Friday, December 28, 2007

New Year's Organization Begun!

Pantry after cleaning

Pantry before cleaning

Laundry after cleaning

Laundry before cleaning

I spent my afternoon getting a jump on the New Year by starting my decluttering, cleaning and organizing early. I started with my laundry area and my pantry. (We rent a duplex that has seen better days, doors have fallen off both areas so often we just stopped putting them back on and yes the laundry is in the kitchen but at least it isn't in the garage. I also miss having a large sized pantry but at least I have one. )

I don't know that you can see the difference in the pictures but it makes a huge difference in person. It is a good feeling to look at the progress. Now I have to do the rest of the house.

Tip: It doesn't have to be overwhelming to declutter. Just start with one area, remove anything you don't want in that area (empty/old/expired/unused things or things that just were put there and really belong somewhere else). Put all that aside as we will come back to that later. Now you should have created a little bit of room to work. Put like items together. (I have cleaning supplies on one end of my laundry shelf and laundry supplies at the other.)Condense anything at all possible. Line things up nicely and clean as you go. When the area is done, go back to the things that you removed and find homes for them. I removed, one kitchen gadget, paper towel, coke and care car things from the floor infront of the laundry area. The gadget found a home in the newly organized pantry. The coke went into the fridge, the paper towel fit on the newly organized shelf above the laundry and the car care went out to the garage where it belonged in the first place. On top of the washer and dryer: removed and put downstairs in storage a faux chicken, put up on the shelf above; a stack of craft paper (put with other craft supplies in the middle), removed and put with cook books some paper kitchen help tools, removed and found a home on the above shelf- phone books, removed and found a home in a kitchen cabinet- an indoor grill gadget, removed (and in a perfect world mended) mending. Removed and put above with other craft items- paper cups holding water color paints.

The pantry was handled the same way. I really didn't get rid of much but just going in and organizing made all the difference. I have all my starches on one shelf, baking/seasoning on one, etc. and a clear floor.

I think I've said, earlier this month, in another post (when I was decluttering my 3 year old's room- December 6th, Clearing The Clutter) that I usually don't let things get this bad/cluttered but I've just let this home go and am paying for it now. But bit by bit is how you take control. Anything that comes into cleaned areas needs to be put properly away and not just dumped.

Do any of you have any projects like this to tackle? How do you work through it?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

For more Wordless Wednesdays go to .

Massive Turkey Leftovers

Okay, one medium turkey plus 2 adults and 4 children (after snacking on goodies all day) equals a lot of left over turkey. We cooked the bones for soup stock but what the heck do we do with the meat? I got three freezer bags full in the freezer. Any one got any good recipes?

I Have An Awesome Husband!

I didn't get diamonds, furs, fancy perfume or European chocolates for Christmas. I got COOKWARE! I LOVE IT! My old set that we got when we got married 14 some years ago was slowly on its way to the grave.

My husband wasn't sure that I'd like the cookware as it is so practical. But I am so thrilled. Now I can at least look like I can cook. LOL! The only downside is that they are a shiny stainless steel so my reflection can clearly be seen in them. I'll need to cook in full makeup and my best clothes now that I have to look at myself all the time. LOL!

I told my DH that the only better gift would have been Rachel Ray herself. (As a live in cook.) I even said her husband could come with her. LOL!

Chirstmas Eve Tradition: The Family Gift

We open one gift that is for the entire family on Christmas Eve. Sometimes its a movie, sometimes its a video game: This year it was a board game. It was a hit. It took the kid's minds off of wanting to go to bed at 6pm so Christmas Day will come sooner. As it was I had the son in our bedroom at 6:15am on Christmas Day. He was told to grab a blanket and a pillow and lay down as it was too early. At 6:30 he went back downstairs to (so I thought) his own bed but then we heard him "drumming" on this plastic lego container with a tinker toy. Thus his two older sisters were woken up. At 7:00 we had the whole crew (even the 3 year old) jumping on our bed, chomping at the bit. I think we held them off until 7:30. Then we let them rip into their stockings and had breakfast. Next we read the Biblical Christmas Story and then finally let them at the presents. I'm always a little sad when it's over as it is such great fun.

Dancing with the Stars: Lewis Style

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

End of the Year Reading

Christmas is here (tomorrow) and then I have a few days to relax before I host a New Year's Eve gathering. I intend to relax with a couple of books I found in the children's non-fiction section in the library and one on spinning and weaving wool.

Historic Communities: The Kitchen by Bobbie Kalman
Historic Communities: Home Crafts by Bobbie Kalman
Spinning and Weaving with Wool by Paula Simmons

In Home Crafts, the author equates the skills of a colonial homemaker to those of an artisan, calling these women Artisans of the Home. I don't know about you but I like that title! I'm going to start calling myself that instead of homemaker or SAHM. LOL!

Westside Christmas Story

This is for the grandmother's. Here are the kids in their costumes from the Church Christmas program, "While Shepards Watch...". Reagan was an angel, Rem was a shepard, Andi was Mary and Seven was the Host/Narrator for the program.

Elderberry Twirls

Elderberry Twirls are a new favorite for our Christmas celebration:

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

2 eggs

1 tsp. rum extract (for an egg noggy taste)

3 1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup elderberry jam (any jam can be substituted)

1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, eggs, rum extract and flour. Divide dough in half and chill for one hour. Heat jam and cornstarch until thick and bubbly, add pecans. Set aside to cool. Roll out chilled dough, spread jam mix on it. Roll into logs and refridgerate for 4 hours. After chilling cut logs into 1/4 inch slices, bake 10 to 12 minutes at 375.

Frosting Cookies

One of our family traditions is to bake and frost sugar cookies. Both my husband's family and my family frosted and we are carrying it on in our family. Since we already had the table full with treats we did our frosting on the coffee table. Yes, this could have been a recipe for disaster but it actually worked out quite well. The kids frosted, Dad oversaw the process and took pictures and I finished up the last of my cookie baking. I have learned to let go of visions of perfectly frosted and designed cookies and just let the kids have fun.
We are frosting people. I do not care for fondant. Frosting: 1 cup butter, 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tblsp. milk, 2 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, peppermint etc.) Mix all together. More milk can be added to get it to a consistancy that you like.
We use cake decorator's paste food coloring to make the different base colors and then we buy tubes of other frosting from the baking aisle of the local grocery, we also use sprinkles, colored and candied sugar etc. if you can put it on a cookie... we have probably used it.
For those of you who dream of beautiful and precisely decorated cookies check out The Flour Pot Cookie Book: Creating Edible Works Of Art by Margie and Abbey Greenberg or check out their website They work with fondant but with a little more work you could do quite a few of the designs in frosting.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I, for the first time in my life, made my Mother-in-Law's divinity correctly! It wasn't too soft or too hard. It was light and fluffy! Small victories make me very happy! I also made peppermint bark yesterday. As you can see, my youngest was all too ready to help out. LOL! I still have my cookie making to do now. Grandma Ethel's Sugar cookies and a little jam filled number that I discovered last year. I'll post the jam cookie recipe tomorrow but Grandma Ethel's is a family secret!
Dana over a My Simple Gifts also spent the day making candy but she had a little "cat" incident. Never-the-less I thought her candy turned out beautiful! Check it out at .

Christmas Tray Finds

I found "such a deal" at a local thrift store! I went in looking for a couple Christmassy plates, tins or trays so that the DH could take treats to work and not have to worry about bringing the plates home. I found a plastic Christmas tree shaped tray for $1 and a pretty plastic plate with a jolly looking St. Nick on it for .50 cents. I was good to go. I figured I was saving at least half buy purchasing them used but when I got to the counter I found out that they were both half price. I paid .80 cents total! (Tax you know.) What a deal and so much more festive then tinfoil or one of our everyday plates. Yeah!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Show and Tell Friday

One of the best things about having a birthday five days before Christmas is that I have great reason to use some of my "hospitality" orientated presents right away. My husband was spot on with his present to me: A four tiered dessert server. Of course every time I walked by it in Costco I was "oohing and ahhing" at it so it was an obvious pick... I made it that way on purpose. Now it sits on the table waiting for the rest of my Christmas baking and candy making to get done so I can fill it. For more show and tell Fridays go to .

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Candy Making Dreams?

I have recently been dreaming about opening a candy store: fudge, toffee, chocolates etc. Candy is big business in Michigan's Upper Penninsula. Mackinac Island is loaded with fudge shops, as is the mainland in that area. I make a great fudge, but my divinity never turns out quite right- it's either too hard or too soft, I made too soft carmel earlier this year (it was in-between dipping consistancy and being solid enough to cut into soft pieces) and too brittle/slightly burnt toffee a few days ago. Making my own candy isn't looking too good. Perhaps if I made each thing more than once a year?

Making candy always has this romantic notion tied to it but I think it is a very difficult skill to master and is a lot of work. I tip my hat to people who make a go in the candy biz as manufacturers- especially small home businesses.

Perhaps I'll just open a candy store that sells other peoples candy. Dylan's candy bar in NYC is very popular.

Now I'm off to make some more fudge, try my hand at this year's divinity and make a batch of peppermint bark. for my fudge (It's the recipe on the back of Kraft's Jet-puffed marshmallow creme.) for layered peppermint bark
Mom Lewis' Divinity: Dissolve in Pan: 5 cup sugar, 1 cup Karo syrup, 1 cup hot water, 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix until boils. Stop stirring, wash off grainy stuff from top of pan, cook to 248 degrees (250 for rain). Beat three egg whites till stiff. Slowly add hot mixture and 2 tsp. vannilla to eggs. Beat until it loses its gloss. Add nuts when gloss returns, pour into baking dish. Refridgerate. I should say that my mother-in-law lives in Western Oregon which is not a high altitude place so if you live at a higher above sea level place you will need to determine the right tempurature to cook your candy to. Please don't ask me to do the math for you. LOL!
Let me know how these recipes work for you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You know your 9 year old isn't feeling well when...

She is laying on the couch, covered with a blanket and asks for water in a sippy cup. She hasn't drank from a sippy cup in years. She asked for, "Water in a sippy cup with a plug." This is so she can drink while lying down. On the plus side, she did eat a good breakfast and says she's just feeling tired. I checked her forehead and she does have a slight temperature. The boy had the same thing last week for a couple of days- a fever and tiredness. These are actually sick times I don't mind. The kids are quiet and content on the couch and there is no mess to clean up. Where is wood for me to knock on. LOL!

Christmas lights show off bad economy

I have the fortunate blessing of being born five days before Jesus' birthday celebration. (December 20th for the more math challanged readers.) Since my husband works very odd retail management hours and days, we decided to celebrate Sunday evening so he could actually be awake and not have to go to bed at 8pm. (Sunday's and Monday's are his current days off.)We went out for dinner (Outback Steakhouse- not the frugal part of the evening) and then, as tradition for my birthday, we went driving around looking at Christmas lights.

I don't know how bad the economy is in everyone else's area/state but Michigan is terrible. Constant job losses and no job growth. Houses for sale everywhere. Terrible forclosure rates. It is just not good here. We see it on the news, we see the homes for sale for a year or more. I've even taken to wondering when I see a house for sale if the people are in danger of losing it or have lost it already. Any whoo... all this to say, I have never seen more of a indicator of our tight economy then with what showed with Christmas lights.

There were so many houses this year that just didn't have them up. Also those that did have them up were very simple displays. There were only two flamboyant displays that we saw, one of which was raising money for charity. I think this is more of an indicator of our economy than anything else. Even if you still have a job, house etc., money just isn't abundant this season for most. The evening news keeps saying we aren't in a recession yet but it sure looks like we are in the Grand Rapids area.

We are having a smaller Christmas this year, no outside lights and we have our Christmas tree on a timer for just a little bit each day. Since we know and celebrate the real reason for the season, it isn't a terrible thing for us. We would still enjoy the day sans gifts and decor. (Though I do love both those things.) But I feel sadness for those that don't know Christ as their Savior and thus spend the season in dismay for one reason or another.

Jesus is the reason for HOPE... in any season!

Monday, December 17, 2007


I have been waiting and watching and so ready to post this. Finally! This weekend we got a decent amount of snow. I, still, would love a lot more but this is great! You can't really tell in the picture but it is 5 inches. Here in Michigan they take great care of the roads for winter driving so once we got out of our neighborhood it was easy driving to church. Our pastor is from Michigan's upper peninsula so he very rarily will cancel a service do to weather. All the kids in the neighborhood (and plenty adults too) were out playing in it yesterday afternoon. It was beautiful... the sun was shining on all the fluffy, pristine snow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Garage Sale Treasure Hunts

I posted yesterday about treasure hunting and the head mistress over at commented on garage sales being her treasure hunt. I, myself, find it hard to concentrate while shopping garage sales because I've always got my kids with me and I always seem to end up in front of the beanie baby box with them begging and after one or two stops they want to go home.

How do you all successfully garage sale? I always hear of wonderful finds but I have yet to discover any. I'm thinking that, for the up coming season, that I will make lists of things for my kids to search for at garage sales- not for them to buy but just to keep them busy- like a scavenger hunt. Any one have any great tips on finding the right stuff, the right sales, the great price and doing it with a handful of kids? Please chime in!
For more frugal talk pop over to and check out Crystal's blog.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Treasure Hunting

Okay, I confess... I have a new favorite TV show. It is the Travel Channel's "Cash and Treasures".

I have always loved rocks and gems. I remember playing "rock quarry" in grade school. My friends and I would find different stones and pound them into pretty colored chalks. I also remember having a rock collection when I was young and I'm still a sucker for bins of polished and colored stones in tourist shops. This season's shows are feeding the treasure and rock hunter in me.

So far they've done Herkimer Diamonds in New York, Emeralds in North Carolina, Agates in the MidWest, Morel Mushrooms in Wisconsin and Michigan, and Turquoise in the South West.

I am so ready to go hunting! Only the thin layer of snow and ice is currently stopping me.

My middle daughter and my son think it sounds like fun. My oldest daughter likes the idea of finding the treasure but doesn't want to get dirty doing it. My youngest loves rocks of any type so I think she'd have fun. So this spring watch out: we will be agate hunting, petosky stone hunting and will try Morel mushroom hunting as well.

Supposedly you can make money doing this. Well, we'll see about that. I just think it would be fun hunting and could be a fun family hobby. (Except for the mushroom hunting... there is no way my oldest is going traisping through the weedy woods in search of fungi.)

I'm sensing a rock tumbler and metal detector in my future. My husband politely told me that only old people own metal detectors. Need I remind him that gray hair is creeping onto our heads.

You can get inspired by this show on Tuesday nights on the Travel Channel or check out the website at .

Friday, December 7, 2007

Frugal Family Time: Finishing Christmas Gifts

Here are some simple gifts the kids and I put together for their boy cousins. It is hard to think of things to "make" for boys. We have a number of bottles etc. left over from our body care business we used to run, so we used some of those. We also had a large Costco bag of M-n-M's on hand (we just finished potty training). I had the kids sort the colors and put them in the bottles decoratively. Then we made name tags on the computer and glue-sticked them on. A bit of ribbon, we had on hand, tied and curled around the tops and they are ready. Easy and frugal and the kids had a blast. Tip: Garage sales and thrift stores are great places to pick up inexpensive bottles and containers for gift packaging.
For more frugal ideas for gifts and for family time check out Frugal Fridays over a on Crystal's blog.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Clearing the clutter

Declutter one

Declutter two

Decluttering three

picked up one
picked up two

picked up three

Mess One

Mess Two

Mess Three

Crystal, over at, has been running a challenge all week on making your house a haven. I've wanted to participate all week but it has been a crazy week. I haven't been overly busy, any more than normal, but things are just not running smooth. I was able to pick up my 3 year olds room on Monday, after a Sunday of not picking up, but "picked up" still was too cluttered. (I've let all my rooms go.)
Tuesday was the day of decluttering Reagan's room. She has a bad habit of going down to the playroom in the basement and bringing up toys to her room. The problem with this is, the toys just pile up in her room instead of going back down to the play room. So I sorted, I returned toys to the basement, I removed toys she's outgrown and doesn't play with anymore: I even managed to get rid of some of the broken toys and "Happy Meal" type things to the garbage. Then I organized. Now at least for the time the room is good.
I love to go in and look at the declutter. I still have more I can do but I am happy with the progress. I really can't be too prideful though. I shouldn't have let it get that bad. I hope to slowly work through the rest of the home and declutter.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ice Storm Weekend

Hey all,
I think I've made it clear that I'm a snow addict. Too much is never enough. I was hoping for a good dumping this pass weekend and spent most of Saturday watching the local radar as a "big storm" crept closer. We were supposed to get a few inches before the snow changing to ice and then rain. Finally the storm gets to us and it snows for 1 1/2 hour and then ice storms for 8 hours and then rains for 7. We only ended up with 1/4" of snow covered in 1/2" of ice before it slushed over and then froze again at night. Good times. It was such a let down but I heard that people died in accidents because of the weather so I don't feel it is right to complain. I thank God that he kept my family warm, dry and together. It snowed a bit more on Monday so we had a good start to the winter. I'm still waiting for a lot more though.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Show and Tell Friday

My Grandmother gave me this ornament when I was a little girl. It has always been my favorite and remains so to this day. It hangs in a place of honor on my Christmas tree every year. There is a hitch... my DH thinks it is the ugliest thing he has ever seen and will move it to a place on the tree where no one can see it. We have this revolving game... I hang it, he moves it, I find it and move it back again. Good times! LOL! For more Show and Tells go to

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In a Shoe Give Away/Vision Forum Free Shipping!

Perry C. over at is having a give away of Vision Forum merchandise in order to promote Doug Phillip's Vision Forum and their free shipping offer for merchandise. The offer was supposed to end on Wednesday but they have extended it one more day- until midnight tonight! Take advantage of it people. They have good stuff. Check it out at . I received my order from VF just yesterday- Prompt and efficient- way to go Perry! (He is the warehouse manager.)