Keeping It Frugal: Teen Birthday Edition

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My eldest son can be a hard nut to crack. He just turned 14, he has few wants, and he isn’t into parties. Not. One. Bit. While his younger brother is a party animal, Brandon prefers to reserve birthdays for the family.

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Me? I love a party. Especially with a theme and lots of planning. Brandon? He’d rather go to a vintage fair with his grandma or hang out with his parents. So that’s what he did!

He had only one request — he wanted me to attempt an ice cream cake. I kept it simple and made a two layer yellow cake and frosted it with store-bought ice cream. Don’t you love the happy birthday bunting I made for it?

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We spent the afternoon at a little vintage fair, and then headed to a local milkshake shop in an old “milk bottle” building for lunch. (Picture not mine)

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Good thing I didn’t plan anything, because his birthday landed on the same day as our summer block party. The block had even arranged for everyone to get a shaved ice!

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We kept the presents simple. I purchased a small Lego set from his wish list, and we also gave hm a multi-tool I had squirreled away after Christmas and I made him his own Lego storage bin/side table for his room. He was thrilled.

All in all, a good time was had by all. I can’t believe this kid is taller than me!

The Almost-Free Homeschool Curriculum Sale continues through September! Get it now at Amazon!

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Almost-Free Homeschool Curriculum: 2nd Grade Now Available!

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Curriculum SaleI am pleased to announce that the second grade guide is now available on Amazon! We cover reading and language arts, math, science, history, art and options for extracurriculars like music and language.

The guides are not a full curriculum material. The guides provide weekly or monthly schedules, depending on the subject and grade, along with the free resources to complete each week’s studies.

When I first started homeschooling my eldest, I realized how many wonderful free resources were out there. The only problem was finding the best way to integrate them into our school day! My solution was to develop the schedules. These schedules provide a comprehensive road map that turns your free resources into an open and go homeschool curriculum.

I’ve even included blank scheduling pages so you can adapt the schedule system to your own materials and resources!

The Almost-Free 2nd Grade Curriculum is on sale now for $3.99. All grades are available on sale until I publish the last grade level. 6th and 1st grade coming soon!

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Menu Plan Friday: Cucumber Salad

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Cucumber Salad

Half Price Sale Extension on the Almost-Free Homeschool Curriculum series— Limited time!

 

The one thing I will miss most from summer will be the abundance of cucumbers — whether you grow them or buy them, summer cucumbers are crisp, large and cheap! Even my youngest son will eat this cucumber salad. It’s just the right blend of spicy and sweet. If you don’t finish it all right away, that’s okay! The cucumbers become almost like pickles after a few days.

Saturday: Fried rice — a fake out take out staple.

Sunday: BLTs or leftovers — mama don’t cook on Sundays!

Monday: Alfredo pasta, maybe with chicken, maybe with sausage, with a side of broccoli

Tuesday: Cornbread taco bake with cucumber salad RECIPE BELOW

Wednesday: BBQ chicken bread and roast carrots

Thursday: Pesto pasta and cauliflower

Friday: Cheeseburger buns and salad

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/4 of an onion -- white, red or yellow
  • 1/4 cup vinegar -- rice, apple cider or plain
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less or more to taste)

Instructions

  1. Mix the sugar, vinegar, water and pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves -- about 3 minutes. Cool completely.
  2. Slice the cucumber into 1/2-inch wide rounds, halving the rounds for especially large cucumbers. You can peel or leave the peel on.
  3. Place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Set a plate on top the colander to weight the cucumbers down. Let sit for about 45 minutes so the salt can leech the excess water out of the cukes, then rinse them briefly and pat dry.
  4. Finely dice the onion. Stir the onion and cucumber together.
  5. Pour the cooled vinegar solution over the salad and mix thoroughly.
  6. Chill for at least two hours before serving so the flavors mix well!
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A Few Frugal Things

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Half Price Sale Extension on the Almost-Free Homeschool Curriculum series— Limited time!

Turnip Money Frugal Living and HomeschoolThis week I have:

  • Made a simple “faux” quilt as a baby gift. (how to coming next week)
  • Scored a beautiful vintage poetry and art book for 50 cents to use as another gift.
  • Planned a frugal and fun birthday for my oldest son.
  • Enjoyed an afternoon barbecue with good friends.
  • Finished purchasing all our 2014/15 school supplies and books — for less than $10!
  • I made an ice cream cake, for the first time, from scratch!
  • We didn’t eat out, but then we never do, so that doesn’t really count ;)

What frugal things did you do?

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Back to School: Almost Free Curriculum Special Announcement!

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Almost Free Homeschool 5th GradeFirst, I am happy to announce that the 5th Grade Year of the Almost-Free Secular Homeschool curriculum is available on Amazon Kindle! Head over and get your copy today! Currently, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th are available.

I’ve decided to reward my faithful readers (that’s you ;) ) by extending the sale until all 8 elementary and middle grades are published! I am close to finishing the remaining three volumes and I am so grateful for everyone’s patience and support, so this is my way of saying THANK YOU! Your reviews and emails have been amazing, and I am so glad that so many of you are finding these materials to be a helpful resource.

I hope to have all the volumes published by the end of September, if not sooner. I will continue the sale for two weeks after the final volume is published!

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Homemade Mondays: Fall Cleaning

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It’s September now and we are about to settle into our fall schedule. Although there is technically three weeks of summer left, around this time it really starts to feel like fall — school buses, shorter days and cooler temperatures tend to do that!

Almost everyone has heard of spring cleaning, but fall cleaning is just as important. Although cleaning isn’t homemade, it does help make the home. We usually do our fall cleaning in September right after the eldest boy’s birthday. I thought I share our cleaning schedule and a few tricks we use to make it quick and painless!

Spring/Fall Cleaning

Kitchen

Wash walls

Scrub cabinet doors

Clean freezer

Clean oven

Clean dishwasher

Sort pantry

Bathrooms

Clean/stock medicine cabinets

Wash shower curtains

Organize linens

Wash walls

Bedrooms

Organize

Sort closets

Wash windows

Dust blinds/furniture

Flip mattresses

Wash linens

Living Rooms

Declutter

Wash walls

Wash sofa covers

Clean carpets

Laundry Room

Declutter

Scrub floors

Organize storage

Closets & Other

Organize hall closet

Organize coat closet

Organize office

Wash car

Clean AC filters/fans

Outdoors

Spring

Weed & Feed lawn

Clean patio

Uncover/plant garden

Weed paths

Sweep/wash deck and house walls

Rake up winter debris

Fall

Final mow

Put away tools/hose

Put away pool

Replace duck bedding

Clean patio

Weed/mulch garden

Sweep deck/rake lawn

 As you can see, our fall and spring cleaning is almost the same! Everyone will have different things on their list — for example, I’m sure not all my readers have ducks to worry about :)

We spend about a week on fall cleaning, although the outdoor stuff may happen in October or November depending on the weather. I know some people like to clean room by room, but our method is a bit different.

First, we divide up the rooms amongst everyone in the family for basic organizing. The kids naturally have to do their own rooms plus one other. Then, we divide up the cleaning chores amongst everyone and assign days. Then, we spend and hour or two each day for a week tackling the chores. The schedule may look something like this:

Day 1: Organize rooms and closets. Surfaces are wiped down during organization — book shelves, inside drawers, drawer shelves, basically any surface that doesn’t get cleaned weekly when we regularly dust.

Day 2: Finish organization (these are usually the big projects, such as organizing the basement storage or the garage. We tend to stay fairly organized because I am the exact opposite of a hoarder).

Day 3: Vertical cleaning — this includes walls, windows, fans and blinds/drapes. Anything that will send dust or dirt down on other surfaces. Generally, one kid does windows indoors, one gets walls, Drew gets ceilings and fans, and I take the outdoor windows.

Day 4: Heavy scrubbing. Now is when we get the grout as shiny white as we can, scrub those forgotten floor corners and clean under the fridge (including vacuuming the coils on the back), and generally scrub anything that needs heavy scrubbing. For this day, we each usually take a room and set to it. Since we clean pretty thoroughly every week, this chore isn’t as hard it sounds.

Day 5: Day 5 is when we get all those little things — we flip mattresses, wash those forgotten linens in the bedroom like bed skirts and throw pillows, clean the shower curtains and sofa cushion covers, and change out filters. Depending on how dirty things got and how on top of our chores we have been, this is often the easiest of all the days.

Day 6: Day 6 isn’t always the 6th day, depending on weather, because this is when we head outdoors. We clean out the inside of the car from a summer’s worth of fun, put away outdoor items we won’t be using anymore for the season, and generally do our fall outdoor chores. This usually takes a whole day, but sometimes we divide it out over a weekend.

I print the list and hang it on a clipboard. As each person completes their item they check it off and sign it. Kids have to have an adult inspect their work before it gets checked off. We divide out the list and assign days to each chore before we begin, but everyone can work ahead on the list if they want to finish earlier.

How do you fall clean, from a list or do you just play it by ear?

Spring/Fall Cleaning

Kitchen

Wash walls

Scrub cabinet doors

Clean freezer

Clean oven

Clean dishwasher

Sort pantry

Bathrooms

Clean/stock medicine cabinets

Wash shower curtains

Organize linens

Wash walls

Bedrooms

Organize

Sort closets

Wash windows

Dust blinds/furniture

Flip mattresses

Wash linens

Living Rooms

Declutter

Wash walls

Wash sofa covers

Clean carpets

Laundry Room

Declutter

Scrub floors

Organize storage

Closets & Other

Organize hall closet

Organize coat closet

Organize office

Wash car

Clean AC filters/fans

Outdoors

Spring

Weed & Feed lawn

Clean patio

Uncover/plant garden

Weed paths

Sweep/wash deck and house walls

Rake up winter debris

Fall

Final mow

Put away tools/hose

Put away pool

Replace duck bedding

Clean patio

Weed/mulch garden

Sweep deck/rake lawn

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Menu Plan Friday: Chicken Cordon Bleu Rice

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August only! The Almost-Free Homeschool Secular Curriculum is on sale for half-price. You can find it here

Chicken Cordon Bleu RiceAnother week, another menu! This week, I want to share with you Chicken Cordon Bleu Rice. This casserole is perfect when you want those rich flavors, but are low on money or meat. It stretches items that would normally only serve one adult into a meal for four with plenty of leftovers!

Saturday: Fake-out Take-out — One Pot Lo Mein

Sunday: Leftovers or sandwich night — usually BLTs.

Monday: Chicken bacon ranch pasta and broccoli

Tuesday: Jambalaya bowls

Wednesday: Ham Crepes and cauliflower

Thursday: Chicken cordon bleu rice and cucumber salad RECIPE BELOW!

Friday: Bubble up lasagna and roasted vegetables

Chicken Cordon Bleu Rice

Chicken Cordon Bleu Rice

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 cup ham chunks, or shred up some deli ham lunchmeat if you're cheap like me
  • 1/2 cup shredded or sliced cheese -- Swiss is traditional, but anything works
  • 4 tb butter
  • 4 tb flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 tb mustard (preferably dijon or brown)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 3/4 cups bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a casserole dish
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan and whisk in the flour until it bubbles and begins to thicken. Slowly stir in the milk and water/broth, stirring constantly, making a thick white sauce.
  3. Stir the mustard, pepper and salt into the white sauce. Remove from the heat.
  4. Stir half the sauce into the cooked rice, and then smooth the rice into the bottom of the casserole dish.
  5. Layer the ham and shredded chicken on top the rice.
  6. Cover with the sliced or shredded cheese.
  7. Pour the rest of the white sauce over the casserole, and then top with the bread crumbs.
  8. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until it's bubbling and the breading turns golden.
  9. Enjoy!
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Homeschool for Free! A Few Favorite Links

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August only! The Almost-Free Homeschool Secular Curriculum is on sale for half-price. You can find it here!

Homeschool for Free

Everyone loves free stuff! Here’s a few fun links I’ve found this week I wanted to share:

Udemy.com: Although many of these courses cost money, there’s also a lot of free ones to choose from, especially in the art, craft and humanities section. This looks like a fun one for Middle School and High School students!

Book Adventure: This one looks like a lot of fun for K-8 students. Kids read books from the list, take a short quiz, and earn points. The points are redeemable for real prizes, like books, CDs, fancy candy, small toys, and kid-appropriate magazine subscriptions!

Scistarter: Scistarter is for citizen scientists, and they have plenty of options for kids. Help real scientists with their research. There are a ton of possibilities to choose from — help scientists map Mars, study marine life in a nearby lake, track local migratory birds, and much more!

Until next time, happy homeschooling!

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