Tuesday, June 14, 2011

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Monday, June 13, 2011

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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Delicious Summer Smoothie Recipes

Few things beat the summer heat like a refreshing smoothie. Smoothies are also a great way to get fresh fruits into your diet, and kids tend to like them, too. Here are some ideas for a frosty, healthy summer treat.

The following recipes are enough for approximately two smoothies. You can increase or decrease the ingredients to vary the amount and the taste. Smoothies are very forgiving - if you don't have some of the ingredients listed below, you can leave them out or try something comparable (soy milk instead of almond milk, for instance, or vanilla yogurt instead of plain). Leftover smoothies can be frozen in ice cube trays (use them in your next smoothie) or Popsicle molds.

1. Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie

In a blender, combine:

* 5 medium-sized, frozen strawberries
* 1 frozen, sliced or chunked banana
* 2 ice cubes
* 1 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk
* 1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (you can substitute carob powder if you like)

Blend on high speed until thick and creamy. Add more almond milk if it's too thick.

2. Summer Breakfast Smoothie

This smoothie contains protein in the form of peanut butter, and it also contains chia seeds. These little seeds are reported to help you feel fuller longer, as they form a thick gel in liquid. They also add a nutritional boost.

In a blender, combine:

* 2 frozen, sliced/chunked bananas
* 1/4 cup unsweetened, natural peanut butter
* 4 ice cubes
* 1 tablespoon flax meal
* 1 tablespoon wheat germ
* 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
* 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
* 1/4 cup plain yogurt
* 2 teaspoons raw honey
* 1 cup milk (if using sweetened nut milk, leave out the honey)

If your blender has an "ice crushing" feature, use that to break up the frozen ingredients. Then blend on high speed until smooth. Add more milk if necessary.

3. Berry and Tea Smoothie

Leftovers of this one are especially good frozen into Popsicles.
In a blender, combine:

* 1 to 2 cups of various frozen berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries
* 1/2 to 1 cup of fruit-flavored herbal tea or unsweetened apple juice
* 1/4 teaspoon Stevia extract, or to taste

Blend until smooth, using the ice-crushing feature if you have it. Taste before adding the Stevia, and remember that 1/4 teaspoon of Stevia extract is approximately as sweet as two teaspoons of white sugar.

4. Melon Smoothie

Before making this one, chunk up fresh watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and/or melons of your choice. Freeze the chunks on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet, then place the frozen chunks in plastic zip-top bags.

In a blender, combine:

* About 2 cups of various frozen melon chunks
* 1/2 cup orange juice, orange-pineapple juice, or pear juice
* 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
* Sweeten to taste with raw honey, sugar, agave nectar, or a sweetener of your choice (you may not need to use any sweetening at all)

Blend until thick and smooth, once again using the ice-crushing feature if your blender has it. Add more juice as necessary.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

31 Days All New Routine Challenge - Day 2 - 7

Day 2: Dishes away after breakfast, pans cleaned, counters wiped down. NEXT THING: Clean and organize any kitchen hot spots.

Supper dishes actually got done last night and breakfast around here usually consists of coffee for me. The kids sleep in during summer vacation, so their breakfast doesn't usually happen till at least noon! But, this morning I put away all the dishes that were left to dry last night and did a little sprucing up of the counters and a quick sweep up of the birthday cake crumbs on the floor.

(Yes, it was my middle son's 9th birthday yesterday! Whoop Whooop! )

NEXT THING: I would have to say that the hot spots in my kitchen are the kitchen table and the area beside it in front of my pantry. The kitchen table is kind of a no-brainer, however the area in front of my pantry is all my fault. The boxes there are things that I needed to price and take to the consignment shop. So, as my Next Thing Mission, I got them all priced and taken out to the van for our next trip to town!

Day 3: Clean kitchen. NEXT THING: Gather all the dirty laundry and sort. Main spaces pick-up.

Kitchen has been staying pretty well clean. Just need to do a quick dish / counter / sweep in the am.

Laundry is a daily thing around here with seven of us, so I've already done a load by noon.

Main spaces picked up and put away. (PUPA)

Day 4: Kitchen, Main spaces. NEXT THING: Clean one bedroom and do laundry for that bedroom. Put laundry away.

Kitchen done & Main spaces PUPA.

Clean one bedroom - well, this turned into my boy's bedroom because this morning their whole bunk bed came crashing down while they were in it! Supid, Cheap, Poorly made furniture! So, the whole bed frame had to come out and taken to the dumpster. That gave me a pretty good opportunity to get what they had stashed under their bed cleaned up, toys put away, trash bagged up and clothes re-folded and put away that they had thrown all over. Gave it a good vaccuming and it's done. Laundry put away later in the day when it got done.

*side note* I have issues with putting laundry away. I don't know why I have no trouble at all washing it, drying it and folding it. But putting it away.. somehow my brain stops once I fold! I have a dozen laundry baskets just for that purpose. To hold the clean laundry! (Not the dirty!) Imagine that. I really have to work on that. Of course, I blame not having enough dressers.

Day 5: Kitchen, Main spaces. NEXT THING: Bathrooms

Kitchen and main spaces done. Bathrooms done. I made the girls clean up the main bathroom. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they managed to collect so much 'stuff' in there. Hair stuff, body stuff, shower stuff... sheesh!

Day 6: Kitchen, Main spaces. NEXT THING: Prepare meals for tomorrow (Sunday)

Kitchen and Main spaces are done. I am not really preparing anything for tomorrow's meals. We have a lot of leftovers to choose from that I don't want to go to waste.

Sunday: Rest.

Monday, June 6, 2011

31 Days All New Routine Challenge - Day 1

Day 1: Clean your kitchen! Fresh kitchen, fresh start! Consider doing this in an evening after the babes are in bed.

Today's challenge seems to be an easy one, however I am taking it to the next level. I am going to do a total 'Deep Cleaning' of the kitchen which includes:

6. WIPE FINGERPRINTS OFF WALLS / DOORS (check - kids can do this!)
9. SCRUB DOWN CABINET FRONTS (check - kids can do this!)
11. CLEAN UNDER SINK/THROW AWAY OLD RAGS (didn't get to this)
12. CLEAN PET DISHES (check)
13. SWEEP / MOP FLOORS (check)
15. SCRUB TABLE / CHAIRS (check)

Since the children are home for summer vacation, I am getting them involved and am doling out tasks accordingly.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

31 Days All New Routine Challenge

I have recently signed up to take part in a Focus Group and review the new "31 Days All New Routine Challenge". These challenges are geared towards building a consistent routine in the day-to-day.

With the children home for summer vacation, it will be a real test of my housekeeping skills, that's for sure! This challenge will begin tomorrow, Monday, June 6th and will run Monday - Saturday with Sundays as rest days.

So, stay tuned and check back every day for updates and progress pictures!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Families: Low Income Survival Strategies

We often equate our self-worth with the amount of money we have. What does that mean for families with low incomes? Money doesn’t have to define us if we know how to use it properly. Here are some strategies for saving money when you don’t have much to work with.

The economy has led to a lot of families taking big hits. Lost jobs, changing to lower-paying jobs and other factors have led to loss of income in this country. But, you can battle back if you are in this situation. It takes a little time in the beginning but you’ll get the hang of it soon.

Here are the strategies that might help you to save money.

* Create a budget – This is a tool to help you to know where you are right now and which direction you need to move in for the future. If the low income is a new situation, this is needed to know how short you will be on current bills. You can look at options for ways to cut costs.

* Talk to utility companies – Most utility companies have programs that allow you to pay the same amount each month based on your average monthly usage. This can help you to balance your books each month with no surprises.

* Investigate ways to lower energy costs – Try setting your thermostat at a lower temperature. If you are cold, use blankets. In the summer, use ceiling fans or wall fans to get the air moving. In the evening, open the windows for some natural breeze. Switching to CFL light bulbs will save money on lighting. Try other handy tips for lowering fuel bills. Over a year, it will pay for itself.

* Go grocery shopping – Eating out can be expensive, especially for a family. Buy meats and dry foods in bulk. Fix meals and freeze leftovers to be eaten at another time. Use coupons from the Sunday newspaper to lower food bills. Try a butcher shop for a better price on meats.

* Brown bag your lunch – Taking lunch to work and school saves about twenty dollars or more a week per person. You can invest in reusable lunch bags and water bottles.

* Hold a yard sale – There are sure to be items in your home that you don’t use and are gathering dust. Someone else may want them. A yard sale cleans out the clutter and also puts more money in your savings account.

* Revamp entertainment – With money pressures, take a look at your entertainment expenses. You can check out movies, CDs and books at your local library. Buy movies from Wal-Mart when they are on sale so the family can watch for movie night. Cancel book clubs, movie memberships and gym memberships to save money.

When the money is slim, you can still make ends meet with a few strategies. It doesn’t mean that you have to live without fun, just new ways to have your laughs.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Work at Home as a Home-Based Business Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur is very appealing but not everyone can become one. One of the quickest and easiest ways to become a successful entrepreneur is by working at home through a home-based entrepreneur business.

Firstly, you need to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. After the evaluation, you can now determine if you can manage your own online business. Aside from the evaluation process, you must know how to plan, organize, staff, and control. These are your responsibilities as an entrepreneur. You should be able to work alone because now you're the boss and all business decisions will be made by you.

Some say that online businesses can be run without many problems. Well, they are very wrong because even with an online business, you have to deal with certain business problems and risks. You can't eliminate such risks because that goes hand in hand with any business undertaking, both for online and offline businesses. However, you can reduce the risks that you're bound to deal with in the future by choosing the best home-based entrepreneur business that will work for you.

Entrepreneurs are known to be self-starters. Organizing your time is a difficult task but if you want to run a home-based online business, you should be able to do it. Remember, you don’t have a boss that you can rely on. This is your business and you have to be responsible for it at all times.

Running your own business would also mean that you have to deal with different kinds of persons. You will surely encounter demanding customers, moody vendors, and an unreliable staff. To become a successful home-based business entrepreneur, you should know how to deal with them individually. You should know the quirks of every person that you encounter so that you can address them and the situation correctly.

Running an online business is all about your attitude and character. According to some experts who conducted researches about the characteristics of entrepreneurs, there are certain traits that an entrepreneur should possess. As mentioned earlier, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, self-starters, and know how to deal with different kinds of people.

Those traits and characteristics are not enough. You have to have more than that. Another trait that you should possess is being an excellent decision maker. Since you're the boss, you should be able to make quick yet effective decisions. Some situations are filled with pressures but despite the pressures, you still need to make an informed and wise decision. As owner of your online business, you have no one else to rely on when it comes to business related decisions.

To be an effective online business entrepreneur, you must have lots of energy and superior work ethic. Owning an online business may mean working even on late hours and on the weekends. However, you must not be pressured of your tasks. View them as challenges and strive even harder. Your efforts will be rewarded once you see the profits rolling in.

If you already know the responsibilities of an entrepreneur, then you can assess if you can become successful in an online business. Working at home through a home-based entrepreneur business requires dedication and hard work. You must be able to monitor your finances, tasks, inventory, work schedules, and many others. Good luck and may your chosen home-based business become a success.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Clean Your House in Record Time

Are you expecting company at the last minute? Maybe you are just tired of the mess and want to clean your house, but it seems overwhelming. Sometimes, people put off cleaning their homes because they think it will take tons of hours - and who has that kind of time? Luckily, it does not have to take an entire weekend or even an entire day to clean your house. There are tips and tricks to make the job go faster. Here are some of them.

1. Pick a spot

Sometimes, that overwhelmed feeling begins when you look at the big picture. Breaking the task up into small bits that you can manage is key. Don't even look at a whole room - pick a corner or an area of the room. A messy bookshelf, a pile of boxes or paper, or a cluttered corner are examples.

One trick I use is to look through my camera at one area. If you are focused on that one particular small area, you will see more of what needs to be done. By limiting your view you will be able to concentrate on one small task at a time.

The point of this exercise is, getting that small area clean will help ease your mind and be done so quickly that you'll be motivated to do some more. Don't be tempted to "call it a day" after doing this small portion of the cleaning - otherwise, by the time you've cleaned the whole house, that first corner will be messy again!

2. Schedule it

If you were being paid to clean your home, and you were paid more for less time, wouldn't you do a good, fast job? Schedule your housecleaning time as you would a paying job, and take it just as seriously. This will also help prevent that tendency we all have to simply wait until we have time...someday.

3. Make it fun

You can at least make it bearable by playing favorite CDs, turning on a movie or TV show in the room where you're cleaning, or playing a book on tape or CD. The time will go by a lot faster with something going in the background to entertain you. Take care it doesn't distract you, though - if you want to clean your house in record time, you need to keep going once you start.

4. Keep things within reach

Keep cleaning tools all together in a special bin or container, or in a particular corner of a closet or storage space. That prevents you having to go all over the house gathering up cleaning supplies before beginning. Rags, mops, sponges, a broom, vacuum cleaner, etc. should all be in one spot.

5. A place for everything

If you're in a hurry, you may not have a place for all the magazines, books, papers, and various sundries lying around. Toss these things into baskets if possible - baskets look nice on shelves and on top of furniture. Also consider putting items temporarily in a plastic bin or box with a note to go through them later and find a real place for them. Otherwise, they will find their way onto the middle of the floor again!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Black Bean Quesadillas

Black Bean Quesadillas
Serves 4

1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed
½ cup shredded cheese (preferably Monterey Jack)
½ cup salsa
4 (8") tortillas (ideally whole-wheat)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

In a bowl, mix together the beans, cheese and half of the salsa. Place the tortillas flat on a work surface and spread with ½ cup of the bean/cheese filling. Then fold the tortilla in half and gently press down to spread out the mixture evenly.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil and cook the tortillas on each side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes each side. Serve with the remaining salsa and the cut up avocado and a tossed salad.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Getting My Priorities Straight

I love being a work from home mom. However, it has it's challenges. One of the hardest I've faced so far is balancing my family life and my business. It is easy for one to butt into the time of the other.

It's a bit easier while the children are in school. The Man works nights now, so in the morning the kids leave the house by six a.m., then The Man goes to bed by 8 a.m. and all that is left is peace and quiet until my DD20 and my DS5 get up to start their day. And, honestly, even then it's pretty easy. They are both able to occupy themselves while I work and the others don't get up / home from school until 4 p.m. That is the time I use to work on my business and also my home.

Now, here's where the issue comes in. I tend to be drawn back into my work even later in the day and into the evening. I have let it become more of a priority than my family since it encroaches into 'family time'. And I need to put that to an end. So, I will be setting regularly scheduled 'business hours' for myself. If there is something I need to get done during the evening hours, it will be scheduled so that everyone knows that I will be working at that time instead of thinking I am ignoring them.

When I worked full time outside of the home I certainly didn't bring it back to the house to interfere with my family life, so why would I do it to myself now that I am my own boss? Just not gonna happen here. And I'm not going to worry about the loss of time spent on my home business. Because I believe that I will be blessed because of putting my family first, where they belong!

How do you balance your family life and your home business? I'd love to know!

Bored Teens? Keep Them Organized This Summer!


If your teen is anything like mine, you hear this all the time. That whining two-word sentence that makes you want to run your fingers down a chalkboard just to show them what it sounds like to you when they utter it! By the end of the summer, you may be ready to send them off to school by shooting them out of a rocket!

Kids (even older ones), have a short attention span and need constant stimulation to keep them interested. It can be quite a challenge to keep them occupied during the summer, especially if you view those months as a time of relaxation.

In an attempt to keep the teenage boredom away, here are some ideas to help you avoid hearing those words this summer:

* Have a talk with your teen. Find out what they are interested in and what they would rather chew off their own hand than do during the summer. What kind of hobbies do they have or would they like to start? This will at least give you a starting point in order to find some acceptable activities that they will be happy participating in during the summer months. Make a list of things that you and your child feel that they would enjoy doing.

* Make sure you set some boundaries! My DD14 would stay up all night raiding the fridge and watching questionable cable television shows and then sleep until 3:00 pm if I would let her. (Trust me, I actually did let her for about a week when I had the flu.)
Let your child know that they will not be spending the summer sitting on the couch, watching t.v. or playing video games all summer. Give them a minimum of activities to choose from the list you created during your talk. Now they will stay occupied all summer with some scheduled downtime.

* Volunteering is an excellent way for your child to stay occupied during the summer months. Most high schools require a certain amount of volunteer hours in order to graduate anyway, so why not use the summer months to get that done? My DD14 volunteered all summer between 8th and 9th grade at a Thrift Store / Food Pantry. She logged over 100 hours and has a certificate to prove that she has already met her graduation requirement. She also learned how to deal with a variety of situations and gained experience that she can use when applying for a 'real' job down the line. Your local paper should have a list of volunteer opportunities. Just be sure to choose something that compliments your child's interests.

* Playing summer sports is a fun way to pass the summer. Especially if your child was already involved in sports during the school year. It is a great way to hone their skills in a more relaxed environment where they don't have to worry about their school's record being at stake. On that note, there are also sport camps, however they can be pretty pricey.

* Maybe your son or daughter would be more happy finding a job and earning some extra cash of their own. During the summer months, there are many babysitting jobs available since many parents work while their children are in school.

* Look into the classes that are held at your local rec. center or library. Perhaps your teen would be interested in learning a new skill, such as acting, gardening or art.

* If your child is considering college, there are many local universities and colleges that offer summer programs that span a variety of career disciplines. Some even offer on-campus housing for the duration of the program. You will most likely have to fill out an application before the end of the school year to participate.

* Summer is also a great time to get the kids to help around the house. While I believe chores should be part of a child's every day routine, I do keep them at a minimum during the school year so my children can concentrate more on their school work. But, during summer vacation why not help them learn more of the household responsibilities that are normally not on their chore list?

While not an all-inclusive list, you should be able to get some ideas from those listed above to help your son or daughter stave off the boredom this summer.

Have any ideas of your own? I'd love to hear them!