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.