Monday, November 10, 2014

Economy Dessert/Meals: Pumpkin

With the November weather turning crisp and cool, if not downright cold, many people still have pumpkins from the patch on their front porch. If you, like our family, opted not to carve our pumpkins this year (Liam painted one) then you may be looking for something to do with your pumpkin. We decided that we were going to eat ours. I mean, we paid for them so it doesn't make sense to let them rot on our front porch when so many delicious seasonal recipes could be made. Pie, muffins, chili- you name it. Cooking the pumpkin and making a pie was actually a lot easier than I though it was going to be, despite the minor set back I had due to an under-stocked pantry.(We didn't have any evaporated milk, so I ended up making some. It was really easy, but a bit time consuming.) Anyway, here we go!

Cooked Pumpkin

Ingredients
1 sugar pumpkin (preferred) or any small/medium pumpkin you have on hand

Directions
  • First things first, wash your pumpkin. I don't know about you but the idea of dirt, or other remnants of my trip to the patch, ending up in my puree was not a welcome thought. 
  • Now, if you have any pent up aggression due to all the holiday ads that have already permeated T.V and the radio, this part will be therapeutic for you. You need to stab your pumpkin with a knife at least 10-12 times. And I mean STAB it, no gingerly poking holes. Pumpkins are hard and the shell/rind needs to be penetrated. 
  • Place your whole, newly perforated, pumpkin into a glass baking dish and bake it at 350 for an hour to an hour and ten minutes. You'll know it's done when it's a deep orange color and a fork easily slides in when you poke it.
                               Raw pumpkin on the left, cooked pumpkin on the right
  • Let your pumpkin cool a bit, until its cool enough for you to handle. Then, you cut your pumpkin in half. It'll be surprisingly easy. This method of baking your pumpkin (instead of sawing it half while it's raw) is so simple, and you're much less likely to accidentally cut off your own finger this way.  
     
  • Next, you need to scoop out the seeds and stringy goopey bits. If you'd like you can set aside your seeds for roasting (yum!).

  • When you're done scooping it's time to get your pumpkin flesh out of the rind. You can a) peel the rind off with your fingers- this is the method I chose- or you can  b) cut the rind off with a paring knife, sort of like you'd peel an apple or potato.
Once you've gotten your pumpkin peeled it's time to dice it up and puree it in a food processor or blender.

Once you're done you can use your pumpkin immediately, refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze it. Pumpkin puree/cubes freeze really well, or so I'm told. We opted to use it immediately, so I used some of the puree for a pie and saved the rest to make baby food for Owen. Here's a picture of my delicious end product.
We got into the pie after "The Walking Dead" last night before I could snap a picture of it. Sorry...but I'm not sorry. It was delicious!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Well, I Guess It's Cheaper Than Therapy...

Ever since I was a little girl I've loved to write. When I was younger I'd write (bad) poetry, and I'd write short stories, too. When I started college creative writing was put on the back burner so that I could focus on writing research paper after research paper for my B.A. in History. My most recent excuse for not having time to write has been motherhood. After a semi-breakdown a while back, my husband told me that I need to take some time for myself; I needed some "me" time. After I got done laugh-crying at Nathan, and asking him when and where this magical "me" time was to occur he suggested that I start writing again. Sometimes you just have to get your ideas out, you have to vent them somehow. After giving it some thought I decided to give it a try.

So far I've been writing here, I've been (slowly) working on a novel that has been on my mind off and on since Liam was born, and I've been submitting posts as a gust blogger. To my intense surprise someone actually took me up on my offer! Now, I know that anyone can publish on the internet. It's so easy a monkey could do it, and I'm sure somewhere out there one probably has. In fact, the literary monkey probably has more readers than I do. Nevertheless, I was really pleased that someone else out there in the world was willing to publish something that I wrote on their blog, for whatever reason. It may be a tiny, microscopic achievement, but it's MY tiny, microscopic achievement. Here's a link to the blog post: http://www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com/2014/10/cloth-diapering-in-military-family.html   just in case you want to read it. It's about cloth diapering though, so if you don't have kids then you most likely won't find it interesting.

As for the novel I've been thinking about since Liam was born, I've got more of the story in my head than I do on paper. I've only really spoken about it with Nathan, but if I had to try to explain the style/mood of my story I'd have to say that if a Nicolas Sparks book and a Laurie Notaro book could have a baby, it would be my story. I said that to Nathan and he just rolled his eyes. It was his idea I start writing again, so I brook no complaints. I guess he's just got to learn to be careful what he wishes for.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Liam and the F***ing Steak

Anyone who knows or has spoken to Liam can tell you that he's very...verbose. My little chatterbox will talk to pretty much everyone about everything, with a great vocabulary. In fact, sometimes he picks up new words with  alarming speed; especially words we don't necessarily want him/intend for him to know. Of course, the words we don't want him to learn are curse words. We're usually pretty good about not cursing in front of Liam, and we really try to keep it to a minimum in general.

The first time my son dropped the F-bomb on me, it was probably my husband's fault. Somehow my husband slipped up and f**k entered my three year-old's vocabulary. I was in the kitchen sometime after he must have heard the f-word, cutting up leftover steak for a steak and eggs breakfast. I was still pretty tired, and hadn't even finished my first cup of morning coffee. In walks my cherub-faced little angel son, hair all tousled from sleep. "Good morning, Mommy" he said. "Good morning, sweetie" I replied. Liam then looked up at me and said, in all seriousness, "Mommy, is that the f**king steak?" My jaw dropped. "...what did you just say?" I asked. Liam looked at me like I must be hard of hearing and answered "Is.That.The.F**king.Steak?" really slowly and clearly, so I could understand him. I said the first thing that popped into my head, "Yes, it is, but we don't say f**cking. That's not a nice word, and I don't want to hear you saying it again." Liam told me he understood, and went on with his morning like it was business as usual. I immediately ran to the bathroom where my husband was taking his a.m. shower. "You will not believe what just came out of your son's mouth!" Nathan always knows I'm about to tell him something bad that is most likely his fault when I refer to Liam as "his son". He thought it was hilarious, so he was no help.

We haven't had another F-bomb incident since, so I (mistakenly) let my guard down. The other night I was working on something on the computer when I realized I had been doing it incorrectly and had to start over from scratch. I was frustrated, and I forgot that there were little ears present. In my frustration a "damn it" may have slipped out of my mouth. Twice. Of course, now Liam's new favorite thing to say is "damn it". He always uses it in the right context (which I guess is good...I mean if you're going to curse it really should be in the right context) and in the same tone that I do (no pawning this one off on Daddy).

Why is it that kids pick up the words you don't want them to learn the quickest? Liam still says "music" as "moo-skit" BUT he can toss out four letter profanities like they're Mardi Gras beads. I guess now that we've broken the f**k barrier, Liam will have to watch the "fudge" scene from "A Christmas Story" and see that saying bad words comes with consequences. And while I wouldn't put an entire bar of soap in my three-year-old's mouth I most certainly would make him wear some pink bunny footed pajamas and take copious amount of pictures for future use.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Meridith Gray? Present!

Some days I feel like there needs to be a roll call in life. It is so incredibly easy to get swept up in the day to day business of living, social media, smart phones, and television. All you have to do is look around when you go out, and you'll see exactly what I mean. People text while they drive (one of those instances when multitasking is NOT a good idea) or spend their entire time out staring at their phones. I am just as guilty as the next girl when it comes to spending too much time messing around with my phone. This fact was abruptly (not to mention annoyingly) brought to my attention by my seven month old son yesterday.
 
I was sitting on the couch with Owen draped across the nursing pillow on my lap, breast feeding him. While he was eating, I was on my phone checking Facebook and texting with a friend. While I was in the middle of typing something to her, Owen's pudgy little baby foot shot up and kicked my phone. I looked down at him and he was smiling (which is hard to do when you're latched on, but oh my goodness is it adorable). I said, "Owen, don't kick Mommy's phone, silly" and picked my phone back up. I began typing my text again when Owen kicked my phone for the second time. I'm a quick learner, so I had a firmer grip on my phone this time and I was able to keep it in my hand. I kept typing and Owen kept pushing my arm with his foot. I ended up holding my arm up and straight out so he couldn't reach it in order to finish my text. That, my friends, is when my three year old son came into the room. He got an eye full of Owen nursing with his leg up in the air, toes wiggling, trying to reach my phone and me with my arm up in the air muttering "phone, please don't fall on my face, please don't fall on my face...". 

"Mommy? Uhm...what are you doing?" Liam asked. "Well," I said, "Mommy was trying to tell her friend something." Liam walked over to the couch and looked at his brother, "Owen is playing with you." And that, right there, was when I had my moment of clarity. My three year old felt like he had to point out the fact that his brother was playing with me; trying to get my attention. Liam had this look on his face like "here we go, we get to state the obvious for Mommy...again...". I looked down and Owen was still looking at me, but until that moment I was too wrapped up in my own world to look, and I mean really look, at him. 

Cue the guilt trip and water works, please. 

Therefore, I've decided to make a big effort to be as mentally/emotionally present in my children's lives as I am physically present. It's not like I started out as a parent with the goal to be as distracted as possible. I adore my children. However, when you spend all day every day with them it can become very difficult to be in the moment all the time. Some times you just need a break. So, I'm going to try to stay up during their nap time when I can be as distracted as I want to be. I can drink coffee, read, watch t.v., or write all without feeling guilty for having too much screen time away from my kids. 

So, mommy readers: how do you deal with distraction and being a "present" parent?  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall Leaves Fall

Holy crap! It's the beginning of autumn and I've already read Liam's new favorite seasonal book "Fall Leaves Fall" like a thousand times. We've been so busy lately, and I've been totally remiss in my writing. We started "homeschooling" Liam for pre-k 3 this year. "Homeschooling" for pre-k really doesn't involve much more than we were already doing with him (reading books, arts & crafts time, learning games, baking, etc). However, I have been trying to add more organized activities into the mix, preferably ones that involve other kids so Liam is socialized. So far we've been going to the local gymnastics center on Fridays for free-play, which is basically an hour of running, jumping, and tumbling anywhere he wants to in the gym while I watch smugly as I anticipate how awesome nap time is going to be that day. It's only $8 per family, so anyone in the area should check it out. If anything, it's a great resource for rainy/very cold days so your kids don't get cabin fever and you don't go stark raving mad.

Starting next week we'll be having a home school co-op day on Wednesdays where we get together with a friend of mine and her three youngest kids to do a project or activity. Next week will also be our first week of story-time at the Jacksonville library, which I've been told involves a craft/snack period afterwards. All of this combined with our reading, worksheets, and learning games should provide Liam with a great pre-k experience.

Owen is growing so much! He's already scooting and rolling all over the place and getting into whatever he can reach. I was not prepared for him to be mobile, and when he scooted to get a toy for the first time yesterday I almost cried. Nathan pointed out that he's growing up so fast, and pretty soon he'll be walking and talking. I told him to watch out, because it was around that point in Liam's life when I started making doe eyes at the baby aisle and dropping hints that more offspring was a good idea. Hence, Owen.

Last summer we made a "Gray Family Summer Bucket List", and we had so much fun with it. We ended up only getting to around 27/39 of the activities on our list. Well, now my husband wants to make a bucket list for each season. I made our autumn bucket list today, and I'm already excited to complete everything. Autumn is our favorite time of year. Our dating and wedding anniversaries are in October, the weather begins to cool down (theoretically- Arkansas is still hot and muggy this time of year unfortunately), and "pumpkin spice" everything brings a special little glimmer of happiness to my husbands eye. Seriously, put "pumpkin spice" on anything and my husband will eat it, no questions asked.

Now that things are more organized I'm hoping to write more, and post some new recipes. I recently tried a few new freezer crock pot recipes, so if those turn out well maybe I can share them here!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Saint Nathan, Patron Saint of Downtrodden Husbands

My husband and I were laying in bed, talking quietly the other night. My body had finally gotten back on its usual schedule after having my son, meaning Aunt Flo had finally shown up (sorry if that's TMI). This is how our conversation went.
"You know....I had completely forgot that you even had a period. It's been so long, I think I just blocked it out," my husband said. (Which, as a side note, I have a hard time believing. I've made it my mission to educate my husband on anything and everything to do with my uterus for years. Frankly, if I have to spit a kid out of it he can at least know how it works and the repercussions of its activities. I don't think it's too much to ask. As a result we've had conversations over the years that have ended with him leaving the room or saying things like "STOP saying mucus lining!" or "keep your mysterious lady-parts a mystery, please" or "this is female propaganda" when I showed him a copy of "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret" at the bookstore.) Anyway:
"You blocked it out? Jeeze, it's not like my PMS was that bad. I mean, aside from some crying, binge eating fried food, and a little irritability you got off EASY," I replied. This is about the time that my husband took on the hallow-eyed expression of a man who had seen too much and could only recount his traumatic experience in hushed tones and with the aid of a stiff drink.
"You don't know. You just don't know how hard it is for me." Then he shuddered. HE ACTUALLY SHUDDERED.
"Uhm....say what? Hard for you?!? I am the one who bloats up to Liza Minnelli-like proportions. I am the one who gets the backaches, headaches, and cramps. I am the one who cries during ASPCA commercials, damn that Sarah McLachlan and her sad puppies. Not to mention the overwhelming and all encompassing fatigue. Please, please tell me how all of this is hard for you."
"Well. I have to deal....with you. I love you, by the way."
"Uh-huh. Right. Well, I didn't realize I was in the presence of a living saint. You've just been canonized St. Nathan, patron saint of downtrodden husbands and the menstrually abused. Your feast day is tomorrow, so don't come home without fried pie....and whatever you want."
So, there you have it ladies. Spread the word about St. Nathan and his martyrdom to menstruation. When in times of need your husbands and boyfriends can hold fast to the idea that they are not alone, and they can whisper a prayer to St. Nathan. Perhaps they'll be answered with a miracle and a bottle of Midol, a box of chocolate, and a copy of "Love Actually" will appear. I'm working on an idea for a prayer card. Any suggestions?

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Tivo Saved My Sanity

There's no doubt about it: Tivo saved my mommy-mind. I can't begin to tell you how much I love my new Tivo. LOVE. Let me try to paint you a picture, so you can understand the depth of my feelings:

It's Tuesday night, at 6:59 p.m. Both of your adorable, cherub faced sons are fed, bathed, and snuggled into their  pajamas. You've had a long day, but you've managed to stay reasonably calm and zen-like even though your eldest child took a dump in his pants for no apparent reason earlier that day and your youngest has been nursing non-stop since lunch. Finally, an hour until the kids' bedtime you sit down to watch the bright spot in your work-week evening: the newest episode of Pretty Little Liars.
Now, before you presume to judge me, hear this: I have no real defense for myself. I like a show marketed for teenaged girls for reasons only known  to God and my inner-psyche. My husband teases me mercilessly for watching such a show, but the only thing I can say is that it's mildly entertaining and it beats the hell out of watching Backyardigans or whichever cartoon my son has deemed to be the flavor of the week. I can only take so much children's programming before I start a downward spiral that ends with me crying and eating an entire box of cookies. Teen aged programming on ABC Family may be a small step up from Barney, but it's a step up none the less. Now, back to my picture painting:
6:59, one minute before the show starts. You tell son #1 that Mommy is going to watch her show, and send him into his room to play. You begin to nurse son #2 so he'll be content and hopefully fall asleep before Aria, Hanna, Emily, Spencer, and Alison get their first text. Cue Pretty Little Liars. As you start to get sucked in to an hour of mindless television BAM! You get hit with your first "Mommy! I have to go potty!" You detach son #2, who begins to scream because you took away his snack before he was ready, and rush son #1 to the bathroom before you have another accident on your hands. After you hurry your son through the bathroom and wash his hands you get back into television viewing range in just enough time to catch the theme song, which means you've missed the first 5-7 minutes of the show. Awesome. By now son #2 is hysterical and has decided to make you pay by refusing to latch, shrieking at the top of his lungs, rendering you basically deaf to all other sound. While the decibel of your youngest son's screams pierce your ears and stab your brain, your eldest son will then decide that he has something important to tell you, that he can ONLY tell you if he can sit in your lap while he does it.
Up to this point you haven't been able to hear much of anything, let alone the snappy dialogue of a bunch of 28 year-olds masquerading as teens. You also haven't been able to SEE anything, either. The first half of the show is over and your kids are nowhere near done with their verbal assault. Your zen-ness from earlier in the day has disappeared and has been replaced with frustration, guilt over your frustration, and an intense and all-encompassing desire for everyone (including you) to go to bed. You give up, letting the little terrorists win.
The end.
Not a very pretty picture, is it?
But, thanks to Tivo, I never have to have another Tuesday night like that again. I can record my shows and watch them after the kids are blessedly asleep. And I know what some people may be thinking, "It's only t.v. Is it really that important? Spend some time with your kids, you horrible parent!" Well, no, it's not the end of the world. But, since I don't even get to pee by myself anymore, let alone go to a movie or concert, I rely a little more on t.v. for entertainment than I used to. I'm a stay-at-home Mom, so I am literally with my kids 24/7. Sometimes, in order to stay sane, a little "me" time is necessary. I read a lot, go to the gym, watch documentaries and stuff like that, but I also like to have some junk t.v. in my line-up.
Ask other parents of young kids what they plan to do on any given Wednesday night and your answer is probably going to be either watching "x" show, taking Jr. to tee-ball practice, having happy hour part 2, or sleeping. Since we got our Tivo the problem has been solved, and now everyone is happy. My eldest son can sit in my lap while we read the same three books over and over and over,my youngest son can nurse uninterrupted, and I can relax and know that I still get my "me" time, it may just be a few hours later than it used to be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My PG-13 Gym Fantasy

The other day I went to the gym and while I was there, working out, I had a very vivid three to five minute fantasy. If the MPAA were to rate my fantasy it would most likely get a PG-13 rating. And I know what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter! I didn't have a smutty fantasy, oh no. My fantasy would receive its rating due to the violence level involved.
I was on the stair climber/elliptical hybrid machine that I love after working up a sweat in the weight room. I was listening to Pandora, climbing my stairs to nowhere, when I began to daydream. Usually my daydreams are about eight hours of uninterrupted sleep or hot cups of coffee enjoyed in silence, like most moms. However, on this day my daydream/fantasy was a little more macabre.

Here's how it went: I realized as I climbed my stairs to nowhere, that I didn't want to be on this machine anymore. All this climbing, and I never got anywhere! While I didn't hate the machine I was on (at least it didn't hurt my knees), my gaze was drawn to the tall stair climber. The one that has steps like an escalator and which I invariably almost fall off of every time I try to use it. Full of indignant fury at this...this...injury waiting to happen, I charged over to the machine. A mob of similarly minded women appeared behind me with torches and pitchforks. A bonfire was lit under the stair climber, and my sisters-in-arms and I danced wildly around its charred remains. One of my new comrades shouted "VIA LA REVOLUTION!!" and we charged through the gym righting wrongs. For example.....
"Hey! Sweaty guy who uses the machines and touches every surface and then leaves WITHOUT CLEANING THE MACHINE WITH A SANITIZING WIPE. The wipes are FREE and are placed throughout the gym. How hard is it to clean up after yourself?!? Do you think I want to do hamstring curls while laying in a pool of your sweat? NO! Your punishment is to clean every last piece of equipment in the gym. TWICE! So say we all!"
or
"You! Yeah you, Chatty Cathy sitting on my favorite ab machine talking on your phone! I will grab your phone and throw it in the stair climber bonfire if you don't MOOOOOVE!!" etc, etc.

This went on for a minute or two, allowing my subconscious to vent all the frustrations that my conscious mind is too polite and shy to voice. Around the time I got to fantasizing about photobombing every gym rat's selfie in the weight room mirror, I was wrenched back to reality by stumbling on my stairliptical (I use this machine every time I go to the gym and I still don't know what it's really called). There I was, still climbing my stairs to nowhere; no bonfire, no angry mob of sister comrades. I got off my machine, and wiped the handles down with a sanitizing wipe (because that's what polite people do) and headed out of the gym. I was kind of glad that it had all been a daydream because 1) I want to be allowed back into the gym, and 2) I'd hate to find a Youtube video of my exploits entitled "Security Forces Tackles Sweaty Mom Gone Crazy". However, I was glad that I had had the fantasy because it had provided a sense of comic relief for me at the gym. Sometimes, we Moms take "getting our body back" way too seriously. Trust me, ladies. It is NOT worth a life time ban and pepper spray in the face from some 20 year old kid in security forces who doesn't understand in the least what stretchmarks are, let alone sympathizes with your post-baby pooch. I needed to relax, and take a step back.
So I went home, took a shower, and ate a piece of rum cake. Why? Because eff that stair climber, that's why.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Just Workin' On My Fitness

"Physically fit" has never really been an adjective used to describe me, at least not since gym class ceased to be a requirement for me in the eleventh grade. Something clicked in my head after Owen was born, causing me to really want to exercise more. Maybe it was trying to keep up with a newborn and an active three year old, maybe it was watching many of my other friends posting thin-looking selfies from the gym onto Facebook, or maybe it was the fact that even my fat pants were too snug for comfort. Honestly, it was probably all three (but mostly the pants).
A few weeks after having Owen I went on a rampage and tried on all my pre-baby clothes. None of my pants fit. The only pants I could wear were my maternity pants and my pajama pants. My husband, sensing a complete tear-filled meltdown approaching, called my mom in and she started reassuring me that it takes several weeks before everything in my body would be back to normal. My uterus needed to shrink yada yada yada, not to mention the baby weight. Logically I knew this, but I still felt frustrated, embarrassed, and sad that I couldn't fit into a single pair of jeans. WHICH WERE ALREADY LARGE!!
After the tears abated and I had time to calm down, I looked at my husband (glared really) and said, "I am NOT buying bigger pants. I'm either going to lose the weight or I just won't be able to go anywhere because I won't have any pants to wear."
Since then I've given up fast food (with the exception of Subway), I try to drink only water and coffee (occasionally I'll have a soda, but I try really hard to stay away from it), and I've been exercising at home and going to the base gym. With all of this, and my enhanced breastfeeding metabolism, I've lost 26 lbs since Owen's birth, and actually weigh less than I did before I got pregnant. I can proudly say that all but 3 pairs of my pants fit (my "skinny jeans" still elude me). I feel so much better, emotionally and physically.
However, I still have a long way to go. I don't have a specific weight I'd like to get to, I just want to feel well. I want to be able to buy cute clothes, and wear them with confidence. I want to be able to chase my kids around without feeling cumbersome and exhausted. And, most importantly, I don't want my tummy to jiggle when I brush my teeth.
So, I'm going to be adding my "fitness journey" to the list of things that I talk about here. For me, it's not about being "fat" or "skinny" because I don't really like to look at it that way. People are how they are, and every body type carries weight a different way. I just want to feel good about myself, and the way I look.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spending Challenge Aborted and Easter 2014

Hello, everyone. Our Spending Less 30 days challenge lasted about 4 days. Pitiful. In hindsight choosing the month before my husband and sons birthday to try this challenge was not the best idea. Plus, my cloth diaper addiction reared its ugly head and I bought a new diaper. *Picture Gollum and the ring of power, only it's me and a cloth diaper. I wants them, precious.* Oh well, maybe we can try it again some time soon. Either way, reading about this challenge and our Lenten ban on fast food has changed the way my husband and I spend money on food. We've saved money from not eating out often (fast food is cheap but if you eat it too much it can add up, and so can the pounds).
My family had a really nice Easter. Liam got to go on two Easter egg hunts here on base, which he loved. The night before Easter Owen was baptized during a lovely service. Easter day Liam woke up to find his Easter basket, which he tore into with much gusto. We went to a brunch at our church, followed by the Easter service, which has to be one of my all time favorites. The sanctuary and chancel filled with Easter lillies and the flowered cross in the Nave are beautiful sights to see. Later that evening we had dinner with some great friends, and let the kids play and wear themselves out while the adults played Star Wars Trivial Pursuit (which I lost horribly, no surprise there).


In just a few days my husband will be turning 30 (!!) and Liam will be turning 3. We're having a joint party for them at the house, which I think will be a lot of fun. I've already gotten all of Nathan's presents, and I only have one more to pick up for Liam and I'll be done. Hopefully I can post again soon; I've got a great summer salad recipe to share. 


Monday, March 31, 2014

The 30-Day Living Well and Spending Less Challenge

Earlier today I was reading one of my favorite mommy blogs, "Living Well and Spending Less", and I saw something about a no-spending challenge. I'm always looking for new ways to save money, so I checked it out. The plan on the LWaSL blog is for 31 days and only allows for spending on absolute necessities. I talked it over with my husband and we decided to do it for 30 days (the entire month of April) and to only spend money on absolute necessities plus a few time-sensitive extras (we need to pay to ship my sister's wedding present and we need to get 1-2 of Liam's birthday presents because his birthday is in the beginning of May and I hate to get his gifts last minute).
I'm really excited to start this challenge, and not just to save money for Liam's birthday party in May. I think that going one month without spending money on dining out, excessive trips to the grocery store for non-essential food *ice cream, chips, alcohol, etc.*, entertainment, and things like that will help us realize what we really need vs. what we think we need. Nate and I put money into a savings plan monthly, which is good, but we need to reign in our spending and be a little more frugal. I'm not saying by any means that it's going to be easy. I'm going to miss my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee like crazy. You don't even know. However, I really feel like this will be good for us in the long run.
As we progress through the month I'll post updates on how we're doing. With a little bit of support and a lot of will power (I still love you, Dunkin Donuts coffee! Mama will be back eventually!!) I think we can rock this challenge!

31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero.  Freeze your spending.  Change Your Life.  Awesome way to reset your spending patterns or kick-start your budget!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Economy Meals: Grilled Peruvian Chicken and Asparagus

Time for Economy Meals: Grill Edition! Tonight we're having Peruvian chicken and asparagus cooked on the grill *yum* I love this quick and easy (and cheap) marinade for chicken, and it's good cooked on the stove top too if you don't have a grill or don't like to grill. I have no idea how to properly operate our charcoal grill, but that's what my husband is for.

Peruvian Chicken and Asparagus

Ingredients for Chicken

  • 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (I cut mine into serving size pieces)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbs. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Ingredients for Asparagus

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash Steak Seasoning (I use the salt free version to control sodium content in my food)
Directions

  • In a large ziploc bag mix oil, lemon juice, and spices. Add your chicken, zip up the bag, and then massage your chicken to mix it all up. Place your bag into the fridge for about 2 hours or until you're ready to cook. Make sure you take your chicken out of the fridge 15-20 mins before grilling so your meat doesn't seize up. 
  • For the asparagus, make sure to give them a good wash and then dry them. Cut the tough ends off, and then cut your asparagus on the bias into 2-2.5 inch pieces. Toss them in a little olive oil and then add the steak seasoning to taste. I also add a scant amount of salt. *SIDE NOTE*- This steak seasoning is great on veggies of all kinds. I like to grill a vegetable mix of brocoli, onions, whole garlic cloves, asparagus, carrots, and occasionally mushrooms. Fresh pineapple spears mixed in with the vegetables is also quite tasty, and it really brightens them up.-

  • Next step, fire up the grill! Cook your chicken on the grill until done (165 degrees internal temp). You can grill your asparagus in a grill basket like we do (see the easy way*) or you can make little foil packets to grill them in if you prefer. Your asparagus will only take about 8-10 mins to cook, depending on how you like them. We prefer ours still a little crispy (soggy asparagus are gross in my opinion). If you like yours a little smushy add on 5 mins to your cook time.


I have to say thank you to my wonderful husband for manning the grill! Thanks, Nathan!
  • After you remove your food from the grill allow the chicken to rest for a bit before you cut into it to keep it from getting dried out.
We had this for dinner tonight, and it was a crowd-pleaser. Add on a starch of your choice and you have a balanced meal. I love this for a week night dinner in the spring/summer because I usually have all the ingredients in my spice cabinet for the marinade, so it's super easy. Also, grilling veggies is a fast and tasty way to change up routine vegetables. You can only steam, roast, and sautee so much, ya know? Anywho, I hope you enjoy the recipe!





Monday, March 24, 2014

One Month In

It's been a month since Owen was born, and it's passed by in a blur.

Owen at 1 month old!

Sometime in the last month my little Liam was potty trained by my Mom and husband (with a little help from me). He's not so little anymore! I can't believe my sweet boy is out of diapers. However, I also have to say WOOHOO! No more buying boxes of expensive diapers for us! And, believe it for not it took us less than a week to potty train him. Liam had a meltdown the first day and acting like sitting on the potty was torture, but after he got over it potty training was a cinch. He caught on so quickly, and he's even been dry at night. Liam's so proud of his big boy underwear, and it's adorable.
Liam's potty meltdown on day 1 of potty training

While Liam and I concluded our diaper journey together, Owen and I have just entered the wide new world of cloth diapers. I started CDing Owen after his circumcision healed and his umbilical stump fell off (about 3 weeks ago today). So far, we've been doing pretty well. I've developed quite an obsession with cloth diapers; learning about them, learning how to properly wash them, brand comparisons, and shopping for them. Every time I start talking about pocket diapers vs. covers and prefolds or what brand I want to start buying my husband rolls his eyes and sighs. But really, what did he expect? This is ME. Market research queen!! Plus, this whole cloth diaper thing was his idea in the first place. He only has himself to blame.
My new Rumparooz cover! Adorable!

Today my husband goes back to work and I return to my work at home job as well. Managing the home, handling the kids, and going back to my part-time WAH job is going to be a challenge. I feel up to it, though I am realistic: it'll take us all a little while to get into a good routine. Wish us good luck!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Breathe Through the Pain. Right.

We have a new addition to our little family! Our baby Owen arrived February 24th (15 days early). My husband was overjoyed and my Mom came all the way from VA as soon as she heard I was in labor. She got to the hospital 30 minutes after Owen was born, and she stayed with me in the hospital until I was released. *shout out* Love you, Mom!
Owen was born after 18 hours of labor, and let me tell you that was the longest 18 hours of my life. I (in my infinite wisdom) made a spur of the moment decision NOT to get the epidural that I had planned. Every birth is an intense experience for parents, and not getting an epidural made it all the more intense for me. I'm not sorry about the decision that I made, but I can honestly say that if my husband and I decide to have another baby a few years down the road, I'll probably get an epidural. I'm glad that I experienced childbirth without drugs, but I can't say that I'm super excited to do it again. Talk about pain! Ouch! And let me just say, people telling you to "breathe through the pain" should be smacked.


Owen  6lbs 11oz 19 inches long

Liam is adjusting pretty well to Owen's arrival. At first he acted like Owen was a figment of our imaginations. He completely ignored him. Now he's asking to hold him, and he'll pet him occasionally. He's going to be a great big brother.
Liam holding Owen for the first time!

I started cloth diapering Owen after his circumcision healed. So far I'm CD during the day, but still using disposables at night. Late night changes are hard enough when you're exhausted; I haven't built up to using cloth at night yet. Owen looks so cute with his fluffy little butt though!
Owen's first cloth diaper! I used a cotton prefold in a Bummis newborn cover.

Now it's time for me to capitalize on Owen's nap time while Liam is also asleep and spend some time with my husband. Alone time is so hard to come by. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Owen's Nursery So Far

Hello, everyone! Happy Valentine's Day! My husband and I don't really make a fuss on Valentine's Day in general, but we do make sure we get something cute for Liam. He's already gotten into his candy this morning.
I had a small friends & family baby shower on Sunday. We all had so much fun, and since then I've been trying to get Owen's nursery set up. All I have left to do is put up the wall appliques that my Mom sent me, and get curtains. I've had  a great time organizing things (it soothes me) and took some pictures of Owen's "still in progress" nursery.

 Here's Owen's crib. I'm going to be putting some of the wall appliques behind the crib, and I think it'll look really cute. We decided to go with a "woodland creatures" greens/browns theme for Owen's room (we did Nautical/Pirate stuff for Liam).

This is cloth diaper changing station central. I've gotten all my cloth diapers prepped and ready to go. I have to give a shout out to my mother and my friends Amanda and Danielle for being so supportive and gifting me an extremely large portion of my stash. And, thank you to my MIL Penny for making me some wonderful cloth wipes.


Here's Owen's dresser, and not pictured to the left is our rocking chair for feedings. I'm sorry that I couldn't get a picture of the whole nursery, but it's pretty small and hard to get a good shot of.

I think so far my favorite piece in Owen's nursery is the ADORABLE print that my friend Danielle made.
How cute is that? Custom-made adorableness :)

Danielle makes these prints and has a HUGE variety of shapes/designs/animals that she can use, as well as just about any color that you could want. She just opened up a store on Etsy, so check it out and see if there's anything you might like. I know for her grand opening she's offering free shipping, and who doesn't love that? Here's a link to her store, Nora Kate Designs  https://www.etsy.com/shop/NoraKateDesigns

Friday, February 7, 2014

Valentine's Day Craft Part 3

I know it's only been a day, but here is the last installment of our 2014 Valentine's Day card craft for Liam's grandparents and great-grandparents. I had a really hard time finding envelopes large enough to fit our Valentine into. I didn't want to fold them, but since I didn't want to spend a crazy amount on shipping that's exactly what I ended up doing. Next year I'll have to plan better.

Valentine's Day Craft Part 3: The Finale!
For this last stage of our craft all I needed was: envelopes, heart-shaped confetti, stickers, a pen, and my address book. All I did was place the folded Valentine's into the envelopes, add some heart-shaped confetti, and seal them up. I decorated the front and back of the envelopes with stickers, and then addressed them. Liam wasn't really involved in this portion of the craft, but he did hang around long enough to get a few stickers.
Here are what a few of the backs look like. Please ignore my preggo-tummy sticking out at the bottom. It's so huge it can't help but show up in all pictures taken within a 20ft radius of me. 

The front of my envelopes pre-addressing. 

I'll mail these bad boys out on Monday, and I'm sure Liam's grandparents and great-grandparents will enjoy them. Who doesn't like getting snail-mail that isn't bills?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Valentine's Day Craft Part 1 and 2

Hello everyone! Since I last blogged we've just been doing our day-to-day thing, preparing for Owen's arrival, and we've gotten some bad weather (but really, who hasn't?). We had a little tree on the side of our back yard, and with all the ice lately it just... kind of fell over.


Liam had a fun time exploring the fallen tree. He never noticed it when it was upright, but as soon as it fell it became cool....

This year I decided that we should make Valentines to send to Liam's grandparents and great-grandparents. We had to do it in stages because we used paint (joy) but so far we've had a lot of fun doing it. I've really been trying to spend more time on crafts and art with Liam, even if it's just a little bit of coloring. 
Anyway, for parts one and two of our craft this is what we needed: white paper, red and pink construction paper, red paint, scissors, red and black Sharpie markers (or other permanent markers), a glue stick, and stickers. 
Valentine's Day Craft Part 1
I cut all of my paper into heart shapes (same size). Then, I set Liam up at our dining room table with a smock and some easel paper taped to the table to protect it. Once he was settled I gave him the pink and red colored hearts and the red paint and let him go to town on ONE SIDE of the hearts. I tried to make sure I got at least one hand print on the heart, just because I thought it was cute. 

Then, after the paint was dry I glued a white heart to the non-painted side of the red & pink hearts. I used permanent markers to write a Valentine's Day message on the white side of the heart. 

Valentine's Day Craft Part 2
Once everything was completely dry (and Liam had been cleaned up after painting) I gave Liam some red, pink, and magenta crayons and asked him to color all over the white side of the heart (the side I wrote his message on). I consider this his "signature". 

After Liam was done coloring on all the Valentines we broke out the stickers! I gave him stickers to decorate the back (painted side) of his heart. 

So that is part 1 & 2 of our Valentine's Day craft. Part 3 will be posted soon, which will mostly involve decorating the envelopes. It may not seem like a lot, but we're proud of it and I'm sure Liam's grandparents and great-grandparents will love it. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Random Thoughts of the Day: Modern Family, Pregnancy, and a Rant About Vowel Replacement

My husband and I have just discovered the show "Modern Family". We're almost always late to the game when it comes to T.V. shows. I can't tell if it's because we just don't pay attention to cable T.V. enough to notice when something great comes along, or if we just enjoy binge watching a series. Name a series favorite of ours and 95% of the time we didn't become fans until the show was already in at least its second season. For example: Lost (best.show.ever.), Game of Thrones, Supernatural, Rome (the show was actually OVER by the time we got into (and fell in love with) it, Big Love, Downton Abbey, Sherlock...the list could go on. I think to date the only T.V. show we watched from the beginning is "Defiance" on SyFy (I hate the way they changed their name, by the way. SciFi worked just fine, and the letter y isn't any trendier than the letter i. They're both vowels. But whatever.) Anywho, back to "Modern Family". We love the show, and thanks to our library we can catch up (at least through season 3) for free.  
On the baby front, I'm 33 weeks along today! I've gotten to the point in my pregnancy where I'm almost always uncomfortable. This being said, I know that I've had a blessed pregnancy so far so I try to keep my complaining to a minimum. I mean, what's a little sciatica, reflux, hell-fire heartburn, joint pain, and bloating after all? My belly is also so big that I can now provide shade for Liam when it's sunny out. The pain/uncomfortableness, as tedious as it may be, pales in comparison to my excitement at the anticipation of little Owen's arrival. It's all worth it, and I'd do it again (but maybe not too soon.....)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Economy Meals: Crock Pot Tortellini

Hello, everyone! Get ready for my first economy meal of 2014: Crock Pot Tortellini. I came across this recipe on the Facebook page of a friend of mine, and decided to try it (thank you W!). It was SO good, and very cheap to make. You could even have fun making variations of this to suit your taste.

Crock Pot Tortellini

Ingredients
  • 1 (20 oz) container of Buitoni tortellini variety of your choice
  • 1 (8 oz) block of low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 cans Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bag of baby spinach
  • 4 cups of chicken broth/stock (I use the Knorr Homestyle Stock b/c I find it to be more cost effective)
  • you will need a crock pot (to state the obvious)



Directions

1. Pour your 4 cups of chicken broth/stock into your crock pot, add tomatoes, and cream cheese. (I cube the cream cheese so that it melts easier).
2. Add your container of tortellini to the mixture and stir. 
3. Add your bag of spinach and stir; it may seem like your crock pot is jam packed, but the spinach will wilt.
4. Cook on low for 5 hours (for a firmer pasta decrease cooking time by about an hour).

Your finished product will look like this:

It's oh so yummy!

I really enjoyed this dish. If you are feeling adventurous, you could make some Italian/Mexican fusion tortellini and use 2 cans of Rotel tomatoes and chilies instead of the Italian tomatoes and add in a drained can of corn and/or a drained can of beans. Cheddar or pepper jack cheese would make a good topping in this case. In fact, I think I may try that next time. My husband will eat anything if there is Rotel in it. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Liam and the Library

Hello, everyone. I hope everybody is staying warm during this insanely cold weather. This morning in Little Rock it was 0 degrees! 
This week I got the ball rolling on attaining one of my New Year's resolution goals: taking Liam to the library once a week. We go to the library on base quite often, and it really is a wonderful library. It may be small, but it does a lot to enrich our base community. Library privileges are free for service members and their families, so there really is no reason for anyone to miss out. Our base library also has story time events and a summer reading program for kids, which is wonderful. My husband and I go there to check out books, Cd's, and movies. We especially love getting movies/T.V. series seasons there because a) we're on a tight budget and going out to the movies is an unfortunately rare thing us, and b) we have the streaming only plan from Netflix so our selection is limited, and we don't always want to have to go to the Red Box. (I know it's only $1.20 or so a night, but if you can get the same rental from the library for free, why not?)
So, that being said, this was not Liam's first time in the library. However, this was our first trip solely for Liam, and his first time choosing and checking out a book. He was so excited! The first thing that drew his attention were the computers set up with a reading program and headphones. 

 After looking at that for a bit, we went over to where the reading bench was.
There were puzzles and stuffed animals to play with. Liam's favorite was the giant bear.

Liam chose a book for us to read in the library, and his eye fell upon "Miss Nelson is Missing", which was one I enjoyed as a kid. It was fun getting to read it again and sharing it with him. 

When it was time to go, Liam chose a book to check out. He decided to get "How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad?". He (very proudly) marched up to the circulation desk and handed the book to the library assistant himself. 

I want to foster within my son a love for books and reading. This is something that my husband and I feel really strongly about, being avid readers ourselves. We've been reading to him since infancy, and with our efforts combined with gifts from his Nana and Gran-Gran Liam has a little library of his own in his room. It was so much fun to see Liam enjoying his first "trip to the library", and if I can stay on task and take him every week I think that I can help him learn to love libraries as much as his father and I do. An unforeseen consequence of our trip to the library was a renewal in my desire to become a librarian. I've been focusing so much on mommyhood that I've put my personal goals to the side, something that I'm sure a lot of moms experience. Liam and my family are the most important things on the planet to me, but that doesn't mean that I don't still want certain things for myself. I want to stay home with my children while they are small for as long as possible and then begin to build my career. After grappling with the dreaded "mommy-guilt" and talking it over with my husband, I started looking for a grad school program online for a Masters in Library Sciences (window shopping only at this point). It may take me a while to start grad school, and even longer for me to finish it, but I'm going to make this happen!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The New Year, Poop, and Better-ness

Happy New Year everyone! So far 2014 has started off with a bang, but not the good kind. We've all been sick since Christmas and it looks like Liam (most likely) came down with norovirus on New Year's Eve (instead of confetti everywhere we were dealing with poop). Our first purchases of the new year included diapers, Children's PeptoBismol, and Pedialyte. Hurrah.
This is generally the time of year when new resolutions are made, goals are set, and gym memberships are purchased. I usually make a specific resolution, and it generally regards my weight or physical appearance. This year before I made a resolution I took stock of my life. My family and I are generally healthy (well, except for the recent tummy troubles), we have a roof over our heads, no one is hungry, no one is scared, and no one is hurt. We don't have a lot of money, but we always pay our bills on time and have enough left over for little luxuries like HBO and yearly vacations. I am truly grateful for what I have in life, and who I have to share it with.
That being said, there is always room for improvement. My husband and I are not the kind of people who can say "this is as good as it's going to get, so why try for better?". My new year resolution includes a subset of 8 goals for this year. My resolution is simply to do better and be better. Be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I want to manage our money better, and our time too. Just over-all general better-ness. The goals that I mentioned earlier are as follows:

  • read 20 books *I re-read books I love often, but only new books will count toward my goal*
  • lose 15 lbs. after the birth of my second son
  • be accepted to a Grad school
  • find at least 2 new ways to save money *not including cloth diapering and couponing* 
  • pay off 1 credit card and keep it at a 0 balance all year *by far the hardest goal*
  • make more things from scratch and cut down even more than I already have on processed foods
  • get Liam into a play group, and take him to the library at least once a week
  • finish playing Lego Harry Potter years 5-7
The last goal may seem really silly, but it's more about taking "me time" than anything else. I used to love to play console and PC games, and I hardly ever do so any more. I want to take a little time for myself to relax and play a game, and this form of "me time" is cheaper than going to a spa or getting a pedicure. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to do those things too. However, they seem a lot less likely to happen and cost money, which I'm trying to save.
I wish everyone out there who decides to make a resolution for 2014 good luck, and I'll keep you updated on how I'm doing on mine.