Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another product testing website

I recently had a correspondence with Procter and Gamble. At the bottom of their e-mail they advertising a website Vocalpoint.

I received a free product yesterday to test. I'll let you know what it is after I try it and I have $4 off coupons for it. I didn't have to do anything to get it other than sign up.

If your interested, give it a try!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's Cookin' -- 3 Envelope Crockpot Chicken

I've seen this one all over the place lately. It's really easy and good, however I only use half of each of the envelopes because it seems too salty otherwise.

3 Envelope Crockpot Chicken
1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix
1 envelope dry Italian dressing mix
1 envelope dry chicken gravy mix
1 cup water
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. Put the chicken in the crockpot.
2. Add dry ingredients and water.
3. Cook on low 7 to 8 hours, or high 4 to 5 hours.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fall Activities for Toddlers (Part 3)

This is the final part of a series. (Part 1 and Part 2).

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances. Often we do things, but don’t think about the reason why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might not. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it.

Felt, Felt and more Felt

Felt is cheap and easy to use. Kids love to play with it. It is easy to use for enhancing stories or songs. I used separate pieces for the Jack-O-Lantern to give my daughter a chance to make a face on the pumpkin. This however is a situation where you need to know your toddler. My pieces for the face are small, but my daughter hasn't even tried to put them in her mouth. If she had I would have made it much larger or not used it at all.

Materials: Orange, red, white, black, green, yellow felt. Patterns for leaves, bat, ghosts, pumpkins, apples.

Directions: Trace pattern on felt and cut out. Make as many of each as you want. The Jack-o-Lantern face I did free hand. Use a felt board, or make your own wrapping felt around a cookie sheet or cardboard. I taped felt to the wall. You can sing songs or tell stories with the felt.

Language used: pumpkin, bat, face, ghost, apple leaves, red, orange, green, white, black
Fine Motor: Place felt on felt board and putting it in various locations. Puzzles are hard for toddlers, but this gives a similar challenge..
Creative: Put in any spot
Sensory: Felt is soft.
Cognitive: Learning that felt can stick to the board. Trying to make a face is a challenge.
Enjoyment: It is fun to use different textures of familiar items.
Social: We work together to make the face or put the felt pieces up.

Fall Tree
: Paper, orange paint, washcloth

Directions: Make a tree trunk on the paper. Let the child paint with brush or finger. Cut out to look like a tree.
Language used: paint, art, tree, orange
Fine Motor: Using hands and fingers to paint refines fine motor
Creative: Tree can be any size and colors can go anywhere
Sensory: Feeling the paint and watching where it goes when spread
Cognitive: Memory from painting before.
Enjoyment: Painting is fun.
Social: We worked together to create the tree

Painted Leaves
Materials: Paint, paper, pattern, washcloth
Directions: Paint paper with brush or fingers. When paper is dry cut out into leaves.

Language used: paint, yellow, leaves
Fine Motor: Using hands and fingers to paint.
Creative: Paint can go anywhere
Sensory: Feeling paint
Cognitive: Reinforces leaves in other projects we have done.
Enjoyment: Painting is fun
Social: We worked together to create the leaves.

Ghosts and Bats
Materials: Black paper, chalk, Kleenex or tissue paper, marker, string, rubber band, paper clips.
Directions for Bat
Trace bat pattern,
Have child use sidewalk chalk to decorate
Cut out.
Put paper clip on top
Tie string to paper clip
Hang from doorway or ceiling

Directions for Ghosts (I did this while my daughter watched)
Wrap Kleenex or tissue paper inside another one to form a head
Use rubber band to secure
Make face with marker
Put paper clip around rubber band
Tie string to paper clip
Hang from doorway or ceiling

Language used: ghosts, bats, chalk, black, white
Gross Motor: I let her touch and swing the bats and ghosts.
Fine Motor: Using chalk to decorate refines fine motor.
Creative: When I made the ghost she watched me create something. Chalk can go anywhere on bat.
Sensory: Feeling the finished products and the chalk.
Cognitive: Everyday the bats and ghosts are the first thing my daughter looks for.
Enjoyment: She enjoys looking at them
Social: We did them together
**Remember these are just ideas. I hope you can build on them and use them for more than just Halloween**

Monday, October 27, 2008

Unity Candle

I'm breaking away from my normal "Organizational Monday" to write about a memory from our wedding.

This weekend we went to a wedding and they had the unity candle lighting portion. I am always reminded of how the lighting of our unity candle went with a slight problem during our wedding ceremony.

The conditions of our wedding day: 1. It had been a heat wave the week before -- in the upper 90s and lower 100s. The day of our wedding was had cooled down to 89 degrees in August. 2. The church had no air conditioning. 3. Large fans were strategically placed to blow on the wedding party. 4. Our unity candle was placed in front the pew my parents were sitting on. The candle was behind us

So before the wedding, my sister-in-law (to be) came and asked if the candles for the unity candle should be lite before the wedding. I said yes. The wedding ceremony was about 30 minutes into it before we turned around to light the unity candle. Except all I saw was my mom laughing. The side candles had burned down to about an inch because of the heat and the fans. The embellishments we decorated on the candle slightly burned the side of the candle. There was no way we could pick up the candles and do the lighting. The pastor went and got the what they use to light the candelabra on the alter. It was large and awkward. But it did the trick. One at a time we light our unity candle. It made us smile.

But the real symbolism for is this: You can't plan everything. Parts of life will go wrong and how you deal with it is the key to succeeding in marriage or life. We didn't stress over it. I wasn't sure what to do, but it didn't upset us or anger us. And that really makes me realize this was just the beginning of situations we will have to overcome in our lives together. Our themes in the wedding were love, kindness, patience, compassion, and "real" love. We made sure to enjoy the day and really didn't put that much pressure to make it perfect. I couldn't find a good picture of the burnt candle -- maybe the photographer thought we would want to remember that. But I think it is one of the best parts of the wedding. I have saved the candle and will always remember that no matter how hard you try, life never gives you what you expect. You just gotta go with it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lucky Winner

Congrats to Lori for winning the Diaper coupons. Thanks to all for participating!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pssst Yogurt Coupons Giveaway

A while ago, I joined Pssst. It has savings and products to try for General Mills products.

The latest product is Yoplait Yogurt. Classic cake-inspired flavors available in Yoplait Light yogurt -- Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Cheesecake, Pineapple Upside-down Cake. Each serving contains 20% daily value of calcium and vitamin D, 110 fat-free calories

If you would like to receive a coupon via e-mail for this yogurt, leave a comment or send an e-mail.

PS I still have Pillsbury pizza crust coupons, too.

What's Cookin' -- Cream Cheese Chicken

This was so good, I thought it was restaurant quality. Okay, well we don't have a great restaurant selection where I live so maybe that's a stretch. But this is really easy and one of the best chicken recipes I've tried in a long time. I found it on

Cream Cheese Chicken
4 chicken breasts
8 oz cream cheese (I didn't end up using that much)
chives (I didn't use these)

Coating Mix
1 cup breadcrumbs (I used crushed saltines)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Flatten chicken breasts.
2. Place a tablespoon or desired amount of cream cheese in center of each piece.
3. Roll chicken breast up so cream cheese is in center.
4. Mix breadcrumbs, garlic powder, basil and oregano together.
5. Roll each chicken breast in coating.
6. Place in baking dish.
7. Drizzle with melted butter.
8. Shake Parmesan on each.
9. Bake 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cheap Field Trip

I had to pick up dog food at Pet Smart today. Turned out to be a really fun trip for my 1-year-old. There were fish, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs and birds for her see. It was a cheap way to entertain her for a little while.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Activites for Toddlers (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a series. For Part 1 see here.

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances. Often we do things, but don’t think about the reason why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might not. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it. The key points that I will discuss include:

Language Development: Language skills develop by talking, singing, and reading together.
Gross Motor Development: This refers to large movements, such as walking, jumping, crawling, climbing, etc.
Fine Motor Development: These skills are those small tasks that require a lot of hand-eye coordination, such as painting, using a spoon, coloring, picking up items, transferring from one hand to another.
Creative Development: Creativity may be taught, but only if it is supported.
Sensory Development: Sensory skills refer to hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, exploring, and looking.
Cognitive Development: This is our knowledge base, we learn from our experiences and grow from there.
Enjoyment Development: Having fun is so important for children to engage in as often as they can.
Social Development: Learning to work together and “be” with other people creates a well-balanced child.

Halloween Magnets
Materials: patterns found (here , here and here), orange, black, and white construction paper, permanent marker, laminator or contact paper, magnet tape or magnets
1. Print patterns to size you want. I reduced the ghost 50 percent and used the smallest pumpkins.
2. Mark face on ghost and pumpkin.
3. Laminate or use contact paper to protect it.
4. Use magnet tape or glue magnet to back.

** I put the face on the pumpkin after laminating so my daughter saw it blank for a few days and then as a Jack-O-Lantern.**

Language used: pumpkin, ghosts, whoooooo (the ghost sounds), bats, Jack-O-Lantern, face. I often ask my daughter to go find me … a ghost or pumpkin or bat. And she does.
Gross Motor: My daughter likes to walk around hugging the magnets. Yep, you just gotta go with it sometimes.
Fine Motor: Putting the magnets onto the refrigerator takes a little skill.
Creative: I made them, but she did watch me put faces on the pumpkins. And she often talks to the magnets, too.
Sensory: Touch and sound used
Cognitive: My daughter tries to stick the magnets on other things. This is a great cause and effect exercise. Nope, I didn’t even plan that
Enjoyment: My daughter loves all the Halloween items all around the house.
Social: We play games like find the ghost or find the pumpkin. She loves to find it and I usually praise her by saying “ That’s right, you found the ghost. What does that ghost say?”

Bingo Dauber Apples
Materials: Apple Pattern (found here), bingo dauber (I bought mine at the $1 store), red construction paper, washcloth
1. Trace pattern on red paper or feed paper through printer
2. Cut out apple
3. Let child use bingo dauber to paint.

**FYI: This paint isn’t usually very washable**

Language used: apples, paint, fun
Fine Motor: Making marks with the bingo dauber helps refine fine motor skills
Creative: They can put the paint anywhere
Sensory: Feeling the paint and paper
Cognitive: We put picture up for recognition and discussing it again later.
Enjoyment: Art is fun
Social: We work together painting.

Paper Jack-O-Lanterns
: Pattern (found here), black and orange construction paper, triangles and mouth (I did these free hand), glue, washcloth
1. Trace pattern or feed paper through printer
2. Cut out pumpkin, triangles and mouth
3. I used Elmer's glue. I put a little on a paper plate and use a small paint brush to brush the glue on the triangles and mouth (prep as much as you can ahead of time)
4. Give child triangles one at a time and let them place it where they want.
5. Do the same with the mouth

Language: pumpkin, face, glue, orange, mouth, eyes, nose. I also asked “Where do you want to put it?”
Fine Motor: Practicing putting the shapes on the pumpkin.
Creative: Any face is acceptable.
Sensory: Touching the paper and unfortunately the sticky glue.
Cognitive: Reinforces ideas we have with other pumpkins in the house.
Enjoyment: It is fun to make a face on a pumpkin
Social: We worked together to create it.

** I had put a face on the magnet earlier the day we did this activity. I gave her the magnet to look at and hold while she was creating this project so she knew the idea. But I didn’t force her to make it the same as mine. Obviously!**
One more segment coming up next Tuesday. Be sure to check it out!

Food Storage Containers

I have tried everything over the years for storing leftovers. From expensive Tupperware to cheap dollar store containers to disposable containers. Nothing really seemed to meet my satisfaction until a couple years ago when I had heard about Rubbermaid's new line -- Premier.

I bought the first one looking for a good leftover container my husband could take to work. The one he had been using was so stained and who knows how old. What drew me to this brand was that it claimed it would heat without staining.
I like that they are clear, easy to stack and there is absolutely no staining. Oh and they are guaranteed for life. As for cost, it's not too bad. And they usually go on sale frequently. I even used a coupon when I first purchased a set.
We have two sets of these of the various sizes. I use the 1 cup size for storing and freezing individual sauces. We store cheese in one almost all the time. Sometimes I go to reach for one and there are all in use.
If you haven't tried these containers and are searching for some good ones, these are worth trying!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Diaper Coupons Giveaway

I have three Huggies Diaper Coupons to give away. I hate to just throw them away.

  • 1 Target Huggies Diaper coupon: $2 off Jumbo pack or larger (exp: 11/26/08)
  • 2 Manufacturer Huggies Diaper coupons: $1.50 off any size (exp: 1/4/09)

The Target and one of the manufacturer coupons would give you a total savings of $3.50 in one trip.

To enter please leave a comment or e-mail with your e-mail. I will select a winner at random on October 23, 2008.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Did you know?

I just found out that Target gives a lot of their clearance items to Goodwill. Unused and unopened. I bought $10 poster paints (it still had the Target clearance tag on it) at Goodwill for $2 -- brand new. I tried asking the cashier how often Target drops stuff off and when. She only said they come earlier in the week and not every week. Just think shopping for Target items at Goodwill prices!

Thrifty Thursday -- weekly savings

I save 43 percent of my grocery bill this week (a $35 total). Our store had some great stock up deals.

Yesterday I got two 24 month bodysuits from JC Penny for free! Original price was $9.99 each, sale was buy one get one for 88 cents. I used a $10 off $10 coupon and a 15 percent off survey coupon. That's a $20 savings if I had bought them at the original cost.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To my loyal readers

To those of you who are dedicated readers, I thank you very much for reading. I know some of you and others of you I'm guessing we've never met. I appreciate having an audience to tell my thoughts. If you wish, comment or e-mail and let me know what you like about my blog. Another great big THANKS!

Question: If you are regular reader, I am interested to know if you have tried any of my recipes. If so, which ones? And did you or your family like them?

Followers: I just added a followers gadget to my sidebar. Interested in following my reflections, feel free to follow.

You gotta sign up for this

Have you signed up on Kraft's website for recipes and other product information? I think I read about this an some blogs a while ago. I received an e-mail today and am really impressed. They even have a place where you can type in three ingredients and they will recommend recipes. Good recipes, too. A good resource.

What's Cookin' -- German Pizza

I made this a long time ago and made it again last night. It is really good and kid friendly. I can't remember where I got it (Taste of Home I think).

German Pizza
This is a stove top casserole.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
6 medium potatoes, peeled and finely shredded
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheese

1. In 12-inch stove top or electric skillet, brown meat with onion, green pepper, 1/2 salt and pepper. Drain.
2. Reduce heat to low and melt butter.
3. Place potatoes over butter and spread evenly to cover pan.
4. Sprinkle with remaining salt.
5. Top with beef mixture.
6. Combine eggs and milk. Pour over all.
7. Cook covered for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are done.
8. Top with cheese and heat until cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes.
9. Cut in wedges or squares to serve.

Fall Activities for Toddlers (Part 1)

For each project I will highlight several developmental skills it enhances (but by all means not all). Often we do things, but don’t think about why. And sometimes we don’t do things because we don’t think they will make an impact. Now every kid is different and what one gains another might gain something different. But that’s okay. It’s most important to present the opportunity for our children and let them tell us what they learn from it. The key points that I will discuss include:

Language Development: Language skills develop by talking, singing, and reading together.
Gross Motor Development: This refers to large movements, such as walking, jumping, crawling, climbing, etc.
Fine Motor Development: These skills are those small tasks that require a lot of hand-eye coordination, such as painting, using a spoon, coloring, picking up items, transferring from one hand to another.
Creative Development: Creativity may be taught, but only if it is supported.
Sensory Development: Sensory skills refer to hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, exploring, and looking.
Cognitive Development: This is our knowledge base; we learn from our experiences and grow from there.
Enjoyment Development: Having fun is so important for children to engage in as often as they can.
Social Development: Learning to work together and “be” with other people creates a well-balanced child.

** All of the following ideas can be easily varied for older kids**

Painting pumpkins
This took us about 3 minutes.
Materials: pumpkins, paint, brush, washcloth
Directions: I bought these small pumpkins as the grocery store. I let my daughter choose between two paint colors. I put paint on the brush and helped her paint the pumpkin. It’s okay to help at this age because they need to learn what to do. I suggest not doing it for them, though.

Language used: pumpkins, paint, red, brush, orange.
Fine motor skills: painting with brush
Creative skills: she could paint anywhere on the pumpkin (and the highchair as it turned out)
Sensory: touched the pumpkin and paint. And my daughter tasted it, too.

Cognitive: remembered other pumpkins she has seen around the house.
Enjoyment: it was fun.
Social skills: we worked together to paint the pumpkins.

Fall Sensory Table
Items include silk leaves (from Target’s dollar spot), gourds, soft pumpkin that plays music, trick-or-treat pumpkin bucket. You can come up with your own ideas. Try not to do too much.

Language used: leaves, pumpkins, gourd, trick or treat, bumpy
Fine motor skills: picking up leaves, pushing soft pumpkin’s button, putting items in bucket and taking them out.
Creative: not sure what she does, but she plays with them a lot.
Gross motor: Stands while playing.
Sensory: different textures – soft, bumpy. Listens to music on pumpkin, loud sound when she puts something in the bucket.
Cognitive: can find the pumpkins or leaves when I ask her. Connects to other items in the house.
Enjoyment: She plays there often for fun.
Social: we play together to figure out what the items are and repeat the words often.
Brown Leaf, Brown Leaf, what do you see?
Teacher-made book that I created while I was student teaching. I took the idea from a friend.
Materials: square paper, cut out leaves, scrapbook paper (grass), printer, eliminator, double sided tape, binder rings, hole punch.

Directions: There are lots of ways you could make a book like this. This is my version. 1.

  1. Decide what the text will be. Mine was Brown leaf, brown leaf what do you see? I see a red leaf looking at me? And so forth for three more colors. The last page is “I see a big tree looking at me.”
  2. Type or write text on paper.
  3. Cut out leaves and tape under text.
  4. Tape scrapbook paper with grass under leaf.
  5. Laminate, be sure to round the corners otherwise the corners are too sharp.
  6. Trim to size you want. I use 8 x 8.
  7. Punch two holes on the side.
  8. Use rings to clasp it together.
Language: The repetitive text makes it interesting to listen to. Older children (3 or 4 years old) will be able to “read” the story even though they don’t know how to read because the colors prompt them. Words used: brown, red, yellow, green, leaf, leaves, tree, see.
Gross motor: Taking the book off the shelf and carrying it to the spot she wants to read it or to one of us.
Fine motor: Flipping through the pages
Creative: Books always encourage imagination
Sensory: Touching the book, listening to the story, looking at the pages and colors
Cognitive: Kids learn the text and anticipate the pages. When read over and over again memory skills are enhanced.
Enjoyment: Reading is fun. Able to look at it on her own.
Social: Learning to read together

Foam Sticker Picture
I previously did this with a fish scene.
Materials: Paper, foam stickers, laminator
1. Laminate paper
2. Help child place stickers on paper
3. Put creation on child’s level

Language used: bats, ghosts, cat, house, stick, moon, pumpkins, jack-o-lantern, orange, black
Fine Motor: Placing or helping place stickers on paper
Creative: Stickers can be placed anywhere
Sensory: Stickers are sticky and soft. By placing it at their level they can go back to it and touch it.
Cognitive: Reinforces other words and ideas used for Halloween. Memory to go back to it wherever it is in the room. I asked questions like where to stick the sticker.
Enjoyment: Creating a new picture is fun and seeing again is enjoyable.
Social: Working together is a great skill to practice.
Be sure to check back next Tuesday for Part 2!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Morning Purge

Our garbage gets picked up on Mondays around 11 a.m. I normally clean up the house and empty all the garbage cans Sunday night while my husband is here to watch the baby. Then on Monday morning I purge even more. I can usually get another bag of garbage out by emptying boxes, restocking and taking things out of packages. I also clean out the fridge. We used to live in an apartment, so I could do that whenever I wanted. But now Monday mornings are my purging mornings. It's almost like a game to see how much more garbage I can find in the house.

Stay tuned for a two (or three) part series
on Halloween crafts for toddlers.
To be published on Tuesdays!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fast Food ...

When my husband I were first dating we went to see Morgan Spurlock speak at the university I was attending. And it has changed our lives forever. It was the third date for us and the first "real" date. The other two were those get-to-know you lunches.

They first showed us Morgan Spurlock's movie "Supersize Me." We both had seen it before, so we knew what we were watching. He then talked about his journey to eat 30 days of McDonalds and the behind the scenes action of creating the movie. He was well-versed and it was more like listening to comedian than a "lecture," which is how it was presented. He said many things that changed my opinion about fast food. I think what it did to his body was the biggest factor. It took him six months to go back to his pre-McDonalds weight. Six months to recover from a month seems like a real reason not to eat fast food. He also talked about the chicken and how processed it is. I now think, how hard is it to make chicken nuggets from scratch? Not that tough or time consuming even. The most influential comment he made was about the beef -- they grind up as many as 100 (maybe it was 1000) different cows at the same time and you could have any number of cows in one patty. Ugh, that just makes me feel sick. Another reason we buy a large sum of our meat from a meat market.

So, the outcome of that "date" is that I haven't eaten McDonald's since (about 3 1/2 years). I used to eat it weekly. The only exceptions we make to our non-fast food diet is Subway, Cousins, Quiznos, Culvers and my husband goes to Qdoba and Chipotle. About a year ago, I was with people who ordered KFC. Out of politeness and hunger I ate it. My stomach hurt so bad all night and it didn't even taste good. Occasionally, even at regular restaurants I get a "fast food" item, and my body just can't handle it anymore. I used to eat fast food a minimum of three times a week when I was single.

I think the hardest part about not eating fast food is that it made traveling so much harder. I used to drive through on my way to my parents -- a three hour drive. It was so much a part of my routine that I had no idea what to do. Of course, now we make sandwiches and bring our own drinks and snacks. But the truth is that fast food is convenient, but it is not healthy. We quickly realized that there really are no healthy fast food stops when we travel. And we wonder why the country has a weight problem.

If you haven't seen the movie, you must watch it. It will change your opinion of fast food forever.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It'a like cramming for a test

I was re-copying my grocery list this morning and trying to memorize as much of it as possible. It's hard to hold the list while shopping with a little one who wants to hold your list. (I give her a list of her own, but it always ends up on the floor or getting eaten). I put my list in order of the store to make our trip as smooth as possible. I had several items that I don't normally buy on the list today. At one point, I was reading my list out loud before we left and I said to myself "you know what's on it." It's the same pep talk I would give myself before an exam. I guess school does prepare you for real life. Just not in the way you would expect.

Today's grocery savings was 22 percent of my total. Last week was 36 percent (although I had a free pack of diapers, so that skewed it a little).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The "F" Word

Okay, so here are a couple problems I'm having with choosing my candidate. None of them answer the questions. I've watched all three debates (two presidential, one vice presidential) and they all dance around the questions. This bothers me because here is their chance to tell us what they think about issues, and they don't answer the questions. Instead they go on and on about something close to the topic (sometimes not even close), and then say what their opponent will do. But they never seem to get around to saying what they will do. And I would like to hear about some other topics besides economy, Iran, energy, and the Maverick. I don't understand why journalists interview Sarah Palin don't demand her to give an answer. I think she's trying to be quoted instead of answering the question. It drives me crazy.

The other problem is that there is so much mud being tossed around that I have no idea who to believe anymore. Just tell me what you will do.

And they most overused phrase for this campaign is the new "f" word "fundamental." Here's the definition for fundamental, in case you were interested. I wish they could figure out a new word to say once in a while.

For the record, I haven't decided yet.

Grocery Store Website

I finally got around to looking at our local grocery store's website. I tried it months ago, but it didn't seem to work very good. Now, it's great. I can view all the store ads before I go, print their coupons, print manufacturer coupons and plan better than ever. For example, tuna is on sale this week. I usually only buy tuna when it's on sale, so now I know I can stock up on it. Good thing, too -- I've only got one can left. I also like that I can print coupons before I go. I like to plan ahead as much as I can. This is especially important because my little girl has about a 20-minute cart ride in her and that's about it. By the time we check out she's had it. So, I can make my trip as swift as possible by checking out the website ahead of time.

Google your store to see if this will help you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Vegetable Soup

I've been trying to make my daughter's meals instead of buying them pre-made. Partly because of her food allergies and partly to give her a healthy diet. I also like things I can freeze for a quick meal, when I don't have anything extra for her. I plan, but am still figuring out her eating patterns.

Vegetable Soup
I like this better than a can of already made soup for four reasons. One: I know exactly what's in it. Two: I can water it down to cut down on sodium. Three: I always seem to have some extra fresh vegetables that need eating up and this helps solve that issue. Four: I can freeze it. Keep in mind I make this for my daughter so I chop everything up really small. Adjust for your meals.

1 can of beef broth (beef bullion works too)
1/4 cup fresh potatoes (cut up)
1/4 cup fresh carrots (cut up)
1 stalk of celery (cut up)
chopped onion to taste
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 to 2 Tbsp barley (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pour broth in medium size pot.
2. Place fresh vegetables and barley in broth and bring to boil.
3. Let simmer 10 minutes on medium low.
4. Add frozen vegetables.
5. Let simmer another 10 minutes on medium low.
6. Serve up.

**Any combination of fresh or frozen vegetables works. Keep in mind frozen vegetables don't usually need as much time to cook. You can always add more of one or the other, too. Also a can of water can be used to thin out the broth. **

Freezing tip: I use baby food jars to freeze this soup. I froze 4 jars for instant meals and kept the rest for 3 meals this week. The soup in a jar will work good for traveling.

Buying tip: The Target brand of beef (and chicken) broth are considerable cheaper than the name brands. And work just as good!

You never know

My 14-month old is so much fun to watch. You just never know what she's paying attention to. My husband asked her the other day if she could jump like a frog, and she jumped. I was shocked. I looked up the "developmental milestone" for jumping and it's typically 19 to 22 months. I showed her how to put the shapes in the shape sorter and she did it after the second try by herself. She even tried putting the lid on herself. When she hears the word lion in a song and roars. She watched a Sesame Street DVD that was talking about the letter z and now she takes her jacket and says "zzzz" for zipper. She also like the letter "s" and when I tell her to "sit" she says "sssss" at me. Oh my, she's interested in so many things. My objective with kids is to do what interest them. That's not to say don't introduce new things, but go with what they find interesting.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cleaner Recommendation

My daughter has sensitive skin, so I finding a safe cleaner for her high chair is important. I found a cleaner that works really well for us. Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Spray. I like that it cleans up the stains on the highchair, but it seems to be a gentle cleaner for kids. We use it several times a day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back at it Finally

Two Septembers ago, my husband and I joined a community center so we could workout during the winter months. Well, about one month into it, I had lost about 5 pounds. Not that I was overweight, but I was looking to tone up. Then a month later I gained those 5 pounds back, which was very unusual for me. Turned out I was pregnant. And that was the end of my old shape. I still exercised throughout the pregnancy. I would just walk the track instead of using machines. And my job at the end of the pregnancy was working with a special needs child and walking all around the school with him every day.

I've always been a fairly active person. I spent two summers at a camp in California that was in a rugged redwood forest. We walked everywhere on camp. I would hike the kids down the mountain to the ocean. Took less than an hour to hike down and almost 3 hours to hike back up. Not exactly an easy job with 24 kids. Before that I had worked out three times a week. I danced from the age of 4 through college.

Now 14 months post baby, I am finally getting on the move again. I have worked out 3 times now and am committed to getting back in shape. It sure would be nice to have a pair of pants fit again. I am really only about half a size bigger than I was before, but my shape is a little different. And half a size means I either wear half a size too big (which I've been doing) or half a size too small.

Wednesday -- 25 minutes on the elliptical machine, 10-15 minutes stretching
Saturday -- same
Sunday -- same

Pump up the iPod and go! No excuses. I've had a stiff neck for more than a week. I'm actually hoping that it will help loosen it up.

My goal: To workout as often as I can. Three or more times a week. Now that the baby goes to sleep at 7 p.m. and I am getting so much more sleep than the past two years, I have the stamina to do it. We walked a lot this summer, and I am go, go, go all day long. So my endurance is being built up!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Have you decided yet?

Alright, so here we are facing another presidential election. Seems like this one has been dragging on forever. I always have a hard time deciding (except for the last election) because I don't really consider myself conservative or liberal. Some might call that wishy-washy, but I tend to look at situations as a whole and go from there.

I grew up and currently live in a very conservative city. They do not like change here at all. In fact, I've recently watched infrastructure projects (that I know that have been in the works since I was a kid) finally be completed. And guess what? Because the times have changed, they aren't as successful as hoped. Change is good, but planning properly is better.

This election has given us two candidates who talk all about change. But each has a different stance on the issues. Each has varying experiences. Each comes from a perspective unlike the other. One week I really like the guy with lots of experience, but will he be stubborn? The next week I really like what the other guy has to say about helping the American middle class, but maybe he's all talk. Both have something to offer and I think choosing the one who will surround himself with the best cabinet will be most productive for our country. The historian in me (I actually minored in history in college) is excited that no matter who is elected, something unprecedented will happen to our executive office. And boy is it about time!

I heard a quote on the local news the other night from a random citizen who said ..."the policies and issues will change after the election because they always do. It's better to chose the person who will know how to make the best decision." I like that idea. Does it help me decide? Nope, not yet. But I think I'm getting close.

Go out an vote!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leap Frog Code

Here's a promo code for Leap Frog. I read it in "Parent and Child" magazine. Not a great savings, but you don't have to purchase a large amount to get a discount.

Save $3 off a $10 purchase at
Enter Promo code: HY8FP
Valid until 1/31/09
(I'm not sure if that is before shipping and taxes or not)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What's Cookin' -- Broccoli and Pasta

I found this recipe in "Everyday Food" by Martha Stewart. It was one of the many free magazines we get right now. It's actually pretty good. I've ripped out several recipes to put in my binder for recipes to try. This one has a fancy name, but it got torn. And I don't use the fancy pasta (I use Penne), so don't tell Martha.

Broccoli and Pasta
1 to 2 cups pasta (depending what you use)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 head of broccoli, cut up
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (use vegan cheese or omit for dairy free)

1. Cook pasta. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, drain rest.
2. In separate pan heat olive oil over medium.
3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add broccoli and 1/2 cup of water.
5. Cook and cover for about 8 minutes.
6. Uncover and continue to cook until water evaporates and broccoli tender. About 1 to 2 minutes.
7. Add pasta to broccoli, 1/4 cup parmesan and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce.
8. Serve sprinkled with remaining parmesan.


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