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Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Hooray for summer holidays! I would like to encourage everyone to take a moment from your burgers, watermelon and holiday sales to remember why we celebrate this holiday. I come from a long line of military servicemen. My brother is in the Army Reserve. My dad was in the Air Force. Four of my grandparents served in World War II. The list goes back to the Revolutionary War. I am proud of my heritage and the sacrifices that my ancestors made. They worked and struggled for a great cause. I am grateful for the countless other soldiers and their families who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy. Yes, I am well aware that there is a lot going on in America that should be better than it is. Sometimes our political leaders do things that I am very much ashamed of and make me want to vomit and/or clean something. Even so I am grateful for this beautiful land that I live in and the freedoms I enjoy. Often I get frustrated with the health care system, but then I remember my study abroad experience and think "Oh yeah, it could be much, much worse."
 Today I challenge you to do something to show your gratitude for the freedoms you enjoy. Teach your children what Memorial Day is all about, send your expired coupons to military families overseas, tell a Vet "Thank You", pay attention to the news or do anything to make this country a better place to show that you recognize that what we have is good and it is worth making better.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Progress on the Write It Out Project

 Unfortunately, this week has been far busier than anticipated. But I have one journal done and the others cut out. This is how I plan to spend a big chunk of my Memorial Day weekend. It seems appropriate. My first one is not perfect, but descent for someone who has almost no sewing skills, whatsoever. (In high school my mom wanted me to take sewing. I took Spanish and extra science classes instead. I don't regret it.)

Sunday evening update: All done!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Feeding Your Family Healthy Meals When You're Out of Energy

When I come home after being at work for 13 hours (sometimes longer), I generally do not have the energy to make a healthy balanced meal that my family is also interested in eating. Unfortunately when I get home from work is when my family is hungry and they've gotten to the point where they're impatient and irritable. If I don't act fast they'll have popsicles and popcorn for dinner, or worse, fast food. Here's some things that I do to prevent this, and I would really love to hear what everyone else does for those evenings when you're rushed.
  • Have a plan. I know that at least a few nights a week I'll be working or otherwise rushed, so I try to plan something when I do my grocery shopping.
  • Make a few freezer meals. You can just make a double batch of a family favorite and freeze half.
  • Breakfast for dinner. This is what we had last night. Waffles with fresh fruit. Another one I like to do is "omelets". Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheese and chopped bits of whatever meat I have in the fridge. Quick, easy and relatively healthy.
  • Salads! (Of course my kids won't eat these.) Lettuce, cottage cheese, dressing, chopped cooked meat, a few chopped veggies, and croutons can make for a fairly quick and a very satisfying meal.
  • Have a few meals that you always have all of the ingredients for. For my family, it's Hawaiian Haystacks. I cook and freeze brown rice ahead of time so that dinner can be made in the time it takes me to open a few cans and make some chicken gravy from a mix. (Using food storage really can make your life easier.)
  • Soup and sandwiches
  • Burritos- Refried beans, cheese, tortillas and enchilada sauce (This one is pretty much a staple at my in-laws.)
  • Here are a few more recipes that I use that can be prepared double quick if you have all of the ingredients ready: Hippie Tacos, Spicy Pasta with Broccoli, Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower and Thai Chicken Spinach Wraps
  • Here's a few that I haven't tried, but look like they will make my life easier when I do: Strawberry Poppyseed Salad, Chipotle Chicken Salad Sandwich and Potato Leek soup
What do you do?

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    The Power of Coupons

    I've been debating for awhile whether I should share this, I'm generally not the type who says "ooh, look what I did" (Then 'why do I even keep up a blog?' you may ask. I'm just hoping that the things I say are of use to someone out there.) But I decided that this is important enough to share.
    Last week while we were running errands my daughter told me that she wanted to buy toys for kids who don't have any. I'm ashamed to admit that my first thought was 'Mommy is trying to save money.' Then I thought 'No, this is the type of person that I want her to be. The kind of person who thinks about the needs of others. I can find a way to make this work.' The first place that I thought of where we can take toys for children without, was the DOVE Center. The DOVE Center is an local emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I called them to see if my plan would be feasible and to find out what things they were needing. They actually were desperate for toys and games and would also appreciate toiletry items and women and children's underwear. Then I took my coupons and let my daughter pick out some toys. We managed to get $10 worth of small toys for $1.83. Then we managed to find several packages of Disney themed underwear on clearance for $3 for a 5 pack and a few packages of plain women's underwear. Then I went through my "stash". In my stash I have many toys and games that I've gotten on clearance or other ridiculously great deals. I also have multiple toiletry items that I have gotten for less than a dollar (often for free) using coupons. I filled an over-sized department store bag with items that all total cost me less than $30 (much of which I had spent previously). Once it was gathered in one place she threw a tantrum because she wanted one of the new games and I tried to explain it was for kids who didn't have anything. She pouted for several hours about it.
      A few days later, we took our bag o' booty to the DOVE Center. It's kind of difficult to find, and I suppose it's that way for the safety of its victims. It looks like a nice little place, other than the fact that it's behind a very tall locked chain-link fence. The lady who came out to take our donation was very appreciative of things we brought. My daughter was disappointed because she wanted to give the toys to the kids herself. I tried to explain to her that the kids were hiding inside because they were safe there. I tried to explain that their daddies had done mean things so they had to hide. Her four-year-old mind did not seem able to wrap around this idea. I suppose in some ways that's a good thing. So the experience was not exactly what I had envisioned. I don't think my daughter  understands what it means to go without, and she doesn't really understand that there are people out there who are genuinely suffering. But hey, she's four. Hopefully this experience and others like it in the future will help her to be a better person. And the moral of the story is you don't have to have lots of money to help those in need. Coupons can do the job too.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    New reasons why you should have fish oil in your diet

    So we've all heard that we should have more fish in our diets. Studies have shown that it can help to reduce inflammation, regulate cholesterol, treat clinical depression and bipolar disorder, slow cancer growth and increase rates of survival. This week I read an article in a nursing journal that discussed two new studies about the benefits of fish oil. In the first study they gave 13 ICU patients with an inflammatory response fish oil mixed with their tube feedings. 10 similar ICU patients received the standard solution. The patients who received fish oil had improved lab values and shorter hospital stays. The researchers believe that the omega-3 fatty acids reduce the inflammatory response.
    The second study involved 81 adolescents and young adults who were at "ultra high risk" of developing a psychotic disorder. Some took fish oils, the others a placebo. After 40 weeks, on 5% who took fish oils developed a psychotic disorder, whereas 28% did from the placebo group. Those who took the fish oil also showed an improvement in symptoms with no adverse reactions. Omega-3's are crucial to brain function. The researchers conclusion was the fish oil is a safe way to prevent progression of psychotic symptoms. Moral of the story: Fish oil can can help you to heal faster and save your sanity. That's reason enough for me to start taking a supplement on a regular basis. (Right now there's a coupon for $2 off the Omega-3 gummy supplements at Costco if you're looking for a way to do this that doesn't give you fish breath.)

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Giveaway: 101 Things To Do With A Slowcooker

     Years ago I attended a class on crockpots given by my neighbor, Janet Eyring. (She's not my neighbor anymore since I have moved.) She is the one who opened my eyes to what an amazing appliance the crockpot is. I heart my crockpot. (The only difference between a crockpot and a slow cooker is that crockpot is a trademarked name of the Rival brand product.) Recently I realized that May's almost over and I haven't done a giveaway yet. Let's fix that. I'm going to giveaway a copy of 101 Things To Do With A Slowcooker by  Stephanie Ashcraft and Janet Eyring. There are three ways to enter: 1 Become a follower of Secrets of Mom and leave a comment (If you are already a follower, just leave a comment saying so.) 2. Follow me on twitter and leave a comment here saying you did so. 3. Share your favorite crockpot recipe.  Giveaway ends May 31st. Best of luck to you!
     Here's a recipe from her book that she taught us in her class. It's so simple and delicious. It can also be found at her website along with a few others.

    Easy Apple Crisp
    2 cans (21 ounces each) apple pie filling
    2 1/2 cups
    granola cereal
    1 1/2 teaspoons 
    1/3 cup sugar
    1/3 cup melted butter

    1. Spray the inside of a 3&1/2 or 4 quart crockpot. Dump in pie filling. 2. Put in remaining ingredients in the order listed. 3. Cook on low heat for three hours. 4. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
     *(I made this and then realized I was out of ice cream. And sorry the one pic I took wasn't great. It was late. Personally I like to eat it plain and cold for breakfast.)

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    13 Simple Secrets for Mommy

    It seems like as a mom there are always more things to do than there is time to do them. And it's very easy for "me-time" to dissipate, especially when your kids are small. Here are a list of little things that you can do that make yourself feel better, even when "me-time" is scarce. (Confession: This is list is a reminder for myself as much as anything.)
    • Exercise- Normally I am of the camp who doesn't pay for gym memberships, they are over-priced and I can exercise on my own for free. The problem is I usually don't. However I had a coupon for free membership at a local gym for a month and I may be hooked. The kids love to play with "new" toys and other kids for an hour and I get to exercise and sometimes read a book at the same time. I have more energy, I feel better, and it's good for me. Even if you don't want to pay for a membership try to squeeze some exercise somewhere. Running around with your kids at the park is a way that is fun and free.
    • Use lotion- It's a simple thing, takes 30 seconds, but when I don't, I notice. If you wash your hands a lot (like myself) and don't lotion you can get cracks in your skin that can lead to infection, not to mention they are uncomfortable even if they don't get that bad. Plus it smells good.
    • Eat healthy foods- I know when you're tired it's easier to open a box of instant whatever, however it's so much healthier to prepare things from scratch. And if you plan ahead of time it doesn't have to be very time consuming.
    • Pray- "And all things, ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive" Matt 21:22 I think this is especially true if we pray for strength to fulfill our responsibilities.
    • Drink water- My husband makes fun of me because it doesn't matter what his complaint is I ask him if he has been drinking enough water. Being dehydrated can make you tired, cause headaches and make any other problem you have worse. (Unless you're on dialysis.) Your body needs water to facilitate all processes in your body. However, when you're busy it's easy to forget your 8 glasses a day.
    • Take time for your friends- Your friends can help brainstorm solutions, give encouragement, new ideas and they need you as much as you need them!
    • Swap kids- I have a neighbor with kids of the same age and corresponding gender as my own. Every so often either her kids come over here or mine go over there. It is a great win-win situation. The kids have a great time and each of us get an hour and a half of quiet "me-time".
    • Listen to music- Listening to music can give you energy and it makes mundane chores so much more bearable.
    • Prioritize- Decide what is really important to get done and take things one at a time.
    • Be grateful- I know that I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. You don't have to look far to remember that things could be worse.
    • Don't compare yourself to others.- Focus on what you are accomplishing, not on what you haven't. Yes, the ironing never gets done, but my kids are happy, healthy and read to. And really that's far more important to me.
    • Take a cold shower.- Or at least turn the water to cold for the last 10 seconds of your shower. It's great for your skin and can give you a quick boost of energy without caffeine.
    • Get enough sleep- I know this is easier said than done, but as one who has put in her time on the night shift, I can say from experience that you will be a better mom and get more done if you are not sleep deprived.

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Recipe Blog Hop

    Today I came across a great idea started by Trying Our Best: a recipe blog hop. Go check out the great recipes that people are sharing by clicking on the link above.  So much happiness and yumminess. Plus there is a giveaway involved.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    The Crockpot is a Divinely Inspired Appliance

    Anyone who knows me knows that I love my crockpot. It is one of those things that makes my life easier. Now that summer is approaching and I live in St George, I will probably be using it even more. Awhile ago I came across this blog: One woman (Stephanie O'Dea) decided to make it a New Year's Resolution to use her crockpot every day for a year, and she kept going. And this is where she shares her results. And her's is not the typical throw some meat & cream o' something soup in the crock fare. She aims for healthy eating. All of her recipes are gluten free unless otherwise indicated. Looking through her recipes can help give you some ideas and help you out of a 'cooking rut', while saving time and money. She also wrote a book, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking, which is a selection of the best recipes from her blog. She has so many great ideas, it is going to take me awhile to try even half of the ones I'm interested in.
     Last night I made her BBQ Chicken & Cornbread. It was a winner with the adults. I think I'm going to make this the next time I have someone over for dinner. It was simple, yummy, satisfying and healthy too. My picky children wouldn't try it, but then they are ridiculously picky. My version is below. A couple things: I forgot to spray the crock before hand. You definitely want to spray your crock. Second, after I started making it I realized that I didn't have frozen corn, so I used canned corn. It was good, but I think frozen would work better.

    BBQ Chicken & Cornbread
    1 lb grilled chicken
    1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
    1/2 red onion diced 
    1 cup frozen or fresh corn 
    1 carrot, sliced
    1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce (18 oz) 
    1/4 cup hot water

     Cornbread topping:
    3/4 cup corn meal 
    1 1/4 cups of flour (I did not use gluten-free) 
    1 cup milk 
    1/4 cup sugar 
    1 egg 
    1 tsp baking powder (only if using regular all-purpose flour)

    1. Spray you crock with non-stick cooking spray. 2. Mix first five ingredients. Pour hot water into BBQ sauce bottle. Shake it a couple times before pouring into BBQ mixture and stirring. 3. Mix cornbread topping ingredients. (It should be slightly lumpy.) 4. Spread topping over BBQ mixture. 5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until cornbread is done. (I cooked mine on low for 5 1/2 hours and then high for 30 minutes because I was getting impatient.)

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Helping Your Kids to Discover the Outdoors

    Most  people will agree that children these days need to play outside more. It's one of those few noncontroversial parenting topics. But even for nature lovers it can be easier said than done. Recently I read an article in Salt Lake Tribune by Melissa Rayworth, that gave some ideas to overcome obstacles to your children discovering the outdoors.
    • Team up with other parents of children in the neighborhood to take turns supervising outdoor play.
    • Have outdoor picnics after work.
    • Research your neighborhood. What are the crime stats? How safe is it? Is there something that can be done to improve the safety?
    • Mandate that every hour of screen time is balanced by an hour of play time. Stick to it.
    • Take a walk after the rain. Point out the changes in the environment.
    • Offer open-ended toys that encourage creativity- i.e. a ball, a magnifying glass, a shovel and spade, etc.
    • Accept the fact that your kids are going to get dirty. Don't make a big deal of it.
    • Start a tiny garden, even if it's only a couple seeds, it gives you the opportunity to teach your children about how things grow.
    • Don't wait until you have a full day free. Even if it's 15 minutes an small outdoor excursion is beneficial for your kids.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Planning a Long Road Trip on a Budget

     This summer my brother is getting married. Hooray for him! Halfway across the country. Murg. No stay-cation for us this year. (I am married to a high school teacher who when the school year is done will go back to being a full-time student. And as it turns out there are almost no differences between being married to a teacher and being married to a student. Either way money's tight.)  I checked out airlines and they would be way too much. So we're planning a road trip. Even if gas goes up to $4 per gallon, it will cost a third of what it would to fly. Here are some ways that I plan on making it work:
    • Plan stops- We've charted out our destinations based on fun things to do. I've been booking our hotels online based on these. I like to use the travel options on the Upromise website. It's a fairly quick way to compare hotel prices. For example, I snagged one 2 1/2 star hotel in Denver for $25 a night, plus the Upromise rebate. I'm certain I would not get a deal that good if we just grabbed something as we rolled into town.
    • Plan snacks- I've been slowly stocking up on snacks that are cheap (several even free with coupons.) I know I've already saved a ton versus buying everything right before we go, or even worse in gas stations along the way.
    • Find coupons ahead of time- Again planning required. We'll spend a couple days in Chicago, so when the Entertainment Books went on sale for $7.50 shipped, I bought one. Even if we only use one of the coupons I'll get my money's worth. Some cities also have printable coupons available online for various attractions.
    • Prepare the car- Right before we leave I'll have the oil changed, the tires rotated and inflated so we'll get the best possible mileage.
    • Plan entertainment- Aside from planning lots of fun stops in order to make a week of sitting in the car bearable for my kids, I've been planning car entertainment. New toys and books will hold their attention longer. I snagged some Sponge-Bob books last week from B&N, which I know will be a hit.
    • Leave the unnecessary behind- Space is limited in a tiny car with great mileage.
    • The cooler is your friend- We found the best way to go is to fill it 1/2-2/3rds full with frozen solid drinks. (Caprisuns and Kool-Aid Bursts work well.) Fill the remainder with other drinks and snacks. This way you don't deal with melted ice and you don't get water in your food. The frozen drinks keep the other things cool, and when they melt you have more chilled drinks. We've done this several times and found that frozen Caprisuns will stay at least slushy in a cooler for at least 5 days if you keep the lid shut.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Book Review: Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies

    Navigating Your Health Benefits for Dummies is actually more of a booklet than an actual book. I think that it is worth the read for most people. When I started at my first job with benefits I didn't know much about health insurance and I found that most people I asked didn't have a clue either. After several years in the health care industry, I have managed to learn most of the information that was found in this booklet on my own, but it sure would have been nice to have all of this info in one convenient place when I was starting out. You can get this handy booklet for $1.20 from Amazon, or you can get it for free by signing up at this link: (The perk with Amazon is that it will get to you several weeks earlier.) It's short, easy to read and to the point. If you are just starting out or trying to get a handle on you health benefits, I highly recommend reading this book. It outlines what to expect of your health insurance, different kinds of plans, defines those crazy abbreviations you hear thrown around and gives tips on saving money. Here's a list of ways you can save money on your health care from this book.
    • Find the plan that best suits you. Don't pay for what you're not going to use and make sure you have sufficient coverage.
    • Maximize you health benefits. If they offer free vaccinations, use them.
    • Enroll in a tax-advantaged account (HSA or FSA)
    • See if your health-insurance company or employer offers an incentive program for getting fit. Many do.
    • Order generic prescriptions by mail.
    • See doctors from you network. This can save you a lot of money, check before you go.
    • Take advantage of Open Enrollment. This is the time to make necessary changes.
    • Speak up about your claims. The people at your insurance company are human. Sometimes they make honest mistakes. Recently my daughter's claims kept bouncing back unpaid. After some investigation I discovered it was because somewhere along the way her name was spelled wrong. Problem solved, money saved.
    • Pursue special discounts. Sometimes you can get discounts through your insurance company on gym memberships, smoking cessation programs and massage therapists.
    • Stay Healthy. Relish your good health. It's a wonderful thing and do your best to make it last.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Crafting with a Purpose: The Write It Out Project

    Yesterday I came across a service project that sounded so awesome I committed before I thought whether or not I was getting ahead of myself. The Write It Out Project was started by an Iraqi War widow who wanted to do something to help other military widows out there cope with their loss. So she decided to enlist as many women as she can to make handmade journals for these women. This is such an awesome idea. I am a firm believer that writing is a great way to deal with stress. I was so excited I committed to making five before I even looked at the instructions. Oh shoot, I don't craft and I don't own a sewing machine. But if ever there was a reason to craft, this is it. Here is a tutorial with pictures. (It doesn't look that hard.) So I'll give it a shot. And since I committed to making these journals there is now an option where you can help, no crafting involved. You can donate a few dollars to pay for shipping. Plus extra bonus, there is a giveaway involved! When you donate money for shipping, commit to making journals, blog about the service project, comment on the prizes or become a follower of We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ you can be entered into a giveaway to win one of several very cute patriotic themed prizes. Hooray for prizes! But that's not why I'm saying this, sure great bonus, but the real reason is I am so very grateful for our servicemen and women and their families. Yes, our country is not perfect, but I am so grateful for the freedoms that we have. And those freedoms come with a price, a very high one in fact. We have the freedoms that we have because of the sacrifices of the millions of young soldiers since this country was founded, many who sacrificed their lives leaving many loved ones behind. I am asking anyone who possibly can to get involved. If you craft, fantastic! If not, donate or spread the word.

    Saturday, May 15, 2010

    Jumping on the Bandwagon

    OK friends, I've finally joined twitter. If you care to know the details about what I'm doing to try to save money and my sanity check it out here. Fill free to throw me a tweet.

    Friday, May 14, 2010

    Book Review: Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day: Proven Secrets of the Potty Pro

     I read Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day: Proven Secrets of the Potty Pro by Teri Crane a few years ago when I was contemplating potty training my daughter and thought I would revisit as I'm hopeful that my son will soon be ready. (According to her quiz he is, but my children tend to be stubborn.) This book has some great pointers and ideas, but it's a little deceptive. You can't actually completely potty train your child in one day. Like any new skill it takes practice. The "one day" is an elaborate party that involves getting really excited about your toddler using the toilet. Not that I'm against getting excited about these developments, I just think that the one day party involves more work than stretching it out.  If you are aching to throw a potty party she does provide lots of ideas. I would say this book is worth reading, but not necessarily worth buying. (Unless you're shopping at B& or Amazon and you need to spend a few more dollars so you get your free shipping, then by all means.)
     Here are some important points found in this book
    • Don't try to train your child until they are ready. (Waking up dry, asking to be changed, bowel control at night, showing interest in the toilet are a few signs.)
    • Don't potty train before or after any big changes in your child's life. (New siblings, move, change in daycare teachers, etc.)
    • Flushable wipes, footstools and foaming hand-soap are your friends and worth the extra money. Trust me.
    • NEVER punish a child for having accidents. It will only make the problem worse. (Sometimes I've seen patients who had something physically wrong with them and couldn't control the frequent accidents whose parents tried to punish them into bladder control. So sad.)
    • Teach first, then train. Let them watch you use the toilet. Read a few books about using the potty. Model using a doll.
    • Play games while on the potty to help make it fun. (Blow bubbles, play I spy, etc.)
    • Make sure your child is very well hydrated to increase their chances of success.
    • Keep a record of your child's bowel and bladder habits for awhile before training to get an idea of what their normal patterns are.
    • Don't make a big deal about accidents, they're just learning. Do make a tremendous deal about successes.
    • Enlist the help of others. (Whenever my daughter had a success we called Grandma to tell her. Grandma was very willing to tell her how fantastic that was.)
    • Find rewards that are meaningful to them. For my daughter it was new Disney movies and a trip to the zoo. I have a friend who every time he successfully used the potty he got to call "Spiderman". (She would call her husband at work who would disguise his voice.) That was more effective than treats or toys. Years later he still believes that he actually talked to Spiderman.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    More Ways to Save Money that are Good For the Environment

    My last list on this topic was fairly popular, so I decided to dig up a few more ideas. Many of these require a little more effort, but most not really that much more. And isn't doing your part worth a little effort?
    1. Refill your printer ink cartridges- I only started doing this in the few months and I feel like a sucker that I was paying so much for ink all of those years.
    2. Compost- Why not make good use of your kitchen scraps and pulled weeds instead of taking up space in a landfill? You can use those things to improve your soil and grow a better garden. Composting is much cheaper than buying soil and additives and is often of better quality.
    3. Eat more fresh vegetables- Switching to a vegan diet does more to decrease global warming than buying a hybrid car. Am I suggesting you do this? No. But decreasing the meat in your diet and increasing the vegetables and whole grains will improve your health, save you money and help the planet a little too.
    4. Learn to make things yourself- Recently my husband came home from work and said that he needed a hobby to take out his frustrations that didn't involve torturing his high school students. His plan- make a few pieces of wood furniture. Boy, am I excited. Even if he only makes the first two items on the list it will more than cover the cost of the tools, plus no packaging and I can use the sawdust for the compost pile. So far he has made a shelf which has made a small dent in the clutter in my home. :) Now this is not the answer every time, but if you can makes things for yourself there is a lot of potential money savings and it can be good for the environment as well.
    5. Pay your bills online- Save paper, clutter and postage.
    6. Use less heat/air conditioning- Turn it off when you're out of town. Turn it down at night or when you're away. Consider a programmable thermostat or installing a few ceiling fans.
    7. Potty train your toddler- Easier said than done. But think about how much money you'll save when you don't have to buy diapers. Disposable diapers are not recyclable and they're a huge contributor to landfills. Forcing a child before they're ready is not really effective, but you can still strongly encourage. (Almost every day my son tells me he wants to sit on the potty. He sits there long enough to eat his gummy bear and then we're done. Perhaps someday we'll get more results.)
    8. Use the cruise control button- This can give you up to 15% better gas mileage.
    9. Plan errands to avoid driving back and forth across town. Group them together.
    10. Fix things that aren't preforming at their best. A few months ago I got a new dishwasher, and while I was excited to have a dishwasher again, it's performance was somewhat lacking. Everything had to be pre-rinsed and put on the soak cycle, plus I usually had to wash things a few times. Finally I called a repairman. He was amazed that it worked at all. He fixed a valve and we are in business. It was under warranty so I didn't have to pay for the visit, but I was annoyed with myself that I didn't do it earlier. I could have saved a lot of time, energy and detergent if I had called him months ago. This principle applies to more than dishwashers.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    The Bean Jar- Simple, yet Effective

    I had been thinking for awhile that my kids are ready for some kind of reward system (they're four and two), but they're not ready to manage money and I don't want to bribe them with candy for every little thing. I was considering making some kind of chore chart when I read a short little article about a bean jar. I took a simple mason jar and a bag of beans and we are in business. Every time a bed is made, bean in the jar. A bean for each child who can make it through an errand trip without whining. A bean for each workbook page completed. Five beans for cleaning a bedroom. Throwing hymnals at your sibling in church means that beans will be taken away. (You would think I drowned a puppy for how traumatized they get when I take a bean out of the jar.) When the jar is full they get to pick a prize. Possible prizes: go swimming, Jumpin' Jacks, picking an item from the dollar store, a new book, go to a movie. We've been doing this for a couple weeks and I'm amazed at how well it is working. Sometimes my daughter gets up before the sun to make her bed and get a bean. Even my son will sometimes cooperate if he's rewarded with a bean. After starting I decided that they probably don't have the patience to get the jar full, so I made several lines on the outside with a Sharpie. At each line they get to pick a prize also.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    "This is the best day of my life."

     Check out this story. The Make A Wish Foundation is so awesome. Just wanted to share.

    "Engagement" Lemon Bars


    Random story about my mother-in-law and myself: When we were in high school my husband's house was the place to hang out. I think a part of this was because my mother-in-law is a such a cookie queen. (Slightly related secret: If you want to know what your kids are doing, provide food. The teenagers will show up and sometimes they'll even talk to you.) It certainly wasn't because their house was centrally located. Usually she made chocolate chip cookies and brownies, which aren't so much my thing. Then one day she made these amazing lemon bars. I told her that I would almost marry her son for the recipe. We weren't even dating at the time. She gave me the recipe and made me a batch of them for my birthday every year until I did marry her son. (Now she makes cheesecake for my birthday which is even better.) I heart my mother-in-law.
     I can not count how many times I have made these. It has become a tradition that whenever my best friend and I have a girl's night we make these. They are also my go-to thank you gift for anyone who has helped me move. They are so yummy, especially if you are of the persuasion who craves lemon over chocolate, like myself. When I make them I cut down the butter and white sugar from the original recipe. What you see is the lowest amount of butter you can get away with without changing the results. I also took out a 1/2 cup of white flour and substituted oat flour. It seems to work better. If you want your lemon topping to a slight crunch to it, substitute one tablespoon of wheat flour for one of the tablespoons of white flour (Don't worry you won't lose its characteristic yummy gooeyness, it will just have thin crunchy layer on top.)

    Engagement Lemon Bars

    1 1/2 c all purpose white flour
    1/2 cup oat flour
    3/4 cup melted butter
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Lemon Topping:
    Juice and rind of one lemon
    4 Tablespoons all purpose white flour
    4 eggs
    1 1/2 cups white sugar
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    powdered sugar for dusting

    1. Spray 9x13" pan with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit 2.Mix together crust and press into pan with a fork. 3. Bake for 8 minutes. (Crust won't be completely done, but it will cook more later.) 4. While crust is baking beat lemon topping ingredients with a hand mixer.5. When crust is done pour lemon topping over it and return to the oven for 30 minutes. 6. Once cooled dust with powdered sugar. Served best chilled.

    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Tricks with Hydrogen Peroxide

    I hope that everyone had a great Mother's Day.
    My mother-in-law recently sent me a list of uses for 3% hydrogen peroxide, plus I added a few more that I thought were helpful. It's amazing what can be done with a bottle that costs less than a dollar. Everything I listed I have either tried, know someone who has tried or I have found enough research to support it, unless otherwise indicated. The ones we haven't tried aren't going to do any harm. It seems that hydrogen peroxide is safe and helpful, but if swallowed undiluted it can make you very sick.

    1. To get rid of canker sores and whiten teeth- Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle) and hold in your mouth for 1 minute daily, then spit it out... (Small print says mouthwash and gargle right on the bottle.) However, you should not use this as a mouthwash long term, if used extensively it can soften teeth and damage gums.
    2. If a dog has swallowed a harmful substance (e.g., rat poison), small amounts of hydrogen peroxide can be given to induce vomiting.  (About 2 tablespoons) Haven't had a reason to try this, but I have read this in several places.
    3. If a dog has been sprayed by a skunk, mix a large bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a 1/4 cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of dish soap. Thoroughly scrub skunk victim with solution, several times. Do not add water because that activates the skunk smell.
    4. Let your toothbrushes soak in a cup of H202 to keep them free of germs. 
    5. Clean your counters, table tops with peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dish rag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters. 
    6. After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour peroxide on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria. 
    7. Spray a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water on feet (especially the toes) every night and let dry to get rid of athletes foot and other foot fungus.   
    8. Soak any infections or cuts in 3% peroxide for five to ten minutes several times a day. Reportedly it can effectively treat gangrene. Although recent research has shown that wounds treated with hydrogen peroxide are more likely to scar.
    9. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and water and keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without harming your septic system like bleach or most other disinfectants will. 
    10. If you like a natural looking highlights in your hair, spray the 50/50 solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You will not have the peroxide burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages, but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, reddish, or dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually so it's not a drastic change.    
    11. Put half a bottle of peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus, or other skin infections. (This one I haven't tried, but I don't think it will hurt.)
    12. You can also add a cup of peroxide instead of bleach to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. It is effective in getting out grass stains and grape juice. Oxiclean is essentially hydrogen peroxide.
    13. Use peroxide to clean mirrors without smearing or streaking. 
    14. It is used to whiten bones that are put on display (who besides paleontologists are putting bones on display? That's kind of creepy.) 
    15. Some horticulturalists advocate the use of weak hydrogen peroxide solution ("Spanish water") in watering solutions. Its chemical action releases oxygen that enhances a plant's root development and helps to treat root rot and a variety of other pests. 
    16. Use as a vegetable wash or soak to kill bacteria and neutralize chemicals.
    17. Clean with hydrogen peroxide when your house becomes a biohazard after its invaded by toxic mold, such as those with water damage. Careful as it can lighten the colors of most things it comes in contact with.
    18. And of course hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning up blood. If applied immediately and rinsed, it can take it out of clothing and carpets without staining. However, it does make said item wear out faster and can lighten the color. But better that than blood-stains.  

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    A few things everyone should know about the Emergency Room

    I have never worked in the ER, but as a pediatric nurse a large percentage of our patients come from there. So we periodically look at the ER census board for patients under the age of 18 whose condition warrants an admit. Between that and just life and general it seems that there are many people who could learn a few things about the ER (or ED as it is sometimes called.)

    The Emergency Room is the most expensive way to receive care. On the unit I work on, when there aren't patients to care for, the staff get sent home, and we don't have a doctor on the unit. That is not the case in the ER. They have to pay their nurses and doctors to be there at all times, because you never know what or when something is going to walk through the door. This is the case even when there aren't any patients, because the situation can quickly change. ER charges high rates because you are paying for availability.

    There are many "emergencies" that can be taken care of at an Instacare.   The Instacare is usually a little more expensive than a traditional office visit, but vastly less expensive than an ER visit. The Instacare will generally be open much later than a traditional office. A few months ago my son put a hole in his forehead with my fireplace. I managed to get him to the Instacare twenty minutes before they closed. They stitched him up and we were out within 30 minutes. It cost me $40. If I had gone to the ER, I would have had to pay a $150 co-pay, plus a percentage of the costs of whatever tests or procedures you have done. And it has been my experience that the ER would have taken me a lot longer than 30 minutes. When my patients come up from the ER, it is pretty common for them to wait for hours before anything is actually done. Once I was in a car accident and taken to the ER. I was the only patient there and I still waited for an hour before anyone saw me.
     A few of the things that can often be taken care of at the Instacare: Large cuts, simple bone fractures, sprains, food poisoning, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fevers, bladder problems, headaches and blood pressure issues.

    Poison Control is a great resource. If your child has eaten or drunk anything they shouldn't, call poison control. That number is 1-800-222-1222. That's the number wherever you live in the United States. Even doctors sometimes call Poison Control for advice. I'm not sure how it works other places, but I know that in Utah, the Poison Control center is staffed by pharmacy students. It's part of their training. Calling Poison Control is free and the staff can often tell you if your situation is really emergent. 72% of Poison Control callers are treated safely at home. I've called them before, they're very nice and very helpful.

    The ER is not your primary care provider. Do not go to the ER for hangnails. (Yes, I have seen that as a diagnosis on the ER board.) If you are going to the ER on a regular basis, (I had a patient once, who averaged five ER visits a month.) you need to find a regular doctor. Someone who knows your story before hand, can look at the whole picture and help you with your problems.
     I realize that there are many people who go to the ER because they don't have insurance and can't afford to visit a traditional doctor and the ER won't (can't) turn them away. I think that many people don't realize that there are programs out there to help. Ask your local doctors office or your local health department. If you have a legitimate need there are resources to help. It is more cost effective for the government to assist you with your medication payments than to pay for weekly ER bills. When people go to the ER and it is not an emergency, they are increasing the cost of healthcare for everyone. Besides that, they are delaying treatment for those who really need it. Injuries and even death have been caused by excessive wait times in the ER.

    Call your doctor's office. Often they can tell you over the phone is something they can treat or if it is something that must be taken care of in the Emergency Department. And they're even cheaper than the Instacare.

     Reasons you should go to the ER 
    • Vomiting blood
    • Symptoms of a stroke
    • Chest pain that is not relieved by anatacids (suspected heart attack)
    • Abdominal pain
    • Trauma
    • Overdose
    • New onset seizures
    • Respiratory distress
    • Significant loss of blood
    • Any health problem that is actually an emergency
    Go where you can be treated. One more thing that I don't think that most people realize is that you need to go to a facility that has the capability to treat you (if you possibly can). For example there was a community hospital that I worked at occasionally in their Mother/Baby unit. Most serious cases coming to their ER are transported to another facility, because they have no ICU, no Pediatric unit and limited surgical options. I've seen many patients who go there and then are surprised and upset that they have to pay for an ambulance ride to a bigger hospital (which is where I would see them, as I worked there too). (I don't say this to disparage this hospital. It is a great hospital with awesome staff. They take very good care of their L&D patients, and took great care of my mom when she had her minor surgery there. But I wouldn't take my child there in an emergency. It's only 10 minutes to a hospital that has everything you need.)

    Use your common sense. Oh, and if your instinct (not your panic mode, but your instinct) tells you that the situation warrants an ER visit, go with it. Many lives have been saved by following "instinct", when other signs did not indicate an emergency.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Book Review: Book of Secrets

    I bought Book of Secrets by Thomas Eaton  for my husband as a stocking stuffer last year. It's a fun little book. It's small enough that I can fit it in the pocket of my scrubs and when I'm on hold trying to get a hold of the pharmacy or a physician I can pull it out and read a page or two. It's somewhat of a random conglomeration of secrets, much like my blog. It's full of quotes and mini articles on all kinds of subjects. There are articles about cooking, bargain-hunting, weight loss and travel. There are also many articles about the secrets of famous people in history, politics and abandoned subway stations in New York City. (Really the author spends more time on this topic than any other.) It was definitely worth the read and possibly something that I'll reference in the future.The egg post that I wrote earlier this week was based on info that I learned from this book. Here's a list of a few of the random secrets that I learned in my reading.
    • Overheating non-stick frying pans can cause them to release potential carcinogens, tiny particles and toxic gases that can get into the lungs.
    • Pre-packaged salad is most often washed in a strong chlorine solution, so even though the package says that it's been washed, it's best to wash it again anyway.
    • To re-bake a cold potato without it drying out, dip it in water before baking it in a very hot oven for 15 minutes.
    • Only shop for clothes on Thursday, that's when most store get their new stock.
    • You can greatly reduce the cooking time of wild rice by soaking it overnight.
    • Taking your daily vitamins with tea or coffee prevents them from being absorbed.
    • Research has shown that shiitake mushrooms lower LDL cholesterol and can halt advanced cancers.
    • A high-protein meal can immediately boost your memory.
    • If you're looking for a husband move to the country. Research shows that there are more single women in the city and more single men in rural areas.
    • Applying a thin line of concealer around the outside edge of lips can give them more definition.

    Wednesday, May 5, 2010

    Someone Who Inspires Me

    Whether or not you are LDS, it's hard not to feel inspired by Stephanie Nielson and her story. Every mother should watch this video. It will remind you of what's really important. If you're interested her blog is

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    The Many Secrets of Eggs

    Lately I've been reading Book of Secrets, which I'll tell you more about when I finish. One mini-article that I found to be helpful was The Many Secrets of Eggs. Here they are:
    • Fresh eggs will have a rough chalky texture to the outside of the shell; the older the eggs, the smoother the shell
    • To see how fresh an egg is put it in a glass of water. If it lays down horizontally it is 1-2 days old. 45 degree angle=7-10 days old. If it stands up vertically it is much older than that.
    • If you shake an egg and you feel movement inside it is old. As the moisture content of the egg diminishes over time the air pocket inside grows bigger.
    • Slightly older eggs are better for hard boiling. Shells of very fresh eggs are harder to remove and fresh eggs also take longer to boil.
    • When cracked into a pan a fresh egg's yolk will be almost spherical, the older the egg, the flatter it will be.
    • Fresh eggs are best for separating yolks from whites, because the membrane surrounding the yolk disintegrates with age.
    • Never beat egg white in an aluminium bowl, it will turn them gray.
    • If you have leftover egg whites it is fine to freeze them.
    • Eggshells are very porous. Storing them near anything with a very strong aroma can taint their taste. But the paper mache cartons will absorb most odours.
    • Once you have taken hardboiled eggs off the stove, place them under a running tap until the water is cold. This stops the eggs from cooking in theoir own heat and prevents the yolk from getting that greenish grey coating.
    • If you cook eggs fresh straight from the fridge they will be much tougher than if you let them get to room temperature first.
    • When boiled, eggs straight from the fridge are less likely to crack. Use a small pan allowing for less room for them to bump around.
    • Adding a spoonful of vinegar to the water you boil the eggs in protects the shells and prevents them from cracking.
    • If you have a hot liquid that you are thickening with eggs, make sure that you let it cool before adding them, otherwise they will cook before they can be whisked in.
    • A pinch of cream of tartar added to eggs before whisking will make them much fluffier.
    • Cooking eggs at a high heat makes for tough eggs.
    • For perfect scrambled eggs always slightly under-cook them. They will continue to cook in their own heat as you serve them.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    More Great Web Sites and Blogs

    This weekend I realized that there are several blogs I have been reading lately that I hadn't linked to on my site. A mere oversight, I wasn't trying to hoard the savings to myself. (That situation has been remedied.) Also, fyi, although I always love scoring a good deal, it's not something I foresee myself blogging about much. There are other people out there who are better about keeping up on the latest and hottest deals. I'll just let them do it and continue to reap the benefits. I prefer to talk about things that will be useful weeks and months and years from now. Anywho, here are my latest blog-finds for money saving and general making life better.

    All About Food Storage 
    Coupon Cookin'
    Couponing to Disney
    Freebies 2 Deals
    Mama Cheaps
    Money Saving Mom
    Mrs. Moneysaver
    Simple Mom
    That Went Well...