Monday, November 12, 2012

I love Joe!

Nope, I'm not talking about this Joe:

Or this Joe (though I do love him, props to you if you can name him ;-):

The Joe I am referring to is this one:

There is nothing, as far as I am concerned, not to love about Trader Joe. I was first introduced to him by my besties down in Northern Virginia/DC. And while it was love at first shop, our relationship was short-lived because we didn't have one locally. 

Until last month.

If you've never been to a Trader Joe's, allow me to tell you that it is marvelous. Awesome products. Healthy, organic products. Affordable products. As a mom who strives to feed her family nutrious food with a minimum of artificial gunk, I truly appreciate the TJ philosophy, which you can read about here. Here's a handful of the products we love, that make their way into my cart each time I shop there:

This is seriously the yummiest applesauce I've ever had. It tastes really fresh, and the flavor of the wild berries stands out. Sweets loves it and I love feeding it to him because there's no artificial dyes or ingredients. At just $1.99 for a package of four cups, it's also a great value!

Hubs and I really like green beans. Sweets not so much, but we're working on it. These frozen "haricot vert," which is just a fancy-pants French name for green beans, are sweet, tender and incredibly fresh tasting. They are the perfect side to any meal, and a large bag, out of which we can usually get 4 meals, is only $1.99. 

It's winter here in our little corner of the planet, and that means that fresh berries are outrageously expensive :(  But for only $2.69 this one pound blend of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are a great substitute in smoothies and oatmeal.

 This is TJ's Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane bread. It has a delicious, chewy, sourdough-y flavor and it makes great garlic bread. I slice it up and keep it in the freezer for a pasta or soup side. At $2.49, a loaf lasts us a couple of weeks (obviously we don't eat it every day).

These cereal bars are also only $1.99, and they come in several flavors. Such a quick snack on the go for Sweets (and me, admittedly. A great grab and go breakfast!).

Here it is, our favorite TJ product! The Pound Plus of 72% dark chocolate. Heaven in a wrapper for only $4.99. That's cheap!

Have you ever read the ingredient list on a box of Ritz Bits? They're full of junk. These have a minimal list of organic ingredients and they taste delicious. They're probably Sweets' favorite snack right now, and the price is (again) right, at $2.49 a box.

The whole wheat mini pitas are perfect for mixing it up at lunchtime. They make great little pita pizzas, or stuffed with humus, cream cheese, or peanut butter and bananas, they are wonderfully toddler-friendly. Price? Again, only $1.99!

Behind the chocolate, this is my second-favorite product. They carry several fruit butters, and so far we've only tried the pumpkin variety, but it is "stick your finger in the jar and lick it off" good. We all love it. It is delicious on whole wheat waffles or pancakes, makes a great wrap paired with cream cheese, and the label claims you can use it as an ice cream topping or add sour cream and milk to make pumpkin soup. The deal-sealer is again the cost, coming in at only $2.29.

My mom introduced me to the roasted red pepper and tomato soup, and oh my is it tasty! I've tried these soups in a carton from other stores and I've always been disappointed in the artificial, processed flavor. Not the case here. This soup has a bright, bold flavor that makes a great addition to a lunchtime sandwich. There's probably four servings in this carton, which makes its $2.79 price tag all the more appealing!

So that's what we're eating and loving lately. If you have a Trader Joe's near you, I hope you'll run, don't walk, to grab some good food and great bargains!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Old Navy Toddler Puffer Jacket: $39.99
Sale Price: $20.00
- 25% off coupon = $15.00
- $15 in Old Navy rewards = $0

Oh goodness, I love a deal :)

*It did not escape Sweets' attention that the colors of this jacket resemble "a John Deere tractor!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted Today

Don't be mad, but I wasn't going to vote today. Honestly, I felt like it was more responsible not to, given that I know I haven't paid enough attention to the opinions, policies, and proposals of the candidates. I felt like I'd be going in with no idea what I was voting for. This is the first year I've really felt that way. I can remember back in college, when voting was a thrilling new privilege, sitting around in the common room debating politics with my floormates. I had all the time in the world to pay attention to the issues and make a conscious choice. Four years ago, pre-Sweetie Pea, I felt like I had paid plenty of attention, but I just could not make a decision. That was the year that I ran in to my polling place 30 minutes before it closed, and still wasn't totally decided until I was in the voting booth. This time around, I will freely admit that I haven't paid enough attention, and it's irresponsible of me. Then my curiosity got the better of me, and on my lunch break, I checked out to see what was up. There was a wonderful article called "On Election Day, Marvel at Democracy" and after reading it, I knew I couldn't not take advantage of my hard-won right to choose the leader of my country. All amped up on American Pride, I spent the next 30 minutes giving myself a quick crash course on the presidential candidates and their main philosophies. Was it the best way to inform myself? Probably not. But when I picked up that pen and bubbled in my choice this afternoon, I knew it was the right thing to do. I voted based on what I felt in my heart, and I left feeling so grateful to be an American, and resolved to pay more attention next time.

But, no, I don't discuss who I voted for :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Farmer's Market Haul

For a good week now, the weather has been nothing but cold, gray and rainy. Blech. But, it's been great for making scrumptious autumn recipes! And where better to stock up on fall produce than the farmer's market? I love shopping there so much - you get fresh, seasonal produce for a steal. My grocery bill is so much lower when I get a chance to hit up the farmer's market. Yesterday my mom and I braved the freezing morning temps to stock up on fall fruits and veggies. I went with $20 cash and came home with all of this, plus $5 left over!

(L to R) Brussel Sprouts, $3. Red and white baby potatoes, $1 a bag. A cuke for my lunches at work, .50. Sweet potatoes, 3 for $1. 

5 Butternut squashes, $1 each. Huge head of broccoli, $2. Spaghetti squash, $1.

My mom got a big head of this alien-ish looking veggie called Romanesco, and gave us a chunk. I'm excited to roast it up later this week!

I spent a large portion of this afternoon in my kitchen, cooking away. I made broccoli cheddar soup with that fresh broccoli for tomorrow's dinner. YUM. I also roasted the brussel sprouts as tonight's veggie side dish and they were outstanding! I had no idea! They will definitely be making a reapperance on our dinner table. The red baby potatoes became garlic smashed potatoes, and 4 of the butternut squashes got put away for Thanksgiving. I also made an apple crisp - the perfect fall dessert. Sweets was content to play while I worked, frequently calling me into the living room to see his tractor crash ;) Then he suited up in his cold weather gear to get an actual tractor ride with Hubs and came in later with freezing cold hands and a cherry-red nose, but happy as could be!

Here's hoping I get to see an hour that begins with 6 tomorrow...being that Saturday my day began at 4:30 am, and today at 5:45....not acceptable, my darling child. Let's work on that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Goodnight Song

Since we've brought back the rocking chair, Sweetie Pea's sleep has improved, but still leaves a lot to be desired. Take yesterday for example. I was off from work due to Hurricane Sandy (which really turned out to be more like Big Fat Rainstorm Sandy) and Sweets took a 40 minute nap and followed that up with a 45 minute bedtime struggle later that evening. He also woke up 3 times that night. What.Gives? I feel a bit guilty admitting this, but I have no patience for bad sleeping. Here it is child: I work hard. You play hard. We all deserve to sleep. And P.S. you're a beast when you don't get enough. And occasionally I am too. Thus, I may or may not have cleared off the toddler sleep shelf at my local library today ;)

While I'm working my way through my giant stack of sleep books though, let's try some positive sleep talk. Part of our bedtime routine is songs and snuggles in the rocking chair. I made up a little bedtime tune that we call "The Goodnight Song," and it goes like this:

Good night, Mommy
Good night, Daddy
Good night, Sweetie
It's time to say good night

Lately, the good night song has been getting cuter and cuter as Sweets chimes in to include any number of furry friends he's chosen to go to bed with him that evening. Tonight, for instance, the good night song went like this:

Good night, Mommy
Good night, Daddy
Good night, Froggy
Good night, Hopping Frog,
Good night, Kitty
Good night, Turtle
Good night, Slippers
Good night, Sweetie
It's time to say good night

As if that wasn't cute enough, the other night after tucking Sweets in, I heard him mumbling softly to himself as I left the room. Pausing in the doorway, I realized he was singing his stuffed animals the good night song. :::dies from the cute:::

See? Sleeping is cute! Sleeping is fun! Let's all sleep! Just ask this smushy little snoozing tot:

Sweets at 1 month old.

Gotta hit the books ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Combine Day

The title of this post is a bit misleading, since there ended up being no combines involved. But for weeks, we've referred to Saturday as Combine Day, since a friend of Hubs' with a huge farm had promised Sweets a ride in a combine during harvest season. He's been talking about it for weeks: "Gonna ride in a combine with Daddy! Gonna be so exciting!" but sadly upon arrival, he found out that the combines weren't running because of the wet nasty weather. But despite the yucka doo doo day, we had a great time down on the farm anyway, mostly because we loved watching Sweetie Pea in his element. He was not bothered by the cold rain one bit!

Sweets must have been excited about the day because he woke up at 5:45 am. Ug. That necessitated a coffee stop for mommy and daddy on the way out. He got a donut hole and life was good.

Then we made a quick stop at Tractor Supply for some rubber boots for Sweets. He was in desperate need of a pair, but we *may* have gotten a little sidetracked...

...there we go! Now he was ready to brave the rain and mud (and the rodeo too, should we happen upon one ;)

No combines, but he was lucky enough to get a ride in this big Cat crawler. See him up there in the little jump seat? 

He got the biggest kick out of splashing through every mud puddle in sight and yelling "this is awesome!" at the top of his lungs. See that little tractor in his hand? He picked that out at Tractor Supply and it's an exact replica of...

...this John Deere crop sprayer!

Big boy driving a big tractor.

Yes, I am wearing camo. It doesn't happen often ;)

Then it was over to GiGi's house to dry off and warm up. And what could be warmer and cozier than your GiGi teaching you how to play "Row, Row, Row your boat?"

I think Sweets agrees - look at that grin!

By comparison, today was much more low key (read: boring). It was a miserable rainy day, with no end in sight. We all watched a lot more TV than is normal for us, and I ran out to get some supplies for the monster storm headed our way. Should be an interesting week!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Dinner

I love Sunday dinner. Whether it's sharing a meal with family or just the three of us, there is something so cozy about sitting down to a homecooked meal at the end of a productive weekend. And recently, Sunday dinner has become my chance to try out more complicated Pinterest recipes that I would never attempt during the week. Hubs is always anxious to see what's on the menu when Sunday afternoon rolls around!

Today I actually made two meals - one for tonight's dinner, and one for tomorrow. I'd been wanting to make one of our favorites - butternut squash soup - for awhile now, but it's too time consuming to make on a busy weeknight. So with Sweets peacefully napping (hallejuah) I got a pot of this butternut squash and apple soup simmering on the stove for dinner later this week. This is not my usual recipe, but I was drawn to it because it has white beans in it, providing a healthy serving of protein.

I love that this will feed us a couple of dinners and probably some lunches too. It made a HUGE amount! Nothing is better than arriving home at the end of the workday and knowing all you have to do for dinner is heat it up.

For tonight's dinner, I was SO excited to try a honey-brined roast chicken. I was inspired by the organic brined chickens I saw at Trader Joe's last week, but they were a bit pricey. Not one to back down from a culinary challenge, I decided to brine my own chicken. Did you know buying a whole roaster is super economical? Our grocery store carries them for like five bucks! On Saturday morning, I made the brine, submerged the chicken, and stuck it in the fridge for 24 hours. Today I drained it, rinsed it, and roasted it for 1 1/2 hours and this is what came out of the oven:

OMG. It was to.die.for. Seriously. The best chicken we have ever had. Ever. We gorged ourselves, and Sweets gobbled it up too. It was unbelievably flavorful, tender and moist, and for the first time, we are crazy excited about chicken leftovers!

I served it with roasted sweet potatoes and green beans with garlic herb butter. It was the perfect Sunday dinner! If you've never tried brining, don't be afraid, brine away!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Return of the Rocking Chair

I am so tired of being tired. Seriously, doesn't being tired suck? Now that we've been blessed with pretty consistent sleep for well over a year now, I had kinda forgotten how awful it is not to have it. In the last six weeks, Sweets transitioned to his big boy bed (sleep strike #1), came down with his first cold of the season (sleep strike #2), and then caught croup (sleep strike #3). For those of you keeping track at home, sleep is OUT in our house these days and oh man are we cranky about it. That's the thing about my son - when his sleep tanks, it really tanks. I mean, there's no halfway here, if you're going to do something, do it right ;)

So naturally, I have regressed into sleep obsession mode. I'm obsessed with everybody's sleep around here - Sweets, mine, Hubs, the cat, you get the idea. And when I'm in sleep obsession mode, I start thinking of all the things I can do to improve the sleep climate in our house. Some of them are big fat flops (like setting up the Pack n' Play in a desperate attempt to get Sweets to nap, given that he takes blissful 2 hour snoozes in one at the sitter's house...yeahnotsomuch at his own house), and others, well, others have some real merit. I don't know what made me think of it, but I remembered reading a blurb in a Dr. Sears parenting book when Sweetie Pea was really little, about the things children will do when they perceive that they haven't had enough "touch time" with mommy and daddy. The gist was when there isn't enough loving physical contact between parent and child, you could start to see things like clinginess, separation anxiety, refusal to sleep, etc. And I realized that before we set up the big boy bed, we had a rocking chair in Sweets' room and we would sit in it every night to read books, and one of us would rock with him briefly and sing a couple of songs before putting him in his crib. With the new bed set up, the rocking chair got dismantled and relocated upstairs, and all we had to work with was that chair cushion on the floor. Sweets is like a busy little bee these days, and without the rocking chair, story time consisted of him running all over his room, pulling books off the shelf, flipping through them, talking about what's in them, and generally not calming down one bit.

Ding ding ding went my sleep-deprived brain! Bring back the chair! So yesterday, Sweets helped me drag it back downstairs (well, he did more watching than dragging) and reassemble it to make a cozy little reading nook (this he actually did assist with. Kid knows the difference between a screwdriver and an Allen wrench!). And guess what? We had a great snuggle before bed and it made a huge difference in how he went to sleep and stayed asleep.

Thank you God for Dr. Sears and rocking chairs.

The first thing he did upon me putting the freshly cleaned slipcover back on it was wipe a huge snot rocket on the seat. Boys!

It makes the room a little more crowded, but you know I'd sell my soul for decent sleep, so I consider that fairly minor ;)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Big Boy Room!

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: I was totally not looking to move Sweets into a big bed. He was sleeping great in his crib and never tried to climb out. I told myself he could sleep there until college if it meant we were all getting some frickin' sleep (if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know I am still carrying around the trauma of not sleeping for a year). And then my parents' super nice neighbor had to go and mention that they had a super nice bedroom set they were looking to sell for a super reasonable price and well, I had to change my plan. The problem, you see, is that the bed is a rather large setup, and we had nowhere to store it until I was actually ready to transition him to a bed. So we set it up in his room, but left the crib up as well, and let him set the pace. He took to it immediately, so I, in my infinite "wisdom" took the crib down (it's a small room, people, can you blame me?) and sleep has been iffy ever since. Naps are a complete nightmare and it's making me nuts.

But, on the bright side, I sure did have fun transforming Sweetie Pea's room from nursery to a little boy's space! If you want to see what it looked like before, see my nursery post. I did not want to change the color of the walls or the wainscoting, but I did want it to reflect what he loves: planes, trains and automobiles!

This is the new view when you walk in the door. The bed really is neat, and it's perfect for a small space because both the dresser and the desk fit underneath. The desk slides in and out, which is great, because he won't need it for a few years yet.

This thing was a beast to put together. I truly hope we never have to move it.

I hunted high and low for the perfect bedding, and I found this adorable set of Frolics train sheets at my local Homegoods (LOVE Homegoods so much!). 

I made a racing flag bunting for above the bed. Sweets "helped" me hang it up ;)

On the other wall over the bed, I made these framed prints. My mom actually bought these neat "Roommates" brand adhesive decals for his room at their house, and she didn't use them all, so she gave me what was left. I knew they'd be great in his transportation-themed room, but they didn't show up well on the red walls, so the framing really helped them stand out. 

Oh Craigslist, how I love you. You provide me with things I didn't even know I was looking for. Case in point: this adorably vintage biplane that I picked up for $20. It is the perfect touch!

Shelving for knick knacks, photos and books. 

I tried to create a little reading nook near the bookshelf by adding that little corduroy chair pillow on the floor, since climbing in and out of that loft bed can be tricky for us big people.

More adhesive decals, plus the ever-so-necessary sound machine, a new lampshade, and the "What are little boys made of?" needlework.

An old license plate, mini oil can, and my favorite little sign top one of the floating shelves.

Atop the other are Sweetie Pea's name blocks, a framed photo of us on his birthday, and his John Deere bank. I tried to keep this on a lower shelf, but he thought it was great fun to dump out all the coins every day. 365 times a day. So it got moved.

The Rest Area sign was an ebay find and I think it's so cute! Originally the bed came with plastic, sea foam green drawer pulls. I wanted to replace them with something original, so I bought 10 unfinished wooden knobs for .98 each and painted them to look like wheels. They're not perfect, but they add a fun, whimsical touch to the room and Sweets' likes them, so that's all that matters :)

Imagine my joy to find these two sheet sets on clearance at Target (no seriously, I was practically dancing in the aisle when I saw them)! Vintage race cars and diggers for $8.98 a set? Sold! 

So there you have it. My baby is officially a big boy. Sniff. It's such a mixed bag of emotions, am I right mamas?