Thursday, February 28, 2013

Need College Textbooks or Have Some You Want to Get Money For?

**This is a sponsored post.  All statements here are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.

Have I got the site for you!  I only wish I had known about CampusBookRentals when my husband and I were in school - we both could have saved a ton on textbooks.  This awesome site allows you access a huge range of textbooks. You get to set your own return date and you can even mark and highlight in the books as if they were your own!

Finding and comparing prices with your local bookstores is easy.  I searched our local college bookstore website as if I was a student taking a certain course and got a list of the required books by ISBN.  After noting their purchase and rental prices, I copied the ISBN number for the required book and pasted it into the search at CampusBookRentals.  I entered the rental return date as one week after the end of the semester.  The price to rent a used version of this book locally - $163.58.  The price to rent this book from CampusBookRental for the semester - $14.60 with free shipping both ways!  Speechless!

Even better, through the same website you can click a tab for RentBack and make cash off your old textbooks - over and over!  It looks very easy to do - you go to the website and print a free shipping label, then send your old textbooks to RentBack.  They make your books available to other students to rent.  Those students return the books to RentBack and other students rent them - over and over and you get paid each time!

Now keep in mind, this is a new website so it appears that there is not a lot of data yet in this part of the site about the potential demand for these books and the site may tell you its not worth sending your books in because the data isn't there yet.  For instance, none of the required textbooks for the classes I looked up above showed as having rental demand or value.  However, I know they are the currently required textbooks for the classes currently being offered at our local college so there will be people looking for them if they are made available.

Here's more about how it works.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bracelet Corsage #2

Another bracelet corsage idea - if you didn't see the first one check here!  This delicate little pink rose corsage was made in about 10 minutes while my husband and daughter were getting ready for the daddy-daughter dance.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Family Sub Sandwich

Big, hot, cheesy subs are a great fallback when the family is just sure they are starving or when the guys pop by on short notice to help hubby with some project.  I can feed a crew in less than 15 minutes for very little and often can use up leftovers odds and ends of cheese and lunch meat in my fridge doing it.  Here's one that got even my little guy eating spinach.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Miniature Peanut Butter Treats

This tasty cookie treat was passed along from a friend at our first cookie swap years ago.  Its a great recipe to put the kids to work on and one of the few that I have not made adjustments to because I can't think of anything that would make it better!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pushing the Limits

The last two weeks have been pure chaos for me and I'm happy to say it looks to be settling down and the Lord has been looking out for us in a million ways big and small.  Just when I start to obsess about the little things I am reminded of what is really important.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My NICU Baby - Severe Chest Compression

Both of my babies had traumatic entries into this world after normal, healthy pregnancies without a blimp on the radar.  With my son, we really didn't expect any problems.  At 38 weeks on the dot, I was getting my daughter and myself ready for another day at work.  It was January here in Michigan and warming up the truck and scraping off the snow was a necessity.  There had been a lot of snow that winter and as big and uncomfortable as I was, I was getting really tired of how much energy it took to get us out the door in the morning and sitting through long, uncomfortable commutes in terrible driving conditions.
My husband had scraped my windows and left for work a few minutes earlier and my daughter was finishing getting herself ready while I went out to start the truck.  I remember vividly pausing to rub my gianormous tummy on my way back to the house and telling my son out loud "Come on, buddy!  I am ready any time you are!" as he stretched his toes up under my left ribs like usual.  His head felt really low that morning and I was finding it a struggle to waddle through the deep snow.

As I knelt in the bathroom to help my daughter get her socks on, my water suddenly burst.  My First Grade daughter grumpily yelled "Mom, you peed on me!"  As I started giggling, I explained that I didn't pee on her, my water broke and that means the baby is on the way.  Her expression immediately turned to joy and she turned into my big helper as I got cleaned up and she ran for clean towels.  I called my mom to catch her on her way out the door to work and then called my husband who was just arriving at his work.  My little Princess quickly gathered up her things and was ready for grandma and shouting her excitement about her long-awaited little brother.  This little girl had been waiting for a brother since she was about 18 months old and started asking for a sibling and had practiced up for big-sister-hood throughout my pregnancy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Have you checked out Shabby Apple?

Dresses from Shabby Apple
I think I have a new love.
I have been drooling over Shabby Apple and their gorgeous clothes for months now.  I am excited to announce that I have been asked to become a Shabby Apple affiliate! This means I will earn 5% of any sales that result from my readers clicking the link on my blog and buying something from Shabby Apple within 15 days.  I am really happy to bring Shabby Apple to you because I think its a perfect fit with my life.  You can see right here that these lovely clothes are perfect for the country girl who has to head to the city for the work day, run the kids around and look like a lady doing it!
Dresses from Shabby Apple
And can I just say that it is also the perfect clothing line for a curvy girl.  The retro styles are so flattering to those of us with a bust and womanly hips.  Lots of hourglass shapes that make the most of what God gave us.  I am loving the swimsuits especially!
Dresses from Shabby Apple
I know a lot of woman who are having retro-influenced photo shoots done and I think Shabby Apple has a ton of beautiful dresses and fun outfits for that too - if you need a special occasion dress then this is definitely the place to look!
Dresses from Shabby Apple

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Venison - From Woods to Freezer

My husband is an avid hunter.  And while most of my immediate family were not big hunters, times were lean and I learned early on how to make use of all the natural resources available.  So as my husband's hunting skills grew, I couldn't see letting all that venison go to waste.  Most of my experiences had been that it was dry, tough, and either tasteless or very gamey.  But I had a couple of good experiences and I liked other game meats like partridge, pheasant and rabbit and I thought I could do some research and find ways to use it.
I started out using mostly venison burger with the occasional meal of venison steaks that I struggled with.  I found that the quality and taste of the meat varied widely from deer to deer so my husband and I started keeping the meat of each animal separate and making note of who processed it, how the meat was packaged, how it was killed, what it was doing when it was killed, what kind of food sources it had primary access to, how old it was, and what season it was taken.
I also started searching for tips on how to cook venison and people in my family started finding me venison cookbooks.  My two favorites and the most helpful are "Venison Cookbook" by A.D. Livingston and "Amazing Venison Recipes" by Jim Zumbo.  Both of these books feature a lot of good information from their authors who are experienced hunters and cooks.  What surprised me the most and ended up being of the most value are the sections on how each step from the minute the deer is in sight until the finished meal is on the table, can affect the final taste.  And after I've been cooking following their advice on handling venison for about 16 years, I can say that it totally translates to the real world.
I'll have more in this venison series and lots of recipes to share but if you know these things about the meat you are using and keep each animal's meat separate so you can track which one you are working with, you can adapt regular recipes to work with each kind of meat you have.  So let's start at the beginning and consider the things you need to know about the meat you are working with in order to have a successful culinary experience with your venison.
The Animal and Nature:
  • You are what you eat - all food animals taste different based on their diet, hence the corn-fed beef advertising.  Deer from Michigan's southern lower peninsula eat a diet that is more full of grains, juicy green grasses, leafy plants, and fruit and they naturally have a taste that is more like beef.  Deer from Michigan's northern lower peninsula and the upper peninsula have a diet that is more full of dry grasses, pine, seeds, roots, bark and other more acidic plants.  As a result, their meat has a stronger "gamey" taste, is more acidic or bitter, and is more lean and tough as they travel greater distances to get enough food.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Venison Steaks with Caper Sauce

After having several dishes with capers, I just knew this was a new ingredient I wanted to try using with venison steaks.  My family eats venison as our primary meat source as much as we can.  While it is a red meat, it is very very lean and my kids definitely prefer the taste and texture of lean meats.  My kids will actually pick venison over many other usual kid favorites.  But because we eat so much of it, I can get in a rut with my recipes.  (I will do another post more about the importance of how your venison is handled from the woods to the table and how each step affects the end taste, but even my extended family and guests who have tried my venison are surprised at how much it tastes like beef compared to their previous experiences with venison.)  This particular recipe is one that I think would do well with those big packages of assorted pork chops or cheap cuts of beef steak as well.

I start with defrosting my packages of venison butterfly chops or steaks (2 package of roughly 2 pounds each) in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Then I flip the packages over and microwave for another 2 minutes.  I let them rest for a couple of minutes, then remove from the packages and rinse well.  When rinsing, check for any blood clots or hairs that may have been missed during processing.  I set these aside on a plate and season well with garlic salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Choosing Love

Wow - would ya look at those kids!  That feels like so long ago and yet like yesterday at the same time.  Its hard to believe looking at our baby faces that it was a year after we were married and almost 5 years after we had started dating.  You would think it was our wedding from the looks on our faces - either that or you could make the correct assumption that we had already been hitting the bottle in celebration of the happy couple, LOL!  
Almost 18 years together and every year gets better.  And its not because things are always perfect, because that's not anyone's reality.  But its because we choose each other above everything.  We choose to give each other a hug and a kiss and an "I love you" every night no matter what.  We choose to communicate and share.  We choose to apologize and forgive.  We choose to work together to find a solution when we have a problem or a conflict with each other.  We choose to spend time as a family and not commit to running too many directions and when we do, we choose to re-prioritize.  We choose to work hard to reach our goals.  We choose to support each other's passions.  We choose to find shared passions we can enjoy as a couple and as a family.  We choose to work as a team - whether its getting something done or dealing with the kids.  We choose each other.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine's Day Idea Roundup

If you are like me and just started thinking about what 
to do for your loved ones for Valentine's Day, 
check out this roundup of ideas from past posts that could easily apply.  :)

  1. Tussie Mussie made from recycled greeting cards.
  2. DIY Spray Rose Floral Arrangement
  3. Heart Floral Arrangement
  4. Vases from recycled glass containers

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Remembering Great-Grandpa

My great-grandpa passed away a little over 5 years ago.  Every year at this time, the rose catalogs start coming and my reflections turn to him and my great-grandma.

I was cleaning out some old emails and found this that I had written that was read by the pastor at his funeral:

"My favorite memories of Great-Grandpa are of visiting in the summer when I was a small child.  Grandpa was always taking the most ordinary objects around the house and making fun things for us kids to play with - it was always an adventure and learning experience at the same time.  
He would take glass salad dressing bottles and spray-paint them in the neatest colors and turn them into beautifulvases.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Winter Weekend at the Cabin

For years, we didn't use the cabin much in the winter.  Then we started snowmobiling and others in the family started snowmobiling.  It became a popular thing to spend winter weekends sledding, snowmobiling and sitting by the fire.  When Little Man was born in January and had a natural love for cold, ice and hockey, it just seemed natural to take our fall family Barn Party and apply it to the winter on a little smaller scale.  Its something the whole family looks forward to no matter the age.
So what do we do?  Well, first, there is this giant hill directly behind the cabin for sledding.  The kids are right outside the back door so the adults can congregate outside (sometimes with a bonfire going) or keep watch from the kitchen while we make meals.  
This hill is great because not only is it close to the cabin, but the sledding trail heads right to the driveway which means when the snow is good and packed, they can sled all the way down the driveway to the fence that separates our property from the house in front of us.  It also means there is a "jump" where the snowplow leaves an edge.  :)
When the snow is good, there are snowmobile activities.  We have this little Arctic Cat Kitty Cat that the smaller kids can ride.  It has an adjustable throttle so it can be made to go only so fast.  Its actually pretty fun for a teenager or small adult to cruise around for laughs too because it is small enough to do some funny things - but I don't want to give any kids any ideas by sharing pictures of that! LOL  Unfortunately, we had issues with it that weekend and my hubby just got in running a couple nights ago.  Its been a great sled and taken a lot of riding by all the kids - plus it runs pretty good on grass too (we have wheels that go on in place of the ski's) - so it was due for a tuneup.
A short walk toward the middle of the property... 
takes us to the barn where the snow was a little deeper...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pinterest Project - Ice Marbles

I originally saw this idea posted by Courtenay over at The Creek Line House who found it on Pinterest a few weeks ago when we were planning our big "snow bash" weekend at the cabin for Little Man's 4th birthday.  This is the perfect kind of low maintenance activity for a weekend of outdoors in the cold and didn't require a lot of supplies to pack and haul up there.  I had a stash of balloons and water balloons and some leftover food coloring.  Unfortunately I only had blue and yellow but I figured we could make due with that since we could at least combine different amounts to make shades of greens.
Our first night at the cabin I enlisted one of the bigger boys to help me fill the balloons.  We found out quickly that the water balloons didn't really make the round shape we wanted - they made more of an oval.  We also found that the kids needed help getting the balloons back off the nozzle of the faucet and balloons with small holes made big messes with the food coloring already in them...  
We set the balloons outside overnight to freeze and since it got down to single digits overnight they froze very quickly.  
We discovered that perhaps shaking the balloons a little after tying them shut would be a good idea next time.  The food coloring didn't always mix with the water like we expected and pockets of food coloring in some of the balloons didn't freeze.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pizza Dippers

This easy little snack is something I threw together for Super Bowl munching after being gone snowmobiling all weekend.  I figured the kids would like it but it was my hubby who really thought these were great.  This is one of those fun things for the kids to help make too.

1 package of crescent roll dough
1/4 cup pepperoni slices
1/2 a ball of fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup shredded Italian four cheese blend
1 jar pizza sauce

Start by separating the crescent triangles and smooshing them flat on a cookie sheet.  Place 3-5 slices of pepperoni on each triangle - make sure you leave a border of dough at the edges.  With your fingers, break of small pieces of the fresh mozzarella and scatter across the top of the pepperoni.  Then add a sprinkle of the Italian four cheese blend.  Roll the crescent like you normally would - starting at the short side and rolling to the tip.  Press all the edges down to seal in the cheese and pepperoni.  Bake according to the crescent roll directions.  Meanwhile, microwave your pizza sauce in a bowl for about 3 minutes or until hot.  Serve the crescents with the pizza sauce for dipping.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Candy Creations Follow-Up - The Train

As suggested by lovely follower, Allie, I thought I'd give you more of a close-up on the train and how that was done.  It started with my mom finding a great Pampered Chef mold for a gingerbread train.  She made a standard gingerbread recipe and pressed it into the mold and baked it.  Once it was fully cooled, I took the engine and caboose and decorated them.  The stack broke off the train but when you make these candy creations you use a royal icing so stiff its like cement anyways so that was easy enough to "glue" together with my main layer of icing.