very easy and quick to make. This one fits a smaller water bottle, so I am going to make another one for the large water bottles I carry around all the time (when you live in the desert, you don't go anywhere without your water bottle:-).

So start collecting your plastic grocery shopping bags and make yourself some "plarn". You will be amazed at the variety of things you can make from it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Am Hosting The Homesteading Carnival Here Next Week!

Interested in recipes, gardening, barn animals, home-making, outdoors, homestead tips, and MORE? Then you will enjoy The Homesteading Carnival, even if you don't live on a homestead. Some of us are just "homesteaders at heart", and we share homemade items, craft ideas, lots of recipes and things you can make at home. There are also tips about raising animals and gardening - definitely something for everyone. Won't you join us?

And don't forget to join us HERE next Monday for all the great articles about homesteading stuff!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My FAVORITE Homeschooling Curriculum for FREE!!!

Several years back, I used Teaching With God's Heart for the World with my kids. It is a full year history-based unit study curriculum with a focus on missions and how God prepared the world for the spread of the gospel. I was SO impressed by this curriculum and how it really changed our lives. The first week is academics-free and total focused on teaching our children how to pray and have a personal prayer life. Then halfway through the year, you have another academic-free week focused on intercessory prayer. I am sure that it helped that we were studying this while missionaries on a foreign field. We were so interested in everything about missions and read all 22 YWAM missionary biographies during our study.

I just found out, via Passionate Homemaking, that Ann Dunagan, the author, is making this curriculum available for FREE right now via downloads from their site. You have to at least check it out! You can download whatever you want to use, they have divided it up in to sections for easy download and use. Ann is also going to be going through it with her younger children this year and will be sharing about it on her new blog Mission-Minded LIFE.

Please, please, please don't miss out on this great opportunity to share God's heart for the world with your children through their daily curriculum! At least look at it and see if you might be interested in using it. It will change your lives as a family and give you a heart for the world!

For more great homsechooling ideas and encouragement, visit the Carnival of Homeschooling hosted this week by The Nerd Family.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

It really helps my week go more smoothly (and meals prepared on time) when I plan out my menus ahead of time. But, alas, I am not a very organized/planning ahead type of person on a daily basis. I truly do like to cook whatever I feel like that day:-), but it is certainly not the most time efficient. So, since I am rather busy this week, I thought it would be a good time to get this ball rolling. Keep in mind, this is a starting place and I MAY veer off the plan from time to time, but at least I know that I have all the ingredients I need for these meals and the rest of the things that I need to do each day will have more time to get done (since I don't have to "ponder" what to make and whether I have what I need).

So here goes:

Breakfast - Whole Grain and Nut Pancakes
Lunch - leftovers from the weekend (Pizza Pasta)
Dinner - Enchilada Casserole with Salad

Breakfast - Egg, turkey ham and cheese sammies (on homemade whole grain buns)
Lunch - leftovers from Monday
Dinner - Oven Baked Ribs and BBQ Beans (making and freezing these for BD Party on Saturday)

Breakfast - leftover Whole Grain and Nut Pancakes
Lunch - leftovers from Tuesday
Dinner - Lasagna (already in freezer) and Salad

Breakfast - Scrambled Egg Burritos
Lunch - leftovers from Wednesday
Dinner - Homemade Sloppy Joes on homemade whole grain buns and cole slaw (making for BD Party Saturday)

Breakfast - Homemade Granola Cereal or Fruit (on the go)
Lunch - eating out because in town all day
Dinner - eating out because on the road travelling

Breakfast - ? because we will be visiting friends
Lunch - ? preparing for BD party (for both my kids:-)
Dinner - Cookout with Hamburgers, Sausages and Chicken Legs/Thighs, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, BBQ Beans - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CODY & ALISSA!!!

If you would like to join in Menu Plan Monday or just get menu ideas, go on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie to check it out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

How Renting a Car Saves Us Money

First, you must know that we have a 1998 Dodge Ram Custom Van with over 180,000 miles on it. And it doesn't run very well:-) so we get about 12 miles to the gallon on the highway - on a good day!

So, since we make alot of trips up to Phoenix which is about 200 miles each way, I decided to check into renting a car that would get better mileage and see what it would cost. I found that I could rent an Economy Car for about $16/day on the weekends and it would get about 28 miles to the gallon. When I figured the math, we would SAVE money by renting the car since we would use SO much less gas.

Well, last weekend was the first time to put this theory into practice. Normally, if I drove my van I would use about $150 in gas (usually about 500 miles total). The rental car cost me about $56 total, plus I spent $63 in gas for a total of $119. That was a savings of over $30, not to mention the peace of mind that came with not worrying about the van giving me any problems since my hubby wasn't with us:-)!!

Next weekend, we are making the trip again, and even with renting a Full Size Car (there are 5 of us going) at $22.49/day (and only about 23 mpg), we will break just about even with about $76 in gas and $76 for rental. And again, the peace of mind is worth a little to me:-).

Because of our poor gas mileage, the age of the van, and all the little things that are potential problems, I am looking into buying a used car with a small monthly payment that will save us money monthly just due to better gas mileage. Any suggestions or input on this plan?

BTW, my dream car is the newer Nissan Altima - dark gray/silver - aaaaahhhhhh! Oh, well, it doesn't cost me just to dream:-)

If you would like to see more ideas for saving money and living frugal, check out the Festival of Frugality hosted over at Frugal Babe (love that name!)

An Old Fashioned Sock Monkey

My littlest nephew has a birthday coming up this month, so I decided to make him an old fashioned sock monkey. I did a little searching online and found the Rockford Red Heel Sock Company where I bought a package of 2 pairs of socks (might make him an elephant for Christmas:-) and another site with the instructions. However, since I wanted him to have a hat, I followed the old fashioned instructions which use the toe for the hat (and the tail is still PLENTY long:-).

It didn't take me very long - probably a total of 1 1/2 hours - and is a great toy for my little 2yo nephew! I have also purchased a couple of sock monkey story books to send along with it. I can't wait to hear how he likes it - he seemed to really like monkeys when we visited a few weeks ago.

I always feel good when I make gifts myself from scratch. What about you? Do you enjoy making gifts? If so, what are some of your favorites? Leave me some comments with ideas and maybe I could do a post with a list of ideas for Christmas gifts!

For more creative "homesteading" ideas, visit The Homesteading Carnival #63: The Proverbs 31 Woman Edition hosted by Miss Amanda over at It's A Learning Experience.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Check Out These Great Carnivals

If you need something to read, there are a couple of great carnivals today!

The Homesteading Carnival is being hosted over at their home site and has lots of articles of interest.

Also, the Make It From Scratch Carnival is being hosted by Feels Like Home where you can find recipes and instructions for many items "made from scratch".

Check them out and enjoy!