Monday, September 29, 2008

Apple Cobbler Oatmeal

Well, it's not Wednesday (Wednesday is oatmeal day at our house), but I've got another oatmeal recipe for you!  I wrote in another post that oatmeal is NOT my youngest son's favorite breakfast.  But, in the interest of frugal feedings, we have oatmeal every Wednesday morning.


I've tried several things.  We had an oatmeal bar one Wednesday.  A few weeks ago I made a delicious peanutbutter cookie oatmeal that we all loved.  That recipe is still my favorite to date.


But last Wednesday I also made a really good one.  The recipe is simple.  Instead of using water to cook the oatmeal, use apple juice.  We were given a bottle of natural apple juice that the boys don't really enjoy drinking.  So, I used it to make oatmeal.  I added brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract and it tasted like apple cobbler!


Try'll like it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Overheard in Williamsburg

We are home from our mini-vacation to Williamsburg.  I learned SO much and had such a great time.  Big Dog says that this will definitely be an annual event.  It was well worth the money spent, but like I said in a previous post, we really kept the price reasonable for our budget by packing food and staying at an inexpensive hotel.


I wanted to share two things we heard in Williamsburg.  We took a tour of the Capitol Building and had a fantastic tour guide.  She spoke mostly to the students in the room.  At one point she was speaking to our son, Big Mac, about how the men argued in the room we were touring.  She said, "Everyone argues.  Even your tongue and your teeth disagree every now and then, because you bite your tongue sometimes."  I think that's brilliant!  I sometimes live my life with such a goal to keep everyone in my presence happy.  I want to avoid conflict at all costs.  But do you know what?  Even your tongue and your teeth disagree sometimes!


When we toured the Capitol and the Governor's Palace the tour-guides ushered us "above stairs."  I don't know if anyone uses the term, "above stairs" in other states or regions, but we always say "upstairs."  When I heard the term being used by the tour guides I made a mental note to start saying, "above stairs."  I just loved this new term.   Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived home from Virginia and began unpacking the van.  Big Dog was helping to unload and instructing the boys where to deliver bags, parcels and packages while I unpacked what had been deposited in the kitchen.  I nearly fell over when I heard him say to our sons, "Take your briefcases above stairs and unpack them."  I turned to him and said, "Above stairs?"  He said, "Yeah, that's what they said in Williamsburg.  I like it.  I think I'm going to start using it!"  Great minds think alike!

Friday, September 12, 2008

How We Take a Trip

Greetings from the Howard Johnson's in Williamsburg Virginia!  That's right.  We got away!  We are taking in historic Williamsburg during the homeschool days.  Williamsburg is one of my favorite places.  When we found out that we could get two-day tickets for a fraction of what they normally cost, we found an inexpensive hotel (with a swimming pool, of course) and made our plans.


Our plans for the long term including saving money.  We did not buy anything "extra" for several weeks in order to prepare for this trip.  I made several pieces for the county fair that won ribbons.  I saved the prize check to pay for our tickets.  I also saved all my babysitting checks for the last 4 weeks of the summer.  I didn't even cash them.  I took the checks and put them into envelopes marked for specifics aspects of the trip.  I had an envelope for gas, an envelope for food (more to follow on that), an envelope for the hotel, an envelope for the tickets into Williamsburg, and envelopes for spending money.  We give the boys an allowance, which we have not allowed them to spend for a month.  This way, they are not asking us for money.  They came to Virginia with packed wallets!  I filled my envelopes keeping track each week of what was put into the envelope.  I wrote on the outside of the envelope the amount needed and how much was in the envelope.  When I had all the money I needed for that envelope, I circled the title.


And now to the food:  We are eatting out twice while in Williamsburg from Friday to Saturday.  I packed cold lunches and plenty of snacks for the room as well as cold//quickie breakfast items. On Thursday I toasted a bagel for each of us and heated up several sausage patties.  Then I scrambled some eggs with onions in them.  I put half the bagel on a square of heavy duty foil and layered the eggs, sausage, and a slice of cheese, and topped it with the other half of the bagel.  I wrapped each bagel-wich individually in foil and put them into the refrigerator.   When we awoke early Friday morning I heated up the oven and threw our foil-wrapped breakfast into the oven.  When we were ready to leave about a half an hour later, I wrapped the bagel-wiches in two tea-towels and we hit the road.  A little over an hour later, we had a warm, toasty, and delicious breakfast on the road.


Another way I prepared, other than the usual packing, was to pack two briefcases.  Several years ago we bought the boys each an old-fashioned briefcase at a thrift-store.  These are the hard cases that men used to carry.  They are great for car trips because they can't be over-stuffed like a backpack.  Because of that, they slide under the car seats with ease.  The hard-back of the cases make great lap desks while travelling.  Into each of the boys briefcases I put a copy of the directions from home to Williamsburg.  I printed these on mapquest.  I also put several pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener.  My boys love to draw, so into the briefcases went both of their sketchbooks.  I also found a few treasures from the bookshelves that I don't even think the boys knew we had.  I found a paper airplane book, that went into one briefcase with some extra paper for folding.  I put a joke book in one briefcase.  I put a "how to do magic" book in one and a "101 card games" book into another.  Each boys had a deck of cards in their cases.  I put a stop watch into one and a mini-tape recorder into another.  Then I called to the boys and had them each pick a book to read to put into their cases.  I had one final surprise.  One thing I always like to do before a trip is pick up a magazine.  I love to have some simple reading for a vacation.  So, I took the boys to the market and let them each pick a magazine.  They weren't allowed to look at the magazine until the trip and it went right into the briefcase.  So their cases were stored the night before and the boys had tons of activities to keep them busy for the almost-six-hour trip from home to Williamsburg, VA.


I wanted to make our packed-meals a little more special than just the lunch-meat sandwich variety.  Here's what I did.  Before we left on Friday morning, I put a package of hotdogs on the indoor grill and started some water boiling.  I cooked the hotdogs on the grill.  When the hotdogs were done and the water was boiling, I put the dogs into a wide thermos and poured the water over them.  I put enough water into the thermos so that it came close to the top and tightened the lid.  When we arrived at our hotel, we had still-warm hotdogs for our lunch.  I also picked up some friend chicken at the market before leaving and cooked a meatloaf.  I sliced the meatloaf and tomorrow we will have meatloaf sandwiches for lunch.  For supper tonight we had cold chicken (one of my favorite treats), hard boiled eggs, chees cubes, celery and carrot sticks.


Breakfast is not nearly as creative as I just pulled out some muffins I had stored in the freezer, som sweet quick-breads, and pop tarts, but they'll do the trick!


And so our adventure begins!  Actually at the time of this writing we are already half finished with our mini-vacation.  But we are doing it without breaking the bank or the budget AND we're feeling treated in the process.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Use Your Tools: a Timer

The boys and I were visiting friends for the afternoon.  I wanted to leave by a certain time so that I was home in time to start supper and great the Big Dog when he came through the door.  I knew that when my girlfriend and I started talking I would lose track of all time, so I set the alarm on my watch.  When the time came for me to collect the boys and head home, my little clip on watch began to chime and I said, "Time to go!"  Well, my girlfriend could not get over it!  She made fun of me and was silly about how I set a timer to get out of her house on time.


I wasn't offended by her silliness at all.  I was confident in the fact that I was using the tools available to me.  I use timers all the time.  When the boys are arguing over a toy, the computer, or a video game, we set a timer.  When the timer rings, it's time to switch!


This summer, we watched one of my boys' friends.  This little guy has Juvenille Diabetes.  Because of the JD he had to eat at specific times of the day.  I had to count his carbohydrates at lunch, so preparing the meal was a little time consuming.  I was concerned that I might get lost in an activity and not give myself enough time to plan lunch.  I also needed to give him an afternoon snack at a specific time in order to keep his blood sugars regulated.   We would often take outtings in the afternoon, so I wanted to make sure I could remember his snack-time.  I set two alarms on my cell-phone.  One rang 5 minutes before lunch.  The other rang at snack-time. I now had a twice-daily reminder to keep me on-track with our meals.  On my cell, I can set it to ring even when the phone is off, so I was always assured that my reminder-alarm was ever-ready.


I have a watch that clips to my belt.  Big Mac bought it for me for a present a few years ago.  I love this watch, not only for his thoughtfulness, but also for the watch's usefulness.  Of course, I can tell time with it, but there is also an alarm, and a stop watch.  I use the alarm at various times for different needs. When I was visiting that friend I mentioned earlier I set the alarm on my watch to ring when it was time to go!  When we are at a park and the boys want me see who can run through the jungle-jim faster, I break out the stop watch feature of my watch. 


I began my home-making journey trying to follow the methods of flylady.  ( She was an  avid timer user.  She would set a timer for 15 minutes and work in a room for just that amount of time.  When I have a large task at hand, I use this method and set my timer.  I work for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, I move on to another task.  On days when I have LOTS to get done, 15 minutes at a time is the way to go!


I remember a  time when one of my boys didn't want to use the timer.  Our T-Bone is a justice boy.  He ran to me complaining that Big Mac was refusing the timer.  In a stellar Mommy-moment I just said, "Find something else to do."  T-Bone looked at me and with deep-pleading in his voice he said, "But Mommy, IT'S OUR TOOL!"  Guess what?  We used the timer.  He was right.  It is a tool.


Our timers (and yes, we have many of them) are one of our useful tools.   They're not just for baking any more!  Settle those sibling arguments, with a timer.  Be sure you leave the house in time, with a timer.  Stay on track during the day, with a timer.  It's a tool that will be immensely useful to you.