Score yourself a FREE turkey!

Christy Jordan has got the holiday spirit! She is giving away a delicious turkey on her website: Southernplate.com

All you have to do is go to the site, read her wonderful post about how to take meaningful holiday pictures of your family and post your own special Thanksgiving memory in the comment section.

Since we’re in the sharing mood – I have to tell my own:

This probably doesn’t sound that special – but, I was always in charge of the cheeseball. When the women were planning the Thanksgiving meal and everyone was getting assigned their dishes, I was given cheeseball duty. Because it’s the easiest dish to make. And back in the day I was not the world’s greatest cook. Far from it! So, every Thanksgiving during my late teens and early 20’s I whipped up our family cheeseball.

My Nanny (grandmother) always highly praised my oh-so-delicious cheeseball. Bless her!

Now that I’ve FINALLY progressed beyond the cheeseball stage, I was very proud last year to bestow the honor upon my youngest daughter, Vivian. At age eight she was already at the cheeseball stage, far advanced over her mother. My oldest daughter was already moved to meringue duty.

Seeing the cheeseball every Thanksgiving reminds me of times spent sitting at the kitchen table, mixing the soft cheeses and watching the pros take care of the rest. And now, when I am working as the pro, I smile when I see my youngest daughter working the cheeseball duty.

The recipe is so simple, please feel free to mix up a cheeseball for your family this holiday season!

The Whiteley Family Cheeseball

Ingredients:

1 pkg cream cheese, softened

1 jar Old English Cheese

Worchestershire Sauce

Garlic Salt

Chopped Pecans

Parsley Flakes

Mix the Old English and cream cheese together with a few dashes of Worchestershire sauce and garlic salt in a large mixing bowl. I find this is most easily done with clean hands. Just get in there and mix those cheeses. After mixing completely, set the bowl in the fridge to cool and allow the cheeses to firm. After at least an hour, spread parsley flakes and chopped pecans onto a large plate.  Take out your bowl of cheeses. Wash your hands again. Reach in there and grab that mess of mixed up cheese and get it all in your hands. Ball it  all up and smooth the outside. Roll your gigantic ball of tasty goodness around on the plate, coating it with parsley and pecans.

Set the cheeseball onto a pretty plate and put it back into the fridge for at least another hour to firm.

Best served with Ritz crackers.

Vivian cheeseball

Vivian’s first Cheeseball!

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

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Inspiring creativity and teaching about what matters

This morning I came across a link on Facebook posted by a friend. The link led to a video of Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D, talking about how public education often stifles creativity. The subject appealed to me because I homeschool my children and I’m always interested in new ways to teach and I’m constantly conflicted about which subjects are the most important. This video is a breath of fresh air. Sir Robinson offers a wonderful perspective about where our society is headed based on its current method of educating children.

The video can be accessed here:  CNN video link

After watching the video with my oldest daughter, Rowena, we began to talk about what Sir Robinson meant. We were particularly interested in the story he told about Gillian Lynne.  When Ms. Lynne was in school, she often turned in her homework late, had trouble staying still and paying attention and was labeled a disruption for the other students. Her mother took her for a student-teacher meeting to discuss what should be done for Gillian. After talking about her struggles in school, her mother and the teacher left the room to talk and left Gillian alone with the radio playing. Gillian began to dance and the teacher told her mother that there was nothing wrong with Gillian. She was simply a dancer and needed to go to dance school.

From there, Gillian attended dance school, became a star dancer in several ballets and eventually became a well-known choreographer. Ms. Lynne choregraphed such famous productions as CATS and The Phantom of the Opera.

Sir Robinson made the extremely astute observation that today, Ms. Lynne would probably have been given medication and told to “calm down.” This made me think of my own struggles in junior high, particularly in math class. In the sixth grade I had absolutely no interest in math. I refused to do any of my math assignments. Instead I drew pictures and comics all over my pages. I was given detention, grounded at home, given spats from the principal and eventually sent to isolation for the rest of the year. It didn’t matter, I still didn’t do any math assignments. I failed the sixth grade.

Eventually, as my family moved around to several different towns and I attended different schools, my class credits jumbled around and I was promoted up to my original grade. All through high school I wanted to be a police officer. It seemed like an exciting job with plenty of respectability and leadership. I thought it would please my family. It wasn’t until my senior year that I had a teacher pull me aside and tell me that I was a talented artist and writer. She encouraged me to enter several writing contests, which I won. She also encouraged me to apply to a selective art school. I was accepted. She was the only teacher in high school, middle school and elementary who ever told me that I could do something with my talent.

Yesterday I was scolding my children for not concentrating, not staying on task and doing poorly with their math work. It seems I have forgotten where I came from. Hearing what Sir Robinson had to say about encouraging creativity in students has awakened me this morning. I told my daughter that yes, math is important because it helps your mind to work out puzzles and think logically. That is important. But I also explained that learning math should be fun, it should be a pleasurable challenge and not just to pass a test and get a good grade. It should be interesting. I told her that the math we do together would have been impossible for me all through middle and high school. I just couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t until I was an adult at college that I realized that math had practical applications and when treated like a puzzle – a game – it was fun and I could understand it.

I want to teach my children the basics: math, science, languages, history, ect. But I want our focus to be on our talents. What gifts has God given to us? He has blessed me and my children with the gifts of art, creative writing and music. Shouldn’t that be our main focus?

Thank you, Sir Robinson. Education in our home will be different because of you.

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

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Southernplate.com is giving away coffee, y’all!

I just want to high-five my favorite southern bell, Christy Jordan over at Southernplate.com – not only does she offer totally fantastic recipes with awesome “how-to” tutorials and pictures, she has really great give-aways! Today she’s got a great give-away up on her site. She’s partnered with Seattle’s Best Coffee to offer several chances to score some of their yummy brew.

coffee-giveaway-002-400x332

To enter just head over to her site and read her post about the Holiday Giveaway, leave a comment after the post and tell Christy about your own little coffee ritual.

Follow these additional steps for more chances to win:

Twitter:  “@southernplate and Seattle’s Best are hosting a HUGE Holiday coffee giveaway! http://snipurl.com/t1ijf

Facebook: post a link to her url and then tell her about it on the Southernplate family Facebook page

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

My change of heart

Almost ten years ago, I was a struggling single mother with three very young children. I didn’t spend very much time with my children because I was focused on working as a journalist, graphic layout designer and copy editor for a newspaper. My children spent the majority of their time at the babysitter’s house. They would spend the night with her often. I missed out on so much. With my eyes on the wrong goal, I stumbled and fell. I fell frequently. It was a mess. Thankfully, God did not give up on me. He led me down a broken road to my husband, Scott. Settled into a comfortable marriage I felt that for once I was safe – I was loved – and I was special. During this time of healing I was able to change my focus.  About two years into our marriage, during worship service at church, I cried out to God to change me. I begged Him to use me, show me where to go, show me how to conduct my life. I wept as I cried out for His guidance.And I felt His peace wash over me. I should have known that peace was sent to help me through the changes ahead of me.

God set out that very moment to radically change me. A few weeks after I cried out for His guidance, I became very sick with pneumonia. So sick, in fact, that my husband was forced to take me to the hospital. I was admitted for almost a week. Initially, as the doctors were working on the correct diagnosis, they were concerned about a large mass in my lungs.

Apparently the infection was so condensed, the doctors initially thought it could be a tumor. My heart stopped when they told me this.

I immediately quit smoking.

I smoked a pack a day for six years. I’ve tried every different way to quit, without success. But the day I cried out for my Father to change me into the woman He wants me to be – He set the process in motion. He knew what it would take to free me from my costly addiction.

And still He continued to work on me. Shortly after I recovered, an opportunity to serve in my church’s children’s ministry presented itself. As I considered working in this ministry a warm peace, much like the one I experienced during that special moment of worship – washed over me and I knew that this was a step in the right direction.

Over the next few weeks, He continued to work on me. He opened my eyes to healthy changes in my lifestyle, our budget, our household. My Father has redirected my interest in raising my children in a simple, loving and Godly manner.

And then my God laid it upon my heart to take a leap of pure faith and homeschool my children.

The idea at first was frightening! I was not this person. I was busy at my job, I had my own interests. Sure, I love my children, I attended church, I loved my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ – but I was nowhere near where He wanted me to be.

I was NOT the type of mom to get up early, make sure everyone had a nice breakfast. I didn’t pull myself out of bed to spend a little time in prayer. I rarely cracked open my Bible unless I was at church. I wasn’t a bad Christian – but I was inactive, lukewarm. I had not surrendered my life completely to His will.

As I look back today, I’m amazed at just how far God has brought me in such a very short time. He’s used circumstances to teach me. He’s led my heart to a new realization of just how wonderful my life could be when I decide to truly serve Him. I can see now that serving in the church children’s ministry will help me as I homeschool my children. The organizational skills I’ve used at work will benefit me as I struggle to keep us on task at home. The new things I’m learning everyday will help me to become the woman I need to be –  the woman He wants me to be.

I still have a long way to go. I’m not a saint, by any stretch of the imagination. And I’m still a little unsure of myself in this new role. I don’t know if I can be “that type” of a woman. Can I be a true help mate for my husband? Can I be the way God wants me to be?

Not on my own.

But I’m not alone. I’m being led every step of the way. And I’m so very thankful that God has invested such an interest in a wayward servant.

Along with changing my attitude towards raising my children, God has placed a new desire in my heart to have more children. When I gave birth to my third child, I made the terrible decision to have my tubes tied. I broke my body. My heart is broken. God, in His goodness and mercy, has led me to The Lord’s Heritage Ministry – a ministry that helps raise money to fund tubal ligation and vasectomy reversal surgeries.  I have hope now. This chance to be physically restored is precious to me. God has recently been working with me regarding my misconceptions about submission to my husband and my misconceptions about why God created women. I used to be so concerned with my career, so concerned with “being somebody,” and I didn’t want to be “just” a housewife. It has been a struggle for me to overcome the lies that I grew up with as a child of the feminist generation.
Today I am very, very happy to be a stay-at-home mother, I’m proud to be homeschooling my children and diligently serving my church. There are still times when I struggle with that prideful nature when I bump into an old friend and they ask me, “Where do you work?” Their faces change when I say, “I’m at home with my kids.” It’s like they think I’ve given up – when really I’ve chosen a fantastic calling!
God has revealed much to me about my character and the wrong ideas I’ve had in my heart. And it’s just in time, too! God’s timing is perfect. My daughters are getting older now and they’re talking about what they want to be when they grow up. I would have encouraged them down the wrong paths in the past. But today I’m able to tell them that God has created them as women for a very special purpose. Yes, a job – a career – for an unmarried woman is important. And it’s important for them to ask God to show them their paths. But the Bible tells us as women what our purpose is and why He made us. We are helpmeets, rubies for our husbands, gaurdians of our homes! This is so wonderful to me now. It blesses my heart to tell my daughters that God loves them and wants them to be happy.
God has helped me to see His perfect planning when He created women for that purpose. I was blessed about two months ago to receive a book from my mother-in-law, “Womanly Dominion,” by Mark Chanksi. This book really helped me to realize that I was pleasing God, my Father, when I chose to serve my family and my husband with my whole heart.
Thank God for working to reveal these things in my life! I have such amazing peace. I experience so much more joy in my life. It is my prayer that I can help other women realize that they can have this same joy and peace everyday!

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

Sprittibee’s givin’ away a cook book!

I love Sprittibee. She rocks – not only does she offer wonderful advice and insight for homeschooling (plus her organizational skills blow me out of the water) but she also has give-aways! How great is that?

The Queen Bee is giving one lucky reader The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook.

food2liveby

Here’s how to win:

Visit Earthbound Farm’s website – check out all their cool recipes. Then, head over to Sprittibee and check out her post about the contest. Leave a comment about a recipe on Earthbound Farm’s website that you would like to try. If you’re a blogger, blog about the contest and create a buzz! Organic cooking is a great way to take care of your family’s nutritional needs. And what loving mother and wife couldn’t use another cookbook? I have about 20 cookbooks, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’m crossing my fingers to win The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook.

But since I’m so nice, I’ll give you a chance to win, too. Go on over and see Sprittibee and enter to win!

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

Hot rolls! Freshly baked bread to thrill your family!

My grandmother always made the most wonderful hot rolls. One blessed day she shared her recipe with me and took the time to teach me how to make them. My family has praised her name ever since. Make a batch of these rolls for your family and you’ll be Queen of the World!

Hot Rolls

2 cups warm water

2 pkgs dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil

1 1/2 tsps salt

5 (sometimes a little more) cups of flour

Disolve your yeast in the warm water, mix in the sugar. In a large mixing bowl add the oil to the eggs and beat to mix. Add the salt. Pour in the yeast-water-sugar mixture. Now add the flour and mix completely.

Pour out the sticky dough onto a lightly-floured surface and sprinkle the wad of dough with flour. Now take the edges of the dough, pull them over and tuck them in, creating a smoother ball of dough. Now flip this over and knead this ball of dough for about five minutes.

In a large bowl, pour a couple of tablespoons of oil and coat the bowl. Take your ball of kneaded dough and place in the oil, roll it around to fully coat the dough and then cover this bowl with a hand towel and leave it in a warm area where it is unlikely to be bothered. Leave it to rise for about two hours.

After it has had its first rise, punch the dough down in the bowl to release the gas caused by the yeast and gluten. Get a large baking pan and spray it with cooking oil. Pinch off handfulls of dough and roll them out – like we did when kids and we played with play-dough and made long snakes. Once you have your long dough snake, coil it up – like a pretty rose and set this dough coil into the baking pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Then cover the pan with the hand towel and let this dough rise again for at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Once the dough has risen again, place in a 400 degree oven to cook for 20 to 25 minutes. After the rolls have browned, brush them with melted butter.

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

Bible lesson ideas for ages three through kindgergarten

Many churches with young families are facing a dilemma: what activities can we offer for the children? Nursery services for infants and children under the age of three are generally available, but often children ages three through kindergarten need specific activities and a structured learning service tailored to their developemental stages. They’re too old for the nursery and too young for the adult services.

Luckily their cheerful disposition and high energy learning styles make this age group such a joy to teach! Listed below is a general idea for a children’s church service.

It would be good to have two or three adults to serve as the main “teachers.” Having more than one teacher allows the adults to switch out every other Sunday and attend the main service with their families and friends. The three year old through kindergarten age group responds well to routine. It wouldn’t be advisable to change teachers too often, in order to ensure the children are comfortable with their teachers. It would be really great to have a list of volunteers from the youth and other adults in the church to rotate weekly as “assistants.” These assistants are essential for bathroom breaks, handing out activities and supplies and helping to keep the children on task.

It is recommended to keep a few supplies in a large tub that can be kept in any suitable learning area. In the supply tub, it would be great to have:

crayons and coloring pages

a timer

toys

snacks

reward stickers

videos or DVDs

CDs

story books

pillows or rugs, or even towels to sit on during story and video time

With these supplies in hand, it is easy to folow a general schedule of activities like this:

(5 to ten minutes per activity)

1. Story or Video

2. Play time

3. Clean up

4. Snack

5. Craft or coloring

6. Play time or Singing

7. Clean up

8. Parent pick up

To help with the transition, use a timer and set it to go off after five or ten minutes. Also, make a really fun flip chart with brightly colored pictures of each activity. A flip chart can be made using a three-ring binder. Set this binder on the main table where it can be easily seen.

There are plenty of good websites with ideas for a central theme for each Sunday such as “the days of creation,” or “ways that Jesus shows His love for us.” Use a central theme with a Bible scripture throughout the games, songs and crafts to help the children learn about the Good News. Take a look at these websites for ideas:

http://www.dltk-bible.com/genesis/chapter1-index.htm

http://biblekidsfunzone.com/

http://lbbl.homestead.com/

http://www.sunnyhollowpress.com/toddlers.htm

With a little preparation and plenty of energy, teaching this age group can be a very rewarding experience. Remember, “Jesus called the children to him, and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

Chicken and Dumplings

Everyone has their own way to make chicken and dumplings. My bestest friend in the whole wide world asked for my recipe – so since I had to type it up anyways, I thought I’d share it here.You need:

Chicken – (the appropriate amount for however many people you’re feeding, for the five of us it takes one whole chicken)
Evaporated Milk – (one can)
Onion
Celery

Put the chicken in a big pot, with some chopped onion (large pieces are easier to remove later) and some celery, some salt (to taste) and garlic powder. Let this come to a boil and then cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked fully. I usually leave mine on for like an hour or more.

While the chicken is cooking, you can mix up your dumplings. I’ve listed the amounts for a normal batch, but for our family we make a double batch – and there’s never enough dumplings.

You need:

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons of shortening
3/4 cup of buttermilk
(if you don’t have buttermilk, just get 3/4 cup of milk and add a few drops of white vinegar or lemon juice, to sour the milk – let it sit for a few minutes, and ta-daaa, you have buttermilk… sort of!)

Combine the flour, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cut the shortening into the flour with a fork or a pastry blender or two knives… whatever you have, until the flour mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (like making biscuits) and knead four or five times – but no more than that, otherwise your dumplings will be tough. And who wants tough dumplings?

Now I like to pinch off about a ping-pong ball size of dough, roll it up into a little ball and then set it on a plate and repeat with the whole batch of dough. Then I stick that plate into the fridge until I’m ready to drop in the dumplings.

After that’s all done and your chicken is cooked, get out a big bowl and a strainer. You’re going to drain the chicken stock through a strainer into the bowl. The strainer catches all the chunks of onion and celery and the chicken, leaving you with your stock. Pour the stock back into the pot.

In a large pan, seperate your chicken from the bone and skin and all that, put the chunks of chicken into a seperate bowl and stick that into the fridge.

Turn up the heat under your pot to get your chicken stock boiling again. Once it is boiling add the can of evaporated milk. Now get out your plate of dumplings and drop them in (one at a time, but quickly so they all have relatively the same cook time). As the dumplings cook, they’ll rise back to the top. Turn down the heat to a simmer and put a lid on the pot and allow your dumplings to cook for ten to fifteen minutes.

Once the dumplings have had time to cook, add the chicken and turn off the heat. Allow it to sit, covered, for about fifteen minutes and then serve! 🙂

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

2

Planning a Two Week Menu and Grocery List

As a stay-at-home mom with three children that are homeschooled, it is important that we streamline our day-to-day activities such as chores, school and meals. The easiest way for our family to operate is to plan a two-week menu, based on my husband’s pay schedule and plan our grocery list accordingly. This saves us a lot of money because our purchases are planned and we rarely go out to eat or buy convenience foods because our meals are planned ahead of time.

There are plenty of websites that offer valuable tips and advice for menu planning as well as some great print-outs to help you get started organizing your meals and saving you money! Some of my favorite sites include:

Darla Shine’s Happy Housewives Club

http://happyhousewivesclub.com/printables/

Darla’s site offers wonderful printables. Check out the Weekly Menu sheet as well as the Grocery List. You can use them as is – or you can use their wonderful example to tailor your own lists. Be sure to stop by their individual pages and get recipe ideas from the cooking section and terrific organization and housekeeping tips from the homemaking section.

Donna Young

http://www.donnayoung.org/household/fullsize/kitchen-planner.htm

There are some fantastic grocery shopping lists here as well! Donna Young is a perfect example of an organized woman! And the lists and tips she offers on her site are invaluable. I really recommend you grab a cup of coffee, or tea, and cruise her site for a while – you won’t be sorry!

Now, for our home this upcoming two weeks our menu is as follows. Notice, I do not have the meals assigned to a particular day. I simply have a master list of 14 to 15 dinner menu options. This allows me some freedom to switch to an easier meal on busy days, or to have something nice to serve when company comes over on short notice. I also plan 7 or 8 dessert items to serve on various evenings when we need something sweet to end our day.

Steak tips and Rice with Green Beans and Corn –  I found the recipe here: http://www.southernplate.com/2009/04/steak-tips-over-rice-and-the-significance-of-a-doughnut-shop.html  I really do love Christy Jordan’s website. Not only does she offer great recipes with a southern flavor, but she also has the neatest step-by-step tutorials with mouth-watering pictures. I think I’ll be serving this simple but very tasty dish to our pastor and his wife when they come to dinner next week.

Lentil Stew and Cornbread

Spaghetti and Green Beans with Hot Rolls

Baked Sandwiches and Potato Salad – Another great recipe from Christy Jordan: http://www.southernplate.com/2009/02/baked-sandwiches.html  

Two nights worth of Pot Pies with Mashed Potatoes and Corn – These meals I keep on the list for Wednesday nights. We go to church for children’s services and Bible studies, so we’re usually pressed to eat dinner quickly in order to be at church around 6:15 – so I keep some frozen pot pies around to toss in the oven while we fix our hair and get ready for the evening. Not really the most glamorous of meals, but it’s quick and easy – and super affordable.

Two nights worth of Frozen Pizzas –  This is another convenience item. My husband takes pictures for the local newspaper of all the high school football games. We’re pretty big on high school football in Texas. These evenings are rushed for my husband as he gets home from one job and gets ready to head out to this secondary job. And I like to kick back and watch a movie with the kids on Friday nights, so pizza serves us pretty well.

Chicken and Rice with Peas and Corn

Pork Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Taco Soup

Goulash with Pinto Beans and Cornbread

Baked Chicken with Potatoes, Carrots and Spinach

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Bread –  I absolutely love the beginner’s bread recipe listed on this site: http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/beginnersbread.htm  – if you feel like you can’t make your own homemade bread, please read her wonderful tutorial and start baking!

Our dessert options for this two-week menu are:

Brownies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemon Chess Pie – Christy Jordan: http://www.southernplate.com/2008/09/lemon-chess-pie.html

Pumpkin Bread

Shoo Fly Pie – Christy Jordan: http://www.southernplate.com/2009/09/shoofly-pie-and-subtitling-southerners.html

 Banana Pudding – Christy Jordan: http://www.southernplate.com/2008/07/homemade-banana-pudding-tutorial.html

 Chocolate Cobbler – Christy Jordan: http://www.southernplate.com/2009/09/chocolate-cobbler-on-tv.html

 (I told you I just love Christy Jordan’s site!)

Once I have my dinner and dessert options planned, I usually make a shorter breakfast options list. We tend to have the basics for breakfast: eggs with bacon and toast, cereal, oatmeal, breakfast rice, pancakes or muffins. I go ahead and list the options, though – so I can be sure to jot down everything for my master grocery list.

Lunches in our home generally consist of leftovers, soup or sandwiches. For families with children who pack their lunches, parents may want to list those menu options as well. I highly encourage planning lunch options. It can brighten your child’s day to have something special in their lunch box while they’re away from home during the day.

Once you have your menu options planned out on paper, you can begin jotting down all the items you’ll need from the grocery store. This is a good time to go through your pantry and refrigerator and make sure you don’t list items you already have at home. When I’m writing out this first list, I simply put it all in one big jumbled list. I organize that list into another final list later.

I know what you’re thinking, “Two lists?!? Who has time for that?” I promise you, this does not take long. My grocery shopping experience (with three preteens in tow) is a lot more peaceful if I organize my final list into shopping aisle categories such as: meat, dairy, dry goods, canned items, ect. My first list is usually one big mess. It really helps me to separate the items I need into a more organized list. All together, my menu planning and final grocery list composition takes about 30 minutes.

Our family of five eats very well, most meals made at home from scratch (if you don’t count the pizzas and pot pies) and we generally spend about $100 to $150 a week for our grocery bill. This includes cleaning supplies, pet food, homeschool materials, ect. Not bad for a family living on one income! Menu planning and detailed grocery lists are essential for any family looking to save money and enjoy meals at home together.

Building relationships with your neighbors

With today’s busy schedules and fast-paced lives, it seems there is little time to socialize with the people in your neighborhood. In fact, many times the neighbors are virtual strangers, with barely a word spoken as glances are exchanged on the way to the car, check the mail or while mowing the lawn. Our busy lives have pushed aside the desire to foster a sense of community.

Building relationships with your neighbors can be very beneficial and rewarding. Families with young children can feel safer about their children playing outside if they are well acquainted with their neighbors. Children live happier, healthier and more productive lives when they are raised in a secure environment with plenty of social stimulation and interaction with people from all age groups and walks of life. Often busy and overworked parents may be delighted to discover a friendly neighbor willing to help with babysitting to allow young parents a date night once in a while. Older neighbors can often offer valuable advice and insight to help with child rearing.

To bring families and neighbors together, consider hosting a block party. First, be sure to contact your local public works department or law enforcement center to inquire about any permit fees or required documents in order to hold a block party. Next, visit with your neighbors and begin to set a date. It’s a good idea to keep a “rain date” in mind, in case of unfavorable weather. Once your date is penciled on the calendar, it can be fun to plan a theme. Consider themes based on the season such as a Summer Swim Fest, a Fall Harvest Party, a Winter Wonderland or a Spring Fling. Other fun themes could involve a word-play based on street names, festive Hawaiian luaus, or a simple pot luck buffet. Some very helpful tips for planning a block party can be found in this online PDF: http://www.fcgov.com/communications/pdf/block-party.pdf

A close-knit community also provides help during times of emergency, illness or family distress. It is important to know your neighbors and be willing to help should they need it. Neighborhood watch programs and vigilant eyes within the community drastically reduce crime rates. Starting such a program within your neighborhood is fairly easy. Begin speaking with your local law enforcement office. Often local police departments offer start-up kits for neighborhood watch programs. Speak with your neighbors and arrange a meeting in your home. Not only will you be well on your way to a safer neighborhood, but you will also get to know your neighbors and build solid friendships.

At the initial meeting, be sure to go over the goals you and your neighbors wish to accomplish with the neighborhood watch program, such as: increased security, a safer environment, building relationships and sharing contact information in case of emergencies. Consider creating a “phone tree,” to announce meetings, alert neighbors during an emergency and also to share good news and general announcements. If everyone is willing, encourage continued participation by scheduling monthly meetings.

Another easy way to get to know your neighbors is to hold a yard sale. Not only will you be able to clear your home of a little excess clutter and earn some extra cash, but you can also get to know your neighbors. About three weeks before your yard sale, be sure to visit with your neighbors, let them know you’re planning to have a sale and perhaps see if they would like to set up a few tables in your yard and sell a few items of their own. Offer to have some breakfast items, such as muffins or donuts available for your neighbors to share the morning of the yard sale. Perhaps you can arrange a pot luck dinner to enjoy once the yard sale is finished. Getting to know your neighbors can be simple. The benefits of a close-knit community are well worth the minimal effort to reach out and introduce yourself to the people living around you.

UPDATE:

When we started this blog in 2010, we had three children.

Since that time we have had THREE MORE CHILDREN. We would love for you to visit us at www.coersfamily.com to see how we’ve grown.

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