Saturday, December 15, 2012

Nothing like some Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Today was cold (by AZ standards) and rainy.  And after yesterday's events with the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, it seemed like a good day to hunker down with the family and just enjoy each other.  
I love the colder weather, coming in from outside to some hot chocolate and eating some warm soup for dinner.  Nothing says love and family like homemade chicken noodle soup.  And since the kiddos have the sniffles (again!) it was the perfect meal for everyone.  
It is SOO easy to make and SO much better than that canned stuff.  I'm sure everyone has their own special way of making it, here's mine.

Get yourself a whole roasted chicken, either roast it yourself, like we did this time, or buy one of those roasters in the store if you're looking for a short cut.  Enjoy 75% of the meat off of that bird, but SAVE THE BONES!  And save a bit of meat to throw in the soup too.

I tend to make A LOT of soup, some to eat now and some to stash away in the freezer for when we need some soup but have no time to make it.
1 whole roasted chicken, 75% consumed, bones and last 25% of meat saved
6-7 garlic cloves, minced
2 small shallots, minced
1 stalk of celery chopped, about 1/4 inch thick pieces
8 medium carrots chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a stock pot with the bottom coated in olive oil, saute the garlic and shallots until the shallots are tender.  Add the carrots and celery, saute until the celery just starts to get tender.  Add about 12 cups of water and the chicken bones, the best way I've found to do this is to get a brewing bag and throw the bones in that, and then put the bag in the water.  This way you don't have to hunt for the bones when the soup is done.  Tried this when the hubs was into brewing beer, it worked wonderfully :).  Bring this all to a boil and let it cook for about 2-3 hours.
Taste the broth, add salt as needed.  When you're satisfied with the broth, add the chicken pieces and some noodles.  I use some fideo noodles my aunt sends from Spain, IMHO they *make* the soup, but some angel hair noodles broken up would work too.  Throw in the chopped parsley at this point.

Eat with some crusty bread and freeze the leftovers.  So easy, so cheap, and tastes like home.

And do me a favor, hug your babies tight, and appreciate them.  Even when they are exhausting and you are exhausted, you just never know.

P.S. I know it's been AGES since my last post, I promise I didn't forget about you.  My baby thinks napping is optional these days unless he does it in mama's lap after nursing.  This does not lend itself to lots of mama time to be doing the blogging.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meal Planning: improvising when your plan doesn't work

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, meal planning goes awry. It happened to me last week, and it inspired this post.  It's always good to have some easy, tasty meals in your pocket for times like these.
Last week in our meal plan I had breaded chicken, it's super yummy, next time I make it I'll take some pics and do a post.  It's basically chicken breasts coated in breadcrumbs and seasonings and pan fried.  When I went to make it last week I ran into one problem right away, turns out, we were out of bread crumbs. Well, crap, off to pinterest I go, I have a few standby recipes for regular chicken breasts, but I thought I'd try some of the chick-fil-a taste-a-like bites I saw on there.  I get all my ingredients out and ready to go, and of course, another snag.  Turns out the package of chicken breasts from Costco I defrosted are really chicken thighs.  Damn those 3-packs from Costco that only label the MIDDLE pack, why the EFF can't you label all 3 so I know wtf I have in the freezer?  
So now I have to think quickly.  I want to make something I know Z will eat, and something easy because at this point I'm not in the mood to do a lot of prep work.  
I turn to my easy bbq baked chicken recipe.  Defrost a package of boneless chicken thighs and put them in a 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle some garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, mustard powder, salt and pepper on them.  Use your favorite bbq sauce, I like the Trader Joe's all natural one, and paint it on top of the thighs.  Get a bottle of beer, I use a darker malty beer like an oktoberfest, or a winter lager, any brown ale/lager will do.  Pour 3/4 of the beer into the pan, this will make your chicken taste divine and will keep it moist.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then NOM.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey Kid Craft

You gots to respect the TURKEY people.  I can't believe how early we saw Christmas stuff in the stores, I think it was after Labor Day.  I love the Christmas season but that is just effing ridiculous.  In all honestly, Thanksgiving is far from my favorite holiday.  I'm not a fan of most of the food, and the day itself doesn't contain memories of anything fun and exciting for me as a kid.  But nevertheless it *is* the holiday between Halloween and Christmas and it deserves respect as such. 
Since Z has been in the mood to do crafty things on his full days home with me I knew I was going to have to come up with something for him to do.  He's VERY interested in all the holidays and things coming on the calendar lately.  And he says he "LOVES turkey", so I went with a turkey craft. This one is all mine, inspired from a variety of posts on Pinterest, but I came up with this one on my own.
This, as usual, is super easy, and kid friendly.  I used 2 toilet paper rolls, one whole one, for the body, and one I cut in half for the head.  I had him paint them brown completely, mostly to keep him busy.  
Then I took some rectangles of craft foam, I got these at the dollar store, you could use construction paper instead, whatever you have around the house.  I traced Z's hands on the rectangles, we used orange, red, yellow, and green.  We both cut out the hands (Z wanted to do it all himself and then after one hand declared it "too much work" and asked for help).  By the time we got the hands cut out, I used 8 rectangles because Z's hands are kind of big, the paint was dry.
Z glued the hands on the back of the "body", kind of spread out to look like the turkey feathers.  Then we used our jar of googly eye balls and glued a couple of those and a beak I cut out of yellow card stock to the "head".  I saved a small strip of red craft foam to be the waddle of the turkey. And Z insisted that the turkey also have feet, so I used the yellow card stock and free hand cut out some feet.
 As soon as the glue was dry on those pieces we glued them together to complete the turkey.  Super cute Thanksgiving decoration!  Z is very proud of himself, and I am too, he did a great job!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Getting healthy clean floors

I am by no means a neat freak.  You should see my bedroom, it's a disaster area. But I do like to keep the "common" areas of the house clean and presentable.  It makes me twitchy when the rest of the house gets too far out of sorts.  Especially, the floors.  ESPECIALLY since Gavin is mobile and shoves EVERYTHING into his mouth.  And by mobile I mean he rolls, literally rolls like a barrel all over the floors.  So if our floors are overdue for a cleaning, it shows, all over my baby boy. GROSS, *cue eye twitching*.
The bottom floor of our house is what I would consider "common area".  It's big, and 95% ceramic tile. So, out of necessity with a side of laziness, I vacuum the tile, and the area rugs that we have in the living room and playroom.  Recently we decided to get a new vacuum because I was getting increasingly annoyed with our old one, it wasn't picking up dog hair on the area rugs, who knows what it was missing on the tile.  The last straw was when B broke a wine glass on the tile and tried to use the vacuum to pick up the small pieces of glass, FAIL, it missed a ton. So we took the plunge and got a refurb Dyson.  


They are super pricey, I will fully admit that.  But that damn vacuum was one of the best investments we've made in a long time.  The HORROR I felt looking at the full canister after vacuuming my "clean" floors.  That thing sold me right away.  Not a sponsored post, more a PSA for people who need clean floors.  It picks up dog hair, and incredible amounts of dust/dirt.  Technically it's also an investment in our health, hmmm I wonder if we could HSA it? ;).  Zach has asthma, and the rest of us including him, have terrible allergies, so a vacuum that gets the yuck out is worth it on every level.
Ok so now that the suck-up-able dirt is gone from the floors I needed something better than the mop and bucket to do the welded on dirt.  I had been using the standard method with vinegar and some lavender oil, and I *thought* that was doing an ok job.  Until one day after some serious walker use from Mr. G thang, I noticed his little feet were BLACK.  Like he had been running around outside black.  I was so completely disgusted I turned to Amazon immediately for something better.  We have, in the past, had a Shark steam mop.  It seemed good at the time, however it was kind of clunky and it broke within an a year, so I knew I didn't want that.  There are some fancy pants expensive options out there, but all the reviews indicated they would go the way of the Shark too.  So, I decided on a cheap option, for under $50 I have a steam mop that is working quite nicely.  Similar to the Dyson experience, I was horrified, although this time not as surprised to see how black the mop pad was after I did 1/3 of my floor.  Now after a month usage or so, it only gets that black after doing the entire floor :/. What can I say, 2 little boys, a dog and a hubs, our floors get D-I-R-T-Y.  So benefits to the steam mop: you just use water, so no chemicals; nothing to buy again, just water; can use to sanitize sections of the floor; picks up dirt waaaaay better because it's so hot.  Completely worth $50, even if I have to spend it every year.

*All links are affiliate links, mostly so I could get a picture to use without any issues.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Inspirational Movie - Little Red Wagon


I recently had the opportunity to watch a screener for an incredibly inspirational movie.  It's called "Little Red Wagon" and here's a short synopsis:

LITTLE RED WAGON is based on the inspirational true story of eight-year-old Zach Bonner on his quest to change the world with nothing more than his beat-up red wagon and a blazing spirit of philanthropy. When Zach sets out to help homeless children in America in the wake of Hurricane Charley, by walking from his house in Tampa, Florida to the White House, he must overcome bureaucrats and blisters, and capture the hearts of his fractured family and the entire nation.

I was very interested in watching this since I'm from Florida and my family lives in the Tampa area.  I remember when Charley was approaching and they were right in the path.  Thankfully as the movie shows, the storm veered, but it still had a huge impact on those it hit head-on.  That impact was the inspiration for Zach (in the movie, not my kiddo ;)).  
The movie sends such a great message.  Anybody, at any age, can make a difference.  It's a great movie to watch with your kids, it teaches them compassion for others, and the true spirit of philanthropy.  And it's a real story that touches on the trials and tribulations that doing a work of this magnitude imposes on a family.  Truly a feel-good type movie :).
If you're looking for a great family movie that also teaches your kids a little something about caring for their fellow man, please check it out!
Locally Little Red Wagon opens in theaters this Friday, Nov 2 at the Harkins Superstition Springs in Mesa.  Check your listings for when it might play in your area!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Wks 2 and 3 are done, with some challenges

Whew! It took more than 2 weeks, but weeks 2 and 3 of c25k are done.  Week 2 went off fairly uneventful, I ran, sucked some wind the first couple of days, LOVED the third day without the stroller.  Week 3 however was a different story.  The first day was rough, running for 3 minutes straight is no joke.  I was REALLY ready to hear Sheila by the 90 second mark, for the first 3 minute run.  Week 3 consists of 4 runs, 90 sec, 3 min, 90 sec, 3 min.  By the second 3 minute run I was in much better shape though.  Maybe I just need some warm-up time to get into my groove?
I knew week 3 would be tough, but I was ready for it.  I usually run on Tues and Thurs mornings, and then again on Sunday morning, so 3x/wk.  This week Gavin had his 9 month check-up Thurs morning, so my plan was to run at night.  And then our house got struck by a horrible plague. So I went over a week between runs.  I was bummed, but thankfully STILL motivated.  Life happens.  And after a week of being cooped up in the house with a bunch of sickies, I was MORE than ready to get out and run.  I ran Thursday morning with G in the stroller, he promptly passed out, I'm guessing his little body was just exhausted from fighting the sickies all week.  So I did my run, it kicked my ass, as expected.  I sucked wind, tried to use the force to convince Sheila to talk to me sooner, but I did it, and I felt great afterward.  And I got a lengthy cool-down session to let G catch some Z's as we strolled around the neighborhood.
Sunday morning it was nice and cool out, I went out mostly solo, I did take Reecey, but she's a good running companion.  And it was AWESOME.  I totally could have run longer.
So the moral of the story? Shit happens, life gets in the way.  But that is NOT an excuse to quit!  Take time, do what you need to do to get yourself together, and then hop back on the running train.  You know you'll feel better for it :).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Da Plague has hit!

What.A.Week. It started Thursday. I picked Z up from school and Ms. Donna told me "He just wasn't himself today.  He looked a little pale".  Hmmm... this sounds bad I thought.  We got home and he took a looong nap, very, very long for Z, 3+ hours.  I thought maybe he was just growing or something because he seemed ok when we got home.  We had dinner, he had been a little whiny since he woke up, and then it happened.  The one thing I can absolutely NOT handle as a mommy, the pukes started.  I high-tailed it away from Z as soon as that shiznit began because I'm a sympathetic puker in the WORST way, and Daddy really doesn't need that much to clean up.  Evidently Z did it 3x poor kiddo.  He also had a fever, lucky kid :p.  He was down for 2 days, thankfully only once incident of puking.
And then DOWN went the mama! No puking thank GAWD, but I had a fever for 2.5 days and the body aches, OMG the body aches, I was curled up in bed with my comforter pulled high over my shoulders, it was pathetic.
It hit B too, but not as bad.
Worst of all, it hit poor little G.  It hit him the absolute hardest :(.  He had a fever from Saturday til yesterday mid-day.  We took him in to the Dr because I was SURE at that point it had to be an ear infection or something, but no, poor little guy.  So cranky, so clingy, little man just slept, screamed, nursed, slept.  ONLY mama was allowed to hold him, feed him, or even look in his general direction,  He was a HOT MESS.  
The fever has broke for G, but the runny nose remains, and I'm pretty sure he's cutting two teeth, so he's not all sunshine and smiles, but we have happy little G back for the most part.
It was a HELLUVA week though.  Hoping to get some more time to myself so I can get a couple of posts written that have been brewing in my head.  
One is going to be discussing the idea of friendships as an adult, kind of inspired by this post because holy HELL can I relate.. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 little pumpkins... Halloween craft for the kiddos

I apologize in advance if you have an aversion to scissors, glue, and cuteness.  You're just going to have to look away for a bit.  Zach has been insistent on making stuff for Halloween lately.  So I've been pressed to come up with things for him to do.  This time I was *not* inspired by Pinterest, but by the Halloween book we've been reading at bedtime lately.  It's the five little pumpkins rhyme:
5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate
The first one said "oh my it's getting late"
The second one said "there are witches in the air"
The third one said "but we don't care!"
The fourth one said let's run and run and run"
The fifth one said "We're ready for some fun!"
ooooooo when the wind! And OUT went the light!
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight

All caught up now?  I decided what more festive thing to do than to have him make the five little pumpkins sitting on a gate?  I have a bag of popsicle sticks, I cut 5 of them in half and used that to make the gate.  Zach glued it on some blue background paper.

And then I cut out five little pumpkins for him to decorate and glue on the gate.  Easy peasy.  He LOVED it, and embellished with a "spooky spider" and other scary(?) drawings.

Cutting out eyes and mouths for the pumpkins

Using excessive amounts of glue to secure the pumpkin faces

TA-DA! The finished product


Monday, October 15, 2012

A day in the life

Today I decided to do something a bit different.  A while ago I saw a post from Jill of Baby Rabies, where she took a picture every hour to document an "ordinary day".  I thought it'd be interesting to see what a day actually looks like for us, it usually goes by so fast without having any idea what we actually did.  I took a picture every hour from 8am to 8pm.  I'm nowhere near the photographer she is, but it still gives a pretty good picture of our lives.
8am - the boys are playing in their playroom.  Formerly the adult gameroom that used to house a pool table, kegerator, and arcade, now houses legos, a batcave and a jumperoo.  Z is STILL in his jammies, G is dressed.  Z up since 6, G since 630, both have had breakfast.  It's morning chill time.
 
9am - G is getting angsty, getting ready to feed him and put him down for morning nap.  Z took our pic, he is going to play spiderman game on the computer.  G falls asleep nursing covering his face with the blanket.
 10am - Just finished steam mopping the floors.  Z is hanging on the couch playing with some duplos. G is napping.
 11am - Headed to the park to burn off some energy in hopes for good afternoon naps from both boys.
 12pm - lunch time, Z is feasting on mickey nuggets and apples, G is having peas, squash, pears, and puffs.  G just had an epic ear-splitting meltdown
1pm - Z is napping.  G is having the time of his life emptying the laundry basket full of clean diapers.
2pm - G is napping. Z's turn for a meltdown.  He woke up with a cramp in his calf.
3pm - Everybody's awake! Snack time :).  Z is watching Phineas and Ferb on the ipad, G is apparently looking on as well.
4pm - Decided to spend time in the backyard since Z's calf still hurts.  G is not in favor of this, he really should have napped longer this afternoon. Zach is showing me "acorns" he brought home from the playground at school, yay?
5pm - Making dinner, I was going to make a brown rice stir-fry type thing, but I forgot to start brown rice earlier, so rice noodles it is!  Z loves to help in the kitchen.
6pm - Winding down in the playroom before bedtime.  Z got a new magazine in the mail. G is obsessed with all sports balls.
 7pm - Getting ready for bath time, G is soooo tired and cranky from teething.
8pm - Kids are asleep, settling down for some picture editing at the computer.

So, I learned we're not very exciting.  But that wasn't the point of this exercise.  This is an ordinary day in our lives.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  Sometimes we are having fun and sometimes we... are not.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monster Mash! Another easy Halloween craft for the kiddos


We have been cutting and gluing and baking and MORE over here.  Did I mention I love fall? Here is another EASY Halloween craft for the kiddos, with a small amount of prep from you. I took inspiration from one I saw on Pinterest via No time for Flash Cards, but she used easter grass (holy MESS batman!) and did suggest using tissue paper.
Cut out a large oval in green construction paper.  Draw and cut out some hands/legs for the monster in green.  Use some white paper and cut out an oval eye, and some horns while you're at it.  Give your kiddo the glue and let them slap that down on some background purple paper.
While they're doing that, tear up some tissue paper, I used green and blue, into smallish pieces, maybe 2x2inches?, show your kiddo how to crumple them up, and then glue down the crumpled up paper to be the monster's fur. Go for good coverage on the fur, it'll look cute AND it will keep them very busy, double bonus!
When they are done with the fur have them glue on the horns.  And now the eye, Zach is enamored with googly eyes right now, in case you couldn't tell, so he used a bunch of those on the white oval to make the monster eye. 
Let the glue dry.  Hang the beautiful and festive creation in a proper frame to adorn your home with DIY Halloween decorations.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ditch the plastic

Ditching the plastic in your life isn't just about going green, it's about doing your body a favor too.  I touched on it some in my post about reusable water bottles, but the topic deserves some elaboration.  
Let me summarize, plastic is some nasty shiz, avoid it when possible.
Want more details?  Plastic is chemical-laden, carcinogenic, and endocrine disrupting.  Nevermind, terrible for the environment, makes your food taste funny, melts, and stinks. So avoid it like the plague whenever possible.  
A couple of years ago we decided to ditch all our plastic containers and replace them with Pyrex glass containers.  We also rarely drink out of plastic cups and try to buy products in containers other than plastic whenever possible. 
Not ready for those drastic measures yet?  Understandable, there are some easy things you can do to cut down on the nasty effects of plastic.  
1) Do NOT microwave it, put your food on a plate or in a glass container to microwave.  Yes, there are some plastics that claim to be microwave safe, but do you really want to remember which ones those are?  Just take the food out of the plastic.
2) When you need to buy a new container, buy glass instead of plastic.  You can gradually replace that way.
3)  Avoid any extreme temperatures for plastic, don't heat it or freeze it, that's when the max chemical leakage occurs.
4) Avoid plastic wrap touching your food
5) Avoid using plastic baggies for your food, there are some great reusuable alternatives out there!
There are lots of articles out there going into more details on why plastic is dangerous, here are a few:
Microwaving food in plastic: Dangerous or not?
Adverse health effects of Plastic
Plastic

Plastic is virtually unavoidable with kids, especially little kids, but do what you can.  Buy wood toys and silicone teethers.  Give them stainless cups for their drinks. And set an example for them in the future by using glass containers and avoiding buying plastic when possible.  It's all about the shade of green you want to be :).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 1 down, run mama, run!

Week 1 of my c25k reboot is done.  I feel GREAT, and I've learned (and been reminded of) some things. 
First I wanted to elaborate a little on what c25k is all about.  I am NOT being sponsored in any way for doing this program (although I wouldn't mind if I was *wink, wink*).  It's a slow start to running, it stands for couch-to-5k.  Designed to get you off the couch and into running.  It eases you into running, upping the amount of running you're doing slowly so you keep doing it.  For instance, this week, my runs consisted of a 5 minute warm-up, run for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds, repeat the run/walk for 20 minutes, running 8 times. And then a 5 minute walk to cool down.  So, basically, the first week, you only have to run for one minute at a time.  ONE MINUTE.  Focus on that goal, the amount of time you are running.  Don't worry about distance, don't worry about speed.  Just keep running for one minute. Even if it's a sad, slow, wind-sucking run, ANYBODY can run for one minute. 
This week went fairly well. My first run went better than expected, and I even pushed Gavin in the jogging stroller which definitely adds to the workout. The first 5 run segments went fine, I felt ok, by the 6th, well, I was looking forward to the voice from my phone app to tell me it was time to walk, I'm going to call her Sheila for no other reason than I feel she sounds like a Sheila.  
That's the good, I try to be completely honest with you, so here's the bad.  My shins hurt, bad afterwards and my knees were a little sore.  (TMI alert) Nursing boobs need a smaller sports bra, the girls were bouncing around waayyyy too much. And I was reminded that I have the world's most sensitive feet.  I got a dime sized blister on the back of my heel, OUCH!
Two days later I ran again, I try to run every other day so I have a recovery day.  That day I decided to run on a gravel/dirt trail near my house to see if my shins and knees felt better afterwards.  OMG what a difference running surface makes!  If you can find a nice non-concrete/asphalt trail to run on, DEFINITELY do it!  Everything felt so much better after that run. Except the blister, that shiz hurt like a moh-foh because it popped on my run, I had a band-aid over it just in case, good thing :p.  I still wanted Sheila to speak up sooner by the 6th segment, but I wasn't sucking wind nearly as bad.
Three days later I ran again, this time without the jogging stroller and with Reecey.  That run was AWESOME, I don't know if it was because I didn't have the stroller, or because it was day 3 of running, but I felt GREAT. When Sheila told me to stop and walk I was like "already?".  I could have run longer, but I will NOT push it.  Stick with the program people, don't try to get all crazy, you will regret it.  
The weather has been GORGEOUS so I am looking forward to more running next week!  How is your running going?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments :).
Don't forget if you're local, there's the Color Me Rad run coming Nov 3 in Peoria, I'm giving away entries, and there's a promo-code to save you money!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Crazy, Colorful, Running

Calling all of my local Phoenix metro area peeps!  If you are a runner, or if you have just started running like me, or even if you just like to walk 5k distances and get covered in color there is a race coming to the Valley that looks like a ton of fun.  
The Color Me Rad 5k is on Nov 3, starting at 8am at the Peoria Sports Complex benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Phoenix.
Here is some more info from their site about the Color Me Rad race:

When Zoloft and balloon animals can't seem to raise your spirits, the best way to brighten your life is to run Color Me Rad 5K
Historically, running has only been acceptable when trying to escape the law, personal responsibility, the truth, and grizzly bears. 
Instead of running FROM something, get ready to run FOR something at this year’s Color Me Rad.  Run for the Hell of it.

Color Me Rad is coming to a town near you with a tsunami of color that'll make colored tears of joy run down your cheeks and will renew your will to live.
After 5K of color bombardment, we guarantee your outlook will be brighter, your boyfriend will be more affectionate, your girlfriend will be less needy, the hair on your head will grow back and the hair on your back will fall out, your black and white TV will turn into 720p HD (I know you were hoping for 1080, but we organize races, we're not miracle workers), and your gray outlook will turn green like a spring morning.

You’ll start off with a shirt as pure and white as your grandpa's dentures and you'll soak up enough color while running to change your skin tone forever.  You'll wind up looking like a pack of skittles – just make sure not to “taste the rainbow.”
So cast your DYE and get red in the face from Color Me Rad, and not from the embarrassment of passing up on the run of a lifetime.

How it works:

Start out as clean as a newborn babe, and throughout the run, you'll coat your chaffing thighs with Color Bombs of bluegreenpinkpurple, and yellow until your face, shirt, and body come out silkscreened like a tie-dyed hippy on the other side.

Each section of the run adds a new explosion of color to your clean, painter’s palate until you cross the finish line into a final blitzkrieg of color. 

What is the “color” in Color Me Rad?

You’re probably asking yourselves, “Is this really color being thrown at us or are the rainbows we’re seeing just God’s signal that it’ll never flood again?”

Well I’m glad you asked.  This isn’t just smoke and mirrors.  This is non-toxic, non-rash-inducing, Kroger branded, colored corn-starch.  Subsidized by the government and processed in the good ol’ US of A, these blasts of starch will change your color, and your demeanor, but never your level of wellness.


So, who wants to do it?!?  The Color Me Rad folks are awesomely providing me with FIVE free passes and while I would LOVE to do it, it is just highly unlikely that I will be getting myself from the SE valley to the NW valley by 8am in time to race.  So my loss is your benefit!
Don't want to enter the giveaway?  You can still save money on your entry fee!  Use the code CHEAPGREEN15 to save 15% on your registration at colormerad.com

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BOO! Another easy Halloween decoration craft

We have been busy making Halloween decorations over here.  I have no idea what has come over me but we have the cutest, cheapest, and easiest decorations now :). 
This one I actually did see a variation of on Pinterest.  But with most things Pinterest, I took inspiration from the picture and didn't actually read the instructions.  If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a very visual person with somewhat of a photographic memory.  So I see it, remember it, do it. The point of all that explanation is, I have no idea what pin I got this idea from, so if it's yours let me know so I can give credit where it's due.
Anywho, I wanted some more inside decorations for Halloween to make us feel all festive and since the crafty bug already bit me I decided to go with it. I got 3 paper mache letters, B-O-O, from Jo-Ann's, they were on sale for $2 a piece.  I also bought some black acrylic paint, I have a few things in mind I want to do with that besides this project, so it was a good buy, and use a coupon when you can!  I happened to notice in Target they had packs of themed scrapbook paper for $1 each, so I snagged a couple of Halloween ones, at the time having no idea what I would do with them, but I knew I would do *something* with them :).
Paint your letters with the black paint, completely, even in the insides, and tops/bottoms.  Let the paint dry.
Trace the outline of the letters on the scrapbook paper like so:
  
I did both sides of the letters with scrapbook paper, because you can see both sides of the letters where I display them, your craft, your call.  Cut out the letters from the scrapbook paper, glue them on with Mod Podge.  Let the glue dry.  
Now Mod Podge (yes I'm verbing that bad boy) over the paper and coat the whole letter (do this in parts so the glue doesn't stick to whatever you put it on to dry).  Repeat said coating, so you have 2 coats.  
Marvel at your crafty-ness.  Display with some stuff you find in your box of Halloween decorations like so:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Run baby, run


Early last year, we're talking 2011 here, I decided to start running.  At the time our family was just Zach, the hubs, and me.  Gavin wasn't even in mah belly yet.  I had done boot camp exercise before, I LOVED it, but holy HELL is it expensive.  I tried doing some of the exercises on my own for a while, but that wasn't working motivation-wise.  I needed something that could push myself and that I couldn't easily opt-out of or stop halfway through.  So I turned to running. 
I am NO runner, so I needed some kind of way to ease into it.  There are a few slow start methods out there, I happened to choose c25k.  Mostly because it was available foh free as an app on my phone, and I knew a few other people doing it.  
I have to say, that app, that program, it made me actually, kind of, sort of, like running.  I was shocked, I was actually running for a half hour STRAIGHT, no stopping, no sucking wind, just running, it was awesome. Now, I wasn't covering much ground because I am sloooowwww but, my intention was to work on that, first distance and endurance, then speed.  And it was all going so well!  
Until I got knocked up, I tried to keep running since my body was used to it, and I was doing ok for a month or so.  And then the temps started heating up, it was early May in AZ, so between the temps, and being freshly knocked up, I got dizzy on one run and decided to put up my running shoes for a while.  I still walked and exercised some while preggers, just no more running.
Fast forward to now.  Gavin is 8 months old, the temps have FINALLY started cooling down here, and my butt is not getting any smaller doing nothing.  Well, actually it is, it's amazing how much not being sedentary staring at a computer screen helps your body, one more benefit to taking a break from the nerd-life.  But I digress, I'm ready to start exercising regularly again, and am looking forward to getting out in the fresh air.
This week I'm starting week 1.  I'm buckling Gavin up in the jogging stroller, considering taking Reecey with us, and hitting the gravel with my running shoes.  And I'm going to write about it regularly.  Nothing like the interwebs for some accountability!
If *I* can do it, ANYBODY can, so who's going to do it with me?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Save money on your eats with a little planning

Meal planning is something we've done in this house since before we even got married 10+ years ago.  We started doing it initially to try to eat healthier, less take-out, less frozen meals, more home-cooked deliciousness.  It has since taken on an added purpose in that it saves us some serious coin too.  I've had a few people ask me what I do to meal plan, how I go about it, and if I have any tips.  To be honest, I really had to think about it, we've been doing it so long I'm not sure I know another way.  I figured this is probably a common dilemma that families/moms have.  How to get dinner on the table, and what to serve.  So here's what we do.

First some rules to follow.  Do NOT make more than one trip to each store/place you buy food at per week.  Let's face it, every time you go in the grocery store you come out with more than you went in there for, and if you don't, you may be the freakish exception.  So, don't go in there more than you have to! We buy food at SuperTarget and the farmer's market.  I usually go to Target on Thursday when it's just G and me in the morning so it's easier.  The farmer's market is on Saturday mornings, the hubs usually heads there solo.  I keep a list on our bulletin board for both places, throughout the week as we realize we need something, it gets added to the list.  Before my hubs heads to the market, we do a little meal planning and figure out what we're having for the next week, dinners AND lunches. Don't forget lunches! The ingredients for those plans get added to the list.  STICK.TO.THE.LIST. as much as possible, if they don't have something a quick swap out may be needed.  But don't buy things because they look good or because you think you may eat them.  You're just wasting money and wasting all the time you spent on your awesome planning!
our lovely model Z holds up our plan for the week
Now the meal planning itself.  If you're not already, become okay with leftovers, they can be just as tasty as the first time around, and they really make your life a lot easier.  
For lunches we do a lot of leftovers, I usually make a big batch of something on Sunday, or we get all the fixings ready for salad.  Rice dishes like beans and rice, or pasta dishes work great for lunches to pack.  
Dinners are cooked fresh more often. We tend to make 2-3 things per week for dinners and eat leftovers in alternating patterns.  
Cook Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have leftovers, cook Friday, and cook either Saturday or Sunday, leftovers the other day.  When you're coming up with what to eat, be creative! Get inspiration from all the fresh foods available at the market!  And think of how to get the most mileage for what you make.  
the first part of a base, I added bitesize chicken breast pieces, one night it was over brown rice with soy sauce and sriracha, the other night it was in a tortilla with salsa verde
One thing that has served me well is making a "base" that can work for multiple, different meals.  For instance, I may cook up some ground beef with minced garlic and onions on Monday, and save half of it in that form for a meal on Wednesday.  On Monday, I'll take that ground beef and make what I call "deconstructed stuffed peppers" by adding some tomato paste and rough chopped peppers.  Pair with some brown rice and top with mozzarella cheese, BOOM, you've got a tasty meal!  On Wednesday I'll use the other half of that ground beef, heat it up with some cumin and chili powder and put it in a tortilla and some taco fixings, easy, tasty, different dinner.  And there are lots of things that work like this too.   Or there are often times where I just make enough of a meal on Monday to feed us the exact same thing on Wednesday, no big deal, because we have found our happy place with leftovers. 
zucchini lasagna made on a Sunday afternoon, make a double batch of sauce and freeze it!
Also, in the winter, we tend to do a lot of soups, stews, baked pasta dishes.  I usually make a HUGE batch of this on Sunday afternoon, and freeze half of it to have on hand for those weeks that cooking just isn't going to happen at all.  It's nice to have good food to fall back on rather than calling for pizza or using a store-bought frozen meal.  
quick meal thrown together, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic, used to top corkscrew pasta
Sometimes the plan doesn't work, don't let this discourage you! There are times when Zach is super hungry and all of the sudden the food won't stretch for 2 days.  That's OK.  That's what your staples are for.  There are things I *always* have on hand and can make a meal out of quick and easy.  
1. Pasta noodles of some sort, corkscrew, macaroni, angel hair, penne, whatever your favorite is.  Always have a box on hand in the pantry.
2.  Every week I ask my husband to get garlic, onions, and tomatoes from the market, I can use those in a pinch and I always use them in my meals anyways.  Throw that together with your pasta and you have a meal!
3.  Eggs, an omelet will feed you in a pinch any day of the week.
4.  Cheese.  Enough said? We LOVE cheese, and we can do so much with it, quesadillas, omelets, grilled cheese, pizzas, the possibilities are endless.
5.  Tortillas, I usually get frozen ones from Costco, you throw them in a dry skillet to cook them and you can do tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas. WAY better than the preservative laden ones next to the bread on the shelf.  Ideally we'd make our own, but that's a different blog post ;).
I'm no Rachel Ray, but nothing I make for dinner takes more than a half hour if I do it day-of.  Something like lasagna or a soup definitely does, it simmers all afternoon on a Sunday but it requires very little attention from me after the initial prep.  
Making only one trip to the store, having a list, and eating in will definitely save you money, especially if you have a budget you stick to for food.  It's also healthier to eat your fresh homemade food instead of eating out, getting take-out, or eating frozen store-bought meals.  AND you're being green and supporting your local economy by eating fresh from the farmer's market.  Win, win, win!
I love to get new ideas! What are your favorite meals and ways to save money?