From Parent to Friend

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I collect Willow Tree figurines, and one day my step mom found this at a thrift shop and picked it up for me. She said it was us, having a chat.

I love that. I love that she saw that and thought of me. I love that it does symbolize our relationship: lots of chats, with lots of wisdom and understanding passing through the generations.

I noticed this morning that the women in the figurine are older. It is not of a mother with a young girl; it is with a mother and her grown child, or two friends.

A friend and I were chatting yesterday. She is having a baby, and she was commenting on how her mom was coming over to help and was careful not to intrude but wanted to be available if she needed help. She said, “It’s nice when the relationship changes from parent to friend, isn’t it?”

I nodded, but I realized that I have not viewed my relationship with my parents in that way. I’m older than this friend, so this shocked me. (Shouldn’t I of known this by now??) I realize that this is why when, my parents aren’t perfect, it shocks me. It rocks my world and I get angry. When I catch them in their sins and struggles, I don’t know how to handle it. Because I still hold them up on that parent pedestal, where, they are perfect. They don’t have sins or struggles in my pedestal mindset.

But they aren’t perfect. They are people, just like me, with sins and struggles unique to them. The pedestal is gone.

I realized that my perception of them needs to change. I need to learn to love them as a friend, and respect their roles as parents in my life. Still seeking their wisdom, as someone who has been there, but ultimately making my own choices. Laughing out our mistakes, and our past. Quick to love and forgive them when they aren’t perfect, and understanding that they are human.

I should be finding little trinkets at the thrift shops that remind me of them and picking them up, because that’s what friends do…instead of rationalizing in my head that, “I’m tight on money, surely they know that!” or, “They are my parents…they have everything they need!” Truth is, maybe they just needed to know they were thought of.

And as I think more about this, I realize that not only should I do this, but I want to do this.

Smoky Bean Burgers

Smokey Bean Burgers

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Makes 4 // 127 calories // 7.8 gr fiber // 7.5 gram protein

You Need:

1 tbsp. ground flaxseed (found in the baking aisle of Walmart, by the fancy (Bob’s Red Mill) flours. It was like $3.88 a bag.)

3 tbsp. water

Mix the flaxseed and the water in a small bowl. Let sit for five minutes to thicken.

Then, add altogether:

The flaxseed/water mixture,
1 (15 oz) can of bean, drained and rinsed (you can use any black or red bean. I used pinto)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. liquid smoke (Steak sauce works well too.)

Mix well and form into four patties. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes so it can set.

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Then, cook in a nonstick pan (or lightly oiled pan) over medium heat for 5 mins or so each side.

You can put on a bun like a regular burger, a pita, a tortilla, or eat it with a fork. My sister puts salsa on hers, or ranch dressing instead of ketchup. The texture is a little different, but it’s not too much off of a regular (beef) burger. It is very filling!

Creamy Potato Soup

I made this for my parents when they visited….they, my children, and my ‘plant based whole food’ eater husband and I loved it! It’s a favorite and a staple in our menu now.

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Creamy Potato Soup

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 stalks chopped celery
  • 1/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 cups diced potatoes (I kept skins on and used golden potatoes, which are my favorite)
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen carrots
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 9 cups warm water, divided
  • 1 cup raw (not roasted) lightly salted (if salted at all) cashews
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)
  • 2 tbsp. dry veggie broth mix** (or for my meat-eater friends, 2 chicken bouillon cubes work)
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed (seasoning)
In soup pot, saute onion, garlic, and celery for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, and 7 1/2 cups of water to the pot. Simmer, covered, until veggies are fork tender. Add corn, cook 5-10 minutes more, until everything is heated through.
In a blender, place 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup raw cashews, dry veggie broth mix (or cubes), celery seed, and salt. Blend on high until smooth. Add mixture to the pot and stir well.
Now you can eat it as is, or for creamier, take 3-4 cups of the soup and blend it in a blender until smooth, then reincorporate it into the soup pot.
Can be refrigerated for 5 days. It won’t last that long, trust me!
**This is the dry veggie broth mix that I used (and that I currently use with all of my meals.) It’s super easy and lasts a while.
Dry Veggie Broth Mix 
3 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. parsley flakes
1 cup wheat germ (it’s usually in the baking aisle, near the flour)
Mix all together, store in an airtight container. Stir gently before using.
1 tbsp. of mix to 1 cup of warm water makes 1 cup of broth.

What a Little Paint and Decluttering Can Do…

It all began on a Saturday. Adam was home and bored and we all decided we should do something as a family. Nothing was playing at the theaters, and the skating rink didn’t open until 7 pm…and then I had a thought: If we are going to spend money on a movie out or skating, maybe we can use that money to fix up our house? Mainly, painting the dining room?

Everyone was on board. The kids had pride in what they accomplished in helping, and the end result is fantastic! I wish I had some before pictures, but know that it was a mauve color, and pretty cluttered.

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The top picture is of my daughter Danielle painting our hallway. We decided to have the hallway flow as the same color as the dining room, since we were installing carpet after our tax return came in. The bottom picture is of my boys, Troy and Liam, painting the dining room. Troy nicknamed Liam, “Picasso”.

If you can imagine, my dining room was a mauve color and had dark black and brown curtains. The whole atmosphere of the room was dark. I had thought at the time that the red would be a rich color in our space, but it ended up making the room very dismal. We had a giant entertainment center (that used to house an old style television), that held homeschooling materials. After relocating the materials, I sold the entertainment center. That freed up so much space in my dining room (and freed up some cash so I could have my date night with the hubby!!). Now the atmosphere is calming, peaceful, and bright. It’s one of my favorite rooms!

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This is my table that my neighbor gave us after ours collapsed. It is a simple table, the top made of particle board, but I painted the chairs and table legs a bright white and got a cute tablecloth from Gabe’s for $3. It’s a vinyl tablecloth, so it’s easy to wipe off too (which is essential with kids!!)

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I live in an old home (built in 1906) so finding 95 inch curtains is very difficult, but necessary for the look that I wanted, seeing as we have tall ceilings. I found these on Amazon, for a pretty good price ($15/panel). It’s not as cheap as I’d like to pay, but they are thermal lined and I just love the color of them. The gray chairs are my absolute favorite tho. They are my “coffee chairs”. I have two of them, one in each corner. They are where I sit with a cup of coffee while Liam eats his breakfast at the table, or where I sit with my coffee when a friend is over or on the phone. They are comfortable, and I found them at walmart.com for $65. Yes, they were more expensive than my frugalista self would want to pay, but everything else I saw was $120/chair, so i figured $130 for two chairs was a good deal.

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The tile underneath our mantel was painted a sage green, so I repainted it bright white. The painting above it I found at Family Dollar for $8. It just makes me so happy, it has my favorite colors in it and is so serene. Once I figure out where to hang stuff on my walls, I hope to hang my family picture in here as well. We do still keep a coat rack in here and our shoes, but I majorly decluttered them, sending to our bedrooms the coats and shoes we don’t wear frequently.

In addition to this, we used our tax return to get much needed carpet for our living room, stairs, hallway, and Liam’s room. Upon getting the phone call from Lowe’s installer, saying he could come “Tomorrow at 8 am!!”, I quickly texted a good friend and promised her coffee if she wasn’t busy and wanted to help me paint Liam’s room while Adam slept from working the night before. She wasn’t busy, and wanted the distraction, so she came over, and we had a blast painting and talking about what the Lord is showing us. Again, I don’t have any ‘before’ pics of Liam’s room, but it was Danielle’s old room, so think “bubble gum pink” and random crayon drawings of castles on the wall.

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To make more space, I put his two toy bins in his closet. They are easily accessible, yet, with them in there, he has more play space in his room. I shoved his bed flush against the wall, which, doesn’t seem like much, but added play space as well. Finally I made his dresser flush against the wall instead of caddy-cornered, and it helped space wise also. I also relocated his Legos from the living room to his room. I think now his friends will enjoy hanging out and playing swords in his room! 🙂

Liam also is big into Minecraft, so we hung up his swords, pickaxes, and torch that he got for Christmas from the game. They are still accessible if he wants to play with them, but also a great decoration.

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I guess I need to show you all the living room pictures also. I didn’t do any remodeling there, except carpet, but we did do some major decluttering, so it looks very open in there now. If you need a visual on how my floor was before carpet, look up again at the picture of Danielle painting the hallway. She is sitting on a brown painted pine floor. That was throughout the house, except that our living room was a tan painted pine floor.

Here is the hallway now. 🙂

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The walls are gray, like the dining room. They will, eventually, have pictures of the kids on them, but for now they are plain. The steps that the installers did turned out great!! I’m very pleased, and don’t know why we didn’t get carpet sooner!!

Finally, here are the living room pictures:

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This is our foyer space. We used to have a chair where the lamp is and some bins that held scarves, hats, and gloves. We put the chair back outside (it was an outdoor chair and was never used), and returned the outdoor gear to the respective bedrooms. With that tiny bit of decluttering, we have a great space to welcome guests now. We did keep the exercise bike up, because, if it’s not there, I’m not going to use it! 🙂

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This is our living room. I have to brag on how God has provided, because honestly, we really only bought the TV, couches, and the curtains! The rug was from a friend who, changed her decor and didn’t need it anymore but remembered it would match my living room perfectly! The dresser/entertainment stand was given to us also for Liam when he was a baby. It’s a little rough, but we painted the drawers and stained it, and replaced the handles. It’s perfect now for holding Wii and XBox games, DVD’s, and the random cords that we somehow began to collect. The coffee table is actually an outdoor table, that my neighbor gave us. Since we don’t have a deck, the legs often sunk into the grass. So we cleaned it up and put it inside and it works great!!

Now in front of the big window (with three curtain panels), I used to have a storage ottoman, which held blankets. I gave that to my daughter, who, stores her Barbies and toys in it now, and also will give her another seating area in her room when friends are over. We have a couple of blankets which we keep folded on the couches, and, it really opened up the space, just by giving up that once piece of furniture.

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This is just a picture of my ‘seat’ in the house! LOL! The picture above it I found at a yard sale for $2, and became the theme for this room. The end table I absolutely love, and was given to me by my sister in law when she noticed I needed one and she had that one. It’s a little rough, but I like that about it.

So that’s it (for now!) I know this post is long!! There is much more work to do but for now, I’m beat, my husband is beat, but the result is fantastic. We love it and are thankful that God has helped us take this old fixer upper and make it into someplace where we can enjoy growing old in.

Look Carefully….

…at your menu!! You may be pleasantly surprised!!

While my parents were visiting, we decided to go out to lunch and dinner. Prior to their visit, I scoured the website menus of local restaurants, certain to find a choice to fill my vegan food selections, but was disappointed and considered asking for a salad, with chicken on the side (to take home for Liam to reheat), and no cheese. This is because, unless I ordered just a plain house salad, everything else had meat on it. And if I’m going to go out to eat, I’d like something fancier than iceburg lettuce with tomato.

I was pleasantly surprised, when, looking at the ‘burger’ section on the menu at Garfield’s and Applebee’s, I saw Garfield’s offers a Boca Burger, and Applebee’s offers a Veggie Burger. Both were delicious and satisfying. Furthermore, Sheetz, Starbucks, and Coffee on the Corner offer soy milk options for their lattes and mochas. So, be sure to look at the menu really good, or, simply ask. I didn’t see any of these options on the website menus, and not all restaurants may be the same, even if they are the same name.

Minestrone Soup

This is a simple soup that will warm you up on chilly days. Today was surprisingly chilly, and this soup simmering was a welcome dish!

Minestrone Soup

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen carrots*
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (I used 8 cups of water and my dry veggie broth mix)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 can (drained and rinsed) beans (white or kidney)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and celery for five minutes in a little bit of olive oil. Stir in garlic, cook one minute more. Add rest of ingredients, simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until veggies are cooked through. Stir occasionally.

*You can use 1 1/2 cups large fresh carrots, chopped, instead of frozen. I use frozen because I found an amazing deal for $1/bag of frozen veggies, and I stocked up. Frozen veggies cook quicker than fresh, so if you are using fresh, just be aware that the carrots may take longer. You may want to chop them a little bit smaller to compensate.

Barbecue Chickpeas

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Yum. This is by far the simplest meal I’ve ever made as a vegan. Super easy, super frugal….here you go.

You need:

1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas

2-3 tbsp. bbq sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)

Heat the chickpeas in a small saucepan with a few squirts of barbecue sauce (enough to cover the chickpeas to whatever consistency you want).

Eat.

Can’t get any simpler than that!! Now you can add it to some whole wheat pitas or tortillas, or you can make a side dish of veggies and/or rice to go with it. This is a great option when money is tight or when you are craving some bbq chicken from your pre-vegan days! 🙂

Even Liam loves it! He had seconds!!!

Why I Love My Rice Cooker…

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I’m finding out different things with this whole food plant based diet. One, I’m a simple girl. Sure couscous is fun to say, and quinoa is even funner to say, but taste and texture wise, I prefer the basics. Rice. Potatoes. Whole wheat pasta. Barley. (Lentils?? Verdict isn’t out on them yet). So much of my recipes from here on out will be more basic, which is good when you are on a budget. (10 lb bag of rice: $6….. 2 lb. bag of quinoa: $4.50.)

My friend has been bugging me to get a rice cooker. I always complained that I had to scrub my pans after cooking rice on the stove, and she suggested I look at my local thrift shops for a used one. Well, I did, once, but didn’t find one. And new they can range from $20 at Big Lots to $40 at Wal-Mart. Which isn’t bad for the Big Lots one, but still…my frugal mind debated. Why spend $20 if I already have pots and pans that work just as well? And then one day, she went and found one for me at Goodwill for $3! I love my friends. They are so thoughtful.

So, I love it. Adam loves it. It’s used almost daily. Why? Oh let me count the ways!

1. It has measurements on the side. It’s the little timesavers that I like. Like, when I can just add the water to the correct line in my rice cooker and not use my liquid measuring cup. I feel pampered with such simple things!

2. It’s nonstick. Yes, rice still sticks to the bottom. But, during our meal, I just soak the pan in warm or hot water, add a dab of dishsoap if I think of it, and then by washing dishes time, it’s easy to wipe out with a rag.

3. The veggie steamer rack. Oh gosh, if I have to wash any more dishes I’ll freak! So I love this thing. I add some frozen or fresh broccoli, some frozen lima beans, or whatever I want (fresh or frozen bell peppers and onions…) to the veggie steam rack and place that on top of the rice in the cooker. One whole meal in one pot. That’s what I like! And carnivores can probably add a thin chicken breast to the veggie rack and steam some chicken with their rice. 🙂

4. It does the work for me. I add everything, plug it in and press “cook”. When it’s done (20 mins or so later), the button pops to “warm”, and then I just let it sit for maybe 2-3 minutes longer. Use a wooden or plastic spoon to get the rice out tho, so you don’t ruin the non-stick. My friend did advise that if I’m using brown rice, to add a half cup more water to the mix. I haven’t tried this yet, but I plan to this week. So far I’ve only been using white rice. She says that the brown rice will cook well also, as I noticed on the bags of brown rice it often advises you to cook it for longer, with more water.

5. No gumminess! No boil over!! Sometimes, when I cook rice on the stove, it gets gummy. Maybe the temp is too high. I haven’t mastered the art of perfecting rice on the stove. Which is nice now, because I don’t have to. It comes out perfect every time!! Also, there is no boil over. My husband and I ALWAYS boiled the rice over. Which meant more of a mess on the pot and on the stove. Sometimes the water bubbles around the lid of the rice cooker, but it’s never boiled over.

6. It’s fairly small. I’m sure you can get bigger ones, but the one we have is small enough that if I have it sitting out on the counter, it won’t take up too much space. It’s perfect for our little family of three. When Adam is working and I’m only cooking for Liam and myself, it’s absolutely perfect in size for rice and veggies. If Adam wants to take rice to work with him but isn’t making a family size portion, it’s perfect for him. And if all three of us want just rice, no veggies, it’s perfect. However, if we want veggies with our rice as a family, we will need to cook them separately as the veggie tray is not big enough for all of us. Still, it’s not a big deal in the big scheme of things.

So there you have it. If you don’t have a rice cooker, and eat a lot of rice, you should look into one. But look at either Big Lots, Goodwill, or other second hand shops. Most people get kitchen appliances like rice cookers as wedding gifts, and never use them, so they get donated and are still in ‘like new’ condition. Why pay full price if you can pay a fraction? 🙂

Quick (and cheap!) Bathroom Organization

If your house is like mine, you have a million different things in your bathroom. First aid stuff, facial cleansers and masks, cold and flu medicines, pain relief medicines….well, there is a LOT. If you have a linen closet or a large under the sink cabinet, you can organize these things quickly, cheaply, and your life will be made so much simpler.

I had used baskets in the past. After all, baskets are prettier! But…they made it hard to see what was in each one. And things had a way of finding their way into the wrong baskets. So this seemed like a better route.

First, go to your bathroom and categorize your stuff. My categories look like this: Nail Care, Facial Stuff, Maria (which is all of my stuff that I don’t want the kids using…hairbrush, special hair accessories that I don’t want to lose, my facial lotion and cleanser…stuff like that), Extras (which is where I put all the extra soaps and mini conditioners, extra toothpaste samples from the dentist, etc), Random (which is where I put my jewelry cleaner and needle and thread, safety pins, etc.), Razors (where I put razors and Adam’s clippers, along with a pair of scissors), Cold and Flu, Sinus and Allergy, stomach-ache, Pain Relief, (and all of these bins have adult and children medications, along with a medicine cup in each), First Aid, Outdoor (which has sunscreen and bug repellent), and Qtips and Cottonballs. I also have a basket for girly stuff (enough said), and a basket for my hair appliances to keep them tidy. I have my hair sprays and gels in another basket. Those are items that generally are going to be replaced in the same baskets, and are too bulky for storage containers.

I also want to point out that my Pain Relief bin not only have headache or pain pills but also pain rubs, like Ben Gay. And my Allergy/Sinus bin also has poison ivy relief and hydrocortizone cream, as I assume that is an allergic reaction.

Your bins may look different. You may have washrags in one, tooth care, or something else. The thing is, just categorize what works best for you!

Then, get $20 (or less, I only spent $13), and head to your Family Dollar store! They have these clear, plastic shoeboxes with lids on them. They are only $1 each, and buy as many as you need, plus one extra (because you will use it, trust me!)

Then, it’s easy. Just categorize your stuff. Put it in bins, and label the bins. You can use a labelmaker, or if you are like me and don’t have that, just get some Avery labels (I had some lying around), and write on them what is in each bin. If you don’t have any Avery labels, you can use cute post it notes or index cards and write on them and place them inside the bins. Because they are see through, you can easily read whats in your bin.

It’s about a week adjustment when you are used to something being somewhere else, but it is really handy when you are looking for some ibuprophen for a headache, and you can quickly go to your ‘pain relief’ bin and grab it out.

Anyways, now you can see how nerdy I really am! But it really is cool, if you are into organizing or need some organization in your bathroom closet. And it’s so cheap, I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner!

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In picture two, the wicker basket holds my hair appliances, and the two white bins to the right hold my girly stuff and my hair sprays and gels. The wicker basket I had, but the white bins are $2.25 each at Family Dollar. They are good because they can hold the stuff that can’t fit into a regular shoebox with a lid, but are still neat and tidy. 

Declutter Tip: Make the Time

This is the most important declutter tip, so I saved it for last. We have to make the time to declutter. Looking at an overfilled drawer or a pile of clothes to go through may be intimidating and overwhelming. We may just want to bury our heads in the sand and go escape online instead. But we’ll never get past it if we don’t face it!

Set a timer and go through your pile. Give yourself 15 minutes, no more, no less. When the timer dings, you are done. Give yourself one project, for example: “Today I’m going to tackle my closet!” and only declutter that for the 15 minutes. Stay on that project (say, the closet) until it is done (so if you haven’t finished the closet in the fifteen minutes, then tomorrow when you set the timer, that is what you work on. Keep doing that until that job is completed, then, find another area to declutter).

Another idea is to purge one thing a day. That way, at the end of the year, you will have gotten rid of 365 things! One a day seems very small, until you look at it in the year time frame. Some people put a donation box in their basement, where it’s out of sight, but easily accessible to deposit their one item. I tend to keep stuff in my trunk, that way when I’m out, I can drop it off. This is handy, but also a pain when I forget to drop off my donation bag and then we do a huge grocery shopping trip!!

Some people purge when they get something new. So if they get a new shirt, they get rid of a shirt they don’t like. That’s a good idea, if you have the discipline to do it. I never could! What works best for one person doesn’t always work best for another, that’s why it’s great that there are different ideas!

This exercise is a lesson in God’s provision. Someone the other day gave me a bag of clothes that will fit my daughter Danielle. They are just her style, and she was needing some things. Our kitchen table collapsed, and a friend who flips houses found one in the house she was flipping, and is giving it to me. We certainly don’t ‘give to get’, but as we are generous, God will make sure that our needs are met.

Anyways, as I type this, my teenage son’s room is overflowing with yard sale stuff for May. My new-to- homeschooling-mom friend has a box with her name on it, full of stuff that her son can use. I’ve dropped off about 6 garbage bags (33 gallon) full of clothes to the homeless shelter, and I’ve given other items to friends who needed or liked the items. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back; actually, it shows how much stuff we have, and how much we can part with if we just make the time.