Love notes…

Last year I started putting love notes in the kids lunch boxes. My goal is to make them smile and know that somewhere out there someone loves them and is thinking of them. I normally pack their lunches at night (huge time saver in the mornings) and started including a little note in there to make them smile. Most of the time my notes were just little words of encouragement – wishing them good luck on a test – or maybe an observation about a good deed or character trait – thanking them for being kind to their sibling. This year I have continued the tradition but with a different twist, I am now including a little joke in their lunch each day. I just wanted to give them a little chuckle at lunch and maybe give them something to share with their friends and look forward to each day. Here are some of the jokes that I have included lately:

Where do snowmen go to dance?
A snowball

What kind of car does Mickey Mouse’s wife drive?
A Minnie van

Why don’t dogs drive?
Because they can’t find a barking space

I write the joke on one side of a small piece of paper and the punchline on the backside. This has been a real hit around our house. The kids come off the bus telling the other kids their jokes or telling me about the reaction at lunch to today’s joke. A side affect of this little experiment is that I am now looking forward to packing their lunches. In the past, I absolutely did not like packing their lunches at night. Trying to come up with new things to put in there and balancing the sweet/salty/hearty/healthy combo was just  an exercise in futility. I have one who only like peanut butter sandwiches without jelly and the other one who went through a phase where he wouldn’t touch a sandwich. One will eat grapes and the other one only wants applesauce. On and on the battle goes. Even though the lunches haven’t changed, it is now fun for me to scour the internet to find a cute kid appropriate joke that they will understand. Sometimes the jokes come from surprising places, like today’s joke came while reading a magazine in the dentist’s office.

So, next time you are packing your kids lunch, throw in some humor and see what happens. Or write them a note to let them know you love something about them. Or at least that you are thinking of them. That will make lunch taste better than it did the day before.

Happy 80th Birthday, Grandpa…

Today is my grandfather’s 80th birthday. For being 80 years old, he doesn’t let it slow him down. He is up before the sun and often spends the entire day working around the yard – planting vegetables, picking buckets of raspberries or chopping wood. Yes, chopping wood at 80 years old. Here as a Birthday tribute to him are a few things you should know about my grandfather, Frank Moore.

1) When I was a little girl he used to help me pick little cherry tomatoes. I remember eating them still warm from the sun and eating as many as I could hold. He would bring them to me as I would sit in my favorite green chair.

2) He can plant anything and make it grow. He has a God given gift of a very green thumb. I believe that you could seriously give him any plant and he could make it grow even if it had no chance of survival in the mountain climate that he lives in. Maybe I will give him a pineapple and see if he can get that to flourish.

3) He might own every tool that has ever been made and probably has them in multiples. He seems to love tools and if you have a job that needs to be done, he probably has the tool for it. If he doesn’t, then you probably don’t need to be doing it.

4) He is a master craftsman and helped build the house he and my grandmother have lived in for over 50 years. He was a cabinet maker at one time and has made lovely wooden pieces, including the cabinets in the kitchen where I learned to cook.

5) He has such a curiosity for new technology. When I am at their house, he wants to see the laptop and iPhone and figure out what they do. Most octogenarians are put off by technology but he is fascinated by it. I think this interest in new things is one of the things that has kept his mind sharp.

6) He is a proud American who served his country in the Korean War. He doesn’t talk about it much but he has made numerous personal sacrifices to fight for our country. He lost 80% of his hearing and has suffered from PTSD since he has come back, over 60 years ago. The kids love looking at his medals that he got for serving in the Army.

Happy 80th Birthday, Grandpa. I hope you enjoy every minute and don’t forget to keep moving so you don’t rust.

We love you!

Peach Cobbler…

Peaches are such a delicious part of summer. We stopped at a fruit stand in South Carolina coming home from Grandma’s house in July and picked up some locally grown fruit. These were so ripe and sweet that we couldn’t wait to dig into them. So,  we ate a few in the car with peach juice dripping down our chins but I held back a few to freeze so I could use them in making peach cobbler. I love a cake like cobbler and this is exactly what this makes. It is so yummy served warm with vanilla ice cream or cold straight from the fridge.

Tiffany’s Peach Cobbler

Filling:

4 cups frozen or fresh peach slices
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

Batter:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup butter

Preheat Oven 350 degrees. In 9×9 pan, melt ½ cup butter.

In saucepan, combine filling ingredients. Cook until bubbly and slightly thickened. Let cool.

In separate bowl, combine all bread ingredients (excluding butter – which was melted in 9×9 pan in beginning).

Pour batter over butter in 9×9 pan. Spoon peach filling onto batter, do not have to use all of syrup. Bake in preheated oven for approx 40 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes.

BBQ Jalapeno poppers…

So, you have a lot of jalapeno peppers in your garden and you can only make so much salsa. Or you are having a party and need a quick tasty appetizer. Here comes the solution – Jalapeno Poppers! These tasty little treats take a little bit of prep but they are so worth it. And you can make them as spicy or mild as you choose for them to be – depending on how much of the seeds and white membrane you leave inside the peppers. We don’t like super spicy around here so I normally scrape out all of the insides of the pepper. If there are any leftovers, they make a delicious quick cold snack the next day too!

Here is the recipe:

Pioneer Woman’s BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Ingredients
18 fresh jalapenos
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 green onion, sliced
18 slices thin bacon, cut in halves
Bottled BBQ Sauce
Toothpicks
Rubber gloves (for working with the jalapenos)

Directions:
Preheat oven 275 degrees.

Cut jalapenos in half lengthwise and scrap out the seeds and light colored membranes. This is where you might need the gloves, unless you are a brave soul like me and then go without. But sometimes I wear my sunglasses because I am that cool or because I don’t want to get jalapeno spit in my eye.

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and green onion. Mix the ingredients together gently.

Next stuff each hollowed jalapeno half with the cheese mixture.

Wrap bacon slices around each half, covering as much of the pepper as you can. Secure bacon to jalapenos with toothpicks. Brush the surface of the bacon with your favorite BBQ sauce.

Bake for 1 hour at 275 degrees or until bacon is sizzling. Serve hot or at room temperature (or cold the way we eat the leftovers, yum!)

Tiffany’s notes: I don’t use the green onion since I never remember to buy it. You can make these with the BBQ sauce or even without the extra cheddar cheese, I have done both and they are still delicious.

Basil Pesto…

As we draw near to the end of the summer growing season, there are a few items still left in my garden that are growing like crazy. I still have plenty of Roma tomatoes coming in which means plenty of spaghetti sauce. We also have tons of jalapenos which make for awesome jalapeno poppers. And the basil is going crazy too. And where there is basil, there should be pesto. I made pesto yesterday morning and of course, I took the long away around. My grandmother grows beautiful black walnuts and she loads me up when I go to visit so I use those in my pesto. I think it makes the flavor so much deeper. I also used Romano cheese instead of Parmesan because Romano was $2.50 cheaper and my frugal self always wins. This recipe makes enough to use for a day or so and then freezes very well to use during the long winter months when fresh basil is but a memory. I freeze mine in an ice cube tray and then pop then out and bag it up. Basil pesto tastes great on sandwiches, pasta and pizza. I used it to make the pizza pictured above for lunch today, along with fresh mozzarella, Kalamata olives, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. It makes me hungry just typing it!

Here is the recipe:

Basil Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 small cloves garlic or 1 large
1/2 tsp salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except the oil. Pulsse until a thick paste forms. With processor on, add oil in a slow stream until mixture is well combined.

2. Transfer to an airtight container. Press plastic wrap directly onto pesto to keep basil from browning. Cover with lid; refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 2 months (or longer if you are me!).

Grocery Totals and Weekly Menu 8/25/2011

Today was my a good grocery shopping day that could have been a great one. I had a deal on Peanut Butter, which we eat a lot of in this house, but forgot to do it when I went shopping the first time. So, I was out with the kids and thought about the deal and knew my coupons expired tomorrow so I stopped at Publix to grab the peanut butter. I bought 6 jars of peanut butter for a total of $8. Not a bad deal for peanut butter and I know we will use all of it. But when I got home I remembered I had a rebate offer from the manufacturer of the peanut butter that required me to purchase $30 worth of groceries including the peanut butter in order to get a $10 grocery store gift card. Had I remembered to buy the peanut butter on the first trip or even if I had remembered the rebate on the second trip, the peanut butter could have been a $2 moneymaker for me. This just goes to show why being organized and planning ahead of time is important. Oh, well, a lesson learned. Atleast I have enough peanut butter to last for a few weeks!

My trips today consisted of 2 Publix, 1 Kroger, 1 Dollar Store and 1 Target. I did get several items for free including $10 in Advil, bagged spinach, Lysol wipes and a very large bottle of Pantene conditioner. I think there was even an item or two that made me a little money. I never turn down an item that the store is willing to pay me to take!

Total Spent: $126.84
Total Value: $222.15
Total Saved: $116.46

Weekly Menu:

Thursday:
Chicken Quesadillas (served with tomatoes, lettuce, etc)
Rice
Fruit

Friday:
Grilled Chicken Panini Sandwiches (topped with spinach, tomatoes, etc)
Waffle Fries
Peach Cobbler

Saturday:
Sesame Chicken
Fresh Greenbeans
Rice

Sunday:
Grilled Hamburgers
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Salad w/Balsamic Vinaigrette

Monday:
(Crockpot) Famous Cheesy Potato Bacon Soup
Homemade Rolls

Tuesday:
Chicken Hard Tacos
Homemade Guacamole
Rice

Wednesday:
Unbelievable Grilled Chicken
Creamed Corn
Broccoli

The recipe for this week is delicious, especially on a cold winter night. It is not winter here yet but we like it so much, we eat it year round. Here is my recipe for this week:

Crockpot Famous Potato Bacon Soup

4 large potatoes, chopped and peeled
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
2oz cream cheese, softened
1 (15.5oz) cans of reduced sodium chicken broth
1 (10.75) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
1/4 tsp pepper

In a 4 qt crock pot, stir together all ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Add Mexican cheese before serving. If you like, mash the potatoes slightly for a thicker consistency. Garnish with green onions, if desired.

Excercise and your budget…

Exercise is perhaps one of the easiest things to save money doing. You can get in a good workout with just a simple pair of shoes and a willing heart. Getting in shape can benefit you both physically and fiscally. By being in better shape, you will spend less on healthcare and have more energy to make and save money.

I became a runner two years ago. That is a statement that I would have never thought I would make. At the time I started running, I couldn’t do more than 1/4 mile on the treadmill. Now I run three miles, three times a week and completed my first 10k this past July 4th. I did it all with a used $100 treadmill and a pair of $50 shoes. The treadmill was actually found at a local yard sale where the couple was getting a divorce and the husband was selling his soon to be ex-wife’s treadmill. I saw a bargain in the making and hurriedly bought it before she realized that it was gone. In the past two years it has broken once and it was out of commission for almost a week. John took it apart and welded the frame back together and I was off and running again.

I know a lot of people that go to the gym to exercise but it works better for me to not have to drive anywhere or deal with waiting to get the machine I want. I don’t have to worry about what I wear or feel like people are watching me sweat it out. And best of all, I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars each year to be healthy. That is healthy for both me and my wallet.

So, you have your shoes and either a used piece of equipment or just some empty stretch of asphalt but are wondering how to motivate yourself? My answer is the old carrot and stick method. I set aside three days a week to exercise – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I also set aside a time to exercise – 8am. Now it is scheduled into my day just like everything else. So, what is the carrot? I don’t let myself eat breakfast until after I have run. No run = no breakfast. Now, that is something to motivate you.

Speaking of breakfast, what you eat greatly affects your health. Eat more fruits and vegetables. I am not a big meat eater and I try to limit the amount of bread I eat, so I end up eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I normally eat a banana with a teaspoon of peanut butter for breakfast, a sandwich or salad for lunch (including romaine lettuce and fresh tomatoes) along with baby carrots and at least two veggies at dinner.  Snacks during the day often include fresh fruit, veggies or nuts. In order to eat as fresh as possible and save money in the process, it is important to eat what is in season at the time. I get an email from a local grocery store that lets me know what is in season but you can look at your grocery ads and figure it out fairly simply. Whatever fruit or vegetables are in season will typically be what is on sale that week. I also try to include new items that my family has not tried before in order to keep things interesting and expose them to new flavors – this week we will be trying fresh figs!

Take care of yourself. Lace up your running shoes and stop making excuses. Put down the doughnut and pick up an apple. Your heart will thank you, those that love you will thank you and your bank account will thank you too.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins


In an effort to provide the kids with a hearty wholesome snack for school, I have been making muffins on Sunday. Side note, cute title for a song or a book – “Muffins on Sunday”. Since we had bananas that were past their prime time for eating hanging out in the Rodi kitchen, it seemed like a good idea to make banana muffins for this week. I personally think everything tastes better with chocolate in it but my kiddies don’t always agree so I added chocolate to only 1/2 the batch. These smell heavenly and although I haven’t tried one yet, I bet they will taste just as good.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
from Allrecipes.com
Yields approx 16 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Tiffany’s Notes: I only made a few slight changes by using vanilla yogurt and omitting the vanilla extract. I also upped the yogurt to 3/4 cup because that is what the carton size was and decreased the oil to 1/4 cup in an effort to save some fat/calories. Two and 1/2 bananas yielded 1 cup but you will have to play with it depending on the size of your bananas.

Grocery totals and Weekly Menu 8/18/2011

Today was a great shopping day! I went to Target, Publix and Kroger. Publix had been running a special to get a $50 gas card for $40 when you buy $25 in groceries and I took advantage of that (not reflected in my totals since gas comes from a separate envelope). This is a great deal, who couldn’t use $10 in free gas?? I also had several free items and even a small moneymaker with the Resolve Laundry Stain Remover. Here are my grocery totals for this week.

Total Spent: $118.46
Total Value: $204.97
Total Saved: $86.51

And when I got home from the grocery store, I had a great surprise waiting for me – I won a $100 gift card to Publix!! Yeah!! I enter sweepstakes upon occasion and this time I won. So, thanks to 7up and Publix, I get $100 in free groceries. Now I just need some super deals so I can make $100 buy $200 in food!

Here is the menu for this week:

Baked Ziti     Spinach     Breadsticks

(Crockpot) Famous Cheesy Potato Bacon Soup      Biscuits

Chicken Terryaki    Rice

(Crockpot) Roasted Chicken   Mac & Cheese   Greenbeans

Chicken Parmesean    Spaghetti

Meatball Subs  Waffle Fries     Fruit

Unbelievable Grilled Chicken   Roasted Potatoes

The art of saying “no”…

The school year is beginning and with it come lots of opportunities for your kids and your family. This can be a good thing but if left unchecked, you will find yourself spending your time and money in ways that are not as beneficial to your family as they could be. The hardest lesson to learn is saying the easiest word in the world….”no”. It is important to set your priorities for your family and be careful in what you commit to. Among our generation of parents, it seems as though our kids need to be a part of every activity that is out there – cub scouts, soccer, chorus, gymnastics – and if we try to do it all, we end up run down and out of money in a hurry. So, what is a parent to do?? Learn to say no.

First step, realize that no is a complete sentence. You do not need to apologize for saying no or offer any other explanation. A simple no can go a long way in cutting off any arguments and doesn’t require guilt on your part. Saying no also builds margin into your life, both in time and money. Margin is an important concept because it allows you to have time to do other things that are more important or to take advantage of opportunities that come up at the last minute. If all of your time is scheduled and all your money allocated to activities, you are actually limited to what you can do with your kids. For example, say you get offered free tickets to a baseball game but you can’t take your family because every night of the week they have sports practice. This is time you could spend bonding together as a family that instead has to be passed on because you have committed all of your nights to something else.

Second, it is important to realize that your time is worth something. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it. I run into this a lot because I am a professional wife and mother. People assume that since I set my own schedule, I am available to do anything that needs to be done. I am a natural helper so this has been a hard one for me to learn. I had to realize that I have priorities for my day and they need to focus on taking care of my husband, children and home. Most of the things that I spend my time on needs to support those priorities. If someone asks me to do something and it detracts from those priorities, it is important for me to say no even though it can be painful. There are times when you have to turn down good causes and great opportunities because they do not line up with your priorities. This is when saying a simple no is the easiest way to respond.

Lastly, saying no also brings rest and closeness back to your family. Your kids need down time to be kids. Your husband needs time to connect with you. You need time to be relax and enjoy life. By learning to say no, you get all of this and much more. You do not loose the opportunities but gain new ones that are more far reaching. It improves your relationships with the ones that you love and that is priceless.

Learning to say no can be a hard lesson. When you begin to learn the art of saying no, it can be painful as people have to get used to hearing it from you. Your children may whine when they don’t get to do everything that they have been doing and your friends may not understand why you won’t head up all the committees anymore but in time they will begin to realize that what you are doing is best for your family. Be strong and say no to something today. Then use that time margin to take a nice walk with your family and reconnect.