Thursday, July 23, 2009

Retail Therapy: My Walgreens Run, 7/23

Things have been very depressing around here. I might post more about it later, I might not, but let's just say that in the past 2 months we've had some major turnover in the staff in our children's ministry. I know that God is sovereign and that He is holding us all in His big ol' hands, but it is still hard.


Today I decided I needed some retail therapy. I know that most husbands would get scared to hear that expression from their wives, but Scott doesn't worry. My version of retail therapy is going couponing to see what kind of deals I can get!

I was going to go to Staples, but after a Facebook post from Mandy, I decided that Walgreens was the place to go this week. With two young boys, I can't justify going from store to store in the summertime in Texas--it's just too hot. So I have to choose just one store to hit.

Here's what I got at Walgreens today. I spent $2.03 and got $9 back in register rewards.

Bic highlighters: FREE ($.49 for a 5 pack, plus used a $1 off 2 Bic items coupon)

Excedrin: $4.99 OOP*, or FREE after RR (B1G1 at $6.99, used 2 $1/1 coupons, got $5RR)

Tylenol: $3.99 OOP, or $.99 after RR (on sale for $4.99, used $1/1 coupon and got $3 RR back)

Pilot G2 pens: $1 OOP, or FREE after RR (buy a 2-pack at $1, get $1 RR)

Kleenex: $.73 each (on sale for $.89, buy 3 and use the $.50 off 3 coupon)

Scotch tape: $.39 each

Pencils: $.29 for a 10-pack

Papermate pens: $.19 for a 10-pack

As I've explained before, the beauty of Walgreens is the RRs. You end up getting so many RRs that you rarely end up spending "real" money. For this trip, I used $3 in RRs that I already had, plus a $3 off coupon they sent me in the mail (I got lucky--a new Walgreens opened up right down the street, so they sent out some coupons), and a giftcard I had $6.22 left on from some rebates. So, I ended up only $2.03 OOP. If I didn't have the RR, Walgreens coupon, and giftcard, my total would have been about $11.53. I got $9 in RRs back, so I was happy with that.

Don't forget that RRs don't really expire, so don't freak out at the expiration date when you get them. I have had no problems using "expired" RRs.

*OOP = out-of-pocket

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recipe: Frittata

For Monday night's dinner, I made a frittata. I know, I am always making breakfast foods for dinner, but I love them! I have made frittatas a few times before based on this recipe from Tyler's Ultimate on Food Network. I feel like I've finally tweaked it and "healthified" it enough now, so here's a copy of Tyler's recipe with my changes. It really turned out well! I wish I'd thought to take pictures...

  • 6 egg whites, 4 whole eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I usually use 2% cheddar, but any cheese is fine)
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 small potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I love the baby bella mushrooms)
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cheese, salt, and pepper until foamy. Set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a cast iron or other oven-safe pan over medium heat. Add the onion, potatoes, and mushrooms and cook thoroughly.

4. Pour the egg mixture over the top. Pull the edges away from the sides of the pan with a spatula so the eggs flow to the bottom of the pan.

5. After the frittata is about halfway set, transfer the pan to the heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes until puffed and golden.

6. Cut it up like a pizza, and shower slices with with grated Parmesan. Serve with some low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt if you'd like.

Menu Plan: Week of July 20

Steel-cut oatmeal with flax meal, honey, and banana
Oatmeal squares


Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
Graham crackers
Cheese and crackers

Monday: Frittata, toast (from homemade bread), OJ, coffee
Tuesday: Grilled turkey cheeseburgers with sauteed onion and mushrooms
Wednesday: Pasta salad, fruit
Thursday: Leftovers/fend for yourself
Friday-Sunday: Traveling to Oklahoma to see in-laws, so no meal planning!!

Sunday: A Good Time Was Had by All

Sunday morning

We managed to all get to church without too much bickering. I have a personal belief that Satan attacks Christians with extra vigor on Sunday mornings. It seems like he tries to do everything he can to stop folks from making it to church. He makes the bed extra comfy so you want to snooze longer, makes the kids want to sleep in just on that day of the week and no other day of the week, makes your coffee taste extra good so you forget what time it is, then gets you all in a rush so that you are on edge and start snipping at your family.

Well, okay. Maybe all of that only happens to me. :)

But anyway, we all got to church relatively well on Sunday morning. I was running late and my coffee did taste extra good, but we didn't bicker, and the kids even behaved pretty well while we were getting ready. I got to church and soon welcomed in a little over 20 third grade girls to my classroom. It was "Story Sunday," which we do once per month in the summer. Someone from the church comes to talk to the kids and shares his or her testimony. This week, a wonderful lady named Francie came and spoke. She made a couple of points that I thought were just fabulous.

She talked about how when she grew up, she was in a church that didn't really encourage personal Bible study. She knew a lot about God, but she didn't really know God. To give an analogy, she asked the kids, "How many of you know who George Washington is?" They all raised their hands. "Okay, but how many of you know George Washington?" Of course the point is that we can study a person and learn a lot about him, but still not really have a personal relationship with him. God doesn't want that! He invites us to know Him personally.

Sunday afternoon
We came home, ate lunch, and got the kids ready for a nap. I put Caleb in bed, and while Scott sat down to rock Isaac to sleep, I grabbed my coupons and reusable bags and headed to Kroger. Oh, the joy of bargain shopping without kids! :)

Kroger has their Mega Deal event going on here in North Texas through Tuesday. If you buy 10 participating items, you get $5 back. So basically you get an extra $.50 off per item. Combine that with coupons, and you have some good deals! Even without coupons, there were some good deals. I got 70 items yesterday and spent $75.21. I saved $106.32. I could have saved a larger percentage, but I did get some splurge items: $4.99 for a big bag of organic raisins, $7.99 for Huggies, $2.99 for organic yogurt, etc. But here are some highlights:
Smart Balance butter (tubs or sticks) $.94
(on sale for $1.99, buy 10 and get it for $1.49, use a coupon for $.55 off that is actually IN the store right next to the butter)

Simply Potatoes $.99
(combine a bag of the potato and onion Simply Potatoes with some eggs and cheese, and you have an easy, quick weeknight meal!)

Chex Mix $.49
(on sale for $1.99, buy 10 and get it for $1.49, use a coupon for $.50 off one which Kroger doubles to $1 off)

Irish Spring soap 3-pack $.99

Quaker Snack Cakes $.49

Listerine Mouthwash $.49
(on sale for $2.99, buy 10 and get it for $2.49, use a coupon for $2 off--no longer available online)

Kleenex $.83
(on sale for $1.49, buy 10 and get it for $.99, use a coupon for $.50 off 3)

Kraft cheese $1.49
(not the best price ever for cheese, but good for the cubes and snack packs that are also included in the sale)
I also splurged on some VitaminWater. I really like this stuff! They are regularly about $1.25 or more, but you can get them for $.50 each during this sale.

One note on these mega-deals: make sure you count your items! You have to get them in exact multiples of 10 to make the most of the deals. I got 60 participating items, and I triple-counted them all before I got to the checkout. I'm sure I looked pretty funny, standing in the toothpaste aisle shuffling all the stuff around in my cart and muttering "1...2...3...." to myself. ;)

I see from some bloggers that Kroger is running another very similar mega-deal next week, so many of these deals may continue through next Tuesday.

When I got home from Kroger, I expected Caleb to be up (he rarely naps) and I was going to pick him up and take him with me on a run to Market Street for a few more grocery deals. But when I got home, it was a picture out of The Napping House--everyone was asleep. Caleb had actually fallen asleep, and Scott had dozed off while rocking Isaac in his chair.

So I let them sleep for awhile as I put away the groceries. At 5:00, I woke everyone up. They all decided to go to Market Street with me, so we made a family evening of it. We haven't been to Market Street in several months, but this week they had a few good deals in their ad, and they sent me a $5 off a $25 purchase coupon.

They have a little eatery area there, so we decided to eat there as a treat and then shop. It was good stuff! Scott had a yummy panini with fruit, I had a chicken Caesar salad (with fat-free dressing), and Caleb had a piece of pizza (part of a $1.99 kids' meal). I had brought along an avocado and some snacks for Isaac, so we were all set.

After we ate, we set out shopping. Market Street is not a place I'd shop every day--their prices are just too high, in general--but it's fun to visit now and then. It's cheap, air-conditioned entertainment for the kids as they point out all the different items. They have "little carts" for the kids, which Caleb adores. They sell flax seed and steel-cut oats in bulk at a good price, too.

We spent $24 and got a good bit of stuff. Then we came home, I bathed the boys, and it was bedtime. All in all, a good day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

100 Things That Make Me Happy

I was inspired by Intentionally Katie, who wrote a list of 100 things that make her happy. It appears to be a meme that's been around the blogosphere for awhile. I thought it might be therapeutic to write a list of my own! These are in no particular order.
  1. God--the source of all things good
  2. Scott
  3. My boys
  4. Getting great grocery deals
  5. Writing lists
  6. Crossing things off of to-do lists
  7. Clean cotton sheets and blankets
  8. Hot showers
  9. Teaching kids about Jesus
  10. A clean and organized house
  11. The smell of pencils
  12. October
  13. Rain--the sound, feel, and smell of it
  14. Coffee--I drink it all day long
  15. Time alone (what's that? ;) )
  16. Sprouts
  17. Dark chocolate (or nuts and fruits covered in dark chocolate!)
  18. Being outside on summer nights
  19. Hoodie zip-up sweatshirts
  20. Board games
  21. Dates with my husband
  22. The feel of Isaac's soft, dimpled cheek
  23. The Word of God
  24. Cloth diapering
  25. Bubble baths
  26. Swimming
  27. Reading
  28. The 10 people who read my blog
  29. Making plans, setting goals, and having vision
  30. My church
  31. Food, in general
  32. Baking
  33. Using natural, non-toxic, non-disposable stuff
  34. Traveling
  35. Packages
  36. New York City
  37. London
  38. Paris
  39. My family
  40. Christmas
  41. Enjoying meals with family or friends
  42. The Food Network
  43. Caleb singing songs about God
  44. Serving the Lord
  45. Getting dressed up and going out somewhere fancy
  46. My KitchenAid mixer
  47. The ocean
  48. Dancing
  49. A really good song that makes me want to dance, cry, laugh, or praise God
  50. Cool breezes on a hot summer day
  51. Orange Cup
  52. Jane Austen
  53. Seeing school supplies at the store
  54. My Simple shoes
  55. Getting things organized
  56. Writing
  57. Nap time--when both of the boys actually fall asleep
  58. Snow--how silently it falls from the sky, and how loudly it crunches under my feet
  59. Trivia
  60. Learning new things (and remembering them later!)
  61. Hotels
  62. A job well done
  63. My husband's hugs
  64. My father's smile
  65. My mother's laugh
  66. Seeing old couples still together
  67. Road trips
  68. Libraries (particularly the New York Public Library)
  69. Heroes
  70. Kings--the TV show, although I also love reading about British history
  71. Sitting in a bookstore, drinking coffee, and reading a book that I don't have to pay for
  72. Campfires
  73. Awana
  74. Long-sleeve t-shirts
  75. Watching my kids sleep--particularly when they smile or laugh while sleeping
  76. Fireplaces
  77. Babies
  78. Burt's Bees cologne
  79. Old-school jazz
  80. Sunrises and sunsets
  81. Comments on my blog posts
  82. Sleep
  83. Used bookstores--I like to think about who owned those books
  84. To let go and let myself truly act childish with the kids
  85. Finding clothes that fit perfectly and look great
  86. Breakfast and brunch foods
  87. Fluffy white towels
  88. Gentlemen--men who treat women like ladies
  89. Making someone smile
  90. Being "green"
  91. Activities that keep my kids busy for more than 10 minutes at a time
  92. Bakeries
  93. Winning something or getting something for free
  94. Red wine
  95. Watching the choreography on old movies
  96. Being a mom
  97. Hiking
  98. People who use correct grammar
  99. Hearing my husband's voice on the phone
  100. Packing for a trip

It took me a few days to compile this list. For inspiration, I asked Caleb what made him happy. He said, "Play doh and crayons." I asked him what he thought made me happy, and he said, "Folding laundry." Ha!


Wednesday. I have made it to Wednesday. Or, shall I say, the kids have made it to Wednesday. On Monday, their fate did not look too clear. ;)

The problem on Monday was really my fault. I was going to take them to Bounce U, but I just didn't feel up to getting them out the door. So, we stuck around the house most of the day, venturing out only for a trip to Sprouts before dinner. When the boys don't have some structure in their day, they get a little wild. I don't blame them.

Tuesday was a ton of fun. We went over to Meme and Papa's house, which is always a big treat for the kids (and me). For the past week, Caleb had actually been counting down the days until he got to see his grandparents. So we went over there to play, eat, nap, swim, eat, swim, bathe, play, eat, and play. :) It was nice to take a break from our (messy!) house and be around some other adults.

Today we are breaking up the day by meeting my friend Karen and two of her boys for lunch. The kids (minus Isaac) will have fun in the germ-infested play area while Karen and I get to hang out. Then, it will be back home to put the boys down for naps and try to clean up the house a bit. Right now there are clothes piled up on the couch, waiting to be folded, dishes to put away and dishes to clean, beds to make, floors to vacuum and mop, counters to wipe... you know, the usual.

Sometimes I think back to how things were when Scott and I first got married. We lived in a cozy but roomy 2-bedroom/2-bath apartment, about 1200 square feet, which took about 30 minutes to clean top to bottom. We just didn't let it get that dirty, since there were only two of us. But now there are four of us, and two of us create much more mess than we clean up. :)

Well, here's hoping you have a happy Wednesday!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Random Thoughts

I am going to be a single mom next week. Scott is going for his third year to be a counselor at a kids' camp through our church. He'll have a group of 9 boys who just finished the 3rd grade. I'll be praying for him! I know that at least one of those boys is not a Christian, so I'll be praying especially that he makes that important decision next week.


Do you ever enter blog giveaways? There are a ton of them! I usually check out the ones at Natural Mommie, Sage and Savvy, and sometimes Ecobunga or Prizey. I have entered a whole bunch over the past several months, but I had never won one until this week! I entered a giveaway at Intentionally Katie, and I won a YoBaby prize pack. Cool, huh? Free stuff is always good. :) And if you've never been to Intentionally Katie's site, it is worth checking out. It's one of my new favorite blogs.


Sigh. At a certain time of the day, I grow weary of cleaning up. I get tired of wiping the counters, sweeping the floors, folding laundry....and yet the kids keep wanting snacks that mess up the counters, or spilling food on the floor, or dirtying more clothes. It really is a never-ending job.

Today I feel tired. Just worn out, in general. I know that's normal after caring for a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, but I am just craving some time away.

I am very excited that Scott and I are planning our first-ever "just the two of us" vacation since our kids were born. We're going to go in October to coincide with our anniversary and his birthday. Right now we're leaning toward going to Seattle. I don't know exactly why, but Seattle seems like a place I could happily live. Maybe because it's pretty granola, and it rains a lot there (to me there is not much better than a cool, rainy day).

Have any of you ever been to Seattle? Any tips for traveling there?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Donating, Potty Training, and...Tortilla, Anyone?

This morning we went to story time at the library. That's always tons of fun for the kids. Today they had a visit from Mother Goose--a fabulous old lady who dresses up, sings great preschool songs, recites nursery rhymes--the whole bit.

On the way to the library, we stopped at our local food bank to drop off some of the free-or-almost-free groceries I've collected over the past couple of months. I didn't expect what I found there: the place was packed. There are 12 parking spots surrounding the building, and they were all taken. We had to park across the street along with 3 other cars.

I took Caleb and Isaac in with me, and everyone inside was sitting knee to knee, waiting for donations. It was just so humbling to be there and see all the people in need. I walked up with my two little sacks of groceries, and I handed them to the lady at the counter. I am not one to like to donate in public, and I hesitate to even tell you this story because of it, but I wanted to pass on the great need that our own community has--and we live in a very wealthy city. I'm sure that they are in need wherever you live, too. A lady in the center told me as I was leaving, "God bless you." I was caught off guard, and I didn't even know what to say. I just felt like crying, honestly.

So, all that said, please consider donating to your local food banks. If you are a couponer, look for chances to get free or cheap stuff, and donate whatever you can.

And now for a lighter topic...

WARNING: Discussion about poop!

We always have nap time right after lunch at our house. (Well, the boys do, anyway. I wish I did!) So, after lunch today, I took the kids to the bathroom to wash up and get ready to go to sleep. Isaac kept pointing at the toilet and saying, "Potty!" Now, he does this sometimes. He sees his brother sitting on the potty, I suppose, and wants to do it, too. So a few times a week, I let him sit there. He never really does anything. I think one time he may have peed a little, but I'm not sure.

Today, on the other hand, I sat him on the potty and he said, "Pee pee. Poo poo." Then he just pooped in the potty! Just like that! I remember how much I had to coax Caleb to poop in the potty--and he was over 3 years old! Caleb was in the bathroom with me, and he and I both kind of looked at each other, like "Did he really just poop?" Then we both cheered wildly for Isaac and told him, "Good job!" Isaac looked very pleased with himself, then he leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek. What a kid.

But wait--that's not all! I asked him if he was done, but he kept saying, "Pee pee!" So I let him sit there for a couple more minutes, and he peed! Woo hoo! I couldn't be prouder. Who knows if he'll do it again anytime soon, but it's a great start!

(Yes, as in everything, Caleb was the complete opposite. He was pretty difficult to potty train. I wrote about it here. But I've been wanting to post that we have now completely outgrown the Pull-ups at night phase, since for the past month he has been staying dry at naps and night time! Yea, Caleb! We bought him some real underwear instead of the training underwear we'd been using, and he loves them. They have Thomas and Friends on them.)

I took the kids on a quick run to Kroger tonight around 5:30. We were out of Caleb's milk, so I just needed to get that and a couple of other things. We should have been in and out in 10 minutes. However....

It started in the parking lot. "Mom, can I have a tortilla? I want a tortilla!" Kroger has a tortilleria where they make their own tortillas. They are super yummy, but they contain trans fat so I don't want Caleb to eat them.

"No, honey. We will eat dinner as soon as we get home. Daddy's grilling burgers right now, and I can give you a tortilla at home."

"I don't want to eat when we get home! I want a tortilla at the store!"

"No. We will eat when we get home."

We continued in this vain as we went into the store. Then things started going in slow motion: I saw Caleb walking next to my cart as we entered the bakery section, but he wasn't watching where he was going. And a lady pushing a cart was heading straight toward Caleb and was not slowing down. Why didn't I say anything? Why didn't I call out to Caleb to watch out? Why didn't I say something to the lady? I watched as the lady ran right into Caleb, running the edge of her cart right into Caleb's left cheek.

Caleb looked up at me, wide-eyed, mouth open but no sound coming out, face turning red. I scooped him up, and he buried his face in my shoulder. His arms were wrapped tightly around my neck, he was crying, and he would not hold his head back so I could see his injury. For all I knew, he had blood running down his face.

The lady with the cart started apologizing profusely. "It's okay," I said, more to myself and Caleb than to her. Out of nowhere, Kroger managers started appearing. A nice lady manager came over and appeared quite outraged at the woman driving the other cart, who by that time had excused herself and gone on with her shopping. I managed to pry Caleb off of my shoulder long enough to see his face, which was red but not bleeding. He would be okay.

The manager asked if she could get Caleb some ice, and I said yes. While she was gone, Caleb stopped crying and started to settle down. I asked him if his cheek still hurt, and he said "No, I just okay now."

When the manager returned we took the ice, and I held it to Caleb's cheek. Then another manager came over and asked kindly if there was anything else he could do. "Do you want some juice? Some cookies? We can't let you have a bad experience at Kroger!" Oh, you should have seen Caleb's face light up. "Cookies?" he said. The manager sent a bakery person to go fetch some cookies. He asked me if I wanted him to write up a report, and I declined. Caleb appeared just fine.

The bakery guy came back with THREE BIG cookies for Caleb. He handed them to Caleb, who tried to eat all three at one time. Then the bakery guy saw Isaac, and said, "Oh, little brother will want some, too! I'll be right back!" He came back with TWO more cookies for Isaac. Oh, boy. Isaac immediately started shoving them in his face. By the time we left, he was covered in gooey, melted chocolate chips.

Sigh. Next time I'll just let him have a tortilla!

Another Jesus?

This morning we were listening to Veggie Tales music--Bob and Larry's Sunday Morning Songs. One of the songs on there is "Down in My Heart," and it goes like this:
I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay!
And I'm so happy, so very happy
I have the love of Jesus in my heart
Caleb looked at me and said, "Why does he have two Jesuses?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"He said that he has another Jesus in his heart! How can there be two?"

I thought for a second, then I started laughing. "He said that he has the love of Jesus in his heart, not another Jesus! There's only one Jesus, honey."

"Oh. That's good!" he replied.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free Redbox DVD Rental through 7/7

Have you ever tried Redbox? It's a little vending machine for DVDs that is outside stores like Walgreens, Walmart, and other stores. They offer new releases for just $1. You only get to keep the movie for one night, but that's still a great deal.

Want an even greater deal? Every month (sometimes more often), they give out discount codes for free rentals. We tried one in June, and it worked with no problems. It made a great, cheap, stay-at-home date night!

I found this on today:
Redbox has released a free movie code that is good all weekend! The free code is 7HE79B. Use it at any Redbox location to get a free 1 night movie rental. Code expires at midnight on Tuesday (7/7/09). Thanks Frugal is Fab! Not familiar with Redbox? Check out Redbox 101 for more information!
Find out where your closest Redbox location is here, and go enjoy a free movie over the long weekend!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Homemade Pizza

If you've never made pizza before, I urge you to try! It's really not too hard, and the results are MUCH healthier and cheaper!

Pizza Crust
(recipe adapted from my Oster bread machine recipe book)

This recipe makes a 2-pound loaf. I use half the dough the day I make it, and freeze the rest to use later. It thaws really well!

1. In a bread machine, combine the following ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/8 cups of room temperature water (I know, it's a weird measurement. I just eyeball a little less than 1 1/2)
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2. Set your bread machine on the dough setting and walk away for 90 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4. Divide dough in half. Put one half in a freezer bag and stash for later use.

5. On a pizza pan or cookie sheet, press out the remaining half of the dough into about a 10" pizza crust.

6. Bake the crust alone for about 8 minutes.

7. Add pizza sauce and toppings of your choice.

8. Bake for another 12-14 minutes.

Try your own balance of white/wheat flour. We love whole wheat around here, but Scott and I weren't thrilled with an all whole wheat crust. These days I usually use about 2 1/2 cups whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups white.

I would post how I make my own pizza sauce, but I'm not really sure. :) I open up a small can of tomato sauce and a small can of tomato paste, and dump all of the sauce and about half the paste in a bowl. I mix it up well, then I add some spices that came with my spice rack labeled "pizza seasonings". I am pretty sure it has oregano and basil in it, but who knows what else is in there. It tastes good, though! Oh, I also add about a teaspoon of evaporated cane juice or half a packet of Truvia (you can just use sugar).

My favorite pizza toppings, you ask? Red & green bell peppers, baby bella mushrooms, or pineapple. :)