How to Get Sexy and Shiny Legs for Summer!

About Jen…Part 1

Last Opportunity…Goodbye…

Mom’s…”How To Organize Your Car”

Parental Control With Kid’s Cell Phones…

 

This week, my favorite find is going to save you money, worry, and time! Do your kids have cell phones? Or does that seem light-years away? We have two with cell phones, and another one that is getting close! When our oldest got hers, it was easy to remind her to charge it in the kitchen each night, so that we could monitor her usage and prevent her from texting into the wee hours. Now that we have numerous kids to keep up with, I needed a simple system to keep our kids working within our family guidelines.

I called our service provider for our family plan, and most companies offer this service that is my favorite find, it just has a different name. On our plan, it’s called “Family Allowances,” some refer to it as “Parental Control.” This service helps parents limit cell phone usage through many avenues. In one call, I can designate the time of day that the cell phone can be turned on and off. I can even select different times of day for different days of the week. So we can be sure that our teen & preteens won’t be texting in their bedroom when it’s lights out, and on Sundays, which are designated for family time, I can block out a few hours so there are no distractions.

There are certain times though, that I want my teen to be able to reach me after hours, if she’s out with a friend until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. I can give certain phone numbers permission to be used after hours! Like my number, Mark’s number, etc.

How about ringtones? My kids are crazy about them, and they were downloading them onto their phones, and the price for each ringtone was showing up on our bill. So I just deleted that service from our plan!

Let my favorite find be yours, save yourself the worry & money, and know that this helps your child’s time be well spent!

Freezer Cooking with Meat and Marinades

The other day I made my huge Costco run, and I mean huge! It’s a big process, a bunch of money up front, and the work doesn’t even really start until I bring the groceries home, BUT I save a ton of money and can relatively quickly stock my freezer with a month’s worth of meals.

Some of you may have heard of freezer cooking, or you have joined a friend and spent an entire day cooking. Well, that’s too time-consuming for me, so I do the Costco version. And it makes my month of cooking so much easier!

The majority of what I bring home from Costco is bulk meat. I get about 12 lbs. of hamburger, 15 pork chops, and loads of steak. This trip we also bought our usual stash of bagels, plus a little treat to have in the house: those gigantic Costco muffins!

Once home, I start the process with the muffins and bagels. With both, I cut each one in half and place it in its own small sandwich bag. So every bagel is sliced in half and ready to go, and each humongous muffin is cut in half because that alone is a big indulgence for my family. Once every pastry is in its own bag, I place the lot of them in a huge Ziploc freezer bag, seal it up, and place it in the freezer. Then they are totally ready for lunchboxes, breakfast, or a snack. Just pull a bagel out of the freezer before school, place it in the lunch bag and it’s thawed when it’s time to eat. Bagels are a staple around here, with cream cheese, toasted with butter, any time of day.

Next, I move on to the various meats. So remember that whopping 12 lbs. of hamburger? I cook it ALL in one day. This is the only cooking that needs to take place on prep day, by the way. So I cook up the ground beef, and make three batches of 3 lbs. each for a family favorite, Beef Stroganoff. Each of these three batches, go into a large freezer Ziploc. Then taco meat, 3 lbs. of it, gets placed by the pound into the Ziploc.

Once these are in the freezer, it’s time for the pork chops. I probably spent about $16.00 on a 15-pack of pork chops. But it makes two or three family meals, which at most costs us about $8.oo per meal for our family of 6. We eat 5 pork chops in one family meal, so I split the package of them into thirds. The first batch, I place raw in a freezer Ziploc, and add my marinade for slow-cooker pork chops. The marinated bags go to the freezer, and on the night before serving them, I pull them out, ready for the Crockpot by morning.

The next 5 pork chops are placed in a brown sugar marinade, and the last is a sour cream marinade. They’re all placed in the freezer once the marinade has been poured into the bag with the raw meat.

I do the same thing with the steaks; I place them in their marinade and freeze them for yet another pre-planned meal.

Hurrah! Another month of easy cooking! And it looks like we’ll all be saving time & money this month because our family recipes are below. But I’ll be honest, these recipes are fairly general and you can easily hit up Google for more options. Bon appétit!

Cranberry Chicken

4-6 chicken breasts

1 can whole-berry cranberry sauce

1 pkg Lipton Onion soup mix

1/2 cup French dressing

Bring to a boil, then cool

Pour over raw chicken and freeze in a Ziploc bag. (I double my Ziploc bags)

Cooking day: Thaw and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours

Beef Tenderloin Marinade

4 lbs beef tenderloin

1 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS salt

1 Tsp pepper

Rub the seasonings on the beef and freeze.

Cooking day: Thaw and bake at 375 for 1 hr uncovered. Let stand for 15 min before carving

Slow Cooker Pork Chop Marinade

1 pkg dry onion soup 

1 cup water

3/4 cup wine

3 TBS minced garlic

3 TBS soy sauce

Pour over meet and freeze.

 Cooking day: thaw and cook for 4-6 hrs on low in Crockpot.

Crock Pot Brown Sugar Pork Loin

4-6 lbs of pork loin

1 tsp garlic

s & p to taste

1 1/2 cups brown sugar (you will divide this)

1 TBS Dijon mustard

1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Tub garlic, salt and pepper all over the pork loin that has been pricked multiple times with a fork to allow the seasoning and juices to mix. Pour Balsamic, Dijon and 1/2 the brown sugar over the Pork and freeze in a Ziploc. (Double bag this.) Put the rest of the brown sugar and the cinnamon in a small sandwich Ziploc and put in the outer big Ziploc bag so you have it for serving day. :)

 Cooking day: Thaw. Cook in Crockpot for 7 hours on low. At 7 hours, sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon over the pork and cook for 1 more hour.

Crockpot Taco Chicken

1 lb chicken breast

1 cup chicken broth

1 taco seasoning packet

Mix taco packet with broth and pour over raw chicken...freeze.

Cooking Day: Cook on low 4-6 hours. Shred chicken for tacos or nachos.
Hamburger Stroganoff

(THE BEST!!!!) Recipe from "Don't Panic Dinner's" Kid's LOVE this! (Serves 6-8)

2 lb hamburger

1lb fresh diced mushrooms

1 cup minced onions

1/4 cup butter

2 cans (10 oz) beef bouillon

1/4 cup catsup

2 small garlic cloves crushes or minced instead

2 tsp salt

1/3 cup flour

2 cups sour cream

In a skillet cook and stir mushrooms, onions, and butter until onions are tender. Remove mushrooms and onions. In same skillet, brown the meat. (Set aside 3/4 cup of bouillon; then add remaining bouillon, catsup, garlic, and salt to skillet.  Stir. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Blend reserved bouillon and flour; stir into the meat. Add mushrooms and onion. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and heat, but do not boil. Freeze in Ziploc.

 Cooking Day: Thaw and warm in a saucepan. Do not boil. Great over Rice or Egg Noodles!

Holiday Wrapping the EASY Way!

 

Wrapping gifts is NOT on my list of favorite things to do. With the stack of gifts for our family of six, extended family and friends, teachers, coworkers, staff… YIKES! Some of you love to wrap and put heart into each bow and tag, but I’m all about ease. So I totally scored at the dollar store when I went for my annual Christmas wrap splurge. I spent a whopping $22!

Dollar Tree provided me with so many easy, cute, good quality wrappings and it cut my gift wrapping time in a big way. Here’s what I got:

Cute decorative boxes with lids and bows for GG’s (great-grandma’s) present

A stack of 25 beautiful, gold, clear bags, plus metallic filler for the 15+ staff and teachers we pick up items for throughout the year

Gift bags called “snack bags” that are just right for new socks or gloves- 25 for a dollar!

“Bakery bags” at eight for a dollar, including twisty ties, which are perfect for holiday baking

Paper “treat sacks” that small cars and headbands, etc., can fit in, just seal with a sticker

Sparkly CD cases for the home movies and playlists that we give various people for Christmas

Zipper loop-bags that are great for class gifts or treats, they zip closed so nothing falls out

100 adhesive gift tags for a buck! For my kids’ gifts

Giant gift bags for those awkwardly shaped, huge items under the tree

Two cute gift pouches with tags, large decorative gift bags, tissue paper, and pre-decorated boxes for clothing

I got all of this for $22, and then I bought some nice ribbon at the craft store to top it all off. What a cinch, and a huge timesaver!

Christmas Tradition

When I imagine holiday décor, I think white lights, greenery along the staircase, shiny red ornaments, and piggy banks. Piggy banks? Yep, our mantle is lined with piggy banks, one for each child.

This holiday tradition originates when my sisters and I were little. Each year when my mom hauled out the boxes of holiday décor, beneath the strings of lights and pile of stockings were our piggy banks. These weren’t the ones we kept in our room, and they weren’t decorated for Christmas, but they were just for Christmas time. My parents placed them along the mantle, and throughout the season they added small amounts of money into each of them. Each year they got heavier and heavier, but we NEVER opened them and counted up our coins. Then the year I married Mark, my parents gave me my piggy bank. With all the money inside we were able to shop for our new family’s Christmas decorations and ornaments. It was such a sweet memory and meaningful gift, and now we get to do the same for our children. It might be quirky but it’s unique and always adds fun and excitement to the holidays.

Cheap and Cool Stocking Idea!

In our six stockings, each lip gloss, each hair tie, each new toothbrush is individually wrapped. It takes time, but it also stretches out time on Christmas morning, when every moment is magical. Since I’m NOT a fan of wrapping gifts, this year I actually hired a neighbor teen to wrap all of these little items!

But my tip to you is about the stockings themselves. I used to pour over the Pottery Barn catalog near the holidays, with each of their embroidered, quilted stockings, and delicately added names at the top. The dreaminess ended at their cost. I just can’t justify it!

One year after Christmas I was in Home Depot, which by the way isn’t just for hardware and isn’t one of those stores that filled to the brim with people looking for post-holiday sales. I came across these lovely, silky stockings, each distinct with beads or thread of their own. They typically sold for $25 each, but had been reduced to $5! I bought one for each of us, and took them to a T-shirt shop, where they charged me very little to embroider our names to each individually unique stocking. No two are the same, but they look beautiful hanging together and all for a steal of a deal!

Mom and Son Datenight!

In addition to the date nights that Mark and I schedule each month with one another, we each take one child on a date every other week. It’s important for each of our kids to have one on one time with a parent, and access to our undivided attention. We see these dates as a necessity, just like the ones we spend without the kids!

On this particular night, I had a holiday party on my calendar, and Mark had other plans. So my handsome 12-year-old son, Luke agreed to be my date! According to Luke, Mom offers better date nights than Dad, but that might have been slightly rehearsedJ. While we enjoyed the party, Mark took our 13-year-old daughter, Lexi, to an auction that he needed to attend.   Sometimes these kid dates cover what’s already arranged, like this week, and other times the kid chooses. Either way, we cherish the time alone with our kids, so we can really hear them and see them for who they are as individuals. Get out your calendar and schedule some memory making for you and yours!

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