aldi, camping, education, family, food, grilling, parenting, pulled pork

I agree with many of the author’s moments!  Seriously, I would love to fold laundry and have a matched set every time.  Or the clean house?  Who doesn’t want that?!  Lobster?  Yes please!   Cozy in front of the fireplace?  Now would work as it is currently 28 degrees!  Brr.

My Jelly Belly Moments…

my daughter’s good morning hug, so sweet and full of love

having the kids do something the first time asked

being proud when we can drop everything and get our family of 5 out the door in under 20 minutes for impromptu outings and adventures

catching the light bulb moments when teaching

turning the radio on to the perfect song for the moment

my husband holding my hand

shopping at Aldi, no more coupons!

watching E twirl and sing the night away

friends that warm my heart, fill my soul with laughter, and even if it has been months since last meeting, pick up where you left off

camp fires, traveling the back roads, and everything in between

hanging out with gentle, imaginative M

small town living

a glass of wine and my husband’s company

tasty pulled pork and creamy, tangy cole slaw

family adventures whether in the back woods, along the beach, or out on the road

seeing the world through little R’s mischievous eyes

eating, cooking, grilling, and talking about food

Saturday morning family snuggles

decorating for the holidays, any holiday

clean sheets

So this is such a small bag of my jellies, my mind is filling with more as I type. What are some of your Jelly Belly moments?

Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane Blog


Having been on a diet for forever, I was starved for something sweet. I admit that I used to eat a lot of “comfort food”, so finding a way I could still do this and not gain weight has been a challenge.  Fortunately,  I came up with secret of packing little bags of Jelly Bellies, these great little jelly beans that really taste like what they say they taste like. My favorites are licorice, cotton candy, and, (of course for anyone who KNOWS me,) buttered popcorn.  I purchase only my favorite flavors, and package about 20 of them into little bags. Then, throughout the day when I need a little boost, I eat a few, and I am happy.

It has dawned on me that my life is full of little jelly belly moments, not in relation to the real jelly bean, but as a reaction to little events that…

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aldi, cooking, family, food, parenting, Saving money

A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things is quite possibly my mantra.  No I do not particularly enjoy whiskers or creamy ponies, but I have other favorite things.  The order does not matter, time with my family would ultimately be first.  Just a few of life’s “things” to help me get through the day.

1.  Starbucks Refreshers raspberry pomegranate sparkling green coffee beverage – Yes a long name, but so worth every drop!  When the school year started I had a 2-3 can a day habit.  Kicked it and miss it dearly, but a can or two a week (mostly on Fridays) keeps me balanced and sane.

2.  Mio liquid water enhancer – A few squirts of this fruity goodness enables me to get my daily water intake.  I have tried other brands, but this is it.  Our local outlet store, the Grocery Outlet, has 3 packs for $5.99!  That is cheaper than the Aldi brand.  Plus, I keep one on my desk for student use.  The water

3.  Speaking of Aldi, Imagine a mother of 3 young ones going into the store for 2 weeks of groceries, spending under $100, and getting out in 30 minutes or less…yes it is possible.  Fresh veggies and meat, no which version of circle cereal discussions, and all without a mama headache.  Ahh, one of my happy places.

4.  My Kindle Fire.  Not exactly the opiate of the masses, but it gets the job done.  Read a book.  Listen to music.  Video clips.  Facebook and email.  It meets my current technological needs.  Most days it an arm’s length away.  It is kid-friendly and at its current $159 tag, a little easier to swallow if harmed when playing.

5.  Pampered Chef stones.  The best shower that I have ever attended or hosted was my Pampered Chef wedding shower.  While the consultant demonstrated products, I crafted my wish list.  Later, I welcomed gifts from the shower.  Almost every item I longed for I received!  Wonderful!  Recently, after 11 years of weekly use,  my rectangle stone cracked in 2/3 and 1/3 portions.  Rather than replace it, I continue to use the two sections.  It works for me.  I do not own a single sheet pan or cookie sheet.  It is all stone for me.

A few favorites I long for…

No not to win the lottery or a bigger this or better that, simple things.  Items or experiences to help bring a little joy or ease to life.

1. Roomba – Our short-haired puppy sheds.  With all hardwood floors, hair tumbleweeds collect in the corners, along baseboards, everywhere.  How nice it would be to turn on the Roomba and have it clear away the cobwebs and sorrows.  M has a friend that has 3 roombas!  I have 3 non-robotized roombas, but they just add to the mess.

2.  Cooking Classes – The Grand Rapids Cooking School offers many wonderful cooking classes, as does Food Dance in Kalamazoo.  I long to take a cooking class every month or two to hone my culinary love.   But young children and the ole pocketbook put a kibosh on that dream.  Instead, I will continue cooking in the school of life.

3.  Ultimately I long to hear my children’s whispers.  To be able to giggle in response to a shared secret, swim in relaxation knowing that I will hear the squeals of joy or frightened cries, or hear a joke the first time, not the fifth time at ever increasing decibels.  A Siemens waterproof hearing aid for swimming with kids.  You may want to swim with dolphins, I long to swim with sound.  When cuddling with my daughter as she whispers sweet sentiments, a ReSound Alera brings tears just thinking about its capabilities.  Hear a whisper, enjoy music, hear my child as he/she recites lines – Yes please!

Share one of your favorite things!  I love to read what gets others through their day.

aldi, cooking, family, food, frugal wanna be, parenting, Saving money

Pinned Day

Yesterday, daughter E and I needed some post Latvian school activities.  Scrolling through my Pinterest pins, we randomly picked a few recipes and crafts using our available items.

First up, Nutella cookies.  The recipe comes from Tasty Kitchen and it can be found here.  Our cookies did not flatten out like the website picture.  Instead they stayed like little Nutella truffles.  Yum!  My only disappointment was that the recipe does not make many cookies for the cost factor (almost a whole tub of Nutella).  We used the Aldi Hazelnut spread.  All in all, tasty and easy for a 4-year-old to make!  The dough is stiff, so her petite arm bulked up.

nutella cookies

We took a break and scoured for a family project or craft.  Since I am constantly stepping on or vacuuming up Lego, a Lego village was constructed.  Thank you to Our Forever House and the great Lego ideas  Even the hubs joined the fun!

holiday lego holiday lego 2

After all that hard work, it was time for dinner.  While I made pasta bird’s nests with spinach and garlic, E manned the cutting board to make Garlic Parmesan Pull-a-part Bread.  Special credit to The Virtuous Wife for the simple recipe!  We always keep a few tubes of biscuits or crescent rolls on hand, ready for a last-minute throw down dinner.  Carefully E cut the biscuits into quarters, nice math lesson, and tossed the chunks in Parmesan and garlic.  She’s a cute little helper!

helpergarlic bitesgarlic pull breadThe Parmesan bites were like the jiggle to jello with our pasta nests.  Clean plates all around.  R and M enjoyed seconds and thirds.

Later E sat with my tablet flipping through my Pinterest boards planning our next pin-up day.

aldi, family, frugal wanna be, parenting, Saving money

Just 25 Cents

A short time into our dating relationship, I learned one of my now husband’s biggest pet peeves.  Stopping at a local Meijers for some late night snacks, he cursed something about the laziness of Americans.  Not understanding, I asked about which element of laziness he was referring.  He responded, look at all the carts parked a few feet from a cart corral.  A few more steps and bingo, the cart would be home!

Since that day, I diligently make sure my cart gets parked back in its garage.  Even when venturing out with little ones in tow, the cart is driven home.  Sometimes that means carrying kids and groceries or leaving kids unattended for a moment, but the job gets done.

The Kalamazoo River meanders its way through our charming little city.  What is not so charming is when the water level is low and from varying vantage points throughout the town you can play I SPY Shopping Cart.  If only the town supermarket would have a quarter or dime “cart for hire” hub.  Imagine the possibilities.

Creek Shopping Cart
Creek Shopping Cart (Photo credit: stinkenroboter)

A year and a half ago we switched our primary grocery shopping to Aldi.  For a quarter, a cart is unlocked and enjoyed for the shopping excursion.  Most of the time, the cart is bone dry!  The carts are housed in a covered space attached to the building.  No wet, cold cart.  At the end of the shopping blitz, simply return the cart to the shed and voila, out comes your quarter!  Amazing, isn’t it?!

English: Kid's shopping cart, picture taken at...
English: Kid’s shopping cart, picture taken at a Wegman’s store in the U. S. Deutsch: Kinder-Einkaufswagen, fotografiert an einem Wegman’s-Supermarkt in den USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine if all  big chain stores started this?  I am sure there would be a cost savings, less damage to parked cars, and not to mention the pride in doing your part.  That quarter a cart, or in most stores a high school and college age student cart person, reflects back to more money from your pocketbook.   Sometimes as we head in, a person will ask if we need a cart.  A quarter is exchanged and I am on my way.  Other trips, a hand is put up, “keep it” is mouthed and I head in beaming in mutual respect.  I prefer to pay it forward, whether I received the cart for free or dutifully dished out a quarter, I pass it on.  A quarter a day keeps the frustration at bay.

What a difference a quarter could make.

Related Articles:

Aldi foodie

Paying it Forward

aldi, cooking, family, food

Fish and Salsa Cups

A few years ago we purchased this cookbook for our Little Chef.  Along with the book, you receive 5 silicone baking cups.  The book contains many wonderfully, simple, and delicious family recipes.  One of our family favorites is “Fish and Salsa”.  We use whatever salsa and fish we have available.  This time our fish on hand was Aldi tilapia and mild salsa.. This is my spin on the recipe.


Preheat oven to 375.

5 tilapia fillets cut in 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces

1/2 cup salsa

5 T. Shredded cheese

garlic powder

Layer tilapia, dash garlic powder, 1/2 T. Salsa (2 – 3layers depending on thickness).  Top with 1 T. Cheese.

Place cups on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until salsa is bubbling.  Serve in cups.  We also use small baking ramekins sprayed with EVOO since 5 cups is not enough.  Serve with a salad, sauteed veggies, or tortillas for a healthier fish taco!

Our two oldest each ate two cups and the littlest ate 1 and 1/2 this time.  Thankfully I used 6 fillets this time!

Cook It in a Cup

aldi, cooking, family, food, parenting

May the 4th Be With You

This week my friend Sarah shared with me her friend’s blog, Short Stop.  The first post that I read May the 4th Be With You had me at the title.  May 4th was only days away, so Sarah and I began planning.  Giggling like school girls and channeling the Force, we planned our galactic menu.  First, let me share a little bit about Sarah.  She has never watched a single Star Wars movie, ever!  Not sheltered, just never got around to it.  At our home, she has witnessed fierce lightsaber battles between her husband and my boys.  Hopefully her girl E will be able to defend herself when she gets older!

My boys love Star Wars; Legos, toys, t-shirts, lightsabers – anything.  So me telling them that we were planning a Star Wars night was like saying we’re getting a new puppy!  Cries of when, who is coming, and do we get to watch the movie quickly filled the room.  Getting the kids on board helped to have them responsible for all of the “decorating”, aka – spread out your Star Wars figurines, podracers, fun on the food table.

We started the morning with Princess Leia “buns”.

The May the 4th Be With You Menu

Boba Fett, Darth Maul, and Ewoks on a plate (Boba fettuccine with Aldi red vodka sauce and meatballs)

Lightsabers with Jaba slime (pretzel rods wrapped in bacon and honey mustard)

Yoda Soda in hand decorated Han Solo cups

Dark Force for the adults, aka dark beer

R2D2 and Princess Leia treats For Leia, my kids made heads from the cereal mixture and put mini Reeses PB cubs for “buns”.  Not the prettiest, but the cereal mixture (Chocolate, PB, and Multi Grain Cherrios) made them tasty!

Star Wars sugar cookies (cookie cutters) – Friend Jen even added Bailey’s frosting for the adults!  Check out my Pinterest for the recipe!

I love planning and organizing family events from picnics in the park to themed birthdays.  They are only kids for a short time and I want them to have amazing childhood memories.  Too soon they will be racing to a practice or a date, battling teenage hormones, or trekking off to college and we will not have the opportunity to relish in their childhoods and live it to its fullest.  This “party” was inexpensive, fun-filled, and most importantly, a memory maker.


Short Stop – May the 4th

Just JENN – Star Wars Party

Star Wars Blog – food

aldi, cooking, family

Spring Onions

Yesterday while the kids and I were playing the weeding game…  What, you do not know that game?  It’s quite simple, who can pick the most weeds in X amount of time.  The prize is a happy mommy and a weed free flower bed.  Win/win for all – the flower bed, an activity that involves all 3 kids, and mama gets to check one thing off her spring list.

While  enjoying the weeding fun, we discovered a spring onion mega patch.  As each bulb saw day light, I racked my brain for a dinner concoction to highlight springs bounty.

Sautéed Green Beans with bacon and spring onions

1 lb. frozen long green beans, defrosted

3 strips turkey bacon, diced

5 spring onion bulbs, sliced

2 T. cider vinegar

1 t. sugar

black pepper to taste

Saute the bacon and spring onions.  Add in the green beans and cook until heated through.  Meanwhile mix the vinegar and sugar.  Deglaze the pan with the vinegar mixture and add pepper to taste.  Serve immediately, enjoy!

The spring onions added a nice sweetness to the beans.

The green beans and turkey bacon were pantry ingredients from Aldi, my shopping haven.