Category Archives: Fall

Laughing in the Leaves

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We went outside after lunch and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather.  The kids made a huge leaf pile in our driveway and took turns jumping in it.  Then they split into teams and built leaf forts and had wars with leaves as their ammunition.  It was humorous to watch, and they had a blast.  Here are some of my favorite photos of them playing in the leaves.   

    
    
    
    
   

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November Recipes

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These are a few of our favorite recipes, and they also happen to be on our menu this month.  Give one a try and let me know what you think!

Taco Soup

1 pound ground beef, cooked, crumbled

2 cups frozen corn

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/2 – 1 can Rotel

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Water

1 can tomato paste (optional)

Combine all ingredients in large pot or slow cooker.  Add enough water to cover all ingredients; stir in tomato paste if you like thicker broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer at least 30 minutes.  You could also cook this in a slow cooker on low for several hours, adding more water.  


Chicken Cordon Bleu

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4-6 slices of Swiss cheese

4-6 slices of thinly-sliced ham lunch meat

1-2 cups seasoned croutons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Trim chicken breasts and cut into 4-6 similarly-sized pieces.  Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the chicken to about 1/4″ thickness. Place the croutons in a plastic bag and pound with the meat mallet until breadcrumbs remain.  (You can use store-bought breadcrumbs instead, but I can’t find any without a couple of ingredients I avoid.)  Pour crumbs onto a plate or other shallow dish.  Top each piece of chicken with one slice of Swiss cheese and then one slice of ham.  Roll up each piece of chicken and then roll in breadcrumbs.  Place in a greased baking dish and put in oven for about 20 minutes or until center of chicken is done.  


Pecan-crusted Chicken Breasts

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into four pieces

3 ounces cream cheese

1 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup seasoned croutons

1 1/4 cup pecans, divided

1/4 tsp salt

seasonings to taste:  onion, garlic, basil, cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix softened cream cheese and butter with about one cup of finely chopped pecans, salt, and seasonings.  Use the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten chicken pieces to about 1/2″ thickness.  Spoon about 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture onto each piece of chicken. Crush croutons in a bag using the meat mallet.  Mix crouton crumbs and about 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans; pour crumb mixture onto a plate or shallow dish.  Roll up chicken pieces to enclose cream cheese.  Use toothpicks, if needed, to keep chicken rolled up. Press chicken in crumb mixture on each side, coating with a layer of crumbs.  Place chicken on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.  

Reflections on Our No-Spend Month

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Reflections on Our No-Spend Month

First, I want to explain why I haven’t shared what my husband spent money on this past Friday.  A couple of times a year, my husband, son, and father-in-law go camping for a weekend.  They had planned several weeks ago (before we decided October would be a no-spend month) to go this past weekend.  My husband took $60 cash with them and spent $22 on groceries, $16 for the campsite, and $28 at a restaurant.  They always go to a buffet on Friday night.  My husband spent a little more than what he had in cash, but technically, some of the campsite fee and groceries were for Sunday, November 1st.  So why didn’t I share that sooner?  When I am home alone with my kids, I do not want the whole world to know.  I feel safe where we live, but I would rather not announce to everyone that my husband will not be home all weekend, especially on Halloween.  It’s just my overprotective nature.  

Our no-spend month is over, and we only spent money out of our checking account on gas (3 times), copays at the doctor’s office (3 kids), prescriptions (3 antibiotics), and whatever extra my guys spent this past weekend.  We think we saved close to $2000 by not spending in October.  We sat down Sunday and planned our spending for November and came up with amounts for groceries and household items, personal care (haircuts, makeup, etc.), dining out,  office supplies, and clothing.  Now if we could just get to the bank to get some cash, we could implement the envelope system.   

our pantry before our no-spend month

  

our pantry at the end of our no-spend month

 
We went a whole month without eating out, except for Saturday nights due to our church schedule and the days my husband had meetings or classes.  That alone saved us at least $200 and 5,000 calories!  We were already eating at home most of the time, but I had to be more intentional about planning and preparing things ahead of time to ensure that we wouldn’t end up eating out.

My makeup and all of our other personal hygiene and cosmetic items (miraculously) lasted all month.  I ordered new foundation and scheduled a haircut for myself as soon as November started.  We ran out of black ink for our printer on Thursday, so I printed everything in color for a few days.  We used all of the napkins, and had to use paper towels or cloth napkins for the last week.  We needed more dishwasher detergent, and my mother-in-law gave us more than enough to last the rest of the month.  

We not only survived–we succeeded.  We saved hundreds of dollars.  We made things last longer than we thought possible.  We made use of all of our resources and refused to spend unnecessary money.  We convinced ourselves and the kids (at least for one month) that we could live without many things.  We discussed needs and wants and taught our kids lessons about materialism and entitlement.  I think this was a good experience for our family, and I would like to do it again.  My children still need to learn some lessons because they never want to be deprived again, which means we definitely need to do it again.  

Big Sister thought we needed to go buy her a crazy hat to wear to AWANA Sunday night. We were able to make one using things we already had, and she decided what we made was even better than what we could have found at the store.

November Menu

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Day 1:  chicken cordon bleu, corn

Day 2:  leftovers

Day 3:  shrimp, fish, broccoli, corn, raw carrots

Day 4:  Cheesy chicken tater tot casserole, green beans

Day 5: Hobo dinners, rice

Day 6:  Chicken enchilada casserole, chips, salsa, guacamole

Day 7:  dinner out

Day 8: beans, cornbread

Day 9:  chicken fajitas, rice, beans, guacamole

Day 10:  leftovers

Day 11:  Slow cooker pork tenderloin, baked potatoes, broccoli

Day 12:  Southwest skillet chicken and rice

Day 13:  spaghetti, salad, garlic knots

Day 14:  dinner out

Day 15:  pizza

Day 16:  Mexican skillet casserole, avocado, chips/tortillas

Day 17:  Spicy sausage pasta, salad, hot rolls

Day 18:  Chili, cornbread

Day 19:  leftovers

Day 20:  bacon, eggs, waffles, fruit

Day 21:  dinner out

Day 22:  dinner out

Day 23:  taco soup, cornbread

Day 24:  Chicken pot pie

Day 25:  Tortilla chip and pepper jack crusted chicken breasts, guacamole, chips

Day 26:  Thanksgiving Day

Day 27:  leftovers

Day 28:  dinner out

Day 29:  pecan-crusted chicken breastsLyonnaise potatoes

Day 30:  Baked tortellini with chicken gratinati, green beans, garlic knots

No-Spend Month: Day 31

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I just took the October calendar off our command center and put up the December calendar.  I had written “No-Spend Month” in bright, large letters across the top of the October sheet, and it just hit me that our no-spend month is really over now.  I’ll post some reflections tomorrow after I have had a chance to reflect.  Lol. 

  • We ate breakfast and lunch at home.  I made more multigrain rolls for breakfast.  I think they were even better this time!  I ran out of yeast last week, but my mother-in-law had plenty.  I used the last of the honey in the rolls today.  I’m glad I will be able to go grocery shopping next week because we definitely need a few things.  Of course, “need” is probably not the right word.  We have been able to survive just fine without many things, but it will be nice to be able to shop again. 
  • We went to church this evening and skipped trick-or-treating.  We took the kids to Culver’s and bought them treats there instead!  Actually, I had a coupon for Big Sister’s frozen custard, so her treat was free!  
  • No one came to pick up and pay for their online garage sale items, so I wasn’t sure what we would do for dinner until I noticed our “respect” jars on the counter and realized they contained $10 worth of dimes.  Then I remembered there was a $5 bill in a desk drawer, so we had plenty for dinner. 

No-Spend Month: Day 30

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We have just one more day of our no-spend month, and I’m not sure we will have enough cash to eat out after church tomorrow night.  I have posted several sale items in our online garage sale and reduced some items, trying to sell just a couple things to avoid dipping into our checking account.  I already had three items pending pick up, but I’m not holding my breath on those because I’ve been waiting for each of them for two weeks.  One new item is pending pick up, so maybe she will actually pick up promptly.  Maybe some of my other items will sell too.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.  If not, I may be paying for dinner with a few dollar bills and $5 in coins.  Lol.

  • The kids and I took lunches to school.  They complained that we had nothing to eat, but we had string cheese, crackers, grapes, cereal bars, etc.  They are just tired of not being able to buy Lunchables whenever they want. 
  • My husband and son got haircuts this afternoon and spent $28.
  • My husband finally had to fill up the gas tank in his personal vehicle, and that was $49.
  • I made taco soup and corn bread for dinner this evening.  I’ll post my recipe soon. 
  • We had some other expenses today that I will discuss on Sunday, but that is what wiped out the rest of our cash.  Details coming soon. Lol. 

No-Spend Month: Day 28

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We made it through another busy Wednesday.  We left the house this morning when it was still dark, came home for an hour and a half early this afternoon, and then came home again after dark.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to leave home tomorrow. 

  • I enjoyed lunch and desserts (yes, that is plural) at school with the teachers and staff.  Some friends asked about our no-spend month, so I shared a little of our adventure.  Everyone seems so shocked when I talk about it.  I guess we’ve been doing it so long now that it is not new or unfamiliar to us anymore.
  • The kids took lunches to school.  My husband had a granola bar.  He has lost six pounds this month!
  • We had a catered dinner and missions event at our church this evening, so we spent nothing on dinner.  
  • I sold something for $25 through our online garage sale today.  I left some other items at a friend’s house this evening, and she will mail me a check. 

With just three days left in the month and $100 cash left, I feel like eating out to celebrate, but I’m sure that would be defeating the purpose.  Maybe we can celebrate surviving our no-spend month with the return of Blue Bell ice cream at home next week. 

No-Spend Month: Day 27

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  • The kids and I stayed home all day and ate our meals at home.  I let Big Brother eat the leftovers I had planned to eat for lunch, and I made myself some nachos with diced tomatoes and jalapeño peppers from our garden.  I sure will miss having fresh vegetables.   I used up all of the sour cream and the girls helped me finish off my bag of Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips. 
  • My husband thinks he has a cold now, so he bought some more medicine today ($5).  If we could have kept everyone healthy this month, we could have saved even more money!
  • The kids ate shells and cheese for dinner.  I had leftovers, and my husband ate another corn dog.  He had a meeting this evening, so I didn’t try to cook dinner. 
  • Tomorrow, the teachers and staff at our school are having an “eat day,” where people sign up to bring various dishes or items to go with those dishes.  The theme this time is Mexican food, and I signed up to make a version of chicken tortilla soup.  I had all of the ingredients except the salsa verde, but I found a recipe for homemade salsa verde.  I only needed to buy tomatillos to make the recipe, and I had my husband buy those when he went shopping over the weekend.  I only spent a couple dollars to make enough soup to feed a dozen people!  I’m beginning to think I might still have too much food in my pantry and freezer.
  • I planned our menu for November this morning.  I tried to plan meals that require little to no extra ingredients, so that I can use up more of what we already have.  I’ll share my November menu as soon as I have time.  

No-Spend Month: Day 26

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Our family is counting down to November like we never have before.  You’d think November 1st was a holiday or something.  I do not plan to rush out and buy everything the kids want.  I think it would be neat to continue and see how long we could go without using our regular income, but I’m sure I would be outvoted.  We still have quite a bit of food in the pantry and freezer, so I will plan several meals that don’t require us to purchase many groceries.

The kids and I met my sister and her kids at her oldest daughter’s marching band competition this afternoon.  I had to pay $10 for Big Brother and me to get in, but my sister gave me $5, so it only cost me $5.
   It had been a long time since I watched a live performance by a marching band.  I got so emotional!  I am proud of my niece and her high school band, and just for those few minutes, I missed marching in the band.  My kids enjoyed hanging out with their cousins for awhile.

Sissy thinks her cousin is so much younger than her. Their birthdays are only six months apart. I love the way they are looking at each other.

Big Sister “cheesing” with her youngest cousin

I had a terrible time trying to get clear pictures of all the girls. At least one of them was blurry in each photo. Little Sister also adores her cousin.

I asked my sister to hold my phone while I went to the restroom. Later, I found over 20 selfies that she took on my phone! This one also contains her son with my son in the background.

  • We all went to school/work today and took our lunches.
  • I made Cajun chicken pasta, green beans, corn, and hot rolls for dinner.  I’ll eat the leftover rolls for breakfast the next three days.
  • I sold an item through our online garage sale for $3.  Two other women were supposed to come buy stuff but never showed.  One is coming tomorrow.

No-Spend Month: Day 25

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We finally got to sleep in this morning until 7:00!  Of course that was after Sissy woke us up at 2:30 am, so it didn’t feel like 7 am, but it was much better than our usual wake-up times.  

The girls spent awhile this morning playing with the wooden train set.   

Sissy was too busy with her trains to pose for a photo.

 
We bought this almost eight years ago for one of Big Brother’s Christmas gifts.  We found a train table, trains, and lots of track pieces on Craig’s List for a reasonable price.  Big Brother’s imagination was too big for the train table, so we sold it several years ago and have built huge tracks all over our gamerooms.   

Big Sister happily posed with her trains. She loves showing off her missing teeth too.

 
I told my husband again this morning that this was the best toy purchase we ever made.   

Little Sister only had three cars, but she had fun driving them all around the track.

 

All of our children and their friends have enjoyed this train set.  We have added a couple of new train cars and engines over the years and a train signal last year.  My son keeps asking for more track pieces for Christmas, but we can already build a track that goes around at least half of the gameroom.  

  • The warm weather didn’t last the whole month, so I’m very thankful my cousin sent me some of her dress pants that she no longer needs.  She is a little taller than me and wore heels, so I had to figure out how to blind hem a pair of pants she sent me, so I can wear them tomorrow.  It took much trial and error, and they aren’t perfect, but I don’t think anyone will notice the hem.  If you happen to notice, just know that I spent no money on the pants or the alteration.
  • I love leftovers!  I finished off the blueberry muffins this morning, had leftover chili and cornbread for lunch, and ate leftover Southwest skillet chicken and rice for dinner.  My husband hates leftovers, so he had a Clif bar for breakfast and ate yet another corn dog for lunch.  He bought a box of them at Costco several months ago and didn’t like them as well as he thought he would, but he has been forced to clean out the freezer this month.  He finished the last frozen kolache last week and only has a few corn dogs left.  I’m fairly certain he won’t ever buy either of those in bulk again. 
  • I sold some things through our online garage sale and made $25 today.  I’m glad to have a little extra cash in case something comes up this week. 

We are down to the final week of our no-spend month!  I think we have only filled up with gas twice and paid for doctors’ visits and prescriptions with our debit card.  I’m very curious to see how much money we have not spent this month.