Monday, April 27, 2015

Girl Power!

Oh man. I was just getting back into the blogging groove and enjoying it when life intervened. When you are juggling the precarious balance of working full-time and parenting full-time, it only takes one little thing to tip the scales unfavorably! So, on the very favorable side of things, my mom and I took a blissful but far too short trip to South Florida for my sister-in-law's baby shower. I had an awesome time and loved seeing my brother and SIL, but I couldn't shake that nagging feeling that something was going to go wrong at home while I was away. Sure enough, while I was basking in this:

and eating ice cream for lunch...


the dreaded winter tummy bug invaded my house. It started with wee little Cole, who hardly seemed phased by it, except to pause and toss his cookies every now and then. By the day I arrived home, already none too pleased at returning to sub-zero temps and knee-high snow, it took out Jake and my husband. Worst welcome home ever! After that, I just couldn't get it together for weeks! I was behind in grocery shopping and meal planning, and spring cleaning and the list goes on...

ANYWAY, I am pleased to announce that in the whirlwind of boys that make up my life, we have finally welcomed some little ladies into the mix! We had talked about how wonderful it would be to have "homegrown" eggs for a long time. We easily go through 2 dozen in a week! So when our fabulous and oh-so-generous neighbors offered us their coop set-up as they transition out of backyard chickening, we jumped at the opportunity. We did our research and decided on Buff Orpington hens for our little flock. Their gentle, tolerant nature appealed to us, and they are reported to be great egg layers with great personalities. Jake named most of them - Crystal (why? Because "it's a good name." Remind me not to let him choose baby names, ever!), Fuzzy, Rosie, Daisy, Marigold, and Buffy.



For divas, they sure do poop a lot ;) They're currently residing in the warm glow of a heat lamp (not unlike South Florida!) in their cozy chick condo in our basement. Jake is completely enamored with them. Every morning he jumps out of bed, puts his slippers on and goes downstairs to say "good morning, gwirls!" and every night he holds each one before he goes to bed, turns out the basement light and says "good night, gwirls, I love you!" I die <3

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fiscal Fast February

I will be the first to admit that one of my weaknesses is impulse buying. Ug, bad, I know! I partially blame modern technology - I mean, it's so ridiculously easy to get that thing you need want on Amazon when the app is on your phone and it stores your credit card info. Click, click, it's on its way in 45 seconds.

Or let's talk about this little phenomenon, shall we?

Running in to Target for one thing is like a joke for most of us, no? So when I heard about this little thing going around called "Fiscal Fast February" on a few of the Youtube channels I watch, I was intrigued. It's basically exactly how it sounds: for the entire month of February, you only purchase necessities. I see it both as a way to retain money in my bank account, as well as to perhaps just get used to living without those little impulse purchases - a new nail polish at the grocery store, the do-dad a coworker tells you she got on Amazon that you decide you can't live without (yes, I just said do-dad), a quick run into Old Navy for a white cami that ends with a shopping bag much too large for just a white cami. Let me just say that I shop FAR less after having kids than I did before, and that in the grand scheme of things, I feel that most of my purchases are kid-related, however, I know these frequent little purchases are a habit I'd prefer to break. So how'd I do?

What necessities did I buy in February?
Groceries - but I am proud to say I did not purchase one thing that wasn't food, beverage, or household-related (ie cleaning products, tissues, etc).  
Gas - 'cause, well, I ain't walkin' to work ;-)
Gifts - I have a baby shower coming up, and got the kids each a little Valentine's Day present
School supplies - Jake needed Valentines for his class party, and I certainly wasn't going to deprive him of those for the sake of my little experiment. If I was hard-core, I'd have made them by hand with supplies we already have, but listen, I work, I have two energetic kids, I'm tired people. For $7, he got his Paw Patrol Valentines and some organic gummy bears to hand out and he was happy.

*And of course, though I'm not going to list them individually, all of our mortgage and utility expenses got paid, because those people do not take kindly to being called "unnecessary." 

Did I fall off the wagon?
The short answer is yes. But first let me say, I really and truly tried to stick to the spirit of the month, and I think I did a decent job. For example, two days into February, my Bluetooth speaker in my car bit the dust, and had it happened a week earlier, I would have just hopped on Amazon and ordered a new one. But, I refrained, and you know what? I've easily made it through the month without it. Weeks ago, I lost my favorite white cami that I wear all the time, and I was itching to replace it, but I resisted the siren's song of Target and Old Navy and guess what? I found it this morning buried in a pile of clean laundry!, my all-time favorite website for natural products, keeps sending me coupons, gosh durnit, and I keep deleting them. Those are just a few examples of times where my check-out finger was itchy, but I stuck to my frugal February guns, and I have to say, I enjoyed the feeling!

BUT, I had two transgressions. The first was minor. I had a Kohl's gift card (which, according to the rules, was exempt from FFF, because it was a gift to me). Everything I picked out for myself was covered by the gift card (go clearance racks, and go me!), but I could not pass up a winter coat and puffer vest for Jake for next year that were on final clearance, plus an additional 30% off, so I scored both for $12. In my mind, it would have been stupid to pass those up now, only to pay full price for them next fall. That's just bad shopping. The second was...well, not as minor. Ok, I bought a couch. But in my defense, have you seen the President's Day furniture sales? I will never buy furniture at any other time of year. We've been needing a new one for awhile now, and again, I'm not going to pass up a killer deal now to pay full price in a month or two. That's bananas.

So overall, I loved this little challenge. I will definitely repeat it every few months as a fun way to really think about what I'm spending, and I challenge you to do the same! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

Here's what's on the menu this week!

Sunday: Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops, Parmesan roasted cauliflower, and cous cous
Monday: Pasta with trees and cheese, bread and tossed salad
Tuesday: Lentil apricot soup with baguette
Wednesday: Slow cooker salsa chicken with black beans, corn, and brown rice (I didn't end up making this last week, so it's reappearing on this week's menu)
Thursday: Breakfast for dinner
Friday: I'm outta here! Heading to fabulous, warm South Florida to shower my sister-in-law with baby love :) The boys will be having Jake's favorite meal - Annie's Natural Mac and Cheese, Earth's Best Organic Chicken Nuggets, applesauce, and carrots.
Saturday: I'll be away, but I've tucked some meals away in the freezer for the guys. Tonight they'll be having homemade cheese steak pockets and sweet potato fries.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cole at One Year

I know, I know, he's almost 14 months old, but I wanted to do a one year post to capture this adorable phase in his life. Because really, everything he does right now is adorable

One Year Stats: 
Height: 29 inches/25th percentile
Weight: 21 lbs, 7 oz/29th percentile
Wears: Size 12 - 18 month clothes and is moving into a size 5 shoe

Likes: Food, eating, anything related to food and eating, being chased, being tickled, photos of people he recognizes, mirrors, emptying EVERYthing, blankie, binkie, peek-a-boo, the dog, messing up anything his big brother is playing with and walking on his own two feet ;)

Dislikes: Diaper changes (how DARE you make me stay still!), long car rides, hats, mittens, and waiting for food to be served (this includes all of the time it takes to prepare a meal. Any meal). 

Accomplishments: So very proud of his newfound walking skills! His favorite word is ball. Everything is a ball right now. He also says "Ma-Ma, Da-Da, Brub-er (brother), Bubba (his buddy next door), Blue, Uh-Oh, and roars like a tiger. He has mastered the straw cup and is pretty good at using a fork and spoon. He points to what he notices or wants, and has finally, FINALLY, settled into a decent sleep pattern in which he puts himself to sleep and generally sleeps all night.  

Dear Sweet Baby Boy,

You are growing so fast it makes my head spin. I remember so vividly this time last year, when you and I were snuggled up in our cozy warm house with your brother while the winter wore on and on. You were just a tiny bug then; now here we are with the snow piled up and the cold wind whipping again, and you are constantly on the move. But you still like to snuggle, bless your sweet little heart. You come careening at me throughout the day, the biggest grin on your face, so tickled to find yourself upright and powered by your own two feet, and just crash into me wanting kisses and hugs. When you're sleepy, you bury your face on my shoulder and breathe in Blankie's smell and your whole body relaxes. Let's talk about Blankie for a minute. You drag him behind you all day long and he's usually covered in dog hair and smells like baby spit and boogers, but man, do you love that thing! I secretly love it too, because it smells like sweet sleepy you, and because you think it's so funny when we play peek-a-boo with Blankie. Perhaps the only thing you love more than Blankie is food. Oh, your love affair with food! I've never seen a baby eat with such relish, and I'm pretty sure I could serve you sand from the sandbox and you would gobble it up and ask for more. Please don't ever lose your sense of culinary adventure! It thrills me, and cracks me up. 

Everything is wondrous to you right now. Everything is interesting and new, and worthy of exploration. I love seeing the world through your eyes, hearing your belly laughs, and kissing your soft dough-cheeks. I can't wait until spring is here, and all of us can take you outside and watch you toddle around the world and discover everything your brother loves. There is so much waiting for us, Sweet Bug. The sun on our faces, your first ice cream cone, your feet in the sand somewhere, and lots of chasing you through the grass. You brighten our days so much, little boy! We can't imagine our lives without you.

Love, kisses, (and food) forever,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Natural Product Empties

Once upon a time, a good four years ago now, we gave up cable. I could write a whole separate post on what a great decision that was for us, but that's not what I'm writing about today. Since we said goodbye to all those channels, I've found a few YouTube channels I love and watch regularly. I have no idea why, but one of my favorite things to watch are product reviews. I just love seeing what other people use and like. Call me weird, I don't know ;) So I thought I'd share my most recent empties in case there's any other weirdos like me out there.

So starting at noon in the picture above and working clockwise, we have:

Dandy Blend Instant Herbal Beverage: I am not a coffee drinker, not because I don't like it, but because it doesn't much like me. This is an exquisite alternative that I can make quickly in the morning, hot or iced, and it tastes great. No caffeine, but I don't mind. It's my little treat for the commute.
Bottom line: I love it and have already repurchased.

Konjac Sponge: If you haven't heard of this little oval-shaped facial sponge, check them out! They're 100% natural and gentle, made from the root of the Konjac plant. I enjoy the gentle exfoliation and softness it gives my skin. After a few months it kind of shrivels up and needs to be replaced.
Bottom line: I bought a two pack of these and will most likely repurchase when my current sponge dries up.

Yes to Carrots Night Cream: I was underwhelmed by this product. I usually love the "Yes To" line but this had a strong fragrance that I didn't care for.
Bottom line: I won't be repurchasing this one.

St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub: While not totally natural, this scrub had been a staple in my skincare routine since I was a teenager. I'm a little obsessed with it and now my husband is hooked on it as well. An all-around great exfoliator!
Bottom line: I've repurchased this countless times and will continue to do so!

Xyli-White Toothpaste: One of the major changes we made to our personal products was the switch to natural, non-flouride toothpaste. I had no idea how many yucky chemicals are in conventional toothpaste! We all love this one, and I love that the whole family can use it; no kids toothpaste necessary.
Bottom line: Have already repurchased and will continue to do so!

The Honest Company Kids' Multivitamin: My 4 year old enjoyed the tropical flavor of these whole-food vitamins with probiotics. I feel good about giving them to him and they seem to be giving his immune system a nice little boost!
Bottom line: Would definitely repurchase.

Trader Joe's Lavender Hand and Body Lotion: I'm a big fan of this for year-round use. It smells great and is free of many nasties we try to avoid. It's not typically strong enough for our harsh winter weather and the subsequent alligator skin we sometimes experience, but I have other products in my arsenal for that.
Bottom line: Have and will repurchase!

Avalon Organics Lavender Facial Cleansing Milk: This is just ok, in my book. It smells amazing, but it doesn't remove my eye make-up for beans and I'm fighting some break-outs since using it. 
Bottom line: Probably will not repurchase.

Dr. Bronners Lavender Castile Soap (do you see a trend here? I might like lavender): I'd heard a lot about this plant-based soap, which claims to have something like 180 uses. I like it! I use it mostly to hand wash my delicates, in homemade laundry detergent, and to refill my foaming soap dispensers. 
Bottom line: I've repurchased this in the fragrance-free version and am just as happy with it.

Trader Joe's Cream Shave: I discovered this while searching for a more natural shave cream for myself and it turns out my husband and I both love it. One tube lasted like six months with both of us using it (a little dab'll do ya!), which also makes it a bargain!
Bottom line: Have already repurchased!

Just Hatched Happy Baby Body Wash: I finished this up awhile ago after using it on both the boys. It's gentle, free of yuckies and has a pleasant, sweet scent. However the pump broke, which made it a giant pain to dispense.
Bottom line: Since Cole's skin now requires eczema-sensitive products I probably wouldn't repurchase this one.

The Honest Company Lip Balm Trio: These were ok. I kinda felt like the product disappeared quickly after applying it, which was annoying. They smelled delicious though!
Bottom line: Not planning to repurchase.

Eden's Garden Lavender Essential Oil: Huge fan of this stuff! Seriously, SO many uses! My favorites are to add to a bath (for kids and adults), for minor cuts, scrapes and burns, and diffusing into the air to promote relaxation. 
Bottom line: I already have two more bottles ;)

See anything that interests you? We have loved our journey into more natural products!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

Here's what we're eating this (sub-arctic, vacation-from-school-and-work) week!

Monday: Balsamic Chicken with Grains and Greens, Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Avocado, the Most AMAZING homemade bread EVER
Tuesday: Dinner with my parents :)
Thursday: Turkey Cheesesteaks and Fruit Salad
Friday: Ridiculously easy slow cooker salsa chicken with black beans, brown rice, and corn
Saturday: This is our up-in-the-air day this week. We have a bunch of stuff going on, so dinner will probably be on the fly!

Bonus Recipe: Our new favorite dessert - these are the easiest, most decadent homemade brownies that will ever cross your lips! Moosewood Restuarant Fudge Brownies - enjoy!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meal Plan Monday

It's no secret that I am a HUGE proponent of meal planning. I think it saves us so much time and money, and I am not one who functions well at 5 pm, staring into the fridge wondering what we're going to have for dinner. I used to meal plan weekly and shop on Saturdays - a process that, for all my self-proclaimed love of meal planning - I loathed. The time it took each week to develop a plan and the crowds at the grocery store on weekends made me more than a little wacko. So I moved to monthly meal planning and haven't looked back since. It has changed my life! I make one huge grocery trip for the month and stock up on all meat, grocery items, refrigerated and frozen items, and household purchases. All that's left to do weekly is one quick stop (usually on my way home from work one day in the mid-afternoon) for the week's produce, milk, and eggs. I love seeing what's on other people's meal plans, so I thought I'd start sharing what's on mine and maybe inspire you to try something new! And yes, I realize this week's Meal Plan Monday is getting posted on Wednesday. Listen, I'm still trying to get back on the blogging horse ;-) 

Sunday: Chicken with Mustard Mascarpone Marsala Sauce, roasted potatoes, and green beans. Holy cow, this chicken is AMAZING
Monday: Curried quinoa risotto*, field greens salad with pineapple and feta.
Tuesday: Easy Weeknight Mushroom and Kale Pasta (one of our favorite new recipes) 
Wednesday: Baked Potato Soup (note: this doesn't even pretend to be low cal)
Thursday: Spinach and Gruyere Quiche, field greens salad with apples and walnuts
Friday: It's my little secret that I always leave Fridays wide open on the old meal plan. I never feel like cooking much on Friday night, so it's either leftovers, breakfast for dinner, or dinner at my parents' house.
Saturday: This Saturday happens to be Valentine's Day, so I'll be cooking something special...I just haven't figured out what that will be yet!

*From "The Family Cooks: 100+ Recipes to Get Your Family Craving Food That's Simple, Tasty, and Incredibly Good for You" by Laurie David.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Where have we been?

This blog hasn't seen the light of day for a long time. Um, make that almost a year. But I can't even apologize (see: "The New Normal"). Listen, life happens and I was too busy keeping my head (barely) above water and dragging myself through day after day following sleepless night after sleepless night to even contemplate the remote possibility of feeling creative. But I've slowly felt my creativity drifting back to me over the last weeks. The eight hours of consecutive sleep I've been getting per night *might* have something to do with it ;) I can't say how often, but I can say that I finally feel like I want to start blogging again, so I'm just going with it. So, where did we leave off? Since I last updated, there's been:
Bug Hunting...

...general adorableness...

...not very much of this...

...greeting spring...

...greeting more bugs...

...toe finding...

...preschool graduating... cream eating...

...fat lip-getting...

...first foods...

...second foods...


...summer funning...

...road tripping...

...summer camping...



...first pet getting...

...first day of schooling...

...backpack adventuring...

...homework doing...

...corn mazing...

...corn maze smooching...

...trick or treating...

...John Deere driving...

...high fiving...

...Christmas wish whispering...


...and finally, a little celebrating :)

So there you have it! We've been busy with bugs, boo-boos and birthdays. My baby is one, my big boy is about to enroll in Kindergarten, and still life just keeps marching on. Here's to another year of fun, bug-filled adventures!