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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No spend challenge

Can we stick to a budget of $300 for all non-essentials this October? The idea of a no spend month is nothing new, and I've been wanting to try it ever since reading about other blogger's experiences here and here. My company is closing the doors to our facility on November 1st, so October seems like the perfect month for us to pay extra close attention to our budget...to recalibrate our idea of frugal and prepare for the months ahead when I'll be staying home. Bills, medical expenses and work related expenses will be excluded, but groceries, my gas, and entertainment will all be subjected to the budget. (EmDee's gas is a work related expense)

We have 3/4 of a tank of gas and the normal amount of groceries for the week to get us started. Today is our 9th anniversary, so we get to sneak a date night in under the wire - thanks, Mom, for babysitting! :)

Here are some free and cheap entertainment ideas I have put together for the month so far - if you have any to add I'd love to hear them!

Story time at the library
Exploring at the pumpkin patch
Picnics (at our local metro park and in our yard)
Borrowing movies and books from the library
Swimming at the YMCA (we are members)
Exploring our local parks and playgrounds
Backyard bonfire
Watching a local high school football game
Starting our home made Christmas crafts
Take a nature walk
Decorate the pumpkins from our garden

I'll be menu planning from the grocery ad even more than usual, and with an eye for quick and affordable meals. I'll be updating our progress weekly. Care to join me? If so, please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear your advice and suggestions too!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Healthier coffee mug cake

I've been intrigued by coffee mug cakes ever since I heard about them on twitter several months ago, but hadn't gotten around to trying one until this past week. Since I'd long forgotten the link, I googled "coffee mug cake" and checked out several recipes before deciding on one.

All of them seemed to include 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, which seemed a bit excessive, particularly after seeing the size of the finished cake. It was pretty tasty, but all evening my stomach felt queasy. I checked the label to remind myself of how many fat grams are in 3 tablespoons of oil, which did nothing for my queasy stomach and instead almost made me faint.

I decided to try and make a healthier version, using the old "replace the oil with applesauce" trick. I tweaked a few other things too...rather than chocolate, I have this obsession with pumpkin, (have you noticed?) particularly this time of year. I replaced the oil with a combination of applesauce and pure pumpkin. I replaced the cocoa and sugar with pudding mix. While it's no pumpkin roll, it was quite tasty, and much faster to make! I served mine with a healthy dose of whipped topping - yum! (just remember it's going to slide right off if you don't let the cake cool first - oops)

If pumpkin isn't your thing, use all applesauce or substitute a different flavor, the recipe is quite flexible.

Pumpkin Mug Cake
4 tablespoons flour
1 small package of instant pudding mix
2 tablespoons applesauce
2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 egg
4 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix flour, spices and instant pudding. Add egg, applesauce, pumpkin and milk, stir well - make sure to get the dry ingredients mixed in at the bottom of the mug. Microwave for 5 and a half minutes. (I have an 800 watt microwave, for reference) Let cake sit in mug for a few minutes to cool. It has a very moist consistency, much like the bread without the sauce.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A month of Sundays

Can it really be a month already?

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who needs dessert...

when you have sweetness like this!

I could just sit back and soak it up all day...

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Quick and easy greek pasta salad

My famous grandma brought some delicious Greek pasta salad over for lunch our first week home from the hospital with Sugar Plum. It was from the deli of our local grocery, and was so good that I knew from the first taste I wanted to try and recreate it. I love how simple and healthy this salad is, and it just gets better day after day as the flavors continue to cozy up together. This salad is also a great way to use up the cherry tomatoes and peppers that are so prolific in our garden right now.

Easy Greek pasta salad
1 lb cooked pasta of your choice
2 cups sliced cherry tomatoes
2 cups chopped green pepper
2/3 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
light Greek salad dressing to coat (I've used Italian in a pinch and it's tasty too)

I've never measured the dressing, I just pour it on a little at a time until it coats the pasta to our taste. If I had to guess, I'd say I probably use 2/3 - 3/4 of a cup.

Combine all ingredients, stir and chill at least 4 hours to let flavors mix before serving. I think the flavor is even better the next day.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

A little sweetness

Sweetpea was super excited to receive a big sister present from one of the friends we met carpooling to BlogHer. What a sweet gesture from an equally sweet and thoughtful lady - thanks so much!
Luckily for us, she was sweet enough to share a cookie, and even better, she even "loaned" her new bear to her little sister by laying it in her bassinet during her nap.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Planning our fun from summer into fall

As the weather is turning cooler, we've started planning our fall list and reviewed our summer fun list. We had a lot of fun with this year's summer list, completing all items except the backyard barbecue and redecorating Sweetpea's bedroom. I'm going to bump the bonfire to our fall list (we were rained out each time this summer) and the bedroom redecoration will happen after I finish a bit more decluttering.

Here are our items for this year's fall list:

go on a hayride
pick pumpkins
get pictures taken at the pumpkin patch
make pumpkin pie ice cream
make a family handprint wreath
decorate pumpkins
make a fall fingerprint tree
decorate halloween color pages
make pumpkin spiced lattes, deliver some to friends
take a nature walk
make leaf rubbings
backyard bonfire
make handprint spiders

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


What does a tired mama do when her super energetic preschooler is looking for something entertaining to get into? Luckily Sweetpea is a huge fan of crafts - starting the month or so before Sugar Plum was born, we switched high energy outdoor activities for dining room table craftiness. This plan is still working well as I recover from my c-section.

There is a link list of some of our favorite craft ideas at the bottom of this post, but for the most part I've been selecting 4 or 5 things from our craft box and there has been a lot of winging it. I love watching Sweetpea create "freestyle" with no expectations or instructions. Her favorite supplies right now are glue, stickers and markers, with some more glue...and could you pass the glue, please?

For this particular experiment, we used the cardboard cores out of toilet paper rolls, and my intention at first was to make something resembling a napkin holder. We glued tissue paper to the cardboard and then added stickers and decorated them some more with markers.

I love how this kind of activity helps build hand/eye coordination and creative thinking at the same time.
Here are a couple of the finished products - they turned out more like little statues of people than napkin holders, though I suppose they would have been cute to use for a child's party as napkin holders.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Better than a nap, even...

I could tell I wasn't going to get a nap again today, and knew as the frustration set in that I needed to get started reviewing my gratitude list. Once both girls were asleep, I had ten minutes until a friend was stopping over...not long enough for a nap, but long enough to pour myself a caffeinated beverage, put my feet up and reflect. It was refreshing and reminded me how lucky I am to be right where I am. Once my friend left to head home, I was inspired to take us all outside for a change of pace at dinner.

our front yard picnic

EmDee has been working second shift, (the source of most of my stress lately - evenings are crazy here with me as the only adult) and we were texting a bit back and forth. I sent him this picture - the weather was perfect, the food was tasty and everyone seemed to be soaking in the fresh air. Sweetpea deemed it "the BEST picnic ever, Mommy!" Yes, we'll definitely have to keep this up as long as the weather cooperates.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Baby gazin'

There are so many posts running through my head these days, but when I get a chance to sit down at the computer I can't put my thoughts into any coherent order...I guess that is what broken bits of sleep here and there will do to a person. We're getting better at balancing everything without help, but at the end of the day I'm exhausted. I still have a lot to learn, and I'm sure as Sugar Plum gets bit older things will get easier as well. EmDee is back to work and working crazy strange hours, which doesn't help.

What are you up to? Any tips for managing those bleary newborn days? ;)

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Friday, September 4, 2009

My "twin" babies

I keep saying that the reason I've been calling Sugar Plum by Sweetpea's name is because they look so much alike...so much so that even Sweetpea couldn't tell which newborn photo was of her and which was her sister! Being the sucker for comparative photos that I am, I thought it would be fun to share. Can you tell who is who in the photos below?

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What we're up to these days

Sweetpea is so proud and excited about having a baby sister. I'm trying to manage our schedule so that I don't have to tell her she can't do something because of her baby sister, and to let her help with as much of the day to day details as I think she can manage. Here are a few pictures from last week, at the hospital and the first day home.

Sweetpea loves to hold Sugar Plum - though it makes me cringe sometimes to let go and trust her, she is very gentle and loving, and I'm always right there to help guide her.

Look mom, I'm doing it all by myself!

Sweet kisses

Hanging out on the couch "taking a rest"

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