Friday, June 1, 2012

A quick update

I want to apologize for the interruption in my series posts.  I will resume next week.  Things have been super busy here, and we've driven 3,000 miles in the past two weeks, so I haven't been in front of the computer.  I have a birthday cake to make for tomorrow, another in two weeks, another in two weeks, another in six get the picture, right?  We eat a LOT of birthday cake.  Haha. 

But I'll post the next in the series of How I Manage, early next week. 

Have a wonderful weekend!  I hope that you can spend it with family :)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Almost Instant Cookies for a Crowd

Occasionally, I am privileged to be asked to cater an event.  Often, these are "boxed lunch" type of caterings, with sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, pickles, desserts, and drinks.  I make homemade chicken salad, pimiento cheese, and egg salad, pasta salad, and dessert.  These are the cookies I make most often for these.  They work great for a large family, or a family of any size, and they're quick.

The key is to make the mix ahead of time, and keep it on hand (it doesn't require refrigeration).

My 8-year old made dessert last night :)

Looks yummy, huh?  They are!

So, the original recipe, and then my "healthier" version, that our family eats.

2 cups shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  Mix the shortening and sugars until well incorporated.  Add in flour mixture and mix well.  Add chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

When you are ready to make cookies, simply measure 4 cups of cookie mix, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Scoop cookies onto cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until done.

Simmons Family Instant Cookies
2 cups coconut oil
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup organic brown sugar
4 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup organic oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
2 cups 60% cacao chocolate chips

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  Mix the coconut oil and sugars until well incorporated.  Add in flour mixture and mix well.  Add oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

When you are ready to make cookies, simply measure 4 cups of cookie mix, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Scoop cookies onto baking stone.  Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until done.

This recipe will make 10 cups of mix, meaning that you'll have an odd amount that last batch.  You can either make a new batch to add to it, or do as I do, and just throw the egg in with the vanilla and run with it anyway.   Each batch makes 22-24 cookies, using a 1 1/2 oz. cookie scoop (3 T.).  If your cookies are smaller, you'll have more per batch :)


Friday, April 27, 2012

How I Manage - Groceries

So, I guess I'll start this series with groceries, since we all eat, regardless of family size.  This post will show how my shopping habits have evolved since marriage...

First, I started using coupons at the age of 13 or 14.  My parents were divorced, I lived with my mom, and we had no money.  So every extra dime helped.  At about age 22, I got into refunding (nearly extinct, now), and began couponing "hard-core."  I told you I'm a list person, right?  Well...

When I married, I took great pride in the fact that I could shop once a month, spend $100, and we could eat all month, except for milk and bread.  Then, once I had my second child, I couldn't find the time or energy to do that monthly shopping, but still wanted to get the most for my money. 

This is when I created my "price list." Some folks call it a price book, but for me, it was a list.  A spreadsheet, to be precise, because I have always loved using the technology I have available.  Anyway, I sat down with my receipts, each time I shopped for groceries, and filled in the spreadsheet.  I had a column for the items, a column for the stores, a column for the size of item, and a column for notes.  I filled in price and size, while I still had the package.  Then I could see, at a glance, when standing in a store, whether or not this was truly my best price option.  At that time, we had Sam's Club, Aldi, Food Lion, Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter. 

As time went on, we got a couple of new options for stores, but my goal was still the same - feed as many people as possible with as little money as possible.  So I spent many hours clipping and filing coupons, scouring grocery ads, and actually shopping.  Our meals were based upon the sales at the grocery stores each week (meals will be another post), and I shopped weekly.  If there was a double-coupon event, I was faithful to be there.  I also believe in stockpiling.  No, I don't NEED 7 packages of toilet paper this week.  However, I DO plan to continue using toilet paper, therefore I will eventually use all of it, and it may not be 75 cents when I need it.  That's also another post - couponing...

Once we had 7 children, we were still living in our single-wide, and I was happy that I had a budget of $52/week for groceries (a budget is another on of those lists! A blog post will be forthcoming on the necessity of that).  A lot of things happened in our lives about 7 years ago.  We built a house.  And we welcomed the 8th pregnancy.  And I started doing research on diet and health.  I was a Pepsi addict - I always said that if I could get a Pepsi IV, I would.  And we ate what everyone else was eating - packaged foods, that were very often free with my coupons.  We ate canned vegetables, except for potatoes, and groceries were a tiny part of our budget.  After researching, those things were about to change.  I'll do a separate blog post about that...

With the change, came a change in shopping habits.  Our budget is still small, compared to some, and enormous, compared to others.  I spend between $400 and $600 a month on groceries.  Many times, the higher end is by choice (we had steak!), not by necessity.  If we have extra money for food, I splurge and buy a tenderloin to cut into chops or steaks.  Or I buy a bag of white cheddar natural cheese puffs for the children. We are home all day, every day, so we need breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts, seven days a week. So, we're averaging $150 for more than 200 meals each week...not so bad when you actually run the numbers.

I do still use coupons, and have had several people ask me to teach them - I have taken them to the grocery stores with me, and walked them through it.  Some "get" it, and others don't.  I don't use coupons like I used to, because we don't eat like we used to.  I still get some of the free or super cheap things, because it is fun, and I can give them away to friends who still eat them, or to the food pantry.

Mostly, I make a menu for the month, create a grocery list, and go shopping for the things we don't already have (another blog post).  And I make most everything we eat, from scratch (yet another blog post).

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions - I'd be happy to help.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How I manage - Series

I've been toying with the idea of writing a series of posts, dealing with questions people often ask me, regarding how I manage different areas of my life.  I am super, super busy.  I've always heard that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it, and apparently, others have also heard this.  You see, I never have a shortage of "requests" from folks to do things.  But I DO get them done. I came to the realization just this past weekend, that I am a servant at heart.  I love to do for people, and to make people happy.  You're going to think I am insane, and maybe I am, but I remember when I was dating my husband.  I would think to myself, I cannot wait until I can cook for him, and do his laundry. HA!  I really did think that way.  It's just how I'm made, apparently. 

I am a list person.  To-do lists, chore lists, written schedules, grocery lists, price lists, budgets, books to read lists, all sorts of lists.  I am great at helping others organize their lives - I just don't feel like mine is all that organized much of the time.  Especially when I have a nursling (do the math - I've been nursing a baby for nearly 18 years), as much of my time is sitting with those who need me at that time.  But it does give me time to work on lists.  Oh, and what did I do before I had my iPhone?  I can nurse AND work on my list of the day!  What a blessing that thing has been (special thanks to my oldest for convincing me years ago that I "needed" one)!

I seem to have some sort of knack for finding things (information or physical items) on the internet.  Others look and look, become frustrated, and then call me.  So I put that on my list of things to do.  My husband seems to have an endless list of things he would like for me to do, find online, or call about, for him.  Of course, I need to be sure and complete his requests above everyone's, so those go at the top of my "list."

I have my own travel agency, planning Dream Vacations for people.  That takes a good bit of time and attention.  I enjoy it, tremendously, when I get a picture from a family of their vacation, and everyone is blissfully happy.  I love hearing how I made it the best vacation they've ever had.  I just love seeing people happy!

When we built this house, my husband told the children that I wasn't going to clean it alone.  So, I have chore charts.  These often need to be reevaluated, updated, or just plain changed, to suit the situation.  I plan meals by the month, to help me keep my sanity, by KNOWING what I am making for dinner.  It also helps me with my grocery shopping, which I do once a month, other than produce, milk and little "stragglers" I need once a week or so.  Speaking of grocery shopping, I'm a couponer.  Hard-core.  Which takes a lot of time and effort.  It also means that at any time, my life could be interrupted by a double coupon, Super Doubles, or triple coupon event.  But, it saves on my grocery bill. 

My dad has a wonderful diner, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to help him get it up and running nearly 5 years ago.  I love cooking, and enjoy being in the restaurant, but need to be home at this time in my life.  I do, however, still do his bookkeeping, track expenses, compare prices, shop locally for him, and bake the pound cakes. 

Now that I have two grown children, they sometimes have things that they need me to find or send to them.  The list goes on and on. 

I've had folks tell me I should write a book.  I've been privileged to speak for ladies' meetings at different churches.  My life is too boring for a book, and I never seem to have enough time in a ladies' meeting.  This is my way of sharing these little bits of insight.  Use what you can, and disregard the rest :)  So, I'll start working on the series, and you let me know if there's a particular area about which you are curious.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New picture

I finally got around to changing the picture on my blog to the newest family picture we have.   We were blessed to have the two oldest children home for Christmas break, and our newest blessing arrived on New Year's Eve.  So, 20 hours after giving birth, here I am, with all of my sweet little arrows :) 

Pinterest...and other addictions

Have you heard of Pinterest?  Are you using it?  I like it a lot it...I think.  If you don't know, it's a type of virtual "corkboard," where I can pin pictures of ideas, and when I click the picture, it leads me to a blog or other website, that gives me instructions on making what's in the picture.  I can see how it could take way too much of someone's time, though.

When I have a nursling, which is at least every other year, I find myself sitting in my chair a LOT.  While I'm there, since I don't watch TV, I find things that I can do on my iPhone. 

I read from Proverbs, or other favorite passages, I go through Facebook and tell friends happy birthday, like some posts, comment on a few, and respond to private messages.  With the last nursling, I played Angry Birds.  I finished all of those, though.  With the one before that, I played Crush the Castle.  At night I like to play Sudoku, to exercise the brain.  But during the day, I go to Pinterest.  I have over 1,000 pins, over 100 followers, and I follow over 100 people.  I really enjoy Pinterest.  I, however, am always concerned that friends will think that I sit in front of my computer all day, pinning away.  I just wanted to clarify, that when I'm on there, it's because I'm feeding the baby. 

As the baby gets older, I'll spend less time looking at the iPhone, and more time looking at him, because he'll be looking at me, and I love that interaction!  I spend lots of time looking at all my babies, but even more so once they realize they can look at me while they eat ;)

I enjoy coffee, chocolate, Pinterest and Facebook, but truly, they aren't things I could live without, like my Bible.  Hopefully, I don't allow anything in my life to become a god, so that I am neglecting my God. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why the name? And other random questions...

Just some insight into our family :)

First, why Nineandcounting?  It all began with AIM.  Does anyone remember Instant Messaging? That was in the days before Facebook.  Anyway, we had six children at that time.  My "nickname" was NCMomof6.  After announcing that we were expecting, I was instant messaging with my mom, and she commented that I would now have to change my nickname.   Hmm...since I didn't want to change my name every time we had a child, and since I didn't know just how many children the Lord had in store for us, I decided that we were a family of nine.  And counting. So that became my nickname there, as well as on ebay, and other websites. 

And now for that list of FAQ that and family with more than 2.5 children seems to have encountered...

Well, my husband is a hard working diesel mechanic, and a very good one!  He's been doing that for 29 years now.

To be honest, I enjoy the end result much more.  I suffer with gestational diabetes, and therefore must stick my finger at least 4 times a day, plus stab a needle into my side twice a day to push insulin into me to help the baby.  I have varicose veins, which cause swelling and pain in my leg, and I suffer with sleeplessness and leg cramps.  Not exactly all fun...

My children would be happy to attest that I am not.  And I do it one at a time, with God's grace and wisdom.  One would do well to realize that I didn't have all 11 at once - it isn't like I have 11 little toddlers running around...

Do you run a daycare?

No.  Maybe I should.  I'm experienced.  And could certainly use the money.

Are you crazy?

I'm sorry, what did you say?  I couldn't hear you for the voices in my head...

Have you figured out what causes that?

Yes! And I'd say that we've pretty much perfected it.

How many kids do you want?

All of them.

Are you from a large family?

Yes.  I have a brother.

Are you going to have any more?

Not in the next few months.

What do you drive?

A 15-passenger van.

You must have a big house?

Actually, thanks to God, we do.  But until six years ago, we lived with seven children in a single-wide, three bedroom mobile home.  We were a very close family ;)

Are you Catholic?

Nope.  Baptist.

Are those all YOUR kids?

Actually, they're God's children, but he has graciously loaned them to me.  I'm certain it's because I haven't gotten it right yet, and He is the God of the second (and third, and fourth, etc.) chance.

My favorite, of course, How DO you get them to behave so well?   

I would tell you, but you would roll your eyes, and tell me that you tried that and it didn't work for you :)

You've sure got your hands full!

Indeed I do, as well as my lap, and most of all my heart :)

Have a great evening!

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:" Psalms 127:3-5