Archives for March 2015

How to make refillable k-cups work with the Keurig 2.0

Last week we decided to bite the bullet and replace our old Keurig that had gone toes up a few weeks earlier.  When trying out this new one, which is a model 2.0 that we got from Costco , John was disgusted to discover that the Refillable Single K-Cup Brewers  that we’ve been using with our old Keurig don’t work on this new version.

Make a reusable Keurig cup work with the Keurig 2.0



He called the company to find out where to get a new refill cup, but was told that the new Keurig was designed only to be used with the toss-away cups.  The worker explained that the machine is fitted with an electronic eye that reads the top of the K-cup.  So not only will it not ‘read’ the refill packs, it also won’t read some of the more affordable ‘off’ brands of throw-away cups.  John was aggravated at first, but then he had a great idea.

Keurig 2.0

He carefully removed the foil top from a K-cup that had already been used, and simply taped it to the top of one of our refill cups.  In these photos he used clear packing tape, but we found that duct tape, cut into thin strips to cover only tiny bits of the foil, is actually more durable.

Keurig 2.0 (2)

He then stuck the refillable cup into the coffee pot.  Voila!  The electronic eye had something to read, and it merrily chugged out a cup of coffee with nary a complaint.  I thought this was such a good idea that I decided to share it here, in case others of you have bought the Keurig 2.0 and were also frustrated by the same problem.

Note:  After writing this post, I googled the problem and came across this video telling how someone else solved this problem in a very similar way.  That way didn’t work for us– the foil crumples when you open and close the lid, but it might work for others, so I’m including the link just in case.


Frugal, not so frugal

Frugal: The biggest news around here is that I got that OB job at the local hospital.  I’ll start in early April and will work 3 shifts a week for a month as I get oriented. Once I am oriented I’ll cut back to two (night) shifts a week. Since John works only 3 (day) shifts a week, one of us will still be home the vast majority of the time. But it’s been SO long since I’ve worked away from home that it’s going to feel different, especially on the mornings where I’ll need to sleep.   The teens tend to already be fairly independent in their school, but I’m working up a simple checklist to help Em (12) and Julianna (10) stay on task.  It will be an adjustment, I’m sure, but I’m excited at the thought of helping moms and babies again– it’s such an exciting part of nursing.   And we’re really looking forward to getting our house paid off turbo-speed, which will free us up to work on some other projects we have in the works.  (I’ll talk more about those later.  🙂  )


Frugal, (eventually, probably): Since Lidya has been driving our minivan, and John usually has our tiny car, I’ve been driving our big 12-passenger van for my errands.  At 14 mpg, the gas costs are pretty high. Thinking of the increased driving that I’ll be doing, we bought commuter car for me for the princely sum of $1500.  So when John and I spotted a 2001 Hyundai Sonata with 127,000 miles on it, we checked it out and decided the price was right. It’s not pretty, but it runs great, has A/C and uses lots less gas than our big van. Since the paint is flaking off in chunks,  I am toying with the idea of having Emily, my resident artist, decorate it something along these lines.  Wouldn’t that be fun?? Probably not the whole car, and probably quite gradually.  But she thinks it sounds like a really fun summer project, so we’ll see how that goes.

Not so frugal: we started a project to replace the tile backsplash in our kitchen. At first I brought home a boring-looking tile sample that neither John nor I ended up liking with our cabinets.  Too blah compared to my cabinets which have a definite red tinge.  We went together to Home Depot and immediately found something that we both liked. It’s a glass one-inch tile with colors that remind me of copper pennies.  It is fun and sparkly and gypsy-ish.  I am hoping to have a post next week once we get the project finished– we’ve been hard at work on in this week.  The tile priced out at about $80 for the whole project, which I thought wasn’t too bad at all.  But once we’d bought grout and tools and everything, it ended up being more along the lines of $160.  Ah, well.

Frugal:  I did pretty well cooking out of the freezer and pantry this past week– it helped to have the menus laid out ahead of time.  I also got bread at the dollar store, and stashed a few casseroles in the freezer for easy meals on days that I work.

Not so frugal:  I am already finding myself heading toward more convenience food to stash in the freezer for the kids on my work days.  I want the kids to be able to easily feed themselves, especially in the first month or two as we are adjusing to this new thing.  My work will be a big boost to our income, so I think it’s an acceptable tradeoff.  But I will still need to be aware, and try not to go overboard with the easy stuff just because we will have more income. Ya know?  Also, I need to get back in the habit of double-batching food every single week, so that I can keep a freezer stash for the busy times.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this adjustment to part time work–  I already have it in my head that I just need to be super-intentional about all the time I will still have at home, and make sure to fit in fun with the kids right along with the mundane.

How did your week go?  What’s new in your world?  Are you looking forward to the end of the school year?  I know I am!


Julianna’s Favorite Breakfast

Once when I was a little girl, my Aunt Edie came to our house and made us deliciously thin pancakes for breakfast that she buttered, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and rolled up before serving. We kids inhaled them, told our mom she needed the recipe, and then ever after that, called the lovely creations ‘Aunt Edie Pancakes’.

This recipe has been a perennial favorite of my own kids as well, though we tend to save them for things like birthday breakfasts. Recently that all changed, however, when Julianna, age 10, learned how to make them for herself. She’s in love, and so pleased that she can make this yummy treat herself!
Julianna's pancakes

Aunt Edie Pancakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Yield: Serves 5-6

Aunt Edie Pancakes


  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter (you will only use part of it)
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl and whisk into a thin smooth batter. (Add a dab more milk if it looks thick.) Julianna usually mixes her batter in an 8-cup glass measuring cup with a spout, so it is easy to pour the batter onto the skillet.
  2. Oil a skillet lightly and set over medium heat. When skillet is hot, pour enough batter onto the skillet to make a thin pancake about 6-8 inches in diameter. Tilt the pan a little to spread the batter out even more, as these pancakes should be very thin.
  3. Cook until the edges of the pancake start to dry and curl up a bit and it is just beginning to get some golden color on that first side of the pancake, about 30-60 seconds.
  4. Flip and cook pancake on the other side for another 30 seconds or so. Remove pancake to a plate and immediately butter by rubbing with a stick of butter.
  5. Sprinkle the whole buttered surface of the pancake with a couple tablespoons powdered sugar, then roll it up. Keep warm until serving.

PS-My Aunt Edie also happens to be a very talented art glass designer.   Click on over if you should happen to be interested in seeing the beautiful things she creates.

balance and intensity in family life

For many years while decision-making, I’ve fallen back on wisdom from my mom: “Moderation in everything.”

Often those sage words point me toward a path that will make sense for my whole family, whether I’m making out a learning plan for our school year, or trying to decide how clean the house really needs to be for my sanity, or monitoring my kids video games or phone time, or deciding how much time we can squeeze in on the beach this year. Wow, it can be tricky to decide where to go or what to do and how much of it will fit. But very often the best, most reasonable answer for our clan is not at the fringes of possibility but somewhere in the middle of that pendulum swing.

Balance in everything.Finding Balance in Motherhood

And yet, there is such intensity in family life, isn’t there? Those bedtime moments when everyone is losing it and you’re trying to bundle multiple little ones off to bed before the very.last.iota of your energy forsakes you.

Days where two or three or four kids need toting to all different places at the same time while also somehow you need to fit in grocery shopping and and a doctor’s appointment or a work meeting, plus laundry and dinner.

Days where a couple of different kids come off the rails emotionally and you set aside a lot that needs to be done for what really, really must be done right.this.minute. And the dinner burns.

Days where a child is sick and all you can do is rock and console and give baths and change sheets.  And the laundry piles high.

Times like that, there is no moderation or balance– or at least it doesn’t feel like it. It’s just triage –dealing with the very most pressing needs at that moment and letting the rest fall where it falls.

Those inevitable times of intensity in life can sometimes point out places where my family’s balance isn’t quite right. But not always. Sometimes they’re just signs of the season I’m in right at that moment.

When my house is full of tiny ones and I don’t yet have bigger ones to help, there will most certainly be times of day that feel chaotic and messy and not a bit scripted or organized. No matter how many systems I put into place (put the jammies and towels on the bathroom counter, set the sippies by the beds, follow a simple calm bedtime routine) there are just so many needs, and sometimes they’re gonna clash.

When my family is large and growing toward the teen years and I want to give each child opportunities and activities and time for friendships, I will be the car-mom in the afternoons and evenings, and sometimes I’ll wish I could split myself into two or three or four to meet those needs.September canning

When multiple teens are reaching lift-off phase, I’ll be spending lots of time talking through logistics and counseling regarding money, and doing practice-driving with kids, and showing kids how to write resumes, and coaching them to smile and shake hands and look potential bosses in the eye. It’ll take tons of mental energy and wisdom to think through ways to handle problem behavior while nurturing connection. I’ll be yawning late at night and looking at the clock and listening for cars to pull in the driveway and praying, praying, praying.

Then of course there are the times when projects create times of chaos. When painting bedrooms or canning tomatoes or sorting summer clothes takes up every speck of slack in your life and all manner of other things go by the wayside.

It doesn’t feel the least bit balanced in any of those moments of intensity, does it? It can feel like you’re just hanging by a thread, doing the minimum on most of life just to meet those most pressing needs.

Certainly the more balanced the underlying structure is, the more energy you’ll have to meet needs in those times of great intensity. A huge part of that balance is remembering my true priorities in life: faith in God and relationships with the people around me. But also I have begun to take comfort in reminding myself that in life, chaos happens. It just does. Doesn’t mean I’m doing a thing wrong. Doesn’t mean that I need to be casting about for some perfect fix to stop this from happening tomorrow.

No matter what I do, there’s gonna be time like this. It’ll all be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

So I keep breathing, keep praying, keep loving my people, and keep trusting that God has this all figured out.  That’s where the real balance is.

Come to think of it, my momma taught me that too.

Frugal Friday: When One Meal Morphs Into Another

I saw this article yesterday The Never-Ending Soup Pot and thought it was a great explanation of a concept that can save you time and let you use your food in a very affordable way. Very often a meal doesn’t have to be a completely new beginning. Often you can use building blocks from another meal.

I personally have never served soup every day for a week. However I often cook multiples meals in stages. For example, this last Saturday I cooked a turkey, which we served with mashed potatoes and gravy. The next day (after making a HUGE pot of bone broth with the turkey bones) I made turkey noodle soup, enough that we had it for two meals. One Tuesday we had turkey sandwiches for lunch. On Wednesday some of the kids made turkey wraps with fresh-cooked tortillas (I love the uncooked flour tortillas from Costco that you can cook at home!) And on Thursday I made a creamy cheesy soup with potatoes, veggies and turkey, using the bone broth that I’d made over the weekend, as well as any veggies in the fridge that were needing to be used. Definitely a week much heavier on turkey than usual. But because we did a variety of different things with the turkey, no one was bored with it. In fact, my boys would happily eat turkey wraps many days of the week, if there happened to be turkey available.

cooking chicken to freeze

Another example of this is how I often handle ground beef. A time or two a month I will cook a LOT of ground beef all at once– maybe 8-10 pounds. I season and use it for tacos on night # 1. Because I cook so much, there’s lots leftover for other purposes. Some of what remains goes into spaghetti sauce another night. Another cup or two of the cooked meat will go into hamburger veggie chowder later in the week. A few cups goes into baggies in the freezer for easy use later. And usually I also remember to set aside a couple cups of the spaghetti sauce to go on pizza yet another day. That means I get at least 4-6 meals of meal from one meat-cooking session. It tremendously speeds my effort in the kitchen.

That’s all I’ve got for you this week in the frugality department, but I’d love to hear how your week went.


Caroline Ingalls and me

Funny how a character from a book can grab you in childhood and never ever leave you.  I found myself thinking again about the Laura Ingalls books the other day, and wondered what had so captivated me about those books.  First I thought maybe it was Laura.  Definitely there were times in my early life where I felt like I fit awkwardly into my world, which was also a common feeling of Laura’s.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls

But thinking deeper, I realized that it was actually Caroline Ingalls who made the biggest impact on my adult life.  She was always making the best of her circumstances, adding beauty to her home in all sorts of ways, and encouraging her family to learn and to be graceful and courageous in the midst of challenge.

One of the stories that comes back to me often is the way she used carrot juice to color winter-pale butter.  She got the juice by grating a carrot over an old tin pan pierced with nails, and then wrapping the carrot bits in cloth and squeezing the juice out.  She wanted her butter to be pretty even in the winter time.

There are stories of her making over dresses, and telling her girls stories from her childhood, and putting colored ribbons in her girls’ hair, and teaching them to read from the two books that they owned.  She treasured a little china doll that she kept on a pretty shelf, and was dismayed at first by living in the sod house built into a hill on the banks of Plum Creek.  Then, just like always, she squared her shoulders and made the best of it.

The book most memorable to me and my very favorite was ‘The Long Winter”.  Caroline had to call on every skill to help her family through that terrible winter. They ground wheat in a coffee grinder, and burned hay in the wood stove when the firewood was gone, and barely, barely lived through those long cold days.

It was not til adulthood that I understood another, equally powerful strength that Caroline possessed.  She was able to love her husband well, and support and treasure him even as he carried his family hither and yon to all the different places they lived during Laura’s childhood.  Charles was a dreamer, a restless soul, and (I think) not always a good decision-maker.  Very often he asked his family to move right as life was getting easier for Caroline– when the garden was getting productive and the children were enjoying school and the well had been dug and the house was cozy and warm.

How hard it must have been for Caroline to acquiesce to each move gracefully, to trust her husband’s judgement though she knew his decisions often brought her family great challenge.  Of course it was a different time, one where men were expected to lead and women just followed.  And Laura probably omitted some of the hard moments and hard conversations that his decisions sparked.

But what I read in those books, even now as an adult, is strength and grace and a powerfully honoring way about her.  I think it was she who helped him be the best man that he could be.

In my mind, she’s the real heroine in the Laura Ingalls books, possessing both skills that I’ve worked to cultivate and others that I don’t remotely yet have a grasp on.  I’m glad to have had such a strong woman to inhabit my mind, both in my childhood and even now that I’m all grown up.

What about you?  Do characters in childhood books still live in your mind?


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Different perspectives

We’ve had a broken garage door opener for awhile, and today, thinking of fixing it, John dragged a box out of a corner in which was a hand-me-down garage opener, brand new in the box.  Trying to decide whether to risk installing the old thing, John broke open the sealed box and found this VHS, which should tell you a lot about just how old this garage opener it actually is.

“Look at the 80’s hair on that girl,” John exclaimed. “And the shoulder pads.”


A few minutes later our 12 year old came in the room and picked up the VHS to examine the picture. “Look at her selfie-muscles!”



Sunday music

I haven’t done Sunday music on my blog for awhile, but I had to share this song by I am They that I heard at the Rock and Worship Roadshow this weekend.

The Roadshow still has a few West Coast dates if you want to hear some great music from I Am They and many others.

Frugal Friday

I thought it might be fun to show you this week’s menu plan instead of my regular frugal Friday details.  I do menu planning in kind of a loosy goosy way–  meaning, before I go shopping, I make a list of 14 or so recipes that would be good dinners in the next couple weeks, ideally using as many ingredients as I can from my pantry and freezer.  Then I make a grocery list from that menu list, filling in the items that I still need to buy.

Our new baby chicks!

Our new baby chicks!

As I planned this week, I had my two half-full freezers on the brain.  One of them needs to be defrosted and ideally I’d like to be able to turn it off for a few months, until it’s time to butcher our steer.  So as I menu plan I  I need to use up some of the bulky items so that I can consolidate everything in one freezer. Literally the biggest item in that category is a 20-pound turkey which is currently thawing in my fridge.  It’ll be turkey dinner for a couple nights, with hopefully enough left over to make turkey tortilla soup a different night.  I’ve included links to some of these recipes here on the blog, as well as page numbers to some other ones that are in my cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

I think that menu planning is huge in successfully lowering a grocery budget.  It just makes you much more intentional– less wasteful and more proactive.  So here’s what we’ll be having for dinner for the next couple weeks!


Turkey and mashed potatoes (x2)

Make your own pizza (x2)

Fried rice and (costco) potstickers

Tacos with ground beef

Chicken Fajitas  (Family Feasts, p. 140)

Chili and cornbread x2 (Family Feasts p. 188)

Injera and doro wat (Family Feasts p. 180)

West African peanut chicken

Mexican tortilla skillet (Family Feasts p. 129)

Pasta carbonera  (Family Feasts p . 164)

Turkey tortilla soup (Family Feasts p. 175)

Chicken skillet pie  (Family Feasts p. 100)


If you don’t yet have a copy of Family Feasts for $75 a Week, check it out on amazon, and see what other readers are saying about it.  And as I cook during these next couple weeks, I’ll try to get another recipe or two up on the blog.  Though it’s awesome if you want to purchase the book, I am working to make my blog a great source of cooking inspiration also.

Happy cooking, and I’d love to hear about your frugality efforts this week!

Six Essentials in the Homeschool Day

If you’re feeling like you don’t get enough done in the average homeschool day, join the club! I have great news for you, though. It is possible to get a kid well prepared for adulthood if your homeschool day includes only six things. Here they are:

1. Time in the word. We fit this in at breakfast.  We take turns reading a bit of scripture while everyone eats.  It is  our hope and our help every day, and ideally guides all our interactions, especially in hard moments. Are we serving Jesus, or ourselves, with each decision?

6 Essentials in the Homeschool Day

6 Essentials in the Homeschool Day

2. Reading. This is the core of academic learning. If you have a child who spends time reading, you have a learner. Make sure there are plenty of good books in the home. I also like to alternate books of the child’s choice and books that I choose, to broaden the child’s reading horizons.  I often choose books that will teach a child a bit about a particular time in history– that way I’m covering reading and history.

3. Math. If you get a bit of math done each day, you are setting your child up for success with future learning. You don’t have to do tons each day. Just some.

4. Writing. In younger grades this can look like spelling or handwriting. In older grades you can assign creative writing, or essays on specific topics. Get kids comfortable with putting words on a page and you are setting him up to win at a huge variety of future careers.  Here’s a post I wrote about teaching essay writing.

5. Time to pursue a passion. Some kids might want to become fluent in Spanish. Others might be artists. Still others might be interested in creating a speaker for an Mp3 player or learning a new judo move. Not every child will discover a passion easily, but giving them space to investigate, to learn, or create will help them along that path.  (I think that limiting video games and screen time is a component of this as well, since it gives kids space to get bored enough to explore….)

6. Service. Some time each day should be spent doing something that benefits the family. In our house that’s usually something mundane like laundry or dishes or vacuuming. Maybe it doesn’t sound academic, but it’s teaching kids work ethic and skills for the future, and that’s every bit as important as math.

Are you able to fit those 6 things into your school day on a regular basis? Then you’re doing great!   Eventually as kids move into the teen years, you’ll need to make subjects like science and history happen more often, but even then you  can mix it up.  For example, cover physical science one semester and world history another.  Or do science a couple days a week all year long.  But don’t feel bad if your fallback position on crazy days is those basic six things.  Your kids are still learning!

For more real-world homeschooling advice, check out my latest book, Practical Homeschooling for Real-World Families.


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