You Are My Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

My Only Sunshine

Natures Botanical Gardens, Spring Hill, Florida. Photo courtesy of Jen Carter Photography.

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21 April, 2013

Review: Chicken Piccata - It's AMAZING!

I'm back on the cooking bandwagon again... I HAD planned to make a sweet and spicy bbq roast in my crockpot this weekend, but as luck would have it, the website is down.... WHAT??? Ugh! Luckily with meal planning I can rotate some meals around!



This was fabulous, and fairy simple - and QUICK - to make.

You'll need the following:

Ingredients:

2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1 extra-large egg 
1/2 tablespoon water 
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs 
Good olive oil 
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided 
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
**Capers - Optional
Sliced lemon, for serving 
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving 


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. I covered my baking sheet with aluminum foil - but you should probably coat it with Pam or whatever nonstick cooking spray you use.... My breading was very pretty - but not so pretty stuck to the pan. BOO!

Pound each of your chicken breasts to 1/4" thick, then sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.



Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumbs.




Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce. Mine didn't brown as much as I would have liked - and I lost some breading on flipping. My husband was kind enough to suggest a second a egg bath - one before the flour, and one after, maybe that will help on the next run!


For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. I used dry parsley instead of fresh. And, I wasn't sure where to add the capers, so I just put them in when I made the sauce. AND, for the record, my sauce was SUPER lemony, so I tried to cut it with more butter. I would up with SUPER lemony and SUPER buttery sauce... oops. It was still good, just SUPER lemony. I also cut my lemon halves in quarters and then put them in the sauce. 


The only leftover I had was some Angel Hair pasta, and half of my chicken breast that I saved for lunch tomorrow.



 It was DELICIOUS. I can't remember the last time I saw my husband eat so ravenously. He asked that next time I make additional servings. Mini Me liked it too - she just didn't care for the sauce. She's not a fan of tart foods. Ironically, tart candy is fine. Just not actual food.... Must be a kid thing. 

Original Source: Sugar and Spice

The hubby asked that we add this to our regular rotation of meals, and to put it on the "make again soon" list. My dinner is ALWAYS so much better when I know my family enjoys it! I was VERY pleased with this meal, and if you're looking for a good Piccata recipe, I would say START HERE!




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Frugal Mom Strikes Again.... Church Dresses and More!

I'd like to accept responsibility for this weekends awesome finds, but I can't. I'd also like to think that some of this shopping savvy is rubbing off on my little one - but I think we'll have to see if the training sticks!

This weekend I was finally able to visit another thrift shop near my house. I've only been trying to go for like a month - and every time they are closed. However, I made it there this weekend and I was actually very surprised! The store is operated by a church and the proceeds from their sales go to help with "smiles" for those in need. So, I get to save money, and help people who need dental care. That just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all the way around.

I ALMOST bought another bread machine - ALMOST. A lady my husband works with said Breadman is the best - and this wasn't a Breadman, but it appeared to be in excellent condition. My thought process was to have a second machine so I could make two different loaves at once. BUT, as must as I love making the bread, I'm not doing it every day, so perhaps we can survive on one until I learn to make a few more varieties. THEN I will probably buy a second one. I can ALWAYS find them at the Salvation Army and now THIS store so it doesn't appear there will be a shortage when I get ready for one.

While in this store my daughter called me over to a rack of dresses.... No, really, dresses. GASP! EVERY once in a while she wants to wear a dress, but she was insistent on trying on two she picked out. I always indulge my daughter in these things. I think it's important that as her mom I let her find and express who she's going to be (within reason of course), and I always said when she was ready to be a girl she would.... Thank you beginning puberty.

We went to the bathroom, she tried them on. She made sure they were long enough, not cut too low, bent over to make sure they didn't embarrass her by gaping open at the chest, turned to the side to make sure they didn't make her look heavy (I didn't teach her that last part - but I'd like to beat the people who did), and decided that she had to have them. HOW could I EVER say no.....




We scored each of these dresses for $3.00. Thank you, thank you very much. Now, I just need shoes.... Knowing her, she'll want heels. No worries though, I'm not doing heels at 9.....

While digging through the racks and stacks, we also found a pair of tennis shoes! Of COURSE the kids has hit a growth spurt, and I found the perfect pair for her to play in the yard with. I'm sorry, but I HATE buying brand new tennis shoes - and then seeing them filthy within a week. It breaks my heart.

SO, I found THESE:



Total for my shopping trip?? $8.56!!! Two dresses in PERFECT condition, and a pair of tennis shoes that if they get ruined, it won't break my heart or my bank! I could get used to this!

Friday night I also scored with a couple of items I've been needing for quite some time.... A new coffee pot and an iron. I wanted a nice coffee pot, but just never got around to shopping for one - thank goodness I saw this one! It hasn't been cleaned yet, but I'm hoping everything is in working order when I get it cleaned and ready to go.

As far as the iron... Let's just say that I've been looking down at my clothing going "WHAT was I thinking!" And those raised eyebrow looks from my mom aren't helping either.....


And finally, I need new plates! I found some I like, and after a vote on my facebook, I've decided that if they are still there this week, I will pick them up. Let me know your thoughts! I LOVE vintage stuff, and these definitely look vintage - or as my daughter said "MOM, those look like 1965!!!"


Okay, that's my shopping excursion for the weekend! I would call this an overall success!

Don't forget:

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17 April, 2013

Frugal Living And Common Sense: Kids And Clothes

Okay, something has happened to my daughter overnight..... She's gone from solely being a redneck tomboy to reading labels on her clothes - and wanting certain brands.... Wait, WHAT????

So, I don't think there's anything wrong with kids having a particular brand of clothes. I DO think there's a problem with paying department store prices.

When I was a kid, the big names were Bongo, and Guess - and as a teenager, the first low cut Calvin Klein jeans popped on the scene. Today we have Hollister, Abercrombie and Fitch, and American Eagle.... If you're anything like me, I can't afford to, and flat out REFUSE to pay $60.00 for a pair of SHORTS that has a zipper less than an inch long.... But I STILL want my daughter to have brand name clothes.

I have to tell you that my experience with clothing from Walmart and Kmart is that I don't think the quality is as good, and I don't believe they wash up as well. Don't get me wrong, as an infant, we had a LOT of Walmart, Kmart, and Target brands. They were inexpensive, and when they no longer came clean, or wore out, we tossed them and replaced them - or had a garage sale.

That being said, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I discovered children's consignment stores. The sky split, the angel's sang, and I learned that for what ONE outfit would cost me in the mall, I could get SEVERAL at a consignment store - AND, if I shopped carefully, I would find the same stuff in the mall that some first time mom who thought their baby needed a different outfit for each and every day of their life purchased, the kid outgrew it before they could get it worn - and I'd get it brand new with tags for a fraction of the price. So, what did I do??  My kid had a different outfit for each and every day of the first year of her life (probably closer to two) - I just did it for a fraction of the cost, most of which was sold at a garage sale, or put back into the consignment store before she had a chance to wear it..... ::sigh::

Other than my child noticing labels, I also have another problem.... My daughter took after her father in the height/weight category. So, my nine year old wears a size five juniors jeans. She loves Hollister. She loves Abercrombie. Has anyone checked the prices on their jeans? And a basic tshirt? Can you say "NO"? I can....

We are SOOOOO super lucky to have a consignment store LITERALLY right around the corner from our house. I just went there this weekend. Three pairs of jeans - 1 Hollister, 1 Bullhead, 1 Charlotte Russe brand, 1 Hollister Tshirt, 1 Old Navy Shirt, 1 Hollister cover up, plus 4 other shirts - $36.00. We went to dinner for my niece's birthday, wearing like new clothes, and spent less than $20.00!

Us at dinner, yeah, we look good baby!

You might say that you would NEVER shop in a consignment store.... I say YOU'RE NUTS! The simple fact is this: THE VERY INSTANT you buy something and walk out of the store, your item is now used. One wash and you can't tell the difference between YOUR clothes, and MINE - unless you check our receipts.

I am honestly NOT a huge fan of Goodwill and Salvation Army. You REALLY have to shop them to find anything good. It's possible, but I find most of their items are dingy, stained, damaged, or SO FAR out of style/season, that I don't find too much there. I DO find a lot of homegoods there - like my bread machine, and some decorative stuff.

Another resource I use is Poshmark.com. You can sell items here, and purchase items. This is GREAT for higher end clothing items. Most people do not want to sell these at a garage sale. You can trade, or bargain here as well. There are also electronics and other items like PSP's, Kindles, and cell phones. You need to watch for scammers though. Just because they tell you it's authentic Coach or Michael Kors does not mean it is. If you aren't skilled in telling knock off from authentic, probably best not to purchase them online.

Finally, I've discovered that in my area there are lots of Facebook groups for online sales. For instance, there is a group dedicated to certain areas of the county. In the search bar of Facebook, put in cities or areas of your county and see if any online garage sale or trade groups come up. I've sold AND purchased items here for just above garage sale prices.

Here's an example of my most recent purchase:

My daughter has been wanting a pair of Air Jordans. We looked at them in the store, and I could easily drop $500 on the shoe collection my daughter wants to build. My daughter is still in that phase that she is ROUGH on her shoes, they need to be replaced frequently. She also has a distinct walk and can't wear shoes from Walmart or Payless. Plus, higher end shoes wear better in the long run.

I was able to find a pair of Air Jordans in one of the Facebook groups I frequent. I contacted the seller and arranged a time to meet. We purchased the BRAND NEW Air Jordans, box and all, for $35.00. This made for happy baby!!!



I feel I should tell you that not all consignment stores are created equal. Go. Shop. Look through. Some stores are pickier about the quality of items they take in, and some are picky about the brands they take in, and of course, some are more expensive than others. You should plan to shop the same stores a few times before you make a final decision about whether or not to return, and which ones you plan to frequent.

I've shared a few ways that I cut down on clothing costs in my house. What are your tricks? I'm always open to new ideas!


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08 April, 2013

Death and Dying: An open letter to a little girl who lost her Daddy.

This weekend I was saddened to learn of the passing of the Husband of someone from my hometown. Friday morning they welcomed the birth of their third child and sometime late Friday night the Husband passed suddenly - and unexpectedly. Through the miracle that is Facebook, I've been watching the family struggle to pull themselves together - one of them being a daughter, just a few short years older than my own child. Being a Daddy's girl who ALSO lost her father suddenly, it's all I can do not to cry, especially when I saw the first posting she made about her father's death.

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My Dad... I can hear him laughing... And I'd bet he's saying
 something TOTALLY inappropriate to my mother...
My father died suddenly on October 27, 2001 of a massive heartattack - at 9:10 p.m. if we're being technical, but only I would keep track of that. It was a very sad and shocking experience that nobody saw coming.

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Daddy and I at the motocross races in Florida.
I don't remember too much in the days after he died. It's bits and pieces. I DO remember the phone ringing in the days after his death and I answered it. It was a girl that I went to highschool with. While we had passed each other many times in the hallway, we weren't friends, and we didn't run in the same social circles. I was an ROTC brat, and she was this beautiful blonde girl who was one of the popular girls - and to make things even better, she's half of a set of identical twins. We had a mutual friend who had passed along that my dad had died, and after hearing that she took it upon herself to call me.

Sometime in the summer her father had died. I believe he had been sick for some time, and had finally gone on to be with the Lord. This same mutual friend had also told ME about HER dad. I called my dad that night and cried. I told him that I had no idea what I'd do without him. He assured me he was still very much still here and wasn't going anywhere. Well, that might have been the only fib he's told me, come to think of it.

In this phone call to me, the only thing I can remember is that she told me that some days I would be sad, and some days I would be angry - especially when I saw people who had their daddy's, and I didn't, and it was okay to feel that. I've NEVER forgotten that phone call. It will be twelve years this year since my father left us and I STILL think of that phone call, especially when I STILL get sad, or STILL get angry when I see people who have their daddy's and I don't. I even walked out on my bff's father-daughter dance at her wedding. I couldn't bear to watch what I would never have - but like the girl on the phone said, it was OKAY to feel that, and I have an awesome BFF who totally understood.

There are other things I learned along the way, and I'm inclined to share them here:


1. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord - but that doesn't mean they leave your heart. My dad's still with me. I carry him in my heart every where I go.

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Dad and I, Fall 1999, Blairsville, Georgia.





2. When I want to talk to him - I do - and it's rarely at his headstone. My dad always said that when he died, if I wanted to talk to him, look up - and I do. He told me not to go to his grave because he wouldn't be there - and he isn't. He's in Heaven, watching over me, well, when he's not going a million miles an hour on his own personal dirt bike on God's personal motocross track. I bet he does an awesome Superman, or one amazing knack-knack now.









3. Children grieve different than their parents. My mom said this often after dad died and I thought she was heartless. I was wrong. She was grieving her partner, her other half. Her children were grown, her life was my father and making a home for him - and she lost that suddenly that night. My grief was different because I was grieving one half of my parents - but I still had one. Parents are like kidneys - you can survive just fine with one. It's not the same when you lose your partner in life. Parents are like a heart, it's pretty darn difficult to live without one whole half of your heart. For me, my life would still follow the natural flow, I would go on in life, get remarried, go back to college, have children - I would just do it with one parent. For my mother, her whole life as she knew it was destroyed that night, and she would have to rebuild an entirely new one.

4. Everyone grieves differently. Immediate family grieves different than extended family, than friends, than coworkers. Don't be angry when you are still deep in your grief and other people have dealt with the loss and moved on from it. Quite honestly, some people don't know how to talk about it, or aren't as comfortable talking about it. I'm from one of those families where a lot of family members are older - so it feels like I was ALWAYS at somebody's funeral growing up.

5. It never gets any easier, you just get numb. Or maybe you adapt is a better way to say it. It's never the same as it was when they were here, you just get an entirely new sense of normal.


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Mom and Dad's first Christmas after they got married.
(My favorite photo of them!)
6. Your surviving parent will move on - and you should NEVER be angry at them for it. To be angry at them stepping up and stepping out whether with friends or a new boyfriend/girlfriend is selfish. Plain and simple. AND, on this same line, you cannot determine WHEN is the appropriate time for them to move on. Only they know that. Mom had dad's clothes out that week. Not because she was done, or didn't love him, but because that was what had to be done for her to cope with his loss. I didn't have to live in the house - she did - and that's what she needed to do to comfort herself. It was about a year or more when she went on her first date - and my brother and I weren't the slightest bit angry.



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Dad sent me this photo of his first snow in Georgia. They left Florida
after he retired, and I stayed behind. He never let me forget how
much he missed me.

7. You only get ONE Daddy, but that doesn't mean that you can't have OTHER special men in your life. I have an AMAZING father-in-law. My now husband's father is also deceased, so my father-in-law is not only his "father" figure, but mine too. By the same token, whoever your surviving parent moves on with will most likely NOT be exactly like the parent you've lost and it's not fair to hold that against them.






 photo dadandjim.jpg
Dad is no doubt giving my brother encouragement, or directions here.
All these years later and I can still hear the bikes, and hear them yelling.

8. It's okay to miss them.

9. It's okay to talk about them.

9. It's okay to be sad. I have days where I look at his pictures and miss him, or hear songs on the radio and cry.

10. It's okay to be angry, and by angry I mean everything from slightly annoyed to rip roaring pissed off is okay.




11. And, as my friend said, you'll be sad, and you'll be angry - especially when you see people who have their daddy's and you don't. It's all true. It's okay to embrace and feel the force of those emotions. It's NOT okay to let them dominate and destroy your life, or engage in destructive behavior. If you feel yourself spiraling into destructive behavior, or unable to deal with the grief and put it in it's place, then I must urge you to seek help through a counselor, or your church, someone else who can identify with what you are feeling.

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Our famous cookie photo. Daddy and I at the racetrack.


Losing my dad at 23 was tragic, and it affected me greatly. We were a very close family, and we were very involved in eachother's lives. It took time for all of us to accept his loss, and deal with the grief, but we have. Did we get it right every time? No. It's okay to stumble. There is no "Death For Dummies" book. You simply go to bed, and get up in the morning and try again.



My father told me MANY years ago when I was MUCH younger that "Death is just a normal part of life. It sucks and it hurts, but you pick up and go on". And that's what I try to do - someday's I'm better at it than others, and I'll probably spend every day of the rest of my life trying to get it right. In the meantime I have a life to live. One that he wouldn't want stopped by his sudden passing - and he would be EXTREMELY disappointed in me if he knew that I had LET his death affect me so greatly.

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My Gram (Dad's Mom), and my daughter about 7 years ago.


I take comfort in the fact that whatever ailments he had on this Earth are gone. I take comfort in the fact that every time I look at my daughter - who never got to meet him - that I have a piece of him back. I take comfort in the fact that I still have a mother, a brother, a niece, and other family members to lean on, and share his memory with. I take comfort in the fact that as a Christian, I believe that I will see him again someday.



 photo dadracing.jpg




My father was as his headstone reads: "A Child Of God, Gone Home To Be With The Father".

Someday I will be too - and we will all be together then.
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04 April, 2013

Quest To SAHM - Update 2

We are still making small steps to get our finances in order in case we decide to make the move to a one income household.

I have been watching the budget closer and printing out bank statements and highlighting away to see where the money is going. It still astounds me that with as much as we cook at home that we still have a fair amount going to fast food - most especially my lunches at work! It may be time to brown bag it. You don't realize how much you are spending eating out until you look for it... Then WOW!

We are also turning the air up (or off) at EVERY opportunity. Consistently we have seen a drop in the electric bill. That's a HUGE one right there! In the book "America's Cheapest Family" they tell you to turn off fans when you aren't in the room. We're seriously guilty of leaving those puppies running. I've made it a point to start turning them off - and to turn off ALL of the lights in the house when we leave.

I have printed out a calendar and plotted all of our bills and when they are due. If you have trouble getting bills paid on time and keeping track of them - there's a good start. You'll get an idea of when the majority of your bills are due and when you should be prepared to pay them. I've always kept a calendar, but I've never been the best at plotting and keeping track - it was honestly more of a "MUST BE PAID BY THIS DATE OR ELSE". NO GOOD!!!

My next goal is to watch the grocery bill. I've really cooked the last ten years, but it's only been in the last three years that I've really come into cooking all sorts of different meals - mainly because my Husband is like the most AWESOME ever when it comes to cooking and it doesn't matter whether he's cooking or I'm cooking. How awesome is it that I can say "HONEY! Can you show me how to separate egg whites?" or "Come double check me and make sure this chicken is cooked right!" I love it!

If these families can feed a family of seven on $350.00 a month, or a family of four on $200.00, then, uh, I'm doing it wrong. So, I'll need to reevaluate what I cook, where I shop, and how much I'm spending. I'm still working towards planning a monthly trip, but I haven't made a decision on couponing, or how much I'll allow in the budget for it. I haven't couponed in a while now, but it was a GREAT way to stockpile things that are major budget breakers for me like sauces, sodas, even toilet paper, and toiletries.

I'm thinking that the best way to proceed on that will be to try things a few different ways and see what works best. I'll have the luxury that a lot of stay at home moms won't have - one child who's in school all day. That will leave me time to plan, prepare, and shop while she's in school. I have a website that tracks all the deals at the major stores - Publix, CVS, Walgreens - so I can always hit those deals throughout the week.

I still have in my mind a potential date to exit employment but it feels like my job is my security blanket - which in reality, it is! I have recently started giving thought to being a WORK at home mom, rather than a STAY at home mom. That's a whole 'nother blog though!

There are still many more changes to make, and I'm still actively working my book and doing lots of research. I'll keep you posted!

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03 April, 2013

BEING SICK STINKS!!!!

This post is brought to you courtesy of my mother in law. She tried to kill us. All of us! No, I'm really kidding.

This year has really been awful for sickness in my family - and it's not the kind where you get the flu and it's gone in four days. It's the kind where three weeks later family members are STILL sick. I'm not sure what new strains have popped up this year, but it seems to take more than one z-pack to beat them. 

Just when I thought we could all breathe a sigh of relief.... entrance the new bug.... on Easter weekend. By this point we have both missed work, and are feeling cagey - AND on top of it all we're trying to keep mini-me from getting it. 

So, it looks like we'll all be waiting for the virus to pass, and using copious amounts of disinfectant spray on like everything. I hope this passes soon. We would ALL like to get back to our regularly scheduled life - and I've got blogging to do!


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