Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My theory

Ok, so I have a bizarre theory regarding my daughter's strange lymph node "infections" of the past three Novembers. If anyone reading this has any information to either support or disprove my theory, I would GREATLY appreciate the comments!! The specialist we saw today acknowledged that it was possible, but stated it was such a remote possibility that he wasn't willing to consider it.

Two years ago, she was fine. On Thanksgiving night, she spent the night at our neighbor's house. They had a nice fire burning in their fireplace most of the evening. She was brought back in a panic that next morning, with the area under her chin swollen TERRIBLY! We rushed to the ER and she was given antibiotics.

Last year, she again spent time at the neighbor's house, again exposed to the fireplace.

This year, we burned our fireplace for the very first time (we just moved here this summer and did not have a fireplace at the prior house) on Saturday night. She woke up Sunday morning with the swelling!

Can this be just a coincidence, or is my daughter having some sort of allergic reaction to the burning wood or creosote that is manifesting itself in her lymph nodes????? I just have a strong feeling that somehow the two are linked. It might just be me grasping at straws to find an explanation, but it just makes sense to me! I did a little online research and didn't find much information, but did find that children with allergies/asthma (she has seasonal allergies) can often react to fires in fireplaces due to allergens in the wood. The most common reaction seems to be a rash, but further investigation found evidence that swollen lymph nodes CAN be an allergic reaction! Anyone have any thoughts?? It makes sense to me, even if the doctor doesn't agree. There won't be any further fires here, just in case. I would much rather be safe than sorry, and if we keep her away from fireplaces and we see no reaction next year, I'm going to really feel like my theory is correct.

I know it's not likely, but it really is the only thing that makes sense. I'm considering taking her to an allergist after the first of the year, just to see what they say. For now, she is simply being treated with an aggressive level of antibiotics for a regular infection. Hopefully it will work, but I think I'm going to treat her with Benadryl, too, just to see what happens.

I wish everyone reading this a wonderful Thanksgiving! And if you're a Black Friday shopper (I am NOT), have a great time and find some wonderful deals. I'll be home with the kids, decorating for Christmas...can't wait!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No Menu Plan this week

I'm opting out of Menu Plan Monday this week, as I don't know where this week is going to be taking us. My daughter has her third annual severe lymph node infection and last year we were in and out of hospitals and doctor's offices trying to determine the cause. Here we go again. Since I don't know what will happen this week, and with the big dinner Thursday (provided we don't have a hospital admission then), I'm just going to "wing it" this week (pun intended). Tonight I changed my menu because my daughter asked for spaghetti, which is easy for her to swallow with her swollen throat. I'm going to let her tell me what she will eat and go from there.

Hopefully we will be back to normal next week, and maybe even have an answer for these infections. It doesn't help that the child is allergic to almost every antibiotic on the market. *sigh* Think happy thoughts!!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Healthy Cookies

The other day I eyed a couple of very over-ripe bananas on my counter, contemplating what to do with them. It was a cold day, and I wanted to give my kids cookies and cocoa for their after-school snack, so I began to wonder if I could fashion some sort of healthy cookie utilizing those bananas. I browsed some recipe sites but couldn't find exactly what I wanted, so I decided to try my luck and see what I could create.

They actually turned out really well, and my kids asked me to make them again! I jotted down what I tossed into the batch, so now I've decided to use my blog to actually turn this creation into a recipe! This will also be my contribution to the recipe swap over at Grocery Cart Challenge - what a deal! ;-)

Healthier Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

2 mashed bananas
1 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. chocolate chips or raisins

Cream the sugars with the bananas and peanut butter, beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flours, soda, salt, and cinnamon and blend into wet mixture. Fold in oats and chips or raisins (I used mini chocolate chips). The dough will be a bit sticky.

Drop onto lightly greased cookie sheet and spread a bit with the back of the spoon/scoop.

Bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes or until beginning to brown.

For more amazing recipe ideas, be sure to visit Gayle's recipe swap!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wish List

I'm very late in posting my Works for Me Wednesday. It's been one of those busy, productive kinds of days (I finished shopping for Thanksgiving, we cleaned all the leaves out of the yard, got firewood delivered, AND did a roof repair that's been haunting us for weeks!), and I just hadn't had a chance to THINK of something about which to post. When I did find the time, I had no ideas! Well, this lack of ideas got me thinking....

There have been so many times that I've had someone (a friend, my mom, or DH) ask me what sort of gifts I wanted for Christmas, my birthday, Mother's Day, etc. And it never fails....when someone asks that question, no immediate answers come to mind. Of course, a few days later the realization comes, "I should have told them *...*!" Has that ever happened to you???

Well, I finally found a way to avoid this, and provide immediate and pertinent answers to this question. I keep a perpetual "wish list" handy. I actually keep it on the last page of my menu planning notebook so I always know where it is. Another good reason to keep it near the kitchen is that it's often a kitchen item that I come up needing! So, anytime I find something that I need (for instance, the can opener breaks down or my favorite mixing bowl cracks), I grab the notebook and jot down the idea. I also do this when DH or one of the kids mentions something they really want or need - just add it to the list. This is also helpful if I happen to have a little extra money and want to make the most of it - I can consult the list and find out what I "need" more than anything else.

Of course, there are sometimes things on the list for which I find a good substitute. This is a learning experience! It's interesting to see the things I have wanted/thought I needed in the past and see what I am able to live without purchasing. And it helps my mom to get me things for gifts that she knows I will actually use and enjoy.

This is a pretty basic thing, and it might be more common than I realize, but it does work for me! For more great tips and ideas, check out Rocks in my Dryer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Craft Idea

I originally posted this for a craft carnival, but due to a complete lack of original thought, I am also posting it for Works for me Wednesday! Yes, I know that's cheating, but it's been a rough week, involving a trip to the ER and severe anemia (2 points from needing a blood transfusion - yikes!), so I've decided that cheating works for me this week! ;-)

I've just discovered a blog called Just a Girl. She is currently having a blog carnival for craft ideas for Christmas. I got to thinking about something neat that I had done that was actually my own idea (as far as I know, anyway!!) and I remembered a craft that I did 5 years ago with my kids that I still treasure. I made Santas out of their hands. Now, please know that I am NOT a talented crafter, and I definitely have no artistic abilities, so someone else can probably take this to new heights, but I was happy with what I did. Here's how they look today, 5 years later:

Aren't they cute? And they are super-easy to make, because, if they weren't, then I couldn't have done them!!

I fashioned my ornaments out of salt-dough. It's very easy to find a recipe online, and it's also very inexpensive, as it's pretty much flour, salt, and water. I had each of my children (the youngest was barely a year old at the time) lay their hands out on the rolled out dough and, using a toothpick, I traced their hand outlines. I then cut the hands out with the tip of a sharp knife and transferred them to a cookie sheet. I baked them in the oven slowly to dry them, per the instructions with the dough recipe. After they were fully dried and cooled, I turned them upside down and painted them into little Santas. Here is a little closer picture of one to show the specifics of how I painted them:

I made the tip of the hat with the fake snow type stuff, and the rest was just paint. Over time, the paint has crackled just a bit, but I think it makes them look more country and cute. The fingers make the beard, and the thumb is the hat. I think these would make great gifts for grandparents. Maybe I should make some more for my mom - I couldn't possibly part with these, though!! Of course, the kids' hands have grown a LOT since 2003! :-)

If you give this a try, I would love to see where you take the idea. I bet someone can really do something amazing with the idea. Happy Christmas crafting!!!! And for more great Works for Me ideas, visit Rocks in my Dryer. Enjoy!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - week of 11/17/08

The week before Thanksgiving...at least I know next week will be EASY menu planning!!! ;-) Now, I'm just hoping, hoping, hoping that someone has a reasonable sale on turkeys this week. I need to buy mine on Monday of next week, since I have no freezer space available! For now, though, here is the plan for this week:

Monday - Rotisserie style chicken, roasted (in the crock pot) Yukon Gold potatoes, glazed carrots, homemade rolls. (Total cost $4.95)

Tuesday - Meatloaf (it's already done and in the freezer - woohoo!), potato-cheese burritos (using leftover potatoes from yesterday), corn, rest of the rolls made on Monday. (Total cost $5.65)

Wednesday - Chicken-noodle soup (making stock from that chicken I cooked on Monday), sourdough bread. (Total cost $2.35)

Thursday - DH and I have a dinner/auction thing to go to that evening, so I just have to make up a quickie dinner for the kids. They will be having Velveeta Shells and Cheese, homemade applesauce, and the rest of the sourdough bread. (Total cost $1.55)

Friday - Chicken-alfredo pizza on whole wheat crust. (Total cost $3.25)

Saturday - Ham steaks cooked in Coke (yummm!!), rice, green beans, biscuits. (Total cost $3.50)

Sunday - Pizza-Rice Casserole (this is similar), corn, yogurt cornbread. (Total cost $3.90)

I actually sat down this week and calculated my cost on things such as sugar, flour, and other baking products, so I can be a little more accurate in figuring my costs on dinners. I was surprised to see how little it costs me to make my own bread, which tastes SO much better than store-bought - how cool is that????

For more fantastic menu ideas, pop over to OrgJunkie!!!

A new washer and dryer - yikes!

Ok....I can't believe that I did this, but I just bought a new HE front-loading washer and dryer! They will be delivered and set up next Wednesday. I didn't necessarily NEED a new washer and dryer, as my current pair is still working okay, but it was such a good deal that we decided to take the plunge. Sears has a special tonight (from 6-9 pm) for a Samsung pair of front-loaders for only $899 for BOTH. Well, Lowe's agreed to ad match that price. They didn't honor the "plus 10%" that they advertise, but they DID accept a 20% off coupon from Home Depot! I ended up with a nice new HE washer and dryer, with a new power cord and an extended 5 year warranty, for just over $900. The retail on ONE of the units is almost that much!

I sat and looked at the water usage of the new washer and my current one, and with the amount of laundry that I do, my water bill should go down $20-$25 a month, I figure. So, in essence, they will eventually pay for themselves, right? That's my justification, anyway. Now, granted, I did NOT buy the matching pedestals, but I figure if I ever have the extra money for those, I can buy them anytime. For now, I'll be fine with just the washer and dryer - I've so been coveting the front loading units!!

Anyway....I'm a little panicked, knowing that I spent that much money tonight, but I plan to pay for it with the econonic stimulus check that we haven't spent yet. I also have 6 months to pay for it, as they gave me that long for free financing. All in all, it was a fantastic deal, but I think I'm still in shock! Once they arrive, I'll post how I like them (I hope I LOVE them!!!!). :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Crunch Top Potatoes

It's time again for the recipe swap over at the Grocery Cart Challenge! I sat here for a minute trying to figure out what recipe I could share, and happened to see a note I had written to myself earlier in the week. Someone on one of my email lists asked for unique recipes involving cornflakes, and I was reminded of Crunch Top Potatoes, a recipe we love, but which I have not made in months! I wrote myself a reminder to put it on the menu as soon as possible. I even bought cornflakes the last time I went to Aldi (only $1.15)!! So, without further ado, here are the Crunch Top Potatoes:

4-5 unpeeled potatoes, washed and sliced about 1/2" thick
1/4 c. butter, melted (you can safely use less, but this makes them GOOD)
1/2 c. crushed cornflakes
1/2 c. shredded cheddar
Paprika or other seasonings

(NOTE: You can adjust all of these amounts. I actually don't measure anything for this recipe - I just use whatever I have or feel like using)

Put 2 T. of the melted butter in a microwaveable dish. Add sliced potatoes, turning to coat in the butter and cover dish. Cook on high power for 5 minutes, or until potatoes are becoming tender.

Uncover potatoes. Pour over the remaining butter (or omit to make them a LITTLE better for you) and top with cornflakes and cheese. Sprinkle with paprika, or other seasonings you like - this recipe is very versatile! Re-cover and cook on high power for 3-5 minutes, until potatoes are completely tender and cheese is melted.

This is a very different side dish, and my kids, who refuse to eat baked potatoes, do enjoy this. I wish I hadn't forgotten about it!

For more terrific recipes, be sure to visit Grocery Cart Challenge!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Works for me - Turning off lights!

Do your kids leave lights on all the time? How about that dear husband? Do you find yourself constantly reminding everyone to shut off lights or feel like the electricity police?? I actually found a way to get everyone involved in saving energy by turning everything off when they leave a room....and my investment was less than $10! I have shaved well over that amount off my electric bill, and I've also taught my family to think about the energy they are wasting. Want to know how I did it? Read on....

At the start of September, I went to the bank and purchased a $10 roll of quarters. I then took 5 paper cups and labeled each with the initial of one member of the family - one cup for each of us. I then divided up the quarters into the cups - 8 for each person. A family meeting was called to explain the quarters, and the related game we were going to play. Everyone was informed that they had a chance to make some money in the coming month - this got their attention very quickly, especially when I detailed that the earnings potential could be as high as $10. Here's how it worked: everyone was to be on the lookout for lights and televisions that were still "on" when nobody was in the room. If you found this situation, you were to turn off the offending item, and immediately go to the offending person and inform them of the oversight. Then, for the corrective measure, you got to move a quarter from THEIR cup to YOUR cup. If brother left on the television and light in his room and went downstairs to play, and youngest sister saw this, she could turn off both items, inform her brother, and collect 50 cents.

This was an immediate hit with the kids. Dad took a little longer to come around, but he's finally learned a bit. Every day saw quarters moving from one cup to another and the competition grew - all three kids wanted to collect ALL the quarters! They were running around the house constantly turning off lights. We ended up having to set boundaries - you could leave the light on if you were to be gone 5 minutes or less. This prevented the "but I just had to go to the bathroom!" situation.

After the first month, the girls had quite a few quarters, and their brother had less than the 8 he was given to start. The girls reveled in this and were very excited to receive their cash-out at the end of the month. I put the quarters from mine and DH's cups back into the kitty and supplemented back to $10 and we started again. The second month, not nearly as many quarters moved, and we haven't even had to do it this month. They are turning off lights and being very consciencious about electricity. It's amazing how well this worked! They still catch each other every now and then just for fun. If they start slacking, we'll just start the quarters again.

This little electricity-saving game *definitely* works for me! Let me know if you give it a try - or how you make improvements to the system. I'm always open to great new ideas!! If you're looking for more great tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sloppy joe success!

What an accomplishment! I actually realllllly cheated tonight - I made the sloppy joes with half a pound of ground turkey, and about a half cup of leftover cooked bulgur! THEY DIDN'T NOTICE!!! Both older kids ate two sandwiches each, as did DH. I could taste a slight difference from the "norm," but nobody else even noticed it. They raved about how good dinner was, and I just smiled....

Looks like ground turkey from Aldi just made its way into our meal planning! Woohoo!! (and I got them to eat bulgur, which they claim to absolutely hate! hehehehehehe)

Anyone else have any sneaky food stories to share?? :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Menu Plan Monday, week of 11/10

Another week gone by, and we're only a month and a half from Christmas - Thanksgiving is even closer! Yikes!! In anticipation of shopping for the upcoming food holiday, and a tighter-than-usual budget this month, I've planned this week around food I already have (or can make) so I do not have to go to the grocery store!

Monday - Sloppy Joes on homemade buns, rice, corn (cost approx. $3.40) I'm going to try and sneak in the ground turkey in this one, as I'm thinking with all those seasonings, hopefully nobody will notice! Wish me luck....

Tuesday - DH's birthday: Lasagna (his favorite), salad, buttery breadsticks, and probably a chocolate cake for dessert - yum! (cost w/ cake approx. $6.25)

Wednesday - Pumpkin french toast, "fried" apples (due to DH bringing home the key ingredients from his restaurant when they discontinued this menu item, cost approx. $1.50)

Thursday - Smoked sausage, Yukon Gold potatoes, glazed carrots, cornbread (cost approx. $4.00)

Friday - Ham and pepperoni pizza w/ sourdough crust (cost approx. $3.25)

Saturday - Mushroom-broccoli penne w/ chicken, green beans, garlic bread (cost approx. $4.25)

Sunday - Potato corn & chicken chowder (this recipe is kinda similar), homemade rolls (cost approx. $4.75)

Not a very thrilling week, but everything is kid approved, which always helps! My youngest won't be happy about Monday night, but she will have her bun with cheese or turkey lunchmeat on it and will be fine! And I certainly can't complain about my costs per meal. Some of them surprise even me!

For more great menu plans, be sure to pop over to I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Perfect Hot Chocolate

Okay, so maybe it isn't "perfect," but this is the recipe that I use. It has been tweaked and modified and taste-tested by the monkeys until it has evolved into this cocoa mix that they consider the absolute best. It took about 2 years to get it right, so I thought I would share it. I made a batch of it today to make cocoa cones for Christmas gifts. :) Let me know if you try it and like it!

Hot Cocoa Mix

10 c. powdered dry milk (25 oz.)
2 c. powdered non-dairy creamer
1 8 oz. container cocoa
6 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. cinnamon
1 T. powdered vanilla
1 3.9 oz package Jello Chocolate Fudge instant pudding (yes, it must be this variety, according to my kids. I tried regular chocolate and it just wasn't right!)

Combine all in a large bowl and mix well. I use my hand blender to get all the little lumps out of it. It will make about 16 cups of mix, and my cost was about $10.50. This makes 24 cocoa cones, in case you're wondering (I put 2/3 c. mix in each).

For more GREAT recipe ideas, visit Gayle's blog!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 11/3/08

We've finally reached election week! Although I pretty much hate commercials in general, I will be so very glad when I no longer have to hear the various local and national candidates twist the truth in any way possible every few minutes of what little television I take time to enjoy! But let's not dwell on that...let's get to the menu plan that seemed to take me forever this week!!!

Monday - Chicken parmesan, spaghetti noodles, salad, soft buttery breadsticks. (Approx. cost for 5 of us - $4.75)

Tuesday - Crock pot roast with Yukon gold potatoes, baby carrots, applesauce, cornbread. I'll be volunteering at the district cloting center in the morning and the school all afternoon, so it's a perfect crock pot day! (Approx. cost $5.50)

Wednesday - Creamy burrito casserole with leftover roast from Tuesday, corn, any leftover bread from the past couple of days. :) (Approx. cost $4.60)

Thursday - Honey lime chicken (new recipe - gotta use up some limes in the fridge!), steamed brown rice, green beans, sourdough bread. (Approx. cost $5.80)

Friday - Homemade pizza w/ a wheat crust. We'll top it with what's left of the roast. (Approx. cost $4.25)

Saturday - Pork chops in mushroom soup, mashed potatoes w/ the mushroom gravy, corn, biscuits. (Approx. cost $5.10)

Sunday - Pork and mushroom stuffed bread, potato soup. (Approx. cost $3.30)

For LOTS of other great menu plans, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Learning as I go!

Hip hip horray!!! I just learned how to make a clickable link in my blog postings! It took me long enough, considering it's sooooooooo easy!!!!!

And now I have a clickable email - what a lot I'm figuring out tonight! Next step - sidebar stuff like blogs I read and those cool buttons. Anyone care to help there? :-) I'll keep working on it!

On another topic, "falling back" is really going to be a blessing tonight! I can't believe it's almost 12:30. I think it's time to get out of all these blogs and go to BED!!!

Good night.....