Friday, January 29, 2010

Tea for Two....

Getting caught up in perfection can be haphazard to my health. Today the Little Chef found a tea set that I don't let the girls use very often. Not because there are Disney Princess' on it, but because it is breakable. Hmmmmm.

Usually I feel as though we need to plan for a party. Make or at least have some sort of cookie in the pantry. Get tea and honey out etc. Well, not today and not because of my own doing! The Lord orchestrated this very simple but terribly fun time!

This morning I saw a commercial amidst the news hour about a little girl having popcorn at her tea party. No fancy cakes, pastry or cookies. She was drinking fake tea. Yes, I know the commercial was an add for popcorn but I was allowed to see it at the right moment. To prepare me for my little ones plea...

So when the Little Chef ran in excitedly asking for a tea party and her older sister suggested apple juice and crackers, was there any doubt I would say yes? Actually, to be honest for a split second I thought no, we have this and that going on today ( blah, blah, blah). But I didn't say no and I'm so glad I didn't!

I was summoned to tea moments later. The Little Chef played "mother" and poured. We brought out some strawberry preserves to fill up any empty pots. She was dressed in this weeks favorite ball gown and we had tea. This in turn brought all the other ladies running for their turn at tea. Impromptu and so much fun!

Perfectionism get out of my way! I need to take tea with my Ladies.

Thank you dear Lord. You've taught my daughters and myself about spur of the moment hospitality and me to let go (a little bit more) of perfection.
julie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Double Whammy

Today is a double whammy. I wanted to show you how wonderfully yummy School Girl's bread turned and it's Works For Me Wednesday over at We Are That Family. My thought is: they learn to make it and I don't have too!


Fresh ground whole wheat flour. As simple as flipping a switch!



See how easy.



Preparing the yeast.

Milk makes for a tender crumb.

Honey and Olive Oil


A lot of flour.

Mom's inspection.

A little dough.

Wah La! Beautiful girl and delicious bread.

She made 2 loaves of sandwich bread, 1 loaf of cinnamon raisin and a batch of french boule.

WFMW Aprons! I use camp dry spray to repel liquids and messes.

Just spray it on a new or clean apron and hang outside to dry for a day or two.

Helps keep aprons looking great much longer!

So get some new cute aprons and keep your cute clothes drom getting ruined!

Do you wear aprons and how often?

julie

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Polls

And the 4 Sweet Sisters poll says! Look over to you right and answer my little survey. Sometimes we SAHM can feel like we are the only people going through whatever it is at the time. I know that I can feel very isolated at times. Anyhow, I was interested in knowing what your daily routines are like. I'll share mine next week! The good, the bad, the ugly. Hopefully more good than the other two!

The middle Chickadees and I are heading to the kitchen to make a batch of french boule bread and teach them how to make sandwich bread. Pictures to come! Farm Girl didn't have time to get to the heart wreath project. We'll update when that happens also.

julie

Monday, January 25, 2010

Getting Crafty

Oooooooooooo. I'm so into decorating the house for Valentine's Day. I never do, so this has come as a big surprise to me! Here at 4 Sweet Sisters frugal is the game. There are a ton of neat craft ideas out there, but the ole budget just wouldn't budge. So thinking cap went on and I headed to some of my favorite craft blogs(Skip To My Lou and Little Birdie Secrets). I usually do not dream up the wonderful ideas I post here, but I do tweak them to make them all mine.



So total cost was $5.00 for glitter and swirly hearts.





1st up: A rag heart wreath. I accosted all my FB friends looking for wire hangers and I had left over fabric from past projects. Farm Girl plans on making one after to school. I'll post her results later. (Bribery can be good!)




Next: Glitter! I'm in desperate need of a glitter fix and I can't get enough. It's the dieting. I've turned to glitter.


Can you see the red glitter? It really glistens in the sunshine.


Here's another wire wreath. This one was the tops of two pillow cases from my Craft Room storage curtains. I quickly stitched 2 rows and fed the coat hanger through.






And finally aren't these Love Birds cute? They are my year round salt and pepper shakers that Superman made me buy when I saw them on clearance. Almost to cute to use because you know what can happen in a house full of children. Mama can break the shakers!


I still plan to make a candle arrangement for our coffee table with canning jars and Conversation Hearts. I'm also looking for a cute front door wreath idea. It has to withstand a very hot and sunny southern exposure.


Any ideas? I really need to craft. Leave your ideas here with links please.

julie

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hope your weekend is going well. Quite damp and chilly here. A great day for crafting!

I wanted to post this link to Brandy's blog: The Prudent Homemaker . Her pantry rates up there with our neighbors from years past. Excellent pantry and great tips on canning, urban gardening etc. Hop over and enjoy!

I'll be back Monday with my craftiness! Have a beautiful weekend.

julie

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pantries

We officially ended our 2 weeks of eating out of our pantry. We did it with no problem at all. We could easily do a month, but I really don't want to deplete supplies I keep on hand. If we had gone a month I would have had to buy some milk and cheese. So that being said, we didn't spend any moola on food or other household supplies. We even had fresh produce (i thought i would have to buy) from our garden!

Today's topic (if you haven't guessed) is Pantries. Do you have one? Do you want one? Why have one?

I think we'll start with the why have it:
  • Plan meals in advance or on the fly.

  • When prices are high you can shop your pantry for deals you've already snagged.
  • Eases your burden in a financial crisis or lean times.

  • Prepared in case of short or long term emergency.

This is a short list( it could be much longer). The reason why we keep our pantry? All of the above and I grew up seeing my Mom and Grandmother do it. It makes great sense for any budget conscious family (aka us).

I remember going to my Grandmother's house and getting things out of a very long, narrow closet (which I think was made from part of a bedroom by my Grandfather) lined with shelves on one side. It was dark, cool and a lovely place to be in Florida. She never seemed to run out of anything!

My Mom used laundry rooms and extra cabinets as we were growing up. Now she has a small walk- in one in her kitchen and neat cubbies my Dad built years ago in their laundry room. The grandchildren always find what they are looking for and it's easier to keep treats out of sight.

My all time favorite pantry would have to be of our neighbor's, the West family. For a short while we lived in a small farming community in the Utah town of Pleasant Grove. People had acre lots with HUGE gardens and the apple orchards abounded! (We'd pick fresh apples on our walks home from school.) The West's had a dairy cows and would bring us fresh milk over every other day. Yumm!

One time their oldest daughter took me on a tour of their home. Their entire downstairs (semi- basement) was a pantry. Be still my beating heart! I think that's where my love of all thing homey, and agricultural may have come from. Seeing shelves lined with buckets upon buckets of dried fruits (ohh the cherries!). I'm getting all tingly just thinking about it. They also had lots of canned items and anything you would need to whip up a meal for 10 on the spur of the moment or for a year. What a lovely place.

They stored food according to their religious convictions, but I think we all can learn something from them and the Bible. Be as prepared as you know how and the Lord will provide the rest.

Types of Pantries:
Well if you don't have one there are so many ways to create one. You can start out small and grow larger as your needs grown and decrease if it becomes necessary.
  • plastic bins

  • crates

  • under bed storage boxes ( great for people in apartments)

  • book shelves,
  • dressers
  • armories


  • pickles and jellies and salsa Oh My!

      • closets (our's houses clothing not in use)
      These are my uncreative ideas. I'm sure there are many other types of containers and spaces that could be used...foot lockers, bedrooms, etc.
      This dresser was part of a bunk bed that we didn't need.

      Back to our reasoning. The past two years have brought very tense times at my husband's job. We've been on a roller coaster! Will they get rid of his department or will they keep it another year? Due to the strains on this agency we have lost income to help save jobs. So we took quite a hit and insurance etc. went up creating an even larger strain. But for the time being he is still employed and not far from retirement. (Superman is very young- he started his job at 21) So we decided to make a plan. Ways to keep us afloat if the bottom fell out.

      First we had been budgeting with a vengeance (and we have almost completed a long awaited goal). We also knew that we had a small savings. So we decided to take my bi-weekly shopping fund and really work the sales and co-ops to create a pantry that might sustain us 3 months.

      Sales!

      We then looked at where in our home this might take place. We decided to use a very small 8 x 10 bedroom and create a pantry/clothing storage/ gift giving center. We didn't want to spend any money to accomplish this so we looked around the house and garage for storage items. We found old bookshelves, plastic shelves, a dresser from a bunk bed set and armorie. We did end up finding one metal shelving unit on clearance for $19.99.





      I use a thermometer to keep an eye on my temperature and generally run the ceiling fan to move air. It's a work in progress. I'm glad we started it. I'm not sure if we will "always" have one of this size. But I think I'll always have one. It's in my blood.

      This pantry has been a huge blessing already. I can't control everything, but I've done what I can. I leave the rest in my Father's hands.

      Do you have a pantry? What do you store in yours? I'd love to hear from you!

      julie

      Tuesday, January 19, 2010

      So Much to say.


      Good Morning All! We had a wonderfully busy, four day weekend here. We started out our time together visiting a reenactment of Civil War life. We had a chance to here the cannons blow and the muskets crack. A little unnerving when your aren't prepared for it.






      All the Dads in our group were entranced. We learned about Morse code and the telegraph service. How to dress for day, evening and what type of hoop skirt was used for different activities. Everyone enjoyed some sarsaparilla, fried peas, parched corn and fry bread. The chickadees has lots of new ideas for ball gowns and bonnets. ( I think we will have a busy summer.)


      These were war refugees getting dressed for the day. The hairstyles were so intricate! Did you know that they made specific chairs for men and women? The hoops that women wore couldn't fit into chairs with arms. These chairs were also sold in pairs because married couples were the ones most likely to need them.

      After leaving the Raid we then headed to Bocia's to drop off Christmas gifts and check out her computer glitch. (Bocia, how do you like the new background? I did it in your honor.) We then gave Bocia kisses and headed onto my folks who had a Surf and Turf Birthday dinner waiting for us! School Girl and I both celebrated birthdays over the past week or so. The dinner was yummy. Poppy, you're the best at the bar-b-que!

      The next day I went to a couple of Thrift Stores alone. Didn't find much, but it was nice. I also had a great date night with Superman.

      Sunday was my official turn -- day! The Chickadees had the whole day planned after church. Urban Girl made a roast beef (from the freezer- remember our frugal pantry) and shrimp, banana splits and lots of other treats. She did a FABULOUS job! Thanks honey. She and her sisters also planned an In Home Spa Day. I'll leave out the description because this post is getting crazy. Here are some fun pics!



      These last nails WERE NOT a creation of 4 Sweet Sisters. Nope these were my lovely mother's idea. Gross, huh? Move over black olives! What can you do with shrimp tails!

      By Monday we were exhausted. No school was done, but I did sit down with our two oldest and go over monthly budgeting. We then set up their budgets and goals for the 2010. A nice fire, Meet Me in St. Louis and off to bed. What a wonderful time.

      Thank you to everyone who made it so special with cards, gifts, their time and shout outs on FB.

      julie

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      Pantry Update and Frugal Failures 2

      Before I show you my beautiful (boring) pictures of my Mini- Pantry I wanted to to share Frugal Failure #2. Yes, two in 1 week.....sigh......... stop by here to read one.

      Last Thursday night we took School Girl out for a special Dad and Mom dinner and a movie. I was so excited because I had a gift card for the restaurant she wanted to go to and the movie was only $4! Yep, I was pretty pleased with myself.

      We went to Chili's and ordered the 2 for $20 meal plus a meal for Superman. They proceeded to have a "who could eat the most salsa and not cry" contest while I basked in the glow of my frugal accomplishment. Dinner was yummy ( i walked that day). School Girl received her family ring that night and we enjoyed our desert; brownies, ice cream and chocolate. The waiter asked if we needed anything else and gave Superman the bill. I whipped open my gift card envelope, brought forth the golden card and handed it to my adoring Husband. He looks at the card then turned it over. "Uh, Babe."
      "Yes my sweet, Knight in Shinning Armor."
      "This card is only good for Olive Garden, Longhorns......"

      Crash and burn. I looked at my knight and just laughed! What could we do? So much for not spending any moola. We had a good laugh and now I have a gift card for my birthday! So much for being frugal.

      So here are the pics I promised of our Mini Pantry. I will post some later of our full size, but you'll have to wait. Right now we are sewing Civil War period dresses for a Raid we are attending this coming weekend.( i hope it's as neat as we think it will be.) They even have a Blue and Grey Ball and Ladies Tea.

      Looks much better than it did. Unfortunately I had to throw out a couple of items.
      I hid the Nutella! That stuff is tasty :)

      This is how I store beans for short term. I do keep larger buckets of some varieties in the "cellar". I also buy the HUGE 5 liter bottles of Olive oil because they are cheaper and I refill my smaller bottle when needed.
      Head over to Money Saving Mom for more tips and ideas. We have been eating some tasty meals and I really hope I don't have anymore frugal failures to share (at least for a couple of weeks).
      julie

      Friday, January 8, 2010

      Helping Those Who Serve Us

      We had the most wonderful day. The girls were asked to serve our Armed Forces by helping Operation Military Kids hand out dolls and picture dog tags to children of the parents and grandparents leaving on deployment. We heard the Governor of our state speak and shook hands and exchanged smiles with may of our military personnel.

      Everyone loved these dolls!
      There's a pocket were you put a picture of your loved one.



      A very special remembrance for our family of all those fine folks who are willing to serve our country. We pray for your safety and quick return.

      julie

      Thursday, January 7, 2010

      Frugal Failures

      Has anyone else had a Frugal Failure out there? Well, we sure did! Despite all my best efforts and preplanning I still went over budget for the holiday season. Hmmmmmmmm.( Truthfully, I think we do every year, but we take it out of short term savings and pretend it never happened. )
      Well not this year! Nope. We are going to buckle down and eat from our Pantry. The one that I, the Chickadees and Superman have created this past year.

      I've been meaning to post about this project and have even started posts and then things have come up that needed more attention. Well now is the time! Aren't you excited? I'm always up for a challenge. I thrive on them (most of the time).

      My goal is to eat out of our pantry, freezer and grain storage for at least two weeks. I do have moo la for produce and milk. I think the hardest part will be skipping the BOGO's and seeing things get depleted... I like this little safety net we've created, but I think we should see it in use. It will give us a chance to see what needs to be tweaked. Also, Money Saving Mom is doing it for a month with updates so, hop over there and check it out. ( I laughed when I saw the post, saying " no way, I'm not up for that right now".)

      Let me tell you what you won't find here: a full weekly menu. I 'm just not in that kind of place right now. I like creating on the fly and seeing what new things we can come up with. We're in a season were we can do this. I highly recommend bi-weekly menu planning and cooking once every two weeks if you're having trouble finding time to get meals on the table because of the crazy schedules that most of us face. That being said, I have thought of a couple of things we will be enjoying (ahead of time).
      So here's the 1st big step: Get the mini pantry in order!(yes we have a mini pantry now....)





      And if that wasn't bad enough! Here's a close up of all the junk that has come into our home over the holidays. P.s. we will be keeping most of it and weening ourselves slowly...

      See Superman's Cap'n Crunch? He gets that yummy (ugh) stuff every year for Christmas. Health Nuts turn away! Oooooooooooo and we tried Nutella. All I can say is , "Yummmmmmm!"
      Okay get a grip. Back to organizing and getting ideas for the next two weeks meal. I hope to post about our "real pantry" and how and why we decided to do it in a day or two (no not weeks)!
      So any Frugal Failures your willing to share and possible ways to remedy them? Love to hear from you.
      julie

      Tuesday, January 5, 2010

      Cross Training


      I guess I should have looked up the definition of Cross Training before I started this post. Since that would be to laborious, I've decided to give you my definition. (See the stuff you read online may not always be accurate.) Reader Beware!
      My definition is just this: Exercising 4 to 5 times per week using different muscle groups on opposing days.

      How am I going to accomplish this? Let me tell you... it has been a HUGE brain struggle! I've been warring with myself for a couple of months over this. My brain has finally won. I've decided to Nordic Walk 2 to 3 times a week and Swim 3 times a week. My body has become somewhat stagnant with just swimming and due to concerns over osteoporosis I needed to get in some bone building exercise.

      For Christmas I received a new pair of walking shoes and have really been trying hard to do my foot exercises each night. Urban Girl and I took our maiden walk on New Year's day (before I came down with the crud, again). It was great! It took very little time to adjust to the Nordic Poles.(bought a pair about 8 months ago when my foot was in really bad shape.) I originally bought them for extra stability in my walking, but they are also great for an upper body work out. I was huffing and puffing in no time!




      While we were out on the battle field I realized that swimming is definitely my favorite sport. When I get in the pool, even if I don't feel like working out. I still do it. I mean something in me just keeps going. With walking, when I get tired my brain says, "time to quit. Let's go home." I don't feel that surge to keep going. So adding this in will be a challenge for me.
      Also, there's the sweat factor. I know it is good for me, but I'm sweating at 40 degrees! GROSS!(I just needed to rant)
      The weather has been quite chilly down here so I won't be doing much swimming this month and with feeling puny walking has been on hold. I've also been warring with myself over changing my eating and where the accountability lies....... Yeah, deep I know.
      julie

      Monday, January 4, 2010

      Happy New Year!

      I hope all is well with you and yours? We have had a bout of illness over the holidays and I think I'm getting ready for another round. A doctors visit may be in order. Tonsillitis or Strep Throat, I don't know... I've been trying to diagnose myself all day.

      We started back to school today. So hard after a wonderful break. Yes, even with feeling sick we still had a great time as a family. Everyone was home on vacation. We received a Wii for Christmas and have been having a lot of fun with it. I feel like I'm at the bowling alley!

      The weather has been quite chilly here. Our nighttime temps are in the low 30's with daytime just at about 50 degrees. We don't buy clothing for chilly weather (so I look a bite strange in funky layers) and uh, we even forgot (until last night) that maybe we should put the heat on! We've had fires every night and during the days of the weekend. Superman has been cooking over the fire and having a great time. I've been cooking on my new Cuisinart panni maker! I love it! It makes some of the best sandwiches.

      My favorite: Tuscan bread, lots of of sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and a slice of black forest ham. Yum! I could eat it everyday.

      I would really like to blog more but I just can't at this point in time. I've thought about closing up shop but I still want to be here. So if you read me and like what you read you might want to put me in your favs or follow. There is really no rhythm or reason to when I get a chance to get on here. I miss being here, but it's time to go rest.

      julie