Control What You Can Control

There’s a lot in this life that seems out of my control.  I could easily spend my time in frustration, whining about and bemoaning those things (while making everyone around me miserable)… but instead, I’m trying to take responsibility and ownership of whatever I can control. 

 

  • I can’t control who becomes our next president, but I can vote and encourage others to do the same.
  • I can’t control what time my kids wake up in the morning (oh, how I’ve tried!), but I can get to bed at a decent time so I’m ready to rock and roll when they are (or something like that).
  • I can’t control grocery prices, but I can be more vigilant about my shopping practices and meal preparation to get the best deals and keep our bill as low as possible.
  • I can’t control the weather, but I can rearrange my schedule so we can enjoy every possible minute outside before the nasty cold sets in.   I can also make the most of our time inside with fun projects for the kids.
  • I can’t control the economy (which is too bad for all of us, because let me tell ya…  I have a plan!) but I can react to it appropriately and ride the roller coaster.  “After all, the only way to get hurt on a roller coaster is to jump off.” 😉 (Got that from Dave.)  Check out Dave’s take on the economy.  He is so right on!
  • I can’t control my husband’s teaching income, but I can carefully steward it and stretch it to meet our needs. 
  • I can’t control everything my daughter is learning (the good, the bad, and the ugly) at school, but I can be an advocate for her education.  And… if it’s really an issue, I could homeschool.  There are always options more positive than complaining (or doing nothing).
  • I can’t control our health insurance costs (don’t get me started), but I can do my best to keep my family healthy by preparing nutrient rich foods, exercising with the kids, making sure we all get enough sleep, and keeping germs at bay. 
  • I can’t control how busy we are… oh, wait!  Sure I can!  Ever heard of saying NO?!?  (I know, I know, that doesn’t work in every situation, but we are all gifted with the same 24 hours in a day…)

I can’t fix all, cure all, mend all, be all… so I’ll just control what I can control.  It works for me.

Another thing that works for me?  Small town church cookbooks!  Enter my giveaway to win one!

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Living for Giving

Stewardship is not always a popular topic in local churches.  Often it invokes negative images or experiences.  But stewardship is a gift from God, a spiritual discipline and a means of God’s grace.

The above message from Bishop Kenneth L. Cardner was prominent on the back of our church bulletin last weekend.  It is timely as we all prepare for the holiday season (and is timeless, really).

Giving is something that everyone can and should do.  Yes, everyone.  Rich, poor, talented, not-so-talented, young or old.  We all, in any of our broken circumstances, can give.

Based on the stewardship definition of time, talent and treasure, I’ve put together a list of things to get us all in the giving spirit.  This list is certainly not complete, and definitely not just for the holiday season (or for church!)… please help me compile more ideas in the comments!

The Gift of Time

  • Red Cross Bloodmobile (either giving much needed blood or as a volunteer… just the other night I got a phone call.  “We’re hosting the blood mobile on Friday.  Would you like to donate a pie, 5 pounds of cooked potatoes, or $5?”  It wasn’t would you like to donate, but what would you like to donate.  😉  That lady knows how to get her volunteers!  Love it.)
  • Visiting elderly neighbors.  Last week Kate wrote about their homeschool lesson in manners.  I know that all of us have neighbors who would love to be “used” for homework practice!
  • Helping a new mom with chores so she can sit and enjoy the baby.
  • Grab some sacks, take a walk, and pick up some trash.
  • Participate in local nursing home events.  (Is this just a Tiny Town thing?)  Our nursing home offers kid parties at Halloween, Easter, and a carnival in the summer.  Fun for the kids, and a great change of pace for the residents.
  • Update:  Check out Toni’s Coupons for Troups program.  (Thanks, Kate!)

The Gift of Talent

  • Help create costumes or the set for a school or community play.
  • Go Christmas caroling!
  • Heat up your oven and bake… for neighbors, for new parents, for shut-ins, for someone battling a chronic illness, for a family who’s recently experienced a death.  Here’s a list of meals I use to bless others.
  • Direct or perform in a community cantata.
  • Have your kids (or your homeschool group?) make decorations such as place mats for the local nursing home or hospital.  Deliver them together.

The Gift of Treasure (on a budget)

  • Operation Christmas Child boxes (if you’re a bargain hunter, you can fill these boxes cheap!)
  • Angel tree — I’ve seen many variations, but you pick an ornament from a tree and purchase the gift that’s on the ornament (a fun family outing).
  • If it’s not a regular practice in your household, eat an untypically frugal meal once a month (or week) and donate your savings to a favorite charity.
  • If you’re switching to a whole foods diet, give your processed pantry stockpile to a local food bank.
  • Donate gently used baby clothes and toys to a pregnancy crisis center.
  • Last Christmas we made a donation to The Lord’s Diner in honor of my parents, who said they didn’t want anything for Christmas.  😉  They loved that gift.

We should give something, because He gave everything.  And because it gives us an opportunity to serve.  And because it feels so good.

Living for giving… works for me!  Peruse Shannon’s blog for more WFMW!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Pie

I should have titled this post “The Day Amy Became My Very Best Friend.”  Seriously.  This cheesecake is that good!  My husband requests it for our anniversary, Valentine’s Day, his birthday, Father’s Day…

This is my official entry for Laura’s Pie Recipe Contest, and I even used her graham cracker recipe (which is quite yummy!) for the crust so that I wouldn’t get disqualified for using a premade crust laden with hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup (but I promise not to tell if you use the easy, unhealthy stuff like I usually do 😉 ).  Be proud, Laura! 

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Pie

Pie Ingredients:

  • 1 graham cracker pie crust (or make your own healthy one in an 8 inch pie pan)
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. flour

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. 

2.  Add egg and vanilla; mix well.  Toss chips with flour; stir into cheese mixture (flour keeps them from settling at the bottom of the pie).  Pour into pie crust.

3.  Bake 40 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched.  Cool and top with glaze*.  Chill for several hours.

*Chocolate Glaze:  In a small saucepan, over low heat, melt 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips with 1/4 cup whipping cream, stirring constantly until thickened and smooth.  Immediately spread over pie. 

4.  After you make and sample your first piece of this cheesecake, send Laura an email to tell her I should win!  And then report back here to let me know that I am your new very best friend!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Pie really, really works for me!

Visit Rocks in my Dryer for more WFMW!

Bloggy Recipes

I am all about trying new recipes, and I’ve found the blogging community to be a haven when it comes to great ones, tried-‘n-true.  My problem has been that when I see a recipe on someone’s site, I don’t always bookmark it right away.  You know, the whole “I’ll get back to that later” fantasy.  Or I do bookmark it, but I never get around to trying it. 

No more.  If you are willing to share your specialties, I want to give ’em a try!

Just yesterday I decided to work on next week’s menu plan starting now (instead of my usual weekend-menu-warrior routine).   In fact, I may get real ambitious and work a couple weeks ahead!  My new plan:  when I’m surfing through blogs and come across a recipe that I want to attempt, I not only bookmark it but I put it in my menu plan, which is in my “post drafts” section of my blog (and also on my refrigerator), and I insert the link.  Now.  If I don’t have the ingredients, I put them on my shopping list.  Now.

Now works really well for me.  Later quite often turns into never at our house.

Because we still have our family favorites, and because I’m still a Frugal Franny who likes to use up the sale stash before purchasing a bunch of new ingredients, I won’t use new recipes every day.

I think this bloggy recipe method is going to work for me!

  • eliminates last minute menu planning (aside from a few no-thinker family favorites) 
  • recipes will be easy to find on my menu plan post
  • my beloved recipe collection will continue to grow
  • my grocery list will be ready no matter which day we go to the store (because it’s never the same week to week… and sometimes it’s every other week)
  • when Laura gets crazy and posts MPM early, I’ll be prepared!

Here are a few bloggy recipes that I’ve currently got worked into next week’s menu. 

Cream Cheese Apple Muffins

Beef Stew

Pizza Pockets

Do you have one that I should add?

Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more WFMW.

Never visit a new mom…

… without taking food!  That’s my rule.  It works for me both as the giver and the recipient.  I do not know a more thoughtful gift for an exhausted mom who is focused on tiny fingers and toes, uncomfortable  afterpains, umbilical cord care, and swollen, leaky breasts (and bottom – ouch)… and especially for moms who are trying to care for other little people in the house in addition to the new baby.  New moms need food!

In my kitchen, I try to keep frozen meals and treats ready to go for mom/baby homecomings.  Babies don’t always enter the world at the most convenient time, but I want to be prepared to bless the family with food when they do!  For the occasions that I don’t have a meal ready, I do keep handy plenty of staples that make a meal come together quickly.  (There is no running to the store here… it’s 15 miles away.) 

Here are some of the things I’ve either taken to families or been the grateful recipient of:

  • sloppy joes
  • breakfast casserole and muffins
  • brown bag burritos (When I hadn’t yet visited my sister-in-law after she was home with her third boy, she called and jokingly demanded “I had a baby!  Where are my burritos?!”)
  • meatballs and cheesy potato casserole
  • chicken and rice casserole
  • hamburger quiche
  • baked spaghetti
  • cavatini
  • meat loaf
  • fresh fruit (My favorite!  After I have a baby, I’m not up to eating a full meal for a few days.  Healthy, handy snacks are a treat!)

For families with older children, it’s nice to take some kid-friendly “fun food.”  Kids love the having their own stash (and they get excited to see something for them and not the baby!), and moms appreciate the ease of appeasing their brood’s hunger.   

  • juice boxes
  • cookies (I make a big batch of dough and freeze dough balls to bake fresh when I need them.)
  • granola bars
  • pigs in a blanket (scroll down for recipe)

When organizing the food in your kitchen, make room for meals to bless new families.  It works for me!  Visit Rocks in My Dryer to delve into other bloggers’ kitchen organization tips!

One TV, One Channel

We have one TV in our home.  With our highly technical rabbit ears, we receive one semi-clear channel.  That works for us.

  • We have children.  They provide lots of free entertainment.
  • We have children.  We don’t choose to have time for TV.
  • We have children.  We don’t want to be tempted to use the TV as a sitter.
  • We have children.  (Have I mentioned that already?)  I can control what and how much they watch by using videos.
  • We can check out movies at our local library for free if we want a TV fix.
  • Anything we need to watch (weather, breaking news, CSI  😉 ) can be found on our one channel or on the Internet.  We visit friends (and take lots of food!) when we want to see a big game that’s not on “our” channel.
  • We have saved massive amounts of money during our 10 year marriage by not paying for TV.  Even at $30 per month (I know this can vary from $12 to around $100) each month for 10 years… that’s $3,600.  Doesn’t sound like a lot to you?  Put that money in a mutual fund for a few years averaging 12% returns and you might change your tube-watching tune!

Although it would have been nice to veg out in front of the Olympics, or spend Sundays planted in front of endless football games… oh, wait a minute.  I forgot about the children!  Let me try again…

Although it would have been nice to pop in to see the beginning of a few Olympic events, only to miss the photo finish because of a dirty diaper or screaming from the other room or a sibling fight or the desperate cry for a glass of milk… (ahhh, that’s more like it.  That sounds like home!)

We have one TV.  It has one channel.  Works for me!

Crowd Pleasing Cavatini

It’s less than a week away, people!  Fall is upon us, and in my kitchen, Fall is spelled C-O-M-F-O-R-T F-O-O-D.  Hot soups, bread, and meaty casseroles.  Yum!

Here it is.  My all-time favorite casserole.  This stuff is so flavorful, easy to put together, and feeds a crowd.  I’m talking 16 adult servings!

Crowd Pleasing Cavatini

  • 6 oz. shell pasta
  • 8 oz. curly pasta
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 small can mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 16 oz. tomato sauce
  • 32 oz. spaghetti sauce
  • 4 oz. diced deli ham
  • 3 oz. diced pepperoni
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 16 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 4 oz. parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta until just underdone, drain and rinse.  Saute the onion, green pepper and mushrooms in the butter.

Brown the hamburger in a large stockpot.  Drain.  Stir in to hamburger the saute mixture, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, ham, pepperoni, salt, pepper and oregano.  Add pasta.  Stir well.  Layer meat mixture and cheeses.  Repeat layers.  Bake 30 minutes at 350.

A few things…

  • Do not use a 9×13 pan unless you enjoy scraping boiled over burned food off of the bottom of your oven.  I prefer an 11×15 pan for company, or I split the recipe into three smaller pans for my family.
  • If you’re splitting your recipe into smaller pans, check out my freezer post for a handy tip. 
  • The only way to mess this up is to overcook the pasta (no one likes mushy pasta.)   Don’t do that!  Undercook it, just a little.  It will finish cooking in the oven.

Cavatini tastes great with a green salad, green beans, corn, and fresh bread.  Tonight I served it with these breadsticks.  Yum!

A comfort food crowd pleaser.  Works for me!

*** Psssst… Life as Mom is hosting a Fall Recipe Swap today (Thursday).  Go check it out!