Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013

A look back at Christmas before the year ends :)


Santa brought me a pair of heels and my favorite perfume :)
The day after Christmas, Grandma-claus came bearing gifts!

What I've been dreaming of - a set of Lodge cast iron cookware

And a total surprise - an ice cream maker!
With Hubby's family the day after Christmas
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a joyous
 New Year!
God Bless,
Mary Ellen

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Around the House

A few of our Christmas trees throughout the house this year

Gold-themed tree for the newly painted foyer

My pink tree {from last year's Garden Ridge 90% off haul} 
and stag head from Target

I found these cute retro inspired ornaments last year during
the Target after Christmas clearance sale

More trees in the family room

Our main Christmas tree with family, milestone and handmade ornaments. 
Some of these ornaments date back to my husband's childhood.

The dining room
Flocked Christmas tree in the dining room {also from Garden Ridge clearance}

The kitchen tree

Upstairs the kids' favorite tree - the candy tree!

I love these adorable fabric cupcakes.

The 12 foot tree in the living room by the fireplace.

Traditional red, green and gold for the sunroom Christmas tree.

My antique dresser in the sunroom decorated for Christmas.
Merry Christmas!
Mary Ellen

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Life Well Lived

As I was sitting in the school carpool lane one morning last week, a local radio station played a story about the obituary of Mrs. Mary A. Mullaney, known to her family and friends as "Pink".  Mrs. Mullaney, survived by 6 children and 17 grandchildren, passed away back in September at the age of 85.  Her family remembered her fondly in this beautifully written obituary.  Their words seemed very appropriate for the Season.

If you're about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop. Consider: Mary Agnes Mullaney (you probably knew her as "Pink") who entered eternal life on Sunday, September 1, 2013. Her spirit is carried on by her six children, 17 grandchildren, three surviving siblings in New "Joisey", and an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life. We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: Never throw away old pantyhose. Use the old ones to tie gutters, child-proof cabinets, tie toilet flappers, or hang Christmas ornaments.

Also: If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave, brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay.

Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them.

Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass.

Go to a nursing home and kiss everyone. When you learn someone's name, share their patron saint's story, and their feast day, so they can celebrate. Invite new friends to Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from another country and you have trouble understanding them, learn to "listen with an accent."

Never say mean things about anybody; they are "poor souls to pray for."

Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats.

Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged.

Do the Jumble every morning.

Keep the car keys under the front seat so they don't get lost.

Make the car dance by lightly tapping the brakes to the beat of songs on the radio.

Offer rides to people carrying a big load or caught in the rain or summer heat. Believe the hitchhiker you pick up who says he is a landscaper and his name is "Peat Moss."

Help anyone struggling to get their kids into a car or shopping cart or across a parking lot.

Give to every charity that asks. Choose to believe the best about what they do with your money, no matter what your children say they discovered online.

Allow the homeless to keep warm in your car while you are at Mass.

Take magazines you've already read to your doctors' office for others to enjoy. Do not tear off the mailing label, "Because if someone wants to contact me, that would be nice."

In her lifetime, Pink made contact time after time. Those who've taken her lessons to heart will continue to ensure that a cold drink will be left for the overheated garbage collector and mail carrier, every baby will be kissed, every nursing home resident will be visited, the hungry will have a sandwich, the guest will have a warm bed and soft nightlight, and the encroaching possum will know the soothing sensation of a barbecue brush upon its back.

Above all, Pink wrote -- to everyone, about everything. You may read this and recall a letter from her that touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"

She is survived by her children and grandchildren whose photos she would share with prospective friends in the checkout line

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sweet Holiday Treat - Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

Homemade cinnamon rolls warm from the oven!
When my husband and I first married, I could barely boil water!  But after 13 years of "on the job training", I've become pretty good in the kitchen.  Or, at least no one complains (except when I make lentils!).  One of my husband's favorites are these homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting.  He always requests a batch for office parties.  It makes me feel good that he's proud of my kitchen creations. 
Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
for filling:  cinnamon, brown sugar and 2 - 3 tablespoons melted butter
-Dissolve yeast in warm milk {I add 2 tsp of sugar to a measuring cup, pour in the warm milk, then add the yeast.  I allow the yeast to proof for 5 minutes before combining with other ingredients}
-In mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil and eggs.  Blend together using paddle attachment.  Add in yeast-milk mixture.  As ingredients begin to incorporate, switch to dough hook attachment to finish the kneading. 
-Place dough in a bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled. {see tip #3 here for my dough rising technique}
-Roll out dough on floured surface.  Spread melted butter over the dough, then evenly sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.
-Working from the long edge, carefully roll the dough down to the bottom edge.
-Cut dough into 1 inch slices and place in lightly greased baking pan.
-Bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Cream Cheese Frosting ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-Combine frosting ingredients in mixing bowl.  Beat well with electric mixer until fluffy.  Spread generously on warm rolls.

When I'm preparing these rolls for breakfast or hubby's office parties, I assemble the rolls the night before, refrigerate overnight and bake the next morning.  Ensuring they will be delivered to his office nice and warm!
Mary Ellen

Friday, December 20, 2013

Stand With Phil

I proudly count myself among the legions of Duck Dynasty fans.  Prior to watching, I thought Duck Dynasty was just another silly reality show.  But, after a coworker mentioned being a huge fan, I decided to watch an episode.  Surprisingly, I found myself hooked.  The show was funny and genuinely entertaining.  I loved the focus on faith and family.  I also loved being able to watch the show as a family, not having to worry about mature subject matter or inappropriate language.  As my devotion towards the show grew, it became clear that some people seemed to hate the Robertson family simply for being.  They hated them for being Christians and not ashamed of being open about their faith.  So, it is not surprising now some want another Paula Deen moment following Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality.  Funny how those who preach tolerance are intolerant of opinions other than their own.

In addition to being called homophobic, some are also calling the Robertson family patriarch a racist.  Strange considering Mr. Robertson has two, non-white grandchildren.  Rebecca, an exchange student from Taiwan (fostered by Willie & Korie Robertson) and Will (who is biracial) adopted at birth by Willie & Korie.  In an interview, Mr. Robertson stated that in his youth in Louisiana, he never saw the mistreatment of black people.  And that basically the black people he picked cotton with were happy and appeared to have no ill-will against whites.  My thoughts - my parents (both black) lived through Jim Crow/segregation.  Both my father and mother grew up in small, rural towns in the South.  The reality, there was Klan activity and even talk of towns where if Black, one would not want to find themselves after sundown.  But also reality, my parents worked side by side and lived amongst white people whom they considered friends (and still do today).  So, I can totally believe Phil's experience growing up.  The experience he relayed about his youth is not the same as saying segregation should be in place today or that Black people were happier under segregation.   Not the same at all.  It is his unique experience and one that may be hard to comprehend if you are not intimately familiar with small town, rural life in the South.

The Robertson family is standing firm against the backlash.  And their fans will continue to stand by them. #standwithphil

Mary Ellen

Friday, December 13, 2013

She Gone...and God is Good!

Uncle Si, Duck Dynasty, She Gone
After 12 years with my current employer, my position was officially eliminated yesterday.  I was notified of the decision six weeks ago.  But, have been unable to speak publicly about it due to a confidentiality agreement.  So, it wasn't a complete shock.  Even the day I was told, it wasn't upsetting.  I was happy and excited.  Happy that at least temporarily, I would be at home full-time immersed in my true purpose and calling - caring for my family and home.  And, excited about the new opportunities awaiting me.  You can't accept new opportunities and blessings by holding onto the past.  From my perspective, losing my job was only a positive.
When one door closes, another one opens. 
On Wednesday (the day before my position ended), I had my first interview.  Today, I was extended a verbal offer from the company.  My new position will start mid-January!  
God is Good! 
Mary Ellen

Friday, November 22, 2013

Living On Dime Christmas Sale - All books 50% Off!

For those interested, Living On A Dime is currently holding their annual Christmas sale.  All books - print and e-books - are 50% off.  {You save even more when you buy a set!}  The sale lasts until December 3rd.  However, the EARLY BIRD FREE BONUS ends TONIGHT at midnight.  The early bird bonus item is the Menus from Dining On A Dime Menu Planner.  But, there are additional free bonus downloads available during the Christmas sale {you can find the list of all the items here}.


If you have thought about trying the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, now is your chance to get it at a great price!  My personal copy is very well-loved, complete with cooking stains and dog-earred corners!  It is a must have resource for any frugal cook. 


As an early Christmas present for myself :) I'm getting a copy of Penny Pinching Mama.  A book filled with practical, every day ideas for stretching a small income.  In my opinion, whether your income is considered small, large or in-between, it is beneficial to live below ones means.  So, I'm hoping to gather more ideas and inspiration from Jill Cooper's story of living on $500 a month {as a single mom, with two teenagers!}.

Mary Ellen

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Good Morning Green Smoothie

Looking to add more greens to your day?  Try my Good Morning Green Smoothie

Start with a generous handful of kale.  I never measure, but aim for filling the container until it is 3/4 full with kale.

To the kale, add spinach.  Fill it to the top!

Next, add frozen mango chunks.  Then, add about 1 cup of cold water and a splash of orange juice.  If you prefer less sugar from the juice, add a medium orange (peeled) instead.  And, then my favorite part - a small lemon, peeled.  I just love the scent of lemon in the mornings!  Such a refreshing wake me up! 
To peel the lemon (and orange if using), cut the ends off.  Then, slice around the lemon removing the peel.  Don't worry about the seeds - the Vitamix will take care of those!

Turn the Vitamix on low, then slowly increase the speed until all greens are completely blended.  And that, is the basis of my Good Morning Green Smoothie!  Guaranteed to win over those reluctant to try green smoothies - like my Momma.  She now has a green smoothie every morning!

I have recently started adding these two healthful additions to my green smoothie, spirulina and organic maca root powder.  Spirulina is a blue-green algae rich in antioxidants and vitamins.  It boosts energy and immunity.  Maca is a Peruvian root vegetable.  It aids hormonal function and was traditionally used as a libido and fertility booster ;)     
Mary Ellen

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sunshine Mary on Lazy Housewives

One of my favorite bloggers, Sunshine Mary, has a post on the matter of lazy housewives.  A big thank you to SSM for giving mention to The Working Home Keeper blog.  And no, she doesn't fancy me the lazy variety of housewife!  Lots of good discussion in the comments as well, so be sure to check it out.

If you're visiting from Sunshine Mary - welcome to my little blog!  Make yourself at home and have a look around.  Here is a bit of explanation about the blog:

Why a homemaking blog for working moms?  Don't they all have maid services and feed their families from drive-thrus?

While there are plenty of blogs and work-life balance sites focused on the "work" aspect of working motherhood, few focus on home.  I wanted to create a space to encourage working mothers in their most important job and purpose - caring for their families and homes.  The focus should always be homeward regardless of employment status.  I'm proud to say the readership of the blog is not just working mothers, but homemakers, stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms.  All who share a love for home and family.

So, why even work outside of the home?  Why not be a stay-at-home mom or full-time homemaker?

While I cannot answer for all working moms, I can speak for our situation.  In our marriage, my husband has the final say on all major decisions.  Having one income or two is one of those major decisions.  My husband felt the best way I could support him in my role as helpmeet, was to bring in additional income.  At some point, that may change.  But for now, I aim towards contentment in my role as a working home keeper.

What about the costs associated with working?

There are costs associated with working outside of the home.  However, we try to live frugally and well below our means.  We have been fortunate to avoid childcare expenses by having my mother live with us.  She has been living with us since our oldest child was four months old.  In addition to the child care savings, having a multi-generational home has been a great experience.  Our work clothes are thrifted, lunches packed and meals cooked from scratch.  We also live debt-free except for our mortgage (which is on track to be paid off completely in less than 10 years). 

In short, that is a bit about the blog!  Now, I have to get back to the kitchen.  It's a cold day and I have a pot of 12 bean soup on the stove and homemade French bread baking in the oven.  Till next time!

Mary Ellen




Friday, October 25, 2013

Some Days...

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33
This morning, my boss called me into his office.  As I mentioned before, I felt strongly changes were coming.  I was informed our department would be going from three members to two.  My co-worker was notified this morning that her position was terminated.  It was not unexpected, but still very hard to hear.  She was the first to welcome me to the company many years ago, even though we didn't work together at the time.  Her presence will be missed.  As I was still trying to process the changes within our department, another bit of office news brought me to tears.  A former co-worker, who has been battling cancer, has been moved to a hospice facility.  At one point in his treatment, things were moving in a positive direction.  The outlook was very good.  But, recently things took a turn for the worse.  A recent MRI showed an aggressive growth of the cancer in his brain and spine.  My heart aches thinking about his wife and two very young boys.  Those boys need their Dad.  His wife needs her husband.  You shouldn't have to think about widowhood in your thirties.  You think about your kids going to college, them getting married, having grandchildren and settling into retired life.  That's how it is supposed to go...
Mary Ellen

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where is the Working Home Keeper?

Hello, All!  First, thank you for the 13th Anniversary wishes!  The Mr. & I had a wonderful night out together while my oldest sister and Momma watched the kids.  Seems like just yesterday, we were two kids in love walking around campus.  Hard to believe we've been married now for over a decade :)

It was not my intention to let the blog sit idle for a month.  But, in all honesty, I would rather live life and be fully present in the moment, than blog about it sometimes.  Terrible strategy for running a successful blog.  But, pretty good strategy for enjoying life :)

So, what have we been up to? 

We ended the Summer with a trip to Wrightsville Beach.  It was only a few days, but it was the most glorious few days.  My soul just feels so at ease by the water.  The sound of the waves, the smell of the salt in the air, the sun warming my skin. 


The kids had a really good time in the water this year.  They would go straight from splashing in the waves at the beach to playing in the hotel pool until closing time. 

Blue Crab Omelet at Causeway Café, Wrightsville Beach

The food - delicious!  Nothing like dining by the ocean in the evening.  Or enjoying lunch dockside as the boats pull in.

Clayton not so excited about the first day of school!

But, real life beckoned and we left our beach paradise just in time for the start of school.  This year, Ashleigh started 5th grade, Clayton 3rd grade and Reed 1st grade.  This is also the last year all three kids will be attending the same school.  I'm so not ready for middle school!  Or this 3 day, 2 night field trip Ashleigh will be taking to Washington DC with the 5th grade class in the Spring.  We never did anything like that when I was in school!  Thankfully, my Mother-in-law will be chaperoning.  But as far as school is concerned, so far so good.  All the kids have great teachers this year and there's been no problems (thank God!). 

Ashleigh on patrol!

And, Miss Ashleigh is a member of the safety patrol this year!  The safety patrol is for 5th graders only.  Ashleigh applied at the end of last school year (without any prompting from us).  And, was approved based on grades, demonstrating positive character traits and recommendations from her 4th grade teachers.  So proud of that girl!

Work is work ;)  Dave is entering a busy time at his job, while mine seems a bit uncertain.  I think there will be changes, but it's uncertain exactly what that will mean for individuals within my department at this time.  I could end up a working home keeper "at home" for a time.  The thought of losing my job doesn't worry me because my joy is not tied to my work outside of the home.  My purpose in life and joy has always come from being a wife and mother.  As long as I don't lose that job, then I'll be okay!

Speaking of home, we've been busy with some home improvement projects.  We replaced the flooring in our sunroom, will be replacing the carpet in our family room (hopefully before Thanksgiving) and will start repainting our foyer to make it brighter and more inviting.  I started my Fall garden in early September by means of direct seed.  In retrospect, that was probably too ambitious for my level of gardening knowledge!  My tender seedlings were eaten up by slugs and/or crushed by one of our kitties who has taken to lying in my garden squares.  Thankfully, the weather here is still mild and the first frost date far enough away that a Fall Garden Part II (this time with transplants!) is still possible.  I have to plant some kale and spinach for all those green smoothies we've been drinking.  Even my Momma has taken to drinking a green smoothie each morning! 

So, that's what we've been up to in a nutshell!

Until next time,
Mary Ellen
The Working Home Keeper