Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To Follow or not to Follow

This is the question I ask myself every time I come across a blog that has a post I really like. Should I follow the blog and add it to my google reader or just hope I remember it for the next time. I have around 100 blogs in my reader right now and sometimes I just don't have the time to read them all. Well, most of the time I don't have the time yet I find myself spending way too much time in front of my computer instead of in front of my children.

There are a few blogs I no longer wish to follow. Not because they aren't good but because their topics don't apply to me in my life right now. It is very daunting to see I have 100+ new blog posts to read each day. It leaves me overwhelmed. Now, I know I don't have to read them all but if I'm not going to read it then I really don't want to see it.

So you are probably thinking "why don't you just unsubscribe?" Well, I've tried. I have clicked unsubscribe. I have click on do not follow. I have done everything I can think of to stop following and yet, every time I open my reader account they are all still there. So, I ask, do any of you have any other ideas on how I can remove blog subscriptions from my reader account? I promise if you help out it won't be your blog I part ways with. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hook, Line, and Sinker

This is a phrase that is often used with fishing. It is also used with sales. A salesman waves the bait in front of a potential customer. The customer takes the bait and the salesman catches a big one. I take the bait quite frequently. Fortunately I have a husband who rescues me from the hook. He takes the bait too and I rescue him from the hook. Occasionally though, we both take the bait and we get reeled in together. Seven times out of ten we take the bait that is dangled in front of us by door to door salesmen. I have written previously about a time we purchased Clean and Simple from a salesmen at our door. It turned out to be a good purchase. I love it and use it all the time. We have bought meat from the creepy guys who drive the beat up trucks with the freezer in the back. That has turned out good for us. The only time I can remember something not turning out good that we have purchases was a discount card for an oil change place. The only reason that didn't work out is we forgot we purchased it and never used it.

Well, recently I have seen an infomercial for Zumba Total Body Transformation and I have been hooked and reeled in. I love to dance. If you were to look in my house at least once a day I can be seen shaking my groove thing, usually when cleaning. I've done Zumba before at the gym and loved it but we canceled our membership since the gym wasn't close. I'm so excited to get the DVD's.

I paid $72 (including tax and s/h) which is more than I like to pay for things but, there is a 30 day money back guarantee which I plan on using. If I don't loose 10 lbs or one dress size in 10 days I'm going to return it. I do realize this is contingent on me actually doing it for 10 days but I'm actually looking forward to it. So, when I get them I will keep you posted because I'm sure many of you have been tempted to give this Zumba work out a try.

My husband has also been caught by the P90X craze. Fortunately for him, he has had several friends and relatives that have tried it and sworn by it so his was an acceptable risk and he is very excited about it.

What bait has caught you? I want to know. Was it a good buy or a bad buy? Please leave a comment with either a link to your review of a product you purchased or write a quick comment about the bait you took.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We made it back home from our two week trip to AZ and UT. During our time we experienced all sorts of weather. We went from 115 degree weather in AZ to 34 degree weather in the mountains of UT and experienced everything in between. It even tried to snow on us a little. The 2 weeks went by really fast but when we got home I realized we were gone for quite some time. I tried to have the house all clean before I left but missed a cup with about an inch of milk left in it. It was my husbands which is probably why I missed it. Well, there were some fruit flies that made it into the house and as you can imagine with us being gone for 2 weeks and the AC being set at 84 they decided to multiply and replenish in my house. There were eggs, maggots, and fruit flies swarming the cup when we got home. I made him clean it up. So, the next time you leave for vacation don't leave a cup of milk out on the counter. I know we won't make the same mistake again. It is good to be back in my own bed and with my own things. Now I just need to get back on a routine for the summer. I'll be back to blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tips to get Children to do Chores

When I was growing up I was fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it) to have an older sister whom I shared a room with who liked to have things clean and tidy. I never had to clean my room because my sister always did it for me. She was constantly moving around the entire house helping my mother out with different tasks. When she was around 14 years old the neighbor paid her to clean her house. And today, my sister still has the same work ethic in her own home. She doesn't go to bed until everything is in it's place. I think my sister was born with a clean gene which some how passed me by. So, the point of this story was to show that some children clean and do chores with out having to be asked, they see a problem and fix it. Other children, I fall into this category, need incentive or lots of reminders to get things done. Here are a few ideas for getting children to do chores.
Sometimes changing your wording is all that needs to be done. Instead of saying "go clean your room" try changing it to sound like something fun. Say something like "I'm going to set the timer for ___ minutes and if you can clean your room and beat the clock then we are going to do XYZ." The incentive can be whatever you want it to be, extra story at bedtime, go outside to play, special time with mom, etc.
Create a duty chart and let your children know that the TV and video games don't get watched/played until the chores are done. Don't' forget to rotate the duties weekly.
Make it fun by making a game out of it. Beat the clock is one my children love. We often create toy chains or book chains which are like an assembly line. One child picks up the toy and then passes it down the line to the last person who puts it in place.
Music can make things fun and move faster. My children always know when I'm in the cleaning mood when I put on my upbeat dance music. Put on some up beat children's music and show them how to clean to the beat.
Make sure the chore is age-appropriate. It doesn't make sense for me to have a 2 year old unload the dishwasher since she can't reach most of the places the dishes go. However, she can set the table if I pull everything out for her.
Before you just start assigning duties to kids explain to them why you are doing it. They are smart and will be able to understand the amount of work for one person to run a house is too much and it would be easier if everyone pitched in. They just need it brought to there attention and explained at a level they can understand.
There are so many ways you can teach children to do chores that I'm sure I missed a bunch. Please share what works for your family.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Giving Children an Allowance

Giving children and allowance has many benefits.
  • Teaches money management skills. Don't just hand your children money. Make sure you teach them what it means to save. Teach them to pay a 10% tithe and to place 10-20% away for savings. Help your child determine a goal for their savings. For example, if there is a new video game they want explain to them how much money they need to get that game. Place a picture of it somewhere where they can be reminded that that is what they are saving for. Teaching these skills when they are young can help them avoid money problems as adults.
  • Avoid having them ask you for money all the time. When your children have their own money to spend and they ask you for something from the store you can just remind them they have their own money.
  • Teaches children the value of money. How often do your children see you handle actual money? I know mine only see me with credit cards and checks. Giving children cash helps them see that when it is gone it is gone.

So, when should you start giving an allowance, how much should you give, and how should you do it?

Most children learn about money at school when they are around 6 years old. At this age they can better understand the concepts associated with money management. But you can start teaching the concept of paying for goods as early as 3 years.

The amount to give varies from family to family. I have heard half of their age in dollars or a dollar per year of their age. Some families can afford more while others need to stick with less. Do what is best for your family. Older children may be responsible for buying their own personal toiletry items so make sure the allowance covers the cost of those items and leaves a little extra money for spending.

How often you give the allowance depends on the age of the child. Young children should be paid weekly while older children can be paid bi-weekly or monthly to teach long term budgeting.

I personally believe you should not tie allowances to chores, at least not the chores that need to be done just because your child is a part of the family. You shouldn't pay your child to clean up the toys they left out, make their bed, put clothes away, etc. It's better to remove a privilege if they fail to do those chores. But, make a list of extra chores they can do that pay like, raking the leaves, wiping the base boards, dusting the blinds, etc.

Remember, it is better to start an allowance when the child is younger than to do it when they are a teenager because you can solidify good financial habits early.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Organizing your Recipes

Tired of searching through dozens of cookbooks for that one recipe you liked so well? Put an end to searching by creating your own master cookbook.

Start by going through each cookbook you own and record each recipe you like to make. Type them into the computer and save them under categories like appetizers, desserts, main dishes, and so on. You can even add clip art or your own pictures if you choose. Once you have all of your recipes typed up then print them off. Place each page in a plastic sheet protector and then in a 3 ring binder. Add several extra sheet protectors to the binder for new recipes you will find. Now all you have to do is keep your binder of recipes in the kitchen and when you find a new recipe add it to the book.

Creating your own master cookbook will not only save you time, it will also save you space from storing all of the cookbooks you own but only use a couple of recipes from. The next time you are going on a trip where you will be cooking you just need to grab your binder and you have all of your recipes with you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Snack Pack Winner!

The winner of a $25 Costco Gift Card and a Sunny Days Snack Pack consisting of Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars and Simply Fruit Roll-Ups is...... #4 Lau. Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who participated. Also want to give a big thanks to General Mills and My Blog Spark for providing the giveaway items.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I'm visiting some family in Arizona right now. We were actually supposed to leave today for Utah but yesterday our AC seized in our vehicle and died. No AC in AZ is no fun. Today got to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm grateful we were able to spend the time at the pool instead of at the car dealership with the car getting repaired. $1200 later we have our van supposedly fixed. Well, it blows air but it isn't cold. One would think $1200 would get us an ice box. We drove around for 10 minutes and the air maybe got to be about 5 degrees cooler than outside. So not happy right now and the dealership is closed so, we either have to stay here another day or we can leave tomorrow and take the vehicle to another dealership since the work is under warranty. I think we are going to press on and leave around 4 or 5 AM that way we are out of AZ by the time the temp gets really hot. So, why am I telling you this? This means I can't post the results for the $25 Costco gift card and Snack Pack giveaway until Wednesday so, if you haven't already entered you can do so still. Go here to do it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Not Me and I Don't Know Have Moved In

It seems lately I can't find anything I need. My house can be a little chaotic (yes Dad I know it might be more than a little ) but for the most part I know where everything is in the chaos. I think it must be a mom gift. I'm sure you have experienced this gift in your life too. Hubby calls out "hon, have you seen my blue shirt with the white stripe?" You immediately reply "it's draped across your chair under your red shirt" or some other obscure place that you saw it. You just know where things are. Because of this you are frequently asked where things are. I must not be on top of things as much as of late because there have been 2 things that I desperately need to find.

I went to gather the library books and DVD's to return them and I can't find Strawberry Shortcakes Big Journey anywhere. I managed to find the case but not the DVD itself. I ask the kids who pulled it out of the DVD player (the last place I saw it) and I get a chorus of "Not Me". I ask the kids where the movie is and get another familiar reply of "I Don't Know." So the search begins. I look in all of the DVD cases we have which is a significant amount. I look in all the DVD players and computers. I look under the DVD player, VCR, TV, and even behind the entertainment center. My search yielded one find, the Alvin and the Chipmunks DVD that has been missing since March but still no Strawberry Shortcake. After searching for all the renewal time I get I have accepted the fact that it is lost. Not Me and I Don't Know have taken the movie and are forcing me to pay the $16 fee to replace the DVD at the library. I went to pay for it yesterday and the librarian was nice enough to tell me I could probably find the DVD cheaper elsewhere and then just bring it in. He renewed the movie for me for another 3 weeks so I could find it. Thanks to EBay I only spent $9 and Strawberry Shortcakes Big Journey will get here sometime next week.

The DVD isn't the only thing I Don't Know and Not Me have taken. Our neighbors have been out of town and they have asked us to get their mail. The key was left in my hand and I placed it on the bookshelf by the door. Well, sometime during their 2 week absence I moved the key to my purse so I could get the mail when I was out. I remember getting the mail a week ago but for the life of me I could not remember where I put the key after that. One would think I would put it back in my purse. I couldn't find it in my purse. I asked the kids if they saw the key or if they new where it was and again they blamed Not Me and I don't Know. Well, our neighbors came home and came to collect their mail and sadly, I did not have a key to give them. Yesterday I even went as far as pulling my couch away from the wall and cleaning out underneath it. That was scary. I'm surprised a little mouse family wasn't living under there with all the accumulated trash. It would have made a nice little home. Anyway, I ran out of places to search and decided to give my purse one last look through. Low and behold, Not Me and I Don't Know had not taken the key this time. It was me. I had placed it in a small little pocket that didn't empty out when I held my purse upside down and shook it.

I just heard a big crash and I have a feeling Not Me and I Don't Know are up to something again.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $25 Costco gift card and a Nature Valley/Fruit Roll Up snack pack.
Mama's Losin' It

Last Day of School

The last day of school has arrived for us at last. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm glad to not have to get up at 6:30 AM every morning. It will be so nice not having a schedule. My son was in half day preschool and his session was the second half of the day. For one school year my scheduled revolved around whether or not I could get Bubs to school on time or be home in time for when the kids got back from school. I look forward to next year when both Na and Bubs are in school full time. Alas, Lou Lou will be going half day. I like schedules but there are sometimes I just like to be spontaneous and the school schedule doesn't give much flexibility for that.

The children however, are not as excited. Na loves school and learning. She told me this morning she is so sad to be leaving her teacher. She loves her teacher and I'm grateful for Mrs. R. and what she had done for my daughter this year. Na thrives with a schedule. I'm going to have to come up with some sort of schedule for Na to last through the summer. She has to know what we will be doing ahead of time and if I change things up a bit she has a minor meltdown. We have made progress though because the meltdowns used to be major. Bubs just loves to be with his friends. I can tell I need to make lots of play dates.

I bid farewell to this school year. It went to fast but I know the summer will go just as fast. So, I better get off the computer and enjoy the last day of a semi-quiet house.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $25 Costco gift card and Nature Valley/Fruit Roll Ups snack pack.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bamya (meat and Okra Stew)

Last weekend Na had an event called Egypt Unwrapped. This was the end of year party for GT. She got to dress up like an Egyptian. We were supposed to make her costume but everything was too crazy around the house so I ended up making it by clicking "buy" on EBay. As part of the event the children were supposed to research Egyptian food and either create their very own recipe or find one they liked and bring it to the event to share for dinner. We found the recipe for Bamya and decided it was the winner. I think only 2 spoon fulls were taken at the event. The Okra on the top must have scared the kids off. My family however loved it. The recipe says to serve with rice but I decided to mix the rice in to make it easier to serve at the event. So, here is the recipe.

Bamya (Meat and Okra Stew)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
2 pounds (1 kg) stewing lamb or beef, cut into 1 in cubes
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup (6 ounces /185 g) peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup stock (beef) or water, or as needed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-1 1/2 pound (500-750 g) okra
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat an oven to 325° F (165 C).
Heat 4 tablespoons butter or oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Working in small batches, brown meat, turning constantly, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a baking dish or stew pot.
Over medium heat, sauté onions in fat remaining in frying pan until translucent, 8-10 minutes Add garlic, cumin, coriander, tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and optional mint. Stir well.
Pour over meat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tightly and bake in preheated 325° until all liquid is absorbed, about 1 1/2 hours.
Taste and adjust the seasonings. Meanwhile, prepare the okra as directed in note below. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter or oil in skillet. Stir in okra. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring gently.
When meat is finished, arrange cooked okra on top in a spoke pattern. Sprinkle lemon juice evenly over the surface. Re-cover the dish and return it to the oven. Bake for 35 minutes longer. Add stock or water if the mixture seems too dry. Serve very hot.
Serve with rice.

Tips: To cook okra so that it is not slimy, cut off the conical tip ,and soak in red wine-vinegar for 30 minutes, allowing 1/2 cup vinegar per pound. Drain, rinse and dry the okra and proceed with the recipe. Another method is to trim the tips, then put into water at a rapid boil for 2 minutes. Remove and rinse with very cold water, drain and pat dry.

I'm sure there is going to be a way to prepare this dish in the crock pot. I might need to experiment with that. I did cook it in the stoneware from my crock pot and used tin foil to cover it since my lid was not oven safe. Our favorite way to eat the left overs was warmed up and rolled in tortillas with salsa. I think the next time I'm going to slice the okra up and mix it into the stew as well.

Nature Valley and Fruit Roll-Ups Review and Giveaway!

For many of you summer time has arrived. We still have 3 more days of school. I'm looking forward to leaving for a much needed 2 week vacation the first day of our summer break. We are going to be driving 14 hours our first day to arrive at my sisters house in AZ. After a couple of nights there we will be driving another 8 hours to our final destination in Utah. With 4 kids I think you can imagine the amount of times we need to stop. One thing we will not be stopping for is snacks. Gas stations have over priced food so I make sure to stock up on plenty of snacks my kids will love.

In the past I have stocked up on crackers and fruit snacks. The fruit snacks are for those desperate times when I just need them to not cry for just a little bit longer because we are almost to that next stopping point. There is no nutritional value in them and they are not filling in the least bit. The crackers are good but they leave a big crummy mess behind. My husband and I love to snack on trail mix and the kids want it too but, we always find the nuts that have slipped through their fingers.

Last week General Mills, through My BlogSpark sent me a Costco Sunny Day Snack Pack to try and review. I'm so glad they did. I now have some new favorite snacks that are perfect for our upcoming road trip.

I received a large, 48 ct., box of Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars. These bars are 100% natural and they have 25% more fruit and nuts then the previous version. They are packed with almonds, peanuts, raisins, and cranberries. I love that it is trail mix in an easy to handle bar form. I don't have to worry about the nuts falling between their little fingers and all over their seats and floor. These bars are also filling and will be good to fight off hunger in between meals. Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars even satisfied my child with the picky palate. Another bonus, these bars are only 140 calories and have 8g of whole grain per serving.

My gift pack box contained 2-42 ct boxes of the Simply Fruit Roll-Ups. These are definitely a healthier alternative to the original Fruit Roll-Ups. These will be replacing fruit snacks in my house. Simply Fruit Roll-Ups are made with 90% real fruit and fruit juice. And guess what? If you have a child who won't eat fruit, hand them a Simply Fruit Roll-Up because eating just one of these equals one serving of fruit. They will think they are getting a treat and it will be our little secret. This snack has only 50 calories per roll and they are gluten-free. My children loved being able to take them to school for their snack. They come in 2 flavors, strawberry and wildberry. My kids went wild for wildberry which is fine with me because I love the strawberry. Make sure you have some wipes handy though because like most fruit roll-ups, hands will get sticky.

If you are looking for the perfect grab and go snack for your summer vacation, lazy days at the pool/beach, or everyday life, then head on over to your local Club Store and stock up on Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars and Simply Fruit Roll-Ups.

Better yet, you can win your very own Sunny Day Snack gift pack (48 ct Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix Bars, 42 ct Simply Fruit Roll-Ups, and a $25 gift card to Costco. That's right, a $25 gift card to Costco so you can stock up on even more summer snacks.) from General Mills on behalf of My BlogSpark. Here's how:

Mandatory: Leave a comment sharing your families favorite summertime snack and make sure to leave an email or a way I can contact you if you are the winner.

For more entries you can leave a comment for each of the following:
  • Become a follower of Spice and all That's Nice and leave a comment saying so. (if you are already a follower just say so)
  • Post about this giveaway on your blog and leave the link in a comment here.
  • Tell me what your favorite summertime activity is.

You must be 18 years old to win and live in the US.

You have until 10:00 PM MST June 7, 2010 10:00 PM MST June 8, 2010 to leave your comments. I will be doing the drawing after that and posting the results on Wed. June 8, 2010 June 9, 2010

*It may take a while to get your comments posted but, they will be by the deadline. My computer access is sketchy over the next couple of days.