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Monday, December 28, 2009

50 posts floating through my head, not much in your reader

This darling girl turned 4 months old on Christmas day...what a blessing! Though I'm not getting much more than the essentials done these days, (particularly during this season of family gatherings and celebration) my girls and sweet husband are filling my days to the brim and I'm sitting back and soaking it all in.

I'm taking the rest of the year off from blogging, but stay tuned for some vintage problem solvin' and great giveaways in the new year! Also don't miss the Robeez giveaway going on now - newborn to 4T!

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and many blessings in the new year!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gingerbread House

I picked up a gingerbread kit after Christmas last year, not really sure how interested Sweetpea would be, but figuring it was worth the $2 investment to find out. This craft was much more fun and not nearly as stressful as I'd imagined ahead of time...I highly recommend it as a fun holiday craft for your toddler or preschooler!

We decorated the roof prior to assembly - I think this was key to structural integrity, at least with a little one spreading the icing.

She absolutely adored adding all the candies.

I "glued" the walls together with frosting while Sweetpea decorated the roof pieces. I did some of the frosting piping, creating doors and windows as directed. Then I let her try it. The frosting was pretty thick so she had some trouble with it.

Ta da! Now give me back that knife little one ;)

Hey, is that a goatee, or have you been sneaking some frosting? Aw heck, who can resist those eyes? Have some more if you want...

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Robeez review & giveaway! {deadline extended}

Most of us with little ones recognize Robeez - sweet baby shoes that actually stay on, keeping little feet warm and looking adorable at the same time...The folks at Robeez were kind enough to send me a free pair for review and another pair for one of my readers!

Upon receiving the holiday guide I noticed two things right away - first, there are new styles available that are significantly different than the ones I was familiar with from when Sweetpea was a baby. The cute "traditional" Robeez styles are still available, but now there are also several options that look like real shoes - like the classic MJ bow that Sugar Plum will be sporting this season. These shoes are absolutely darling - and the construction and attention to detail are impeccable.

The other thing I learned is that Robeez offers styles for children up to 4 years old - both the soft sole style and a tredz version. I have yet to find a shoe that I truly love for Sweetpea so we will definitely be looking into the tredz line of Robeez shoes.

Want to win a pair of Robeez shoes from this year's holiday collection? Simply let me know what style is your favorite and why. The winner must be located in the US or Canada. Size and gender will be confirmed and style requests will be accommodated if possible.

For additional entries:

- Follow me on twitter and leave a message letting me know.

- Tweet about this giveaway and leave me an additional comment with the direct link to your message.

- Subscribe to this blog and leave me an additional comment letting me know.

You can tweet daily for additional entries if you'd like. The giveaway closes on 1/1/10 at midnight and a winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries. Good luck!

If you are thinking of buying some Robeez, now is definitely a good time - they are partnering with KIDS (kids in distressed situations) again this year. For each pair of Robeez purchased through 12/23/09, a pair of soft soled shoes is donated to the KIDS organization!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mail Time! Make your own mailbox...

Sweetpea has a little ride on toy that she loves to play with. It has a little compartment in the front and lately she stuffs it with her drawings and "delivers the mail". I saw this cute mailbox craft idea at No Time for Flashcards and thought she would enjoy it.

First we found a box that was the perfect size. I remember when I received this amazing and sweet gift from Sheri at Earth Mama Angel Baby that I knew this box would come in handy for a craft some day. (more on what was inside soon, one of these days when I'm a little more coherent)

I cut a slot in the lid and we used the box to measure the size of brown wrapping paper we needed to cover our mailbox.

Once we had the size about right there was much coloring and sticker application.

We then carefully wrapped the box in the paper and wrapped the lid as well.

Are you as fascinated with the process as Sugar Plum was?

Turned out our paper wasn't quite wide enough to wrap all the way around the box. Oops - there is a definite "back" to this mailbox. Interestingly enough I took pictures of this entire process and forgot to take a good picture of the finished product...

Here Sweetpea is "delivering" mail from the little compartment in her ride on toy to the mail box.

And now it's time to ride off into the sunset!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Repurposed spyglass

Does your little one like pirates, exploring, or Diego? Then chances are they know what a spyglass is and they would like to play with one! We decided to repurpose the core from a toilet paper roll into a spyglass, complete with markers and stickers.

Step 1: use toilet paper roll up and save core. (no pictures of that part!)

Step 2: decorate your toilet roll core. A paper towel roll will also work well here. (this step is optional, of course!)

Doesn't that look like a proper pirate spyglass? ;)

Step 3: Play with your new spyglass!

Ahoy, matey! Who goes there?!?

What do you use toilet paper rolls for in your house?

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dairy sensitivity and colic

Sugar Plum is a pretty laid back little girl. She doesn't get upset easily and is quick to flash a grin. She has also perfected the over the back spit up routine and occasionally seemed to suffer from gas pains. As she approached the three month mark, her evening fussiness seemed to be ramping up. Could this be colic? Wasn't colic supposed to be subsiding at three months, not starting?

On an especially horrible night for all involved, poor Sugar Plum was beyond consoling, arching her back and wailing for hours on end. I was searching the internet while patting her back and swaying back and forth, willing my google search to render a solution. It seemed that I'd tried all the suggestions that kept coming up, so I turned to my twitter friends for a solution.

How is it that in all my searches for colic, colicky baby, calming the colicky baby, breastfed colic and so on, none had turned up a discussion of dairy sensitivity? Thankfully @kblogger and @SomewhatCrunchy came to my rescue and suggested removing dairy from my diet. Once I knew to search for dairy sensitivity in breastfed babies I found all kinds of resources.

Apparently it can take weeks to see an improvement, but Sugar Plum was so much better in a matter of days. I also learned that Soy milk might also cause a problem (it does seem to bother her - anyone interested in 2/3 of a carton of plain light organic soy milk?) but that goat's milk products might be tolerable. I've tried some goat's milk cheese and at least in small doses it doesn't seem to bother her.

The next challenge is finding food to eat...and getting enough calcium. Sugar Plum's GaSue is a dietitian and she happened to be visiting for Thanksgiving. She was nice enough to let me pick her brain for ideas over lunch one day - in addition to small quantities of goat's milk products, I'll be enjoying calcium fortified orange juice, dark greens and a few calcium supplements spaced throughout the day. I'm eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, and I am going to check out rice milk ice cream the next time I'm at the store...

For more information on going dairy free and dairy sensitivity in babies, here are some helpful links:

Kellymom has a section on food sensitivity and also on getting enough calcium

Fussy Baby has several good articles on the dairy sensitive baby and going dairy free

Go Dairy Free is a good resource for dairy free foods and recipes

Do any of you have suggestions for eating dairy free? Any snack ideas or recipes you don't mind sharing? I'd love to hear them!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

3 months from a different perspective

Sweetpea has taken a keen interest in my camera lately. I'm hoping to get a new fancy camera one of these days {{hint hint honey!}} and let her have this one. In the meantime, I've been letting her borrow mine and explore - gritting my teeth and pretending I'm not expecting it to get smashed at any moment...here is one of her pictures of Sugar Plum at 3 months old.

Don't mind this mama's tired eyes, lack of makeup and unshowered hair...not one of my better moments. Concentrate instead on that adorable little I'm posing next to! :) (and doesn't the tree outside the window behind us look neat too?)

Sugar Plum is getting so big, smiling, laughing and playing with the toys suspended over her chair. Her hair is starting to come back in on top, quite a bit lighter this time. She can get about 75% of the way rolled over before she gets stuck and is holding her head up like a champ.

Sweetpea is quite the doting big sister. She loves to pick out Sugar Plum's outfits, bring her diapers and wipes when I'm doing diaper changes, and offering her toys. Unfortunately she has also shared a cold that we just keep passing back and forth to each other. Thankfully it's just a cold and not the flu, but it breaks my heart to hear Sugar Plum's little baby cough. The vaporizer is on full blast and we've been liberally doling out saline spray and love.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Countdown to Christmas: Activity garland

Last year's garland hung up on the mantle

Last year's Christmas activity garland was such a success I imagine we'll be doing it for many years to come. We come up with a list of 24 things we want to do to celebrate the holiday season. Since this time of year is so hectic, I assign each activity to a specific day when I think we'll have the time to enjoy it.

This year's list is a bit more basic since we have a baby in the house - I didn't think we could count on any outside activities. If the weather is nice enough or we decide to have Sugar Plum stay with someone then these will be bonus activities. Below is our list. Each one will be written on a paper chain and made into a garland we use to count down to Christmas. We will hang the garland on our mantle with the stockings. Sweetpea is going to help make the garland this year as part of our first activity!
make Christmas chain
put up Christmas tree
decorate Christmas tree
paint pine cone ornaments
decorate mantle with pine cone ornaments and stockings
make dough ornaments
Santa coloring pages
hot chocolate and Christmas music by the tree
gingerbread house
bake cookies
drive around looking at neighborhood lights
decorate cookies
make grandparent gifts
deliver cookies to friends
family handprint wreath
make & decorate felt trees
visit Santa
handprint reindeer
write letter to Santa
caroling at grandparent's houses
handprint Santa
cookies to firemen
angel craft
family over for dinner

How do you count down to Christmas and organize your holiday activities? What are your favorite traditions?

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday meal planning

This time of year I find it more important than ever to have a good plan. This goes for menu planning as well as holiday activities - stop back in tomorrow for this year's holiday activity garland! There is so much going on that I don't want to have to think too much during the week, and I want to make sure we make time for the important things.

Today let's talk about menu planning - I will be using my slow cooker at least once a week, and I'll be doing quite a bit of freezer cooking, both meals and cookies! When you have an especially hectic week ahead, it helps to create a menu plan that uses many of the same ingredients across meals - that way you can prep several meals at once and then just finish them throughout the week. For example, this week I defrosted a large amount of lean ground beef for our meals. I cooked it all up with some onion and seasoning and then removed a third of it. The larger portion got taco seasoning for taco salads and a Mexican casserole. The smaller portion became sloppy joe.

For a day when you're planning cookie or candy making, it helps to schedule something from the freezer or a crockpot meal, both for lunch and dinner! My favorite crock pot pulled pork is a good choice because it's so versatile - serve it on sandwiches for lunch and then with mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner. It's also quick and easy to make into burritos, tetrazzini, or moo shoo pork.

For breakfast this week we'll be having oatmeal cake bars. I'll share the recipe later this week, it's based off of the delicious baked oatmeal recipe from $5 dinners. For lunches we'll be having soup, sandwiches and apples with peanut butter. Here's what's on the menu for dinner:

Monday: beef burgundy with noodles and stuffing
Tuesday: sloppy joes with baked beans and potato chips
Wednesday: cinnamon pancakes, eggs and candied bananas
Thursday:enchilada casserole with corn cakes
Friday: taco salads with chips and salsa
Saturday: steak mole with rice and guacamole
Sunday: lentil soup with grilled ham sandwiches

What's on your menu this week? For more inspiration, visit OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Babywearing - A sweet ride

EmDee and I finally peeked out of the dark ages and decided to get Blackberries instead of the antique phones we had been carrying around. I was wearing Sugar Plum around doing some organizing and decided to try out the camera on my new phone. I've mentioned before that I have a real shortage of babywearing photos, and as with almost all of the ones I DO have, these are self portraits. The quality isn't great, but it's certainly not bad for inside. In one of them there is enough detail to tell I need to clean the mirror...{blushing}

What are you doing back there, Mommy?!

Oh, now I see. Who is that adorable baby over there?

Hey hot stuff, how YOU doin'?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Playing Store - more play learning ideas

I mentioned last week that one of our favorite uses for the big cardboard box was playing store. I'm glad Sweetpea thinks this is so fun, because it's a great way to practice counting, vocabulary and grammar, and her manners.

Everything we use to play store are things we have around the house. We pick toys from the toy box to "sell" and they get displayed on top of the box. Then we need money, of course. For that, some small paper from a note pad will do the trick.

We decided to get fancy and decorate it to look like "real" money. (at least she got the color right!)

Now we're ready to play! We take turns being the customer. The customer gets Sweetpea's play purse filled with the money we made. Once all the money is gone, we switch places and start over.

Anyone in the market for a hairbrush or some mega blocks? :)

I mentioned before that this is a great learning game. Here are some of the things we are practicing while we play:

1) Vocabulary - we practice using the words of the toys and phrases that you would use in a retail environment. (Hello, how are you today? What can I get for you? Would you like to buy some...)

2) Grammar - it's a good chance to practice using correct verb tense and personal pronouns, for example.

3) Counting - we count the items purchased and we count the money when we are paying each other. It also gives us a chance to talk about the value of certain things, though I think this might be a bit over her head at this point - when she is the clerk nearly everything is $2!

4) Manners - we practice how to greet each other politely, when to say please and thank you, and appropriate ways to say goodbye.

What kind of play learning games do you play with your children? I'd love to hear about the games you use!

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Easy peasy Mac n Cheesy - quick and easy mac n cheese

Does your kiddo ask for mac n cheese on a regular basis? I love making mac n cheese from scratch and hubs makes a great box mac n cheese, but there are days when Sweetpea asks for it and I don't have the time or ingredients to grant her wish. On those days, if I still want to grant her request, I pull out this quick and easy fake out:

~1 cup of small cut pasta, I like using alphabet pasta
1 slice of American cheese (I always have these on hand for EmDee's lunches
1 "slice" of light laughing cow cheese or 2 tablespoons of cream cheese
a splash of milk

Cook pasta according to package directions and then stir the cheeses and splash of milk into the hot pasta. Add some meat and vegetables if that will go over...or not. Presto, a pretty tasty mac n cheese substitute. For a "cheesier" taste, use 2 slices of American cheese instead of the combination above.

With this, as with any other meal, if Sweetpea loses interest or doesn't want to eat her food I pull out my "secret weapon" a big wooden spoon. She will eat just about anything off of a big wooden spoon...

Do you have any go to fake out meals? I'm always looking for quick and easy favorites.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

10 uses for a big cardboard box - the best toy ever!

We've all come down with some pesky colds and have stayed home this week keeping our germs to ourselves. Thankfully, we have the best toy ever on hand to help keep Sweetpea entertained throughout the day. What is the best toy ever, you ask? Why a huge cardboard box, of course. Here are a few things we've been doing with said box this week:

1. Playing store
2. Playing house
3. Decorating said house inside and out with markers and stickers
4. Playing hide and seek
5. Pretending to be a Jill in the box
6. Pretending the box is a boat and sailing the high seas
7. Putting chairs in the box and pretending it is a bus or train
8. Putting a sleeping bag and pillow in the box and pretending to camp under the stars
9. Getting in the box with a flashlight and making silly faces
10. Pretending the box is a library and "checking out" books to read

What kinds of things do you do with the big boxes that occasionally show up at your door?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feeling worn out? 5 quick and caffeine free energizers

photo by Corrieb
With a newborn and a preschooler I'm not getting much sleep these days. I often find myself dragging by mid day, but any additional caffeine would ruin a nap if the planets aligned and both girls napped at the same time, so I've been looking for other alternatives. Here are 5 that have been working for me:

1. Take a quick shower! Start with things warm and relaxing and end with a refreshing cold blast - slowly turn the water colder and colder while you stand directly under the shower head. When the water gets as cold as you can comfortably tolerate, stand under it for an additional 5-10 seconds. The cold water will help increase the shine in your hair as it energizes you.

2. Play some energizing music - choose an upbeat favorite and turn it up, dance around for an instant pick me up.

3. Whip up an energizing snack like the ones in this article from Fitness magazine. Look for food combinations that include fiber, carbs and protein, like bananas or apples and peanut butter or a cereal parfait.

4. Try some aromatherapy - peppermint and citrus scents are especially invigorating.

5. Have a few quiet minutes to yourself? Try visualization. Close your eyes, relax and visualize a countdown from 10 to 1. Then imagine yourself in a location that excites, energizes or relaxes you. Spend a few moments thinking about doing something that makes you feel good and well rested. When you're done, visualize your countdown again and open your eyes!

What works when you find yourself tired out and worn down?

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet moments

My days are jam packed with sweet moments, and I'm trying to soak it all in and stay in the moment even though there is so much else to do. I used to post in the early morning before anyone was up and during my lunch hour at work, can you tell? :)

It's been awhile since I've done a Sunday gratitude post, so here's a little taste of what I'm grateful for these past weeks:

sweet chubby cheeks and tiny baby feet

sister lovin'

lots of kisses

how is she 2 months + already? Thanks to Aunt JoAnne for this adorable sleeper!

And a few more things from my journal:

* the colors of fall, in the leaves and the brilliant sunsets*

* the crunching of leaves under foot*

* watching Sweetpea exuberantly run headlong into great piles of leaves, then agreeing to take the plunge with her*

* the smell of fireplaces being cleaned out and lit up in the crisp evenings*

* being introduced as, "this is my friend Mommy" *

* watching Sweetpea walk into a room and immediately make friends*

What are you grateful for this week? For more reflections of the everyday, visit Chatting at the Sky and Heavenly Homemakers

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween revisit

A big thanks to my friend Heidi for loaning us this adorable flower costume for Sugar Plum - so cute and most importantly warm. We had a cold front move through the night before beggars night, but at least it was dry.

Whatcha lookin' at? Who put me in this? Why is everyone staring?! It must be the way I'm workin' these petals...

Sweetpea with her friend, J. Not the best picture of Sweetpea (she has her eyes closed) but the best I could get with them so excited about trick or treating that they couldn't hold still. When Sweetpea saw this picture, she said, "Sweetpea has her eyes closed - Sweetpea, open your eyes!"

Checking out the loot once we arrived home...

Sweetpea had a hard time deciding between Princess Sweetpea and Super Sweetpea for Halloween this year. She wore this princess costume to her party at daycare, so she got to be both! She loves putting this on and dancing around to Dancing with the stars.

Speaking of Dancing with the Stars, (did you like that random segue? Ha!) what did you think about the judges going with Aaron after the dance off? I don't usually talk about this kind of thing, but I was so disappointed to see the judges go with Aaron after the fans spoke so resoundingly for Mark! Both contestants managed flawless dances in the dance off, so why not go with the fans choice at that point? What do you think?

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gift ideas "for him"

I will be the first to lament that my husband is hard to buy for...he will either buy what he wants or tell me specifically what it is he's wanting, which is nice but not very romantic! His birthday is also 12 days before Christmas, which presents its own challenges.

A few years back we implemented a spending limit on our gifts to one another at Christmas - it forced us to get creative with our choices and allowed us to pool our money instead on one big gift for the family. That said, here are some gifts that always seem to go over well with hubs and the other men in my family:

Photo gifts: whether it's a handmade photo album or scrapbook, a flip book from shutterfly, or a framed photo, photo gifts always seem to go over well.

If you're looking for an affordable framed photo, check out Real Memories. I received a free credit from Real Memories to try out their service and I was absolutely impressed - the frames and mattes are high quality, the printing is top notch and the prices are fantastic.

Destination gifts: For my husband that either means a vacation or a trip to the OSU/Michigan game...I love giving the gift of time together and memories created, rather than something that will take up space and possibly collect dust.

Food: I love making special treats to give as gifts for holidays - this works especially well for kids to give as well because they can help. Whether it's a special meal or a big batch of cookies or cinnamon rolls, food always seems to go over well with the male set!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

No spend month in review

Today was a bit hectic, but I wanted to get my menu plan up and reflect a bit on our no spend month...my laptop battery has died, and I can't tell you how hard it is to be newly tethered to a desk again!

Monday: Beef stroganoff, mashed potatoes and peas
Tuesday: Chicken tetrazzini and green salad
Wednesday: General Tso's chicken (modified from this recipe) rice and baked crab rangoon
Thursday: Turkey, mashed potatoes and green beans
Friday: Turkey soup, crusty rolls and milkshakes
Saturday: leftovers
Sunday: Turkey pot pie

We ended no spend month just a few cents over our budget. It was an empowering experience to know we can cut our budget by nearly 40% and still enjoy ourselves. I spent nearly $100 in diapers and wipes for the month, leaving us roughly $50 per week for groceries, gas and miscellaneous spending.

Having little ones in the house makes it both easier and more challenging - on the one hand, there are lots of things that are just too challenging to do with an infant and a preschooler. (shopping comes to mind...) On the other hand, I tend to want to buy everything in one location, or to choose the easiest place to buy things because shopping can be so challenging. I normally buy several things at Sams club, but this month I opted out, even though it would have been a bit cheaper, simply because it was too difficult to fit a trip in without the girls.

I really didn't miss going out and spending money - we found plenty of free and nearly free things to do. While I enjoyed the freedom of not counting every penny when I was shopping yesterday, I think I've retooled my menu planning to a point where I will consistently spend less than I had been. For anyone that has been considering a no spend month or budget challenge, I would highly recommend it. This month's adventures will pay dividends (literally) for months to come!

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Gift ideas "for her"

I love the idea of sharing gift ideas for the upcoming Christmas season! I'm always looking for Christmas gift ideas, by shopping year round I can find the best deals and free up valuable time during the hectic holiday season.

Today is "for her" and since I'm the "her" in our house, let's talk about what I like! :)

There are a few standbys that EmDee knows to go for when he's buying for me - a pedicure or massage, a date night in or out.

I also think my new necklace is a sure winner too, don't you?

I'm a sucker for jewelry that is personalized and also simple and elegant. If that sounds good to you, check out the vintage pearl!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun and mess free toddler snacking

Sweetpea has always loved applesauce and yogurt, and we would frequently order one one or the other as side dishes when we were eating out. As she became a more independent eater, this became particularly messy! One day when we were eating out she dropped her spoon on the floor after one or two bites of applesauce. The wait staff was particularly busy and I didn't expect we would be able to flag someone down for quite awhile, so I improvised - giving Sweetpea my straw to finish her applesauce.

Not only did she think it was fun to use a straw, it was a much quicker and less messy way to get her snack from the bowl into her mouth! She requests a straw now whenever she eats applesauce or yogurt. I love that she enjoys eating these healthy snacks and thinks of her straw as an extra special treat. We purchased a big bag of extra wide straws for $1.50 to make it a little easier for her to "drink" her snacks.

What untraditional feeding methods have you come up with to help your toddler or preschooler have fun eating healthy sometimes messy snacks? I'd love to hear your tips!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Six ways to serve pumpkin pudding

I've been making "pumpkin pie" pudding lately - not quite exactly like pumpkin pie filling, but close to the same flavor - instant, frugal, healthy and versatile! Sweetpea loves to mix it together for me and she's able to do a pretty decent job!

1 small box butterscotch pudding
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
~1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Follow directions on pudding box as if you were going to make regular pudding. Add the pumpkin puree and spice after the pudding is well mixed but not yet set. Once you add the puree the pudding will set up almost instantly, even without refrigerating.

Here are some tasty ways to serve this pudding up:

* simply as pudding with a little whipped cream on top
* crumble some graham crackers underneath for an instant pumpkin pie
* serve as a pumpkin pie dip, great with graham crackers, pretzels, apple slices and the like
* layer with vanilla wafers and whipped cream for a tasty parfait
* layer with pound cake and cheesecake dip for a fabulous fall trifle
* use as the filling ingredient for the easiest cobbler ever

Any other ideas? I could seriously eat this every night, but I do like to try and mix things up a little bit...

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Our last week of no spend month - what's on the menu?

So we're winding toward the end of no spend month, and I have to say there were very few times that I actually felt like I wanted to spend money on something and "couldn't" because of our budget challenge. I think we're going to come out almost exactly on target, as I've purchased our groceries for the week and we have just a little wiggle room left. Here's the menu plan for this week:

Monday: Steaks, mashed potatoes and green salads
Tuesday: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans and potato chips
Wednesday: Grilled chicken salads and smoothies
Thursday: Pork chops, baked potatoes and peas
Friday: Pulled pork tetrazzini and corn bread
Saturday: Pizza and breadsticks
Sunday: Mexican casserole and corn cake

How are we affording such a yummy meat filled menu? As I mentioned last week, we shop the "reduced for quick sale" section at our local IGA - they have a terrific meat case and if you know when to shop you can get a super deal. All of the pork from this week's menu is from a pork loin I bought when it went on sale for $1.69/lb - I'll slice some meat off to pan fry and the rest will become pulled pork in the slow cooker to be used in several other meals this week. Normally when pork loin goes on sale I'll buy two. I freeze one for later and generally freeze half of the pulled pork after I make it.

In addition, we'll be having cake, brownies, baked oatmeal, and carrot cranberry muffins. In order to help make sure we don't feel deprived (and to help clean out the cupboard!) we've been making more desserts than we usually do. Thank goodness for those extra calories I'm allowed since I'm nursing so often! :)

If you're looking for more menu planning inspiration, visit OrgJunkie. Come back next week for a summary of no spend month!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1 month old, almost 1 month late!

As my little big girl closes in on 2 months {{gasp}} I realized I never posted this 1 month photo of her with the bear I chose to document her growth. And always aiming to please, she threw in the first hint of a smile! Those that know me IRL are probably tired of hearing me say I'm amazed at how Sugar Plum can look so big and so little at the same time. This sleeper she's wearing is one of my favorites gifts that Sweetpea received when she was born (thanks, Julie!) and Sweetpea was able to wear it for at least 2 months...this was the last time I tried to stuff Sugar Plum into it, as her little legs were barely able to extend at this point. Yesterday at her 8 week checkup she was just shy of 12 pounds, more than 2lbs above where her big sister was at this early stage! I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I took this photo...does anyone else spend there days wondering how their babies got so big and seriously how it got to be nearly Thanksgiving when we just celebrated New Years?!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

My few minutes of fame

I was asked to showcase some family health related items on a local morning news show today. Sugar Plum and I were there bright an early with a friend of mine that came along to help (Thanks, Jayme!). We had fun and amazingly my nerves weren't too bad. Tomorrow it's back to reality in a big way, as I head back to work for a few days before they close our facility November 1.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The great pumpkin(s)

We made our first pumpkin patch trip of the season last week! There are several great pumpkin patches in our area, and we love them all. This one is the closest, so we usually end up visiting multiple times. Each year we've taken Sweetpea here for pictures. I love comparing the photos from each year to see how much she's grown, and I'm excited to start doing the same with Sugar Plum.
Sweetpea had fun wandering around looking at all the pumpkins. She wanted to take all of them home, but on this trip we were just buying gourds for our front windows. In addition to a sea of pumpkins, there are lots of fun displays to pose with!

For more Wordful Wednesday fun, stop over and see Angie at 7 clown circus.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Frugal cooking, even with meat!

Week one of no spend month found us with $246.52 remaining in our budget. With some creative menu planning I cut our grocery budget by 35% last week, but we ate very well - I found some great frugal recipes and pulled out some old favorites. We've cut back on convenience snacks and Sweetpea and I are cooking snacks from scratch instead. This coming week I know we're going to spend more overall because we're going to need diapers - when I chose $300 for our monthly budget it was with the fact that we have 2 in diapers in mind. I do have $6.50 in coupons to use for each big box of diapers but it's still going to be a large portion of the months budget.

This week's grocery bill was almost identical to last weeks - $46 for our family of 4 (though one of us only drinks mama's milk, so I'm not sure she should count when it comes to groceries?). Here's what's on our menu this week:

Monday: steak stirfry and baked potatoes
Tuesday: tuna noodle casserole with green salads
Wednesday: baked spaghetti and garlic bread
Thursday: chicken tetrazzini and buttered peas
Friday: breakfast casserole and pancakes
Saturday: leftover buffet
Sunday: creamy sausage and potato bake

Here are some of the strategies I've been using to keep our food budget low - even though we're eating quite a bit of meat throughout the week:

- shop the reduced meat section - one of our markets has great reduced meats, some of the others I definitely stay away from. Find a market in your area that has good meat and determine the markdown schedule! I purchased the steaks we're eating tonight that way.

- plan your menu so you use ingredients in multiple meals - that way you use up all your ingredients and you can possibly buy larger containers at a lower price per unit. Tuna noodle casserole and chicken tetrazzini use several of the same ingredients. The ground chuck in our spaghetti bake also went into sloppy joes for lunches (on sale for $1.67/lb) Sausage was on sale and will be featured in both the breakfast casserole and the sausage potato bake.

- speaking of potatoes - stretch your meals with non meat "fillers" that add flavor and texture to your dishes, like potatoes, rice, or beans. I added black beans to our spaghetti bake, which might sound unappealing to some, but my daughter loves it and it adds fiber to the meal. The original recipe for Sunday's sausage bake didn't include potatoes, but they add a nice flavor and texture and increase the overall portion size.

What tricks do you use to stretch a buck when planning your menus?

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Growing is hard work

How can she look so little and so big at the same time? Does what I just said make sense to anyone but me? ;)

Sugar Plum spent almost all day Monday sleeping...at first I thought I was going to be in for a really long night, but she even slept reasonably well overnight. Tuesday she used all that rest to stay up almost all day. What did she want to do all day? Eat - and I mean all.day.long. This girl is a serious milk connoisseur as it is, but when she hits a growth spurt, let me tell you, she can take it to a whole other level. What a fabulous excuse to put my feet up, snuggle into the couch with her and just soak in that baby love...in between playing in her kitchen and her new "store" (a huge cardboard box that quickly became her favorite toy) Sweetpea would climb up on the couch, put her head on my shoulder and pat Sugar Plum on the back while she was nursing. Can someone please tell me how to bottle this up so I can savor it over and over again?! Too bad we had someone here fixing our leaky well and someone else here not hooking up our new cable internet *sigh* It was a long, crazy day, but one that was filled with many sweet special moments along the way.

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