Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gettin' Our Hands Dirty

Over the long weekend, I decided to create a fun, hands-on learning experience for the kids by planting our own container garden of tomatoes, green peppers and sweet basil. In my head, I envisioned a mini science lesson of sorts. Starting out with worksheets about plant growth and the identifying the different parts of the plant. Pretty ambitious for 5, 3 and 1 year olds I know LOL! While it didn't quite work out that way, I think the experience was a lesson in and of itself.

Ashleigh & Clayton filling the pots with soil

Reedy came over to check things out

Poor baby also got a big mosquito bite on his forehead :(

Sampling a little of the soil. It's organic, right?!?

Group shot!

Experiencing one of God's little creatures

Clayton's turn to hold Mr. Earthworm (I have no idea why he's sticking his tongue out! LOL!)

Watering the plants

More silly faces!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - June 2nd

Last week's Carolina BBQ was a big hit on Memorial Day! It turned out so well, I went to Harris Teeter to pick up another pork butt before the sale ended. It's nicely tucked away in the freezer for the 4th of July. Also loved the kefir smoothies! Tasted very much like yogurt to me but much more filling.

Here's our menu and grocery totals for the week. For more meal plan ideas visit Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Breakfast & Lunches: Items already on hand including Easy Fruit Coffee Cake.


Saturday - Leftovers - BBQ sandwiches w/cole slaw and beans

Sunday - Oven Roasted Chicken w/mashed potatoes and steamed veggies

Monday - Baked Falafels w/cucumber sauce served in whole wheat pitas

Tuesday - Veggie Lo Mein

Wednesday - Turkey Meatballs w/BBQ sauce, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies

Thursday - Taco Style Lentils & Rice served w/ warmed hard taco shells, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese and sour cream

Friday - Kashi pizza (Momma needs a break LOL!)

Grocery Spending: Total Spent $81.24


Tuf kitchen trash bags 30ct

WAG 75w light bulbs 4pk (FREE after rebate)

Huggies Pull Ups (sale 9.49 - 1.50Q)
1 box dried cranberries

Total oop: $0 (Paid using Rx transfer gift card)

Total savings: $2.50 (plus $1.69 light bulb rebate w/10% extra for having rebate added to WAG gift card)

Lowes Foods:

3 Nature's Own Organic whole wheat bread (sale 1.89)

1 3lb bag PAWS dry cat food (sale 2.50)

3 Dial bar soap 3pk (FREE w/overage - sale 1.00 - .60/1 Q doubled)

1 Full Circle organic garbanzo beans (sale .75)

1 LF bread crumbs (sale 1.29)

1 Cascade rinse aid (2.59 - .40/1 Q doubled)

1 Stoneyfield Organic plain yogurt 32oz (3.69 - $1/1 Q)

1 LF frozen corn (sale 1.00)

1 LF frozen green peas (sale 1.00)

1 Toufayan whole wheat pita 6ct

1 5lb Perdue whole chicken (sale .99/lb)

1 Dole cole slaw mix

1 Pepsi 2lt (.49 w/green points)
1 seedless cucumber (.49 w/green points)

vidalia onions (sale .99/lb)

cabbage head (sale .39/lb)

Total oop: $27.85

Total savings: $20.77

Harris Teeter:
3 Daisy sour cream (FREE - sale 1.00 - .50/1 Q doubled)
HT Apple Juice (sale 1.79ea)

1 Kashi Tomato & Garlic pizza (sale 5.00 - $1/1 Q)

1 HT Premium OJ (sale 2.50 - 2.00 E-vic)

3 gallons HT Organic milk (sale 4.99ea)

Total oop: $29.04
Total savings: $13.33

Food Lion:

1 Huggies Pull Ups (sale 8.99 - $2/1 Q)

Total oop: $7.60

Total savings: $4.00


1 Earthbound Farms organic lettuce head (sale 1.00)

1 Earthbound Farms organic broccoli bunch (sale 2.00)

2 Smart Balance spread 2pk (sale 1.77ea)

1.3 lb Shadybrook 93/7 fresh ground turkey (sale 1.99)

2 Egglands Best eggs (2.59 - .35/1 Q doubled)

2 KR shredded cheddar cheese (sale 1.66 ea)

Roma tomatoes (sale $1/lb)

Total oop: $16.75

Total savings: $9.34

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - May 26th

Hope everyone is having a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend! Here's our menu plan and grocery totals for the week. Thanks to the Kikkoman deal at Lowes Foods, I had several $2 OYNO catalinas which I used this week for additional savings. For more meal ideas visit Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Breakfast & Lunches: Items already on hand including Strawberry Banana Kefir Smoothies. I've never tried kefir before - fingers crossed it tastes good!


Saturday - Pork & Shrimp egg rolls with Golden Veggie Fried Rice

Sunday - Stew Beef & Onions w/gravy served over brown rice, steamed veggies

Monday - Carolina BBQ served on whole wheat buns w/coleslaw, corn on the cob and pork n beans

Tuesday - Feta & Vegetable Rotini Pasta Salad w/honey wheat bread

Wednesday - Dirty Rice (using ground pork sausage) w/corn on the cob

Thursday - Speedy Triple Decker Club (substituting sliced turkey for chicken) w/organic sweet potato fries

Friday - Pizza Out - Ashleigh's Graduation!

Grocery Spending: Total Spent $75.57


2 Huggies Pull-Ups

1 Huggies diaper wipes

2 Eggland's Best eggs

1 loaf Private Selection Organic Harvest Wheat bread

Total oop: $20.80
Total savings: $11.50

Harris Teeter:

3 gallons Organic Valley milk

6lb Hormel pork butt

2 HT Colas

1 Raid Ant spray

1 Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner


Total oop: $26.14
Total savings: $15.13

Lowes Foods

1 Lifeway Strawberry Kefir 32oz

1/2 gallon Full Circle Organic milk

10 cans Paws cat food

3 Meow Mix cat treats (FREE!)

3 Meow Mix market select cat food (FREE!)

1 LF cream of mushroom soup
1 Athenos feta cheese

1 Hormel Black Label low sodium bacon

1 Nature's Own wheat buns

1 TN Pride rolled sausage

8 jars Beech Nut stage 2 baby food

2 Kraft salad dressings (1 FREE!)

1 Cascade Action Pacs 20ct

1 McCormick ground mustard

1 LF apple cider vinegar

LF apple juice

10 ears yellow corn

jumbo red onion
roma tomatoes

green pepper

boston lettuce


Total oop: $28.63

Total savings: $53.84

Saturday, May 24, 2008


This was just too cute and too sweet not to share. Over the past two days, I've been the recipient of not one - but two love notes from my dear, sweet husband. The first was hidden in the checkbook. The plan was for me to discover the note as I was paying my copay at the dentist office yesterday. But of course I decided to use the debit card instead of writing a check LOL! It wasn't until I got home and was speaking with Dave on the phone that he prompted me to look in the checkbook.

This morning, another note appeared taped to the TV in the bedroom. And this is what it said:

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Your vacation is underway! Don't forget that this is what you were meant to do with your life. Embrace this day and your babies. Teach, praise, love and most of all enjoy knowing that this is but a taste of the life you are no longer dreaming of having, but actively working towards achieving. I love and cherish you (Evidence: I picked up cat poop out of the sun room today by the sliding glass door). Don't let this day get away from you. Take it and make it what you want it to be. I can hardly wait to get back home and hear about your wonderful day. Love Dave.

Awwwwww! He cleaned up cat poop for me!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On the Road to Freedom

In January of this year, Dave and I looked at our finances and realized something had to change. Our expenses seemed ever increasing while our income was getting stretched to the limits. We had nothing to show for the money that was disappearing before our eyes other than stress. It was around that time I started watching Dave Ramsey on Fox Business Network. His advice seemed very sound and doable for the average person. No promises of getting rich overnight - just the constant reminder that "if you live like no one else now, later you can live like no one else".

I used a gift card I received as a Secret Santa gift at work to order his book, Total Money Makeover. I'm not much into finance and had been pretty hands off with the finances at home (oddly enough I have a degree in Finance), but I was drawn in by this book. My whole perspective on money and finances changed. And what I found encouraging about the book, was the testimonials from the families. They were just average people like us. They weren't all doctors, lawyers and engineers making huge salaries. Most were just one-income households. But they made it work with sacrifice.

In order for our family to prosper, I knew we had to make a change. Dave, who is a saver by nature, was so excited to finally see me on board. We began working through what Dave Ramsey calls the Baby Steps. In addition, we implemented the following changes to help achieve our financial goals:

- Created (and currently live by) a budget

- Reduced our expenses - cancelled cell phones, cancelled long distance (never used it anyway), reduced our local calling plan, reduced our satellite plan and cut out other non-essentials (eating out, etc.)

- Use cash only; no credit cards - I'm sure our credit card company is wondering what happened to us LOL!

- Created an emergency fund - if you have the money on hand, you will be less likely to turn to credit in times of an emergency (and no, new shoes is not an emergency!)

- Continually look for ways to reduce expenses and live on less

Even though we've made these changes, I can honestly say our quality of life has not changed one bit. If anything, it's gotten better because we're not constantly stressing about where the money is going to come from to pay for things. And we feel very comfortable in this economic downturn knowing we're making sound decisions that are taking us away from living in debt to financial freedom.

We are currently on Baby Step 2. We are estimating that all our debt (except for our house) will be paid off by mid-2009. Our income will start working for us, instead of going out to other people. And not only will we solidify our financial future, but create a great legacy for our children as well.

Onward to freedom!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - May 19th

The $75 budget definitely got blown this week. But with a needed trip to Costco for laundry supplies and triples at Harris Teeter, it was worth it. Of course now I have to get creative to help keep the budget for the next two weeks trim!

Here's our menu for the week with grocery totals. For more meal ideas visit Laura at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Breakfast & Lunches: Items already on hand as well as Easy Cheddar Biscuits and Banana Pineapple Bread from Tammy's Recipes.


Saturday - Pork & Shrimp egg rolls w/golden veggie fried rice

Sunday - Turkey Meatballs in BBQ sauce w/mashed potatoes and asparagus & onions

Monday - Salmon Patties w/brown rice

Tuesday - Easy Tuscan Pasta w/homemade breadsticks

Thursday - Taco Style Lentils & Rice, served in warmed taco shells w/diced tomato, shredded lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheese

Friday - Balsamic & Thyme Chicken w/yellow rice and steamed veggies

Grocery Spending: Total spent $117.31




Total oop: $29.66


2 Huggies Pull-Ups

2 Bumblebee canned Pink salmon

Total oop: $13.99
Total savings: $15.77

Harris Teeter:

2 bags Mahatma brown rice

2 bags Folgers coffee

3-24ct Luzianne tea bags (FREE!)

6 Hungry Jack potato pouches (FREE!)
3 KC Masterpiece BBQ sauces (FREE!)

3 Valley Fresh canned chicken

5 Red Baron pizza singles

3 gallons HT Naturals organic milk

3 French's fried onions (FREE!)

3 Oral B toothbrushes (FREE!)

3 Morningstar veggie rice cakes

3 Asian Sensation pork & shrimp egg rolls

1 Silk chocolate soy milk

8oz sliced mushrooms

bunch of carrots

navel oranges

vidalia onions

Total oop: $38.09
Total savings: $85.06


1 Pepsi 2 Lt (FREE!)

3 Nestle strawberry milks (FREE!)

5 rolls Bounty Basic paper towels

2 Starkist tuna pouches

2 boxes Barilla whole grain spaghetti (FREE!)

2 boxes Barilla whole grain rotini (FREE!)

1 lb. Shadybrook 93/7 frozen ground turkey

16 oz. strawberries

1 container grape tomatoes

1 1/2 lb Tyson chicken breast

Laura's Lean Beef - stew beef

Total oop: $17.11
Total savings: $30.17

Lowes Foods:

3 LF shredded cheddar cheese

1 Cary's sugar free syrup

1 bag Full Circle organic frozen green peas

12 cans Paws canned cat food

LF apple juice

2 lb. bananas

Total oop: $18.46
Total savings: $8.91

Friday, May 16, 2008

I *Heart* Greenpoints!

I remember as a kid my Mom collecting those green stamps from Piggly Wiggly. One time she collected so many she was able to redeem them for a nice china set. Well those green stamps are still around but in the form of "green points" at Lowes Foods.

Before I started couponing last Spring, I never really paid attention to the points total listed at the bottom of my receipt. I was vaguely familiar with the concept of the program but didn't really see it's true value. If I would have only known! You can still redeem the points for catalog items. A coworker of mine redeemed his for several watches, a ladder, even a generator. But I use mine for additional savings on groceries!

Each week in the Lowes Foods sales flyer, special green point deals are listed. For instance, I was able to get bananas for .45/lb by redeeming green points. Last week, I redeemed points and got Gain laundry detergent for $2.99. I coupled that with a Gain manufacturer's coupon for .25 off which doubled at Lowes, for a final price of $2.49. And today, I stumbled upon another green points deal while shopping for something else. A FREE can of Lowes Foods tuna for redeeming 830 green points. Perfect, since tuna noodle casserole is on the menu for next week!

Getting green points is easy. Every time you shop, you get more points. And if you use reusable shopping bags, you get 50 additional green points for every bag. I was able to get two free reusable Lowes bags - by redeeming green points of course!

If you're a Lowes Foods shopper, be sure to check your receipt and put those green points to good use! Every little savings counts, especially in these tough times.

Here's how I did today on my little shopping trip. Thanks to the good folks at Savvy Dollar ( for the tip about the Kikkoman deal!

4 Kikkoman Teriyaki sauces - sale $1.29 ea - .55/1 doubled = .19 ea
1 Lowes Foods canned tuna - FREE w/ greenpoints

Total oop: $0.82
Total savings: $7.49

Received 2 coupons for $2 off my next order!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Learning to Fly - Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about getting our home back in order by using FlyLady's babysteps. Beginning babystep 3 turned out to be a God breeze - spend 2 minutes reading the daily reminders. I was tempted to just ignore this. It had been such a long time since I logged into the email account set up for FlyLady reminders. I knew there would be thousands. But since I had a some time while I was waiting for the oven to heat up, I logged on and browsed at the most recent reminders. One of them instantly jumped out at me - "Have You Fallen Off the FlyLady Wagon?". Yup, that's me! Not only did I fall off, the wagon ran me over. Anyway, the last few lines of the email really seemed to speak directly to what I was feeling yesterday:

"The major difference between staying sidetracked and getting back on the path is that we don't wallow in self pity. We acknowledge that we made a detour and now we are heading toward a peaceful solution. This beating ourselves up is not part of FLYing!"

Triple Coupons!

The words every couponer in the area loves to hear - triple coupons!!! Tomorrow begins a three-day triple coupon promotion at Harris Teeter. I'm so stinkin' excited I can't even focus on work today (well that's everyday LOL!). I've got to make a few changes to my lists and clip a few more coupons and I'll be ready to go. I'm taking off from work early tomorrow to make my first shop. It really is such a rush to walk out of the store paying little to nothing for big name brand items. And it helps add to the stockpile without spending much out of pocket. Now I just have to work on the budget. A trip to Costco this week for laundry supplies took a big chunk out of my $75 weekly grocery budget. Going over this week will mean I'll have to adjust the next two weeks to stay somewhat close to our monthly budget of $300. I see more taco style lentils and rice in our dining future! LOL!

The Ickies Are Back!

2 out of 3 babies in our house are sick. Those are not good numbers. Reedy has developed what seems to be a respiratory infection. He was congested all day yesterday but then got increasingly fussy and distressed as the evening went on. I held him - he cried and cried. My Mom came out and held him - and he still cried and wheezed. I felt helpless. It was after hours at our ped's and Dave was still at work. My Mom was getting emotional too because she didn't know what to do for him either. I called the after hours nurse and she suggested warm liquids to break up the congestion and keeping him under a vaporizer. After drinking a bit of warm apple juice, he seemed to improve. He played with Ash & Clay for awhile, then came back to my lap for more snuggles. Not being able to get comfortable in my lap, he took his blanket and laid down on the floor by my feet and fell asleep.

As we were dealing with Reedy, Ashleigh started complaining of a sore throat. She also felt a bit warm so I gave her some Tylenol and put her on the sofa with a pillow and blanket. As Reedy would cry, Ashleigh would start whimpering. I tried to reassure her that her throat would be okay with rest but to no avail. At this moment, I was feeling totally overwhelmed with two sick little ones both needing of my attention.

Dave finally arrived home bearing gifts for the kids - cookies n cream ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and marshmallows. I quickly sent him back out for a vaporizer - ours mysteriously disappeared from its last known location and some ear drops just in case we were in for a bad night again with Reedy. To add to all the commotion, as I was looking for the ice cream scooper in the drawer, I accidentally cut my finger on the carrot peeler. Ouch! That seriously hurt and is still a little sore this morning.

I just get so stressed and concerned when any of the kids is sick. They are usually so playful and going a mile a minute. It's hard to see them hurting in anyway and not acting like their usual selves. Doubly stressing when it's two sick at the same time. And of course, my mind goes through a million "what ifs" and worst case scenarios. Thankfully, Clayton is doing okay. Except he has developed a strange affinity to the dust pan. He insisted on sleeping with it the other night. And when I came home yesterday evening, he was still playing with it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Learning to Fly

Back in October 2006, I was feeling very overwhelmed with life, work, home and was very pregnant with #3. It was at that time an on-line friend from a Mommy board introduced me to Marla Cilley aka the FlyLady. The FlyLady's encouraging words and humor were absolutely refreshing. I slowly started letting go of the perfectionism that crippled me and kept my home and life in a state of CHAOS ("Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome"). I eagerly developed routines and habits which had my house running on auto-pilot. No more frantic cleaning in order to prepare for guests. No more cleaning all Saturday because there was no time during the week. I had my life back, I had time for my family and my home was finally in order. Sounds like a perfect ending but like all good things, it didn't last.

After going back to work, my routines slowly started to slip. The hustle and bustle of life took over and I turned my attentions to a new love - couponing. Which brings me to the present living once again in chaos and clutter. And once again, I'm turning to the FlyLady to dig myself out of this hole. To quiet those voices which tell me that I'm not good enough as I look about cluttered rooms and piles of laundry.

I've finally come to the realization that it is not an option for me to get organized, it's a MUST! Just as love cannot exists in the presence of fear, peace will not reside in our home until order is restored. The biggest stumbling block to my success in this matter, is me. I see the mess and I instantly want to give up. I don't want to try if I can't do it perfectly. In order to get back to abundant living, I must let go of this negative self-talk.

This weekend I started the FlyLady's Beginning Babysteps again. I started by shining my sink. Though seemingly small and unimportant, I take pride in my shiny sink. Knowing it's just the first of many steps towards gaining control of my home. And now I'm getting dressed to shoes in the mornings. That's something I have to do anyway since I work outside of the home. So for me this step means getting up when the alarm goes off and not hitting snooze a dozen times. Then not rushing around in a frenzy to get myself ready, Ashleigh ready for preschool, the house ready for my Mom and the boys and wondering why I can never get to work on time.

There's still hot spots to be cleared, toys to be picked up in various rooms and baskets of laundry to be put away. But everyday I'm getting closer to living in peace and order.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Menu planning is definitely not my strong suit. However, as I'm attempting to bring peace and organization to our home, I've started planning our weekly meals again. Plus I was tired of never having enough of something to put decent meals together. So here's what we're eating this week along with my grocery spending. I went a little over my $75 weekly budget. I didn't check items on hand before shopping and got extra eggs and onion which weren't needed.

Be sure to visit Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie for more meal ideas!

Breakfast & Lunches - Items already on hand; we keep it pretty simple around here - sandwiches and fruit :)


Saturday - Baked Eggplant Parmesan w/salad

Sunday - Mother's Day Dinner Out!

Monday - Salmon patties w/brown rice

Tuesday - Turkey wraps w/organic french fries

Wednesday - Dirty Rice w/steamed corn

Thursday - Chicken & Asparagus casserole

Friday - Taco Style Lentils & Rice

Grocery Shopping: Total spent $76.15


2 Huggies Pull-Ups

1 Huggies Diapers

Total oop: $22.22

Total savings: $8.12

Harris Teeter:

9 boxes Barilla Whole grain rotini (FREE!)

2 Bertolli Organic pasta sauces

3 gallons Organic Valley milk

1 head red leaf lettuce

fresh asparagus

Total oop: $19.08

Total savings: $12.76


2 Egglands Best eggs

1 Eggplant

2 Big K colas

1 Bagged salad mix

Total oop: $7.64

Total savings: $2.41

Lowes Foods:

3 LF shredded cheese

12 cans Paws cat foods

2 Honey Nut cheerios

1 Gain laundry detergent

1 can LF bread crumbs

1 LF whole wheat bread

LF apple juice

Roma tomatoes

Vidalia onion

Total oop: $27.21

Total savings: $18.73

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My First Mother's Day

Today brings back memories of my very first Mother's Day. We actually found out we were pregnant with Ashleigh (our first) the Friday before Mother's Day 2002. After waiting a week to make sure I was "officially late", we rushed out to Target on Friday night for a HPT. Then waited another hour because I was so nervous I couldn't pee! LOL! But the results were instant. Before I even sat the test down on the counter, two lines! We were having a baby! That Sunday, we went to Mass as usual. At the end of Mass on Mother's Day, the priest gives a special blessing for all the mothers in attendance. So I stood up, looking not even the least bit pregnant, and received my blessing. That was my very first Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there! Be sure to give those little blessings extra hugs and kisses today.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Welcome to my blog! I'm Mary Ellen aka Carolina Momma. I'm the mother of three beautiful January babies and wife of 7 years to my college sweetheart. I'm on a quest to find myself and bring balance, peace and harmony to my life and my home. I'm a bit complicated, probably too much for my own good. I'm a perfectionist and a slacker. I started this blog as a way to express myself and I hope it grows into something useful not just for me but others as well.

My heart belongs to God, my husband and my children. Right now, I'm dealing with the challenges of being both a homemaker and a working mother. It's an uncomfortable juggling act but it's where I find myself at the moment.

Other things to know about me - I'm an avid couponer and bargain shopper. And before you say it, no my family doesn't eat junky processed foods 24/7. I'm an "everything in moderation" kind of girl. So while pizza rolls and McDonald's fries have crossed my dear children's lips, they don't eat that way all the time. I try my best to find deals on healthy foods (organic if possible). But more on the couponing later.

I'm a Catholic convert. I love my faith and believe strongly that God called me to the Church. But I am striving to rekindle the more personal relationship I once had with Christ.

I believe in and practice aspects of attachment parenting (breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping/shared sleep) and gentle discipline. I've dabbled in aspects of natural living - cloth diapering and making my own baby food, but I would not call myself "crunchy".

I'm a proud Southerner - born and raised in the Carolinas. I'm not a rebel flag waving, intolerant, racist person. I just love the people, the cooking and ways of the South. I'm the great-granddaughter of slaves that recognizes the tremendous sacrifices of those that came before me.

I love NASCAR! My favorite drivers are the ones most people love to hate - #7 Robby Gordon, #18 Kyle Busch, #99 Carl Edwards and #20 Tony Stewart. There's just something about guys with attitude and fast cars!

I have an eclectic taste in music but mostly listen to Country and Bluegrass. I find bluegrass to be soulful and raw; a very pure form of music. I have dreams of learning how to play the fiddle and the banjo.

I'm a fan of Dave Ramsey and the financial freedom his ministry brings to families across the country. Our family goal is to become debt free and to live on a cash-only basis.

I love to read and journal, but rarely have time for it. I like decorating, although my current style would best be described as cluttered. And my favorite places are Wrightsville Beach, NC or at home watching a fascinating documentary.