Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Post-It Note Tuesday #1

Who doesn't love Post-it Notes??  Well, at least the virtual kind creates no waste! 

100 Mile Challenge

Thanks to this post on Suburban Saving Mom's website, I found out about the 100 mile challenge.  Reading the post, I had to laugh because I have used the "I live in Wisconsin" excuse for not doing more to eat locally.  I'm not saying it is an excuse for Amy, only that it was for me.

Seriously, I live in Wisconsin, it's not the best environment for many things that we love to eat. How could I do something as responsible as try to find local options and adapt my diet to fit the foods I find?

Well, apparently it can be done and I'm looking forward to finding great places to get our food from.  What I can't get locally, I will do my best to buy from smaller, local stores so I'm at least supporting our local economy rather than lining someone else's pockets.

Homemade Wheat Bread

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

In my "former life", cheap was good and quick was even better.  I'm not saying healthy, I'm just saying it reduced my stress level to spend as little as possible at the grocery store and have to put in as little effort as possible.

Last month, we bought a loaf of bread from one of the big box stores.  It was probably about $1 for the loaf.  Well, when we got home, it didn't get put in the bread box, it was put on my junk counter.  When I found it a couple of weeks ago, I didn't think twice, I put it in the bread box.  Then, there wasn't much need for bread for a while, until last week, when Bug wanted toast for breakfast. 

When I saw the sell by date, I was horrified that the bread was so old!  The date was around Valentine's Day.  When I saw that the bread had no mold and was only slightly hard, I just about freaked out.  I don't even want to think of how much they have to put into the bread to get it to last that long! 

As silly as it may seem, bread became a priority on the "healthier options" list.  I picked up a bag of Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour last weekend when I was at the grocery store.  The back of the bag had a recipe for bread, so I used that recipe and made sure I had all of the ingredients. 

Another shocker, there isn't much difference in color between all-purpose flour and unbleached all-purpose flour.  If they're that similar, why purchase the bleached option?  Seriously, if anyone has an answer for that, I'd love to know!

Last night, after throwing dinner in the oven, I started mixing my first batch of bread.  I was terrified!  Bread is something that seems like it needs a lot of care and practice to do well.  After the first rise, I was sure I had messed it up, but I kept trudging through.  I formed my two loaves, put them in their pans, and covered them to rise again.  This time, I felt more confident as I had a better idea of the starting point of my loaves.

They seemed to get dark quickly and I got scared again.  What if my bread was inedible? What if I only thought it had risen long enough? What if...

It did take about 3 hours from start to finish but it was amazing!!!  As soon as it cooled enough to touch, I cut it and buttered a piece as a snack for myself.  Had I not shown some restraint, I easily could have eaten the whole loaf!

The funny thing is, I spent about $6 stocking my pantry with items I didn't have.  At the very least, I have enough left for one more batch, which would bring the cost down to about $1.50 per loaf.  So, to save 50 cents and some time, I've been buying tasteless bread filled with everything unhealthy for my family.  That really doesn't seem like I saved much at all!  From now on, I will set aside a little bit of my weekends to bake bread for my family to eat during the week.  If we have leftovers, I will use it to make French toast or something equally yummy so it doesn't go to waste!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Delayed or Just Laid Back?

When do you start to worry about your child's development?  On one hand, Bub has always been an incredibly laid back baby and it's easy to chalk everything up to lack of desire.  On the other hand, he's almost 11 months old, not crawling, not pulling up on anything, won't drink from a cup, isn't talking, and I'm probably forgetting something.

As much as I'm trying to stay relaxed, it's hard to not get worried.  What if he's NOT just a laid back little boy and I wait to get him help?  We live in such a world of early intervention, should I err on the side of caution and bring it up?

Then, I remind myself that numerous people have told me it's not unusual for younger siblings to do things later and I feel like a dolt for worrying.

This mommy business isn't as easy as Hollywood would have us believe!  Any moms out there have any sage advice one way or the other?

Kid Friendly Frugal Food

Kid-friendly food makes my life easy.  Frugal food is a near necessity.  To get both of those and have it be a healthy option is no longer impossible.  I will admit, I spent too many years feeding my daughter crap.  It's a sad reality that mac and cheese and hot dogs are so much more affordable that a home cooked meal, but that's not what this post is about...

As I've mentioned before, I recently purchased the Deen Brothers "Take it Easy" cookbook and I'm working my way through all of the recipes.  This was the first recipe I tried, and if the kid factor is any indication, this is a book well worth the price!

I am posting my slightly varied version of their recipe, found on page 105.

Creamy Spicy Sausage Pasta
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Newman's Own tomato sauce (I used the roasted garlic)
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • salt and pepper (don't let the 4 year old help with the pepper!)
  • 1 pound rigatoni
Cook the sausage, then add cream and tomato sauce.  Simmer until slightly thickened.  Add peas and cook until peas are hot.  Boil pasta according to directions and add to sausage and sauce mixture.  Serve with grated parmesan on top.

With using salt, pepper, and parmesan that I already had on hand, I was able to make this meal for 5.97 and it easily could have fed 6 people.  My husband, one of the biggest eaters I know asked why I made so much, and he only saw what was left after I had some and after Bug had 2 little bowls.

As for the kid factor, after screaming that she was going to hate dinner the entire 30 mile drive home from town, she decided to try it.  When I was feeding her brother, she "snuck" in to the kitchen to get a little more.  She asked for more after that and I gave it to her, but she didn't eat it.  Not only that, but she has turned to the picture in the cookbook several times since we made it last week and asked for it again!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Getting to Know You #1

This week, I decided to join the Getting to Know You meme hosted by Keely at Mann Land 5. It's a great way to get to know other bloggers and memes have helped me find some amazing blogs I wouldn't have found otherwise.

1 - Why did you start blogging?
I started my first blog in 2006 as a way to find myself.  The previous year, I had gotten married and had my first child, which made me feel like I no longer had my own identity.  I was no longer Heather, I was now Rick's wife and Bug's mom.  Writing is something I have always been passionate about, so blogging seemed to be a great outlet to journal.
My current blog was started just a week ago.  The old one didn't "fit" anymore and, to be quite honest, I felt like it had a very negative vibe to it.  I don't want to be negative anymore, I want to focus on the positive and move forward in life.
2 - Who's the one blog friend that you would want to meet most in "real life"?
It wasn't until recently that I became active in the blogging community, so I don't "know" many people yet, but I would love to meet Pam from Troop Petrie.

3 - Why are you always concerned with losing that "extra 10 pounds" when chances are your husband/boyfriend/friends tell you that you look just fine the way you are?
Look, just because my husband doesn't mind seeing my body the way it is, that doesn't mean I don't mind!  For me, it's way beyond "that extra 10".  I want to lose weight to be HEALTHY, not to look smokin' hot for my husband, although that would be an added bonus!  As for friends, I don't think many friends would tell you that you were still chunky if you've been working hard to look good!

4 - What's the one thing you wish guys could understand about you?
Just because I'm not "super girly" doesn't mean I don't like to get dressed up and look fabulous every once in a while!

5 - Tattoos. How many do you have and how many are visible when you wear your "everyday" clothes?
I have one that is only visible when I wear a skirt or shorts.  I want to get more, but good tats aren't cheap!

6 - What was the best year of your life and why?
2005, by far!  My dad got remarried to my amazing step-mom, I got married, we had our first child, and my brother got married to his high school sweetheart.  How much better could a year get??

7 - Name three things you would do if you were a man for one day.
Honestly, I'm not sure!  I don't think there's much I don't do now that I would if I was a man for a day.
8 - What's your alcoholic drink of choice that usually raises a few eyebrows?
I don't drink much anymore, but just once, I would love to have a Bloody Mary morning around the hotel pool during a family vacation.  I can remember my entire extended family going to weddings and the adults would drink have a bloody mary to "wake up" while the kids swam before checking out.  These days, that would definitely raise an eyebrow or ten, but it's a wonderful memory I have from my childhood.  It wasn't about getting drunk, it was about a once in a while indulgence and spending time together.

Deen Brothers - Take It Easy

Some cookbooks offer a scrumptious meal on the cover to entice the reader.  Ballantine Books made a great choice with a different image to draw the wannabe cook in.  Seriously, what could be better than the Deen Brothers making a delicious dish as a way to get a cookbook noticed?

Since a family can't live on cupcakes alone, I decided a "real" cookbook would be good to work my way through at the same time I'm working through the cupcake book.  I chose "The Deen Bros. Take it Easy", a book that promises quick and affordable meals.  As a full time work outside the home mom helping to raise two little ones, quick and affordable are essential!

I'm going to be posting our family's reaction to different dishes as I go and occasionally posting recipes that are a huge hit with Bug and the oh-so-picky husband.

500 Cupcakes

So, I recently decided to start baking my way through this book. The thing about a book that promises so many different recipes is that it's nearly impossible for all of them to be perfect.  Unfortunately, I found this out on my first recipe.

I promised myself that I was not going to change any of the recipes on the first attempt even though I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  I need a baseline for the recipes so I can make adjustments as necessary.

I'm now questioning if I will follow that rule through the rest of the book.  I felt the Carrot Cupcake recipe was flawed, but went ahead with it. It seemed like it was lacking moisture and short on spice.  I was right.  It was so far from what I wanted that I'm going to take this batch (unfrosted) to church for fellowship.  Honestly, they're not bad, they just seem closer to a muffin than a cupcake.  This afternoon, I will try the recipe again with the changes I wanted to make and the changes my husband, my official taster and critic, wanted made.  Hopefully, this will result in something I can be proud of.  If it turns out, I will post the recipe and pictures later tonight!

Laundry Week Comes to an End

For the past week, I've focused on doing laundry responsibly. First, I didn't put a load of laundry in the washer unless I knew I could put it into the dryer when it was done.  Thanks to an article on My Child's View, I also did not do laundry if I knew I would be sleeping or gone while it dried. This did make it more difficult since I'm out of the house so much during the week, but for safety, it makes sense.  This week, I didn't have to re-wash anything!

Next, when I ran out of soap, I made my own eco-friendly and frugal soap from a recipe I found online. I was skeptical at first, but I'm totally in love with our new laundry soap!  Also, I have been finding ways to use some of the supplies I bought around the house, reducing our consumption of chemical cleaners!

I also found a great tip for cutting drying time.  Again, I was skeptical but tried to stay open-minded. I now have a funky dyed towel that sits on top of my dryer, waiting to be thrown into every load.  It's been a lifesaver given my new rules on drying when I'm not able to keep an eye on the dryer.

I will admit that I wasn't the best about folding this week.  I was so focused on getting the laundry washed and dried that I would pile everything on my bed and then into a basket when my good intentions of folding after the kids were in bed fell through.  The good news is that even that turned into a positive! 

Most nights, my husband works late and I am sleeping by the time he gets home.  Last night, after we enjoyed "The Blind Side" for an in-home date night, I asked if he would help me.  I wasn't expecting him to since there are some things that he needed to take care of but he did.  As silly as it sounds, we had some great reconnecting over that mountain of dry clothes.

All in all, I mark this week a success!  I'm going to continue working on making this change permanent, and in the coming week, I am going to add home cooking every night to my list.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cut Drying Time

As much as I would love to have a sparkly new dryer with all the bells and whistles, it's not in the budget right now.  That means I'm stuck using my old dryer, which normally takes at least two cycles to dry clothes.

The other night, I read an article that suggested putting a dry towel in with the wet laundry as a way to cut drying time.  I honestly didn't think this would work, after all, it's one dry towel. 

Reluctantly, I found a nice, fluffy towel and threw it in with Bubs' diapers.  These always take about a cycle and a half to dry, even using the "sensor dry" setting.  Usually, the prefolds and pocket outers are dry at the end of the cycle, but the fitteds and pocket inserts are still damp. Much to my surprise, with one dryer cycle that was shorter than it usually is, every diaper in the load was dry!

Figuring this wasn't enough of a challenge for that hard working towel, I washed a load of nothing but jeans.  The nemesis of my dryer, my plus-sized jeans along with hubby's cargo jeans with all of their extra pockets.  ONE CYCLE!!! 

Looks like I can no longer use my excessively long drying time as an excuse for not doing laundry!  It also means that I won't have musty clothes if I don't remember to reset the dryer because I no longer have to reset it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent Experiment

Not only did I get two loads of laundry done last night and came home this afternoon to an empty washer (this is big for me), I remembered my list and picked up supplies to make my own homemade laundry detergent.  The original recipe can be found here, but I did tweak it based on different articles I read online.

My recipe:
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda (instead of baking soda, it's supposed to work better)
  • 1 bar of Dr Bronner's Magic Soap (I used the Tea Tree Orange)
The first mistake I made was using the big tub I'm used to pouring powder detergent into.  I had the image in my head that I was making a huge concoction when this is the end result:
I grated the bar of soap using the medium set of holes on a box grater.  I did swing by the dollar store and pick up a grater that will only be used for soap just to be safe.  Once that was done, all that was left to do was add the washing soda and Borax.  Before using, I gave the container a shake (the small container) to make sure nothing had separated and settled.

I have issues with measuring spoons, so I grabbed a spare 1/4 cup scoop and filled it less than half way.  The original recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons depending on the size of the load and the grunge factor.  I was sure it wasn't going to work, but this is trial and error, right?

This is what happens when a 4 year old Bug tries to do a "science project" while mom is taking care of her brother.  1 cup of water mixed with 2 kool-aid packets, promptly spilled on the floor and wiped up by taking her pants off to clean the floor.  And then hidden so mom won't get mad.  With more than a little doubt, I threw these into the wash to test my homemade laundry soap.  This is what came out:

I couldn't remember exactly where the stain was, but I know it was all over one side of the pants and the waistband.  As you can see, it came out!  This is definitely going to be my detergent from now on!  I'm going to keep track of how many loads I get out of this batch in my sidebar and I will figure out the cost per load when everything is gone.

Paid so far:
Borax: 3.19
Washing Soda: 2.49
Dr. Bronner's soap: 3.29

I barely touched the first two ingredients, so it'll be a while before I need them again. So far, I've spent 8.97.  That's less than I would have spent buying detergent for a few weeks and I have supplies left over!  I'm going to like this experiment!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fluff the Bum!

Cloth diapers can be about as confusing if you just go to a website and start looking at them.  Even once you think you have it figured out, it's possible to walk into the store and feel completely LOST!  Ask how I know, I dare you!

The Eco-Cheap Mom is hosting an event in April that I wish had been around last year at this time!  Fluff the Bum promises to be an event dedicated to teaching parents about the different cloth diapers.  Not only that, but she's doing daily giveaways, every weekday in April.  Looking at the sponsors list, this is sure to be an all-out fluff fest!

Whether it's an eco thing or a cheap thing, cloth diapers have gotten a bum wrap over the years.  Check out Fluff the Bum to get rid of any negative thoughts you have about cloth and maybe give it a try!  Seriously, you've seen me talk about how bad I am at laundry and ours have lasted almost a year!

Green Laundry?

So, I'm over half way into my week of focusing on laundry.  The good news is I've only forgotten one load in the washer.  The bad news?  Rather than forget laundry in the washer, I've apparently decided to ignore its existence.

That's not entirely true and I have a good excuse reason for not doing laundry.  I'm out of soap and have procrastinated on finding a better option that won't make my husband break out or make the checkbook cry!

If only I had done a search sooner, maybe I wouldn't be trying to find a solution in a hurry because I'm out of clean pants for work tomorrow morning!  The first site I found may become a new best friend.  They have a fairly simple, straight forward recipe for homemade laundry detergent!  I am going to try this tonight and pray that my clothes come out clean!

If anyone has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them!  Just remember, I'm trying to save money while being more conscious of my decisions.  I don't claim to be an expert, in fact, I'm the exact opposite.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Thank you to the Captain at Our Imperfect Life for a wonderful meme!  I guess I just did my first "thank you", LOL!

  1. Thank you to Mel for being a wonderful friend.  I feel like we've grown so much together since we met and I look forward to raising our kids together (and, of course, the marriage of our children down the road).
  2. Thank you to my father for pushing me to get out of the house for a couple of hours after Bubs was born.  I am still reaping the benefits of that advice!
  3. Thank you to my daughter for showing me what being a true Christian is!
  4. Thank you to all of my customers for supporting our hopes and dreams!
  5. Thank you to my ex-husband.  I truly mean that!  Without you and your actions, I wouldn't be where I am today, the mother of two wonderful children with a man who loves me!
  6. Thank you to my former bosses.  Good and bad.
Head on over to Our Imperfect Life to see who else is thankful!

We've All Heard it Before

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
Jeremiah 29:11-12

How many times have we all heard this passage paraphrased from others in our lives?  How many times have we rolled our eyes when we heard all about the "big plans" that God has for us?

If you had told me a year ago that by walking in to help with props for a local theater production I would be meeting two of the greatest friends in Jesus that a girl could ask for, I'd have told you that you were off your rocker!

If you had told me six months ago that I would be inviting random strangers to church, I'd have laughed in your face.  I had never, in almost 32 years of life invited someone to church or "cold called" about my faith!

If you had told me as recently as a month ago that I would be starting the company that we have started, I wouldn't have believed it for a minute.

It wasn't until I learned to let go of what I thought the "right path" for me was and opened my heart to hear the path my Savior wanted me to take that things started to fall into place.

The woman who was merely a neighbor to my dad a year ago is now my sister in Christ.  We formed a bond based on a love of theater while creating some amazing props for "The King & I".  We danced the Macarena during "Getting to Know You" every night, almost trying to get the cast to crack up on stage.  It wasn't until about a month ago that we sat in a bar and the conversation turned to church.  Two weeks ago, her family attended my son's baptism.  Last week, we sat and enjoyed coffee while our children attended Sunday School.  We look forward to sitting together again this Sunday and we have made plans for next week as well.  We are not only attending church together, we are getting involved in our church together!

I was also lucky enough to meet a brother in Christ at the same time.  While we haven't had many discussions about our beliefs and we attend different churches, he is my brother.  Tonight, I will pray for him as he recovers from an illness just as I know he would for me. 

Next Friday, our three families will get together for a late breakfast before heading to the Good Friday service together.  I know in my heart that this will become a tradition for us as Jesus has led us to one another.

This is only one of many scenes on the path God has had for me since before I was born.  I only wish it hadn't taken me 32 years to find the road because it truly is a wonderful trip!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What in the World Have I done??

So, my partner and I have started a company working to organize fundraisers for groups that help children and families.  You can read about our inaugural event here.  The good news is, we're preparing an awesome event for a great group.  The bad news is, we have no income until the event, and even then, it's not a guaranteed number. 

To help with the day to day operations, we've started selling cupcakes.  When we started testing, I told my partner I would dye my hair HOT PINK if we could sell 500 boxes in the first 30 days.  Seemed like a great goal, the reward is something I would never have the courage to do without incentive. 

So, today was the first day of sales.  That means that we have until April 22nd to sell 500 boxes of cupcakes.  April 24th is my fifth wedding anniversary and I've been planning for us to have a "real" anniversary celebration for the first time ever.  Now, if we succeed, I will be convincing my husband to take me to a fancy dinner with hot pink hair!  Sure, I could wait until after, but that's not what was agreed upon!

Dear Lord, please let the hubby have a good sense of humor about this one!  And yes, I am totally hoping we succeed!