Those of you who read the last post in this series might have anticipated today’s topic? What better way to prepare for a stress free morning than with a little evening preparation!
Each evening I make an effort to complete the following items:
Choose everyone’s clothing
Put together a reminder list for the morning
Pack Sweetpea’s preschool bag
Load the dishwasher
Lay out or write down (on the reminder list) breakfast ideas
Identify wake up plan
I find that the best time to pack lunches is as I’m cleaning up after dinner. I believe this elegant and effective idea came to me via Meagan Francis on twitter. If we have enough food for a meal later in the week, I package it accordingly, and the remainder is portioned into lunch sized containers and put either in the refrigerator or the freezer. If we have a lot of food already in the fridge, it’s nice to have some things stashed in the freezer for later!
Both girls like to choose their clothing (already!) and given the option would change their minds multiple times each morning. To reduce this frustrating time suck, we choose outfits ahead of time and I have them get dressed at daycare. Somehow they never have outfit attitude with the daycare provider like they do for mama. I pack clothes in the daycare bag and put it in the car the night before. I also carry an extra pair of shoes in the car for each child – I don’t want to admit the number of times one of them has arrived without footwear…
I am a list mama, and if I need to remember something – especially in the morning – it needs to be written down. An added bonus of this strategy is that it helps me decompress and empty my brain at the end of the day, which makes it easier to relax and unwind. The last thing I want is for my mind to be racing when I finally get to lie down at night. This list goes under my car keys on the kitchen counter.
Sweetpea started preschool this fall, and her class made special bags for transporting to and from school each day. Anything that needs taken to school gets packed into that bag, and projects or notes to parents come home in the bag each day. I empty the contents and reload as necessary. This bag gets put into the car the night before so it doesn't get left behind.
It’s funny how a pile of dishes in the sink when I wake up bothers me – the thought of them sitting there all day, waiting for me to return home is what gets me. Somehow I don’t mind them at all when my bed is singing its siren song at the end of the day. To keep myself from being tempted to waste precious time in the morning, I rinse and load anything that is dishwasher safe and call it “good enough”.
As with lunch, a little prep for breakfast is a big help. I try and have two options available to give the girls a choice in the morning. They love to be in control of their breakfast (are you noticing a pattern here?!) and I like to be able to give at least the impression that I’m being flexible and giving the girls their way!
Wake up plan – this is the topic for the next blog post in this series – for now suffice it to say that I spend time thinking about how I’m going to get the girls up and at ‘em each morning. They like some predictability, but we also like to mix it up from time to time.
Do you have an evening routine? What tasks do you complete each evening in order to smooth out your mornings?
Monday, October 17, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Going back to work has brought crazy back to our mornings. I hate it when my failure to plan causes melt downs, stress and widespread grouchiness. It's so much nicer to savor the mornings at a leisurely pace than to rush through them sprinting to the car in a desperate attempt to be on time.
This is the first in a series on making mornings more peaceful -regardless of what your day might hold, I hope you'll find some ideas that get it started in a positive way, and in turn share what works for you!
First things First: Have a plan, write it down, review/revise it as needed, and STICK TO IT! For me, that means a morning and evening routine and a wake up time that allows me time to reflect and get prepared before the rest of the family wakes up. A plan also allows me to be realistic about what I can get done before leaving the house, and a minimum list of accomplishments that, once complete, mean the day will get off to a good (enough) start. It's amazing what I think I can do the next morning when I'm wilting from exhaustion and just want to go to bed...my routine keeps me honest and provides a bit of a reality check.
Do you have a morning and/or evening routine? How often do you revise it?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Sweetpea was captivated by the dragonflies and tadpoles at the edge of this pond during a recent trip to our favorite park. I loved the look of the clouds reflecting off the surface of the water.
We followed the stream that leads off the pond and I let the girls walk along the edge, this time watching the bugs that were skimming along the top of the water. What a wonderful opportunity to get them excited and investigating! And who would wander by next but a duck family out for a quick drink.
They didn't seem to mind that we were nearby, and the girls stayed still and quiet, just watching.
Is it any wonder this is our favorite park?
Sunday, August 14, 2011
We have been cloth diapering during the day for quite some time now, but night time had been a real challenge. Both of my girls are heavy wetters, and the last thing I wanted was added night waking and bleary eyed sheet changes. Until recently I had been using disposibles at night, and even then Sugar Plum would often wake up in the early morning and need changing.
It took a few tries to get the fit just right, but we found the right combination of adjustments and have been enjoying dry nights ever since. We use three of the Lollidoo innies for overnight, and two for naps.
If you're interested in trying LolliDoo diapers for yourself, you can use the code problemsolvinmom at LolliPlace to save 10% on any purchase over $40!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Family vacations can be magical for young kids and parents alike, but traveling, long lines and late bedtimes can set up the perfect storm for meltdowns. Here are my tips for planning a vacation to remember, rather than one everyone is ready to forget.
Choose a location that has activities that will appeal to everyone in your group - and find a hotel or rental that has the amenities you want (such as a pool or wifi).
Be realistic about what you can do each day. Plan time for rest, eating, relaxing and naps if necessary. If dinner reservations are late, you may want to feed younger children ahead of time or arrange babysitting.
Prepare plenty of entertainment during travel and wait times - a travel activity book, electronic toy or new book may be in order.
Do your research - sites like tripadvisor and chowhound and twitter allow you to search for food and lodging options as well as reviews like never before. The more research you do ahead of time, the more likely you are to choose wisely.
Relax, be flexible and have a sense of humor. Even if things don't turn out as expected, try and find the bright side. At least you're with family, try and make the best of it. Advocate for yourself if you are in a position that is outside your expectations.
Do you travel regularly with your family? What are your tips and tricks for stress free travel and successful vacations?
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The heat has finally set in here, and we're pulling out sprinklers, baby pools, and delicious summer treats to stay cool! The watermelon this season has been fantastic, and both girls have been regularly requesting it multiple times a day and especially for breakfast. They love to eat it sliced in wedges like this...
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Who doesn't love a cold pasta salad on a hot summer day? In addition to being tasty, cool and refreshing, pasta salad is one of my secrets for providing a variety of healthy foods my entire family will love. Don't get caught up in visions of plain jane macaroni salad from the grocery deli - come up with a list of fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses that your family likes and group them in complimentary combinations. Then come up with a dressing that is well suited to your combination- easy, right? And the combinations are endless.
The photo above is one of my girls' favorites right now - let's call it a very grape garden salad! As this is more of a method than a recipe, here are a few tips, and then a list of ingredients:
Keep ingredients small enough for little mouths, and also easy for little fingers to pick up if the fork and spoon loose their appeal. When making these salads, I often cook 2 boxes of pasta at once and make 2-3 different salads so we can rotate flavors.
In the salad above, we have peas, corn, sliced grape tomatoes, sliced grapes and shredded cheese with a poppyseed dressing.
Does your family love pasta salad? What are your favorite ingredients?
This post was written as part of the Hungry Toddler Blog Hop. Join the fun, add your linky below!
Friday, July 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Just as exciting, she has a new ebook out - Survive Before 5: Toddler Meals for your Busy Days. Survive Before 5 provides recipes for healthy breakfasts, lunches and snacks - those pesky meals that aren't covered in the once a month menus on her website! In addition, you will find a sample calendar for organizing these meals and serving size recommendations. There are detailed plans for preparing your freezer meals as well as recipe cards, labels, and a grocery list that can be tailored to the number of children needing to be fed. One of my favorite features of the book is that each recipe includes toddler tasks. What a great way to get your little ones involved, excited, and learning. So much of our kitchen routine is method based, and that is what makes this cookbook so valuable - the methods and tips shared in these recipes can be extended to your own family favorites, making your time in the kitchen even more efficient and enjoyable.
Survive Before 5 is a great deal at $7.99, but for the rest of this month you can purchase it for $5.99 using the code OAMM599
Monday, June 27, 2011
I guest posted Saturday at BabyCenter, sharing 7 of our favorite healthy and homeade popsicle ideas. I am so excited to be working with BabyCenter -the first site I jumped on when I found out I was pregnant, and one of the first I read on a regular basis.
I had a few questions about my smoothie pops come out of that guest post, so I thought I would post a few more ideas and specifics about our smoothie recipes. Here are some of the fruit combinations we go to most often:
Banana, Strawberry, Watermelon
Canteloupe, Blueberry, Peach
Blackberry, Strawberry, Banana
It helps to freeze one of your fruits - we grow strawberries and blackberries, so most often we use last year's crop as the "ice" to keep our smoothies cool.
To add some extra fiber and nutrition, veggies are a great addition. Two handfuls of baby spinach, a half cup of diced kale or cabbage can be added with your juice at the start into your blender, then add the remaining ingredients.
To start, try a cup of juice with your greens. Then add in a cup of fresh fruit, a cup and a half of frozen fruit. After everything is well blended, try adding a half cup of yogurt or peanut butter.
As you can see in the picture above, smoothie making is a family affair at our house! The girls love helping to choose the ingredients, and as with most foods, helping with preparation makes them more adventurous eaters and excited to try their creation.
What flavor combinations do you like best?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Lots of playing in our new "park" - Santa brought the girls a playground set that we finally put together last weekend.
Lots and lots of popsicles. I shared one of our favorites last week, look for many more ideas in the coming weeks!
What are you up to these sweet summer days?
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Thursday, May 26, 2011
As the heat is rising and it's finally starting to feel like summer, the blender gets more and more action at our house. We love to make smoothies with fresh and frozen berries, and whatever is left over goes straight into the popsicle mold. Not only is it a tasty healthy snack (or breakfast!) but it freezes even faster as it's cold and thick to begin with. In the spirit of impending summer, I'm sharing this post from last year, for peanut butter and jelly popsicles!
Making your own popsicles is fun and frugal - we love smoothies at the problem solvin house, and I always make big batch so there is extra for making into popsicles. When fruit isn't in season locally, frozen and canned fruit work wonderfully as well. We decided to mix things up a bit by adding peanut butter, and the results were delicious!
While peanut butter isn't something we want to overdo, the addition of some protein is nice and tasty. We call these peanut butter and jelly smoothies/pops. Everyone gets one small glass of smoothie and the extra gets poured into molds and become peanut butter and jelly pops. One added bonus to making smoothies into popsicles is that they freeze faster - every little bit helps when you have an anxious preschooler who can't wait to eat her frozen treats!
Recently I saw a tip about how to make spinach smoothies when you don't have a fancy blender - if you've seen it please let me know so I can give credit. Basically you want to add the spinach and liquid and let it mash up for a bit before adding anything else. Here is a good basic spinach smoothie recipe, though we have to omit the yogurt for now since I'm dairy free. We add spinach anytime there is some in the house. It works well with any fruit combination and adds a subtle flavor without being overpowering. Sweetpea loves the bright green color and mama loves the added nutrition. We come up with seasonal names for the spinach mash that starts out each smoothie - it's been leprechaun juice and is now spring green power juice!
*Edited to include one of our favorite veggie PB&J combinations*
I had a few requests for specifics, so here is one of our favorites. My recommendation if you're new to smoothies is to start here and adjust to your taste. Plain yogurt is great in smoothies too, though this recipe doesn't include it.
PB&J Fruit and Veggie Smoothie
2 handfuls of washed baby spinach
1 cup 100% fruit juice
1-1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup peanut butter
We have successfully used spinach, kale and cabbage in smoothies, and by successfully, I mean my kids love them. The trick is to put the greens in the blender with all of the juice and blend together for a minute or two until the greens are well blended. Once that is done, we add the banana and watermelon and mix some more, then the frozen strawberries. Once the berries are blended in (you won't hear them knocking around in the blender anymore when they are well incorporated) we add the peanut butter. One more good blend and they are ready to serve as smoothies or pour into popsicle molds and freeze. This amount will make 6-8 popsicles depending on the size of your molds. I find a smaller batch like this works well with the greens and peanut butter, so when we are having smoothies and want extra to freeze I make two batches one right after the other.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
As the girls have grown quite a bit while I've been neglecting things here, I'll share several more of these pictures soon, but I think this one stands alone, don't you? :)
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
You may recall me posting about Nakano Rice Vinegar previously - one of the keys to healthy cooking is bold flavor - a splash of Nakano vinegar adds flavor without fat or preservatives, and compliments the natural flavor of food without overpowering it. I love that their flavored vinegars have half the sodium of competitive brands as well! In addition to offering flavor to your food this spring, the folks at Nakano are offering you a chance to win a new refrigerator with their Splash Madness campaign!
To enter, like the NAKANO Facebook page and enter a favorite splash tip for using NAKANO's Seasoned Rice Vinegars. Here are some examples of splash tips, and here are some recipes using Nakano vinegar from the website if you need some inspiration. (as if the thought of a new refrigerator isn't inspiring enough?)
More contest details:
The sweepstakes ends on 5/17/11
Click here to enter - first you will like Nakano on facebook, and then there is a short sweepstakes form to fill out, including a “splash tip” (a tip on about how you “Splash On” Nakano rice wine vinegars to add flavor to your meals)
Grand Prize~New, top of the line refrigerator
Second Prize~ Juicer or Blender
Third Prize~Selection of Nakano Vinegars plus a cooking accessory (i.e. garlic press or lemon zester)
Limit one (1) Entry per person and/or email address per day. Full contest rules can be found here.
Good Luck, and happy splashing!
Disclosure: Nakano provided compensation for this post. As always, all opinions are my own. For more information, see my disclosure policy.
Monday, May 9, 2011
We've been working on number recognition through play lately - and Sweetpea is really learning! I'm not sure she would tell you we've been practicing, but I hope that she would tell you we've been having fun.
Here are some of the games we've been playing:
Hopscotch: good for muscle control and coordination, added a step where we say the number our rock lands on. Another option is to choose the number you're going to try and land on.
Go Fish: I found some fairy playing cards in the dollar spot at Target and Sweetpea was so excited to play with them! We played the first few weeks with an "open hand" where we could see each other's cards and talk about which cards were matching, and what numbers were on each card. We are now to the point where we don't look at each other's cards, and only occasionally will she ask me to confirm a number.
Memory: We made our own cards for this, which was a fun project I'll share soon. I love memory for practicing any number of concepts in addition to card location - colors, numbers, words, patterns, etc.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I'll be the first to admit that my gardening style has changed dramatically since adding little ones to our family! While gardening with littles can take a lot of patience and time, it is so worth it! I love watching my girls tenderly (or not so tenderly, depending on the day) take care of their growing plants, and take a bite out of a freshly picked fruit or vegetable while dancing around the back yard. I firmly believe this experience makes them more adventurous with food, and we've been able to sprinkle learning in along the way - colors, counting, science and nature studies - as they grow the learning opportunities grow as well!
The weather here in Ohio this spring has been especially crazy - hot one day, cold the next, wind, rain, snow, etc...we've not been able to get the ground prepared to plant, so I'm starting some of my hardier plants in planters until we can transplant them in their final destinations.
The girls loved helping me dump dirt into the planters and dig around in it. Sweetpea went on a worm hunt and added a few night crawlers to our boxes, because we've been studying how worms improve the soil and help plants grow! I brought over an extra box to let the girls dig once the seeds had gone into the ground.
We now have two kinds of lettuce, cucumbers, kale and collard greens ready to go! A little extra dirt and plenty of "tools" for the girls helped this adventure be fun and successful - I can't wait until we see some little plants peeking out of the ground!
By mid May we will be ready to plant tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant seedlings. I also want to plant some sugar snap peas and beans in the ground in the coming week, and look into some potatoes. Last July we were able to reduce our grocery budget to $20/wk with the bounty from our garden. I'm hoping we can do that again this year!
For more gardening inspiration and ideas, stop by the Frugal Gardening 101 series!