Looking for something to do with your kids? Maybe some great recipes or crafts? How about home management, healthy and frugal living tips, or organization and work/life balance ideas?
Let me do the problem solvin' for you - click here to subscribe! _____________________________________________

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kreativity and Six Favorites

Thanks to Snickerdoodles and Jen @ Sabbatical Mom for this fun award! Both of these blogs are very kreatively designed, so I thought I would make a point to pass this on to fellow bloggers who have either a particularly "Kreativ" blog design or "Kreativ" ideas that inspire me. The reciever of this award must list six things that makes her happy and then pass the award on to six other people. I've been a bit stressed and blue this week, so it's the perfect time to reflect on what makes me happy!

1. My sweet loving family - there is nothing that makes me smile faster than walking in the house to greet EmDee and catch Sweetpea as she throws herself into my arms yelling "mommy, Mommy, MOMMY!"

2. The beauty all around us this time of year - striking sunrises, rich sunsets, a rainbow of leaves.

3. Crisp mornings snuggled up under a blanket before anyone else is up, a few minutes of quiet reflection.

4. The promise of the coming holidays, family, friends, and lots of love.

5. Living near my grandparents and mom, close enough to visit whenever we want.

6. The bloggy buds I've met over the past three months.

I would like to send this award to the following friends:

1. Elle at Sometimes a Girl Needs a Blog, whose blog design is totally Kreativ
2. Sandra at Family Corner, whose blog makes me feel at home whenever I visit
3. Lee Ann at Mommy's Wish List, who is always coming up with creative ways to get a great deal
4. Marva at Blessed Frugalness Times Two with Twins, who is incredibly creative in the kitchen
5. Martha at Menagerie who takes fabulous photos and is a whiz in the kitchen
6. My blogging bud Octamom whose photography and prose are always inspiring me

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More fall fun - visit to the dairy farm

Our first trip to this wonderful dairy farm was to check a few items off the fall list - visit a pumpkin patch and go on a hayride. We met my friend and her two adorable littles, and had so much fun we wanted to come back with EmDee. Our return trip was post pumpkin patch (everything had been picked) so instead we enjoyed the other fun things that are available:

Eating the yummy ice cream (see yesterday's photos)

Taking a "train" ride (I think this was Sweetpea's favorite) for $1
She also loved "driving" this tractor, one of two permanently parked for this very purpose...

Then there is the petting zoo. There were goats outside, cows, chickens, turkeys, and ducks inside.

Big hay bails to climb on
And the 6:00 feeding of the cows...


Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Haircutting with the toddler set

I have been trying for months now to wait out that awkward hair in the eyes stage that Sweetpea is going through - hoping to make it to the point where we could tuck her hair out of her eyes behind her ear. Not that we have anything against bangs, but they need to be cut somewhat regularly, and I was afraid to go near her face with anything sharp...knowing that she has the capacity to sit still for all of maybe 10 seconds at a time!

If you've seen the Wordless Wednesday pictures today, then you've seen the picture that finally sent me over the edge. We couldn't keep a barrette or pigtail in for any length of time, and poor Sweetpea always looked like she couldn't see where she was going!

I cut EmDee's hair with clippers, and as with most things that mommy and daddy do, Sweetpea wants in on the action. Always before we've pretended to cut her hair. This time I thought, what the heck, maybe I can do a decent job with these clippers, and then I won't have to go wielding a pair of scissors mere millimeters from her eye.

I followed my general strategy for cutting bangs, only this time I trimmed along below my fingers with the trimmer, and it worked perfectly! Not only does it seem safer to me, it was very quick! It definitely works for us...for more tips and tricks, check out Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wordless Wednesday - the bearded baby?

A treat at the nearby dairy farm - chocolate peanut butter ice cream!

And this is the picture that convinced me to give up and cut Sweetpea's bangs. More on that another day.For more Wordless Wednesday, check out 5 minutes for mom

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This Juggling Act - Finding balance in life

Photo by I'mClaude

I read a quote from Katie Couric recently that I'll have to paraphrase, because I can't find it again {blushing}.

She was saying that she spends most of her time feeling guilty either because she doesn't spend enough time with her family, or because she feels she's shirking her job. Inevitably, as moms, we all have to just do the best that we can.

I can definitely relate, and, as usual, I agree with and appreciate her point of view.

Regardless of whether you work outside the home or not, I think it's safe to say that as moms, we are all working on our own juggling act. I definitely don't put in the extra free hours that I used to at work, and I took a different position where I wouldn't have to travel regularly. I wish I were spending my days with my daughter, and I have a short term goal to go part time.

I have plenty of mommy guilt, but I make a point to be fully present with my daughter when we are together. We work hard to create quality time as a family, rather than each doing our own thing. We watch virtually no television. We list out the activities we want to enjoy and try to plan in advance.

And basically, we do the best that we can.

What tips do you have for achieving balance in your life? What have you given up in order to spend more time enjoying the things you hold most dear?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Are you planning to give back to your community this season?

The holiday season always strikes me as a natural time to give back to the community. Each year we plan a few charitable activities in advance, and then participate in others as they come up and we're available.

I love the idea of the MomAdvice Big Give, and we plan to send a care package with some of the most needed items for her community. I encourage you to stop over and see what she has planned, and while you're there, check out the inspiring posts others have linked to her site.

On a personal level, here are the activities we have planned for our family.

I've been collecting stuffed animals throughout the year, largely found on clearance after holidays like Valentine's day and Easter. We are going to donate them to the children at the battered women's shelter in our area. I volunteered with the kids at the battered women's shelter in college - they are such a sweet bunch of kids, it is heartbreaking to know what they are going through in their young lives.

We will donate at least one item each grocery visit during November and December for the food pantry.

I have gone through my closet and will be donating 2 bags of business clothing to a local organization that assists disadvantaged women with the support they need to enter the workplace. Part of the program delivers training, there is counseling available and the clothes that are donated are given to these women so they can dress appropriately for their new positions.

I'm co-sponsoring 2 big fundraiser events at work - a pancake breakfast and a "guess that baby picture" contest. The main charities are the American Heart Association and the Arthritis Foundation. We take a portion of the proceeds each year and give to a third charity that we choose as a group. In this past our "extra" money has gone to Katrina assistance and the food pantry. I love that I work with an incredibly generous group of people, each year I am overwhelmed by the amount we raise.

I would love to hear what you are planning to give back to the community this holiday season!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Last week was a super simple short week, and I still got off track! {blushing}
Monday and Tuesday went as scheduled, but we didn't get our prep work done on Sunday for the lettuce wraps. EmDee texted me in the afternoon and suggested we hit Applebee's happy hour for 1/2 price appetizers...I have to say it didn't take me long to respond! It was a fun, unexpected "family date night" and we split 3 large appetizer plates for only $17 with tip!

While we were waiting for our food, Sweetpea wanted to walk around and look at all the crazy decorations, so we wandered aimlessly for a few minutes. When she came to the barstools she wanted to sit in one, so I hoisted her up and sat at the stool next to her. We were sitting next to several older gentlemen. She immediately had them waving at her! Then the super nice bartender asked what we wanted. I told her we were just passing time waiting for our food, and she brought down a shoebox sized plastic container full of toys for Sweetpea to play with!

When our food came, I tried to remove Sweetpea from the toys. She's a smart little girl, and she knows mom doesn't like her making a scene (okay maybe not, but this is how it seemed to play out) so when I picked her up from her barstool, she screamed bloody murder. This prompted me to sit her down to regroup, and the men next to us all to start laughing and saying they knew who was really in charge. Luckily, the bartender didn't mind if we borrowed her toy box, so we headed back to our table loaded down with matchbox cars and spongebobs, among other things. The rest of dinner went well, with everyone enjoying dinner. No matter how many of "our" toys I bring, it's always someone else's toys that are the hit!

Now that I got completely off track, let's get back to this week's menu.

Monday: Chicken stirfry over rice
Tuesday: Spaghetti with garlic bread and green salad
Wednesday: lettuce wraps & noodle salad
Thursday: leftover free for all
Friday: breakfast for dinner - omlette casserole and pumpkin banana pancakes with decaf pumpkin spiced lattes! (if you're coming over from OrgJunkie, the lattes are perfect for pairing with pumpkin bread - Mr. Linky is doing mean things to me, I didn't mean to say that!)

For more menu ideas, click over to OrgJunkie.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Thankful Reflection

I am embarrassed that last week got away from without me posting items from my gratitude list. It's when life gets busy and stressful that I get the most reward from slowing down and reflecting. For the remainder of the year I'm going to make a point to sit down each day and reflect on what I've written in my gratitude journal. For more inspiration to keep your own gratitude journal, visit the gratitude community.

*Family time*

*watching big T grow and mature into such a nice and responsible young man*
*my heart melts watching big brother dote on baby sister*

*the sunrises and sunsets are so brilliant this time of year*

*so many wonderful fall festivals to visit*

*afternoon nap with sweet cuddly daughter sprawled out across my chest*

*unexpected family "date night" mid week, what a treat!*

*kindness and grace from dear husband*

*having flexibility with my schedule at work, such a blessing with a small child!*

*unexpected visit with grandma*

What are you grateful for this week?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tip List - Holiday Travel Edition

With the holidays coming up, I thought a holiday travel edition of Tip List might be in order. Hopefully if you're going somewhere during the holidays this year you've already started thinking about it. I don't travel much anymore, but before Sweetpea came along I was a platinum elite business traveler...being away from home got old pretty quickly, but I got to see a lot of really interesting places. I will admit, I miss the perks of elite travel status!

1. Try to schedule your actual travel on non-peak days. Whether going by car, plane, bus or train, you will be much happier not fighting the crowds. Travel delays are less frequent on non-peak days, and you're more likely to have some open seats around you to spread out. A little extra space is particularly exciting when you're traveling with children.
2. When flying, try and book direct flights. Regardless of where you're flying, winter weather can play havoc with schedules, and the less legs in your trip, the less likely you are to end up missing a connection or rescheduling the remainder of your flight due to delays. Returning from Florida this summer I payed $20 extra for a direct return flight. Turns out the alternate (cheaper) flight was canceled, and a coworker of mine who happened to be vacationing in the same area ended up renting a car to drive home!
3. Bring plenty of activities to keep you and your crew entertained during your travels. This goes for adults, but especially for the younger set. The more entertainment, the quicker and easier the trip. This is also critical in case you do get stuck, you're not stuck with nothing to do but kill time. For kids, a new toy or coloring book can be especially entertaining. I'm always putting away kids meal toys for trips - they are small and I'm not paying extra for them. When I'm traveling without Sweetpea, I hit the library for some free entertainment. Otherwise, I seem to have plenty of entertaining to keep me busy at this stage in our family's life.
4. Pack plenty of travel friendly snacks. We are fully into the stage where there is very little you can find for free anymore. Airport food is overpriced and selection can be limited. With a little preplanning you can put together some yummy, nutritious snacks that don't require refrigeration.
5. Pack effectively for your trip - often less is more. Think about what you pack that always seems to come back clean and unworn, and what items you can purchase upon arrival (or rent or borrow!) that won't cost much if any more than buying at home. If you're flying to your destination, try to see if you can travel with just carry on luggage. This will free up your options in case of delay and eliminate the possibility of your carrier losing your luggage. (unless they curb check, but at least then your chances are still significantly diminished) EmDee and I managed to pack for a week in NYC during November using only carry on luggage, by layering and choosing mix and match wardrobe options.

Most of all, try and stay calm and leave in plenty of time to arrive safely at your destination.

What tips do you have for streamlining holiday travel? I'd love to hear them!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Handmade Christmas Challenge

photo by Wolfiewolf
I have been bookmarking ideas for Christmas presents for several months now. I'm planning to make personalized coloring pages, tutus, fairy wings, and some knitted goodies to name a few things. I can't disclose my full list, because my mom reads this blog! {{hee hee, are you wondering what you're getting, mom?!}}

I love the idea I saw in Amy's notebook from Handmade Homeschool for a totally handmade Christmas. What I liked best about this post is the idea of brainstorming ideas based on the type of gift. I've started my own list with categories for knitting, kitchen/baking, crafty, indulgent, and imaginative/artsy.

The scarf I'm making for Sweetpea obviously falls under knitting, and we will be baking and decorating cookies for several of our friends. Under the indulgent category, I'm going to try and make a peppermint scrub that I have bookmarked, and some scented sugars.

I'm not trying much out of my comfort zone, because I don't want to add to the stress of an already busy time of year - but for things I enjoy making, something that can be made quickly and easily, or something that is unique and that I think would be especially meaningful, I think it makes sense.

I'll also be checking out Tip Junkie's Mom Preneur Shop a Thon for goodies I don't know how or don't want to take the time to make. Have you checked it out? There are some great goodies to be had!

Are you making anything for friends or family this year? I'd love to hear your ideas! Anyone (besides mom) that would like to see my list, I'd be happy to email it to you.

For more handmade gift ideas, visit TipJunkie's roundup of ideas!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Slow Cooker Chicken & Rice Casserole

Slow-cooker size: 5 qt.
Prep: 18 minutes
Cook: 5 hrs

If you don't have (or want to take) the time to cook/chop the chicken, use the meat from a deli-roasted chicken. It will yield just enough for this recipe.

1 (6.2 ounce) package fast cooking long-grain & wild rice mix
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Colby-jack cheese blend, divided
1 (10 ¾ ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup crushed round buttery crackers

Prepare rice mix according to package directions.
Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add onion & celery. Saute 4 minutes or until tender.
Combine rice, sautéed vegetables, chicken, 2 cups cheese and next 5 ingredients; spoon into lightly greased 5 qt slow cooker.
Cover and cook on LOW 4 ½ hours. Combine remaining 1 cup cheese and cracker crumbs; sprinkle over casserole.
Cover and cook on LOW 30 minutes more.
Makes 6 servings.

Recipe originally from Southern Living Slow Cooker cookbook.
*Thanks to Tish for sharing her family favorite!*
For more great slow cooker meals, visit Slow Cooker Thursday at FamilyCorner.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Everything you need for your little fairy princess

There are certain posts that are just so exciting or meaningful that you want to share them with as many people as possible. Rarely does a crafty post inspire me, but this one at Juicy Bits captured my imagination and got me excited - just look at these pictures:

photo by Juicy Bits

photo by Juicy Bits
What a fabulous idea for a little girl's birthday party, and the fairy wands are just magical!

Then I stumbled across this DIY fairy wing tutorial at ThreadBanger totally adorable and looks super easy.

Now there was definitely an idea forming in my head...I'd been thinking about making tutus for Sweetpea and 2 of her nieces that love dress up. Wouldn't a tutu and these fairy wings, along with the requisite magical wand make the perfect fairy princess costume? Then Sweetpea could imagine herself a fairy princess anytime!

For those of you that don't consider yourselves crafty, Jess at Juicy Bits tells me she bought the fairy wings in the top picture at Party City. You can also find adorable tutus at Sassy Pink Boutique.

Linking up crafty ideas is what's working for me this week - for other works for me suggestions, check out Rocks in My Dryer!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wordless Wednesday - Tooth (or is that teething) Fairy?

Sweetpea had so much fun running around in her little tutu last night. It was difficult to get a good picture of her, as she was running around fluffing up the tulle and laughing hysterically. She's also teething (AGAIN) note the drool she's sporting in the second photo...
For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click over to 5 minutes for mom!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fast and Easy Tutu Tutorial

Photo by Lou&Magoo

Sweetpea is starting to really like putting different things on and parading around the house. The other night she was walking around in her pj's with a pair of shorts over top. Growing up we had lots of fun dressing up in different costumes or grandma's costume jewelry and hats. I had a lot of fun this summer picking up different dress up items at garage sales, thinking Sweetpea might enjoy them.

I've also started thinking of things that I can easily make for her to use for dress up. I've had extra tulle tucked away since my wedding (yes, I am a bit of a packrat) and I haven't given it away because I'll use a bit of it here and there for wrapping presents and decoration.

While window shopping for Christmas ideas the other day I came up with the perfect use for the rest of my tulle - I could make a tutu for her to wear! I thought it would be easy, and I was right - it took me about a half hour over the weekend, and I used up the rest of my tulle. It turned out so well that I'll be buying more to make a gift for my niece for Christmas. I thought I'd include the instructions here, for those of you that might be interested.

First, start with non-roll 3/4 inch elastic about a half inch longer than the waistband size that you want. Fold the elastic in half and stitch the ends together.

Fold the ends over in one direction and sew again.
Now you have the waistband fully assembled, and are ready to move on to the tulle and ribbon.

Cut pieces of tulle twice the length you would like the skirt to be. For the tutu shown at the end of this tutorial, I cut 16 lengths of tulle. Fold the tulle in half over the waistband and tie a slip knot, making the knot as close to the elastic as you can - this will help hold each piece in place. Repeat this with as many pieces of tulle as you like, to give you the fullness that you want. When you're done placing the tulle, you're ready for the ribbon.

I used ~5 yards of ribbon, but you can make do with less or add more. Start with one long piece of ribbon and wrap it loosely around and around your waistband, covering the tulle knots. This makes for a more finished look and also helps the tulle knots stay in place. Once you make it all the way around the band, tie a double knot and make a bow. I made a "matching" bow directly across from the first to balance things out. You could also tie extra pieces of ribbon onto the band before finishing it.

I think multiple colors of tulle would look nice, as well as more or different colored ribbons. Just one ribbon tied around the waistband would look nice. The possibilities are endless!

*to make this project even easier, instead of making a waistband with elastic, use a stretchy headband loop - just make sure it's the correct size for your ballerina!*

Please come back tomorrow - I'll be linking up to some great tutorials that would go wonderfully with this tutu for dress up or Halloween.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 20, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Island Spiced Pork recipe

This week is a short week for us, Thursday and Friday we will be eating away from home. Last week we had lots of delicious pork, and there is even some left over for today. I love it when the pork loins go on sale! I usually buy 2 and have the butcher cut them into a few meal sized portions, (that's usually in 3 or 4 pieces for us per loin) that way I can defrost and cook just one or several.
When I'm making slow cooker pulled pork, I forgot to mention that I always make rice with the leftover broth in the slow cooker - just eyeball the amount of rice (equal parts to the broth, quick cooking rice) and put the lid back on the slow cooker. You end up with lightly flavored rice flecked with little bits of pork - yum!
I promised the spicy pork recipe, and here it is:

Island Spiced Pork
Preheat the oven to 325. Coat your pork in your favorite spice rub. I use a Emeril's Cajun blend recipe that my Dad made - it's all fancy in a Ziploc bag with a masking tape label and I wouldn't trade it for anything! If you don't like much spice, you could use seasoning salt instead and that would be fine.
Place the meat in a casserole dish and add enough chicken broth to fill the dish so the broth is about half way up your chops. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the chops are cooked through.
I like to serve these chops over rice or mashed potatoes. Top the chops with blue cheese or feta, both add a great flavor and take a bit of edge off your spice rub.
As you can see, there isn't much to it, but we love this dish!

Okay, back to this week's menu.
Monday: Spicy pulled pork nachos
Tuesday: Stirfry and rice
Wednesday: Lettuce wraps and noodle salad
For more menu ideas, check out OrgJunkie

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't miss TipJunkie's Mom-Prenuer Holiday Shopathon!

I love this idea from TipJunkie of supporting women and mom owned businesses this holiday. She has put together a great round up of links to help you find the perfect gift! I hope you'll stop by and check it out. I know I will, and I'll post again later to show you all the wonderful things I've picked out!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tip List - Healthy Lifestyle Editon

This morning at the gym I stepped on the scale, and {cue triumphant music} I officially hit my pre-baby weight! There I was, doing my engineer's victory dance, and I finally decided today was the day to start my tip list. And, of course, this week's list would be tips and tricks for healthy living, whatever that may mean to you. If you have any suggestions for a tip list you'd like to see, please email me!

1. Sneak in movement throughout your day. This can be as easy as getting up and walking over to talk to a coworker rather than emailing them, or dancing with your children to their favorite song.

2. Choose a few favorite strength moves and include them in your day. I like 2 moves in particular, the squat paired with an army press and repeated jabs while holding a squat. I try and do both of these moves 24 reps 2-3 times a day. All told that takes about 5 minutes.

3. Drink water throughout the day. I never have been a big soda or juice drinker. If you are, try switching out water half the time. If you don't drink much of anything, try adding a few glasses of water each day to your routine. I especially like one first thing in the morning and one right before bed. Try adding a little lemon or lime juice if you don't like plain water. I love adding a few drops of Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice to my water.

4. If you have trouble finding workout bras that fit well, get a professional fitting. Most places will do this for free. If you are a larger cup size, I found that Goddess makes a fabulous sports bra.

5. Having prepared healthy snacks available makes it so much easier to make good choices throughout the day. I like to pre-portion food in serving sizes to reduce the temptation to overeat.

6. Make smart choices, but don't deprive yourself. I love Chipotle, but I know the food their is notoriously high in fat and calories. I don't eat there often, but when I do, I choose a bowl instead of a wrap to save calories. I love guacamole, so I choose it and opt not to have cheese or sour cream.

7. Increase fiber in your diet. Fiber is important in aiding your digestion and making you feel better overall. Most people don't get the recommended amount of fiber in their diets. Another secret - fiber makes you feel fuller, so not only is it important for your health, but it can help you eat less overall and feel satisfied longer.

8. Know your numbers. Calculate the amount of calories you need to reach your goal, whether that be maintaining, losing, or gaining. Understand the nutritional content of the food your eating throughout the day. I like calculating WW points values of food, because it means a bit more to me than just calorie and fat values. You can google WW points calculator and find a good estimate of the formula. I find keeping a food diary helps get me back on track when I've strayed from my goal.

9. Set your goal for the right reasons - when you really want something and you voice it to yourself in a meaningful way, you are more likely to stick to your goals. What are your reasons to want to live a healthy life? There are many great ones - feeling better, setting a good example for your family, and increasing the odds you'll live a long life and be around to enjoy your family just to name a few.

10. Let other people know what your goals are, and enlist a friend with similar goals. I am much more likely to succeed when I'm accountable for something, and it's much more fun to work toward a goal with a friend!

A big thanks to Audrey and her friends on Twitter for coming up with the Tweightloss Challenge and helping move me toward my final goal!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Funnies - Spooky edition

I like to think of myself as a safe driver. Does everyone think of themselves as a safe driver? I had a friend in college who finally admitted (after a few drinks) what had caused her recent car accident – a fly! I thought this was hilarious at the time.

The other day I was driving home minding the road when I saw something out of the corner of my eye…thinking nothing of it, I continued to drive through the construction of the major highway I take to and from work each day. Then that “something” started to creep toward my hand! I took a quick side long glance and tried unsuccessfully to squelch a shudder – there was a wolf spider strolling along my driver door panel {{gasp}}!

At this point the gears are turning double time in my head, I’m trying to keep my eyes on the road and steel quick glances toward said spider to make sure he isn’t about to jump on me. In my mind I’m wondering, “how many people wreck for just this reason each year, this is nuts!”

I roll down the window, but this spider has some grip. (okay, duh, I should know that from Spiderman, right?) He says glued in place. I open the sunroof to try and increase the circulation.

Did I mention I’m driving through a construction zone? With lots of twists, turns, and lane merges? Yeah – big fun.

The increased circulation does nothing for my little buddy, but it tears a coupon loose that had been stuck under my sun visor. Coupon goes fluttering to the back seat. Spider stays stuck to door panel.

I grab a random receipt and start planning how this flimsy piece of paper is going to scrape Mr. Spider off the door and out into the wild blue yonder.

OH NO! WHEREDIDSPIDEYGO?? Certainly he didn’t just get tired on me. I nudge the window up a bit, and there he is, now scaling my window…oh that is so much better!

I close the sunroof, mentally preparing for my scrape strategy, when, all of a sudden, he flies out the window. Whew! {{faints}}

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Christmas Activity Garland

This is the first year that Sweetpea will be old enough to begin to understand Christmas, and I'm so excited to start creating family memories that I hope will be come time honored traditions. I love Amy's Christmas Jar, and her list of activities is a great resource if you're looking for ideas. Many of our activities work best on specific dates, so I wanted something more structured. One of the activities I had planned was to make a Christmas countdown garland - why not roll the two ideas into one, and make a Christmas activities garland?

I am so excited to see how this works, I think we're going to have a lot of fun with it. We will take all of our Christmas activities from the list above and write them on red and green bands of paper. The bands will be ordered so the specific activities that need scheduled are in the correct place, and the rest are sprinkled in randomly to fill out the 25 days leading up to Christmas. We will likely drape the garland along our mantle with the stockings. I'll post a picture in late November to show you how it turns out!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - What a difference a year makes!

Sweetpea last year...

And this year!

For more wordless wednesday posts, click over to 5 minutes for mom

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Looking for healthy snack ideas?

You can find me over at Sprout today, writing about healthy snack ideas. If that sounds interesting, I hope you'll stop over and check it out, and I'd love it if you leave your ideas as well!

Sprout is a great resource, with a special section for parents and lots of great activity and craft ideas for kids.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Easiest Fruit Cobbler - EVER!

My mom made a delicious apple cobbler for my little brother's birthday. When I asked her for the recipe, she spilled her secret - it couldn't be any easier! She tells me this used to be a well known "secret" of moms everywhere, that for some reason appears to have been lost. I was so excited at how easy the recipe was, that I had to share it! Without further delay,

Easiest Fruit Cobbler
2 cans of pie filling, 21oz each
1 box of yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter
chopped nuts, optional

Place filling in the bottom of your casserole dish.
Place cake mix over the pie filling. Add nuts if desired.

Drizzle melted butter over cake mix. Place in oven and cook 45 minutes at 350.
Pull the cobbler out and sit back in amazement at how fantastic it looks and smells while it cools!

As easy as this is, (if not low fat!) I love how versatile it is - you can use any type of pie filling, and I imagine you could play around with different cake mixes as well. I made an apple cobbler, because I had some pie filling left over from our last apple processing of the season. Next I plan to use my homemade blackberry filling. I see this becoming one of my go to tricks for providing a quick and easy homemade dessert to family and friends.
If you saw my fall list, you might have noticed the Make Apple Pumpkin Cobbler? I'm planning to use this basic recipe, with 1/2 apple and 1/2 pumpkin pie filling, I'll let you know how it turns out.
Do you have any super simple recipes like this? I'd love to hear your secrets!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, October 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Last week’s menu was pretty much a complete loss. At some point I really want to try the bachelor beef, but I'm thinking maybe next week. This week we have a lot going on, and I’m going to take full advantage of the pork we had in the freezer and my slow cooker! For lunches this week, I’m going to stick with soup and salad. EmDee made some fabulous lettuce wrap filling toward the end of last week that I’ll post about when I get a chance. We’re starting the week of with that!

Monday – lettuce wraps, cottage cheese and beets
Tuesday – pulled pork, mashed potatoes and peas
Wednesday – hot and blue pork and oven fries
Thursday – BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and baked beans
Friday – leftovers at the football game

I'll get the hot and blue pork recipe posted next week, it's one I know by heart, but to write it down we're probably all better of for me to write while I'm doing!

For more menu plan ideas, check out OrgJunkie

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So much to be grateful for

As there continues to be unsettling information on the news each day, I find myself focusing more on things I can control. I am excited and grateful that we have a lot of frugal fun planned for the next few months at the problem solvin house.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what we should be doing to ensure our money is working for us, while keeping it as "safe" as possible given the current market turmoil. The hardships many people are facing remind me of the importance of giving, and I am committed to giving as much as we usually do, if not more this year. I feel blessed that we are in a position to be able to give.

We walked to the trees in our backyard this past week and spent an hour or so playing in the leaves. It was so much fun watching Sweetpea run back and forth, stacking leaves into a pile and then burrowing in, covering herself...jumping back up and throwing leaves into the air. It is so refreshing to watch a child discover new things, to view the world through your child's eyes!

And then, after all that fun, a few steps to the south to watch the sun set over our neighbor's pond...to be surrounded by such quiet beauty with daughter snuggled in my arms is a memory I will not soon forget!
What are you grateful for this week?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday Night Lights

For years now, fall and football season have gone hand in hand. This is big T's senior year, and while we've all been enjoying his success this season, it is somewhat bittersweet...soon the rhythm of things will shift, big T may not be so near to us, a new season in our lives will be upon us.

Sweetpea and I have made it to any games within reasonable driving distance. Last week was a particularly beautiful night.

Isn't the sky amazing? In every direction, the clouds were magnificent.

EmDee asked me why I was taking random photos - um, are we looking at the same thing?

Big T's littlest fan - go Blue!
Dancing to the band at halftime...

Victorious posing, post game...we will surely miss this!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bath time fun with toddlers

Does your toddler love the bath, or is it a struggle to entice them into the water? We've had some of both with Sweetpea, depending on her mood. Some days she just can't wait to get into the bath, others days I have to get creative. We now have several favorite games and toys she likes to play, and lately when I say "bath" she runs to the bathroom door.

Our favorites:
1) bath crayons or finger paint - I think it might be the fact that this is the only place where we don't have the "only color on the paper" rule, but she gets so excited to color in the bath.
2) Foam letters and shapes - I am definitely going to try and make my own using this great tutorial at Make and Takes.
3) Pouring water - we have a set of nesting cups that each having different holes in them. Sweetpea loves these, but she likes measuring cups, snack cups, and anything else she can pour in and out of just as well.
4) Playing with the washcloth - we have played many games of peek a boo using the washcloth, and now that she's in a "mothering" stage with her dolls, she wraps some of her bath toys up as if she's swaddling them.
5) Splashing - she loves it when I turn the water on just above a trickle so she can play with the water as it comes out of the faucet. We tried a slight variation yesterday and it was a big hit - I turned the water on just enough to get it to route out of the shower head - I think this might be our new favorite, what do you think?
What games do your children like to play in the bathtub? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Personalized coloring pages

I keep a gift list for friends and family throughout the year. This list gets pulled out as a birthday or Christmas approaches so I can be on the lookout for something my loved ones will really enjoy. I shop throughout the year so that I don't miss out on that perfect gift, and so that I can find the best price. This year I've been keeping a list of craft ideas that I think will work well as gifts. I saw a post recently at lifehacker that stepped through how to turn photos into coloring pages - what a great idea!

I scribbled the idea down in my crafts list...and then last night when I was laying in bed wishing I was asleep, I had an idea - I could take that idea a step further to make personalized coloring pages! I think Sweetpea is still a bit young to really understand and appreciate this idea, but my niece, who is seven, would totally love it. She loves to dress up and has a fabulous imagination. She also loves to draw. I think she would totally adore seeing her own face integrated into various coloring pages, sort of like coloring a version of herself playing dress up!

So I got to work - First, choose a photo that has a face you think will fit well into a coloring page.
This is one of Sweetpea getting her first haircut! She is facing the camera but not quite straight on, which seems to match well with a lot of the coloring pages I was finding.
Next, find a coloring page you like. I found this one at the Crayola site - they have a great selection of free printables!
Next I took my original photo and made it into an ink sketch. You might also try a pencil sketch. Play around with the various setting options to get the look that best blends with your coloring page. Here is what I came up with.
Next use the freehand select option to trace your subject's face out of the original photo. Copy and paste it into the coloring page (in my software that is paste as new layer). Then I integrated the layers by flattening them. I repeated the ink sketch option to further integrate the face into the coloring page and erased the edges of the face. Here is what I came up with:
Little Sweetpea turned astronaut! I plan to make several of these as part of my niece's Christmas gift. I will likely also include some additional art supplies to go along with it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar