Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's Cookin' - Chicken Quesadillas

This was a really quick and tasty meal without a lot of prep.

Chicken Quesadillas
(1 to 2 servings)

1/4 cup cooked chicken
2 Tbsp salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheese
2 flour tortillas
2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1. Heat oil on medium-high.  Add tortilla one at a time.
2. Fry tortilla until crisp and lightly browned.  Repeat with second tortilla.
3. Chicken and salsa together.
4. Spread chicken/salsa mixture on one tortilla shell.
5. Sprinkle cheese on top of chicken/salsa mixture.
6. Top with remaining tortilla shell.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
8. Cool, cut and serve with side of sour cream.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Soft and Loud Activity

I made this file folder game years ago for a class.

  The other day I thought I would enrich the activity since my 2 1/2-year-old mastered it weeks ago (actually she figured it out the first time playing -- smarty pants).  I took one of the "free" magazines that shows up at our house.  We cut out different scenes or items and decided what was soft or loud.

 Then she just put them on the correct side.  It was interesting to do.  I let her decide if something was soft or loud unless it was obviously wrong, such as a train.  Many things could fall into both.  I asked her to explain why if she could.  Still working on those skills.

Other categories for cutting apart a magazine:

  • Alive or not alive
  • big or small
  • colors
  • animals or people
  • Hard or soft
  • Wet or dry
  • Food -- healthy or unhealthy, fruits or vegetables
  • Fast or slow

Monday, April 26, 2010

Refilling the Swiffer

I don't really like the waste that using the Swiffer Wet Jet for cleaning of the floors can produce.  Not to mention the cost of refills.  I usually wash the floors by hand a couple times a month and Swiffer the rest of the time (because it is easier).  I bought my Swiffer at a garage sale for about $6 (unopened).  I figured out a way to not have to buy expensive refills for the cleaning solution.

I asked my husband (who given a challenge always comes through) to unscrew the unscrewable cap on the solution container for the Swiffer Wet Jet.  Then I just refill the solution with water and Mr. Clean Multisurfaces Liquid.  You only need to use about a 1/4 cup or less depending on the size of your original container.   I would imagine any cleaning solution will work.  I bought Mr. Clean because it is made by Proctor and Gamble (who makes Swiffer as well) and believe it will work the closest to the original solution.

  • Cost for Mr Clean Multi-Surfaces Liquid -- less than $4 (coupons make it less) and you can use for lots and lots of times.
  • Cost for one Swiffer Wet Jet Solution refill -- about $4 and you get about 2 or 3 uses out of it.  

As far as the refills for the pads, the only good alternative I've found are at the Dollar General.  They are okay, but don't expect them to work as good as the original.  They run about $4 for 12.  I alternate these with the Swiffer pads.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's official -- I've lost 10 pounds

I first and foremost want to say that this was a lot of work and by no means an easy task.  I recently read an article from a celebrity mom who lost all her baby weight in the first four months and is posing in a bikini with a flat stomach.  Um, that's just not realistic.  I want to share a little of my journey and give some real insight on what worked for me.

August 2006 
I weighed 129 pounds at our wedding. I had gained some "love" weight during the year my husband and I met.

August 2007
I gave birth to my 8 pound 2 3/4 ounce daughter.  I had gained about 42 pounds (that's what I weighed the week before I gave birth).

I was 100 percent focused on being mom, but did lose the bulk of the baby weight in about 4 months.  But my shape was not back to normal, at all.  I tried to exercise, but my husband's busy job didn't give much extra time.

I had a couple of back injuries that laid me up.  We moved for the fourth time since our daughter was born.  I realized that as active as I was it was a slow active.  A lot of my day was watching and overseeing my daughter's play or standing still pushing her on the swing.  I was active but actually was gaining weight.

November - December 2009
We joined a health club that has drop-in child care.  Best thing we ever did.  We got rid of cable to pay for the monthly fee.  I weighed over 135 pounds.  I still didn't fall into the overweight category, but I wasn't too happy that I had lost so much stamina in the last couple years.  My goal was to be active and feel better, not necessarily lose weight.   During these first months of working out, I worked hard to do even 5 minutes on the elliptical machine.  I worked hard to make it around the track enough times to actually feel my heart rate pick up.  I worked hard to do one weight machine (at 20 pounds) to strengthen my still sore back.  I didn't lose any weight these first two months and we worked out at least three nights a week for close to an hour.  It didn't help that it was "eat lots of goodies" season, either.  But I did gain back some stamina.

January 2010
I'm not normally one to use a new year to be the time to set weight loss goals, but that's just the way it worked out.  I gave myself a goal of getting to 125 pounds.  I figured it would probably take about six months to get there.  I've never had to lose weight before so I didn't know how to do it.  During the month of January, I was at the health club at least three times a week and often twice a day.  I was up to 20 minutes on the elliptical mid-way through and was able to add some free weights to my routine.  I also bumped up the weight on the machine I used for my back.

Feb-March 2010
I approached working out as a part-time job.  I often worked out in the morning while my daughter did a class or just played in the child care center.  I started to add new machines and bumping up weights.  It was a very slow process because my body was so out of workout mode.  I was able to do 30 minutes or more on the elliptical machine and even found myself running a mile here and there on the track.  I still was working out at least three times a week for more than an hour.  It seems as soon as I got to one level of ability  that if I added something new that it helped keep my body to lose more. It was in March that I found out some interesting information about my health.  I eliminated peanuts, which I found I was allergic to and along the way eliminate soda (I actually eliminate caffeine a couple years ago).  Two foods that have changed my stamina, also.

April 2010
I'm still working out at least three times a week.  I weighed myself this week and I officially lost 10 pounds.  I don't feel like I lost that much because my shape isn't what it used to be (just yet).  But I am happy because I am waiting until June to buy new clothes and I think by then (if I keep at this pace) that I might lose a little more.

Lessons learned

  • It takes time.  These shows with people losing mass amounts of weight in weeks is just not realistic.  We have lives and other priorities.  
  • Make it a priority.  You have to stick with it.  It's hard to do.  It's very hard to do.  But if you want to lose weight or even just gain back some energy, you have to focus on it.
  • Adding something new helps.  I slowly added weights to my routine.  I change up my stretches, too. 
  • You have to change your diet.  That was really hard for me, but in hindsight it was no big deal.  
  • Celebrate the milestones.  If your goal is five pounds give yourself a reward.
  • BMI is bogus!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Successful Garage Sale Hunting

Whether you call them yard sales, thrift sales, or garage sale, there's no doubt that the season is upon us. Here are some tips to find some great things at garage sales.

1. Watch for city-wide sales or neighborhood sales.  Last summer was the first summer I live in an area where whole cities have garage sales.  It was amazing.  I just parked my car, put my daughter in the stroller and walked around a few blocks for a couple hours.  I scored so many great treasures.  It was like trick-or-treating for garage salers. If you don't have whole city-wide sales,  you will see neighborhoods having a sale or a church or high school.  This is the best use of your time.
2. Read the newspaper or craigslist.  I personally read craigslist.  Last week I was scanning it during lunch and saw a sale that had Barbies.  We are just introducing Barbies to our daughter.  So after lunch we went to the garage sale (there were two other one's in the neighborhood) and scored 2 Barbies and a ton of clothes for $3.50.
3. Make a list.  I have a list of items I want to find this summer.  For example, Legos, Barbie clothes, 5T clothes, Christmas dress, shoes (never have luck there), books, games, Leapfrog imagination desk books,  desk chair, teacher materials, Pampered chef items are just a few on my list.
4. Don't take a lot of money with you.  Last year when I went to a city-wide sale, I only took $25 with me.  It made me really think about whether or not I really needed certain items.  Knowing that another sale was a house a way that might have something I really need made me rethink purchases.
5. Bargain.  I'm kinda weak on this one unless I'm short on cash for the day.  But you can usually talk someone down at least 10 percent of what they are charging.  Their main goal is to get rid of things, not just to make money.  One less thing they have to haul to donation is going to help them out, too.
6. Leave the kids at home.  I don't have this option available too often and my daughter is already excited about garage sales.  But you can accomplish a lot more if you aren't managing children while hunting for treasures.
7. Look everything over carefully.  Even though you may be only paying a dollar for a name-brand shirt, make sure there are no stains or holes on it before you buy it.  Places to look carefully at are zippers, buttons, neckline, underarms, and cuffs.
8. Watch for Donation Sales: Often you will see sales for organization donating their money, such as Relay for Life.  Sometimes these sales will have items for a little higher cost.  Pay it.  It's going to a good cause and it feels good to help out.
9. Things I don't buy.  Most items I buy at garage sales are new or gently used. If i can wash it or clean it with bleach water, I'll buy it. But there are somethings I always overlook.  Knick-knacks, very used clothes such as pajamas, kid plates, sliverware, utensils, puzzles, and anything that looks like pieces are missing.
10. Thank the kids.  Often you will see kids helping and I try to thank them directly.  It's gotta be hard to give up some of your own toys.

What's Cookin' - S'mores

Check out how to make S'mores in the microwave on my other blog.  Simply substitute dairy-free chocolate chips with milk-chocolate or semi-sweet!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Butterfly Craft

Here's an easy craft.  I can't remember the first time I did this one.  It's a fun one!

Coffee filters
washable markers
pipe cleaner, cut about an inch

1. Color the coffee filters with many colors.  Try to color in all the white, but as you can see my 2 1/2-year-old didn't get it all filled it and they turned out great.

2. Spray with water.

3. Allow to dry on paper towel or paper bag.
4.  After it dries, put it into the clothespin.

5. Put a face on clothespin and add pipe cleaner as antenna.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Direction

I'm very excited about the next transition in our lives.  I am going back to work come this fall.  Our daughter will be 3 years old and we found a wonderful preschool for her.  I was earning my second Bachelor's degree  in teaching when I became pregnant with her and have been a full-time parent since.  We've had lots of challenges since she's been born (medical issues, moving, etc).  But all seems pretty sorted out right now.  I just started applying for teaching jobs in our area and can't wait to see what comes from it.  Boy oh boy you wouldn't have believed all the work I had to put into the application process.  I spent more than an hour a day last week typing up answers and filling in the blanks.  And Friday morning I spent more than three hours scanning in documents and uploading everything.

My initial hope was for part-time, but if a great full-time opportunity comes my way I might just snag it.  I worry about the balance of it all, but I think we've discussed it clearly.  My husband is so supportive and says it will all just work out.  And I know it will.   I gotta admit I think I'm looking forward to getting back into the real world.  It's been a challenge at times to be isolated, even though my daughter and I go somewhere every day. We'll see what happens next.

I'll keep you posted!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What's Cookin' -- Garlic Butter

Garlic Butter
Original recipe found here.
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground paprika

1. Mix all together.  
2. Spread on warm rolls or on french bread

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    What I stockpile

    I thought it would be fun to see what items I stockpile.  For me I only stockpile what I find really cheap or in rare cases know that I'm going to run out of quickly.  Here are my strategies and items that I stockpile.


    • Tomato Sauce (these are often on sale for about 33 cents at Walgreens and sometimes I have a manufacturer coupon which makes them close to free)
    • Ketchup (I request manufacturere coupons, double the coupon when this goes on sale.  I pay usually less than a dollar for 40 oz)
    • Cereal (use coupons coupled with a sale.  I usually pay around $1 a box for name-brand cereal)
    • Canned Fruit (stock up around holidays)
    • Canned Veggies (stock up around holidays)
    • Candy (buy after a holiday for the next holiday)
    • Mustard (I'll double a coupon and buy in summer time)
    • Hot Sauce (usually use a coupon and double up with a sale)
    • Soda (only when there's a dirt cheap sale.  Last year we were buy 12 packs for under $2.  Haven't seen that sale for a while)
    • Crackers (usually stack store and manufacturer coupon for about $1 to $1.50 a box)
    • Popcorn (we buy a huge bag for just a few bucks and it lasts us almost a year.  And we eat a lot of popcorn)
    • Bulk Meat (we buy a quarter cow and half hog each year.  I follow sales for chicken and stock up.  I also find buying whole chickens on sale are much cheaper than cut-up chicken parts)
    • Pickles (I usually double a coupon and match it up with a sale)
    • Olives (I buy store brand)
    • Bread (I buy at a Sara Lee outlet store.  I usually get a loaf of bread for 99 cents and buns for 89 cents each.  I usually keep an extra of each in the freezer)
    • Butter (I buy when it's on sale for under $1. I will buy a couple extra and freeze them.  Butter freezes really well.)
    • Mayo (I buy with double coupon and a sale)
    • Salad dressing (I buy with double coupon and a sale)
    • Pasta (I usually just buy it when it's on sale. My price point is less than $1 for 1 pound.)
    • Flour and Sugar (stock up around holidays and when it's on sale.  I will buy store brand, too.)

    Non-food items

    • Kleenex or tissues (I'll use a coupon or buy store brand)
    • TP (My price point is $5 for 12 pack double roll.  I work really hard to watch sales and find coupons to go below my price point)
    • Deoderant (I recently found my husband's deoderant for $1 at the grocery store.  It normally is close to $4.  Keep an eye out when you least expect it.)
    • Toothpaste (We're pretty particular when it comes to toothpaste.  Mine rarely goes on sale, but ocassionally Walgreens will have a BOGO and I usually can pair that with a coupon)
    • Diapers (Actually, we are using Pull-Ups now.  Just watch for the sale and never buy without a coupons.)
    • Soap (I buy with coupons and match up with sales.  I use a recipe to refill foam soap containers that saves us tons of money on soap)
    • Paper Towel (It's tough to find a good deal on this one.  Watch for a sale and use a coupon.  My goal is $1 for a double roll -hard to do)

    1. I like to use double coupons about once a month.  Our store's policy is a minimum purchase of $25 (before coupons) and they will double any manufacturer coupon up to $1.  So in a given trip I can get a maximum of $10 in coupons savings.  But that grocery store is known for be a little higher than the locally owned store that I stock up at for most items.  The local store is on average 10 cents to $1 cheaper on most items, but will only take one Internet coupon per purchase.  Although they do have coupons available throughout the store.
    2. Reading blogs.  That's a given.  I love Deal Seeking Mom and Money Saving Mom
    3. E-mailing manufacturers.  I've mentioned this before.  Simply write to the manufacturers of you favorite brands letting them know you enjoy their products.  Often they will send money-saving coupons in return.
    4. Watching sales and know what items I buy normally go on sale.  This is a given, too.  Sometimes it can be a lot of work, but the sales do come around again.  I tend to watch for patterns.
    5. Having a price point I won't go over.
    6. Join product testing sites such as Proctor and Gamble's Vocalpoint, General Mill's Psst and Kraft's First Taste.  I get awesome products to try all the time.  Plus they send out great coupons to share.
    7. Stock up around and after holidays.  Baking goods and canned vegetables can be found really cheap around the holidays.  Usually my stock up will get me through to the next holiday.
    8. Use manufacturer and store coupons. Stacking coupons is a great way to get items for next to nothing.
    9.  Once you have a nice stockpile, you can just pick up one of an item here and there when on sale  instead of buying a large number.  Plus you have what you need to plan a nice menu plan for the week or month.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Deal of the Week

    Have I told you that I live a stones-throw away from Target?  It is a great blessing becuase I can watch deals and not spend any time driving.  I love watching their endcaps -- health and beauty, toys and food are my favorites.
    Yesterday I bought this Barbie for 86 cents at Target!  Yep, 86 cents.  That's the cheapest I've ever seen a Barbie go for!  That's cheaper than the knock-off dollas at the Dollar Store.  Ahh, feels good to get a good deal and an early start on birthday and Christmas gifts.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    What's Cookin' -- Pull Apart Rolls

    These rolls are delicious.  The orginal recipe is from Cooking from Stolen Moments, however I halved the recipe to make just one pan.

    Pull Apart Rolls

    1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp butter
    1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp sugar
    1/2 cup boiling water
    1/2 Tbsp and 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
    1/2 cup warm water
    1 egg
    1/2 tsp salt (or less to taste)
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    3 1/2 cups to 4 cups flour

    1. Beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add boiling water. Cool to room temperature.
    2.  Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.
    3. Add yeast and egg to butter mixture. Mix well.
    4. Add salt, baking powder, baking soda and 2 1/2 cup flour to mixture.
    5.  Add remaining flour and kneed for 8 minutes.
    6. Roll dough into golf ball size balls.  Place in greased round cake pan.
    7. Cover and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.
    8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Huge Pet Peeve

    I absolutely cannot stand when I read reviews about a recipe on a recipe website and it gets all (or close too) stars, but the reviews are misleading.  It's rated high and has many reviews.  Then I read the reviews and almost every review that gives it high marks has variations and suggestions to make the orginal recipe different.  Um, then you aren't reviewing the orginal recipe.  You are rating the recipe you are posting in the review. Ugh.  Drives me crazy.

    Promoting Independence in a toddler

    There's a lot to be said to teaching a child responsibility.  But along with teaching them responsibility, they are also learning to be independent.  A toddler, who has to be told a gazillion times to be told the same thing, will unknownly surprise you by following though on a self-initiated task.  In other words, they will start to pick up toys on their own or put their clothes in the hamper without being asked.  Thus evolving into independence.

    Here is a list of thing we do to promote independence by giving our 2 1/2 year-old daughter certain "responsibilities:"

    • Putting her clothes in the hamper
    • Putting her hamper back in her room (after I do laundry)
    • Picking up toys and putting them in correct location (or close enough on some days)
    • Folding wash clothes
    • Matching socks when doing laundry
    • Handing me shirts to hang up when doing laundry
    • Putting books away in baskets
    • Throwing away garbage 
    • Giving her choices for lunch or breakfast
    • Letting her pick out snack from the pantry and put it on her snack table
    • Having her get dressed by herself every day -- I let her pick out her socks, underwear and pants.  I pick out the shirt.  She puts on her night diaper and sleeper at night.
    • Getting undressed.
    • Having her put her shoes and jacket on by herself when leaving the house
    • We're in the middle of potty training.  She won't do number 2 on the potty yet, so we let her put on a pull-up.  She does this by herself.  We change the dirty diaper.
    • Playing organized games (first lots of guided instructions, but eventually not as much guidance needed)
    • Using an art easel with Crayola color wonder paper and markers.  It stays in the living room for a week or two at a time.  Teaches to use markers on paper and put the caps back on.
    • Simple tasks: I often will ask her to get me a box of kleenex from the linen closet or turn off lights in a room if they were left on.
    • Asking her to come from across the room.  Then giving her a hug and telling her something positive
    • Reinforcing good behavior with saying a "thank you" or saying "how quickly she followed directions."  I will also take a positive action she did earlier in the day and tell Daddy at night in front of her.  Then he can give her positive words about it, too.
    • Giving choices for which books to read, what games to play, which park to go to, which direction to go on a walk, 
    • Holding the dog's leash on a walk
    • Picking out toys and books to rotate
    • When doing a craft, giving her the choice of colors for paint, paper color, markers or crayons.

    These are just some of the techniques that work for us.  We don't use a chore chart or rewards.  The above listed are just what is expected.  We make it a lot of fun and she doesn't mind being asked to help with anything.  They love helping at this age.  Adapt these ideas into what you do and your lifestyle.  Think big picture.  A child who picks up her toys at 2-years-old is more likely to pick them up when she's 6 without a battle.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Total Deal

    I just bought this jacket at Sears for 70 percent off.  It was only $40 and it has a lining that can be worn as a spring/fall jacket.  The lining is reversible, too.  It was a great find for a great price.  It was like getting four jackets for the price of one!

    I found it online here for less than $40.  If you need a jacket that is extra heavy and can be stripped down to a light jacket, this is the one for you.


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