Potluck Favorites

Here are some Potluck dishes that are extremely popular among guests.  Since I have had great success with them, I wanted to share them.  At times, I would be lost on what to bring to a Potluck.  Then I worry about if it’s something that everybody is going to eat.  That is why I came up with some of my favorite recipes that were a success at the potlucks I have attended.  The first one is Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I first tasted this recipe at a Lia Sophia party many years ago.  I asked the host for the recipe and surprisingly she gave it to me.  It has been a sure success for me ever since.  I tend to take it to football parties.  This dish compliments any sporting event. It was so popular with my family to the point I would make it if we’re just watching the game or having family night. I always accompany this dish with On the Border tortilla chips.  I hope you enjoy. Once you’ve tried it, I would love your feedback .

Ingredients

3-4 Boneless chicken breast

2 packages cream cheese

16 oz Ranch Dressing

1 Franks Hot Sauce

1 Bag of Cheese

Preparation

Boil the chicken until completely done.  Once done shred and place the chicken in a casserole dish.  Next melt the cream cheese and the whole bottle of ranch dressing together.  Mix in with the chicken.  Add the hot sauce, I would start with adding a little at a time.  The more hot sauce you add the hotter the dish will be.  Lastly, mix in a little cheese.  Mix everything together and spread the remaining cheese on top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min.

If you are taking a dessert to a Potluck, this one will get people talking.  It’s called a Crack Cake.  They call it Crack Cake because you can’t eat just one piece.  I actually got this recipe off Pinterest about three to four years ago.  It’s been popular with friends and families ever since.  Hope you enjoy.  Once again if you try this recipe I would love your feedback.

Crack Cake

Ingredients

1 box Duncan Hines cake mix (yellow)

1/4 cup  of Brown Sugar

1 box Vanilla Instant Pudding mix

2 teaspoon Cinnamon

4 Eggs

3/4 cup  of Water

3/4 cup  of oil

1/2 cup of white wine ( I use Moscato)

Glaze

1 Stick of Butter

1 cup of Sugar

1/4 cup of white wine

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a Bundt cake pan. Mix the above ingredients by hand or hand mixer.  Bake for one hour.  When it comes poke holes in the cake, and pour the glaze over it.  Let it cool, and then flip out of pan onto cake plate.

The other potluck favorite is a salsa.  This was gone in thirty minutes.  This recipe came from my sister-in-law at a Potluck.  I also accompany this with tortilla chips.  I would love feedback on this recipe as well.

Cucumber Salsa

Ingredients

3-4 English cucumbers

2-3 Roma tomatoes

Apple Cider Vinegar (to your liking)

Garlic salt

Cumin

Canned Jalapeno (7 oz)

Canned Chilies

1/2 Red Onion

Dry Ranch Packet

Preparation

Chop into small pieces the cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions.  Mix together.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Season with the Garlic salt and Cumin to your desired taste.  Don’t add the whole can of Jalapenos. Only add a little at a time depending on how spicy you want the salsa.  Also, I add only half of the green chilies, but make it to your taste.

These are three recipes that has always worked for me when I attend Potlucks.

Raising a Child with a Disability

Raising a child with a disability can be both extremely stressing and challenging, not to mention the financial impact it has on the family as well.  It can bring a family closer together or tear them apart.  In my case, it brought us closer together.  For privacy reasons, I’m not going to mention my daughter’s name.

Both my husband and I was blessed with a 14.5 oz little girl.  I know what your thinking, and yes she was 14.5 oz.  Her head was the size of a golf ball and the hospital had to order special diapers.  During the time that my daughter was born, you didn’t hear about to many premies being born that small, so of course the doctors had concerns.  We were told of all the complications that she would face over the next few months, and throughout her life, but we knew God had a bigger plan for her.  She was only in the hospital for a couple of months, and off the ventilator in seventy-five days.  Her remarkable progress while in the hospital again is a true testimony of God.

When discharged from the hospital, she came home with oxygen and a heart monitor.  She had daily visits to the doctor’s office for monitoring.  It took both my husband and I to get her to these appointments because of the equipment that was attached to her.  We both received endless nights of no sleep making sure that she was okay.   I look back, and think to myself when did we sleep.  The first few months went by so fast.  It consisted of doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments.

When she was six months old, they started her in physical and occupational therapy to address some of her developmentally delayed issues that were going on.  I want to give credit to her physical therapist at the time of her starting physical therapy.  If it wasn’t for her teaching us to treat her as if she didn’t have a disability, then she wouldn’t have made the progress she has.  She told us that she doesn’t know that she has a disability, so stop getting the toys for her and make her get them herself.

At her six month followup, they noticed that she was sitting to one side.  Her primary care doctor thought it would be wise that she be seen by an Orthopedic doctor.  We saw the Orthopedic doctor and they discovered that she has Scoliosis.  The curvature of her spine was so severe, until they could not treat her in the state of Colorado.  Her Orthopedic doctor referred her to Shriners hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.  While at Shriners, she had several procedures done.  Each one seemed hopeful, but the curvature was not getting any better.  As a mom, I felt like I was letting my child down, because there was nothing I could do to help her.  Later, she was referred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah for a new surgery called Vertical Expansion Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR)  expansion.

She had her first VEPTR expansion at the age of five.  She would have to go every six months for surgery.  The emotional and financial impact it had on our family was hard.  Thanks to the Ronald McDonald house in Utah, we were able to stay there each time we went. I have to give credit to my little angel, she is a fighter.  She recovered well from each expansion.  Overall, she has had close to thirty surgeries by the time she reached adulthood.

I believe that raising a child with a disability takes a lot of time and patience.  There are a lot of resources out there that can help depending on the nature of the disability.  I am so thankful that we had a network of doctors and family, as well as community resources to help us through this.  She is doing well now, and has defeated all odds set out against her.

My daughter had the odds stacked against her. We were told that she would never walk and have many other deficits.  She has overcome them all.  She was never placed in Special Ed classes.  We raised her to believe that “can’t” is not in her vocabulary, and that she could do anything she wanted to if she put her mind to it.

 

 

Techniques for a Successful School Year

To my readers out there, I wanted to post a blog about the various back to school techniques that worked for my children.  I had the class clown student who always got into trouble, then I had the gifted and talented child who never got into trouble at school, and finally I had one that was what I call in the middle.  She wasn’t the class clown, but a social butterfly, who just made the typical grades to get through school.  Because each child was so different, I came up with techniques that would not only make my life easier, but help them be successful students as well.

Study hour

Study hour should take place whether they have homework or not.  If they don’t have homework,  have them read a book.  Don’t let them just sit there for the hour; make them be productive.  Make this a part of their routine.

Nightly routine

Have them prepare for the next day the night before.  Have lunches made, backpacks ready and by the door, and clothes out for the next day.  Make sure they can complete their routine before their bedtime.  Sleep is a big key to having an alert and successful student.

Homework apps

There are so many homework apps that can help your child be successful.  Here are two apps that I think are really good.  “Kahn Academy” and “Photomath”.

Teachers

Encourage your child to ask questions.  If your child is shy, setup a meeting with the teacher to make him/her feel more comfortable.  Also, teach your child to be respectful of the teacher and the classroom rules.  Don’t expect the teacher to tolerate unruly behavior as this disrupts the classroom.

Nutrition

Make sure you or your child is packing a healthy lunch.  Also, make sure that your child has a healthy breakfast to start the day off right.

Lessons

When possible, add into everyday life some of the school lessons your child has learned.  For example, using cooking to incorporate Math is an excellent practical lesson.  They are learning units of measure and following directions.  When shopping, allow the child to determine how much money they should get back when you pay for your items.

If your children is struggling with a subject.  Teach them that with extra practice and help they can be successful at what they are struggling with.  Teach them that it’s okay to ask for help and to ask questions.

Discipline

Parents, don’t assume that your child is always right or is always telling the truth.  Always talk to the teacher with your child present.  Usually the story changes, once that child is in front of the teacher.  Don’t expect the teacher to pass your child if your child is not doing the work or making attempts to try.

Finally, no one is good at everything.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  It’s okay to let your kids fail.  I know that sounds horrible, but think about what that teaches them.  It teaches them problem solving techniques, and consequences for their actions.  All key skills needed in adulthood.  We all have made mistakes and have learned from them.  This will teach them that when they fall, they can pick themselves back up.

Decorating on a Dime

Decorating your home can be two things: costly and overwhelming.  I didn’t know where to begin.  Do I start upstairs or down?  In the kitchen or family room?  After about two days of pure frustration, I decided to make a game plan.  During those two days, I must have looked at a dozen websites on how to decorate or sites that sold home decor.  Some of the prices for certain decor was out of my price range.  I thought to myself, “there’s got to be a better way.”. This is when I decided to derive a plan that was going to serve as my guide.  It entailed the layout and style of the room I was decorating.  By creating the layout, it allowed me to see what I already had in the room.  Next, I came up with a  to-do list for that room that had to be done.

Homes can be decorated without breaking the bank.  Here’s how:

  1. Garage Sales.  It’s surprising what can be found at garage sales.  I got some great decor at rock bottom prices.  I especially look for moving sales.  They are trying to get rid of things for almost nothing, and remember you can always negotiate the price.
  2. Thrift Stores.  Another place with good bargains.  The best time to go is when they are having an additional 50% off the ticket price.  The sales usually takes place every other Saturday.  Try to get there early.
  3. Craig’s List.  This is another source where people can find a good bargain, especially if furniture is needed.  We got our kitchen table for $300.  It looks new.  In American Furniture Warehouse this same table with the chairs goes for about $800.00.  We saved quite a bit just by using Craig’s list.
  4. DYI.  You can always make your own decor.  When taking this approach, make sure to shop during sales and look at clearance items.  Many of the craft stores also have coupons and discounts that can be used, so be sure to look for those.  Usually, coupons can be pulled right off your phone in the store.

Keep in mind, you are not going to always find what you are looking for when you are out at garage sales of thrift stores.  It takes time.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for from the above options, go to a home decor store.  Use this as your last option.  Shop their sale and clearance items first.  Avoid paying full price.  Many of these stores also have coupons and discounts, make sure you ask about them.

This is how my house turned into a home.  It looks like I spent a ton of money decorating each room, but I didn’t.  Stay focused, only buy for the room that is being decorated.  It is so easy to go to garage sales or thrift stores and pick up little things here and there.  You will find yourself picking up things you don’t need. In addition, don’t move around to various rooms, stay with this room until it is completed.

There are so many options out there to making your home look great.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to create the style you want.  This is just another idea you can use that worked for my family and I.  I’m all about saving where I can and helping others do the same.  Be sure to visit us at www.ideastipsandsolutions.com for more ways to save.

 

Coping with Lupus

Lupus is a disease that you don’t hear much about until you are diagnosed with it or know someone who has the illness.  It is a chronic condition that can affect any organ of the body.  The symptoms vary depending on the person.  The most common type of Lupus is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  From my experience with the disease, it’s unpredictable and you never know which part of the body it will attack.  There is no cure, they can only treat the symptoms or flares of the disease.  If you are suffering from this disease or know someone who is, here are some coping mechanisms that I use.

Before I get to the coping mechanisms that works for me, let me give you a little background.  I was diagnosed almost twenty years ago.  It has kept me on my toes ever since.  What I mean by that is, something is always going on.  It’s always a mystery on how my day will go.  I never know if it’s going to be a productive day or another day spent in the bed.  It’s hard to plan things because you don’t know when a flare up is going to happen.  In the beginning, I was depressed and thought it was a death sentence, but it’s not. I decided to take control.

Here are some coping techniques that I use:

1. Get out of bed everyday.

A lot of Lupus sufferers have problems doing this.  Sometimes the battle begins when you first wake up.  If you are having one of those days and you manage to get out of bed, consider it a victory.  Remember to rest in between tasks if you have to.  This is not a race, so take your time.

2.  Mindset.

Have a positive approach.  Look at it from the prospective of….. I’m going to get through this flare.  Have a motto to keep you in good spirits.  I always say “God wouldn’t give me anything that I can’t handle.”

3.  Don’t let Lupus control you.

You are in control.  For years I always thought my Lupus was in control, but it’s not. You can still enjoy life.  Make plans with family and friends.  Get out more because you’ll be much happier if you do.

4.  Sense of humor.

I do believe that laughter is the best medicine.  A sense of humor helps.  Sometimes I just have to laugh to keep from crying.  Smiling helps, and it keeps me in a positive state of mind.

5.  Rest.

This was a hard one for me.  Listen to your body.  If you need to rest, then do so.  You don’t want a flare up or to make a flare up worse.  It will only cause more headaches down the road.  View this time as me time and watch a movie or read a book.  There are so many things you can do while resting.  Your body will thank you later.

6.  Diet and Exercise.

I know we’ve all heard it before.  So I’ll spare you the details of how important it is to eat healthy and exercise as permitted by your doctor.  I have to admit, I only eat right 80% of the time.  The other 20% I enjoy the foods that I love.  I do make sure that I eat green leafy vegetables as much as possible though and I take my vitamins daily.  Exercising is important because it gets you up and active.  My doctor told me I should walk fifteen minutes a day.  He said if I had to split it up during the day that was okay as long as I was getting in fifteen minutes a day.  If it’s a bad day, I have exercises that I can do sitting down.  Again, talk with your doctor to see what works for you.

7.  Good Day versus Bad Day

Just because you are having a good day, don’t try and do everything in that day.  Pace yourself.  I struggled with this one as well.   I tried to get everything completed that I needed to do because I didn’t know when I was going to have another good day.   Take it slow and rest in between tasks.  You want more good days than bad.

These are what I use to cope with Lupus.  Again, I know it affects people differently.  I know the battle you face each day.  Many of us put on a brave face for family and friends, but in the inside we are suffering silently.  I want to say to anyone suffering from this disease, don’t feel like you are alone.  I feel your pain and know what you are going through.  I’m here for you and if you need someone to vent to or just to listen please email me at ideastipsandsolutions@gmail.com.  Sometimes it’s easier talking to someone who is going through the same experience.

 

 

 

Effective Money Management Techniques

Did you ever want to take that dream vacation or just buy something because it was the latest trend without any worries?  We all have guilty pleasures that we like to spend our money on, but it’s how we spend it that makes the difference.  For me, I love designer handbags.  I thought to myself how can I afford to do this while keeping my budget intact?  Let’s face it ladies, when it comes to shopping the word budget sometimes goes out the window.  I came up with a way to afford the little things my family enjoys without breaking the bank.

When setting up your personal finances, make sure that your are considering your family’s needs.  Each family has their own financial goals they are trying to accomplish.  Whether it’s trying to save for that dream vacation or simply save for a rainy day.

I came up with five strategies that helped my family when it came to saving.  I have tried several different techniques over the past several months and these were the strategies that worked for my financial goals.

1.  Pay yourself first.

I can’t express this enough.  It took me a long time to grasp this concept.  Most people only save about 4% of their paycheck each month.  But if you are already on a limited income this can become difficult.  Start off small or what you can afford to put away each check.  Try putting away 2% of your paycheck if your income is limited.  Treat it like a bill.  Many people find it easier to have it automatically come out of their paycheck and straight into a savings account.  You can’t miss what you don’t see.

2.   Want versus Need.

This technique deals with credit card debt.  It is so easy to pull your credit card out of your wallet and charge your purchase.  When shopping ask yourself, it is a want or need?  Be honest with yourself, because we can easily justify or turn a want into a need.  Then tell yourself if I can’t pay cash for it, then I don’t need it.  This will reduced the amount you charge each month, rather then continuing to create credit card debt.

3.  Budgeting.

When you create your budget make sure that it considers all activities and obligations that your family has.  Each family’s budget is different and should tailor the specific needs of your household.  There are so many samples of budgets online or apps that can assist you in creating a budget.  If you’re like me, I have tried using several different apps and it just didn’t work for my family’s need.  I decided to create a budget in Excel.  I already had the program and the only thing it would cost me is my time.  I set my budget up to show me when my bills were due, the method of payment, and which pay period the bill falls under.  I’m a numbers person so I like to see how much each category affects my overall household expenditures.  In my budget, I setup a debt to income ratio so I can keep track on how this will affect my credit as well.  Only you know your budget.  You know what works and doesn’t for your household.  Also, at the end of each pay period I see how much discretionary income we have.

4.  Savings Account.

Setup a savings account that is not linked to your checking account or ATM card that way you won’t have easy access to the money you are putting away.

5.  Streamline your expenses.

I admit, I’m not big on using coupons.  You can save a lot just by using your local coupons that come in the mail each week or checking for discounts.  Every little bit helps.  I created menus as a part of my food budget, and I shop based off the menus.  I shop bi-weekly which keeps me from constantly going to the store and buying things we don’t need.  Once my grocery list is completed.  I start to search for coupons that pertains to my list.  I don’t want to buy something just because I have a coupon or it’s on sale.  If it’s not on the list then you don’t need it.  At the end of the year, you will be surprised how much you save just from the coupons and discounts you use.  For clothes, I shop out of season.  The money we save by doing this is tremendous.  Around early Spring and end of summer, shop the clearance racks they usually have an additional percentage off the clearance price.  I got some great bargains by doing this.

In addition, cut expenses where you can.  For example, try taking a lunch versus buying lunch.  Look at your monthly expenses and see where you can make additional cuts.  If you have cable, call the company and see if they are running any promotions they would reduce your bill.  Remember, every little bit helps.

These are just a few strategies that I thought maybe helpful to other families.  Keep in mind these are the techniques that are successful for my family.  I hope you have the same success as I did.