Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fall Days and Waiting For Baby

pumpkin patch

Fall is finally here and we are waiting with bated breath for Baby Morgan’s arrival. We have two weeks until due date and most of our preparations are complete. 🙂

I am glad to say we did some of the things on our fall bucket list! We made it to the pumpkin patch, apple picking, the cider mill, the aquarium, the playground, and have spent a lot of time together before baby’s entrance into the family. We even took Jack to see his first movie; Planes.

We had a beautiful maternity session with Jessica Boyd, We are so blessed she captured our family together. We will cherish these images forever. Be sure to check out her website. 🙂


We have crossed many things off our to-do list as well. Our bags are packed and ready to go when the time comes. Jack’s day bag is packed as well. He also has a little gift waiting from the baby.


The baby’s stuff is completely organized and ready for baby to come home to. It was a lot of fun going through the baby’s stuff after our baby shower and going through Jack’s baby stuff as well. It brought back many memories and who doesn’t love all of those cute little outfits, toys, and books? 🙂


Overall, we have been enjoying the fall weather and taking full advantage of the beautiful days. We have spent a lot of time outdoors at the playground and have also spent some quiet time indoors. We have been napping, cleaning, cooking, and waiting for baby to join us. The laundry is caught up, the dishes are done, and the beds are always made but most importantly, we are spending time together as a family.


It certainly is a strange feeling knowing that Jack’s days as an only child are coming to a close. It is hard to believe anytime now we will have a brand new baby to love and care for in our home. I am nervous and excited for the journey to begin. Each morning I hug and kiss Jack and realize he is no longer a baby, but a little boy and a soon to be big brother. He will make a great big brother. Each night I kiss his beautiful face and know while this chapter is closing, a brand new chapter full of promise and love will soon begin.

jack beach

Let the journey begin!


Many Blessings & Lots of Love,

The Joyful Homemaker


How To Make A Child ID Kit At Home


I logged into Facebook this morning and saw a post warning parents to stay with their children at the bus stop after an attempted child abduction in our area yesterday. This brought me back to the 20/20 episode I watched last night on the 1989 abduction of Jacob Wetterling . This morning I feel it is important to blog about building a child ID kit.

Roughly 2000 children go missing in the US every day. Every.Single.Day. That is one child every 40 seconds. Thankfully, parents can breath a sigh of relief. The overwhelming majority of kidnappings are by family members and 99 percent of abductions committed by a family member or acquaintances result in reunification of child and parent. – See more at:

Making a child ID kit may not seem like something I would blog about on The Joyful Homemaker but I believe it is important to have one in every home. A child ID kit is critical in the event one’s child goes missing. It is important to have this and as much information as possible to present to law enforcement at the time of a child’s disappearance. In the event of a stranger abduction, law enforcement has the best chance of finding a missing or abducted child in the first three hours of the incident. This does not give a lot of time. A child ID kit can help during those critical first hours. It helps to have everything in one place.

To build a child ID kit grab a box and label it with your child’s name. I suggest using a small, fire-proof lock box. You should have as much of the following in the box as possible. I went directly to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children website to ensure I provide the most accurate information. Their website is


There should be a photograph(s) of your child meeting the below criteria:

  • Color photo
  • Show full face with as much facial detail as possible.
  • Have a dozen of the same photo in print. Have the same image in an accessible, digital format as well.
  • Be sure to update every six months.


It is good to have a quick, printed description of your child. One you can hand directly to law enforcement.

  • Child’s Name
  • Any nicknames
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Hair color and length
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Eye color
  • Glasses and/or braces
  • Identifying marks or scars
  • Any tattoos or piercings
  • Any health issues such as allergies, etc.

Dental X-Rays, Charting, and Bite Impressions

“Dental X-rays, professional dental charting and bite impressions or tooth prints are often useful to law enforcement in resolving missing children cases. You should update dental charts every two years until your child is 18. Check with your child’s dentist to determine if this service is offered.

In addition you may choose to have bite impressions made using plastic foam such as StyrofoamTM. Take a two-inch square plastic foam and have your child bite partially through it. The bite should be strong enough to leave an impression of the upper and lower teeth. A new bite sample should be made each time your child loses or grows a tooth. This sample should be stored in a safe and readily accessible place.” – Italicized information pulled directly from

DNA Sample

Obtaining a DNA sample from your child is critical. You can purchase a kit online or simply make one yourself. An old toothbrush, baby teeth, some hair, or an olde bandage work well. “These items should be placed in a brown envelope licked shut by your child. The envelope should be labeled and stored in a cool, dry and readily accessible place.” –– Italicized information pulled directly from

The DNA sample can be stored inside your child ID kit and placed in a cool, dry, place. It is beneficial to have everything in one place.


It is easy enough to take your child to local law enforcement for fingerprinting. You can also ask your child’s school if they provide fingerprinting service days or are having an event. When I was a child, our school had a law enforcement officer fingerprint on behalf of parents. I have also seen fingerprinting at local events at fairs, churches, and child safety clinics. After the prints are taken by a professional, they can easily be stored in your kit. Do not allow any organization to retain your child’s fingerprints.

ID Card

A parent can very easily design and make an ID for their child to carry in their backpack, one for each parent, one for caregivers (such as daycare) and one for their kit. Simply laminate their photo (a school photo works well) and some information into an ID sized card. Ensure their gender, weight, height, age, date of birth, and parental information is on the card. There are also companies that produce cards. is one of them.

While it may seem like a lot of work or an extreme measure, a child ID kit is a valuable tool to have in one’s home. It provides quick access to information in the event your child is missing.

As parents we can never be too safe and never say never. Children do go missing and even though our children are statistically safe, I believe having a kit is important, even if simply for peace of mind.

The Joyful Homemaker



Weekly Tasks 9/9 – 9/15

task list image


Completed Tasks From Last Week

Cleaned up the front porch and packed away all summer toys

Cleaned up the attic and put a bunch of stuff by the curb

Took Jack for a haircut

Played a lot outside

Had two freezer meal sessions

Jack made a background for his fish tank

Purchased more totes for organizing

Put out some Autumn decorations

Read books with Jack each day and evening

Did some crafts with Jack

I did some Christmas shopping


Below are my tasks for this week:


Play date with Katie and Cole

Gram’s 93rd birthday party

Kid’s craft afternoon at Jess’s

Finish Gram’s birthday present and card

Schedule Jack 3-year photos at JCPenny


Put some fresh flowers in the kitchen

Organize refrigerator 

Meal planning  / shopping list

Finish cleaning front hall


Meeting with mortgage broker

Two more freezer cooking sessions


Start organizing Jack’s gifts

Start wrapping Jack’s gifts

Brainstorm ideas for “drawing names party” for kiddos


Weekly OB appointment

Pack baby bag

Make Jack’s big brother surprise bag

Purchase a new Boppy, breastfeeding supplies, diapers


Read books

Play outside

Trip to Denison Nature Center (Jack and Daddy time)


Read from Bible

Read something for fun


What’s on your task or goal list for this week?

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Freezer Cooking Session – Day 2

Alicia and I had a successful freezing cooking session yesterday morning. We purchased and split 13 lbs of ground beef and got cooking!

Our lineup included:


Pepper Filling

Swedish Meatballs

Though we spent plenty of time tending the kiddos, talking, and drinking lavender tea, we also accomplished making a good batch of meals.

Here are some pictures from our day:

freezer cooking 2

eliza in the kitchen


Next week we are  making a few chicken based slow cooker meals, mini GF pizza crusts, white rice muffins, and possibly some delicious cookies. Today is a busy day for me but I think I will start a batch of chicken soup this morning.


Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Pumpkin Play & Fall Scented Crayons

plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin

The fall-like weather here in the Northeast is making me autumn crazy! This morning I couldn’t resist lighting two new, fall scented Yankee candles and working on some fall decorating.

Jack played for a bit and then I decided we should try melting some fall colored crayons to make our own fall scented, star-shaped crayons. My inspiration came from, Blog Me Mom’s, Fall Scented Crayon Candles

While we don’t need candles, I thought making fall scented crayons would be fun. Jack enjoyed helping and using the crayons, though they are not very scented. They do have a light scent but I smell the crayon wax most of all.


We decided to use a star-shaped, ice-cube tray from our craft supplies. We grabbed an old can from the recycle bin to use as our melting container, and grabbed some pumpkin pie spice. We later added cinnamon and all-spice to our crayon line up.


We peeled the paper from the crayons and broke the crayons into pieces.

jack crayons

Jack enjoyed playing with the crayons most of all.

melting crayons

We set up the double boiler system using the can and started with the orange crayons. We made the orange crayons pumpkin spice scented. We poured the melted crayon, poured into the tray, and went on to melt the red and browns. The reds we scented with cinnamon and the browns with the all-spice.

star crayons

Jack enjoyed using these crayons. I wish they had more scent and I might have ruined my eco-friendly, non-stick pan. Would I make these again? Possibly. It was a neat project. 🙂

jack coloring

jack coloring 2

plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin plain-pumpkin

This morning I decided to put up a few autumn decorations around the house and remembered I picked up a bag of small, plastic pumpkins at Goodwill for $1.00.

Jack enjoyed putting pom-poms in each pumpkin using kid tweezers. Glad I picked these up. Who can resist a cute bag of (cheap) pumpkins?

pumpkin play

small pumpkins

Has your family done any fun, fall activities yet? If so, what have you done? I would love to hear how your family is getting into the autumn spirit.

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Wrapping Up The Week

Today was eventful on the home front. I can cross two more items off my weekly task list. We washed, dried, and packed the summer and outdoor toys. We put away the pool and got rid of old beach chairs and a turtle sandbox from the garage. We cleaned up the front porch and prepped it for autumn.

before porch

after porch

Jack made a background for his new fish tank. He decided on blue circles and white paper; “Only blue,” he said. We fully intended on purchasing a fish tank as Jack’s Christmas gift; however, my mom and sister-in-law won a bunch of goldfish at the Woodstock Fair this past weekend, so we are proud owners of Thomas and Percy, two very happy goldfish. One of Jack’s daily tasks is to feed his fish.


Today we also cleaned the attic a bit and put a bunch of junk boxes and junk items on the curb. We are slowly getting there. It is difficult but we work together and I rest in between tasks.


I hope everyone had a productive week. Did you cross items off your weekly list?

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Freezer Cooking Session – Day 1

freezer cooking day 1

Today was day 1 of my, “before baby arrives freezer cooking plan.” With baby a mere five weeks (at the most) away, it is time to start cranking out some freezer meals. While I typically do a few freezer sessions in the fall, this year I am trying to produce more meals than usual.

My line up this morning included:

Chicken Pot Pie Filling

1 lb of Venison Stuffed Pepper Filling

1 lb of Venison Taco Meat

1 lb. Venison Meatloaf

1 lb. Venison Italian Meatballs

Crock pot Venison Chili

Marinated BBQ Chicken Breasts

Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Breasts

It took me about 3 hours to prep the kitchen and make the meals. I had all meats ready ahead of time. The key to a good freezer cooking session is to prep your kitchen ahead of time. Below is my step-by-step process for preparing a freezer cooking session.

1. Have a list of all meals handy and all needed ingredients on hand . If you are using recipe cards or websites, have those ready to view. *If you need ideas and recipes, there are tons online and on Pinterest,* Though I would start with your favorite meals. Most meals are easily adapted into freezer meals..

2. Make sure your kitchen is clean, the counters are clear, and the dishes are washed and put away. You need all possible room.

3. Bring out all ingredients so you are not running from kitchen to the pantry or the basement to pull ingredients.

4. Begin your session with the longest cooking task first. I always preheat the oven, prep my chicken, and get it in the oven first. It takes about an 1.5 hours to bake a bird. I then break out the crock pot and start my crock pot meal (chili). This serves as dinner and a freezer meal. I then move on to the rest of my cooked recipes (pepper filling, taco meat, chicken pot pie filling). After cooked, cooled, and packaged, I begin my non-cooked recipes (meatloaf, meatballs, marinated chicken breasts) though these meals can be cooked and frozen. I prefer to freeze them uncooked and cook them when thawed.

5. Prep bags in between tasks. I use plastic freezer bags, mostly gallon size. I have index cards with directions that I adhere to the front on the bag.

6. Clean between tasks. I like to clear counters and make room while things are cooking. I also end up washing dishes as I reuse some of the utensils.

*Helpful Tips*

  • Allow all cooked meals to cool before packaging. Hot food against plastic bags causes chemicals to leech into the food.
  • Don’t let food cool in pans and bowls; it takes too long. I line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the food out until it cools. It only takes a few minutes to cool.
  • Have a roll of paper towels on hand for cleaning up meat spills and for use after washing hands. I prefer paper towels when freezer cooking as to avoid any meat contamination.
  • The USDA advises all thawed meats should thaw in the refrigerator before using or re-freezing. I thaw ground venison in the refrigerator for refreezing and cooking at a later date. I have never experienced a loss of taste or texture.

Here are a few recipes from my cooking session. ALL venison in recipes can be substituted with ground beef.

Chicken Pot Pie

I always eye-ball this recipe. I will try my best with measurements.

1 pound cooked chicken – cubed

1 cup cooked, diced carrots

1/2 cup cooked, diced celery

1/3 cup chopped, sautéed onion

1/2 cup cooked potatoes, diced

2 cups liquid base (gravy or drippings and stock thickened with corn starch)

Make gravy. Mix all ingredients together and cool. Put into bags for freezer. When ready to use, simply fill your pie crust with the thawed filling and cover with second crust. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes until crust is slightly browned.

Chicken Pot Pie Filling

Bacon Topped Venison Meatloaf

I use this recipe from Taste of Home. I follow the recipe but use GF bread crumbs and sometimes omit the sausage. Mix all ingredients. Place in bag, flatten, and freeze. When ready to cook make loaf and follow directions in recipe link.

Venison Italian Meatballs

1 lb. ground venison

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup Italian bread crumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 cup room temp pasta sauce

Mix all ingredients. Place in bag, flatten, and freeze. When ready to use: roll into balls, place in a grease pan, bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and put into sauce, simmer for 1 hour. Makes about 15 meatballs.

Venison Stuffed Pepper Filling

I also make this with ground beef. Great either way!

1 lb. ground venison

1 cup cooked rice

1 cup pasta sauce

Italian seasoning

Parmesan cheese

Cook ground venison. Add pasta sauce and turn down to simmer. Add rice, sprinkle in some Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese, mix. Pull off burner. Allow to cool. Fill bag, flatten, and freeze. When ready to use: stuff peppers and add mozzarella cheese during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Cook about 35 to 40 minutes at 350.

pepper filling

This wraps up today’s freezer cooking session. I will be sure to post my next session as well. What are some of your favorite freezer recipes?

35 weeks

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Dress Your Kids For Less! Six Tips For Saving!

Back to school and the change from summer to fall and eventually to winter can only mean one thing; buying clothing for the kiddo(s)! This happens to be one of my favorite areas of homemaking. I enjoy organizing, grouping, and putting together outfits. I adore those knit sweaters, corduroy pants, and striped polo tops.

While this is the case for me, it may not be for many parents. I am sure many worry about the cost of clothing, shoes, mittens, hats, and coats. Well, here are my top tips on dressing the kiddo(s) on the CHEAP!


As always, this is the first and most critical step to ensuring you curb excessive and unneeded spending. Have a set budget for each child and a detailed list of what they need. If your child needs turtleneck tops and jeans, stick to finding those items. Don’t forget to add important items such as, Halloween costumes, holiday clothing, shoes, mittens, hats, hair accessories, and any special occasion items into your budget.


I will preface this by saying, not everyone has gobs of hand-me-downs flowing their way; however, one need not look very far for hand-me-down clothing. Post a swap notice at church or on a community Facebook site. You could simply ask to swap needed hand-me-downs for an afternoon of yard work or other helpful task. Many sites like Free Cycle and Craigslist are great for finding needed items, like hand-me-downs, for free. Many people want to get rid of unwanted items and will either toss them or donate them. By doing a little groundwork, hand-me-downs are easy to obtain. I am beyond blessed to have mountains of hand-me-downs passed along from my family and friends. I have also put want ads on Craigslist and have found great items through Free Cycle.


There are a few important differences between thrift shops and consignment shops. Thrift shops take donated items and sell them for profit or charity. These stores are often cluttered and will eat up the most time because clothing is often not organized by size. Consignment shops take hand picked items directly from their consignors and sell them at a 50/50 or 60/40 split with the consignor. Consignment items are often slightly higher in cost and may be of better quality in some cases. Both may have a ticket sale system and consignments shops usually have a deep clearance rack. Shopping at thrift and consignment shops will undoubtedly save you major cash as long as you stay focused.

dino sweater



Yard sales are a great way to save on clothing. You will need cash and time to hop from sale to sale and to check each item for quality and size.


Most stores begin their summer to winter seasonal clothing transition at the the end of July and keep pushing the discounts out the door until the end of August. Target and Kohls are my two favorite stores for clearance shopping at the end of the season. It is important to note, the items in the seasonal discount are more than likely for the current season (if you are shopping in July and August, clearance items will be summer items). At the end of last winter, I picked up a few 4T, long-sleeved tops at Target for $2.00 a piece. Jack was wearing 3T at the time and I knew I could stash them for this fall / winter. Sure enough, they fit perfect.

target tops


This one is questionable; however, for a seasoned sale shopper, outlet stores can offer rewarding finds. Outlets often have deep discounts especially during their transitional season. Outlet shops also offer coupons and bulk discounts throughout the year. Outlet shops are a great way to pick up coats and shoes for a huge discount. Just remember to be stay away from tempting stores!


The word “splurge” is enough to send a smart shopper into a panic. Splurge means to spend money on something far out of one’s budget. A savvy splurge is two things; a needed sale item and an item bought with remaining budgeted money. If you have purchased every item of clothing needed for your child and have extra cash left over, you can do two things; save it for the next needed clothing purchase or a savvy splurge. For example; last year after organizing all of our hand-me-downs and purchasing any additional needed items, I had some money left over. I decided to go for the savvy splurge and buy Jack’s Christmas sweater for the following year. I purchased a (brand new with tags) $58, Heartstrings Christmas sweater on EBAY for $14.00. A splurge would have been to purchase a sweater outright for $58.00. It would have broke the bank and been a foolish purchase. No kid needs a $58 sweater! My splurge was a savvy splurge for two reasons; the sweater was a needed item and in my budgeted clothing money. I do not need to buy a Christmas sweater this year and a have extra money in this year’s clothing allotment in the holiday category!

xmas sweater

Hopefully, my 6 savings tips for purchasing kid’s clothing is helpful. How do you save money on kid’s clothes? What are some of your favorite places for bargins? I would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

My Top Weekly Tasks 9/2 – 9/8


September is here and I am days away from hitting the 35th week in my pregnancy. I am starting to nest as well as prepare for autumn. With our “move of an unknown date” looming, I am also continuing to (slowly) pack.

Below are my tasks for the week:


Jack haircut – Tuesday afternoon

Trip to aquarium

Birthday present for Gram

Schedule maternity photo session

Schedule Jack 3-year photos at JCPenny

Play outside


Wash floors

Clean shower and tub

Clean freezer


Wash, dry, and pack all beach and outdoor toys


Organize, wash, and pack Jack’s 4T fall / winter clothing

Prepare Jack’s Halloween costume and candy bag


Make planned freezer meals

Make baby bag list

Make Jack’s big brother surprise bag


Have Jack make background for his fish tank


Sleep, a lot!!

Work on thrift shop blog post


What is on your task list for this week?

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker