Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Focused Gratefulness

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." - Thornton Wilder
For the past week, I have been keeping a gratitude journal. I got the idea from a single mom with two kids who was on the show "Extreme Home Makeover." I thought to myself, wow that's a really cool thing to do because not only did the mom keep one, but her kids did too! While the show was on, I got on my phone and searched the internet for gratitude journal and read a couple pages/websites that gave me an overview and how to. A gratitude journal is very similar to a diary.  However, the difference is that you mainly have positive things to write in a gratitude journal, not an emotional blast book for narrative of your day which is typical of a diary entry.
Here is what I learned:
  1. Make it a rule to write down a certain number of things you are thankful for per day. Avoid repeating the same things. The challenge is to think of new things which can be big or little.
  2. Many people start by writing down basic material things that they are grateful for in their lives. Be sure to explain why. You don't have to write a lot about why you are gateful, but it helps to focus on the emotional experience/connections.
  3. Think about your abilites, situations, and people in your life.
  4. You can write an essay, use bulleted list, do it in point form, or even write poetry. Don’t just think in words.  Think pictures.  Make drawings or use photos
  5. To remember to write in your journal keep it somewhere you're sure to see when you have the most time. You don't have to write about what you are grateful for at the end of the day. You can write whenever you want!
I want to share with you some of the things I was grateful for this week:
  • I am grateful that I have a husband who helps with household chores. Sometimes he does more work than I do when it comes to cleaning.
  • Avery's giggles---she is so sweet and unique. It is so much to watch her laugh and play.
  • Hot homemade soup when you don't feel good. It warms your spirit and your belly!
  • Family that helps one another like taking your dog to the vet because you can't.
  • Air conditioning during a Florida summer! It is so hot and uncomfortable without it.
  • A spontaneous shoulder rub from my husband. It was such a loving gesture.
  • For a good book to read. I  very much enjoy the "escape" a book gives me---no matter the genre.
  • The time I got to spend today shopping with my daughter! She was so good in her stroller and it was nice not to feel cooped up in the house all day.
  • I really enjoyed posting my family dinner blog post. It was one of the better ones that I have written so far and I really do like spending time with my family.
I would like to close this post with a quote from Brian Tracy, "Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation." Consider starting a gratitude journal for yourself or your family because sometimes greater happiness can be found by looking a your life through a new perspective.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Teacher Cheapies

I love the school supply commercial where a school teacher is purchasing a lot of school supplies for her classroom and in the next check out lane she sees her husband doing the same thing for her! Awh, how sweet!
There is no doubt that it isn't hard to spend a good chunk of money for stuff you need. State lead money gets less and less each year and you can only write off so much on your taxes.

I found this list from the Frugal Girls and I wanted to share a few links and such with you. Please visit the website for more.

Barnes and Noble Teacher and Home School Educator Discount: 20% off!
Books-A-Million Teacher Discount = 20% off  in-store or 10% off online!
**I like to check out BIG LOTS for clearance books and I sometimes shop at Thrift stores. If you have friend or know someone with kids/teens, see if they are willing you donate some books if they are cleaning out their closets! Some book stores also offer extra discounts during teacher appreciate week.**

Michaels Teacher Discount = Extra 15% off Every Day. If you’re a teacher, just flash your educator I.D. the next time you’re checking to get your discount!

Jo-Ann’s Teacher and Home School Educator Discount: 15% off
**Check out your local Dollar Tree because you can sometimes score some cute bulletin board boarder for $1!**

OfficeMax Discount
**Keep an eye out for back to school sales and coupons**
FREE Legoland Admission for California and Florida Teachers 2012
If you’re a teacher in FL, CA, or TX, you can score FREE or BOGO  Admission to Sea World in 2012

Here are some resources that I use or plan to:
Check out the website: Teachers Pay Teachers for teacher created Freebies and Cheapies. Just create an account and download what you want.

Slickdeals.net gives you links to cheapies and freebies. At my school, our reading coach uses this site to order free magazines for our reading classrooms. What a great way to create a literacy rich environment! Here is the link for the freebies.
Bookrags.com is a website where you can buy and download quizzes, study guides, essay topics etc for MANY books and stories. This is a good time saver.
Izzit.org is a cool site for cheap/free current events with discussion questions. You can also sign up for a free DVD once a year.
Retailmenot.com is online coupon code database for a variety of sites and stores.

I know there are probably a lot more resources out there for teacher's to take advantage of....so please. Let me know and I will post or take initiative and spread the word yourself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A family that eats together

#1 “A tree without roots will fall over” -unknown
#2 "How will our children know who they are if they do not know where they came from." unknown
#3 "Heirlooms we don’t have in our family. But stories we’ve got."   -Rose Cherin

When was the last time that you sat down with your extended family for a dinner and it wasn't a holiday? After a WONDERFUL easter dinner this year, several of us thought that it would be a good idea to make more time for one another with a monthly dinner. Each dinner has a theme, everyone brings a dish and a different person hosts each time. A couple weeks ago was our most recent dinner and it was great. Our theme was "comfort food."

Family get togethers such as ours don't have to be large elaborate events where people spend hours in the kitchen preparing a 4 course meal. Last time I checked, my life and family was not living in a Norman Rockwell painting and it is not worth the stress to try because it's not the point. This time should be used to focus on positives. We don’t use mealtimes and family dinners as a time to criticize, complain, or argue (okay, maybe we do a little, but not to the point where it ruins the time together). We treat each other with respect and affection and let the little things ride. We share stories, books, play games, and sit around and "shoot the breeze."

I enjoy our family dinners so much because it gives me a chance to talk with my aunts, cousins, and family friends. When we are not around one another most of our "keeping in touch" takes place over Facebook, emails and texts. And don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't quite hold a flame to real hug and kiss. Another personal benefit for me is that my daughter, who is the family baby, gets a chance to be loved on and played with by someone other than me. Some of my fondest memories of growing up are the ones I spent with my cousins and aunts doing sleepovers, going shopping or to the movies. I want that for Avery because the bonds/relationships that that time built has been a lifelong connection and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I leave you with this thought, "In truth a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by number of heads counted at the dinner table, but by the rituals you help family members create, by the memories you share, by the commitment of time, caring, and love you show to one another, and by the hopes for the future you have as individuals and as a unit." (MARGE KENNEDY)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mommyhood on a dime

When my husband and I were considering expanding our family, the cost of raising a baby was something that we talked about. This past June the Huffington Post reported that cost of raising a child climbs to $235,000 for middle-income families which is a 3.5  percent increase from 2010! Yay, for me right?

The article goes on to say, "families that earn more can expect to spend more on their children." Okay, I can agree with that because I am totally there when it comes to my daughter; however, in the interest of not draining our bank account I have tried to save money on some of the items that Avery regularly uses.

Gerber Formula: I order gerber coupons off ebay. Yep, you heard right ebay. I use the manufacturer Q's and try and stack them with store or competitor coupons when there is a sale. Example: Publix price on a tub of formula is $23.99. I can use my $3/1 mfr Q with a publix store $5/1 and save $8 on that one formula purchase! CVS is also a good place to shop for formula because they do gerber sales and you can use an unlimited amount of ECBs in a transaction if you have them!

All Free and Clear Detergent: I use this type of detergent for the whole family. I was not about to start buying baby Dreft for $10 or more just for my daughter's clothes. So I did a little research and All Free and Clear was a great option. I can usually get it pretty cheap at CVS when it is on sale for $3.99. Every month and a half or so there is a $1/1 Q so I can end of getting the detergent for $2.99 OOP. Of course, if I have ECBs I will use them.

Make Your Own Baby Food: Now, I haven't tried this yet, but I do know people who have. You can blanch veggies and freeze them and use them when you need. Tip: Freeze them in a ice cube tray.  You can also use a food processor to puree your baby's nom-noms. Eventually, you might be comfortable just letting your baby eat what you eat when they are a little older and have some teeth.

Hand Me Downs: I grew up on hand-me-downs and I turned out okay. If you are lucky enough to know mom's who are willing to pass along new/gently used clothes you are made in the shade. Kids grow so fast that sometimes they only wear an outfit a couple times. One of the problems I encountered with my daughter's wardrobe is that she had super cute outfits, but this is Florida and more often than not it is hot. I was not about of get her all "dolled" up to hang out at the house so she wore a lot of onesies. She still does.

Anyway, those are a few of the tips I wanted to share. I hope that it helps save a little for you moms and dads out there. Saving is fun and parenting is lifelong. There are so many ways to do both!

Monday, July 9, 2012

How Cheesy is Your Chicken?

Here is another yummy crock pot recipe which is simple, quick and easy! This recipe was found on Pinterest and from Southernplate.com so please check out their site & show them some love!

Here is what you need:
1 package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 medium onion
1 package of yellow rice
1 can of cream of chicken
1 can of whole kernel corn
1 cup of of shredded american cheese (I used extra sharp)

Directions:
Place you chicken breasts on the bottom of your crockpot and top with chopped onions. Next, dollop the the chicken and onions with the cream of chicken soup and cook on low for 7-10 hours, whatever setting your crockpot has. As the chicken cooks, you might want to stir here and there to disperse the sauce the bit.

While the chicken is cooking you can cook the rice in advance and reserve in the fridge or you can cook the rice closer to dinner time if you prefer.

Now that several hours have passed and you have been smelling your dinner simmer all day, it's time for the finishing touches. To your crock pot add the rice, cheese and corn (drained from can) and stir until cover. I would give the crock pot an additional 10 minutes or so in order to let the rice, corn and cheese heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

The last and final step is to EAT!!! This was a very yummy meal with little to no clean up #awesomeness.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Titillating Tortellini

Another Pinterest recipe supplies my family with a delicious dinner. This whole try out began with Publix having tortellini on sale for BOGO. I was interested in trying something new with the tortellini what didn't include tomato sauce. Lucky for me, my Pinterest board had exactly what I was looking for! Most of the ingredients that the recipe called for I already had in my kitchen.

Now, this recipe does call for some kitchen time. It is not a plop and drop in the crock pot sort of thing. There is frying, chopping, boiling, whisking, and taste testing involved, but trust me friends it is worth the effort.

Here is what you need according to the recipe
12 oz bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini (find them in the dry pasta aisle) ***I used (2) 9 oz bags of Buitoni Tortellini***
4 oz bacon or pancetta, (about 4 strips bacon)***I used thick cut bacon***
3 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or finely minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
¾ tsp kosher salt ***Regular table salt works fine***
⅛ tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry basil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp or more if you like spicy)
1 medium lemon ***I used lemon juice***
2 C loosely packed fresh spinach, roughly chopped
¾ C grated mozzarella cheese, divided
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese, divided

So begin by preheating your oven to 350 and cook your bacon until crisp and set aside. In the same pan, sauté your garlic. Be aware that your pan may be a little to hot at first and you could burn your garlic. In the meantime, bring your pasta water to a boil and cook tortellini according to package. When the pasta is done cooking drain and return to pot.

Next, you are going to create a rue in the pan you cooked the garlic in by adding 2 Tbs of flour. The recipe says to use some of the bacon grease/fat for the rue.  You can substitute 2 Tbs butter instead of the bacon fat.

Then, you are going to add the 2 C of Milk and your spices. I don't know about you, but I don't always add spices in exact measurement. When I made this, I "eye-balled-it" and did taste tests and added as needed. Continue to stir your sauce because it takes about 5 minutes or so for it to thicken. Bring it back to a boil and then lower temp to simmer (at that point it should thicken).

When your sauce is done you are going to add it to the pasta along with spinach, some of the bacon, mozzarella and parm. Stir until covered and then transfer to baking dish. Before covering with foil, top the mixture with the rest of bacon and cheese.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes with foil on and then 5 minutes with foil off.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did. Thanks again Pinterest for another good food find.

Here is the link for the original recipe because we must give credit where credit is due!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Confessions of a Teen Soap Addict

What is your T.V. guilty pleasure?

I am not too proud to admit it, but I like to watch teen soaps and teen dramas on T.V. So far this summer, I have watched, reruns of Dawson's Creek, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars on Netflix. Last summer, I enjoyed watching the Veronica Mars series and some of the Confessions of an American Teenager. And to be clear, when I say "watched" what I really mean is that these shows are usually streaming in the living room and I am listening to them while I am taking care of my daughter! Let's face it, a mommy at home with young children doesn't really have time to sit and watch T.V. all day. But, I digress.....

While I would not categorize myself with the tweens or teens who gather around their T.V.s each week and faithfully watch these shows, I got to say that I can see the appeal, but I have other shows to watch that a higher up on the "important to me" list (Shout out to Grey's Anatomy); plus, I have to balance my T.V. with the hubby because we only have one T.V. Not to mention, with the advances in T.V. technologies, you really don't have to watch a show when it originally airs because you can DVR, TiVo, Hulu, or watch online on the network website.


I think what appeals to me the most is the fact that these shows are, in comparison to eating, more of a light snack. They are easy to follow along and entertaining. Sometimes the repetitiveness can be annoying or certain characters might get on your nerves because more than likely they remind you of someone you know (or used to). But usually there is a "cutie-patootie" who makes it all better.
Now, I am no means a couch potato and my world does not revolve around what's on the "boob-tube," but I will say when the baby is sleeping and I am in my comfy clothes I do enjoy lounging and watching a good show or movie. There's nothing wrong with that! :) All good things in moderation.

P.S. I also like kids movies. Yeah, you heard right! Beauty and the Beast, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Toy Story---the list goes on.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Darn You Baby Weight

In several of my past food post, I have mentioned my goal of loosing the rest of my baby weight. Mind you, I did not put on a lot of weight during my pregnancy. I don't remember the exact number but I think 28 or 29 pounds. After the birth of my daughter, I did loose some weight, but then I gained some of it back. If I were to pinpoint the exact reason I gained it back I would have to be stress eating and eating out of boredom.

As I began summer break this year, I gave myself the goal of loosing the rest or at least a good part of this weight so that I can "reward myself" with new clothes for the next school year. I can't wait to clean out my closet. Look out ROSS and KOHL'S I am coming for you.
So, how am I loosing weight? I am not an exercise enthusiast. I am not trekking out to the gym or doing at home workouts. (Yes, I know if I did I would be in better shape, literally). The most exercise I get right now is carrying/walking my daughter or walking around the grocery store once a week.
Recently, I have downloaded two apps to my phone to help me be accountable and motivated towards my goal. Note: they are not the be-all-end-all, but they can be helpful if you use them correctly.

App number one is the drink water app. This app reminds you to drink water (duh!). You can set it up for a certain time frame for reminders and select the number of cups you want to drink per day. FYI: According to mayoclinic.com, " the average, healthy adult living says the adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day." Another good feature of this app is that  when you reach you water goal, you get a round of applause. Talk about positive reinforcement!
The second app that I have been using lately is called the my fitness pal app.

This app has been helpful to me because I have been making an effort to eat better and one of the features of this app is that it is a calorie counter. I've inputted my current weight (no I am not sharing it may weight) and it gives me calorie goal. Now, I am not saying counting calories is the way to go, but what it has made me aware of is portion control and what I am actually putting in my body. Again, this is nothing new!

Another good feature is that people who have used this app before have already inputted a lot of food counts from many, many places.
In order to make this work, you have to be honest about what you are eating otherwise it is pointless. It is a good feeling to be under goal and see your scale go down; however, you are not supposed to starve yourself to loose weight. Be responsible. Within this app, they have included workouts and exercise calorie counts. There is even an option for carrying a baby or walking/pushing a baby in a stroller! (I use those a lot!)

I also have another app called endomondo, but I have not used it yet. It is described as something that will "Make fitness fun with this personal trainer and social fitness partner. It is  ideal for running, cycling, walking and any other distance-based activity." A couple of my friends use it and they post their results on facebook which is kind of cool. If it ever is not raining or sweltering outside, I will take the baby to the park and try it out.

That's all I have for now. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Runny Nose of Doom

So my daughter had her first runny nose this week. Big deal right?! No, not really. I am sure that it will be the first of many, but let me tell you I was very concerned that she might be sick. You see, my husband had a sinus infection/cold thing and he was miserable for a couple days.

Avery has been a very healthy baby (Thank you Lord) and as a new mom I have never dealt with my child being sick yet. I am not too proud to admit that I googled "baby with runny nose" and browsed a few pages to get some background information. I felt sorry for my daughter because I probably made her more uncomfortable than her runny nose did. She has never particularly cared for me or her dad messing with her nose/face (ex-wiping her mouth after eating solids). So, coming at her with a bulb syringe to suck the snot out of her nose to her is like a medieval torturing device! Of course, she reacted the same way when I used wet wipes or damp tissues.

I put out a mommy 911 on facebook to seek out info on how other mommies deal or have dealt with runny noses. I must admit that I did learn some new tricks such as Vics baby rub on the chest and feet. I knew about the chest because I have done that, but the feet thing was new. Did you know that a runny know is a sign on teething? I didn't.

Additionally, it was recommended that I purchase a vaporizer. While I don't think that it is necessary for THIS runny nose, I do think that it is a purchase I should make in the future to have on hand. My Aunt recommended steam from a hot shower and we could play for a while in the bathroom! Kind of sounds like fun. Someone on my hubby's FB recommended that we try "Boogie Wipes."

I am so thankful for all the suggestions from all my mommy friends out there. It really is such a blessing to know that I can ask for help or guidance from those "who have gone before me!" This is just a shining example of how it really takes a village to raise a child.

Side note: Now I am sick with a stuffy nose and a on-again-off-again sore throat! Just my luck right? Does anyone want to come take care of me? All I ask is that you don't try and use the "snot sucker" on me!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Stinky Numer 2

I think I would be hard pressed to find a mommy who enjoys dealing with and changing poopy diapers! Gag. This is one of my least favorite mommy duties. I pawn it off on daddy whenever I can. I mean just this morning, I had my daughter dressed in her cute 4th of July outfit and it did not last 5 minutes because Avery had an explosive #2 firework in her diaper and had to be changed.
A lot of mommies-to-be ask for Diaper Genies on their registries, but I on the other hand did not because I kind of think that they are just glorified trash cans. The refill cartridges are a little pricey so I did not want to commit to this baby item. No disrespect playtex and mommies who love them.

In my daughter's nursery, we have a regular step garbage can that we use for her diapers. However, this regular garbage can cannot completely mask and contain the poopy diaper stink. There is nothing worse than walking into your baby's room and being hit with a poopy odor! I wouldn't want to sleep in a room with that smell, so I will not make my daughter suffer either. (I wonder if she even notices the smell?)

On Avery's changing table, I keep these Sassy Diaper Sacks:
You can find this item at Wal-Mart, Target, etc for about $2.00 in the baby aisle. This is a much cheaper alternative and it does almost the same thing. I just tie off the bag with "Avery's goodies" and toss it in the garbage bin. These are great to have in your diaper bag too for when you are out and about and your little one let's one rip!

And for some extra #2 related reading, here is an interesting article on poop from parents magazine entitled , "All about Poop"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cobble, Cobble, Cobbler!

Okay, so I tried out another pinterest recipe and I am glad to report that it was a SUCCESS! Thank you "Living a changed life" for posting it! What adds to its success and makes it more awesome is that is SO EASY because it only calls for 3 (yeah, you read that right) 3 ingredients and BAM you've got a cobbler in less than an hour.

Here is what you need:
2 (12oz) Bags of Frozen Fruit--When I made this I used a Mixed Berry
1 Box of yellow cake mix
1 can of Sprite--I used Sprite Zero. You can also substitute for 7-Up.

Directions:
In a greased 9x13 baking dish, pour out the frozen fruit. Try and disperse it as evenly as possible. Next, cover the fruit with the boxed cake mix. DO NOT STIR--just cover as best as you can. Lastly, you cover the the cake mix with Sprite. Be sure to use all the sprite. Put the cobbler in the oven at 350F for 45-55 minutes or until golden on top and that's it.


If you were to compare the taste of this cobbler to other homemade recipes, I would say this crust has a lighter taste to it. It isn't heavy. As a tweak to this recipe, you could add a tablespoon to sugar to the fruit or top of the cobbler crust for a little extra sweetness.

These three ingredients could be something you keep on hand for the unexpected dinner guest or invite. This recipe would also be a good edition to any potluck too. This dessert recipe is definitely worth a try and a special shout out to my family who let me try this recipe out on them at this month's family dinner! I love you guys.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Veggie Galore!

Veggies, veggies everywhere and what are you to think? Oven roasted veggies are a great addition to
any meal because they are yummy and healthy. And that combination works well for this lady who is on a mission to loose the rest of this baby weight and get back into those old navy pre-baby jeans :)
Here is a simple oven roasted veggie recipe that I found on pinterest and have cooked twice already.

You will need: Potatoes, zucchini, baby carrots, sweet potatoes, whole garlic cloves, onions and tomatoes according to the original pinterest postings.

When I made this I skipped the sweet potatoes and just cut up a couple small red potatoes. Additionally, I have added cauliflower to the mix as well.

Preheat your oven to  350 and be sure to spray your baking sheet or lightly drizzle with EVOO.
Chop and cut your veggies to desired thickness. I lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and some cajun seasoning.

Then, pop in the oven and bake  for 45 minutes. You can dust with Parmesan for the last 10 minutes if you so desire.

Quick, simple, easy and delicious! What more can you ask for! My hubby and I ate it up. I hope you enjoy this recipe and as Julia Childs would say, "Bon Appetit!"

Friday, June 29, 2012

This is why I teach

I saw this post picture on Facebook the other day:


This picture made me laugh because it's so true! I knew this going to college and with performanced based pay initiatives sweeping our system it's even more true, but that is not why I write today. There are moments in a teacher's life where all the hard work, late nights, stressed out moments that make you want to pull your hair out cease to matter because you are reminded about why you teach in the first place. I had one of the those moments at the end of this last school year.

I am a high school teacher who pulls double duty between teaching social studies and reading. Teaching reading at the high school level comes with a little "stigmatism" because not everyone likes reading or they are put in the class to help with FCAT so there is a bit of resentment. Nonetheless, we persevere! Don't get me wrong, I love my kids and I would try and move mountains for them if I thought that it would help them and it was what they needed.

So one of the last few days of the school year, I found this note on my desk and it absolutely stopped me dead in my tracks. I teared up and didn't know what to say. This beautiful note written anonymously, revitalized my spirit. I couldn't wait to show it off because I was so proud.
This student wrote about how they didn't really care much for reading as a class because they knew how to read, but what I showed them was that reading is not just knowing the words---that was a skill and there are certain things/ways of thinking that they would need in order to be successful at FCAT.
They also mentioned how they are looking forward to taking my psychology class as a senior! Awesomeness.

I hope that all teachers out there get something like this because it can keep you going. As teachers, we don't have it easy now-a-days in the face of budget cuts, standardized testing, MORE RIGOR (the list goes on and on).  In an effort to keep the spirit of this note alive, I plan on keeping it posted by my desk and in sight for as long as possible!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How do you crock pot?

I la la love my crockpot! It was by far the best wedding gift ever! (Thanks again Adrienne BTW). So the other night, I tried a new recipe for cube steak in the crock pot. Of course, it was one of my many foodie finds on pinterest.

Here is what you need:One package of cube steak (at least 4 pieces to family size)
Two cans of cream of mushroom
One package of onion soup mix
3/4 cups of water
1/2 of a medium sized onion chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

All you have to do is mix the all the ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours and VOILA! Dinner is done. Normally, cube steak is a tough meat to eat, but when you slow cook it all day you can cut it with your fork! For reals. It was very easy and very yummy. Plus, if you use a reynolds wrap crock pot liner you will have very little clean up! Bonus.

This is a great alternative to frying cube steak which as we all know is awesome, but not so healthy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2Ms= Money and Your Marriage

The other day at a workshop, I mentioned to a colleague that my husband and I generally don't make big purchases without consulting each other. This comment stemmed from a conversation I was having about wanting a new cell phone and I was particularly digging on my friend's new Droid Razor. She said, "Well, I wouldn't ask. I would just go and open up my own account."

Say what!? I was a bit flabbergasted by her comment, but I politely said we really don't make big money decisions like that. I thought to myself I can't be the only one who deals with household money like this? No way. Now, when I am saying spending money, I am NOT referring to everyday/weekly purchases of gas, groceries or paying bills. I am talking about more "wants than needs" over a certain dollar amount.

That's not say if I want to order a book from amazon or buy for myself a new shirt, I have to check with the hubby first. No, that's not how we do things. I'll get my shirt and book because we have a general rule of thumb that anything over $50 you check with the other person or at least mention it ahead of time. It's all about communication and respect. I will note that these little purchases here and there can add up if you do them all the time. However, it's nice to do something for yourself every now and again. Enjoy the fruits of your labors as they say.

At our house, there is no one person controlling the money and there is no reference to who makes more money. Our goal as a couple is to be financially responsible and live below our means and SAVE, SAVE, SAVE! I grew up in a household where my parents were financially irresponsible and it is not something I plan to revisit ever again. There is a comfort in knowing that we are both concerned and diligent about paying off what debt we do have. "Rainy days" and emergencies (God forbid) will happen and if they do I know we are prepared and can handle it. For example, when we found out we were pregnant, we knew we had to penny up and get a newer, safer family car. We didn't like spend the money (i.e. we did not take out a loan), but we were able to quickly (in less than a year) pay it off together.

Is there a one-size-fits all way to handle the money in your marriage? No. But don't let money control your marriage. You should control your money. It's a simple and significant mindset!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pinterest Junkie

I started pinning back in May. It took me a while to "jump on board" but OMG now I am hooked! My life would be complete if only there was an app for Android and I could pin conviently and easily from my phone. I have found so many ideas for work, food, party ideas and cleaning and organization just to name a few. I think to myself, "where have you been all my life?" It makes internet searching so easy.

Of course, most of the pinners are women. Men don't ruin pinterest by posting that nudie garbage. My husband has asked my what are you doing on there? I have tried to explain it to him and he simple states, "okay, whatever." I will note that he has benefitted from some of my recipe try outs. It's kind of like a personality brag board. On another note, if you are a creative person you could benefit from posting your products to get your name out there!

I will definitely post some of my adventures in pinterest in weeks to come. Until then, you can follow me on pinterest!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recipe Rundown

I love to cook! And I love to eat really good food which does not bode well for my attempt to loose the rest of my baby weight. Nonetheless, I wish to share with you one of my recent adventures in cooking.

One of my absolute favorite restaurants is Carrabbas Italian Grill. My husband and I both love their Mama Mandola's Spicy Sicilian Chicken Noodle soup. I get it everytime I eat there. So in one of my recent internet search explorations, I came across the following copycat recipe and I decided to give it a try. Here is the orignal link.

I did not follow the recipe exactly because my pot was not big enough! So here is what I did.
In my food processor I diced: 10 (or so) baby carrots, 3 stalks of celery, one med. onion and about 4-5 fresh garlic cloves. I them put veggies in my pot with some EVOO and salt and paper and had them "sweat out" while I did the rest.

After I chopped the veggies I opened one can of peeled Italian plum tomatoes and drained the juice into the pot with veggies and then chopped the tomatoes in the food processor ( and then I added tomatoes to the pot).

Next use 3-4 box cartons of chick broth---add all to the pot. For an extra kick to the soup add one to two table spoons of crushed red pepper flakes (optional because it will make it a little spicier)
Then, I shredded a store bought rotesserie chicken and added meat to the soup. Bring up to a boil on a low heat and let simmer for a few hours (or however long you need). Stir often and salt and pepper to taste.

 I cooked the noodles seperately and added them right before it was time to eat. I used Barilla ditilini (any smal noodle will do). And I have to say that it turned out pretty good! My husband even said that it was better than Carrabba's version because it tasted more fresh! Awh, love him. He knows what I like to hear. There's the picture of the final product!

Happy cooking people. I looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Now I lay me down to sleep

My daughter is a busy bee for sure. She isn’t even still when she sleeps because she moves all over the crib. As moms, we are busy to say the least. It seems like there are moments when we do not even have time to think! And then there are times when we can’t stop thinking—our minds just will not shut off. Yea, that's awesome at 3 a.m. right?

A habit that I am trying to follow through on each night as I rock my daughter to sleep is prayer. I used to say my prayers as I tried to go to sleep, but in the quiet of her room I find that peaceful moment of reflection. It is a precious moment between my daughter and I and in that moment I see God’s blessing in my life. I find peace in these moments and it calms my soul and quiets my mind.

Like many other moms before me, I know and feel that becoming a mom has been a complete life changer for my husband and I. At times, I feel overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated but I thank God each and every night for my daughter and I pray that he keeps her safe, happy, and healthy.

As a parent, it will be my duty to raise her right and to teach her right from wrong, good from bad. It will be my job to teach her the ways of the lord and his word. It is my intention to continue this bedtime ritual with her for many years to come. Simple and significant.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Joy of a home cooked meal

Do you like to cook? Do you know how to cook? I used to pride myself on my ability to cook ramen noodles or grilled cheese as a teenager. Eventually, I learned how to cook scrambled eggs in the microwave and French toast from scratch.

As I have gotten older and become more self sufficient (as an adult should), I have found joy in preparing meals for my husband and family. I first started to jump into the kitchen more when I was a freshman in college. When my husband and I were dating, we spent a lot of time with some friends, Tina and Colin who were also dating at the time. We often would have dinner together and being in the kitchen with my friend Tina gave me more experience preparing meals. I often would watch Tina cook and then I would try it on my own or file “her process or recipe” into my memory for later. (That’s the same way I learned the French toast method---by watching  mom do it).

I’ve often said that cooking is not hard because if you can read, you can cook! And there is some truth in that because all one has to do it read the recipe! In order to do that well, it is helpful to be familiar with some of the cooking jargon, but most of it is straight forward. Furthermore, I learned a lot of different tips and techniques by watching cooking shows on the Food Network.

I cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner back in 2010 for my husband's family. It turned out great! I was so proud of myself because almost everything was made by me from scratch. My husband now requests that mac n’ cheese recipe at every holiday dinner! Thanks Fanny Farmer.

I am no culinary savant and I have no aspirations to go to cooking school, but I love trying new recipes that a relatively easy and can be done in less than an hour. Pinterest is now supplying me with lots of new things to try! This joy of cooking comes from the fact that at the end of the preparation, we usually get to eat a really good meal and I don’t have to do the dishes :) The simple act of preparing a meal out of love can really be quite significant to yourself and others. So, get your cook on people!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Does Facebook wreck your marriage?

In a recent news report it was stated that "more than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word Facebook, according to a survey by Divorce Online, a UK-based legal services firm. And over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they've seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers" (Quentin Fottrell, Wall Street Journal).

SERIOUSLY!? Come on people. Can we get a grip on reality for a moment here. This is not the first time we have heard this as a society. The divorce rate in our country has been floating between 41% to 51% for a long time. The usual reason cited for the split has been "irreconcible differences" which can sometimes be ambiguous and all encompassing, but it is what it is.

According to divorcerate.org  the age at marriage for those who divorce in America
AgeWomenMen
Under 20 years old27.6%11.7%
20 to 24 years old36.6%38.8%
25 to 29 years old16.4%22.3%
30 to 34 years old8.5%11.6%
35 to 39 years old5.1%6.5%
So, according to the above numbers, the younger you are when you marry, the more likely you are to divorce. Okay---no suprises there. I heard this college and I teach that in my sociology class when we cover marriage and family. But I am curious to know if the recent influx of divorce petitions citing social media includes more young adults or more middle aged adults?

Are people so starved for attention and emotional connection that the spend a superfluous amount of time online and on social media websites? Here's a thought, get off the computer, put the laptop away, delete the apps off of your phones and ask yourself, "what are my children going to learn from me/us about men? About women? About conflict resolution? About marriage? About divorce? About life?"

I am not saying that every marriage will work out or even that everyone should stay together. I mean, my parents have been seperated for over a year now and I whole heartedly feel that they are better apart than they were together. What I am trying to say is don't hide behind a computer and complain about your spouse/partner or attempt to emotionally connect with someone else via emails, posts, or IMs. Put that effort into your marriage first! If you need counseling or mediators, seek out those people who can help you face to face. Don't give away pieces of you self online or hide behind it. No excuses. Take time to repair and reconnect. It is a simple, but significant choice. It won't be easy, but it might be worth it (for both people) because if it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you.

Articles referenced in this post:
 http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/05/21/does-facebook-wreck-marriages/
http://www.divorcerate.org/

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"D" is for date night

The importance of date nights – why don’t we rate that importance? If we asked you to rate date nights on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest score, what would you give it?

Do you remember your first date with your special someone? I do. My husband and I started dating in December of 2004. We were both freshmen in college. We were at church one evening and he asked if I would be interested in going to the movies with him to go and see "Blade 3" and I said yes. I remember the day of our date going to the mall and buying a new shirt to wear because I wanted to look nice. I never would have thought that three years later he would have been the man I was going to marry, but I think God had other things in mind because he and I both needed each other....we just didn't know it yet.

I have always looked forward to spending time with husband and it is so important to make the time
for each other, even more so now that we have a baby. We live in an ever flowing fast paced society and it is very easy for married couples to get lost in that hussle and bussle. Sometimes, living the day to day occupies the forefront of our thinking like "I need to go grocery shopping," or "I had such a crazy, frustrating day at work." Insert the saying that fits your life because we all have one. Is it possible that if we spent only a quarter or more of our time and energy on our marriages that people would be happier or more satisfied in their relationships?

At our house, date night can be simple with takeout and a movie or a dinner out with drinks and dessert and both are equally enjoyable. I am blessed to have in laws who are willing and able to take our daughter for a while or a night to give me and my hubby time to our selves. I recognized that not everyone would be comfortable with something like that, but it is what works for our family. Date night are not simply excuses to get away from the kids though. It is a chance to talk and get reacquainted with one another. It offers you the opportunity to talk and remember the reasons you wanted to be together in the first place.

You can start out slowly (and cheaply if necessary) by making date night a once a month event. Here is a list of fun dating ideas: http://strongermarriage.org/htm/dating/fun-dating-ideas. No matter how simple, the time you spend with your spouse or partner is very significant. So, make time for it. You might just be surprised by the impact!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do You Speak Coupon?

So if you have read my "coupons are awesome" post, you know that I have a small addiction to
couponing! And what I want to share today is a small break down of how to read coupon "lingo" on the coupon blogs.

The blogs do the match ups for you so all you need to do is reading the weekly matchups, find the coupons you need or want to use and then go shopping! Remember, it takes a while to build your coupon stock so never fear, you will eventually be able to have a stock pile!

 When I first started couponing, my stock piling began with toiletry items such as shampoo, conditioner, razors, shaving cream and hair gel. I did a lot of shopping at CVS and Walgreens. It wasn’t until later when I had more coupons to work with that I was able to stock up on food and pantry items. I use coupons and sales to purchase stuff we need---not random stuff. I do have some brand loyalty but it’s flexible. I want the best deal for buck. I shop mostly at Publix now. I occasionally go to Winn-Dixie and Wal-Mart.

When looking at the coupon match-ups for a particular store, these abbreviations will be used regularly:
BOGO & B1G1 or B1G2
= Buy one Get one free (or two free)
Blinkie = Coupon that comes out of a box hanging on the shelf
GM = General Mills insert
Hangtag = Coupon hanging from a product bottle
MFR = Manufacturers
OOP = Out of Pocket
OYNO = On your next order
P&G = Proctor and Gamble Insert
Q = Coupon
RP insert = Red Plum Insert
SS insert = Smart Source insert
WYB = When you Buy

Again, check out my favorite websites: www.mycouponexpert.com, www.divinesavings.com and
www.southernsavers.com

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coupons are Awesome

I got started with serious couponing a few months after I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Prior to getting serious about couponing, I was what you might call a "casual" couponer who might only use a coupon now and then--not necessarily when the item was on sale.

A co-worker of mine is a serious couponer. I mean, you have to do something when you have four kids! She showed me her coupon binder and invited me to go a work shop with her. So I went to the workshop and I did learn a little bit about the couponing game like you can use two manufacturer coupons on a BOGO deal or if you use a BOGO coupon on a BOGO deal the offer the items are FREE---you just pay tax! How awesome is that?

So do you want to get started? If so here is what I did thanks to mycouponexpert.com. First thing you
need to do is purchase your Sunday papers every week and before leaving the store, check the papers to make sure the coupons are there! For those people starting out, I would start with 4 papers a week. I will note that it is easy to get disorganized sometimes with the papers. Here is my dining room table right now:


But never fear it is easy to get coupon organized. All you need to do is go through the papers and pull of the inserts, file and date them. Here is how I organize my coupon file:
It takes some time to get your coupon file stocked with coupons, but once you do it is worth the savings you can build for your family. Some of the websites that I use are:
www.mycouponexpert.com
www.divinesavings.com
www.southernsavers.com
Good luck getting started! And be forewarned, once you start couponing.....it will be hard to stop! Stay tuned to more tips, tricks and super savings stories.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Books are the best

I love to read! And that's not just the reading teacher in me talking. I look back on my childhood and it was full of books. I remember reading the Bearenstein bears, gold spine books, and Dr. Suess. I always looked forward to the book fairs at school---best week ever! I think one of my favorite book fair purchases was, "The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales" by: Jon Scieszka.
 
I distinctly remember my 4th and 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gridley, reading books to the class the last little bit of the day. She read, "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" by AVI and "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George Spear to name a few. I remember doing AR (accelerated reader) tests and seeing my name on a paper star in the library from earning 100 points or more during the year.
 
My reading tastes vary from genre to genre. Some of my favorite books include:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

I could read those books over and over and enjoy them everytime! They are proudly displayed on my bookshelf in my living room. Other authors I have enjoyed, Denise Hunter (christian romance), Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series (yes! I will admit that I have read and own the movies and books. This series might not be one of my favs but it was an enjoyable teen read. Not mind blowing for an adult, but entertaining), Sophie Kinesella, Cecelia Ahern, Allie Condie, Veronica Roth, Lauren Oliver, and Dan Brown. I have recently read "The Help" By Kathryn Stockett and "Water for Elephants" By Sara Gruen (*contains some sexuality) and I would recommend those books to anyone who has not read them yet.

Books help us to take a break from reality and let your imagination have a moment. We get ideas about what we think the characters look like. We root for the hero, cry for losses, gasp at shocking moments and keep turning the pages to find out what happens next---sometimes to the point where you count down the days until the next book is released (and you rush to the book store to get your copy in the early morning air).

If you haven't made the time to read in a while, I encourage you to do so. You might not be able to read a book in sitting, but reading for 20 minutes or so here and there could be just time to your self you need. You can make reading a family affair---read aloud to your child or vice versa---great memories can be made there.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Introduction to Mommyhood

My introduction to mommyhood was not picture perfect or "hallmarkesqe." It was scary, exhausting and full of tears. I am sure that it is like that for many first time mommies, but I personally didn't hear those stories in the 40 weeks leading to my daughter's birth. In a round about way, you know that it is going to be hard, an adjustment of sorts, but really that's an understatement!

The night before I went to the hospital to be induced, I could not sleep. I woke up at 1:30 am wide awake. I decided to watch some TV in the living and see if I could catch some last minute ZZZs before 4:30 am (when the alarm was supposed to go off initially to be at the hospital by 6 am). Alas, "Cake Boss" did not put me to sleep and thus began my bout with sleeplessness because let's face it hospital rooms and beds are SO UNCOMFORTABLE you do get much sleep. Plus, I was recovering from a c-section so I was oober-sore (not to mention the late night feedings.)

I was very blessed upon returning home to have my husband to be at home with me for Avery's first two weeks and a devoted mother in law who I don't know what we would have done without her. Sleep continued to still be elusive at home. I tried the whole "sleep when the baby sleeps" things and it wasn't working. I couldn't nap because of the stress and hyper attentiveness to the baby. So more tears there. I my mind, I thought that post partum depression was knocking at my door for real. Looking back on those first few weeks, I definitely think it would have gone a lot better if there was a little more sleep, but it was my first child and I didn't know what I was doing per se. I would say I did not get decent sleep for a few weeks. Avery had her days and nights mixed up for a while, but we got that switched back normal---lots of light and noised during the day, dark and quite at night. The introduction to mommyhood has a learning curve full of hormones!

It wasn't just the lack of sleep that was an adjustment. It was the what I like to refer to as "the death of what my marriage used to be." When a baby comes into your world, it's no longer about you and your spouse, it's about the baby and what the baby needs when the baby needs it. Period--no ifs ands or buts about it. Our whole home life had to readjust. There were thoughts and spats of "what were we thinking?" and "I never want to do this again!" It really sheds a light on how selfish we are sometimes when we are called to be unselfish. But we adjusted and got through it---together.

Now six  months and many diapers later we're still here. One little happy family. I could write so much more here, but I will save those "adventures in mommyhood" stories for later posts. In closing, I am thankful to the "village" of people who loved and supported me during this introduction period. I am grateful and I will pass it on whenever I get the chance.