Thursday, April 28, 2011

Defining "It"

I was trying to think of something useful to post in my blog this month. I had nothing. The well was pretty dry.
My two year old is coming into full bloom and I'm just running all day. Pretty typical for any parent of a toddler. Except in my circle most, okay no one, has five kids. So people ask me all the time, "how do you do it ". Honestly, I've had a hard time defining "it". I guess sometimes we tend to look at other people and think that they have it all together. It's a pretty subjective word - IT.

I've decided that IT might be all the daily grind. So here's the secret..... shortcuts. I cheat.

Two and half years ago my sister and her family moved on the same day as my family did. To the same city. Their move was beautiful. Everything in uniform boxes, neatly labeled and sorted. Her husband had the space in the moving van all mapped out. Quite the contrast from our day. We had boxes of every size, plastic bags, loose things all mixed up crammed into a truck.

When my sister's family arrived in their new home every box went directly to its appointed room. Not us. We shoved it into the house, set up the beds, ordered Swiss Chalet and went to bed.

Well, the next day we invited them over for dinner.... frozen lasagna (cheat, cheat). They came in and our house was completely set up. when they mentioned their surprise we very casually said, "of course, isn't your house unpacked ?". IT was great ! I still can't help but laugh. See, my husband and I took everything and hid it in the crawlspace. Oh yes, just to mess with them.  We are cheaters.

So I thought  over the next little while I'd share my cheat sheet with you. Since the last post was a menu I thought I would go ahead and talk about food tonight.

* Look for recipes with few ingredients. I aim for five. You can always add to it.
* Menu plan (beg , borrow or steal these. Best yet just record your meals for a couple of weeks and you already have a start to a plan for another time)
* Cook once, eat twice. Mash potatoes , next day Shepherd's pie. Pasta sauce, then casserole. Rice with dinner, fried rice for lunch.
* Use a mix. Just get over it. I happen to love homemade cranberry sauce so I will make that ahead of time but I refuse to spend the time making stuffing... it's a dollar a box. Bread crumbs everywhere, crying over onions, mincing celery, good grief.
* Crock. Pot. Get your pot set up while the kids are in bed. Take it out of the fridge in the morning and plug it in.
* Summer salads; stock up on some yummy sunflower seeds, raisins, croutons, toss in your leftover meat and veggies, splash on some oil and vinegar and pile it all on a bed of greens.
* The more you cook, the more creative and resourceful you will get at it.

I'm not saying I will do this forever, I like cooking. But when time and energy are low these are good ways to get the job done.

So here's one of my new favourite food ideas. Oatmeal. Use steel cut oats . Plug it in at night and enjoy in the morning. You can change up the flavour any way you want. This is my current favourite;

I got my basic idea for making overnight oatmeal from ;

So happy Thursday everyone ! What's your favourite way to "cheat" ?

Daughter of the King, wife to Richard
                                                                                     Mother to five beautiful boys.
                                                    "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength " Philippians 4:13

Monday, April 4, 2011

What's on the Menu

So the delay in posting a monthly menu is that I have been actively trying to figure out how to make a chart. Seriously. I recently borrowed "Blogging for Dummies" from the library. Wow. It's like they wrote it just for me and yet there were more questions that I needed answered ! I suppose I will have to wait until they write "Blogging for Idiots".... It's okay. Laugh it up. I never claimed to be computer literate, not even close.

With any luck your menu will be appearing right under this sentence.......If not I will resort to taking a picture of it, and posting that, lol....
So you can imagine the brawl I just had with the computer.....

Again, I don't usually use recipes so I will just explain a couple of the dishes.

Hamburger Pizza - you can make your own dough or buy it. Spread the pizza sauce on it. Sprinkly cooked ground beef. Top with tomoatoes, onions , cheese... the idea here is that you will tell your kids that they are enjoying both a pizza and a hamburger at the same time. Build up some excitement. If adding bacon helps - go for it. Whatever your kids would like to see on their burger/pizza !

Chicken Schnitzels - This is a "cheat" meal. I find it is very helpful to plan ahead for not having time or patience for at least one meal a week ! With this one I buy precooked chicken burgers. I put pasta sauce in a casserole dish, lay the chicken on top. Spread on a couple more tablespoons of sauce on each piece and top with cheese. Bake it according to the box directions for the chicken and you can either serve them in a bun OR turn it into chicken parmasean on top of pasta. Look at that, two meal ideas from one box... GOLD NUGGETS my friends :)

Crock pot ideas; You can drop your sausages (pork/turkey) in with a can of diced tomatoes and frozen corn on high for 6-8 hours and presto, ready meal. Serve over mashed potatoes. Make your kids peel the potatoes, it's good for them and will keep them busy for a long time. Not only that but they are so much more likely to eat the food they think they made and advocate for their siblings to do the same.

Roasts and chickens can go in with a couple of boullion cubes and chopped veggies. All you need to do is use the broth to make a gravy.

When you make a casserole to freeze line your dish with foil. When you've frozen it simply pop it out with the foil and put in a zip bag into the freezer. Don't forget to label it. Now your casserole dish is ready for further use and when you are ready to make that frozen meal, pop it back into the dish.

When you freeze just about anything-  Freeze it in a zip bag laying flat. It takes up less space and helps keep your freezer organized, especially if you only have the small fridge freezer compartment. Don't forget to label the bags and put on the cook time and temperature. Hello ??? We want our men to have no excuses ladies ! Pure gold...

My main idea with the menu planning is not so much that I have to have meatballs if I feel like casserole but this way I know I have all the ingredients I need in order to make enough dishes throughout the week and I don't end up frustrated trying to come up with creative meal ideas. I mean really, I can't be the only woman at 4:00 pm to look at a package of ground beef in total frustration.

Lastly, I was completely honest here. I marked down the times we ended up at McDonald's or otherwise. Life happens and oddly enough I get tired. Don't sweat it !

So, I challenge you to make a menu for at least a month. I do mine one week at a time. If you keep it up after a few months you will be surprised at how many meals you have in your repetoire and hopefully you will feel a little lighter knowing it's one less thing to think about !
On a side note. Blogging is a little complicated for me so I decided to try my hand on facebook. I created a page "Freeman's Homeschool and Frugal Life". Feel free to "like" it. I'm going to try and get more organized on that and save the blogging for when I have substantial things to share or when I figure out how to make it "better". Thanks !

Daughter of the King
Wife to Richard
Mother to five beautiful boys

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Food For Thought

I've been trying to figure out what went wrong here. Initially I wanted to "blog" about homeschooling. Having written about four posts now I see that is clearly not the direction this is going. I think what's really in my heart to do is encourage others. Specifically women with families.

So tonight I'm going to share with some not so secret things I do in my home that save me time, money and sanity ! I know lots of women have been doing this for ages but to me I only started menu planning a few months ago when baby number five was born. I never had to before because cooking comes fairly easy for me and it was hardly ever an issue to throw a meal together for my family or even if a group of people popped by unexpectedly.  But once that last baby came my mind was just too cluttered and having a menu set out made one less thing to think about. So here's how I approach it.

I gather my flyers. I make my grocery list. We spend $140 a week for our family of seven. This includes diapers and any cleaning products, toiletries , laundry, pet food, etc. I mark down what I need and on my list I put in brackets which flyer contains the lowest price. On the left margin I write down a dollar figure rounded up. I total my expenses for the necessary items. With any money I have left I plan the extras based on the sales.

This is what my basic weekly list begins like;
20 milk
20 meat
10 fruit
10 vegetables
7 cheese
20 diapers/wipes
5 eggs

Then I continue with the other staples and end with sale items. When I shop I stick to the list, I buy seasonally , sale and bulk. We don't usually budget for snacks so if we want them I either bake them with on hand ingredients or I might use my spending money on that. This works well because I avoid impulsive eating a little ! When you get to the cash put the flyer sale items on the belt with the corresponding flyer - Walmart, Freshco and No Frills will price match.

I make most of our meals and our bread from scratch. When I get everything home I make up the menu based on what I was able to buy that week. I rarely use recipes so if I do I make sure to add that to the list before I shop. I save leftover bread for crumbs that I use in meatloaf, meatballs or as topping on casseroles. The ends of vegetables (carrots/onions/mushrooms/celery leaves/etc) are tossed into a freezer back. I cook them when I boil chicken and then strain. Believe me when I tell you it makes the most delicious stock you've ever had. Toss the mushy boiled veggies and freeze the stock. If you are really clever you measure it into cup or half cup baggies and label it.

When I make muffins, banana bread, cookies ,scones and such baking I measure twice and bag the dry ingredients. I label the bag with what wet ingredients need to be added and the oven temperature and baking time. How impressed are your unexpected guests when you whip up something special like that on the spot and all you did was beat an egg !

Recently I made an awesome breakfast casserole. I sprayed the baking dish with oil, layered leftover bread and whisked together eggs, leftover veggies, hashbrowns and poured it over top and baked it.

Your crockpot will make almost anything amazing with few ingredients and little time ! Chicken or pork chops with a can of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms and onion flakes (of which I cannot say enough good things about).  Chicken and/or ribs with a bottle of bbq sauce. Even simple meat sauce for pasta tastes so much better when it's been simmering all day !

Wraps, fajitas, whatever you want to call them. I put out a big pile of wraps (whole wheat and sometimes other flavours), put out all sorts of leftovers in little dishes with some shredded lettuce and grated cheese and usually sour cream and the kids eat it all up. They really love making their own food and it makes use of small amounts of leftovers instead of throwing them out.

Fruit that is passing it's time gets chopped up and thrown in a zip bag.Get ready for the GOLD NUGGET : chop up your bananas and dropped them in too. When the bag is full, pop it in the blender with some apple or orange juice and voila ! Smoothie !

Tomatoes get chopped and frozen  to be added to pasta sauce... sometimes if I have the right stuff I make up a bag of stir fry type ingredients or pasta ingredients. Saves time and food does not go to waste. And as  an added bonus the meal tastes much fresher than if you just use canned "stuff".

Here's a sample week;

Sunday - Breakfast : Banana bread, fruit, milk
               Lunch :  Chicken, roasted root vegetables, salad and cake
               Dinner :  Mac & Cheese
Monday -Breakfast : Cereal, fruit, milk
               Lunch : Fajitas
               Dinner : Pork chops, mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and salad
Tuesday -Breakfast :  Scrambled eggs and English muffins
               Lunch : Sandwiches
               Dinner : Pasta
Wednesday -  Breakfast : Croissants, yogurt, milk
               Lunch : Leftover pasta
               Dinner : Tuna casserole with vegetables
Thursday-Breakfast : Cereal, fruit, milk
                Lunch : left over casserole and salad
                Dinner : Ham, mashed potatoes, salad
Friday -    Breakfast : Eggs and toast, milk
                Lunch : Leftovers
                Dinner : Chicken, Rice and salad
Saturday- Breakfast : french toast, fruit, milk
                Lunch : Sandwiches
                Dinner : Shepherd's pie

If anyone is interested I can put up a whole month or give "recipes".

That's it for Food for Thought because I read that blogs are more appealing if they are kept short -oops.

Is there anything you want to know how I do ? I don't want to write braggy posts but I do want to make someone else's life easier if I can.

Daughter of The King
Wife to Richard
Mother to five beautiful boys
My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Some days I just think about  my "to do" list and I want to crawl right back into bed. In fact, not long ago I was so discouraged , tired and overwhelmed. Without much support from a 2.5 children per family society and little appreciation from my precious children, I wondered how I could even get from morning to bedtime on any given day !
No matter how hard I worked I never got ahead at the homefront. I felt like the stove and the washing machine were constantly on all day. On top of that, the dishwasher was running at the same time as I scrubbed a sinkful of dishes !
Showers and baths had to be timed just right or we literally ran out of hot water and I would have to boil water to finish filling the tub !
Even then I had to be very careful since I would try to multitask and boil the kettle, run the washer and the vacuum and blow a fuse every time.
All this while I tried to teach less than willing children to participate cheerfully in household duties.
Around the same time I took up the difficult challenge to stop yelling at the boys - I know, good moms don't yell at their kids. I nearly imploded...
Then the most wonderful thing happened. I got an attitude adjustment ! It was a Sunday morning church service, the kind made just for you. I listened as the woman speaking talked about all the same fustrations I was going through. And then she said it. That every time she would stretch a meal she did so gladly because Jesus would be at that table. Wow. Think about it.
I realized that I don't need to internalize or experience deep maternal satisfaction each time I change a dirty diaper or wipe a runny nose. It doesn't matter all that much if my children notice that I slaved over a stove most of the day or calloused my hands cleaning the house. It matters that God Himself is The Father of each member of my family and that He appointed me guardianship. Whether or not anyone else cares it pleases God when I wash those little faces, hold their hands or read them stories. God is at my table when I serve their breakfast , lunch or dinner. And it's worth the extra effort to put out nicer napkins or remember the salt and pepper.
Ever heard of the expression "God is in the details "? I think about that quite a bit now. It's always that extra little effort that shows someone how much you care. It's making a "smiley" face with their ketchup when you serve their eggs, or fixing their crooked clothes even though you will be home all day and it doesn't seem to matter. How about tucking a surprise into their pocket just so they can find it. Or winking at them when you make eye contact accross the room. It is so easy when you think about it. And when I do these things I can imagine God giving me a "thumbs up" , smile or nod.
So I'm still busy and I'm still tired but I'm encouraged. I feel like my life has a purpose. To be God's outstretched hand to my family.And by the way - our husbands are part of our families too. What about tucking a note into his lunch bag ? Or offering a smile or complimenting the way he handles a parenting moment.
I've found now that as I think on what God would have me do my list does get shorter. There are some things that simply can be left off or left to when there is time.
How long is your "to do list " ? Are there things you should be doing ? Are there things you can just let go of ?

Daughter of the King, wife to Richard
mother to five beautiful boys
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God !"
I John 3:1

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Doing things that make me happy

So, the question was asked ; What drives me to keep seeking "more" to fill my free time.  I actually thought this was a great question !

A couple of weeks ago I did make it a point to find more work for myself. Since I didn't have "time" I made "work" for myself . It will make sense, I promise ! The key was "for myself".

I was feeling like I was on a medaphoric treadmill. Getting on every morning, running all day and at night getting off right where I started.

Sure, I know  the time and energy I am investing in the boys will reap great rewards. Lovely. But I am impatient and I need to see that I am accomplishing something today.

I realized that I record what the boys are doing  regularly so that we can look back and see what we have accomplished. Sometimes I will see  a picture of them enjoying an activity and think I'd forgotten how much fun it was ! Let's do it again !

So I decided I would make my own album. This week I can look back and see that Richard learned about mixed and improper fractions. Matthew learned how to read a weather map and all about the water cycle. Evan finally learned to print his last name and Timothy peed in the potty everyday (and pooped once. Not so much "in" the potty as on the carpet right beside it. Good times). Eli can put himself to sleep, roll over both ways and reach for objects to put in his mouth... more fun is on it's way.

Great. I'm overjoyed that I was a part of all of that. No sarcasm, I really am. Now what did I do just for me ?

The past two weeks I have learned to; bake bread and scones ( thanks Jenn! ), make a no sew fleece blanket, felt bows and little  felt "activity" pockets. I made my husband's favourite food, finished sewing the place setting place mats I started months ago. I implemented an idea I had taking up space in my head for ages (the art display wall). I made a busy book that is too ugly for words but that did in fact keep Timothy busy for at least half an hour. I made a soft baby book for a Christmas gift.

These are the things that I love to do. The things I always imagined doing as a mom and homemaker that I never had "time" for. Guess what ? I do have time for that ! I cut all the squares for a rag quilt I'm making next week while cooking dinner. (Before you think I missed any other duties, I made every meal this week except for one trip to McD's) I made the felt bows on the floor after the big boys were in bed, while playing with Eli.  I collected my baking ingredients slowly throughout the day . Measuring out one at a time each time I passed the kitchen. HERE'S A GOLD NUGGET, while I measured,  I  measured a second measure and put it in a zip lock bag. Labelled the bag with the missing wet ingredients and the baking time and temperature. Next time I make scones and banana bread most of the work is already done !

The point is that I don't feel any bit busier but the week was so much more enjoyable. And it flew by ! Okay, so I didn't find any more time for myself. But I did figure out a way to enjoy my life a little more.

What makes you happy ? What is standing in your way ?

daughter of The King,
Wife to Richard. Mom to 5 beautiful boys.

May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Hebrews 13: 20-21

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Home is my job

So we were sick for about three weeks. I finally have had time to entertain some random thoughts ! I got to thinking about how much work the past three weeks had been.

Homemakers will tell you they have a job. They work at home. Then they will give you a mile long list of just how many shoes they need to be ready to fill !

Well,  I think I am finally safe in saying that without a doubt I am now a homemaker by profession ! Not because I birthed a handful of kids or because we've decided that staying home with them makes the most financial sense. My mind set is this; my husband has a job and so do I.

I am the manager of my home which means that all those nitty gritty details belong to me. I plan the menu, budget and shop for the groceries. I make and keep track of the many appointments and lessons, plan the parties and coordinate everyone's schedule. I keep inventory of everything ; from which spices are in the pantry to how many bandaids or Flintstone vitamins we have on hand. I know my children's weight, shoe size and whether or not we will be needing to do any clothes shopping in the next six months. I research our vacations and our children's curriculum.

Most recently I've added a new category - profesional development. I like my job and I think what I do matters. Just maybe not to you. So I am looking for new ways to expand my skill sets. I hope when people peek into my life they don't think for even a minute that I am wasting my time, playing around or even doing something just to impress anyone. Apart from my husband. I want the boss to be impressed ! It's okay that I enjoy my work. I should, If I am where God has called me to be.

At the end of the day though my rewards will be my healthy , happy, relaxed husband and children. I'll get my performance appraisal when I hear my grown children talk about homemade bread and warm cookies, Christmas traditions and bedtime routines. When I see my grown children making a point of doing for their children what was done for them.

I guess it's a long way from now but it takes a lifetime to build a legacy.

So how about you ? If you've made homemaking your profession are you diligently working, growing and enjoying your job ? I hope you are !

Daughter of The King, wife to Richard
mother to five beautiful boys
May the God of Peace equip you with everything good for doing His will, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Hebrews 13:20-21

Monday, January 24, 2011


Randomness. I'm not even sure that's a real word. Though it does seem to do justice to what I am about to embark on. I'm not really a great writer, I've definatly never blogged and I am very illiterate when it comes to anything related to the computer. So today is a very random day. Trying to learn something new on a whim. Which when I think of it is not really unlike many other days around here.

I have five boys. Richard is 9, Matthew is 7, Evan is 4, Timothy is 2 and Eli is nearly 4 months old. We are a homeschooling family. Which means that each and every day is a new adventure. Sound exciting ? It can be.
This week everything is mainly revolving around the potty. Yes. The toddler is potty training. Lots of fun. We may be in the middle of math or science when suddenly it happens. Pee. We all stop and dance and clap our hands singing "pee , pee in the potty ". Then we ceremoniously present Timothy with a piece of chocolate and a sticker. who would guess this would be the highlight of the day for the whole family ?

I am hoping to share some of our more successful learning adventures we have in my next blogs. which may mean that I will have to do some learing of my own on this computer ! Wish me luck.

daughter of The King, wife to Richard
mom to five beautiful boys
"May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever."   Hebrews 13:20-21