Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One more reason to be cautious about processed foods...

I don't purchase a lot of processed foods.  But, when I do, I always look at the ingredients.  I pay particularly close attention to the sweeteners included.  I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.  One sweetener that I've always thought was safe is honey.  But, then I read this article... see article HERE.

It was interesting.  The article is about an enormous fraud perpetrated by a honey importer.  What the article made me realize is that companies could "doctor" honey with chemicals and such.  Honey isn't as simple an ingredient as I thought.  

The article also made me think twice about being willing to pay a higher price for local honey.  Honey that comes from folks I know and trust.  I'm definitely going to be working it into our food budget.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making Milk Shakes

At lunch today, my husband began talking about how he would really like a good milk shake.  He said that the best one he'd had recently was at Cold Stone Creamery.  (I know he's also had shakes at Chik-fil-a and Jake's Wayback Burgers in recent months.)  He then went on to say that we've never really been able to make them well at home.

Well, then!

That's my challenge and my cue.  I was determined to be a good "milk shake maker".  Now, what my husband actually likes are not "milk shakes", but "thick shakes" or "frappes".  A milk shake is made of milk, flavoring, and a little ice cream.  A thick shake, aka thick milk shake, aka frappe is made of ice cream, flavoring, and a little milk.  A good thick shake should be drinkable and shouldn't separate after being made. Ah...

I found a recipe for a Mocha Chcolate Frappe and went from there...  

Here's what I came up with.

Recipe for Mint Chocolate Chocolate Frappe   

2 cups Mint Cookies and Cream Turkey Hill Frozen Yogurt--you can use any flavor you'd like for your shake, but I wouldn't choose anything with big chunks in it.
1/3 cup (use a dry measuring cup) of half chocolate syrup and half milk

Put the liquid in the bottom of the blender.  Then, put the ice cream on top.  I have a Vitamix blender.  So, I start it on low.  Then, turn up the speed really slowly.  I didn't get past 5 on low.  I just let it mix.  

I learned a few things that I did differently this time.  
#1  Mix on low (!!), otherwise the ice cream becomes one big clump and locks up.  
#2  The ratio of milk to ice cream needs to be right--and it's much lower than I thought it was!
#3  Frozen yogurt does make a lighter thick shake than you'll get at Cold Stone and I think it's just as good.

My family's verdict?  

Yes, mommy can indeed make a decent thick shake--actually not just decent, but a very good one!  My family was very pleased with the outcome of my endeavor.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kids' Glasses

This past spring my two younger children both got prescriptions for glasses.  Sami is now 7 and Eli 5.  This is an event that I've been expecting probably since the time they were born.  My husband and I both wear glasses and have since we were children.  So, I have asked other moms whose children already have glasses all sorts of questions over the years about glasses.  

Here's a quick summary of what I've learned...

+ Children's eyes continue to develop until they are 8 years old.  
+ In little ones with severe struggles to see, glasses make an enormous difference.  Infants who won't look at anyone will be able to focus and look at who is speaking to them if their eyesight is the issue.  
+ Children's eyes change from one year to the next.  Eye doctors try not to prescribe glasses unless they need to.  
+ When children blink their eyes a lot, it is a sign that a child is struggling to focus. 
+ Headaches are another sign that a child may need glasses.
+ Issues children can encounter with their eyes are not simply nearsighted, farsighted, and astigmatism.  In the case of my children, the strength of their eyes impedes their abilities to focus.  It is 20% of what it should be.  My older daughter's is 65% of what it should be.  So, for now she doesn't have glasses.
+ Children in school get an eye check every year, so it's easy for homeschoolers to miss it.  It's helpful to get their eyes checked once a year to make sure everything's okay.

So, the waiting is over, so to speak.  Two of my kids now need glasses!  What now???  Where do I go?  A new dilemma.

I learned one place not to go and I learned that cheapest pair isn't always a satisfactory solution.

Back in May, I went shopping with Sami's prescription in hand.  We first went to Costco, where we normally get glasses.  There was only a very small selection of children's frames.  There were three women working at the time who were working and standing together chatting.  I arrived frazzled with my three children in tow.  I did not receive a warm or helpful reception and so I turned on my heals and left when I realized that one pair of children's glasses would cost $100--with no breakage warranty included.  It was more than I was prepared to spend that day and like I said--I was frazzled.  I needed some help.  I returned to Walmart where she was given her exam and purchased two pairs for her.  The first cost $38 and the second is discounted when purchased at the same time.  Her prescription is weak, so she didn't anything extra.  There is a one year breakage warranty on the glasses.  Yay!  

One down, one to go...

Two weeks later, Eli  had his exam and found that he needed glasses as well.  I decided to just purchase one pair at Walmart at the time and keep looking.  They had a pair small enough for his face which was a blessing.  Within a month, I realized it would be wise to have a second pair around.  So, I watched for a sale and began asking around.  Back to school sales brought a lot of sales on eyeglasses.  JC Penney had a sale for $25 (with a 1 year breakage warranty), so I made the trek to the store to check it out.  I ordered a pair and waited a week for them to arrive.  When I got the phone call, they were in, we headed back to the store to pick them up.  I would never go back again to order glasses from JC Penney.  The frames I ordered didn't have spring hinges (I didn't realize it at the time).  There was very little choose from for his size.  They only had one boy pair the size we purchased (which was two sizes larger than the walmart frames).  But, the frustrating part was that they didn't give him a hard case and the woman working didn't even fit the glasses to his face.  It was almost like purchasing a pair of reading glasses from the carousel at the grocery store!  

Recently, I did ask another friend who has several children who wear glasses and she goes to America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses.  Two pairs cost $70 and she can get always depend on a good price.  I've also noticed that her children are able to get frames that are solid and aren't the wire type of frames (which are the only ones I've found at the other stores for Eli in his size).  Next year, I'm definitely going to head over to America's Best with the kids' prescriptions.

So, that's what I've learned this year.  Skip JC Penney.  Walmart works.  America's Best is worth checking out.  If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Where's the time?

Last night, we had my mother in law, brother in law, and mom over for dinner. I fixed some great Chicken enchiladas .  I tried a new recipe from 400 Best Comfort Foods (the recipe can be found here, but it's a download :( ).  I actually don't have to review this cookbook. I just picked it up for $2 used for fun.  But, this recipe is a keeper.  If I find more that I really like, I will write a post about it...  

But, back to last night and "time".  As we were cleaning up from dinner, there was some leftover corn to put away.  My mom asked me if I wanted the corn and suggested cutting it off the cob.  But, I have discovered that I run out of time when it comes to leftover corn.  My family does not like leftover corn on the cob left on the cob.  If I cut it off the cob, then they will eat it when it is reheated. 

I looked at her and encouraged to take it.  I knew I would run out of time.  She replied, "Good for you." She smiled and I knew she understands me well.  I always take on more than I can handle.  I squeeze things in.  I almost always say yes to my family and friends.  I love to help people.  

But, sometimes it's the little things that can push me over the edge of how much I can handle.  They're good things.  Like not wasting corn and cutting it off the cob so it will get eaten and not discarded.  So, I need to say no when I can.  

I also knew it wouldn't get wasted if I sent it home with my mom.  She has the time to cut it off the cob and enjoy it.  

Saving money can become a heavy burden if it consumes time one doesn't have.  I always remember the advice I read in a financial advice for moms several years ago...  Choose what you do with your time based on what saves you the most money.  There are little money savers that end up saving you only a few pennies. But, there are other activities (like ironing) that save many dollars in the same amount of time.  When one only has a little time, we have to choose wisely what we'll do with it.