Reducing Expenses: Put the ‘Personal’ In Your Finances

March 11th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

How to Reduce Your Expenses

Personal finance is called ‘personal’ for a reason. No matter what advice or best practices exist, money—how we earn, spend, and save it—is intertwined with our values, beliefs, and experience.  By exploring not only the practical side but also the personal side, you will find that you not only can ‘find’ more money, but you’ll be happier because you’ve given your personal finances careful thought.

Knowing your goals and setting up a budget that works are the first steps in putting the personal in your finances. Once you know where your money is going and how much you’re spending you can challenge yourself and your family to reduce or eliminate unnecessary spending by examining what you’re spending through the filter of your goals.

Each expense should be evaluated and considered. Is it essential? Could it be reduced? Should we be ‘investing’ more in this area?

Let’s examine a few common areas where you may be able to find savings that can really add up:

 

Trivial Spending

Buying a cup of $3 coffee at work or spending $10 on lunch out with co-workers every week may not seem like a big deal, but it can add up…and fast! Spending $30/week on those little things can add up to over $1,500/year!

Tips to Manage Trivial Spending:
Choose intentional spending instead. If you know you are going to spend money on little thing it’s best to set a budget of yourself-or an allowance. Once you’ve spent your ‘allowance’ you will have to skip the little expenses for the rest of the month. This will allow you some freedom while staying within your budget.

Stop, Think, Spend Strategy

This simple strategy will keep you from overspending. Stop before you go to the checkout counter. Think about what you’re buying. Go over a few questions in your head to get yourself to be in the moment. No justifying the clearance cost or the unnecessary stuff.

Tips for using Spending Strategy: 
Some sample questions you can either keep in mind or have a list in your wallet (ideally in front of your credit or debit card)

  • Is it a need or want?
  • Can you use something else in place of the item you’re going to purchase?
  • Can you find a better price elsewhere?

Only after you’ve given it the stop and think then and only then is it time to spend.

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

One of the best strategies I have is to always shop with a list. I keep running lists on my phone and in a notebook I carry. This includes everything we need and things I’m looking out for-like a new pair of curtains and the budget I have for those items. If it’s not on the list we don’t purchase it. This keeps me from impulse purchases (my weakness!) and allows me to keep track of things we need that may not be at the forefront of my mind.

Tips for using Lists: 
Use your phone or a dedicated notebook to keep track of your lists. There are plenty of apps that work great for this including Notes (on iPhone), Moleskine’s app, and Taasky.

Unwanted Expenses

We all have things in our budget we’d rather not spend money on-not the things we have to (like home repairs), but expenses that come from a lack of time management or organization. Some examples include; late fees, parking tickets, monthly contracts, or convenience fees. It could be you forgot to return your library books or you needed to pay a bill online that day and had to pay a $3.95/fee. You may have signed up for a ‘free’ trial and forgotten to cancel. While these may seem like small time they can add up if you aren’t careful.

Tips to Avoid Unwanted Expenses:
Avoid unwanted expenses when possible, but also make sure to have some room in your budget (Misc. category) for paying off those unwanted expenses now. To keep from making the same mistake again you can set reminders in your phone or have notes on your planner for due dates and mark down the day you should cancel a ‘free trail’.

Cutting the Cable(s)

One expense most families have is their cable bill. It can add up to more than $150 with internet access, cable channels, premium channels, DVRs, and a home phone. That’s a lot of dough! While internet access may be a requirement at home cutting the cable or dumping the home phone are both ways you can save big bucks.

Tips for Cutting the Cable:
Cutting the cable doesn’t mean never watching TV or movies! You can get a membership to Netflix, use Hulu, HuluPlus subscription, or Amazon’s Prime to stream movies and TV for cheap or free. The best part is you aren’t in a contract so you can cancel or ‘pause’ your membership at any time.

Reducing Interest Payments and Debt

The best way to reduce your expenses is to cut back on interest and debt payments. After all, saving more doesn’t make sense if you’re spending 10% or more on interest payments or more a large percentage of your earnings on debt. Debt isn’t all bad-it may allow you to pursue higher education, purchase your home, or finance a business. Revolving debt, loans, and high interest rates are an expense we should fight to eliminate.

Tips to Reduce Interest: 
While you’re working to pay off debts you can reduce interest rates by:

  • refinance your mortgage-you may be able to refinance for a lower interest rate
  • call your credit card company-call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate
  • switch credit card companies-0% intro rates are a great way to eliminate interest (be mindful of fees for transferring balances)
  • consolidate loans-by consolidating loans into one payment you can often reduce interest rates

What are effective ways you’ve reduced expenses?

 

Pin It

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.11.14

March 11th, 2014

mustache apron

Source: Cucina Bambina,  $38.95

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

Pin It

Cheering for the Same {Marriage} Team

March 10th, 2014

From our marriage/parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Mary Carver, from Giving Up on Perfect, is truly the perfect voice for our marriage & family section of our site. I never had the right words to say on these topics, but what I love about Mary is that she has the *real* words to say on family & marriage. It isn’t easy and we all know that. I know you will want to share her posts with others as soon as you read them. I am thrilled she is sharing her heart here!
Cheering for the Same Marriage Team - MomAdvice.com

I have a newborn who doesn’t believe in sleeping through the night yet – or sleeping more at night than during the day, actually. And while I’ve heard of moms who can feed their babies while vacuuming or fixing lunch or knitting, I’m not nearly that coordinated.

All I can manage during those late-night feedings is to hold my phone and scroll through Facebook. Which means, of course, that I’ve taken every “What [Disney princess/Friends character/Muppet/arbitrary object {WHAT?!}] Are You?” quiz that exists.

{In case you’re wondering – and of course you are – I’m Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation, Jessie from Saved by the Bell, Jerry from Seinfeld, Leonard from Big Bang Theory, Princess Leia, Hermione and Rumpelstilstkin. Don’t even ask me what that last one means. I don’t want to talk about it.}

Most recently I took the quiz asking which celebrity couple my significant other and I are. According to this highly scientific test, my husband and I “are” Barack and Michelle Obama, the powerhouse couple.

Ummm, okay?

Politics and pretend psychology aside, the definition of our spirit celeb couple had one good point:

Despite being two individual powerhouses, you make a perfect team.

I still don’t know about the powerhouse thing, but I do know that we’re at our very best as a couple when we function as a team.

Two years ago my marriage faced some major challenges. When crying and yelling about everything didn’t work, we spent our 13th wedding anniversary with a marriage counselor. I won’t tell you that we have a perfect relationship now, but we’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary in a few months in a much better, healthier, more loving place than we could have imagined two years ago.

And what changed us most was a lousy counselor and cheering for the same team.

Cheering for the Same Marriage Team - MomAdvice.com

At first our counselor seemed nice. But eventually we came to the conclusion that, as a counselor, she was actually kind of terrible. She asked bizarre questions, focused on the least important part of our discussions, and assigned us ridiculous homework. And each time we met with her, we had to remind her about our background, our problems and our progress.

So the counselor we saw wasn’t great. Coming to that conclusion with my husband, though? Kind of great.

See, throughout our relationship what has glued us together is the mindset that we’re in this thing together, that we’re on the same team. And we’d forgotten that.

Being on the same team means we fight together, not each other.

After years of unmet expectations and disappointments, we’d unknowingly worked ourselves into a combative relationship. It was me against him, and neither of us was winning.

But when we took time to reflect on our relationship – the good parts, too, not just the bad ones – we remembered that the times we’ve felt the closest are when we worked together on a project, when we faced a common “enemy,” when we cheered for the same team.

And nothing changed our attitudes about each other and our relationship faster than realizing THE TEAM WE NEEDED TO CHEER FOR WAS US.

At first simply attending counseling appointments and doing our homework together was enough to nudge us into the mindset of us-versus-the-world (and our problems), instead of me-versus-him.

Then, as we realized that neither of us liked our specific counselor (but we were determined to stick it out and glean what we could from our sessions), we remembered we were on the same team, facing down a weird therapist and a whole host of marital mountains we needed to climb together.

We started talking more, problem solving and coming up with ways we could fix this mess together. TOGETHER – that was the key word. The moment we abandoned our posts in the war between us and starting fighting FOR us instead, life changed. WE changed.

I’m not telling you that everything was roses and sunset walks after that. No, it was certainly a process – one that we’re still working through – and a strategy that even now, we have to remind ourselves to use instead of falling back into old habits and turning on each other at the slightest provocation.

We have to remind ourselves which team we’re cheering for.

I’m thankful for that counselor, even though she was far from what we initially hoped for. I’m grateful our sessions with her reminded us that we are in this together – and that we are fighting for this, for us, together.

What helps you remember that you and your spouse are on the same team?

{Photos by istockphoto and chase_elliott}

 

Pin It

Freebie Friday March 7, 2014

March 7th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of free foods & samples, free downloads, and free events!

This week on MomAdvice you can find three recipes, a classic Shrimp & Grits recipe from our food contributor, Shaina, a recipe for gluten-free pancakes using my favorite Better Batter Flour (plus a coupon code good all month!), and how to make a fun gluten free rainbow bundt cake in honor of St. Patrick’s Day! I’m also sharing about a special activity for kids – how to find and write to pen pals. Our weekly notebook is filled with inspiring DIY food, decorating and craft ideas, and we have lots of contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Oh, and don’t forget to check out our March Book Club Pick – A White Wind Blew!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Food & Drink

Quest Protein Bars

Alpina Greek Yogurt Cup

Mars Candy Bars

Health & Beauty

Murad Acne Clearing Solution Sample

Finish Dishwashing Detergent Sample

Entertainment

A Normal Christian Life Audiobook

Spiritual Intervention eBook

Fresh Air eBook

Named By God eBook

Daniel Tiger Printables

Wall-E Printables

Firetruck Tot Pack

St. Patrick’s Day Pack

March Creative Prompts

Scripture Copywork Pages

Goldilocks and The Three Bears Printable

This Week’s Freebie Events: March 8 - 14

8th - Barnes & Noble: American Girl Event, times vary by location

8th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Beautiful Butterfly Craft, 11 am - 3 pm

8th - Lowe’s: Build a Birdhouse, 10 am

8th - Michael’s: Make a Flower Craft, 12 – 3 pm

 

 

Pin It

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake

March 6th, 2014

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

I am so excited to share a delicious Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake recipe that you can make using a simple boxed mix, a little food coloring, and a few odds & ends from your pantry. This Rainbow Cake is made in a tube pan, versus a layered cake, and is a fun addition to your St. Patrick’s Day spread.

Walmart challenged me to share a St. Patrick’s Day project that you could create out of items from their store. You may remember my rainbow cakes in a jar that I created a couple of years ago. Now that I am eating gluten-free, I wanted to replicate the idea of a rainbow cake, but I wanted to do it in one pan and I wanted to make it a quicker process by using a cake mix.

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

To make a vibrantly colored cake, I want to point out that it is really important to use good icing colors to achieve your rainbow cake colors. Over by the party supplies, you will find professional cake decorating supplies at Walmart. You want to purchase the Wilton Icing Colors. These concentrated gels offer a much brighter color than what you will find over in the baking section of the grocery section. I just use a toothpick to dip in the gel and then swirl it through my cake batter. You may need to do this a couple of times to achieve this level of brightness, but it still will take a lot less than the other brands of food coloring.

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

When I decided I wanted to make this cake, I went through tons of tons of cake recipes to figure out how to layer the batter. My inspiration for creating my rainbow arch was from not martha and her Leprechaun Trap Cake that she created a few years ago. Her arch is so much more beautiful than mine. I highly encourage you to read her tutorial for a perfect arch and read mine for a just meh arch. That being said, do prepare this in a tube pan versus a bundt pan to achieve the best arch. 

Do you have a digital scale? I highly recommend purchasing one because it will make projects like this a million times easier. I have had mine for many years and I use it for both weighing packages and as a food scale! Be sure to tare it with the bowl on top to begin your measurements each time.

I used the measurements outlined by not martha for measurements for my batter:

  • 6 ounces – red
  • 5 ounces – orange
  • 4 ounces – yellow
  • 3 ounces – green
  • 2 ounces – blue
  • 1 ounce – purple
  • The remainder of the rest of the batter, leave it white.

To scoop batter into the bowls, I relied upon an ice cream scoop to scoop it into the bowls on the scale. To make pouring the batter easier, place the cake batter in a baggie in a tall glass and hang the opening over the sides of your glass. Pour your batter in and then seal the baggie. Just snip a corner of the baggie to begin pouring your batter into the pan.

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

Gluten-free cakes tend to be more delicate so you definitely want to let this fully cool before trying to work with it. The side that has all the beautiful vibrant colors is not the top of the cake. It is the bottom of the cake. I accidentally iced this side so don’t make my mistake. If you find that your cake is puffy on the bottom, use a serrated knife to even it up a bit so your cake is not lopsided.

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

I posted a picture of this cake as I was glazing it on Instagram. To quote myself, “I never go easy on the sprinkles. I consider them the jazz hands on my desserts.”

Who quotes themselves? Sorry about that!

Glaze and sprinkle this cake liberally!

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake from MomAdvice.com.

I was disappointed that I had iced the wrong side and that my purple didn’t get perfectly centered. I think it is one of those cakes that might take a little more practice. My friends didn’t seem to notice or mind my errors though because this was one yummy cake! I doubt your kids would notice or care either. It might be a fun one to try together!

I hope you love it as much as we did and I hope this tutorial helps you while you make your own gluten-free rainbow cake!

Gluten-Free Rainbow Bundt Cake
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A gluten-free rainbow cake perfect for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
Ingredients
  • 1 Hodgson Mill Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (over by the gluten-free ingredients in the candy aisle of your store, not in the baking aisle)
  • ½ cup butter softened
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 package of Wilton Gel Food Colorings
  • 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons milk (or milk substitute)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Rainbow Sprinkles
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan liberally with cooking spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter until soft. Add cake mix and blend completely.
  3. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract and beat until completely blended. The batter will be thick.
  4. Divide your batter into eight bowls using the measurements in this post and tint accordingly.
  5. First pour the larger amount of white batter into the pan. Then pour the red batter in, making it a wide ring of batter. Then pour the orange over that, keeping it inside the red. Pour in each color, creating smaller and smaller rings.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, testing with a toothpick to check when the cake is done.
  7. Once the cake is cooled, prepare your icing.
  8. Melt the butter and add to rest of ingredients. Mix until creamy.
  9. Spoon the glaze over your cake and finish with rainbow sprinkles.

Enjoy this tasty treat with a DIY Shamrock Shake and our free St. Patrick’s Day straw printable!

walmart_mom_disclaimer

 

Pin It

Amy’s Notebook 03.05.14

March 5th, 2014

Crochet-Shamrock-banner

Source: Everything Etsy

 

Oh my, this crochet shamrock banner is adorable! I.must.make.

I think these cute succulents in painted pots would add a fun St. Patrick’s Day decoration to a tabletop or make a sweet hostess gift.

Wow, this sounds different and SO amazing: Lemon-Lime Beer Shandy Cocktail.

This baked chicken and orzo dish not only looks delicious, but seems very easy. Thinking I could replace the orzo with rice for a gluten free version?

How about a bowl of simple tomatoey, brothy, garlicky beans to help you through our long, long winter? Perfection.

Need some creative ideas for clothes storage? Here are 10 solutions for storing off-season clothes and many of them look so good, there’s no need to hide them away!

amys_notebook

I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

Pin It

Gluten-Free Pancakes (With A Better Batter Coupon Code)

March 4th, 2014

Gluten-Free Pancakes from MomAdvice.com.

If there is one thing this girl loves, it is pancakes. Today I am sharing a recipe for gluten-free pancakes that taste as light and fluffy as our gluten-filled variety, but are perfect for creating for those who cannot tolerate gluten.

Gluten-Free Pancakes from MomAdvice.com.

Fluffy gluten-free pancakes are easier to create than you might think, it just requires the right measurements, a good flour, and a little milk on hand if your batter gets too thick. Before we made the switch to gluten-free, I loved to throw wheat germ into our hearty wheat-filled pancake. No wonder I felt so awful after our Sunday brunches!

Now we have substituted our wheat love-fest with flax seed in our pantry for our pancakes and energy bites, a deliciously healthy addition to just about anything, and still get that taste and texture that I love.  As with all my favorite pancake recipes, it is laced with cinnamon and vanilla while these pancakes get their sweetness from a little honey.

Gluten-Free Pancakes from MomAdvice.com.When I first discovered that I had to go gluten-free, my best friend recommended a book called, “Gluten-Free on a Shoestring.” (affiliate link) I treated myself to the cookbook for Christmas and loved that the author relied upon one all-purpose mix to make almost all of her recipes.

I placed my first order for Better Batter after reading it and started testing recipes with this cup-for-cup substitute shortly after buying it. None of us could believe how good everything had tasted and with very little adjustments in our favorite family recipes.

I immediately wrote the company and asked if they might be interested in a partnership. I truly believe in their product and how it can help beginner gluten-free chefs overcome their difficulties with baking. Not only did they send me some products for our recipes, but they also are offering valuable coupon codes for our readers to try their flour too.

Not only does the flour perform well, but it is much more affordable than other flours on the market. You can even buy their product in bulk to snag additional savings.

What are the Ingredients In This Flour?

The flour I have featured today is an an all-purpose flour substitute that you can use as a cup-for-cup substitute in your recipes. The packaging states that it contains: Rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum, and pectin (lemon derivative). It is the blend of these flours that makes it such a great performer in baking recipes. I hope that helps!

How Can I Save Money On This Flour?

I truly believe you will love this flour and am so excited that Better Batter is sharing some coupon codes with our readers to help them save even more. This month you can use the coupon code XNF6EBYK4JRT for $8 off ANY SIZE ORDER.

That’s right, I said ANY SIZE! 

I hope you can take advantage of the savings and can enjoy a stack of these delicious pancakes in your home!

Gluten-Free Pancakes from MomAdvice.com.

Gluten-Free Pancakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
You won’t even miss the gluten with this delicious pancake recipe. Be sure to double your recipe so you can enjoy these all week long!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Better Batter All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons flax (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten & at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2½ cups milk (or milk substitute)
Instructions
  1. Heat your griddle or nonstick pan and coat generously with butter.
  2. In a large bowl, place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, flax, cinnamon, and salt in and whisk to combine.
  3. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the eggs, butter and milk, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add vanilla and honey and continue to mix until the batter comes together and there are no lumps.
  4. Working quickly, ladle the pancake batter on the griddle surface, and allow to sit until bubbles begin to appear on the surface (2 to 3 minutes). Flip and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the underside is browned.
  5. Remember that your batter thickens as it stands and may require more milk to keep your batter in a pourable consistency.
  6. Serve with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

 

Pin It

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

March 4th, 2014

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Pen Pals are a beautiful thing in a digital age where pen, paper, the process of writing, and waiting are so hard in our fast moving culture. Today I wanted to share about our experience with finding and writing pen pals that I hope will inspire you to find a pen pal of your own for your child after hearing about our experience.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Walmart challenged me to come up with a fun Spring Break activity for kids and finding a pen pal for my children is something that I have thought a lot about doing. We found items in their office supplies section like writing tablets (for big and small children), pretty note cards, and freshly sharpened pencils. With these arsenal of tools, we are now ready to begin a new adventure for our kids.

How Do You Find a Pen Pal?

Finding a pen pal is oh-so-easy thanks to social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I posted on my Facebook page that we were looking for children in our child’s age range that did not live in the United States to be pen pals with. Within minutes, we had many people replying about friends and family that lived in other countries with kids just around our age.

Of course, if finding someone living out of the states is harder to come by in your inner circle, consider just finding families that live in other parts of the United States. A child shivering in the polar vortex of Indiana, for example, might find a child’s life in Florida or California quite inspiring!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Encourage Your Child to Craft a Great Letter

Writing letters not only improves our vocabulary and spelling, but it also helps teach children about the give and take of conversation.

Talk with your child about crafting a great introduction about themselves and how to weave in questions to find out more about their new pen pal. When my daughter asked me if her pen pal had glasses, I told her that this would be a great question to ask her so she could look forward to her response.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Have Your Child Explore Their Pen Pal’s Town

It is easier than ever to learn more about where someone else lives thanks to Google’s Street View and Wikipedia. Although there was no street view for our pen pal, who resides in Greece, we were able to take a peek at pictures of landmark items in her country and read facts about where she lived.

Knowing information like this helps to build those initial letters as you get to know more about each other.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Send Your Letters Off

Once we were done writing our letter, we got to practice addressing an envelope and then added a few decorative touches to the back of our envelope for our new friend.

Although we ran our letter out to our mailbox at home, a great Spring Break activity might be to take that letter to the post office and make it feel even more, “official,” when sending it.

Now we must wait patiently for our response from our new friend and when she writes back, it will be a happy day, indeed!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

I hope this inspires you to find a few pen pals of your own. And as double inspiration, here is my childhood pen pal. We met at church camp and became best friends through our letters back and forth. I remember that sweet anticipation of the mail dropping through the mail slot of our home and ripping them open to read, then reread, then reread again the precious words from my friend. 25 whopping years later, she is still my best friend for life.

I already told Emily to save her money and hopefully she will have a friend like that in her pen pal who she can visit someday! You just never know- we certainly never did! I shall be very jealous of her trips to Greece, should that happen!

Here’s a little video we put together of Emily’s first pen pal letter! I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear if you had a pen pal and what they meant to you?

 

walmart_mom_disclaimer

Pin It

Apron Full of Giveaways 03.04.14

March 4th, 2014

vintage aprons

Source: Red Barn Garden,  $16.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

Pin It

Nearly Classic Shrimp and Grits Recipe

March 3rd, 2014

From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.

Classic Shrimp and Grits #recipe via MomAdvice.com
I feel under qualified to be talking about grits. Coming from the Midwest, grits are not exactly an everyday food. In fact, an upbringing and solidified love for farina and creamed wheat cereals is what led me to believe I would love a bowl of grits equally, and so when the opportunity arose to order them on a road trip well into my teen years, I did just that.

I’ll leave it at this: Truck stop grits are not the type you fall in love with. Still, there was something to that bowl of white and creamy food with a big pat of butter melting on top. I was not to be thrown off course in my desire to adopt grits as my new “it” food. It had all the same promises as my breakfast favorites, but with expanded possibilities for my palate. At the top of the savory list: shrimp and grits.

Creamy, cheesy grits get topped with vibrant shrimp and crisp green onions. What’s not to love about this? The idea of adding butter and cheddar and plump shellfish to a bowl of warm comfort food seemed to me like a decision that was already made in the affirmative. So I set out to learn as much as I could about grits.
Classic Shrimp and Grits #recipe via MomAdvice.com
The first issue was obtaining them. Outside of the generic “quick-cooking grits” on the market shelf, there weren’t many options at first in the urban Midwestern area I lived in. I finally settled on making grits with white cornmeal to begin my experiments and then ordering online. Traditional grits are made from hominy, alkali-treated corn, and were stone ground in a rough, coarse texture. You’ll find both white corn and hominy when looking, so determine which you want to go for.

Once you have the grits in hand (or nearly grits), the rest of the preparation is satisfyingly simple, and the payoff is pure comfort food. It’s the kind of meal that leaves you satisfied at the end, the type of dish that begs to be made again and again.

Nearly Classic Shrimp and Grits
Author: 
Recipe type: main dish
Cuisine: southern
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup stone ground white grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (I used Kerrygold Dubliner)
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails removed (if desired)
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly whisk in the grits. When all the grits have been added, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 25 minutes. Keep the butter and cheddar cheese ready off to the side.
  2. While the grits are cooking, in a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces, leaving the grease in the pan and add in the garlic and the shrimp. Cook the shrimp over medium heat just until pink.
  3. Add in the scallions, parsley, and the lemon juice. Cook for 3 minutes to combine the flavors and then remove from the heat and stir in the bacon pieces.
  4. Stir in the butter and shredded cheese at the end of the cooking time for the grits. Immediately spoon into a bowl and top with shrimp and bacon to serve.

 

Pin It