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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - traveling toy storage

I don't know about you, but I like to keep several things handy for Sweetpea in the car - just in case we might need them. At any one time I like to have some diapers and wipes, a spare change of clothes, a towel, and a few toys. Depending on the season there might be an extra hat and mittens or some sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses...

Keeping this stash organized and in it's proper place was a challenge until I discovered an easy solution - a compartmentalized reusable grocery bag! Mine was free with a few bottles of wine I bought at Kroger. It's a bit smaller than a standard reusable grocery bag and fits wonderfully behind the front seat or tucks nicely in the trunk.

What kinds of things do you keep in the car with you? How do you store your emergency stash?

Mr. Linky's image links appear to be working - wont' you link up and join us this week?

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Greeting my 33rd year

As this morning dawned bright and beautiful I poured a cup of coffee, stretched and settled into the couch to take it easy for a few minutes before things got moving. As I turn another year older, I can't help but think about a line from Brad Paisley's song Letter to Me, singing to his 17 year old self

Have no fear, these are no where near the best years of your life

My highschool years were nice, and my 20's were, for the most part, pretty great. But my 30's have been fabulous: I became a mom, experiencing the wonder of unconditional love for my child and delight in her development and that of this new baby growing in my belly. I've learned (or perhaps re-learned) what's really important to me, what I like and what I'd rather do without given the set amount of hours in a day. I've started blogging and met an entirely new and dear group of friends. I'm about to embark on a new and {hopefully} exciting chapter of my life as I've been forced to decide what I want to do when I grow up.

I'm looking forward to what this 33rd year has to bring, and as the day now draws to a close and Sweetpea and I finish baking a batch of cookies together, I can honestly say I love where I am in life! Thanks to all of you for being a part of it.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Menu Planning from the Freezer (and Pantry)

This week is mainly going to be an eating out of the freezer and pantry week, to clear things out before we go on vacation and make room for a stockpile for those first bleary new baby weeks. You might notice it seems a bit like a hodgepodge...that's because it pretty much is! Big T and I both have birthdays this week - with everyone's schedules we will be celebrating on Saturday. Here's what we have on the menu this week:

Monday: Turkey breast, mashed potatoes and biscuits
Tuesday: steak and veggie stirfry over rice
Wednesday: Brats with peppers and onions and oven fries
Thursday: Turkey hot shots
Friday: sweet potato banana pancakes and fruit smoothies

I'll also be making turkey and rice soup for the freezer this week, as well as a couple of key lime pies (in keeping with my need to bring a birthday offering to work...) and Sweetpea and I will be baking some oatmeal cranberry chip cookies to take on vacation with us!

What are your menu plans for the week? If you're looking for inspiration, check out OrgJunkie for lots of ideas!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sweet days of summer

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there! Today is hard for me - as much as I enjoy celebrating hubs and my grandpa, it reminds me even more clearly how much I miss my own Dad. I am excited to see how EmDee likes the gift that Sweetpea and I picked out this year - less frugal than usual but something that we will get a lot of use out of...more on how that turns out later.

I can't believe how quickly my week off went by! We had a lot of fun - at the amusement park, the "regular park" (or the swing and slide park as we now call it to help Sweetpea differentiate), the pool, a new park we discovered with a fountain area to play in, and in the sprinklers in our own backyard. The best part was that everything was free except the amusement park.

One week back to the grind and we will be going away for a week's vacation. There are quite a few things still to do for us to get ready, but with my packing lists ready and a prep area in big T's room, I think we are well on our way. One thing we're definitely going to be taking with us is this great garage sale find - Sweetpea's new fold up chair:

I found this for $0.75 at our last garage sale Friday outing!

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

*Sweetpea finally held still long enough to feel the baby move - now each night after reading stories she holds her hand on my belly and talks to the baby*

*Lots and lots of castles built and pillaged from alphabet blocks and dominoes*

*Loads of blooms on blackberry and raspberry plants, the promise of summer sweetness*

*Steady soaking rains for the garden*

*Hunting for worms and puddle jumping*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - Travel edition

We are leaving on vacation in a little over a week, so packing and organizing for our trip have been on my mind...since it's the start of vacation season I thought it would be appropriate to do a travel edition of Organizing Tip Thursday! :)

The most helpful organizing tool in my experience when organizing and packing for a trip is a list. The exact list will likely vary from trip to trip, but it's helpful to keep a generic list or save a few specific lists for future use. I get pretty detailed with my lists, down to the amount of clothes I need for various length stays. (I love to mix and match and do laundry when possible, with the possible exception of underwear...I ran out of underwear in Korea once when a trip got extended, and there is nothing like washing your skivvies in the sink!) Speaking of keeping lists for future use - don't forget to add notes to your lists regarding what went well or improvements you might want to make when you return.

There are a few items we always pack, regardless of where we are going - a couple of kitchen sized garbage bags, several large and sandwich sized ziploc bags, a few kitchen sized towels and diaper wipes. You never know when you might have a mess to clean up or something smelly you don't want affecting the rest of your luggage.

Speaking of ziploc bags, I love this idea for organizing outfits for kids. And speaking of kids, I know I'll be putting one of these activity binders together for Sweetpea to enjoy on our trip! In addition to printables I'll likely be sliding some simple dollar store puzzles and Target one spot toys into some plastic sleeves as well. I always try and keep a stash of cheap toys that she hasn't seen for traveling and rainy days.

What strategies do you use to get ready for a trip or vacation? What do you find helps when you're traveling with kids? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A very amusing day!

It was overcast and spotty rain was headed our way, a bit humid but not too hot with a nice breeze...the perfect day to hit the local amusement park! As a local, the "best" days are the ones that don't appear so great - better for keeping the crowds down and the lines short! We all packed up after nap and headed down the road with high hopes, and I really don't think the day could have turned out any better.

Sweetpea was just tall enough to ride a few extra rides this year! Thankfully this one had a nice tight seat belt to keep her in place...I will admit Mom was white knuckling it for a bit here...

This is the Monster, a classic from my childhood, and somehow there is no height requirement with a "responsible adult". You can see EmDee in the center of the photo, Sweetpea wasn't tall enough to see out but still it was her favorite ride of the day.

EmDee was a good sport to cram himself down into this coaster - with an 8 foot hill and only two laps around it was a bit anticlimactic, but Sweetpea didn't seem to mind. I love how this photo turned out, with the front of the coaster out of focus as it rounds the corner.

We even hit the water park for a half hour or so to cool off. I took this photo because I thought Sweetpea's little footprints were just adorable. Clearly with her diaper she was a lot leakier than Daddy was!
I'm so glad the weather held enough for us to make the trip. The lines were almost nonexistent, and Sweetpea's favorite ride was so empty that the operator let her stay in her seat ride after ride instead of running around to the entrance each time. We bought a 2 day special pass, so we have one more visit to look forward to!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back to the needles - a sweet and simple bootie pattern

I've had this quick and super simple pattern for baby booties bookmarked for quite a while, and finally took some time to get started on them. I plan to make a pair for a few friends that are expecting and eventually some to donate - the pattern really does live up to the 1 hour promise, even though I did make several modifications to get the size where I wanted it. I saw in the comments that these knitted up small, and apparently I was knitting even more tightly. If you're interested in exactly the pattern I used, let me know and I'd be happy to share.

I think this will become a go to pattern for me. What are your favorite things to knit up for the sweet babies in your life?

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Overall it was a mixed week!

This was one of those weeks where I relied heavily on my gratitude list, those sweet baby kicks and my daughter's enthusiasm to keep me smiling. First my camera memory card somehow lost all its pictures. Most of the ones I hadn't saved were specifically for blog posts, so at least there weren't any family pictures I hadn't saved to my computer. Then on Friday half of our facility was let go (as planned for our closure) and it was so hard to say goodbye to so many friends, and to really see this closure starting to become real. Then Friday night my home computer refused to boot up...I'm getting a stop error and nothing I've done so far to troubleshoot has worked. Remember those pictures I lost off my camera memory card? The ones I was glad were on my computer. Yeah. That's the computer that won't boot up. And the totally adorable picture from our little trip south a few weeks ago, my very favorite? I was going to post that today but it is one of the ones I may have lost...

On the upside, I have this upcoming week off of work because my daycare provider is taking vacation. The weather has been pretty nice and the forecasts for this coming week are good. EmDee is off on Monday and Tuesday, and we are planning a trip to our local amusement park one of those days after Sweetpea's nap. Everyone is healthy. Since I was off this coming week I brought my work laptop home just in case I needed to use it - thank goodness since it's the only one functioning right now! My neighbor finally mowed the grass (more on that to come in another blog post).

Here are a few other things from my gratitude list this week:

*Making Sweetpea laugh so hard she snorts*

*Finding the perfect Father's Day gift for EmDee - he is ridiculously hard to buy for!*

*Chasing fireflies with a toddler*

*An amazing amount of strawberries set on our brand new plants - so exciting!*

*The hail storms spared our garden - amazing considering one was short but with quarter and dime sized hail and the other was 20+ minutes and covered our yard in pea sized pieces.*

*I love my OB, she is the sweetest and most caring person, and I'm lucky to be her patient.*

What are you grateful for this week?

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Friday, June 12, 2009

What not to say to your pregnant coworker...

Today is the last day in the office for many of my friends who are being laid off in the first round of cutbacks that will eventually result in the closure of our facility. I'm not feeling very funny today, so I'd like to give a big thanks to CBeth for helping me come up with today's Friday Funny...what not to say to your pregnant coworker! Given that I work in the male dominated field of engineering, I have a laundry list of one liners that I imagine will make you cringe...not only are some of these guys single and/or without children, some of them aren't the most socially adept in the first place {{ahem}}. Here are a few of my "favorites" from this pregnancy and my pregnancy with Sweetpea.

*Are you SURE that you're not having twins? Really?*

*Wow Steph, are you going to fit through my door much longer?*

*You're really starting to waddle!*

*Don't worry, if you go into labor here I can deliver the baby, I used to be an EMT, you know*
{{This guy was creepy and I didn't even know him - no way this is going to happen, buddy!}}

*So you had a rough first few months, huh? I could tell you felt like crap!*
{{gee, thanks!}}

*You're coming along...nicely*

*So are you freaked out that you're pregnant and about to lose your job? What are you going to do?*

*multiple horror stories regarding their wives giving birth, including one whose wife broke her pelvis during delivery - yikes!*

Isn't it funny how people seem to come up and just say anything to a pregnant woman? What funny stories do you have along these lines? I'd love to hear them, I could us a laugh today!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Organizing Tip Thursday - the list edition

In thinking about this week’s Organizing Tip Thursday post, I wanted to offer both an idea that I love and also a question. I’ve been trying to decide what to put on my “to do before baby” list, especially after reading this post and also this one from a couple of bloggers that are due within weeks of me. Knowing myself and my need for a visual list and some accountability, I need to get these thoughts out of my head and onto paper if I want to accomplish them.

For that reason, in addition to our summer fun list, I’ve created my “To Do before Baby” list as well. Here are the items on my list at the moment.

* Rearrange Sweetpea’s room (clean/purge/make room for baby)
* Light cleaning and decluttering
* Babyproof to foil Sweetpea’s newly acquired door opening skill
* Research and purchase reusable training pants for Sweetpea
* Keep up with garden and time and energy allow
* Investigate career change options
* Create plan for completing summer fun list
* Sort and wash infant clothes
* Determine what needs purchased for the new baby, buy and wash items

Now, my question for you: I’ve been struggling lately with too many trips to the grocery store. Granted, I’ve been slacking somewhat in meal planning due to my pregnancy cravings and the general craziness of our schedule lately. That said, I need a better system for tracking pantry items and general necessities that don’t make my meal plan list so I don’t find myself without yogurt, rice, or seasonings when I need them…I would love any suggestions or links to posts that you could provide! I hate the amount of time this takes out of our schedule - especially as I want these warm days of summer to be at a slower pace, filled with fun and quality time together, not quick trips to the grocery every few days!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A little bit of this and that

First a big thanks for the nomination and a sheepish solicitation regarding the Blogluxe Awards - I was nominated in the "Blog you've learned the most from" category! If you have a minute to click over, I'd love it if you'd vote for me!

2009 BlogLuxe Awards

Since I'm going to be looking for new employment sometime later this year I'm trying to ramp up my networking, both online and off. {{Anyone want to hire the Problem Solvin' Mom? I love working with companies to provide feedback on products from the perspective of a mom and an engineer...I've been working in product design for 11 years now...okay, no more solicitations, I promise!}}

So as I mentioned, I've been contacting some companies to see if I can't grow this little online hobby of mine a bit. It's amazing the difference in some PR firms that you end up working with as you contact certain companies. Today I was contacted by a PR "specialist" actually about a contest that I'd won. {{yippee!}} Reading her email, I immediately thought of Steph's post on the subject of PR pitches from a few months back. Here was the excerpt from my inbox that had me laughing out loud this morning:

We were thrilled at the enthusiasm the contest brought out, and loved reading all the creative posts – it was especially fun to read about [insert detail about her blog post].

Hey, I loved that about my blog post too! There were 20 winners in this particular contest, and apparently my entry wasn't very memorable...on the upside, I am excited about the prize.

I should say also that I've worked with some great PR folks over the past months, more good than bad, but I have to laugh in situations like this one. Have you had any funny PR encounters lately?

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Organizing our summer fun - the summer list

I saw this fabulous idea at MomAdvice last year, courtesty of Megan. It was such a hit at our house that we created a fall and Christmas list as well. Writing down the "don't want to miss" activities for each season and posting the list in a visible area (our fridge) really helps us keep our priorities in line. I am definitely one who benefits from accountability, and if I don't keep certain events and activities in front of me, time tends to get away. (Is it seriously June already?!? Yikes!)

What are your "don't want to miss" activities this summer? What tricks do you use to help make sure you schedule those activities before time gets away from you?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Kid friendly cookies & this week's menu plan from one cookout

We had a cookout Saturday that will provide most of the meat for this week's menu plan. Not only do we really enjoy our cookouts, but they are a super efficient way to prepare food for a crowd! (or in this case a family for the week) Much of what we cooked had either been stockpiled from sales or the "reduced for quick sale" section of our local IGA. Do you shop the "reduced for quick sale" bin? We find some great selections there, though it's definitely hit or miss. This week's gem was a pair of porterhouse steaks, flavorful and tender, for $6 each! They were fairly sizable, though I didn't check the exact weight. Here's what is on the menu for this week (because I can tell you, the porterhouse steaks didn't make it past Saturday night!)

Monday: Grilled chicken and pasta salad
Tuesday: Steak salads, oven fries and milkshakes
Wednesday: Brats and corn on the cob
Thursday: ribs and corn cake
Friday: leftover potluck

I also wanted to share a tasty and kid friendly cookie recipe that my friend Julie found in Parents magazine. I'm not sure how I missed it, but I'm so glad she tried it! I'm including the recipe as I made it, which includes a few variations on the original that I think make it a bit quicker and more to my taste.

Oatmeal Cranberry Drops
1C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1C butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4C brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3C quick oats
1C semi sweet chocolate chips (I've also used and loved the chocolate/peanut butter chip mix)
1C orange flavored craisins

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.Beat butter and both sugars in a large bowl with electric mixer until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in oatmeal one cup at a time. Add chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Drop batter by heaping teaspoonfuls, 1 inch apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Definitely try and keep these to about a tablespoon or they will get a bit crumbly and take several more minutes to cook. Sweetpea loved helping measure and mix ingredients and drop the cookies onto the cookie sheet. There is quite a bit of butter and sugar in there, but lots of healthy ingredients too!

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

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

30 second magic wand tutorial

Sweetpea is such a fun combination of girly girl and tomboy so far...her favorite place to play is outside, either in the water basin we use as a staging station for watering the garden or in the dirt of our front flower bed. That said, she's equally at ease twirling in her princess dress and hop skipping around in a pair of fairy wings. I've been working on her dress up wardrobe little by little at garage sales and the dollar store and even from my closet!

What other accessory does the budding princess need, aside from a tutu, a pair of wings, a twirly dress and a crown? A magic wand, you say? But of course! For those of us with little ones that are still pretty rough on their toys, I give you super simple instructions for a 30 second magic wand:

1 colorful straw
2 equal sized stickers
Place stickers at the top of straw opposite each other, sticky sides together.

Sweetpea spent an hour running around the house with her twirly dress saying "Ta Da!" and waving her little wand this evening. If it gets mangled, just whip up a new one. I've seen some fantastic tutorials for making intricate magic wands, and someday we'll get there, but for now, this is doing the trick!

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Don't blink

When did this sweet little boy...

Become this charming young man?!?

I can still remember like it was yesterday the days when we watched WCW (did I just admit that? yikes!) and played action figures and Lego's...and now big T is graduating this weekend and starting college before summer's end. We are so proud of you, big T, it has been a pleasure to watch you grow and mature, and I know the future is full of opportunity for you!

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