Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Got Links to Share

I found some really great posts I wanted to share about re-purposing some old things or making things on the cheap. And a great way to save our environment!

I follow these blogs regularly for coupons and tips. Thanks Sheryl and Stephanie!

Pancake batter dispenser
Soft Scrub for less (and safe for the environment if use an biodegradable liquid soap)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Sugar Hand Scrub

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Don't Forget the Reindeer

Today we went to a play date to make food for the reindeer on Christmas Eve. It was a really cute idea and the kids really enjoyed it. In fact, Kaiden keeps asking me if he can eat the reindeer food now!

The Legend of Magical Reindeer Dust
It has once been said,
That right before you go to bed.
You should sprinkle magic reindeer food,
To quickly bring Santa and his brood.
For many years the legend has been told,
To boys and girls, both young and old,
Sprinkle the food throughout your yard,
Then finding your house won’t be so hard!
The reindeer can smell the food for 100 miles,
Just do not leave it in big piles!
After you do this you must go to sleep very fast,
So Santa and his reindeer will not pass!


Ingredients:
1 cup dry oats
1 cup sugar
glitter (or cake sprinkles so as not to harm the animals who may eat it)

Mix it all together and scatter around the outside of your home.

Use this poem to go with it:
Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon will make it sparkle bright
As Santa's reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home.

Here's Kaiden gluing the instructions on the paper


Miss Maddey posing with her reindeer food

Kaiden displaying his hard work!
Now on to making cookies on Thursday for Santa!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Useless Christmas Facts

Did you know?

  • Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.
  • The poinsettia, traditionally an American Christmas flower, originally grew in Mexico; where it was known as the "Flower of the Holy Night". It was first brought to America by Joel Poinsett in 1829.
  • If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas", you would receive 364 presents. That's a LOT of crappy presents!
  • On average, an American family sends and receives 28 Christmas cards each year.
  • Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition. I'll pass thankyouverymuch.
  • One in three American men say they wait until Christmas Eve to finish their holiday shopping. Are we suprised?
  • There are towns named Santa Claus in Arizona and Indiana, one named Noel in Missouri, and towns named Christmas in Arizona and Florida. Who knew?!?!
  • About 31% of all diamond purchases are made during the Christmas season. Hint, Hint.
  • Due to the way time zones work, Santa actually has 31 hours to deliver his gifts.

I bet you will all sleep a bit better tonight. You're welcome.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Meal Plan-12/19/10

Last week's meal plan ended up getting moved around quite a bit. But that's the beauty of a good meal plan...technically having all the ingredients already in your home for each meal will allow for easy movage (totally a word) to suit you as the week progresses.

I ended up moving Wednesday's meal to Saturday, moving Saturday's meal to Sunday, deleting Thursday's meal altogether so to eat up some left overs from Tuesday's meal. But, it all worked in the end. So I have some meals left over from last week that I will try and re-work into this week.....and Christmas dinner....I am still deciding what to do for that one. It's just us this year so do I want to make a big meal or do I want to keep it crazy simple? I am thinking crazy simple but, hmmm.....

Sunday-Quinoa Waldorf Salad. Madelyn gobbled this one up again. Kaiden still, notsomuch. But it's yummy!
Monday-Tostadas using my favorite refried bean recipe. Oh, it's heaven. You MUST try!
Tuesday-Eggplant Parm
Wednesday-Crockpot Vegetarian Chili
Thursday-Lettuce Wraps. I have some tofu sitting in my fridge that I might try and make this with for me. Chicken for the hubs and kiddos.
Friday-Homemade pizza. I got some pizza yeast packets the other day (for FREE thanks to my coupons!) so I want to try to make my own pizza dough. Hmmmm....let's see how this goes.
Saturday-Christmas. Still deciding.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Festivities Galore

The past few weeks have been crazy with Christmas festivities. Throw in the fact that I still have gifts to buy for the kids, presents to wrap, stocking stuffers to pick up, birthday parties to attend, meals to plan and shop for and the normal chaos to deal with we are a very busy family these days. But who's stressed? Not me.

Anywho, on Wednesday we went to a mom's group friend's house for a gingerbread house building play date. But, no kits here. We did the old fashioned graham crackers and icing and candy decorating houses. The kids had a blast! And there may or may not have been a slew of candy that didn't make it on any houses at all. But I'm not one to snitch.

Here are my goobers decorating their house working so nicely together.



Here are all the houses that were decorated that day. As you can see, quite the variety. Only one house collapsed due to the fact that most of us used a GLUE GUN! Holla!

This is our house looking all nice and yummy.
Then on Thursday Kaiden had his last day of school before Christmas/New Year's break. So, the last hour they invited the parents to join the class for a Birthday celebration for Jesus! Kaiden attends a Christian school so I LOVE the fact that they can reinforce the true meaning of Christmas with what we are teaching him at home and what he learns at church.

Here are the kids singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Then they follow that with their daily prayer that they sing before their snack everyday. We have adopted this prayer and use it most nights at our dinner table before eating.

Here is Kaiden decorating his sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles


Then the kiddos decorated a gingerbread man with anything and everything they wanted to stick on it.

That evening the school put on a Christmas show with all of the preschool and pre-K classes. Kaiden's 2's class started off the show with the ringing of the bells. It was adorable and sooo typical of a young toddler-esque show with all the kids waving to parents in the audience! (Sorry for the quality of this video...I was using my camera since I don't know how to upload our videos from our actual video camera. Oye! )


Here is Kaiden and Madelyn after the show in his classroom. The teachers handed out a gift to the students for a job well done!

Kaiden poses with his teacher (left) and the classroom aide (right). See you all next year!

We still have a few fun play dates planned next week in which we are going to make food for the reindeer to sprinkle in the yard on Christmas Eve and also to make cookies to leave for Santa. We will also most likely attend a live nativity show that is at a church about a mile from out home tonight, go out and look at Christmas lights in our neighborhood (for the third time!), visit a massive gingerbread house village and watch copious amounts of Christmas movies! The craziness continues but I LOVE the Christmas season!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homemade Christmas Gifts

So you remember this post when I talked about my mason jars and how excited I was to make them into Christmas gifts this year? Well, I'm finally finished the task, mailed them off today and I am so excited with how they turned out.

You have probably seen homemade bread or muffin mixes, soup, coffee or bath recipes that you can make and put in a jar for someone. Well, I made a hot chocolate mix recipe that I found here and filled each jar with the mix. But first, I made the tags to attach to the jars using some scrapbooking paper and scrapbooking rub-ons. I punched a hole in the end and secured an eyelet to reinforce the hole (not shown in this picture).
Then I selected a fabric (I got a big sheet of it at Walmart for $1.00! HOLLA!) and cut it into an appropriate size square for each jar and spray glued it to each lid like so...

After I filled the jars with the mix, I made labels on my computer using Avery name badge printable labels and printed the directions of how to make the hot chocolate and the ingredients in the mix (we don't have a color printer here so that was a bit disappointing, but they turned out alright despite them only being black and white). I then stuck them to the jar, threaded the tag through the ribbon and tied it around the top of the jar. They looked so pretty!

We also made picture ornaments for the grandparents using felt and sequin-like crafty things.
And to top off the gifts, I made homemade, non-toxic hand sanitizer as well. It smells sooo good! I printed up labels on my computer using the same name badge size labels which I had to cut down slightly so they fit on the bottles better. All the ingredients are proven to kill germs, including virus, but are all safe for the environment and completely safe for you!

I sent each gift to the grandparents, my brother and SIL, hubs SIL and even made one for Kaiden's teacher and the aide in his classroom. I think the shipping alone cost me more than that actual gifts themselves, but I am willing to bet that most everyone will appreciate a homemade gift rather than something I bought in the store that they may never use!

Merry Christmas!

It's Beginning to Look A LOT Like Christmas

We haven't gotten family pictures done since Kaiden was about 7 months old. I wanted to get some taken this year so I would have something nice to send out for our Christmas cards. We went yesterday to a local portrait place and not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised how well our photos turned out.

Here is Miss DIVA looking so cute and innocent


Handsome boy looking so grown up!

My two cuties cooperating so well for the camera

My beautiful family whom I am so blessed to have!
Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meal Plan-12/12/10

Meal Planning worked like a charm last week. I had all my ingredients on hand, knew exactly what I was making that night and (amen!) had our dinner out on the table with no stress. Well, minus the crying, fighting children swarming around my feet during preparations. Besides that it was low stress.

I think it will work out for us that each week I will try to incorporate one night of a salad meal, one night of a mexican meal, one night of a meat dish, one pasta meal and the next two nights are open. We usually go to Saturday night church service so will probably just do dinner out when we go since coming home at 6:00 and starting to cook something isn't very appealing to me. This new schedule will seem to give the meals variety and balance throughout the week.

Sunday-Birthday party for our friend's son. Salad and pizza.
Monday-Lasagna Rolls
Tuesday-Chicken fajitas
Wednesday-Veggie Pot Pies
Thursday-Crockpot vegetarian chili
Friday-Veggie burgers with sweet potato fries
Saturday-Quinoa Waldorf Salad. I recently bought Quinoa from Costco and have been wanting to try it. I came across this recipe that was linked from Katie's blog a few weeks ago and had to try it. It didn't disappoint and Madelyn gobbled it up! Kaiden....well, not so much. He didn't hate it, but only took a few bites because he "had" to.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jumping Rope



A few notes about this video:
  1. He states that he is "using the jump rope from Halloween." For the record, I have no idea what jump rope and Halloween are doing in the same sentence and why he thinks he got this "jump rope" when he was trick or treating. In fact, he is using Paco's leash instead.
  2. Just 5 minutes before shooting this video he told me he learned how to jump rope at school from his teacher. Because I sure as heck didn't teach him how to jump rope. But then in this video he states he "learned how to jump rope from trick or treating." Honestly, I am at a loss as to where to go with that statement.
  3. Notice that my children do not like to wear clothing. When we were potty training he ran around naked so that he would tell us when he needed to go potty and not pee in his pants. Since he is now fully potty trained we try to at least keep underwear on the kid, but it's a daily mystery whether he wants just undies on, his pants on or nothing at all. I choose to pick my battles most days.
  4. I had to stop this video short when Madelyn decided to kidnap Ernie our "elf on a shelf." Apparently Ernie's perching spot was not out of the reach of curious toddler hands like he thought.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Being a Mom

Being a mom is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I know it's so cliche, but it's so true. Most days I feel like a failure and wonder if I have done anything right. Often my patience runs thin, my house is a mess and I look like I have been hit by a truck from lack of sleep. I repeat myself a million times, kiss countless "owies," and break-up multiple battles between toddlers.

Just a couple days ago my children were OUT. OF. CONTROL. The day seemed to drag on as I dealt with numerous melt downs, time outs, uncontrolled emotions, fighting and clinginess that all made me want to crawl in a hole and hibernate 'til next winter. It was by far the worst day that I had faced being a mommy to two kiddos. I was emotionally and physically exhausted even before nap time hit and wondered if I would make it through the rest of the day. It's days like that which I find myself needing a reminder that I love being a mom. I really do love it.

I have a folder on my computer which I titled "reality check." I often go to the folder and look at the posts that I have stashed away in there (this post and this post are my favorites). Just for for days like I had this week. It's a reminder that one day I will miss it. All of it. My kids will be grown, they won't want to snuggle with me, they won't want to sit in my lap and read stories, they won't want to hold my hand while walking across the street. I'll miss it. Both the good days and the bad days. I try and savor it all.

As another reminder to myself, here's my top 10 reason's why I love being a mom:
  1. No matter how ugly you feel, they will always tell you you're pretty.
  2. Little snuggles and kisses.
  3. They bring simple innocence to a world full of craziness.
  4. They keep me laughing.
  5. Acting silly is okay. In fact, it's part of the job description.
  6. Unexpected flowers, gifts and hugs.
  7. Seeing all our hard work pay off when they love each other, give a helping hand to each other, share toys with their sibling, say "please" & "thank you" to total strangers, or tell the other "it's okay" when they fall down.
  8. Being able to watch my husband be an amazing father.
  9. My life suddenly has purpose.
  10. They make me want to be a better person.

I love being a mom.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Meal Plan-12/5/10

I have GOT to get back to meal planning. Looking back at some old posts, the last time I meal planned was a year ago! No wonder most nights I am racking my brain (and shuffling through my cabinets) to figure out what to throw together in time for 5:00 dinner. I hate feeling that pressure at the end of the day not knowing exactly what we are having. Even if you vary from the plan at last minute and make something else or decide to go out to dinner, or even flip the dinner you had planned for Monday with the dinner that was planned for Thursday meal planning is a huge help. It's a huge time saver, gas saver (so you are not at the grocery store EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!) and stress reliever.

So here's to putting meal planning back into my life again! *Clink, clink!*

Sunday-Broccoli Slaw Salad
Monday-Pasta e Fagioli
Tuesday-Enchiladas (chicken for the kids and hubs, beans & cheese for me)
Wednesday-Corn Chowder
Thursday-Applesauce pancakes with fruit salad (who doesn't love breakfast for dinner?!?!)
Friday-Homemade veggie pizza
Saturday-Out to dinner after church

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kids Christmas Craft Day

Did you know that today is December 1st?!?!? I know! Hard to believe. So I thought it would be fun to kick off our 25 days until Christmas with a kids craft day in which I hosted at my house with a few mamas from my mom's group.

The kids had a blast! We made a Christmas Advent Chain, a clothespin Reindeer and a little foam ornament. Even if most of the crafts were eventually completed by the mamas, I think they will all have something to add to their Christmas tree and look back on it for years to come.

Miss Maddey very intently checking out her craft bag

Kaiden gluing his Christmas Advent chain together

Look Mommy at my advent chain!

Each kid got a different foam ornament to glue together and hang on their tree. (a Dollar Store find!)

My favorite: Reindeer Clothespin craft
(see below for a "how to")


Materials for the clothespin reindeer craft:
-3 Flat, old-fashioned clothespins (I found these at Michaels, but I believe you can find them at Wal-mart and such stores like that)
-Ribbon. One color used to make a loop so it will hang on your tree and one color for the neck (the one at the neck needs to be very thin so you can thread the bell through it).
-Googly eyes
-Small bell for around neck (found at Michael's)
-Red pom-pom for nose (found at Michael's)
-White pom-pom for tail (found at Michael's)
-Brown felt.
-Glue (Elmer's school glue works okay but it takes awhile to dry. A hot glue gun works best-especially for the pom-poms which will only stay on with hot glue).

Directions:
-Loop one color ribbon in a loop and glue between two clothespins to form the body.
-Glue one clothespin upside down onto the body to form the head and antlers.
-Glue on googly eyes, and red pom nose.
-Cut out tear drop shaped ears from the felt and glue on.
-Glue white pom on the bum of the reindeer.
-Tie ribbon around neck with bell (I hot glued it to the neck for added reinforcement).

The Christmas countdown has begun! It'll be here before we know it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discipline Techniques

Last Thursday I went to a session with a local Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist that was set up through my mom's group. We had her come to talk with a small group of us regarding discipline techniques. Although she works with married couples as well, her specialty seems to be working with children ages 0-5. She teaches her discipline strategies from the "attachment parenting" theory.

While I didn't agree with all that she had to offer, I will say that I came out of there with a better understanding of the toddler mind and different strategies that I can throw into my "bag of tricks" to pull from when I need to.

I wrote down a whole slew of notes from what she said. And since there were 8 of us there, there were some questions that pertained to what each of us may be dealing with a this time. So, even though I did get some specific questions of mine answered, I think I would still love to do a one-on-one session with someone like her to evaluate our specific family/children and offer advice.

Here are some notes that I took from the session:

  • The stronger the attachment is with your child the more kids will be open to listening.
  • Throwing food on the floor (at 12-15 months-ish) is a normal part of development.
  • Always say what you want your child to do. Example: "You may walk," "You may touch nicely," "You may eat a treat after you finish all of your dinner." Instead of, "Don't run." "Don't hit" or "No snack/treats right now."
  • Don't use contractions: Don't, Won't, Can't, etc. Children only hear "hit," "run," etc.
  • Through preschool/early kindergarten age kids hit and push as part of their development. It's totally normal.
  • Young children (through early kinder) don't have impulse control. Time outs probably won't work because of this, instead re-direct or separate them. (Notice how you give time outs for the same thing over and over and over again?!?!)
  • Verbalize emotions for children. "I can see that you are mad/sad/bored, etc."
  • Saying, "I know you are mad but we don't hit. You may hit this pillow instead."
  • Toddlers may only get every 3rd or 4th word you say. Keep it brief...1-2 sentences.
  • 5 yo+ can start to "manipulate" since they have more brain development at this age. Before this they can't.
  • As soon as our tone starts to elevate children hear nothing of what you are saying. They just focus on your body language and face and see you getting angry.
  • It is scary for a child to see their "go to person" (this is what she kept calling parents) mad.
  • Teach repairative acts. Example: If they push someone down take them over to the person they hurt and give them an ice pack.
  • Reward after 2 or 3 times. (this was in response to my question on reward charts) But don't use reward charts for everything cause then they will think that they are going to "get something" for everything they do. Try to use a lot of praise!
  • Toddlers have no concept of time. We can't expect them to wait for long periods.
  • Be available. It's hard for kids to tolerate time alone if they are put in their rooms as discipline.
  • Young ones really do need CONSTANT attention.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Help them calm down when throwing a temper tantrum. It is scary for them to be out of control like that and they don't have the know how to always calm themselves down. When there is distress we look to someone to help us. She gave an example of adults even. When we are upset we call a friend or spouse to talk it out and help us feel better. Same (or even more so) with kids.
  • You will have to repeat yourself 1000x's for kids to do something. "Go get your shoes, etc."
  • Children want to feel in control somewhere so let them have lots of choices when you can. "What color plate do you want to eat off of?" "Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the green shirt." "Would you like to put your shoes on or do you want me to help you put your shoes on?"
  • Future relationships, learning, etc. all depend on the attachment they have with their "go to person."

Like I said, I didn't agree with everything that she talked about mainly the part when she discussed giving time outs as I do believe there needs to be some form of discipline even if you have to do it over and over and over again. (*Side note: She didn't say don't discipline, but she did say that it doesn't usually work. So, if you need to do a quick time out then do so as to calm yourself down or the child down then follow up with a "time in" in which you explain what went wrong and offer an alternative to the punishable behavior*) I did agree with her on the level of expectations. I fully believe that I often expect too much from Kaiden and Madelyn. I often think that they should "get it" by now but after speaking with her and realizing what goes on in the toddler mind, I can see that mentally they just aren't capable of some things. After all, they are only (just turned) 3 and 17 months old! So, this has helped me to lower my expectations slightly (I am a work in progress!) and realize that I will need to repeat myself (a million times), stay calm and help them through different situations better.

It's all a learning game. No one has the "correct answer" to parenting. But maybe somewhere along the way if we have enough tools to pull from we will one day get it right! Happy parenting!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Veggie Pot Pies


We struggle to get our kids to eat their vegetables. Shocking. I know. So I have aspired to find better ways to "encourage" healthy eating. Last week I was searching out some recipes online and came across a pot pie recipe. I have never actually made a pot pie (but always wanted to) and remembered seeing an episode of "Take Home Chef" many moons ago where he made individual pot pies for a group of kids and moms. I have a few Ramekins stowed away in the back of my cabinets so thought I give it a go.

I used this recipe as my guide since I didn't want to spend all day in my kitchen but made some adjustments.
  • Can of condensed Cream of Potato soup (or Cream of Mushroom would work too)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • pinches of dried parsley and basil
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper (this was actually too much pepper...I would probably cut it down to 1/4 tsp next time)
  • prepared pie crusts (I only used one and divided it into quarters for the pie topping
  • Veggies. I sauteed a bunch of what I had on hand and threw in some frozen veggies as well.
  • Chicken *optional* I kept mine just veggies but threw in some cooked organic chicken cubes in the kids and hubs' pies.
Mix it all together and fill the pies. Top with the pie crusts and bake @ 350 degrees for 30ish minutes or until crusts are slightly browned. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rock-A-Bye Baby: Kaiden Style



Just when I feel like I wanna give up, they go and do something completely cute! Love you bunches you two goober-pies.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Flashbacks to Some of My Favorite Posts

Every once in awhile I will go back and re-read some of my posts. Today I went WAY back to the very beginning of my blogging days. Can you believe it's been 2 years already?!?!? My goodness. Anyways, thought I would share some of my favs:

-This post makes me laugh every time I see it. And since lately I have been feeling like I need a major Mommy attitude adjustment this makes me feel a tad bit better.
-How about the 101 most random things about me.
-Re-living the 80's.
-My first bloggy award.
-Kaiden's first birthday.
-The crazy Googlers out there.
-51 things I have learned along the way.
-Finding out a little GIRL was on the way. Then her finally arriving!
-Why I love my mother.
-Two years of marital bliss.
-Can I tell you that these made it back to the store and then were mysteriously re-purchased. We have currently used ONE. Out of 16. So glad we made this purchase.
-My baby turns a year old.
-My sweet babies.
-I still catch myself saying the most outlandish things.

After reading these old posts, I am SO GLAD that I have a blog. I don't keep up with it nearly as often as I would like to and have missed a few milestones along the way, but it makes me so happy to re-read fun things that have happened over the past 2 years.

Thanks for coming along with me on my journey!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where I Have Been

Oh. My. Goodness.

The past few weeks have been INSANE around here. I don't know what happened. October was going all smooth and non-eventful like and all of a sudden WHAM! it turned into YOUHAVEGOTTOBEKIDDINGME mode in no time flat. Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

But seriously. I have taken on some other hobbies that have caused every second of my "free time" to get eaten up. Couponing. It may just be thing that kills me.

It all started about a month ago when a gal from my mom's group wrote on our message boards that she is interested in starting to use coupons. From there we had newbie couponers, expert couponers and coupon flirters all respond that they were also interested in getting together to share tips, learn from the pros or get some motivation to get back in the couponing scene. Who isn't up for saving a buck or two here and there? So, I decided to go to the "class" that we set up to learn a thing or two about it.

Since I buy 80-90% organic products (or make most of my stuff from scratch) I never thought that I would ever benefit from using coupons. Until now. I quickly learned that I too, can save a pretty penny by just taking the time to clip some coupons, check out the sale ads and meander through some couponing websites. Now, I won't ever save as much as the people out there that are buying conventional products per se, but now that I am aware of what is out there, I too have found that I can save with just a little planning and researching.

I am still learning. And while it is taking me what seems like FOREVER to figure it all out, I know that as I get more comfortable with this whole new endeavor (and stockpile!) that I will become more comfortable and it will seem like second nature. But in the meantime, I am finding it fun to go to the store and seek out the sales, stack my coupons, bust out competitor coupons and double my coupons to walk away with killer deals!

For instance, on Sunday, I went to Fry's and bought $54.00 worth of groceries and after sales and coupons I only paid $13.00! And most of it was organic! It's a start!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

We received this dress from friends of ours when Madelyn was born. Since it is a 2T size I put it in her closet for when she was big enough to wear it. Last week I was in her bedroom putting some items away and she opened her closet and pointed to this dress saying, "Pretty." Why yes, my princess, it is pretty. So we tried it on and, Oh. My. Frilly. She is so adorable, is she not?!?!?!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Random Tuesday Thoughts: Apples, Garage Sales & Oh, My Spinning Head

randomtuesday

We went apple picking and I now have 10lbs of apples in my refrigerator. Ten pounds of apples may not look like a lot in a dilapidated old wheelbarrow, but in my tiny refrigerator it looks like I brought home the whole orchard.

In the past three days we have eaten apples baked, cobblered, with the skin, without the skin, with peanut butter and topped with ice cream. Next I am making apple strudel muffins. By the time I am done with 10 lbs of apples I may not even want to see another apple again in my life. Although I must admit those baked apples with ice cream where de-lish.

I am doing a community garage sale on Saturday and hoping to clear out a ton of junk from our house. It has my head spinning and I almost feel like my time is worth more than the $.50 that I may get for the clock that I saw at Walmart for $5.00 new. Although I am sure the buyer will try and bargain me down to $.25. And if that's the case and $.25 is going to break your budget, then just take the dang thing.

October has been a super busy month for me leaving me with little spare time (so notice I am using that precious time to blog). It got me thinking of all the working mothers out there. How do you do it? All that I have to do in a day which inevitably spills over to the weekends I could NEVER get done in non-business hours.

My 30-day Love Challenge is going okay. It's hard, let me tell you. I have missed a few days here and there just cause life has gotten in the way. But, for the most part I have stuck to my schedule and I am more than half-way through. Yay me!

Kaiden had his first soccer game last Saturday. Oh. My. Goodness. It was as hilarious as I expected. But he LOVED it. And even though he played most of the game, which meant he stood on the field and had to be reminded that you actually have to run after the ball instead of just stand there, he made sure to declare to his daddy that, "I'm a really good soccer player, Daddy." Modesty has never been his strong suit.

I have been getting to the gym pretty regularly these days. And using my new iPod that I got last year for Christmas. How did I ever work out without it? I am still not sure why hubs thought I was joking when I asked him to load Backstreet Boys, N Sync & Pearl Jam on there, though.

While leggings are a very comfortable option, I am still not so sure about the trend coming back in style. Admittedly I bought a pair a week or so ago at Target with a really cute 3/4 sleeve cow neck sweater. I tried it on the other day in hopes of convincing myself that it's okay to "go there" again. I'm not quite convinced yet. Thankfully the temps are still in the 80's/90's here so I have a few weeks until it become appropriate apparel.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Green" Skin Care

If you read my post about "green" cleaning recipes then you know that I am on a quest to get toxic chemicals out of my home. And if you read this post, you know that includes skin care. So I have also been doing a TON of research on beauty products and how I can change from the ones that are swimming with crap to more natural ones. Think that our government is regulating these "mainstream" products and the ingredients that go in them? Think again. Most of the ingredients in your skin care products (1) have NOT been regulated or tested by any government agency and (2) are banned from most European countries and Canada. So why are they still being used here? Well, that's the million dollar question.

But instead of getting up on my soapbox and exposing you to my rants, I'll let you surf around the Internet or poke your nose into some books on the subject and come to your own conclusions. Don't let me be the one that spoils your beauty party.

Now for skin care tips for the "green" gals out there.

From the time I moved here to Arizona in 2003 I have had issues with my skin. It's like I rode into town and my face errupted. I almost never have a clear face and always seem to have a blemish popping up here and there at all times. What's even more frustrating with this is that a lot of the time when they do actually go away they leave scars that take FOREVER to fade. It's like I am a 13-year-old teenager again. I have tried everything. Ev-er-y-thing. And while some products have helped a bit here and there, I still have never had a clear complexion. I believe a lot of this has to do with what you eat. And, miraculously, since I have done my 30-day no meat challenge I have noticed a significant improvement in my skin. But I haven't been totally satisfied with just that.

After a ton of research on beauty secrets I found that a lot of people, especially with problem skin, have been washing their face with honey. I know, right!?!??! Honey?!?!? So, I decided to give it a try. And after two weeks of washing my face morning and night with just honey, I am amazed! My skin is softer and smoother and I haven't had a single blemish. One night I felt a pimple coming on so I did a honey mask and let it sit on my face for about 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off and the next day, I'm serious as a heart attack, no pimple! It dried it right up.

Now if you are going to try washing your face with honey here are a few tips:
-Use raw, organic honey. None of this processed honey that comes in the little bear squeezy-do.
-Remove any make-up first (read on for clearing your skin of make-up)
-Add a drop or two of tea tree oil for some blemish protection as tea tree oil will help with acne.
-Add some brown sugar or baking soda to the honey (mix in your hand) for a scrub. (*note* I have read that sugar will tend to invite bacteria so if you have problem skin I would steer clear of the sugar and just use the baking soda)
-Use as a mask at night. Just slather on your face and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Rinse off.
-Make sure you use a headband to pull back stray hair. While the honey is sticky going on, it really gets nice and smooth once on your face....but if it gets in your hair....stick-o-rama.

Coconut oil
Up until about a week ago I was taking my eye make-up off with commercial brands of eye make-up remover. And even though I used 3 different kinds at the same time (yes, three!) to try and get my make-up off, I still would wake up in the morning with raccoon eyes. So, while reading and reading and reading about all natural products I saw that a lot of people were using Coconut oil for make-up removing. I bought a jar and gave it a try. I kid you not, it took all my make-up off immediately with hardly any scrubbing and wiping like I was doing with my store bought stuff. And it conditions your skin like nobodies business.

So, what I do is massage the coconut oil (a small dab will do you just fine) into my face, including eyes. Wipe off with a piece of toilet paper. Rinse with water. Wash with honey! That's it!

I also used coconut oil as a shaving cream. Just slathered it all over my legs and shaved. My skin felt soft and moisturized as well as smelled oh so yummy. You can also use it as a hair conditioning pre-shampoo treatment or use as a moisturizer. Try it as a foot cream and slather on dry feet and cover with socks before you go to bed. A lot of people use it as a eye cream as well. I, personally, think that it is a little oily and find it doesn't penetrate my skin quick enough to use as a daily moisturizer. I have also read conflicting information where some people said it helped wonderfully with their acne while others say that it made it worse. So, for that reason, I have been a little afraid to keep it on my face for an extended period of time. But, I will continue to use it for make-up removal and shaving cream.

If you are going to use coconut oil, again, make sure it is unrefined, extra virgin, raw (if you can find it), organic coconut oil.

Olive Oil
Believe it or not I have been using olive oil as a facial moisturizer. Most mornings I feel like a turkey on Thanksgiving morning getting basted and ready for the oven, but it is a wonderful moisturizer. I hesitated at first putting an oil on my skin, especially my face, but it has so far been really wonderful. It penetrates my skin and doesn't feel oily at all. You can also use it as a make-up remover and takes off eye make-up in a few quick swipes.

I know I am a broken record, but buy Extra Virgin, organic Olive Oil.

Egyptian Magic
I read about this balm in a book and saw some reviews on the Internet and figured it was worth a try. It's a little expensive for the 4oz tub, but a little dab will go a long way. I have been mostly using it as an eye cream at night and, I know that I making everything out to be miracle cures, but really the fine lines under my eyes have significantly gone away. I have also used it as a hand cream and seems to work pretty well. Further reading suggests that people put it on everything...bee stings, rashes, cuts, pimples, etc. and it heals them all really quickly.

Give all my home treatments a try. I am confident that you will find them all really fantastic, really cheap (compared to most "mainstream" varieties) and will be much healthier & toxic-free!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Green" Cleaning Recipes

I have totally submerged myself in this whole non-toxic, clean living path that I am on. When I tell you that I have been doing a TON of research, I'm not kidding. Reading books and countless sites on the Internet have given me endless amounts of information about beauty and cleaning products. And can I just start off my saying, "Yuck." It's insane what's in them. But if you want to do some research for yourself here's a few of my favorite places to start.

Gorgeously Green
book and website. She also has a book covering beauty products in which I am currently on the wait list at the library to get.

Another great website is
No More Dirty Looks. They also have a book that I am currently reading.

I must admit I have been having fun toying around with a few recipes that I have discovered on the web. And much to my dismay, they actually work as good, if not better, then their chemically laden counterparts that cost $$ more at the store. While you may have to invest in a few key ingredients up front, using the non-toxic products will save your wallet in the long run. Here are some recipes that I have currently been using for cleaning around my home.

Glass cleaner
2 c water
1/4 c white vinegar
1/2 tsp. dish soap

Keep in squirt bottle and shake up before using. I use an old wash cloth to wipe glass down with and it doesn't streak at all. If you don't like the vinegar smell (which goes away pretty quickly so I don't mind it) you can add some essential oils of your choice.

All-purpose cleaner
2 c water
1/2 c white vinegar
1 tsp castile soap (I use peppermint)
3/4 c hydrogen peroxide
20 drops tea tree oil
20 drops lavender (optional)

Mix all together and store in an opaque spray bottle because the light will diffuse the essential oils and hydrogen peroxide. Use on all surfaces including granite. It smells soooo good. It kind of makes me want to lick my counter tops!

Mouthwash
I haven't tried this yet, but I have all the ingredients to make this once my store bought crap is gone.
1/2 c distilled water
1 c aloe vera juice
1 T witch hazel
2 T baking soda
20 drops peppermint oil
Keep it in the fridge for a refreshing blast of mint!


*Update (11/1) I did make this and it tastes OK. Something that we will have to get used to. But it is FAR LESS toxic then the store bought variety!

Room Freshener
Essential oil of your choice (I am in love with lavender right now)
Water

Fill an old spray bottle with water and add some essential oil to desired aroma). Spray around your room and it will feel like you are laying in a field of lavender. (This was also recommended to me to use as a "monster spray" in case your little ones are afraid of monsters in their rooms! How cleaver!)

Baking Soda
I have also been using some baking soda to scrub my kitchen sink. Which is working really well. Once I use up all my store bought bathroom cleaners I will also be using it elsewhere. Also, about a week ago my bathroom sink became clogged up from all my hair falling out when I brush it or blow it dry. So I made a homemade drain cleaner and it worked like a charm.

Pour baking soda down in the drain. About a 1/2 cup or so. Then pour about equal amount of white vinegar down the drain. Watch it fizz up. Let sit for about an hour or more. Boil a kettle full of water and slowly pour the HOT water down the drain. Repeat process if necessary. I had to do this twice, but after the second time the clog was completely gone!

How's that for $1.00 a box?!?! (or if your a Costco member you can get a HUGE bag for like $5.00! or possibly FREE if you are into couponing....which I will report on my new adventures in coupons later as I figure it all out.)

See how easy it can be? Now go ahead and give it a try!

Come back later for my "green" skin care routine!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kaiden's 3rd Birthday

Kaiden's 3rd birthday seemed to be a success. He has been wanting a bike (which he now calls his "Good Boy Bike") for some time now. We figured it was time to upgrade from the little tricycle and pass that on to Madelyn and get Kaiden a new bike.

Here he is the morning of his birthday riding his new bike at the park.

Kaiden has also been so into guitars and musical instruments that we told Grandma Mary to get him one for his birthday. It was a hit as well...

and also with Madelyn.

Because we were going out to dinner I didn't want to have to rush cake when we returned home and were trying to get the kids to bed. So, we did cake for lunch. I used this recipe and made my own vanilla icing and oh my....it was good! Blowing out the candles!

We went to Maggiano's for dinner. We usually are loyal to Olive Garden since it is kid friendly, consistently good, well priced, and the kids will eat well there. I decided to get a little fancier and, honestly, it was a mistake. I guess I had these fantasies of all sitting around the table reminiscing about Kaiden's day and the past 3 years, blah, blah, blah. I was more like an octopus trying to grab things out of the way, feed the kids, shovel food in my mouth when possible, keep the kids from getting down from the table....Next time we will stick to what we know best. But the food was GOOD none-the-less.

Cheese! (and pasta!)


Mommy makes a rare appearance in a picture with the birthday boy
Driving home to go to bed!
Happy Birthday buddy! Here's to a great year!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Love Letter

Dear honey,

I love you when you snuggle with me at night.
I love you when you tell me I am beautiful even on the days that I feel not even remotely pretty.
I love you when you play with the kids.
I love you when you read the kids stories and put them to bed.
I love you when you clean up the kitchen after dinner.
I love you when you fill up my gas tank.
I love you when you hug me.
I love you when you tell me "it'll be okay" when I am feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I love you when you give me advice.
I love you when we think the same thought or say the same thing at the same time.
I love you when you ask me where the cream cheese is even though it is right in front of you in the refrigerator.
I love you when you accept me despite my imperfections.
I love you when you take the kids out so I can have some time to myself to get things done.
I love you when you work hard all day but still come home with excitement to see your family.
I love you when you send me text messages to let me know you are thinking of me.
I love you when you thank me for everything I do for the family.
I love you when we have time to go on a date night.
I love you when you hold my hand.
I love you when you look out for my health and safety.
I love you when you make me laugh.

I love you today, I'll love you tomorrow and I'll love you forever.
I am the luckiest woman in the world to be married to such a wonderful man.

Lovingly yours,
Me

Friday, October 1, 2010

30-Day Love Challenge

A couple years ago we watched the movie Fireproof that is based on the book the Love Dare. After watching the movie I bought the book in hopes of one day going through the 40-day challenge. After attempting it many, many times, and never getting further than day 3, I recently thought that I would try a different approach.

Since doing my 30-day No Meat & No TV challenge in the month of September I felt motivated to try another 30-day challenge and thought of the idea of doing a 30-day Love Challenge. Sort of based on the Love Dare, sort of not. My pastor often talks about how we need to determine and stick to a family flow chart. This means we should always be putting God first, our spouse second and our children third. Admittedly, I am often guilty of skewing this flow chart and putting my kids above all else. I seem to focus all my attention on my kids craziness and seem to forget that not only should I be devoting myself daily to God first, but my husband needs (and deserves) more attention that I am giving to the kids.

We've all been there. You married ladies all know what I am talking about. The day is non-stop with going, going, going, doing, doing, doing that by the end of the day your best energy is spent on the house and the kids and nothing is left for your husband. And I am not just talking about sex. I am talking about attention. One-on-one attention. Hugs, kisses, making him feel special, telling him that he is appreciated, building him up, letting him know that you have thought about him. So, I thought this challenge might be a good way for me to focus on my husband each and every day. And the best part is, I am not going to tell him (unless, of course, he reads this post and my cover is blown)! So, shhhhhhhh, it's a secret.

So, I have jotted down a schedule of things that I am going to do for him each day in the month of October. As you will see, a lot of these things take little or no effort at all. But I know it will make him feel so special just to have been thought of each and every day.

So here's to us and hoping to put a little *spark* back in our relationship!

Oct 1-Send him an E-card.
Oct 2-Give him a big hug and tell him what an amazing husband, father and provider he is for our family. (Also is Kaiden's 3rd birthday)
Oct 3-Give a back rub before bed.
Oct 4-Bake cookies and deliver them to his office with the kids.
Oct 5-Write a love letter.
Oct 6-Buy some new pj's and wear them to bed rather than my ratty t-shirt and shorts better know as "ole faithful."
Oct 7-Draw a bubble bath for him to soak in while I put both kids to bed.
Oct 8-Make Heart Hands craft of mine and kids hands and write loving note on them.
Oct 9-Make him breakfast in bed.
Oct 10-Give a back rub.
Oct 11-Put a card on his dashboard.
Oct 12-Send plant/flowers to his office.
Oct 13-Put towel in the dryer so it is warm for him when he gets done showering.
Oct 14-Send him a pix message of myself with a loving message.
Oct 15-Movie night. Watch Clash of the Titans (or another "man" movie) in bed together.
Oct 16-Arrange a golf outing with friends.
Oct 17-Give a back rub before bed.
Oct 18-Put a post-it note saying "I Love You" on his medicine cabinet door so he sees it when he is getting ready for work.
Oct 19-Put a Hershey's kiss and hug in his lunch.
Oct 20-Give him a framed pic of his family.
Oct 21-Make a puzzle with a love note.
Oct 22-Write a note on his Facebook wall telling him what a great husband and father he is.
Oct 23-Date night at the first place we had dinner together.
Oct 24-Give him a massage.
Oct 25-Watch Monday Night Football with him.
Oct 26-TBD
Oct 27-Make a gift box with a handmade book in it of "Top 10 reasons why I love you." Wrap it and put it where he can discover it at work.
Oct 28-Do a "Thankful Thursday" post devoted to him.
Oct 29-Make a picnic dinner in the living room for after the kids are in bed.
Oct 30-TBD

There are a few days that I have left without a planned activity. Mostly because I think I may need a few days to rearrange some things depending on how the month goes with our schedules. But I will fill them in later as I see how the month is going.

Now remember, I am not telling him that I am doing this. So, if you know my husband, DO NOT SPILL THE BEANS. Even though some of these are things that I already do on a here and there basis, I am sure he will thing that something is up when it is happening daily.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kaiden's Preschool Birthday Celebration

Today was Kaiden's last day of school this week before his birthday this Saturday. I wanted to do something special and bring in a little snack for the kids to help celebrate his big day. So the teacher said I could come in the last 15 minutes of class. Kaiden's school is considered "nut-free." Well, at least as it pertains to food. I can't attest to all the staff there but so far they all seem pretty "nut-free" as well. Ba dum dum.

Why yes. I was voted "least likely to make it as a stand-up comic" in high school. Why do you ask?

Moving on. There are very specific limitations that must be followed when bringing any food into the school. His teacher suggested Rice Krispie Treats since they are the easiest, non-crumbiest (totally a word) treat for that age range. So, it was decided. Rice Krispie Treats it was. And, honestly, I can't remember making them in the past decade so I was actually a wee bit excited to mix up a batch.

Now I know you all know how to make Rice Krispie Treats, but for those of you who are wondering....this is how it went down in my kitchen.

First we melt 3T butter.

Then we melt a 10oz bag of marshmallows. Minus two (or three) that mysteriously didn't make it into the pot.
Then we remove it from the heat and stir in 6 cups of Rice Krispies. Or if they are all out of the brand name variety, you buy the cheap Walmart version and wonder why you were going to spend $2.00 more on the same exact cereal just because it came in the original Kellogg's box.

Stir it all together. And try not to break a nail.

And press it into a 13x9 pan with some wax paper.

Drive to your son's preschool and let twelve 2&3 year olds devour your scrumptious treat.

Take a picture of the birthday boy.

Then go home and cry cause in two days he will be 3.
The end.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mason Jars

Confession: I have an addiction to glass mason jars.


It all started about a year ago when I got this ridiculously awesome idea for homemade Christmas gifts. So I started saving glass jars after I used them. Jars from spaghetti sauce, jars from salsa, almond butter, jelly jars, etc. etc. etc. Well, at the time, I had a 6 month old around the time of Christmas I barely had the time to scrounge up some gift cards for my family much less spend time being crafty with their gifts. So I stuck those jars away in my cabinets in hopes of my idea to come to fruition this year.

Fast forward to about a month ago when I was out in the blogosphere bouncing from blog to blog. I found this post about mason jars. I suddenly remembered that I had started to collect glass jars about a year ago. I rummaged in my cabinets and pulled them out and started filling them with nuts and seeds and dried beans.

Now I can't stop.

I am obsessed with how wonderful they look in my pantry. All neat and organized and fun. Oh so fun! Big jars, little jars, round jars, square-ish jars, big at the top/small at the bottom jars...such a montage of glass wonder. It makes me so happy to see my jars in my pantry. Sometimes I just open up the doors to marvel at their beauty. I have even been known to open a jar of spaghetti sauce and, even before it is done, transfer it to a different container in the fridge just so I can clean out that jar and use it in my pantry.

It's an illness. I think I need a 12-step program.

BUT, just you wait till I reveal my homemade Christmas gift idea this year. It's a gem.


Night all. I'm off to rearrange my jars.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fire Station Tour

Last Friday my mom's group visited the local fire station for a tour. The tour was wonderful and the kids couldn't have been happier to be able to meet the firemen, see the trucks, get a glimpse of the living quarters and even spray water from the fire hose! Then they invited us in their "home" for a pot luck lunch complete with grilled hot dogs for everyone. I felt compelled to call a cleaning lady to come clean up after about 40 kids played on their recliners. Those guys will be finding crumbs there for weeks. It was a fun day had by all. Although I don't know who had more fun. The kids or the, ahem, moms. Just sayin.

Here are the kids listening to the firemen talk about fire safety. One of the firemen even dressed up in his gear complete with helmet, jacket, pants and oxygen mask. It gave the kids a chance to see that even with all that gear on, he still is the same guy and not to be afraid of them in an emergency situation. They all got to give the guy a "high five" once he was all suited up.

Here's Kaiden taking his turn using the water hose.

Here we are getting on the firetruck
And learning about all their equipment on the truck

And sitting in the shade looking pretty

And standing by the fire truck not cooperating for a picture

They even let the kids try on their fire helmets

We never did fully cooperate with mom who was desperately trying to get a decent picture in front of the truck.
But we had a blast none-the-less. Thanks station 142! You guys (and gal) were great. I'm sure your station will never be the same!