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Last year, my daughter Deb asked if she could interview me for a few Christmas posts at her blog, The Queen Mommys Cafe.  She asked the questions and I gave the answers. This is the first part of the interview, and I wanted to share it with you this Christmas season...

1) I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of ‘hats’ in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats. What a privilege to be given those special places of honor. When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen. I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared. It’s just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian MiraclesAmazing stories of God’s Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile – a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally – for butternut squash bake in 2006. That, plus 5 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007. I’ve publicly shared our life’s ‘God-story’ a few times, and have spoken for Mother’s Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas.

I love to say “I’m not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker”.

2) What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn’t a Santa. My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn’t had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them. I was probably 10 or 11.) Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I’ve always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed…since we were military and lived far from home. We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough – I loved them all. Having my children help as we ‘worked’ together doing the decorating was always so much fun. The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we’d already made….those are all my favorites.

3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season? How do you prepare for them? What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking – trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods. I begin stocking up on baking items – chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they’re on sale – probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don’t run short at the last minute. Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi’s, Big Lots, or Sam’s Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once….I have a running grocery list…I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I’m almost out. I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I’ve used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it’s already been used…just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I’m doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently. It’s where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines. And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop…sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

 

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So we continue with thoughts to help you with meal planning….

  • Don’t go shopping without a list.  I like to plan meals around what’s on sale and having a list helps you ‘stay on track’.  I always end up buying more when I don’t have a list! =(
  • Teach your children to write things down when they’re running low, or have run out. I like keeping a magnetic list on the front of the fridge – and I write what I need at the bottom of the page (I’ve been told this is a right/left brain ‘thing’) – that way you tear off the bottom each time and don’t waste the whole page.  Makes sense to me!
  • Go frozen – fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their peak, so you can buy them out of season for less.  They taste great too!  Again – stock up when they’re on sale.
  • Plan for leftovers – make one night a week leftover night, and everyone fixes their own plate. Or use that leftover roast beef for making a pot of beef and noodles.  When you have a few leftover veggies – throw them into one freezer container, adding as the month goes by, and use all the leftover veggies in homemade soup.  Waste not – want not.

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December is here, and we are all busier than ever…I want to share some ideas to inspire you to help you with your food ‘management’/meal planning.  I will be sharing some awesome recipes later this month too, but for now….

  • Coupon, coupon, coupon!  If you’ve followed my blog for long, you’ll know I LOVE coupons, and often get to save 60%+ of the total price I spend, because I stick with purchasing sale items, and use coupons also.  Clip weekly from the newspaper (hint: some of the coupons in the file that I always carry in my purse – will be thrown out if I don’t find the item on sale). Ask a friend who doesn’t use coupons, if they’d be willing to share theirs with you.  It’s a great way to save big $$.
  • Shop your pantry – use what you have.  If you stock up on weekly sales, you can learn to cook with what you already have.  Keep vegetables, soups, broths, beans, etc. on hand – and have a system in your pantry so everything doesn’t get lost, and you don’t know what you really have.  Ex: keep soups together with labels facing the front – use tubs to group some items and/or smaller items together.
  • Shop bulk sections – Go for grains, nuts, dried fruit, cereal and more – You can buy as much, or as little, as you want, and prices tend to be more reasonable because you’re not having to pay for name brands or fancy packaging.  I love to buy powdered milk there, as it isn’t something I use often, or much of, but it’s so handy to have a little bit when I want it.
  • Make your own 100-calorie packs – It’s so much more economical to make your own.  Separate chips, cookies, etc. into resealable plastic bags and you will save all the waste of the packaging too.

More ideas again next week…HAPPY SHOPPING & COOKING TOO!!!!

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courtesy of Bing.com

courtesy of Bing.com

Funny how it works isn’t it?  The plumber’s home needs plumbing repair…the mechanic  drives a broken down vehicle, and the housecleaner’s home (certainly mine!) needs a good cleaning too.  I like having shortcuts and time savers to be able to clean, and wanted to share a few with you. Even if you try to add one new idea, you’ll be better for it.

If at all possible try to spend 10 – 15 minutes first thing in the morning, tackling a specific task/chore. Wash up the sinkful of dishes…run the vacuum…sort the laundry – whatever you can find time for, and homemaking won’t seem so burdensome later in the day.

Every day, choose one task: a paper-covered desktop, a messy drawer, a disheveled closet. Now set your timer for 10 minutes and sort, toss and organize until the buzzer sounds.The goal isn’t to finish the job in one session but to chip away at it in short, focused bursts known as “power organizing.” Once you learn that, it won’t be long before you notice dramatic results.

I have never ever liked going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.  It always seemed to affect my attitude first thing in the morning to face them, so I try to make that a habit so I can enjoy my morning coffee with ease.

I love the handy window cleaning wipes – I refresh my kitchen window often, so I don’t have to keep looking at the world outside through drips, and bathroom mirrors using the same one.  They are great for tackling smudges, and don’t leave streaks.   Put on some jazzy music and enlist your kids to help and they’ll love cleaning too – the next hint is inviting for kids also.

If you don’t have a hand swiffer – please invest in one.  They are so nifty for cleaning spots you can’t reach with a rag, and make dusting fun – really!  Try it – you just might like it!  The long handled ones are wonderful for reaching vents up high – and mopboards down low.  You just toss the dirty one and get another – it’s something no home should be without.

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google coupon

I have always enjoyed grocery shopping.  I know that’s not the case for everyone, but part of the reason I find it ‘fun’, is because I make the most of couponing, and so I thought I’d share a few ideas and thoughts to help get you get the most for your money.

The best deal I ever had was when I once paid $39 for $63 worth of groceries. But I’ve heard of women who regularly save as much as 80% of their cost!!

  • Scour your newspapers and magazines weekly.  Sunday newspapers are a treasure when you are able to use many coupons and store circulars with info on sales.
  • I try to stock up on my most-used items when they’re on sale.  Many stores allow you – as mine does – to use a store coupon along with a manufacturer’s coupon.  And if your store doubles or even triples the coupon, you can go home with free items. WOW! Ex: my grocery store once had a holiday coupon deal – Buy one 5# bag of flour, get 3 free.  That in and of itself is a real deal, but I had a 25 cents off coupon for the flour, that was doubled, and so I ended up paying 49 cents for 20# of flour!!
  • There are some great websites where you can print coupons.  Check out www.couponmom.com or www.moneysavingmom.com that can help you save even more.
  • Enlist your kids to help.  Joe Daugirdas of Willoughby Hills, Ohio blogs on his site – www.joethecouponguy.com and teaches classes at a community college on how to save money.  He suggests having your kids clip coupons and then match them to your shopping list.
  • A fun ‘trick’ I have learned, is that if I really like a product, I can call their 1-800 number and rave to them.  More often than not, they will send a coupon or two to me, just for taking the time to contact them. I’ve received a number of FREE coupons!
  • My daughter, Deb, recently had a post about couponing, that I’d like to share here too… check it out

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I always enjoyed planning meals when my kids were growing up, but I think it had to come to me more naturally than for some.

I have tried many new recipes, and still do, and my family probably wished I would have served some things more often.  I would love to share some ideas to help those who tend to have a hard time creating menus for their family.

  • Post your weekly menu on the refrigerator door. You don’t have to stick to it, but at least you’ll have some ideas to choose from when you’re hungry for a certain taste.  If you have teenagers or younger trustworthy kids, maybe they could help by preparing a dish, or even preparing an item for dinnertime, like mixing/making muffins from a mix.
  • Set your own family traditions – have pasta on Wednesdays or grill burgers every Friday.  We love having breakfast for dinner, on Sunday evenings.
  • Come up with 3 or 4 weekly menus and rotate them. Keep them simple and learn to substitute fresh veggies and fruit when they are in season.  To make things easier, plan a week’s menu using the same cookbook.
  • Cook a double portion and freeze for a quick meal on a busy night.  This website has awesome ideas to help get you going with this great plan… Freezer Cooking
  • Don’t be afraid to try new recipes. Ask a friend who you know is a good cook, to share some of their recipes and menu ideas with you. I have to admit…I try many more dishes, because I’ve been given the recipe by someone I trust. They have helped me ‘blossom’ and grow in the kitchen – literally (teehee).
  • I’ve recently become acquainted online with a new cookbook author, Jane Doiron.  I’m thrilled that she sent me a copy of her new cookbook to review. Check out her website Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms . You can subscribe to her monthly newsletter there and have a recipe sent to your inbox along with it.

If you need some help finding forms to accomplish your meal planning, be sure to check out DonnaYoung.org or Organizing Junkie!

Whether you are someone who relishes your time in the kitchen or spends as little time cooking as possible, just remember that family bonds and memories are made around the dinner table.   Your kids won’t remember the meals they were served, nearly as much as they will remember the precious times you spent together.

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cottage

credit: rezlab

I have always enjoyed sharing tips to make life easier in your home.

Hope these help make an improved difference in your life…

My favorite tip has always been…. place a cup of water – along with about 2 T. lemon juice – in a glass cup and microwave for atleast 5 minutes.  Keep the door shut – the steam will moisten the splatters, and you should be able to easily wipe  it clean.   Your microwave will smell lemony fresh.

When using your hand mixer – place your bowl in the sink to mix.  The splatters in the sink are much easier to clean than to have them all over
your cupboard and counter. (more…)

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