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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Give it Up!

In Lifestyle on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

If you know anything about my story, you know I am SUPER frugal.  Read here to get the full scoop.


There are a lot of things I have been willing to give up in order to meet our goals of building a dream house.  As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else now, so you can really live like no one else later.”


Maybe with this current economy you have had to let some things go as well.


Here’s some things I gave up during our last 5 years of extreme savings:


A big house

Cable TV

Gourmet coffee

Ready-made and packaged foods

The latest fashions

Brand name products


Here’s some things that I consider splurges that I’m just not willing to let go of (unless I really had to):


Coffee creamer

Brand name dishwasher soap (I hate spots!)

Healthy foods (lean meats, LOTS of fruits and vegetables, nuts and occasionally fish)


What have you given up (or thought of recently that you should give up) for helping you get in a better financial situation?


What are some splurges you just can’t live without that you allow for in the budget?





Sell Something!

In Lifestyle on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Recently, Dave Ramsey spoke at on getting out of debt.  He suggested one strategy for a quick start is to sell something.  We’d like to increase our cash-flow around here and we have a few things to sell:


*a nice beginner drum set (Pacific) $550

*a US Kids youth golf club set (really nice) w bag $125

*2005 Ford Ranger pickup (57K) $9900

*1989 Ford F-250 pickup (117K) $3000

*AND GET THIS!  Dirk is selling his 2006 Honda VTX-1300 motorcycle with LOTS of extras!! ($7750)


So?  What do you have to sell?  List it with a contact e-mail.  Who knows? One of our readers might see it and drop you a line!




Beans, Glorious Beans!

In Lifestyle, Recipes on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 10:22 pm

White Bean Hummus


1 pkg cooked  (or can) white beans

2 cloves garlic

one sprig fresh rosemary (about 1 T.)

2 t. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

a few shakes hot sauce


Place all ingredients into food processor and whirl until smooth. Add a couple teaspoons water, if necessary, to make smooth.


Serve with vegetable stick or pita chips (pita bread quartered and baked in oven until crisp)


Mexican Black Bean Dip


1 pkg cooked and thawed (or 1 can) black beans, rinsed
1/3 cup salsa
1/4 cup cilantro leaves ( or more, I love cilantro)
1 Tbs. lime juice
l clove garlic

Drain and rinse the black beans. Combine the black beans, salsa, cilantro leaves, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor. Blend until smooth.


Serve with tortilla chips or vegetable sticks.


Bean Flautas (1 pkg beans makes about 5-6 flautas)


1-2 pkgs cooked and thawed (or 1-2 cans) pinto beans

2 t. chili powder (or to taste)

1 t. cumin (or to taste)

salt, hot sauce to taste


non-stick spray


Place beans in skillet and mash with potato masher until mostly blended.  Heat through.


Place 2-3 Tbs. beans on softened corn or flour tortillas.  Roll tortilla.  Place on baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Spray flauta with non-stick spray.


Bake at 350 degrees until flautas are lightly browned and crisp


Serve with salsa (or salsa mixed with Ranch dressing, as my boys do).  This is one of my teen sons’ favorite lunches. 


Find a few other favorite beans recipes here.


Hope you enjoy trying these good-for-you, low-fat, high fiber recipes.




If You Don’t Know Beans About Beans

In Lifestyle, Recipes on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Beans get a bad rap.  But did you know they are a great source of protein, are high in fiber, and low in calories. 482200_dry_beans


If you cook your own from dried, they will cost you about ½ as much as the canned varieties!  (and have you ever checked out the sodium content in those cans??!! Whew!)


It’s easy to do.


Purchase a pound package of dried beans (on the same aisle as the rice and pasta in most grocery stores).  Choose from white, red, pinto, black and many other varieties. 


Rinse in a colander and place in a large pot.  Completely cover with water.  Leave over night to soak.  The next morning, bring the temperature of the water to almost boiling, and turn down to a low simmer.  Now, cook for 4-6 hours, or until soft.  (1 lb. dried = approx. 10 cups cooked.)


That’s it! 


You can even soak them overnight in the crockpot and cook all the next day. Season them now, or later. 



At this point they are ready to be used in recipes or stored in the freezer. 



I usually place 2 cups in a zip-lock freezer bag, seal, and lay flat in the freezer.


Currently, my freezer has red beans, white beans, black beans and a new supply of pintos.  To use them, I lay the frozen bag into the microwave and heat until thawed. Then, use as you would for canned beans.


Tomorrow, I’ll share a few recipes:


White Bean Hummus

Mexican Black Bean Dip

Bean Flautas


C’mon…use your bean and start eating more beans!



Do you like beans?  Do you use them in any recipes?  Do share!




Double-Dog Dare: 30 Meals in 30 Days

In Lifestyle, Recipes on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 9:26 pm

picky-girlLast year I had a free subscription to Cookie magazine. It’s technically for parents, but the articles are really cool and artsy, so I read it. One story in particular spoke to me, especially since Andrew’s daughters have become increasingly interested in cooking and “weird” foods. The article opens like this:

“I started making a list on the train home from work one night last fall. I was sitting there, racking my brain, in a mild panic, trying to decide what to cook for dinner that night. Here’s what came to mind: nothing.

So I pulled out a piece of paper and wrote down all the meals I could make for my husband and two kids that didn’t involve the toaster oven, or customizing plate after plate, or Gitmo-style negotiations before every microscopic bite (“If you don’t try that pork/pea/basmati grain, no dessert! Okay. I’m counting to three…!”). The exercise didn’t take very long. I stared in disbelief at the sad, sorry lot that was my culinary repertoire:

The sad, sorry lot:
Breaded chicken cutlets
Sautéed shrimp

Four meals. How was this possible? How had my mammoth archive of prekid dinners devolved into this grim little lineup?”

After making her list, the author made a pact with herself to get more creative in the kitchen and expose her kids to new things. I know this is an issue many parents can relate to. It seems that so many of us (especially us self-proclaimed BUSY folks) struggle to break out of culinary ruts sometimes…or we don’t know how our families will respond if we attempt to do so.

For those of you with picky eaters in your house (whether it’s your kids or your spouse!), I encourage you…no, I DARE YOU, to do a similar experiment in your household, maybe even making it a game if you must.

Read the full article here (make sure you see all of it…it’s a few pages, including tips and suggested menus) and get 30-days’ worth of recipes here.

Bon Appétit!

Are there picky eaters in your household? What’s your favorite “weird” food? Are you going to accept my dare? 🙂

abbi1 ABBI

Biggest Loser Cookbook

In Lifestyle, Recipes on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 10:54 pm


I don’t know about you guys but I love watching The Biggest Loser. When I saw they came out with a new cookbook that was all about being budget friendly, I couldn’t wait to get it from the library. It shows us how we CAN stop using the excuse that it costs too much to eat healthy. Here is a sneak peek at one of the recipes I tried this week.  It’s really good…like Potatoes O’Brien.

Breakfast Sweet Potatoesimg_5330

1 lb. Sweet Potatoes, cubed
1/2 c. Green pepper, chopped
3/4 c. Onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. Garlic
1 1/2 tsp. Olive oil
1/4 tsp. Paprika
1/8 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Mix ingredients and arrange in single layer on pan. Bake 20 min, turn and bake 20-25 more min.

Makes 4 Servings

Calories 125
Fat 2g
Fiber 4g

2 points per serving





An Entrepreneurial Spirit

In Lifestyle on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm

When I was 7 or so, I was determined to get RICH! Kool-Aid stands, “baby-sitting” my little cousins, raking leaves, collecting golf balls from the ditch by the fairgrounds and washing them for resale…I was just sure I was going to make it big someday! Let me tell you that selling used golf balls is no way to get rich quick. But then, few ventures are.

One of the most rewarding things to me about being a designer/creator/brain-storming machine with some technical skills is this: Creativity is what you make of it. A couple years ago, I began a side business I call “Z as in Zebra“. I create handmade books and designer cakes and although it’s nice to make some extra money, that’s not the main reason behind what I do. Whether I make a dime or not, whether someone loves my wares or not, whether my baked goods look more like biscuits or bricks, all that really matters to me is the process of creating. It’s liberating.

So liberating, in fact, that I’m taking steps to improve my business and get my name out there more. I’m being more intentional about building a strong base now so that my dreams are easier to reach in the future. My #1 dream is to someday be a stay-at-home mom (perhaps even a homeschoolin’ one!) who still finds joy in creating handmade things that bless other people.

By now, you’re probably wanting me to put my money where my mouth is. 🙂 So…to satisfy your curious minds, here are some snapshots of some of the work I’ve done.






If you want to see more (or if you want details on how you can get your very own custom journal or cake!), check out Z as in Zebra. Through the process of building my business, I’ve learned that my dreams may not necessarily make me rich, but chasing them does make me happy! And that makes it all worth it!

Do you enjoy making things? What do you create? Why do you love it?

abbi1 ABBI

Tweaking Tricks for Baking

In Lifestyle, Recipes on Monday, March 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Use these tweaking tricks to help you squeeze out the fat and calories in your baking and in turn help you squeeze into your cute jeans.  😉


Most basic baking recipes call for dry ingredients, wet ingredients, fat ingredients, and sweet ingredients. 


For dry ingredients such as flour you can pretty much substitute any whole grain type flour and/or whole grain cereal (oatmeal, cream of wheat) or mix and match.  I use a scant less than it calls for when baking with whole grains to keep my baked goods moist.


For the wet ingredients you can make any substitute of skim, lowfat, reduced fat, etc. in place of whole fats.  (in place of whole milk, sour cream, yogurt, etc.)


For fat ingredients you can substitute no-sugar added applesauce cup for cup with little or no change in taste for any oil, margarine or butter that the recipe calls for.  I use a bit more applesauce to oil to help with the moistness.  For things where the flavor would be appropriate bananas, pumpkin, and plain non-fat yogurt can be substituted for the fat. 


To tweak the sweet ingredients choose from these lower calorie and/or healthy substitutes :





Sugar-free maple syrup

Go here for specific details on using these substitutes in your baking.


So to take this recipe I just randomly looked up, check out how I would tweak it in the parenthesis that follow each ingredient:


To Die For Blueberry Muffins



1 -1/2 c. all-purpose flour (slightly less of a mixture of whole wheat flour, little wheat germ, little oat bran)

3/4 c. white sugar (splenda, or other tweaks from above)

1/2 t. salt

 2 t. baking powder

 1/3 c. vegetable oil (applesauce or banana – or a little of both)

 1 egg

1/3 c. milk (skim)

1 c. fresh blueberries


I’m going to bake these at 375 (25 degrees less than it calls for) and check them way earlier than the original baking time (about 12 minutes) all to keep moist.  Using high fiber and sugar substitutes makes things drier and causes things to cook faster so I work real hard to keep my baked goods moist.


So, find a recipe or use one of those favorites you’ve had to put away because it is too fattening and get to experimenting.  Now you can enjoy those baked goods a little more often since you have some new baking tricks up your sleeve.




My Mother is a Waiter

In Lifestyle, Moms on Monday, March 9, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Whenever any of my brothers and sisters got injured or were sick while we were growing up, I always remembered these words come out of my mother’s mouth, “Well, let’s wait and see.”


My mother is a waiter.


This is not a bad thing of course, as there are plenty of injuries or sicknesses that do not need emergency medical attention.  It is a bad thing though, if it is something critical. I remember when I was about 12 or so, my brother Jacob broke his leg playing on the neighbor’s trampoline. My mom was at the garden and I had to convince her that his leg was definitely broken.   Other than major injuries, : ) she was always good at diagnosing and taking care of non-emergency situations. (There were only 3 emergency trips from the 7 of us).


I thought it might be helpful for those moms that are waiters and for those that race to the emergency room at the slightest break in skin, to list some criteria that warrants a visit to the ER as well as some that can stand to be taken care of at home. 


Reasons to go to the ER:


–You or your child has a temperature of 104F that is unrelieved by Tylenol or Motrin AND you cannot get in to see your regular doctor


–You or your child has a laceration that needs sutures. For example, very deep or a split like across the eyebrow AND you cannot get in to see your regular doctor


–You or your child has a suspected broken bone and there is obvious deformity or unbearable pain when trying to move it AND you cannot get in to see your doctor.


–You or your child sustains a head injury, with loss of consciousness and are confused when they wake up, for example, ask the same questions over and over again or has slurred speech or just isn’t making sense AND you cannot get in to see your doctor


–You or your child is having an allergic reaction, breaking out in hives, getting short of breath, etc. 


–You or your loved one has a sudden onset of chest pain that makes you short of breath, nauseas or radiates to your arms, shoulders or back (especially for women), that is unrelieved by antacids or rest, and you have a history of heart or cholesterol problems


–You or your loved one are having any trouble breathing, have a history of asthma, coughing especially at night, chest tightness, pain or pressure, wheezing, very rapid breathing, difficulty talking because of shortness of breath, feelings of anxiety or panic, pale or sweaty face, blue tinged lips or fingernails.

These are signs of an asthma attack, or could be of any type of breathing difficulty. It is especially important to be attentive to these signs in children as risk for respiratory arrest is increased in a child with asthma.


And many others….but please use common sense!


Reasons not to go to the ER:


–You think a bug flew in your ear and you want to see if it got in your brain

–You have a splinter or a paper cut that takes a microscope to even see

–You have a fever and you have not taken Tylenol or Motrin

–You have a runny nose

–You can’t find the contact in your eye

–You have the common cold

–You think you are pregnant

–If any of your complaints are followed with the words “for a few months”

Example: “I have had a cough . . . for a few months”



Are you a waiter or do you jump to the ER at any sign of sickness?



Katie (who works in the ER)

A Love Story

In Lifestyle, Moms on Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 12:49 am

I love having my kids home with me and doing fun art projects. I don’t love when one of them disobeys and picks up a whole pint of yellow tempera paint and drops it on the floor splashing it up on walls and leaving a saturated pool of yellow paint in the carpet!
I love that when a certain child drops this whole pint of paint that I can call Mimi Meadows sobbing and she comes and helps me clean and saves her poor grandson from being killed. I don’t love that after 3 hours of working on this yellow stain that it still remains a huge yellow stain resembling a pool of dog urine right in the middle of the floor!
I love that after giving up and letting it sit for three weeks that this certain product Clorox Oxi Magic catches my eye at Crest and gives me one last hope for my pee-stained-looking floor. And after scrubbing it in and having it work I love it even more!
I don’t love that I forgot to vacuum it right after cleaning the floor like the instructions said (I didn’t get the point of that anyway – at the time) and when I go to vacuum a few days later I think my vacuum has exploded because Clorox Oxi Magic dust is flying all around. Oops. Hope those fumes didn’t mess with me too much. I think I’m still normal.

Do you have a favorite cleaning product? Or a paint disaster story?