Love Story

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Me Times Three

As I was trying to wrangle all 3 kids by myself at bedtime last week, I begin to think about how nice it would be if there were 3 of me.  Those nights when my husband is working night shift and I am being pulled between bigger boys who want help getting pjs on, brushing teeth, and having a story read to them all while baby is getting fussy and wanting to be cuddled/fed are almost enough to make me crazy. Somebody's needs are always being put on hold and by the time all is said and done I am just worn down. That particular night I let my imagination wonder to a place where there were three of me, one for each child. They would never want for my attention because there would be a mommy for each of them. This surely would make life easier.

I figured as long as I was going down this path, why not clone myself a few more times and really make life easy. I decided that 6 of me would be enough to get the job done. As I said earlier, 3 of my clones would be devoted to my children. Number 4 would be for my husband. Not that he is overly needy but it sure would be nice to meet his every need and make him feel like he is my number one priority (not that I have ever been great at that but it certainly doesn't happen now that the kids are here and so demanding of my time and attention). This clone would be the one that is always dolled up and smelling good. She would pack all his lunches for him, let him put his feet up when he got home from work, listen to all his stories with full attention, and keep him satisfied in the bedroom. Wouldn't I have one happy husband?

Number 5 would be the work horse clone. She would be the one who accomplished everything around the house as well as attending all of my weekly commitments outside the house. The laundry would always be done, dishes caught up, bathrooms cleaned, yard work completed, meals on the table and when she was done with that she would rush off to attend whatever I had planned that day. How nice would it be to have someone like this around...I think she would be my favorite.

And then there would be number 6. She would be the me that I would be if there were no kids, no husband, no work, no obligation. She gets to do all the fun and leisurely things that so often don't make it on the list. She would sleep in, drink coffee in her pjs while watching her favorite morning shows, bake for fun, do crafts to her hearts content, shop for hours on end, read a book from cover to cover in one sitting, talk on the phone to friends with no interruptions...the list goes on. She would have the good life!

Breaking it up into separate categories like this really makes me realize what all comes with my job. I have a lot on my plate and often that comes with the feeling that I cannot possibly get it all done. But when I stop and think about it I realize that God did not make us clones for a reason. We are each unique and each made for a purpose. He knows the plans he has for us and they are all capable of being completed in the time lines he has provided. If there is more on our plate then we can accomplish, it is most likely our priorities that need changing. I noticed right away that 4 of my 6 clones were devoted to my family. That right there tells me how important they are too me and so that is where I should be spending most of my time. The other stuff is secondary and shouldn't hold such importance in my life. Of course there needs to be balance in all things. There is room for me time and chores are a necessary part of life. But what should come first and be top priority is how I distribute my time between my boys and my husband. I may dream about a life with more than one me, but I am grateful for the one life I have been given. Hectic days, messy house and all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I know it is October and awfully early for some to be even thinking about the C word. But besides getting my shopping done early, I also like to get a jump start on my Christmas cards. Yes, I am that person who sends them out the day after Thanksgiving:)

As I was browsing through the Shutterfly holiday card choices, I found it hard to settle on just one! In the last year or two I have taken to ordering my Christmas cards online. Not only do they tend to be cheaper, but I can sit at home and fill in my own photos and details and then have them shipped straight to my mailbox. For completely hassle free shopping they even give you the option to let them stamp and mail them for you. Doesn't get much more convenient then that! 

I am narrowing down my choices based on meeting the following criteria:
     * I want something with multiple picture spaces. I want to put at least one picture of each boy, if not also one of all of them together.
     * I prefer a flat stationary card. I have taken to decorating my fridge with pictures of my loved ones from their holiday cards and find these flat cards much easier to deal with.
     * I prefer dark or warm colors to bright sunny ones on my Christmas card. Something about this time of year that lends itself perfectly to those deep colored cards.

Here are my top 3 contenders:


I will say that this may change tomorrow and even next week if I keep giving it too much thought. Some input would be great, which one do you like best? Here are the entire line of holiday cards if you would like to browse a bigger selection:

For those of you planning to ship them out yourselves, they have some pretty adorable address labels as well:

Shutterfly is currently offering 20% off all holiday cards, you know I love a deal! 

What are your holiday card plans? Do you love to do a picture card or stick to the plain boxed variety? Do you send them out early or the week of Christmas? Share your traditions, picture plans, what you do with the cards you receive. As Christmas gets closer I will post some more about what I do with my cards during the season and when the holidays are over.

***Shutterfly has offered my 50 free holiday cards for writing this post but I am not being compensated in any other way. All of the opinions expressed in this post are solely mine.***

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good food, Great price

In the ongoing effort to feed my family good food at a low price, I have stumbled upon some amazing opportunities that I wanted to share with the rest of you. I love a good deal and most of what I find is passed on from some other wise person so I thought it only fair to continue passing this along.

I wrote awhile back how we had taken part in a CSA where we had a share in a farm and did weekly produce pick-ups. This ended last week and while the idea was nice, it didn't quite meet our standards. Since then we have been turned on to a program called Bountiful Baskets (thank you Kira and Dani!). I can honestly say since the first time we participated, we were hooked. What this is is a co-op of people who pool their money to get produce at reduced prices. You pay $15 (or $25 for organic) for approximately $50 worth of produce. This is what our first weeks pick-up looked like:

2 lb bag potatoes, 2 honeydew, cauliflower, lettuce, 6 ears of corn, 2 cucumbers, 3 pears, several apples and oranges and nectarines, bananas, broccoli

They also have occasional extra offers that you can take part in. For instance, we just added an order of 7 dozen tortillas for $10 to our next weeks pick-up. I would definitely recommend checking out the website and seeing if this is taking place where you live. You check the site Tuesday to place your order and pay and then pick up at a specific date and time later in the week. This has worked better than the CSA for us because we can choose week by week whether or not to participate. The food was also high quality and all things that we would use on a regular basis. I foresee us using being a part of this for a long time.

The second thing I have come across (just today actually) is a similar concept but with meat. This is through Zaycon Foods and right now they are doing there fall chicken sale event where you can get a 40 lb box of boneless chicken breasts for $59.20 ($1.48 a lb). That is a pretty amazing price. They currently are only doing drop offs in Washington, Idaho and Oregon but if you register with your city and state and your area generates enough interest, they may expand. Like the bountiful baskets, there are specific locations and pick-up times and dates depending on where you live. We decided to go in on a box with my in-laws since we have an extra freezer and there are a million things I can do with chicken (posts about this to come I am sure:).

I will keep you posted as I continue to find these bargains. I believe that feeding our families healthy foods shouldn't cost an arm and a leg so I am constantly looking for cheaper ways to get what we use the most of. Feel free to share any of the amazing finds you have come to love. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

The first time I laid eyes on these, I knew I had to give them a try. What's even better is that it comes at a time when I am trying to get back to homemade, healthier foods especially for the kids. During my pregnancy I fell  into old habits out of convenience and I am looking to get back to being more intentional about what I am feeding my kids. Now this particular recipe isn't the healthiest one out there, but I know what is in them and that is more than I can say for the boxed version. For those of you who don't care about that kind of stuff can I just say these are worth trying if for no other reason then that they are absolutely delicious. Hands down better than anything you could buy at the store!

Here is the recipe as I followed it:

Thick Chewy Granola Bars
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar  (I used 1/2 c and that was plenty)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional)**
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water

*I used 1 cup blueberry craisins, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
**For this batch I omitted the peanut butter...what can I say, I hate peanut butter and I wanted to try some for myself;)

-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8x2 pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
-Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts (I pulsed the fruits and nuts in my food processor for smaller pieces but you can leave yours chunky if you like it that way).

-In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and peanut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.

-Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
-Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)
-Once cool, a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

Next I am going to try them with almonds, coconut, white chocolate chips and dried bananas. I would also like to try substituting peanut butter for homemade applesauce or mashed bananas. I would love to hear the variations you think sound good so feel free to share.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Always read your labels!

I think any more it is pretty common practice for people to read product labels. We are so much more aware these days about what we are putting in our bodies and this is a great way to keep track of that. As a mama who likes to save money, I also spend much time reading price tags and checking unit prices. I have to admit that sometimes a good price trumps the healthier choice. I try to find both but it isn't always possible. But one thing that really irks (yes, irks!) me is when I think I have made a healthy choice that is also a great deal only to realize later I didn't.

This week I purchased some Trop50 orange juice at Albertson's. I don't normally purchase this brand but it was on sale plus I had a coupon so I was able to get 54 oz for $1.50. We go through juice pretty fast so I also picked up our regular gallon of Safeway brand orange juice which was $3.50. Happy with my purchases, I have been serving the Trop50 to my kids all week. We finished it off this morning and I was rinsing out the jug to be recycled when I finally glanced at the label. Now the whole advertisement of Trop50 is that it is 50% fewer calories and 50% less sugar than regular orange juices. Sounds good, right? Not when you read the back of the bottle where they inform you that the bottle only "contains 42% juice". That's right, the number one ingredient is water. Now this orange juice that is typically $2.96 for 54 oz is mostly water....ripoff! I hate when I let something like this get by me, I am usually good at checking such things out before buying them. If I wanted to water down my orange juice (which I used to do to make it stretch) I would by my bigger cheaper gallon of 100% orange juice and fill half the glass with water first.

Buyer your labels. You never know when you are throwing hard earned money down the drain for things like water. **steps off cheap soapbox**

For those of you who don't know how to read your food labels, here is a handy guide:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Homemade Rice Cereal

It seems that the decisions in parenting are never ending. From the day they are born (long before actually) we are deciding cloth or disposable, breast or bottle, and a whole other slue of decisions. I haven't had to go past making decisions that effect a 4 year old but I can see that this is a cycle that continues for quite some time. Our latest decision was regarding feeding our 4 and 1/2 month old. When to start and what to start with have been going around in my head for sometime. With the last two I started right at 4 months with store bought rice cereal as the pediatrician recommended. Since having our middle son I have come to learn that there are other ways of doing it. I have known for some time that I was planning to make my own baby food this time around. I didn't with the last two but as they got older I played around with pureeing vegetables to add to different recipes for extra nutrition and discovered how easy and cost effective it was. In the hunt for more information I stumbled upon this highly recommended site on making your own baby food. I then realized that I could even make my own baby cereals. Extremely easy and way cheaper then the box stuff. Plus no need for additives that allow it to sit on the shelf for ages.
Now I still struggled with the question of whether or not to bother with rice/oatmeal/barley cereal. It is something practiced in America for ages but not really necessary. It is also now more common to wait 6 months to introduce anything other than breast milk even though most pediatricians are still giving the go at 4 months. Knowing this I was leaning toward waiting. Having been through this parenting thing before I ultimately decided to let baby dictate when we started. I let go of any set time frame in my mind and watched him. What would you know, but in the last week or two he started really taking an interest in our food while we were eating. He is always at the table with us and he would stare at the food and smack his lips. I decided to give it a shot and prepared my own rice cereal yesterday. It was so simple and it retained the rice flavor, unlike the box version sold in the baby aisle. (Yes I tried it, if I am going to make him eat it I want to make sure it is good!)
You can read more on the site but I will tell you my experience. I bought a short-grain brown rice. Short-grain cooks up faster and brown is healthier. I then put 1/4 cup into my coffee grinder (you can use a food processor or blender), until is was a powder. I then brought 2 cups of water to a boil. The recipe calls for 1 cup but for beginning eaters 2 cups makes that perfect watery consistency. Once it was boiling I added in the rice and whisked continuously. Turn the heat down to simmer and stir continuously for 10 minutes. This produced a large amount of cereal so I put a little on a plate and the rest in some Tupperware to refrigerate. I will keep that for up to 3 days in the fridge and heat up small servings as needed. This thickens the rice cereal so you will probably need to water it down with breast milk or formula to make it the right consistency again. I would honestly recommend starting out with 1 Tablespoon of rice powder to 1/2 cup of water. At least at this point. Anyway, he did so good for his first time! He took about 10 bites, very little coming back out (good thing because I totally forgot about a bib!), and was even trying to hold the spoon himself. I think that we will be trying avocado next and then I can mix it with the rice. We are sticking with the 4 days between new foods rule to make sure there are no reactions. He is growing so fast!

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