Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Theme Thursday — Flight

This was two of my three oldest children's first plane ride, when we were moving from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Fort Dix, New Jersey. We were actually flying from Little Rock, Arkansas, after having spent most of the summer visiting family in North Central Arkansas. (Chatty's first two plane rides were from Springfield, Missouri, to St. Louis, Missouri, and back for minor heart surgery due to her premature birth. She was roughly 2 1/2 weeks old, having just been born at 27 weeks gestation.)

These pictures are from Hubby's Airborne School book. He attended soon after being commissioned in the Army in 1988. Who really knows if any of these are him.

These last three pictures are the Thunderbirds from Independence Day weekend in 2001 at Scott AFB, Illinois. Since my scanner is still not working I had to take a picture of the picture and then download it, and when I enhanced it the color kind of came out bright. I wish you could see them in my album.

We lived about six miles from one of the gates, and the first picture is from my backyard one day when they were practicing. The other two pictures were from one of the actual air show days.

Country-Style Pork Loin

This is easily one of my family's top three meals. There are few things that all six of us will eat and love, and this is one of those meals.

And just so you know, there were some cucumbers that didn't make it for the picture, so there was some green to go along with it.

Country-Style Pork Loin
from Taste of Home

1 boneless whole pork loin roast (3 pounds)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground mustard
2 T canola oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Cut pork roast in half. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, onion powder and mustard. Add pork one piece at a time and shake to coat.

In a large skillet, brown pork in oil over medium-high heat on all sides. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker.

Pour broth over pork.

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until tender. Remove pork and keep warm.

For gravy, strain cooking juices and skim fat; pour 2-1/2 cups cooking juices into a large saucepan. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into juices. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Slice pork; serve with gravy and mashed potatoes if desired.

I have to double this recipe to have enough for my family. I find a pork loin somewhere around 5-6 pounds, then I use 4 cups of chicken broth. At the end I never have 5 cups of cooking juices though (since I don't make the single recipe I'm not sure if you'd have 2 1/2 cups if you made it as written). I suppose the pork is supposed to provide some juices, but I usually don't even have the 4 cups from the broth I started with, but I do have extremely juicy, fall-apart pork loin, so I'm not complaining.

The mashed potatoes pictured are from the gigantic Idahoan box purchased from Sam's Club. They sure are yummy even if they aren't homemade, and really good with the gravy, even if mine didn't have any in the picture.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Please Pray for Meredith

On Wednesday, September 30, Meredith (the daughter of my cousin Jeff and his wife Jennifer) will be having surgery at Arkansas Children's Hospital. This surgery has been specifically planned since the beginning of September, but has been known for over four years. This is an excerpt from their email earlier this month:

On July 7, 2005, we took our daughter Meredith to the NWA Pediatric Clinic for her 4-year-old well-child check-up. The visit resulted in Meredith's first helicopter ride (compliments of ACH's Angel One) and an 8 day visit to the Cardio Vascular Intensive Care Unit at Arkansas Children's Hospital. Meredith was diagnosed with Atrial Ectopic Tachycardia. AET affects approximately 1 in 10,000 children. The condition is basically a heart that beats too fast.

Meredith, now 8, is in third grade; she has now been taking an oral medicine twice a day for over four years.

We have been going back to ACH to see her electrophysiologist several times a year. Her doctor has now decided it is time to go in and try to fix the problem. She is scheduled to have the heart surgery on September 30th at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Please pray specifically for Meredith to have peace, strength to endure the procedure, and a speedy recovery; for the doctor to be well-rested, have steady hands and a clear mind; for the team who will operate on her to be on their "A game," and for the equipment to function properly. Thank you for all of your prayers!

The email ended with my personal favorite Bible verse, Romans 8:28:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him"

Although we rarely get to see any of our family having moved often and not in close proximity, it's still a privilege to lift them up in prayer. Please remember Meredith and her family tomorrow and following the surgery during her recovery.

Thank you. I know this precious family appreciates it too (picture from 2006).

Jeff and Jennifer are my two cousins, and yes, Jeff married a Jennifer. I have a sister, so there were just four cousins. I'm the oldest, Jennifer is four years younger than me, my sister five years younger, and Jeff is 10 years younger. My cousin Jennifer blogs here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do You CVS?

For months I've seen posts here and there about CVS and ECBs and getting stuff for free. I finally did some research on different blogs to try and get some background information before I tried it because one, it seemed a little confusing, and two, it looked like it might take more work than it was worth.

Of course you do have to have the CVS Extra Care Card to start with, but it's free and you don't have to jump through any loopholes to get one. Then one of the main things I read was that you initially need to buy a few things that give you ECBs (Extra Care Bucks) back. I'll vouch for that.

Another thing that people said was that they had to split up their transactions when they were using their ECBs. (When you earn them they print at the bottom of your receipt, and each different promotion prints out separately. So if you earn 3 ECBs for buying a certain shampoo and 2 ECBs for buying deodorant, you will have two different coupons print at the bottom.) I think every other person I read about could only use one ECB coupon per transaction. I have been fortunate and every CVS I have gone to lets me use all mine in one transaction. I can't imagine trying to split up my items to use five different ECBs. That would get cumbersome. (ECBs usually have an expiration date one month out.)

When you are purchasing items at CVS, even if you earn ECBs you can still use manufacturer coupons. For example, last week I bought a tube of toothpaste that was on sale for $2.99 and I earned 2 ECBs. I also had a manufacturer's coupon for $1, so in effect I made one cent. If that was the only thing I had purchased that day and I'd had a 2 ECB coupon from a previous week or earlier in the week from a different promotion, I could have walked out paying nothing and still earned the 2 ECBs to use later.

You can never get cash back on your ECBs, so you must use them all or you forfeit them, so add in a candy bar or something (although I've not come close yet). Also, most of the promotions are limited so pay close attention to the sales flyer. It will also print on your receipt that you have reached certain offer limits, or that you have so much to go to meet the offer.

Also check your receipt closely. In four weeks I've already had a couple of mistakes that I've had to have corrected. The first week I purchased something that had the sign under showing it was part of the ECB sale, but it didn't ring up that way. I didn't realize it until I was home, and it was excluded in the sale flyer. I just returned the items for credit the next week. Then last week I had a similar thing happen, but since I caught it in the store they went ahead and gave me the sale price and my ECBs. This time it was not something that was specifically excluded.

One thing I've done is only purchased items our family will use. I've made a point not to buy something just because it has ECBs associated with it. I also make sure the items are cost effective compared to how much I would normally pay, otherwise it defeats the purpose. So how have I done? If you're still with me, here's how it's panned out so far:

The first week I spent $19.99 after coupons and earned 9 ECBs.

The second week I spent $10.96 after manufacturer coupons and the 9 ECBs. I earned 7 ECBs.

The third week I spent $26.95 after manufacturer coupons and the 7 ECBs. I earned 13 ECBs.

The fourth week (this week) I spent $35.98 after using manufacturer coupons and the 13 ECBs. I earned 25 ECBs.

So altogether in four weeks I've spent $93.88 and have 25 ECBs to use next week. What do I have to show for it:

Two bottles of my mousse
three bottles of Tide
16 big roll pack of Charmin Ultra Soft
Gillette Fusion Razor
Vaseline Sheer Infusion Lotion
Four bags of Dove Chocolate (hey, don't judge me)
8 ct. Schick disposable razors the girls use (I think there were two bonus razors in it also)
three bottles of shampoo Buddy uses (two of them had 33% more in them)
two gallons of milk
one bottle of shampoo Hubby uses
Colgate Total
three packages of Extra gum (Sparky)
two extra large packages of Orbit (Sparky)
some candy (I'm not even telling)
two deodorants (boys)
two toothbrushes

I'm pleased so far, especially considering I got some chocolate out of it!

I usually sit down on Sunday after I get the paper and go through the ad and my coupons. Obviously the things that give you the most ECBs would be the ones you would like to buy, but if it's something you don't use or you have to spend a lot of money to get them, it doesn't make it worth it. I have found that going in the store with not only the ad but also a list of what I would like to buy is very helpful. On my list I usually put the specifics of the ad and purchase requirements, and then I have the ad if I need to refer back to it. It makes the trip through the store go a lot faster.

This site has advance notice of future CVS ads and lots of CVS information. Sometimes I'll get my CVS shopping list ready ahead of time from here.

So, do you CVS? Has the thought crossed your mind? Too complicated? None near you? Not worth the trouble? I'm sticking with it for a while because I'm definitely not spending more than I would somewhere else and eventually I might build up enough ECBs to do what other people do — walk out paying nothing.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday — September 28

We're going to have a full week of cool, fall weather here, and I'm ready to mix up my menu planning and bring in some cool weather meals. The boys in my house should probably get prepared for some new recipes too!

MondayChili. I need something quick for tonight since we have a late appointment and won't be home until about 6 p.m. I can cook the hamburger up earlier in the day to make preparation go faster.

Tuesday — Leftover chili and chili dogs (for those who prefer it that way).

WednesdayCountry-Style Pork Loin. I didn't make it over the weekend while the girls were gone and it's an easy slow-cooker meal. It makes the house smell good all day long!

ThursdayCrispy Yogurt Chicken. This is a new recipe I'm trying. I've never fried chicken, and this isn't quite fried chicken but is kind of close. I do homemade chicken strips which is the closest thing, but I wanted something a little different. I like to have options.

FridayEnchilada Casserole. I need something easy for this day, so I'm going to try another new recipe that looks quick and simple. I can also prepare this hamburger earlier in the day.

SaturdayBeef Stew. This is easily one of my favorite fall and winter meals.

Sunday — Eat out since we ate in all week!

Visit The Organizing Junkie for more great recipes and menu-planning ideas!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's A Blog Makeover

What do you think?

Thanks, Jill!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's Buddy's Birthday!

We're celebrating a birthday at our house today!

We now have a teenage boy to go with our teenage girls.

One of those teenage girls made him a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today.

Guess where we're going tomorrow night when the girls are gone on their youth trip.

Guess whose Dad had more fun playing with the wind-up zamboni on top of the Dairy Queen ice cream cake than he did.

Happy 13th Birthday, Buddy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Theme Thursday ~ WILD

This is my first time to participate, but considering all the wild and crazy people in our house, and all the wild and crazy things that we do, this is a perfect place to start! See if you agree.

Theme Thursday can be found here.

Fall Touches

I had some little strips of ribbon left over from the hanging ties I made for my two fall wreaths. I didn't want to throw them away (the strips of ribbon, not the wreaths!) so I looked around for a place to use them. Here's what I ended up with.

I also have a cute little outdoor decorative flag I got last year on clearance at Kohl's before we moved into our house just waiting for this year to come around. Our association rules are pretty tight about what we can and cannot have in our yards and around our houses, but decorative flags are not mentioned. I still think it's cute and tasteful.

Now we just need to get pumpkins!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Landscaping Our Front Yard

I hinted around last week that we were going to be busy, especially on Friday and Saturday. Well, landscaping was happening at our house, and everything but the mulch was finished on Friday.

But don't let me fool you into thinking that we actually did the landscaping ourselves — we had someone draw up plans a year ago and just now had it done. They have all the professional tools and knowledge, plus they dig around all the wires and cables in the ground.

There was one thing we were able to do ourselves though and it only cost us half as much that way — the mulch. We had it delivered late on Friday and then put it in ourselves on Saturday. It was a much harder and longer job than we expected.

We also had the landscaper leave all the sod he cut out. We used it to patch a couple of places, one that was about 10' x 6'. Then Hubby and the kids (rotating) took the leftover pieces and put them in a strip along the back line of the property. The entire sod project was also a much harder job than I expected, primarily because of how time-consuming it ended up being.

Now for the before and after pictures. I took the before pictures one day a couple of weeks ago when Buddy was mowing the yard. I kind of took them on a whim thinking that I'd get better ones later and then never did. I'm sure glad I did take these!

Here are the after pictures:

It's like a complete transformation in a day. I find myself driving slow in front of it when I'm leaving and coming home just to stare at it. You'll probably never hear me say this again, but I'm almost disappointed it's autumn since the leaves will have to fall off the new trees for the winter.

The kids are a little bummed that there isn't any color right now, but I keep reminding them that it's fall and next year we will see color. It was designed so that we'll have color from spring through fall. Of course all of the shrubs will get larger as well — there are globe yews and dwarf Korean lilacs up against the house. They will be what adds the height in the back. You'll also notice we had burning bushes put around the utility boxes to disguise them some.

Our mulch is a dyed brown earth-friendly mulch that is designed to last two to three years. I'm excited that it will continue to keep most of it's color.

Hubby and I found out we still had muscles in places we forgot after all that hard work the other day. We also decided we were without a doubt getting old.

Menu Plan Monday — September 21

I've struggled with my menu plan this week and almost didn't even post one. I know there is a distinct possibility that I will have changes as the week progresses, but I've decided that having a plan in place to make changes to is better than no plan at all.

Wednesday night we have regular church activities, Thursday night is not only Buddy's 13th birthday but Hubby and the girls have a Bible study at church, and the girls leave for their first youth trip on Friday afternoon. We usually eat out to celebrate birthdays, so we will have to do it on a different day this week, and it's highly possible the girls will miss out. They are not especially happy, but given the option to go eat out or go on the youth trip, they pick the youth trip.

MondayChili Parmesan Chicken. I've got the chicken in the refrigerator and must make this tonight. It's been moved forward for two weeks now and is a new recipe. Hopefully it's good and can be kept in the rotation, because it is sure a simple one.

Tuesday — Clean out the fridge and pantry, which means soup and mac & cheese and whatever else is there. Maybe even some grilled cheese.

Wednesday5-Minute Southwest Layered Salad. I have everything I need for this but the lettuce, and it's quick and easy.

Thursday — Since we won't have time to go eat tonight for Buddy's birthday, I'm planning to make him Velveeta Macaroni & Cheese, his favorite. I don't usually get it because after I did once and saw how hard it was to clean out of a non-stick pan, I wondered what it did to the kids' insides. My kids love this stuff though. Sorry if I ruined it for you now too. We'll probably get a Dairy Queen ice cream cake unless he makes another request this year.

Friday — Tentatively planned for the night to eat out for Buddy's birthday, and the girls will just miss out. Sorry, girls, but have fun!

Saturday — I'm going to make something in the crock pot, to be decided later after I look at the grocery store ads. I'm leaning towards Country-Style Pork Loin, which all my guys love. The girls and I do too, but I don't think I've ever had the guys at home this long by myself.

Sunday — Eat out since we (almost) ate in all week! Birthdays don't count! :)

It will soon be time to start making some of those cold-weather recipes I don't feel like making in the summer, like Stew and Chili. I'm already drooling!

Visit The Organizing Junkie for Menu-Plan Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The $5 Starbuck's Gift Card Winners Are...

It's time to announce a couple of winners. Yes, I said a couple. But first, a little business.

It all started with the question I posed asking what fellow bloggers thought this picture was:

I got tickled when Mama Bear said, "It's hair." Very definitive.

Leann also thought it might be hair, hoping that it wasn't from a drain, while Seth's Mommy thought it was "crazy doll hair." Around my house, could be "crazy my hair."

There were also several guesses relating to fencing, garland or tinsel, and yarn. Mari was the first one to figure out that it was that fuzzy yarn.

And of course Hubby couldn't figure out what it was even though he lives with me and watched it form in my hands.

Then I go and get an email right before I post this, and my mom tells me that she and my step-dad haven't been able to come up with an answer for my picture either. Excuse me, but who came in July and gave me my crochet refresher course, specifically on this:

In honor of the whole Starbuck's theme, and since I did just do a post showing all about my mug collection, I used my Pike Place mug, the one that got my entire collection started.

All the names got placed inside and my boys each drew a name.

The winners are:

Congratulations, girls! If you don't get an email from me, just click on my profile and email me so I can get your card right out to you.

That was so much fun I think I'll do it again, maybe even next week. I mean, my girls are wanting to draw names, so to be fair...well, you get the picture...pun intended. Next time I'll do something like a Target gift card so maybe more people can play along.

This will probably be the picture, if you want to get a head start thinking about what it is.

Thanks for playing along!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mug Collection

If you haven't entered my giveaway for the Starbuck's gift card, be sure to go over here after you read this post and enter. You have until sometime Friday evening. I know that's vague, but we have a little craziness going on at our house I'll share with you soon. I'll just guess that it will probably be about 8 EST, but I reserve the right to be wrong.

Today I'm sharing my Starbuck's mug collection with you. It's a collection in progress, and seems to be a fitting thing to share given the gift card theme. I also just recently acquired a new mug.

Hubby took all four kids birding in Canada a couple of weeks ago. I needed a break (I'm one of those people that benefits from some occasional alone time) so I stayed home. We sort of wondered if he would have difficulty traveling alone with four kids across the border, but other than asking them their names and showing their passport cards, it was fairly easy.

When he got across the border into Canada he saw a Starbuck's and stopped on a whim. I didn't even know they had a separate country mug, but he did. Lucky for me they had one. And yes, Monica, if you're reading this, you have one too.

The other two most recent additions were from the spring when Hubby had to travel to Ohio for class at Wright-Patterson. One night after class he took a relatively short road trip and got one mug, and the next night he took a road trip and got the other one.

My collection originally started when Hubby was traveling during a three-month internship program in Washington, D.C., when we were still living in Virginia while he was on active duty. He got me the mug from Pike Place, the location of the first Starbuck's. Unfortunately, this was at the tail end of the internship where he had traveled all over the United States and could have picked up a lot of mugs that I don't have now. We didn't realize how wonderful these mugs were (18 oz. of coffee bliss in every cupful) until after I had the first one.

I have the option of showing you pictures of 22 more mugs here, or I could just list them. I'm opting for listing them. You know why? Ulterior motive. I'm thinking that somebody may live somewhere and have a Starbuck's with a mug I don't have, and decide they love me enough that they'll get it and send it to me. I'll pay them, of course. Why would people not know me and love me that much? Who knows, but I'll try anything once.

  1. Atlanta
  2. Atlantic City
  3. Canada
  4. Charlotte
  5. Chicago
  6. Cincinnati
  7. Cleveland
  8. Columbus
  9. Dallas
  10. Detroit
  11. Fort Worth
  12. Houston
  13. Indianapolis
  14. Memphis
  15. New Mexico
  16. New Orleans
  17. Niagara Falls
  18. Philadelphia
  19. Pike Place
  20. Pittsburgh
  21. St. Louis
  22. Tampa
  23. Toronto
  24. Tucson
  25. Washington D.C.

They don't get displayed because I really don't have a place for them without them becoming clutter, but they do get used. My kids love to use them for hot chocolate. I've used them a few times for tea, although I drink coffee most of the time.

And being the organized person I am, Hubby and I always know which cup belongs to who — we do it alphabetical by age. We even did that when my parents were visiting so when all four cups were sitting there we knew which one to drink from.

This post is linked to Show and Tell Friday hosted by Kelli at There is no place like home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'll Give YOU Five ~ a GiVeAwAy!

A couple of weeks ago I did a post called Give Me Five where I posted on five words I was given by Ronnica of the Ignorant Historian.

This post has nothing to do with words.

This post has to do with a picture.

Oh, and a $5 Starbuck's gift card. Because it's one of my favorite places in the whole world, although I really don't go there very much.

All you have to do is give me a guess in the comments what you think this is a picture of:

I'm not going to moderate comments where you can't see what other people guess, so try to decide what it is before you look at the other comments. You do not have to have a correct guess to win.

I'll take comments through sometime on Friday. It depends when a big surprise I'll tell you about later gets done happening at our house, not that I'm just trying to be difficult. The winner will get a $5 gift card from Starbuck's to use as they choose (I might even give out two if lots of people guess, so get to it!). I'd get a venti White Chocolate Mocha, extra hot, if it were me.

You don't have to have a blog to enter and win, but you do need to leave me a way to contact you.

Hubby, you cannot enter, even though I know it is one of your favorite places too.

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