Thursday, June 30, 2011

Planning ahead for HOT weather!

My favorite season of the year is Summer and Summer has arrived in Chicago. I love love love summer, but I am wise enough to take precautions for predicted Heat Waves and prepare ahead for them. I believe there is no use in complaining about HOT weather because it is a part of the season and we can't change the weather, but we can prepare for it! A small heat wave is on the way for tomorrow, with heat indexes as high as 105°. Time to PREPARE for the Heat Wave!

We live in a basement apartment and you would think it would be cool down here, but it is not. It can get pretty "muggy" inside our apartment. We only have 1 wall air conditioner unit in the entire apartment, it is in the front room. The 3 bedrooms and the kitchen have ceiling fans in them.  We also have 2 Tower Fans and a Pedestal Fan. I personally like air that is blown directly on me, rather then ceiling fans. The ceiling fans don't seem to do a good enough job, so therefore we purchased the fans. We make sure the blinds are keep closed for the day, as then the sunshine is not beating into our apartment. Windows are closed to keep the "heat" from coming in.

My oldest son, Josh, has asthma therefore during "ozone action days" he cannot be outside because the heat will cause breathing problems, so we really have to prepare and make sure he doesn't go out during the daytime hours. Tonight we will go to the library and get some books and DVD's so that we can have a "movie marathon" during the day. Josh loves loves reading and will probably enjoy relaxing with a book tomorrow during the day. We will congregate in the front room where the A/C unit is and relax with movies and books. We will go outside for an hour or so after dinner and after the temps begin falling.

One of the first things I do is make sure the boys and I are wearing light clothes, such a gym shorts and t-shirts or tank tops. The light clothes makes sure the body is getting enough fresh air and keeps you cool better.

I will also go grocery shopping this evening and get some fresh fruit, especially melons, which are really good for HOT days. Melons are one of those "refreshing and cool" fruits. I will grab some lunch meat and a pasta salad.  I am going to make sure we have plenty of water bottles for the day also.  We will have a low maintenance and cooling lunch tomorrow. I also try to use the crockpot or the toaster oven on HOT days, the oven does not go on in our apartment on HOT days.

Another great "trick" I do too cool down is I get a dish towel wet, twist is around and around and then stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. It gets is just frozen enough and then I wrap it around my neck. It truly does cool the boys and I down quite a bit. I used to have a Fabric Neck Cooler and it was AMAZING, but it got a tear in it and it was no good anymore. I hope to get another in the near future, but until then I have my "makeshift" neck cooler. The wet towel works well that it cools down my body quite well. A bandanna works well also.

In addition to drinking water, we have some favorite "Cool Down Treats" that we make. I personally love Sun Tea, so I tend to drink lots of that on a HOT day and all summer long for that matter. I have Popsicle molds that I purchased at Dollar Tree and I make Pudding Pops, Fruit Bar Pops, Yogurt Pops. Just make up some pudding as directed or a homemade version and fill the molds and freeze. A couple years ago, I googled and found a site that has lots of recipes for Popsicles: 50+ Homemade Popsicle Recipes.  I just recently found another site online that looks really good: Homemade Popsicles. There are plenty more all over the internet, just google for them.  Homemade Slushies are another family favorite here. I do sometimes use Sugar Free Drink mixes, like a Crystal Light or the generic version for making slushies and they are very good. Homemade Fruit Smoothies are a hit year round, but especially on a hot day! Magic Milk Shakes is something we just started making last year. I had seen the recipe online for a few years, but was always too chicken to try it. A friend of mine from our homeschool group was telling me how great they are, so we finally tried them. We love love love them. They taste quite a bit like a certain "Frosty" treat.  These are a favorite "Cool down drinks". I am always looking for new and fun treats, so if you have any feel free to share.

I know we can't change the weather, so there is no use complaining about it. We have just learned to "make the best of it" by preparing in advance!!

Also, for that might not have A/C or Fans, remember that libraries, police stations and Village Halls are most of the time used a Cooling Centers.  Also, other Public places that have A/C are a good way to "cool off". Make sure to check on the elderly and make sure to keep babies and those with respiratory issues inside!

STAY COOL everyone!! It is getting to be HOT all over the country!

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 6/12-6/18

Woohoo!! I survived my first week of taking care of dinner completely and fully. It was ready by the time hubby got home from work at 5:30pm each day. Our menu last week was a huge success, especially the Ham Pinwheel and Pasta Salad lunch. My boys loved it so much, they begged for the same lunch the following day.  I obliged as I had made enough Pasta Salad and still had more ingredients for Ham Pinwheels. Here is a picture of my boys favorite lunch from last week:

I have included it on our lunch menu again this week as it was requested!! I also used lots of recipes from SparksRecipes. It has lots of Healthy Recipes and low fat versions of some "Favorites". It is associated with the SparksPeople weight loss site! The thing I like about SparksRecipes is that is a "Community Based" recipe site. Members of the site upload the recipes, not SparksRecipes. It is FREE to join and you can have a "recipe box" on the site!

Here is our menu for the week. (The Blue Highlighted words are clickable to take you to the recipes):

Weekly Menu Plan 6/12-6/18

For more menu plans and recipe ideas visit Menu Plan Monday at: Organizing Junkie.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

I can "Smell the Bread" already

OK, so not really, but hopefully tomorrow I will!  Thanks to my wonderful sister, I know have a "new to me" bread machine! My faithful Sunbeam Bread Machine "died" about a month ago, after using it for 5yrs. I love, love, love the Sunbeam Bread Machine and I will be getting one of those again in the very near future, but I have been missing homemade fresh bread and Homemade Pizza Dough for the past month, so I needed something to hold me over until I purchase it!

I had looked at the Goodwill store that is across the street from my apartment, but they didn't have any decent ones. The ones they did have were dirty and overpriced. My twin sister lives very close to a Goodwill store, so I called her last night when she was out and about and asked if she would/could go and check to see if they had a bread machine. She went and found a few to choose from and called me with the info. The prices ranged from $3.99 to $6.99 I told her to grab the Oster brand one that she was looking at. She paid $6.99 for it. She works only 4 blocks from me, so she was able to bring it down this morning! Here is my new machine:

Ohh I can't wait to make our favorite breads, pizza dough and more again! Some of our favorite recipes that I use are:

Bread Machine Pizza DoughBread Machine Onion BreadBread Machine English Muffins,
Cinnamon Rolls (copycat recipe for Cinnabons)Buttery Bread Machine Rolls.

These are just a few that I use! The Buttery Bread Machine Rolls are absolutely awesome. To both the Buttery Rolls and the Pizza Dough we add a bit of fresh pressed garlic or if we don't have that on hand, some garlic powder. It really brings out the flavor in both of those! The Cinnamon Rolls we do the night before and stick them in fridge unbaked overnight. I also do many recipes from a 57 page Bread Machine recipe document that was a freebie from Crystal Paine a few years ago, before her Money Saving Mom blog. She has a different blog and she offered it up as a freebie! I printed it out and put it into a folder and use many of the recipes from there often, including a Carrot cake. It is more like quick bread, but it is soo yummy!

I will still be purchasing the Sunbeam Bread Machine very soon and I will keep this one also. I will use it to bake bread on the weekends and freeze it. We will be purchasing a small chest freezer in the very near future and then we are going to start doing some "Freezer Cooking" on the weekends. I will be able to have 2 bread products going at the same time once I purchase the Sunbeam Bread Machine.

I love Bread Machines and I am so glad my sister found this machine for me!!

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 6/5-6/11

WOW, what a month May was! I really got off track with Menu Planning and we basically "winged" it every single day. I have done that for a week at time before, but never for a month. One week throws everything off track budgetwise, May was horrible for the budget. No more of that!! I have to stay on top of the Menu Plans.

My hubby started a new job last week and for the first time ever, it is a "normal hours" job, M-F 8:30am-5pm. He has always had hours where it allowed him to do dinner prep, as he enjoys cooking. Well, now I will be taking over the Dinner Prep. I don't have a problem with that, but I am more a the "baker" for the family. LOL  This week I planned lots of "hot weather" meals and crockpot meals, as we are in for some 90° days this week!

Here is our menu plan for this week:
(The words on the document in blue are clickable recipe links)

Weekly Menu Plan

For more great recipes and menu plans visit: Organizing Junkie

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Woohoo!! Homeschool Convention Time!!

Notebook, pens and tote bag: Check   
Spending Money: Check 
 Transportation Plans: Check 
Comfortable Shoes: Check  
Wanted to Buy List: Check  
Schedule printed and workshops selected: Check
Address Labels: Check   
Name Badge: Check

YEP I  think I am ready. I know I am so very excited!!  The time is finally here for the annual Illinois Christian Home Educators Convention. I really enjoy attending this convention, this will be my 4th year attending. It is a 3 day convention and always lots of fun and inspirational. I enjoy seeing "old" friends and meeting new ones, spending time with like minded people!

My hubby and I dropped the boys off at my parents earlier this evening, as they will be spending the night there until Friday night. We had originally planned for the boys to stay home with "daddy" because "daddy" was unemployed and we didn't think he would be working by now because of the economy. Well, we were very blessed when 3 weeks ago "hubby" was offered a job. He just began that job today, June 1st, so he has "better" things to do. Graciously my parents volunteered to take the boys overnight for 2 nights and all is good! The past 2 years, we booked 2 rooms at a hotel near the Convention area. My parents came to the hotel also. They watched the boys during the day for us, while hubby and I attended the convention and then we had them in the evening. Well, due to unemployment issues over the last 3 months, that was not happening this year. Also, we got a huge discount on those hotel rooms, so that made it more possible. No more discount, because hubby no longer works at a hotel.

I am going to "carpool" with a couple friends of mine from our homeschool group and go back and forth daily. It is only a 40 minute drive and not too bad, but the location of the hotel was awesome.

It does seem a little weird to be going to a convention right when "Summer Break" is starting, that is what I thought before my first time attending. I have since changed that way of thinking because it really gives you lots to think about and gets you "revved" up to planning and thinking about the next school year. I always leave convention with so much information and it is a real joy to attend!

I will be giving daily update blog posts of my "Adventures at Convention".

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