Archive | June, 2011

Beef Skillet Stew

26 Jun

A new favorite at the Emerson house.



  • 1/3 c. chopped onion
  • 4 oz. steak cut into 1/2″ cubes-I can’t remember exactly what cut I used but it was one of the least expensive cuts. 🙂 
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 1 medium potato chopped
  • 2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1/3 c. Braggs Aminos or soy sauce
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 2 T. sugar-you can use less as this is pretty sweet.
  • 1/2 t. cornstarch
  • 1 t. cold water

Brown steak with onion in a large skillet until cooked (no longer pink and onion is translucent).  Add carrots, cabbage, potato, water, soy sauce and sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  In another bowl combine cold water and cornstarch.  Whisk together until smooth.  Add to beef mixture.  Bring all to a boil.  Stir 2 minutes until thickened.  Enjoy!

Serves 2 each serving is 370 calories.


Save Money with Home Haircuts

22 Jun

Before shot of Brandon's last haircut and beard trim.


Home haircuts are an excellent way to help save money these days.  Does it sound scary?  Well have no fear because it really isn’t scary at all!  I was blessed to grow up in a home where a home haircut was the norm.  I have fond memories of sitting outside on a bar stool on a lazy summer afternoon watching my mom cut someone’s hair.  I could also schedule a hair appointment for myself most any time of day.  🙂 

How do I look?


I have been cutting Brandon’s hair for the past 3 years and it has saved us at least $600 so far!  (His hair and beard grow so fast that he has to get it cut once a month.)  We love having such an easy way to save lots of money!  It is also very convenient for us.  Brandon does not have to drive anywhere, spend any money, or have to worry about getting a bad haircut or having a barber trim too much of his beard.  🙂 

Doesn't he look nice.


Three years ago I purchased the following set of Wahl clippers with attachments.  (Mine is an older version of this set and only cost around $50.)  I have been very pleased with the set.  It has held up great over the past 3 years and we look forward to many more. 

What memories!


I love the fact that cutting hair at home saves us lots of money.  More than that though I enjoy the fact that we are making memories as a family.  I will never forget Eli’s first haircut.  It was even more special that I was the one who gave it to him.  🙂  I imagine this will be a tradition we will continue in our family for years to come.

Make Shift Baby Pool

22 Jun

Look at that face. He's having a blast!

 As many of you know our air conditioning broke a few weeks ago.  It was really hot!  Especially being at home all day with a little one.  I thought about buying one but was feeling lazy.  (It’s so hard to go to go to the store for just one item.)  Instead I found a storage box, emptied it out, and filled it with water.  It was perfect!  He loved it!  The first day he wouldn’t actually get in it.  Elijah prefered just splashing and playing.  The next day was a different story as the pictures will tell.  (Oh and yes that is a cloth swim diaper in the photos.) 🙂 

Oh this is cold! What a great sensory tool! 🙂



It was such a delight to watch Eli explore the water.


The great thing about the make shift baby pool is that it cost nothing since we already had the storage container on hand and the fact that it has a lid.  The lid also locks.  🙂  We are really liking our make shift pool not sure if we will ever go buy that kiddie pool.

Sew a Pack-N-Play Sheet

16 Jun

Eli's new pack-n-play sheet.


Sewing your own pack-n-play sheets is a cinch!  They are very similar to sewing crib sheets so please check out this tutorial for detailed instructions.  I have actually made 2 sheets so far: one out of woven material and one out of knit fabric.  The knit is by far my favorite!  It stays on much better.  To make a knit sheet purchase 1 yard of 60″ wide knit fabric.  You will also need to purchase 2 yards of elastic either 3/8″ or 1/2″. 

  1. Measure your pack-n-play as they vary a little in sizing.  Mine measured 27X40.  Since the mattress is so thin (merely an inch) I disregarded it.  Then I added 7 inches to both measurements.  My cutting measurements were then: 34X47.  If using a woven fabric I would add an additional inch since your fabric has no stretch to it.  You will also need to purchase more than 1 yard of fabric-purchase your final longer measurement.  Here that would be 47″. 
  2. Lay your fabric out and at each corner cut out a 5X5 square. 
  3. To make the pockets take the sides that were just cut (the square sides) and place right sides together.  Sew them together using 1/2″ seam allowance.  Repeat for each of the 4 corners.  If this is confusing see here. 
  4. Finish the edges using a serger, pinking sheers, or simply fold the fabric over twice and sew.  (This is to prevent fraying.) 
  5. Use a zig zag stitch to sew your elastic to the edge of the sheet stretching as you go.  (This is different from the crib sheet tutorial.  For the crib sheets I only used elastic on the pockets. I found that it works better for the pack and play to have elastic around the entire thing.)  You could also make a casing and insert elastic.  I find that it is much simpler to just stretch the elastic as I sew. 


Put sheet on pack-n-play mattress and admire your handiwork. 🙂 Or place child inside for a nap.


May Reads

15 Jun

All delightful reading!


With the end of my formal schooling I have been diving into books most of my spare moments! 🙂  This past month I have enjoyed some that I would deem excellent! 

  • Home Economics by Jennifer Trontz: I happened across this book from my library and wow what a gem!  It includes all sorts of helpful household tips and advice.  Everything from budgeting, laundry, cooking, making a home, and hobbies.  As I was reading it I just kept thinking wow this would make an excellent wedding gift!  I’d love to have one myself. 
  • Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Timeby Elyse M. Fitzpatrick If you haven’t yet read something by Mrs. Fitzpatrick put it at the top of your to-do list.  God will use her to speak biblical truth and wisdom into your heart.  Her writing is amazing.  I read everything of hers I can get my hands on.  She is right there next to Elisabeth Elliot in how impactful she has been in my own life.  This book was like a Gospel booster shot.  Sometimes I have trouble practically reminding myself of the Gospel each day but this book is excellent!  It is broken down into 31 days with an entry that is only about 3-4 pages.  If you are pressed for time I would urge you to pick this book up!  No doubt this book can be read in a month’s time by just reading 5 minutes a day.  If you pick one book from my list to read may it be this one! 
  • Give Me This Mountain by Dr. Helen Roseveare.  This book tells the story of Helen Roseveare who was an amazing missionary doctor and author who lived in the Congo.  I loved how throughout this book the reader is allowed a glimpse into her own life.  It was nice for me to see a different side of her with her earlier struggles before becoming a missionary.  She almost failed medical school and was almost rejected by the mission board due to her pride.  I highly commend this book. 
  • More With Less Cookbook by Doris Longacre: This cookbook has really challenged the way that I think about food.  The whole premise of the book is to encourage people to eat better but eat less.  I have not yet tried many of the recipes but I am sure they are great.  We will be trying some next week.  My own mom use to cook out of this book so I was excited to get my hands on it. 🙂
  • Sewn by Hand:by Susan Wasinger: This book is filled with cute ideas of small projects to sew by hand.  Now if you know anything about me you know I love breaking out my sewing machine.  The book has excellent directions and step by step instructions for different stitches if you are new to hand sewing or embroidery.  We have a trip coming up this weekend so I think I may just be trying my hand at an Owie Puff boo-booo bag for Elijah.   
  • Large Family Logistics: by Kim Brenneman.  Okay so you might be thinking why in the world did I read a book about managing a large family.  Brandon and I desire to have a larger than normal (2 kids) sized family but I also think that many large families are super organized. They have to be!  This book was excellent.  I don’t think that very much of the book was specific to large families.  Instead it was filled with words of wisdom.  I felt like I was sitting in Mrs. Brenneman’s kitchen having tea as she encouraged me in my homemaking tasks.  My family has already been benefiting from many of the ideas that she shared.  🙂 

Sausage Tomato Spinach Pasta

14 Jun

Sausage Tomato Spinach Pasta


With summertime here I have a new interest in simple skillet dishes that are quick and don’t heat up my house!  The following recipe is fast, delicious, and a great way to get your family to eat spinach!  🙂 


  • 2 cups uncooked pasta-I used Rotini.  Pick something that is kind of sturdy and will allow sauce to adhere to it.
  • 2 Italian sausage links
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • about 5 oz. baby spinach leaves-or more if you like.  This will look like a ton but it really cooks down.
  • 1 can 14.5 oz Diced Tomatoes undrained
  • 2/3 c. Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 T. Parmesan Cheese


Cook pasta as directed in a saucepan.  Saute sausage and onion in skillet until sausage is no longer pink.  Add spinach and tomatoes.  Cook about 3 minutes until spinach is wilted.  Drain pasta and add to tomato sausage mixture.  Add cheeses and serve.

How to Have a Great Yard Sale

11 Jun

Clear attractive signs are a must to attract potential buyers to your sale.

Has the de-cluttering bug bit you yet?  Well it has bitten me hard!  One great result of that was hosting my first ever Yard Sale.  It was a huge success.  If you are looking to host your own sale the following are some tips that I found very helpful:

  1. Start planning and preparing early.  I spent at least 2 months de-cluttering and collecting items to sell.  If you try to do it all in a week you will exhaust and overwhelm yourself.  I think it would be even better if one collected items year round.  Designate a box in your garage or part of a spare closet to collect things.  As I found items I also priced them with a sticker.  Then they were put in a box in our garage. 
  2. Understand How Yard Sales Work: This might be a no-brainer but if you have never been to a yard sale you might not understand some basics.  #1 that most of your items should be priced about 10% of their original purchase price.  I would recommend attending a few yard sales before you try to have your own. Observe the people and especially note their pricing. 
  3. Get the Word Out: I posted a free ad on Craigslist and also listed 10 or so items that are included in the sale.  Since we were selling lots of baby items I made sure to be specific about what we had.  For example if someone just searched for an Exersaucer on Craigslist our yard sale ad would pop up because we were selling ours.  We also made lots of bright hot pink signs (as shown above) to attract potential customers.  We placed one at an intersection, the entrance to our subdivision, and every turn you needed to make in order to find our home.  I also made sure to use the same color.  Ideally these should go out the afternoon before the sale (or earlier) and be taken down right after the sale is over. 

    Lots of tables are a must!


  • Display Items Attractively: Borrow as many tables as you possibly can from friends.  Do not just lay down a sheet and plop your stuff down.  People don’t like to bend over and look at.  We also placed like items together.  If there is a lull in customers make sure to straighten up.  If stuff looks picked over people will think that it isn’t good stuff and will pass up looking at it.   Also make sure to place your most attractive items closest to the side-walk.  Many people do a “drive-by” and will only stop if it looks attractive. 
  • Timing is Everything:Originally I planned to host the sale at the beginning of May.  Since the weather forecast was predicting rain I postponed the sale.  I am so glad that I did!  We had a huge turn out on a nice sunny day.   Make sure you also think about other obligations that you have when planning your sale.  Figure out when the biggest day for yard sales is in your area.  Although people hold yard sales in my area on both Friday and Saturday it was too much for me to do both days.  We chose Saturday and did great! 
  • Mark Your Prices: We marked every item except children’s clothing which was all realistically priced at .25.  People are more likely to buy an item if it is already priced. 
  • Make sure to have someone in charge of the cash register. It needs to have plenty of change inside. We also did not price anything less than a quarter in order to make things easier.

  • Have Help: I never could have pulled off such a successful yard sale without the help of my lovely husband, mother, and sister.  If you have children I would recommend adding another set of hands to help entertain them.  It also made having a yard sale lots of fun! 
  • Be Realistic in Your Prices: If you are too proud of yourself and price it to well it will not sell.   Are you really looking to get rid of stuff?  Then be realistic.  I kept my prices very reasonable and sold everything but a few boxes. 
  • Other Thoughts: You can also sell cold drinks like I did.  These are great on a hot day.  Cookies or baked goods also sell well. 


Eli loved helping with the cash register.

Sew A Clothespin Holder: Pattern Review

9 Jun

World's Best Clothespin Holder


If you are trying to be more green (or save money) by air drying your clothes then you definitely need to make one of these!  I finally made one last summer in a bright floral fabric that just screams me!  🙂  I also recently made the above star print one for my mom for her birthday. 

I did use a pattern and would recommend picking it up the next time patterns are on sale for .99.  (Happens every 6 weeks or so.)  I used McCalls 6051 and it was a cinch to make!  Perfect to make on a lazy afternoon or during nap time.  One thing I love about the holder is that it is so wide it is makes hanging clothes out fast!  It is also perfect for Eli to reach in and hand me a clothes pin. 

The pattern also contains instructions for making just about everything you would need in a laundry room: Apron, Ironing Board Cover, Laundry Bag, Hanger Cover, Organizers, Banners, and Bins.  Hopefully I’ll be able to make some more things as time permits me too!  Many of these items would work very well in other rooms of the home.  I also think the clothes pin holder would be a nice addition to one’s closet.  It could easily hold: pantyhose, slips, belts, scarves, children’s socks, etc.

Southwest Beans

8 Jun

One of the tastiest vegetarian meals you will ever eat!


If you are looking for a great way to add nutrition to your diet and help your grocery bill at the same time you must try this recipe.  It is delicious!  The recipe was given to me by the Spalding family.  We make these beans at least twice a month.  They also freeze very well.  You can also add the beans to other recipes in place of canned beans.   For example, We use 2 cups of this recipe of beans in place of 1 can of pinto beans in CrockPot Beef Enchiladas. 

  1. Soak 1 pound of dried pinto beans in water with a little buttermilk, lemon juice or kefir (1 T) for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.
  2. Bring beans and 8 cups of water (or homemade chicken broth) to boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours until tender.
  3. Add the following: 1 chopped onion, 1 green bell pepper (you can also use a red bell pepper but I like the taste of green peppers slightly better here), 1 t. minced garli, 2 T. Worchestershire sauce, 1 T. chili powder, 3/4 t. salt, 1/2 t. dry mustard, 1/4 t. pepper.  Simmer 1/2-1 hour. 
  4. Add 1 10 or 14.5 oz can of tomatoes with green chilies.  Simmer 1/2 hour.
  5. We like to serve this over brown rice with cheese and a little plain yogurt.  (You could also use sour cream.) 



Vegetarian Moo Shu

6 Jun


  • Heat 1 t. oil in a large pan.  Add 4 lightly beaten eggs.  Stir gently about 3 minutes.  Remove to a plate. 
  • Heat 2 t. oil in pan.  Add 1/2 t. ground ginger and 1 t. minced garlic and cook 1 minute. 
  • Add 1 12 oz. bag of broccoli slaw (this is often on manager’s special at Kroger) or shredded mixed veggies. 
  • Add 1 small can of water chestnuts (drained), 1/2 bunch green onions chopped, 1 T. soy sauce, and 1 T. rice vinegar.  Stir.  Cook about 3 minutes until veggies are tender. 
  • Add 2 T. hoisin sauce or General Tso’s sauce and cooked eggs (from the plate).  Cook about 2 additional minutes.  Stir in 1/2 bunch green onions and enjoy! 
  • This recipes makes 4 servings and has only 171 calories.  It is very filling and tastes great!  It doesn’t taste “vegetarian” at all and is a great way for my family to eat vegetables that we don’t otherwise eat.  🙂

 Recipe adapted from Eating Well: 500 Calorie Dinners