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Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday fun - with a side of mama gettin' teary

When did my little baby get all big girly on me? Here is a peak at one of her 2 year pictures. We have just one more week until one turns to two... {{sniffle}}

Mama loves you so much, sweet little girl!

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Replay: frugal party planning - picking a theme

It seems that many of my blogging and IRL friends are planning parties lately. I thought I would dust this post off and give it some new life. This post was originally published August 26, 2008.

photo by normanack

A few weeks ago I posted on 5 tips for saving time and/or money when planning a party. In this post we'll follow up and elaborate on how a theme can save you both time AND money!

First, a theme can save you money if you tailor it correctly. For example, say you are having a birthday party for one of your girlfriends. You want to save money on food, but at the same time you want it to be delicious and fun - 2 possible options are a brunch or appetizers. Prefer a morning party? Go with a brunch. Looking for something later in the day? An appetizer party could be early afternoon or later in the evening (after dinner). Let's choose brunch.

A theme can also help you save time by giving you direction and helping you determine where you want to go with your party. Think about what your friend's interests are when choosing a theme. Does your friend like to travel? Does she enjoy gardening? Let's assume for the sake of this example she enjoys to travel. A travel themed brunch could center around breakfast foods from different parts of the world, or you could simply make up cute names for more "ordinary" foods that tie in your theme. A few things I would prepare for this theme would be french toast bites, tropical fruit salad, Mediterranean omelet casserole, and exotic fruit drinks and coffees or teas. Brunches are especially economical because breakfast foods tend to be very affordable.

Now that you know you're having a party with a travel theme, you can think about ideas for invitations and decorations centering on this theme. If you want to give a party favor, your travel theme can also help you come up with an idea for favors. Don't feel you have to extend the theme to all aspects of the party if you're having trouble tying it together, only use it in so far as it will help you.

I used the travel example because I threw a travel themed bridal shower for a girlfriend who really enjoyed travelling with her future husband. We sent pretty traditional shower invitations, but we requested guests think (if they wanted to) of a way to suggest the bride use her shower gift on a trip with her groom to be. We included card stock and requested each guest provide a travel tip or a suggestion for a future trip the bride and groom might enjoy. We used this card stock along with photos from the event to make a keepsake for my friend. We included a few games since it was a bridal shower, and the prizes for the game winners were travel themed.

For my daughter's first birthday I found a great deal on some cute dessert napkins and plates that said "I'm One" and had a teddy bear on them. I only bought a few items with this design and filled in with coordinating solid colors. I made a teddy bear smash cake for her to eat. In this case, the napkins and plates, and a matching bib provided me an idea for what kind of cake I wanted to make and a basic color scheme.

Next week I will wrap up this series with some tips on how to save money on decorations for parties.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some serious crawling

This week's theme is B&W. Here is my entry for the kids category, a photo of Sweetpea when she was just learning to crawl. Click on the link above to submit your own entry or see some of the other entries this week!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu planning while morning sick - this is hard!

I’ve skipped menu planning and been taking it day by day for a few weeks now because the thought of food generally makes me a bit queasy. Anyone with suggestions on successfully meal planning with morning/all day sickness I would love to hear them! I want to get back to the weekend cooking habit – weekday meals go much more smoothly that way, so I’m trying to get back on track this week. Here’s what we have on the schedule:

Monday: pork chops and mashed potatoes
Tuesday: beef stroganoff and green beans
Wednesday: pasta with pork and vegetables
Thursday: grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
Friday: strawberry banana pancakes and eggs

I’m trying to work on a list of meals that sounds good to me while I’m feeling queasy – hoping that if I do feel queasy at night (just as likely as in the morning) then I’ll still be up for dinner. I tried to stay pretty basic this week, and also cook Would love some suggestions/feedback!

For more meal planning inspiration, visit OrgJunkie.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Medela Swing Pump & Bottle Set Giveaway!

Did someone say giveaway? I am so excited to be giving away a Medela swing pump and bottle gift set. The Swing pump is a single electric pump that is extremely portable and features the 2 phase expression technology. I can't tell you how much I loved the 2 phase feature on my Medela pump in style when I was pumping at work with Sweetpea.

The swing can be used at a table, clipped to a belt, or with a shoulder strap. All parts that come into contact with your milk are BPA/DEHP free. Click here to learn more about the Swing pump.

Medela bottles are compatible with all Medela pumps. They come with a two piece lid that is perfect for refrigerator or freezer storage. Medela bottles are also BPA/DEHP free.

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment letting me know what feature is most important to you when choosing a breast pump.

For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a seperate comment for each extra entry!

*Twitter about this contest
*Fave Problem Solvin Mom on technorati
*Stumble this post (be sure to use an appropriate subject, such as parenting)
*Fave Problem Solvin Mom on MomFaves

This contest will run through March 8. Good luck, I hope you win!

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diaper Chatter - the one where I actually say poo...

Momfessions is hosting a Diaper Chatter carnival today, and I thought it sounded like fun! Not only are there some great prizes to win, but I thought it would be interesting to learn what others are doing regarding diapers and to maybe hear some funny stories. Or maybe I'm the only one sharing some diaper horror stories? {{giggles}}

I know some of you are going to cringe, but I'm a tried and true Pampers Swaddlers/Cruisers devotee. I started out with swaddlers in the hospital, and had a few packs from my baby shower. After that, I tried a few lower cost options, Luvs, Pampers Baby Dry, the Babies R Us store brand... At the time, none of these had the flexible tabs around the waist. I'm pretty sure now that my daughter needed those flexible tabs, because each of the diapers I tried leaked and some of them gave her a rash.

One diaper in particular, the Pampers Baby Dry, still makes me shudder when I think of our experience. We had an appointment for pictures at Target. Running a bit early, we stopped at Panera for a quick bite and to waste some time. I found a nice booth in the back where I could eat and nurse discretely. Just as Sweetpea was done nursing, I could tell she was dirtying her diaper. Then I could feel it - on my stomach!

I managed to get my clothes rearranged and headed straight for the bathroom. Luckily I hadn't dressed Sweetpea in the outfit I was planning for our photos, because she had managed to leak out the top of her diaper all over both of us. There is nothing quite like trying clean first your 3 month old and then yourself when you're both smeared with poo. Thankfully after much wiping and some help from a couple of sweet strangers, we were clean enough to go back out in public. The photos actually went quite well. When we got home, all of those diapers went into the donation bin - there was no way I was going to use them again! Swaddlers/Cruisers are the only diapers that we've never had leak, and after that experience, I'm a bit gun shy to try anything new...

What kind of diapers do you use? Have you tried several, or found one you liked and stuck with it? I'd love to hear your stories, and while you're at it, head over and join the fun at Momfessions.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I guess that’s why they call them PESTS…Car seat woes!

EmDee got home last night about midnight from his trip, (coincidentally the same time we got back from urgent care last night after taking Sweetpea in for an ear infection) and reminded me that he would need the car seat replaced in his car before I left for work in the morning if he was going to be able to pick Sweetpea up from daycare. I am admittedly anal about installing the car seat, but this little reminder elicited a groan from me nonetheless. The thought of getting up early to install a car seat after getting home from the sick kiddo zoo at midnight wasn’t overly appealing.

That groan was nothing like the one (or was it whispered cursing under my breath? I’ll never tell) that I let escape when I saw a little mouse had taken up residence in the car seat over the week that EmDee had been gone. At first I thought it was just the pad that sits in the bottom of the seat. No big deal, really. I dusted it off and shook the car seat every which way to make sure said mouse wasn’t still in residence.

As I went to install the seat, I noticed that mouse hadn’t stopped at the pad. He felt it necessary to chew the edges of the straps of the car seat too! I imagine it was the stray goldfish and the warmth of the seat that attracted him. Why, then, did he spare the goldfish cracker and eat the straps? I guess that’s why they call them PESTS!! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Mickey the same way.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, the straps the mouse chewed? Not replaceable!! That means this miscreant ruined my $130 car seat – I could just cry thinking about it! {{sob}}

*edited to add* I absolutely LOVE my Evenflo Triumph Advanced car seat, but as an engineer I can't imagine designing straps that can't be removed. If I had known at the time, I never would have purchased this model. I love the infinitely adjustable shoulder strap height, but apparently it is that very feature that is causing me so much grief right now. I called the manufacturer and confirmed that I can't replace the straps.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Taking treats to work today...

I always assumed that engineers were more food obsessed at work than most environments, but maybe it's this way everywhere...have a stash of old Halloween candy? Bring it in and watch it disappear before lunch. Try out a new recipe and your family doesn't want to be the guinea pig again? Bring it in - like Mikey in the commercial for Life cereal growing up, my coworkers will try anything.

Following this food obsession, there are a few food related expectations that surprised me when I started working here. Having a birthday? You have to bring the food in to celebrate. (does that make any sense?!) Announcing that you're expecting a baby? Bring in food that is pink and blue.

Does your family or office have any funny traditions like this?

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Living each day with a grateful heart

Hope you all had a fabulous Valentine's Day spent with those that mean the most to you!

Sweetpea and I had a fun day playing and crafting, with a little grocery shopping and working out mixed in for good measure. It was entertaining to watch some of the customers frantically doing last minute shopping for sweethearts while we picked up the basics like milk and fresh fruit. EmDee was out of town yesterday, so we we have an excuse to let the celebration stretch out at least another day.

Here are a few items from my gratitude list this week:

*a happy, healthy family*

*birds chirping, sun shining, a tiny taste of spring*

*five bags of clutter to donate to someone who can use it*

*I love you mommy*

*kiss me, mommy!*

*the technology to stay close and connected with loved ones while they are away*

What are you grateful for this week?

In addition to sharing my gratitude this week, I wanted to also share with you two stories that have been weighing on my heart. If you aren't familiar with the stories of Tuesday or Cora, you can click through the links to learn more. Both of these stories make my heart ache for the families and friends of these sweet girls. In case you're moved to participate, I wanted to share the projects that their lives have inspired.

Kacey at Chronicles of a Mommy has organized Project Happy Heart in Tuesday's memory.

Click over to see her suggestions for some charities that will help make someone's heart smile, or stop by and let her know what you've done. I love the concept of Make a Child Smile, and Sweetpea and I will be working on some letters to send with the help of that organization.

A memorial fund has been established to build the Cora Playground in Cora's memory.


If you're interested in buying some fabulously cute items to support this playground, you can follow this link. For information on making a direct contribution, go here.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine Fun!

I am excited to celebrate Valentine's day with Sweetpea this year, as I've always preferred handmade and heartfelt gifts to grand gestures or chocolate. (unless it's Godiva, honey, I'm always willing to cut some calories elsewhere for Godiva...) We are planning a sweet/heart themed dinner for the occasion and have been working on some fun crafts.

Here are some of the crafts we have planned, and a few of my favorite ideas from around the blogosphere.

Sweetpea has a Valentine's party at daycare on Friday, and she will be coloring these cute printables to give to her daycare buddies at the party.

We are going to break out the markers and glue and let her go to town with heart shaped construction paper of all sizes. More to follow on how this turns out...

I found some neat cookie stencils on clearance after Valentine's day last year for $0.19, we will be using these to decorate sugar cookies to take to the Valentine's party, and we may take a few to some family friends as well.

I love these ideas from Jen @ Sabbatical Mom for celebrating Valentine's Day all week long! (and I am totally in agreement with her decorating rule...)

Marie from Make and Takes always has fun crafts for any occasion.

I'm definitely going to break out the heart shaped cookie cutters and duplicate this adorable breakfast from Handmade Homeschool.

Jenn from Frugal Upstate has some great frugal craft links in this post.

What are you planning for Valentine's day this year? Are you a fan, or do you think this is just another Hallmark holiday?

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Edible Playdoh!

I've seen lots of amazing recipes for homemade playdough around the blogosphere, but the one that really caught my eye was one I saw on Jon&Kate+8 about a year ago. This recipe includes peanut butter and honey, so at the time I wrote it down and filed it away for future use - Sweetpea wasn't able to eat either of those things at the time.

I made this as a Christmas gift for a few friends and saved some back for Sweetpea. We finally got it out last night, and she had so much fun with it! The first thing she did was eat it, which I figured might be the case...hence the need for edible playdough! After a few minutes she got the hang of squishing and smashing it, and by the end of our play session, she'd made a car and a teddy bear! Neither of these actually looked like much more than a blob, but she told me what they were and played with them as such, so fun!

The original recipe called for:
equal parts peanut butter, powdered milk and honey. Kate added some flour for consistency. I ended up modifying my recipe to this:

1C peanut butter
2C powdered milk
1C honey
1/2-3/4C flour at the end of consistency
I had trouble getting the lumps out of the dough, so next time I might heat the honey up and mix in the milk in an attempt to make it smoother. This dough actually tastes pretty good, and just a little sweet. I've heard that Disney sells a variation of this as a dessert!

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Grateful for these weeks off

Friday night Sweetpea had an especially stuffy nose and had trouble sleeping. We curled up on the couch together and she fell right to sleep. All the congestion was causing her to snore. As I lay there all cuddled up on the couch with my baby, drifting off to the sound of her snoring serenade, there was no place I'd rather be.

This week went so quickly, I'm glad I have another week off to enjoy. We are headed to the Children's museum on Tuesday, it should be a lot of fun! The weather has warmed up a bit, and most of the snow is melted away. I hope things stay like this for a little while, I'm so grateful for this little glimpse of spring! Here are a few other entries from my gratitude journal:

*a week full of mornings to play a family*

*birds chirping and sun shining*

*time to relax and enjoy*

*a sparkling clean kitchen*

*a completely drama free trip to the grocery store*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

TipList - free and frugal craftiness

Sweetpea is all about coloring and stickers these days. Some of the things we've been crafting with lately are free and frugal, so I thought I'd share!

Do you get a bunch of free return address labels from different charities? We get them from American Heart Association, Relay for Life, Humane Society, Paralyzed Veterans of America, etc. We've started using these as "stickers". Many of them are very pretty, and you can either cut off the address portion, or just use them as is. So far, the adhesive has been very friendly, coming off easily even when they end up on cabinets or the dining room table.
A frugal alternative can be found at the dollar store - we bought a box of 1000 stickers for $1!

We use envelopes and junk mail, catalogs, newspaper, etc as paper for Sweetpea to color. We also have several $1 coloring books and occasionally we color on free printables or blank printer paper. If I used construction or printer paper for every artistic creation, we would have gone through several trees by now!

Crafty play:
We use fliers for book clubs, ads for toy stores and the like to cut out pictures of Sweetpea's favorite characters. Then we use these characters to play matching games and create art projects.

What free and frugal craft ideas are working for you? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine's suggestion for the hard to buy for women in your life

Looking for a Valentine's gift for the hard to buy for woman in your life? (or are you that woman?!)
Check out my review of the Fashion Flip by Purse N All Expressions. Help that special someone stay organized and save time all while looking great...

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ready...Set...Let's get planning! The first step to organizing - keeping it all in one place.

When you're thinking of getting organized, what is one of the first things that comes to mind? Oh yeah. Well besides that...finding a planner, right? :)

Are you in search of the perfect planner? Just in case you are, I thought I'd review a few of the ones I've come across in my organizational series. Speaking of that series, I'd like to apologize that it's running about a month late - obviously I need some remedial organizational assistance!

One of the most important aspects of finding a planner is finding one that you like and fits your needs well enough that you will stick with it. Another key is finding a planner that has everything you need so you can keep all your information in one spot - no flipping through several planners or notebooks trying to remember where you wrote that key piece of information. That said, I'm going to violate the second principle just a bit...if you have a business or side project that you need to keep organized, it may work best for you to separate your "home life" from your side projects or business, as long as you are conscientious about keeping everything in its place so you know where it is.

The Busy Body Book
This planner has a unique grid format that allows you to track and coordinate five different schedules at once. Each page contains a week, with weekends having just as much space as weekdays. The opposite page has a blank and lined section for to do lists, notes, doodles, etc. The possibilities are endless - track family member's schedules, school subjects, business or home projects, meal plans, and more. This planner is one that is especially well suited for either home management or business planning, and I could easily see myself keeping one for work and one for home. The planner includes 2 large pockets, a bookmark, contact pages, shopping lists and a planning calendar. There are several stylish cover designs to choose from, and at $17.95 this planner is very affordable!

The Busy Body line of products also includes a magnetic fridge pad with seven tracking columns and a lined note section. The days are also unassigned, so you can use them whenever you like and the pad is tailorable to any month or year. There is also a seven column wall calendar available, great for displaying and coordinating family schedules, chores, meal plans, etc.

BusyBodyBook products are available at Amazon.com, giggle.com, and several other online and specialty stores.

Mom Essentials
This planner is great for moms on the go - small enough to fit in a purse and with a built in elastic closure you can keep it together wherever you are. This planner includes

  • a week at a glance tear out calendar section
  • a space for contacts
  • to do lists
  • a meal planning section that includes space for both take out and menu planning (menu ideas side by side with a grocery list)
  • a notes section
  • a pocket for any miscellaneous items you need to keep safe
In addition, there are a variety of funny post it notes for added reminders or leaving notes for others.

Mom Organizer

This stylish wall calendar comes with a large space for the details of each day, reminder stickers, a chore chart, and space for emergency and contact information. A storage pocket helps keep important documents handy. For added fun, you'll find a list of unusual holidays such as national popcorn day and international talk like a pirate day listed on the inside cover.

My Daily Bubble

This planner uses the power of bubble maps to help you gain control over your to do lists and creatively map out your life. One side of each page is a lined list of items, the other side is a bubble map. This planner is great for brainstorming about projects and coordinating schedules. Planner pages are attached like a Rolodex, so you can add, subtract, or rearrange easily. The Bubble Planner site has some great tutorials on using bubble maps and goal setting, as well as inspirational videos and tutorials.

The Daily Seed WholeBook
This book is like a planner and a life coach rolled into one. Arranged seasonally, each book contains planning pages and worksheets for a quarter of a year. Designed to help mom's take a balanced look at each aspect of life, these pages include space for a morning and evening ritual, self care and relationships, visions/goals for the future and more. The introduction includes information on how to get the most from this book, and how to coordinate the "have to-s" with your values and goals to create a life you are passionate about.

Sarah Pinto Weekly Planner
If you're looking for a simple, stylish and green planner that will fit in your purse, this planner is for you! Each week is divided into two pages, with a space for appointments and to do lists for each day, as well as a note section for each week. These planners are printed on high quality recycled paper using soy based ink, and are made in the USA. A portion of the proceeds for each of the beautiful "Tapestry" planners goes to California Pacific Medical Center Pediatric Cardiology.

What kind of planner do you use? What do you like/dislike about it? I'd love to hear what's working for you, and what you'd like to see that you haven't found yet!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Crayons and stickers and paper, oh my!

So far this week we've had a lot of fun! No surprise, I'm loving my time off. We've done a lot of coloring and playing with stickers, gone swimming and played in the snow. I put together a shelving unit (one more to go) for our living room to store toys in a more orderly fashion. I was totally amazed when Sweetpea was excited to help put decide where everything went! When I get the second unit up I'll take some pictures.
Getting ready for a coloring session!

Hmmm...what am I going to draw? Oh, you want to take my picture? But of course!

Finally down to business...

I was working on my next organizing post today, feeling like I really needed a nap, when Sweetpea woke up early from her nap. She definitely wasn't ready to get up yet, so we laid down on the couch and took a nap together - I definitely needed it, and the snuggle time was so precious! I promise to get back to working on the organizational series tomorrow!

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Furry friend

This week's theme is "The eyes have it" and I so wish I had a picture that showcased EmDee's fabulous eyes. Instead, here is the next best thing, as an entry for the kids category. Sweetpea was lucky enough to inherit her daddy's eyes, lucky girl! This picture is from 2007, in the heat of the summer. Her grandma Carolyn had just given her this giant teddy bear!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Family fun in the winter sun

The past week has brought lots of fun in the snow! Here are a few glimpses of what we've been up to.Snow angels! Sweetpea doesn't look to sure of herself in this picture - I think she'd eaten too much snow and was starting to get cold. We had her all bundled up, but her little cheeks were still exposed. We took a lot of 20 minute trips outside, followed by hot chocolate warm up sessions in the living room under a warm blanket!

EmDee had the foresight to stop and pick up this little red sled on his way home from work Tuesday, just as the snow storm had started. A friend of mine was telling me this weekend that she went all over town looking for a sled on Friday, because everyone was sold out! Even though pulling Sweetpea on the sled was easy, it was great exercise walking in the snow. We took turns pulling the sled while the other rested, amidst shouts for "more!" and "faster!"

With the 1/2 inch of ice we had in the middle of the storm there were lots of icicles.
Posing with mommy and an icicle in what's left of our front flower garden.
The biggest of the icicles, from the southeast corner of our house.
Headed back toward the house, after exploring all the way to the back of our yard.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everyday gifts

This morning I'm having trouble getting the cobwebs out, but Sweetpea is up and ready to play! Who can resist a tea party, even if it does come well before dawn... This week I'm off work (yeah!!) and Sweetpea and I will be spending the mornings playing with EmDee before he has to work. There is still plenty of snow for us to play in, but thankfully the roads are finally getting cleared in most places.

Here are a few things from this week's gratitude journal:

*toddler art, prolific and adorable*

*a nice evening with friends, sharing food, catching up, watching our children play*

*big fluffy snowflakes*

*sled rides and snow angels*

*breakfast with family*

*the promise of two weeks off of work to relax and enjoy family*

What are you grateful for this week?

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