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!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

10 Things I Never Thought Would Come Out of my Mouth

  1. Please don't lick the floor.
  2. Don't drink the bath water.
  3. Don't put ham on your sister's back.
  4. Come here and let me pick your nose. You've got boogies.
  5. If you push out your poo-poo then I'll give you a cupcake.
  6. We don't feed the dog brocolli.
  7. No baby, please don't touch your brother's pee pee.
  8. Girls don't have a penis, they have a vagina.
  9. Those are called boobies.
  10. You only color on paper. Don't color on the floor, your sister, the chairs, the table, the walls or yourself.

and because I couldn't leave this one out....

11. No. You don't wipe your butt with your covers.

Oh, the life of a mom.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Going Vegetarian: What I Eat

I am sorry to keep beating a dead horse by all this talk about vegetarianism, but lately I have gotten a few inquiries about what I have been eating since I haven't been eating meat. I am not going to lie...it's hard coming up with new and interesting things that don't have meat in them. Especially things that my kids will eat. But, then again, I used to say that when trying to come up with dinners that had meat in them as well. You just can't win, I guess.

Some nights I cook dinners that I can leave the meat out of my portion but serve the meat to the rest of my family. I don't intend to drag them along on my journey quite yet. But other times I make something completely veggie friendly for us all and sometimes I will be surprised that my kids will actually eat it.

Here are some examples of things I have been making:

Breakfast
Cereal
Bagels with vegan cream cheese
Waffles
Yogurt parfait (with coconut yogurt from Whole Foods and loaded with fruit and my homemade granola)
Smoothies
Veggie omelets
Scrambled egg and veggie wrap

Lunch
Veggie wraps (loaded with any veggie I can find and drizzled with Balsamic Vinaigrette)
Homemade Hummus (minus the jalapenos and a few other tweaks to the recipe) and pita chips
Almond butter and jelly sandwich
Hummus sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado and sprouts
Bagel with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, lettuce and sprouts

Dinner
Baked ziti
Lasagna roll-ups
Sweet potato enchiladas
Eggplant Parm
Roasted veggie sandwich
Toastadas (using Crockpot Refried Bean recipe and load with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, salsa, vegan sour cream, etc.
"Chipotle like" burritos bowls (again using either the refried bean recipe or black beans, corn, lime/cilantro rice, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, etc.
Crockpot Tortellini Soup
Quiche-although I haven't made this in awhile it's a good way to get rid of veggies that are starting to go bad.
Roasted tomatoes and fennel-I just made this last week. I put it over polenta (which I had never tried and was surprisingly impressed). It was good. I will definitely make it again.
Quesadillas-I make cheese and chicken for the kids and make mine with a bunch of veggies inside.
Avocado egg rolls
Pasta e Fazole
Veggie Burgers
Cabbage rolls-I made these for the first time over the weekend. They were pretty good and I used the soy meat crumbles. It actually tasted like taco beef.
Stuffed peppers
Tapas-bruschetta and such. I LOVE bruschetta and have used this recipe. With a few tweaks.
Spaghetti with loads of sauteed veggies.
Pancakes-my kids could eat these breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I love me some "breakfast for dinner."
Salads. My favorite is a spinach salad with roasted yams, corn, grape tomatoes, sesame seeds and feta cheese on top with balsamic vinaigrette. Oh yum.

That's all I can think of now. I am still on a daily hunt for great veggie recipes. So if you have some, please share!

Bon appetite!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Produce Delivery

I had heard WONDERFUL things about the produce co-op called Bountiful Baskets. Having found out that they offered organic produce baskets every other week I decided to give them a try back in June. For $25.00 I was thrilled to think that I was going to get a huge basket of yummy organic goodness. So I put in my order early that week, woke up that Saturday morning bright and early and went to pick up my basket. I was like a kid in a candy store so excited to see what I would come home with. Much to my severe disappointment I came home with lettuce that was wilted and inedible, plums that were like mush as soon as you bit into them, grapes that were already turning moldy and many other bad fruits and veggies that were almost too terrible to eat.

Thinking that I had just got them on an "off week" I decided to try it again. I mentioned this to some ladies in my mom's group and one of them wanted to go in on a basket with me. So, we met up at the site to arrange our split. Again, the produce was awful. The celery, which should stand at attention, sadfully drooped to one side when held up, the lettuce, was again, wilted and had to be thrown away immediately, etc, etc, etc.

I emailed the girl that I split the basket with later that afternoon and told her that I wouldn't be continuing with Bountiful Baskets. She wholeheartedly agreed then told me about a company called Nature's Garden Delivered which she used for organic produce. She told me that she has never had any problems with the produce as it always is in wonderful condition. And, if you aren't happy at any time with something that comes in your basket they will refund you money for that item...no questions asked. You can sign up for whatever size basket you need, whether you want it weekly or bi-weekly, all fruit, all vegetable or combination (which can be changed every time you order if you want). You can put your membership on "hold" if you are out of town or don't need it any particular week. Not to mention that you can "exchange" up to three items in your basket for that week. So they email you the week before to tell you what will be in your basket and if there is, let's say, carrots and that week you don't want carrots you just exchange it for something else that is on the list of available produce. And the best part....they deliver it right to your door. So, you wake up Friday morning, open your front door and there is your basket!!! Yay for convenience!

Here is a picture of my first basket. Oh, look at all the yumminess just oozing from this basket!!!!

Here is most recent basket...more yummy organic goodness.

Now, granted, I am paying a bit more for a bit less than what I got in my Bountiful Basket. But, like I said, I would venture that I am actually saving money by being able to use all the produce vs. having to throw some away plus saving on gas by not having to drive all the way to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's since my local grocery stores selection of organic is less than perfect.

If your interested in signing up, you can get 20% off your first basket with a coupon code (email me for that code). Tell them I sent you and I will get a free basket after two people join. The more people you tell the more baskets you get for free too!

Now excuse me, all this talk about organic produce is making me want an orange. Mmmmm.....

*Disclaimer* I know that people who have gotten the "conventional" basket from Bountiful Baskets have been extremely happy. But, something about their organic baskets are just not right. I have even talked with about 3 other people that got the organic that we just as disappointed. So, if you are going to get the "conventional" basket....go for it...I am sure you will be satisfied with that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eggplant Parmagiana

So I don't know if I have mentioned it once or 100 times before, but I am not eating meat the whole month of September. And if all goes according to plan, I probably won't be eating much of it beyond that point as well. In my never ending quest to find tasty veggie dishes I came across this recipe in my recipe box last week. It has been ages since I have made this eggplant parm dish and after I made it I thought, "Wow....why haven't I been making this more often?"

Yes, I talk to myself. Call me crazy. Just not to my face.

Anyhoots, I thought I'd share it for anyone that is interested. I made this the old fashioned way and had it with a side of pasta and a salad. But then we had some left overs and I had it the next day on a hoagie roll with sauteed portabella mushrooms and bell peppers (and onions for hubs). Oh, yum. I even froze some after I made up the whole eggplant for a future quick dinner. I think I will not add this to one of my staples that I always have frozen for a quick pull.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large eggplant
  • salt and pepper
  • dry bread crumbs (I make my own in my Vita mix using the heels from my loaves of bread and then I sprinkle a little Italian seasoning in with it but you can certainly use the store bought kind)
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • olive oil
  • tomato sauce
  • mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions: Cut eggplant crosswise into round 1/4 inch thick slices. Season with salt and pepper. Dip into breadcrumbs, dip into egg and then dip into breadcrumbs again. Place on a plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Heat about 1/8" of oil in a skillet. Fry eggplant slices until tender and golden brown on both sides. Add more oil when necessary. Drain on paper towels.

Line a shallow baking dish with some sauce. Cover with a layer of eggplant. Cover with a layer of mozzarella cheese, more sauce and sprinkle basil and Parmesan cheese on top. Repeat in layers if desired. Bake @ 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Halfway There

I am at the halfway point in my 30-Day no TV/no meat challenge. All is going well, thank you for asking. I am finding it all a surprisingly simple challenge to follow. Well, despite the few times at lunch when I was craving a turkey sandwich on a bagel from the bagel shop near my house. But, I didn't give in and had all the fixins on my wrap minus the turkey.

I knew this going into the challenge from eating mostly vegetarian before that I always have an exceptional amount of energy during the day while not eating meat. I can totally feel a difference that way as well as feeling less bloated. And although I would love to say that this has contributed to my face being extremely clear since I stopped eating meat, I am not 100% going to testify to this fact until I see prolonged evidence. Having read/heard that this could be the answer to bad skin problems, the verdict is still out on that one.

The TV thing I don't miss at all. I have read 2 books in the short time that I have turned off the TV and just started two more. I can honestly say that I much prefer a good read to watching the crap that television has to offer.

I already have enjoyed doing this challenge enough to brainstorm about possible other 30-Day Challenges in the months ahead. In fact, I have already planned another one for October. Don't worry, I will disclose the particulars of this challenge soon enough. More on that to come.

15 days to go...Yay me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reward Charts

Recently we have been having a lot of difficulties with getting Kaiden to follow one of our family rules that says "listen and obey Mommy/Daddy and do what they say the first time." After doing multiple time outs over and over and over again I decided that didn't seem to be working effectively so I wanted to try a reward chart. I did some googling and found some really great ones on supernanny.com and printed them out.

Kaiden LOVES his pirate reward chart which is specifically dedicated for "listening and obeying." Every time he listens and obeys to what I need him to do, we move his pirate one space. If he isn't listening then I tell him that he can choose to listen and obey by the time I count to 3 and move his pirate one space or if he doesn't obey then we will move it back a space. Most of the time I just have to start counting and he is up and ready to go do as he is told! It's a wonderful turn around!

I also have a chart going for potty training. Kaiden colored a bear picture awhile ago that I hung on the bulletin board next to his pirate chart. Although he has been peeing on the potty for some time now, we were having such a hard time getting Kaiden to poop on the potty. So, I decided to implement this reward chart as well. Every time he poops on the potty he gets to put a smiley face sticker on his bear. Once he reaches 10 smiley faces he gets to go to the $1 store and pick out a prize. I am happy to report that yesterday he earned his final 10th sickers and got a prize! I can honestly say that he is fully potty trained (despite him still wearing a night diaper for sleeping but most of the time will wake up dry. I am not ready to tackle that quite yet!). Yay Kaiden!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

20 Small Steps to Living Green

Lately I have been looking into different ways that we can "live greener" in our home. Some of these ideas I have been doing for years, others I just started to implement within the recent months. Although at times it doesn't seem like much, I know that just small changes can make a huge impact. So here are some ways that I have implemented a greener lifestyle in our home.
  1. Unplugging my cell phone charger when not in use. I try to unplug most things that aren't being used on going.
  2. Recycle everything! When we first moved into our house 5 years ago we only were able to recycle plastics with a 1 or 2 on it in addition to all the other obvious items (paper, cartons, cardboard, glass, cans, etc). I just recently received a guide to recycling in our area that stated we can recycle everything from 1-7! This is huge! I am wondering if this just went into effect or if I have been missing out on this for awhile now. Check with your local recycling program to see if it has changed in your area.
  3. Recycle at hubs office. Hubby doesn't have recycling services in his office building. So, he bought a bin especially to house recycling items (paper mostly) and is bringing it home once the bin gets full so that we can put it in our recycling bins.
  4. Reuse as much as we can. Plastic shopping bags, gift bags, wrapping paper/ribbons, write on the back of used paper, wash out old containers, etc, etc, etc. The possibilities are endless.
  5. Shave my legs in the bathtub rather than the shower. I don't always do this for lack of time, but when I can I just fill the bath with a tiny bit of water and use that to shave my legs rather than standing the the shower letting the water run and run and run and run.
  6. Turn off the water when brushing my teeth, washing hands and doing dishes. Water in my community is EXPENSIVE, so whenever we can save on water we are helping our world and our bank account!
  7. Stopped buying bottled water. For the past 6 months or so we have been using a refillable water jug each day. I just fill mine up each evening and put it in the refrigerator to grab and go for the following day. Not only has this saved us from throwing away plastic bottles but it has saved us $$ from buying them!
  8. Forgo plastic shopping bags. When I am out shopping and pick up only a thing or two that is easily carried ask them not to give me a shopping bag. Many times when I shop for clothes and hit a bunch of stores at once I throw everything I purchase into one bag. No need to get a bag at each store that I go to for just one or two items! What a waste! I have even carried things out in my hands when I can.
  9. Eat organic.
  10. Make my own beauty products and cleaning products. I am still in process of making these changes. I still have some store bought "ungreen" products to use up before I make the switch, but I have been researching recipes and have even bought a few things that I need to get started once I get to that point.
  11. Hang laundry. I have been hanging my laundry for YEARS. I have a laundry rack in my laundry room and would say I hang 80-90% of my items. Most of hubs items and the kids stuff I do dry, but I prefer to hang most of my clothing.
  12. Don't flush the toilet after every use. I know, I know. Alert! Alert! TMI! A lot of the time, when at home, I don't flush the toilet after every single time we go. We have done this for awhile now (especially in the middle of the night as to not wake the other person from flushing the toilet) but I recently read a "green" blog that put it ever-so-cleverly. "If it's yellow, let it mellow. When it's brown, flush it down!"
  13. Using canvas bags when I do my grocery shopping.
  14. Use old rags/wash cloths for cleaning, wiping noses/dirty faces, and washing dishes rather than paper towels. This way I can throw them in a load of full laundry whenever I need.
  15. Pay our bills online or with "auto pay."
  16. Opted out of magazines. I called all the stores that send me magazines (i.e. Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, etc.) and cancelled them. If I want to look at what they have, I'll look online.
  17. Called credit bureau's automated system the to hopefully stop getting "junk mail." Call 1-888-567-8688 to get your name taken off the list to receive pre-approved credit card offers for 5 years. There are many other sites that can help get you off lists for junk mail that I plan on looking into.
  18. Washing out old glass bottles and using them for storage in my pantry. I also have an idea for using them for Christmas gifts this year. More on that to come!
  19. Washing my fruits and veggies in a bowl with a small amount of water instead of running the water at the sink for a long amount of time.
  20. Stopped (or significantly reduced) using plastic utensils and paper plates. I make hubs lunch most days. At one time I was using plastic spoons or forks to put in his (reusable, of course) lunch bag when I packed things like yogurt or salads, etc. Lately I have just been putting a regular utensil in his bag for him to bring home at the end of the day. I even have been using regualr utensils, plates and cups when we have guests over.
A few more things I would like to start implementing:
  1. Change all lights to fluorescent bulbs. We seriously have only changed a handful of bulbs since we moved into our house 5 years ago. I don't know if we have some sort of mutant light bulbs in our home, but they seem to never burn out. Once they do, though, I will switch them over.
  2. Have hubs take his shirts to a "green" dry cleaner. This might take a little more convincing since it is a bit more expensive, but, oh my goodness, the chemicals in dry cleaning! Ahhhh!
  3. Carry old rags/washcloths in my diaper bag for cleaning faces and hands, etc. when we are out and about instead of paper towels.

See all simple ways that you can start living greener that don't take much effort? Do what you can! It does make a difference!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Shoes

Here's to hoping that he never learns to put his shoes on the right feet. Cause, oh, how cute.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Madelyn turned 15 months old on the 5th of September. She is growing up so fast and talking up a storm. I can't remember Kaiden talking so much until closer to 20 months. Mostly because he was experiencing reoccurring ear infections that caused his hearing to be compromised. But Madelyn is a quick study and seems to want to repeat everything! It's so fun to see her becoming her own person and putting forth her feisty personality.

Her most common words include (that I can think of off the top of my head):
Da-Da, Ma-Ma, water, banana, all done, doggie, again, love you, uh-oh, up (also says "up" to get down), out, Paco (pronounces it "Caco"), baby, juice, bear, shoe, ball, hello, bye-bye, diaper, balloon, book, toes, eye, foot, bottle, bed, more, cashew, thank you, hot

Madelyn also signs a few words:
eat, more, all done

And make the sounds:
train-choo-choo, sheep-baaaa, Elephant, owl-whoooo, whoooo, doggie-ruff, ruff, frog-ribbit, monkey-Oooo, Oooo, Ahhh, Ahhh, lion-roaaaar, horse-neigh, cow-mooo, duck-quack, quack, chicken-cluck, cluck

Body parts she can identify:
eyes, ears, nose, head, hair, belly, toes, foot, fingers, knee
Slow down, Pretty! You're growing up too fast!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Singing

The other day I took the kids to the library and along with books and some movies I checked out two Christian kids CD's. Today we were meeting some ladies with their kiddos from my mom's group at a play date which was about a 20-25 minute drive so I put in one of the CD's to listen to.

Right after I put it in, this was the conversation:

Kaiden: "Mommy, I want to sing wit Jesus."
Me: "Okay, buddy, I just put the CD in. I'll turn it up a bit."
Madelyn: "MaMaMaMaMaMaMa."
Kaiden: "Quiet baby. I trying sing wit Jesus!"
Madelyn: "LaLaLaLaLaLaLa..."
Kaiden: "Baaaaby. I singing wit Jesus!"

Oh, bless his little heart.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

30-Day No TV & No Meat Challenge

About 3 weeks ago I got a new book from the library that I need to read for a book club that I am going to attend. It ended up sitting on my night stand for about a week before I even picked it up. Mostly because after the kids are in bed I find myself plopping down in bed and turning the TV on. I do this not because there is all that much on TV that is worth watching, mind you, but more for the mind-numbingness (totally not a word) that it brings along with it. One night after watching "Khloe and Kourtney Take Miami" for the hundredth time I got so frustrated that I turned the TV off. I haven't turned it on (for myself to watch) since. That was two weeks ago.

About the same time I realized that I have been starting to feel sluggish and out of shape. I attribute it mostly to the fact that this summer I have been struggling with this not eating meat thing. Mostly because of poor planning and complete laziness. In doing so, I have noticed a big difference in my energy levels and how my body feels when I don't stick to a mostly vegetarian diet.

I got to thinking...I need something to get me back on track. So, I am going to do a 30-day challenge in the month of September. No TV (except for movies with hubs once a week), No eating meat and I have to get to the gym (at least) 3 times a week.

And trust me I realize that September is the month when all the new seasons of shows start. I have a knack for planning.

Here's to day one.