Monday, December 17, 2012

Craft: Penelope's Christmas Sweater

So as you all probably can tell, I'm a cross stitcher. I've dabbled in knitting and crocheting, sewing and quilting, but cross stitch is my first love. It's a dying art, and it makes me sad to think that fewer and fewer people are picking up their needles and floss to make beautiful pieces of stitchery.

A good friend of mine is an avid knitter. She's been knitting for quite awhile and makes beautiful sweaters for her daughter, socks for her brother, and scarves for herself and other friends. She is my opposite. She has dabbled in cross stitch, but knitting is her first love.

After discussing, we decided to start doing a Monday night Knit-A-Long/Stitch-A-Long (KAL/SAL), to sorta stretch our other crafty wings. She cross stitches, and I knit. When trying to come with a pattern, I decided I wanted to knit a sweater for Penelope to go with her Christmas dress. Beth helped me poke around and find a great pattern that was pretty easy (and free!) on Ravelry. I bought some really soft white yarn and got started!

I started in the middle of October, and I am happy to report that I have finished the sweater! It's a week early (I need it for the 23rd) and I'm really happy with how it turned out. There's just one little problem...

The sweater is WAY too big for Penelope.

Yeah, I forgot to measure Penelope before I made the sweater. Instead, I just went ahead and made the 18-24mos size that correlates to everything else she wears. BIG MISTAKE. Turns out, when I did finally measure her near the completion of the sweater, her chest was only 19in around, which is equal to 48.26cm (pattern is in cm)...which is smaller than the SMALLEST size (51cm). So it turns out, I could have made the smallest size sweater (which would have gone a lot faster), and it still would have been a little big, but not MONSTROUS! Keep in mind. It's supposed to be a SHRUG.

Either way, its finished, and she might be able to wear it...when she's 10! :-)

Tada!


Keep in mind. Its supposed to be a shrug :-)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Craft: Filled Christmas Ornaments

It's been awhile! I've been busy, and tired, and nauseous, and tired, and cooking, and tired. We found out in August that we are expecting our second child hence all the tired and nausea! It's a lot harder the second time and definitely not as much fun, but I'm making the most of it. Penelope is starting to understand better what exactly is going on, and can't decide if she wants a brother or a sister. We'll find out in just a few weeks!

Anyway, onto the craft!

Having a 2 year old means little hands that want to help/participate in EVERYTHING. She constantly wants to help with me dishes or laundry or feeding Luna or, or, or! Sometimes, it drives me crazy, and other times, I enjoy watching her explore. Either way, I let her help me (just about) every time.

So when it comes to Christmas ornaments this year, I was having a tough time deciding what to do for her. We like to give family members handmade ornaments every year and this year was no exception. I did a Google search and found a TON of ideas - everything from snowmen painted ball ornaments using the child's hand print, to yarn dipped in glue and sparkles and twisted together to make a wreath. I wanted a craft that she could do by herself with minimal help from me, but a lot of what I was finding were things that were too old for her, or things that she'd participate in a little, and then I'd do the rest.

Then I found this: Filled Ornaments.

After talking to Travis about it, we decided that this was definitely something she could do and would probably really enjoy. So off to Hobby Lobby we went to find supplies and the ornaments.

Materials:
Plastic (or glass, your choice) ball ornaments -  we opted for plastic since she's only 2.
Things to fill them with (sequins, buttons, tinsel, pom poms, etc)
Paintbrushes (optional)
Elmer's glue (optional)
Ribbon to make a hanger
Permanent marker to write child's name and/or date
Gift boxes

Procedure:
1. Find ornaments. This was actually quite a bit harder than I expected. Walmart and two of the craft shops near my house were out. I found these at Hobby Lobby, but not in the Christmas section. They were in an entirely different section and I had to ask someone where to find them. I liked these because they're in half and are plastic. I figured this would be easier for her to handle and I would be less worried about them breaking. They were only $1.19 each for these sizes and came in a couple of different sizes.
 

2. Set out fillers. To make it easier for Penelope to fill these, I put each of the little items in a separate bowl. I also cut the colored tinsel into smaller sizes to hopefully contain the mess and make it easier for Penelope to use.

"Snow flakes"


A package of different colors, shapes and sizes of sequins
Buttons, bells, and Christmas lights
Colored tinsel cut into small pieces
 

Three different sizes of pom poms (or as Penny calls them "pom pom poms)


 3. Fill! Penny had a blast filling each half to the brim with the little items! It was so much fun to hear her say "more yellow, more red, more green..." when she was putting the sequins in. I supervised to make sure we had enough supplies for all the ornaments (we made 9)

More!

 4. Because these were split in the middle and didn't close terribly secure, I decided to use a paintbrush to apply a little Elmer's glue to the seam to make sure it stayed closed. It dried clear so it didn't take away from the look of the ornament. (If you use the glass ornaments, you can skip this step.)
Tada!
 5. I took a Sharpie and wrote her name around the top of the ornament and the year. Then I cut pieces of ribbon and tied them at the top to make a loop for the ornaments to hang.

All 9!
6. Finally, I found some cute Christmas carryout boxes and filled them with tinsel. Then I put an ornament in each one and labeled who they were for. Then, just for fun, I stacked them on my table :-)






After all the supplies, these cost me just over $3 each. All of the Christmas craft stuff was 50% off, the ornaments were $1.19 each, and the boxes and tinsel were $1 each. Considering we have 9 ornaments to make each year., this is definitely a fun cost efficient Christmas craft!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cakes: Part II

Since the last cake photos I posted, I've done 3 more. Two were much more complex than I'd ever done before, and one was a simple design for my church band. Enjoy!

Angela's 50th Birthday Luau Cake:

A very close friend of the family turned the big 5-0 this year, and her sister asked me to make a cake. She was planning a luau and wanted me to incorporate a volcano somehow. This is what I came up with. The cake was chocolate with fresh strawberry filling (including the volcano), and was iced in orange buttercream. The volcano was iced in chocolate buttercream with cookie crumbs on top. I then used some cookie icing for the lava and just drizzled it around. There was a small white cup inside the top of the volcano that I packed with dry ice and just before presentation, I poured in some hot water so the volcano smoked. The orchids on the cake were flown in from Honolulu, HI on the Friday before the party.

Dayspring Worship Band Cookout Cake:


So my guys always complain that I never bring them anything tasty. Well, a few weeks ago, our bass player hosted a band cookout at his home and I promised a cake. The cake was chocolate with fresh strawberry filling, covered in orange buttercream. (This cake was done the day after the luau cake. That's why the frosting is orange.) The piping was done in chocolate buttercream. Each person in the band is represented on the cake and the instrument they play is on the side of the cake under their name. They really loved it!


Josh and Haleigh's Wedding Cake:
This was the first wedding cake I have ever done and it was quite a terrifying experience. A friend of mine's niece was getting married and she asked me to do the cake. I was shaking as I was putting this together, but I am thrilled with how it turned out. The bride's response? "I love it!" The bottom layer was yellow cake with raspberry filling. The middle tier was chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache, and the top tier was white cake with strawberry filling. The daisies were made of gum paste and the cake stand was burned with the couple's name and wedding date (Thanks Stephanie!!).

While I love making cakes, I'm probably gonna take a break for a bit. For now, I've got one more to do for my dad's birthday, and then I gotta start baking for Christmas. Needless to say, I definitely stay busy!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Squirrels

I hate squirrels...That is all.

Ok, not really. I do indeed hate squirrels, but that's not all. Our house has cedar siding, which was never really an issue for us until we started having issues with woodpeckers. Thankfully, we've been pretty successful in scaring them off so they've been coming around less and less. The squirrels, on the other hand, have gotten worse.

Last fall, we had squirrels in our attic. They would scamper around, chew on stuff, make a bunch of racket, and just be all around annoying. We tried traps, and they avoided them. We also tried a sonic sound deterrent. That seemed to help for awhile, but now, they don't seem to care anymore. We've been trying to figure out ways to get them out of their little holes so we can patch them and get rid of them. We know we have at least 3, possibly 4, and that at least one of them is a baby. Here's the progress so far:

First, we patched the original hole they were getting in. Travis found a piece of heavy mesh, and using some small nails and a staple gun, he covered up the hole. That kept them out of the attic at least.

 Travis:1; Squirrels: 0

"Woohoo!" we thought! We beat them! They can't get in anymore...or so we thought. Then, we noticed that they had discovered the knot hole that the woodpeckers had pecked out of our chimney.
Notice the other hole on the left we had to patch last year
 Travis:1; Squirrels:1


Although it sucks to have them in the chimney, it appears that they can't get to the rest of the attic from where they are. That's a good thing because there aren't any wires in the chimney for them to chew through, but it doesn't make them any less annoying. We've been trying to figure out a way to patch the hole, or scare them off. Unfortunately, this hole is 10+ feet above our roof, which means Travis would have to bring a ladder up on the roof. We've both decided that this isn't a good idea. So, what to do?

Travis came up with this idea last night (I think he's enjoying this a bit) to take a stink bomb, soak a cotton ball in the solution, and somehow get it up in the hole. He decided to try using PVC pipe.


You can only imagine how well that went. After 2 failed attempts (and tons of giggles from me!), mainly because his PVC pipe kept breaking, he finally got the cotton ball in the hole.


If you've ever smelled stink bombs, they smell like rotten eggs. After putting the cotton ball in the hole, Travis found out that squirrels apparently hate sulfur smells. We were quite excited that maybe, just maybe, we had gotten them out. The downside is that our house smelled like rotten eggs last night. We have vents in our fireplace, and the smell was permeating into our living room. Thankfully, the smell wasn't super strong, and dissipated pretty quickly.

And the squirrels? Yeah, they didn't care. In fact, they could have cared less. And this morning, they're still popping their heads out, scampering around on our roof and being annoying.

Travis:1; Squirrels: 2

Ideally, we'd like to just patch the hole with some chicken wire and spray foam insulation and just leave it at that. Unfortunately, because of the height of the hole, that's probably not an option for us to do ourselves. That means hiring someone to do it...which costs money. Let's see what happens. So far, the squirrels are ahead, but we have other tricks up our sleeves. Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Remember...

I remember being 18 years old, fresh out of high school, and working as a waitress to make ends meet while I was in school. I remember waking up that morning to the DJs on the radio announcing that a second plane had hit the second tower of the World Trade Center. I remember laying there in disbelief before hoping up to turn on the TV. I remember the image I saw and the immediate fear, shock, and uncertainty I felt. I remember calling my mom not knowing what in the world was going on but needed to talk with someone, anyone. I remember the announcement that a plane had hit the Pentagon, and feeling sick to my stomach. I remember rushing to get ready for work, not wanting to miss anything going on.

I remember calling my dad, who worked in downtown Atlanta at the time, wondering if he was going to be coming home. (I DON'T remember his answer) I remember driving to work with my radio on not wanting to miss any news. I remember walking into work and seeing all my coworkers sitting at the bar, glued to the TV. I remember sitting down just in time to see the South Tower crumble. I remember the gasp, and then utter silence in the restaurant. I remember fear, and shock, followed by tears. I remember hearing the news report that a hijacked plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. I remember hearing that the passengers decided that enough was enough and fought back. I remember silently thanking them for their sacrifice, and praying for peace for their families. I remember sitting there watching the news unfold as the North Tower fell.

I remember my boss telling me that even though all of this was going on, we needed to get the restaurant ready to open. I remember the 4 customers we had in a 4 hour shift, and I remember not caring that I hadn't made any money that day.

I remember the days that followed, hearing of the death and missing counts. Watching people on TV begging for help finding family members. I remember heartache. Lots and lots of heartache and feeling helpless as there was nothing I could do.

I remember a few weeks later, the fire department near my house had firemen standing outside their station with boots, collecting money to send to the firehouses in New York. I remember the line of cars and the traffic it caused as people dug through their purses and wallets to give something, anything they could.

I remember President Bush standing up and telling us that as Americans, we needed to band together, and get the son of a gun that planned all this. I remember him saying that we had to keep going. We could not let this break us and we could not fall apart. That if we did, the terrorists would win. I remember the amazing patriotism that followed as party lines were blurred and everyone banded together. We were no longer Republicans and Democrats. We were Americans, and we were not going to let this happen to our country. I remember being so proud to be an American.

I remember the Christmas that followed, my parents decided to take a different route to so we could drive through Washington, DC. I remember driving down the interstate and my dad saying "Look guys. See that crane? That's the Pentagon." I remember how much more real all of it suddenly felt.

I remember this past January, Travis and I had an opportunity to visit the memorial in New York. I remember seeing the hole that is in the NY skyline where the towers used to be. I remember the chatter of everyone in line as we made our way through security check points to get into the memorial. I remember how everyone immediately stopped talking the second they walked in. I remember the quiet. I remember the spiritual heaviness that was here, the unrest and the pain that was still in this place. I remember looking at the two pools still unable to grasp that these had once been towering buildings. I remember not being able to speak for fear of bursting into tears the entire time we were there.

Eleven years ago today, the World Trade Center was gone in an instant. The Pentagon was damaged, and a plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Thousands of people lost their lives, and thousands more gave their lives trying to help. As I reflect on this day, I am forever grateful to President Bush, his staff, the firemen, the policemen, the paramedics, the passengers on Flight 93, the volunteers, and the soldiers, continuing to fight, who did their best to keep our country safe and protect my freedom.

May we never forget. I know I never will
One of the pools at the 9/11 Memorial


Monday, September 3, 2012

Cakes

I love those cake shows. Like Ace of Cakes (my favorite!) and Cake Boss. They're about the closest thing to a reality show I will watch. I've always wanted to make fancy cakes like that and never really knew just how easy it could be...and also how challenging. So when Penelope's 2nd birthday started to draw near, I found a picture on Pinterest (don't hate!) of an adorable butterfly cake that I wanted to emulate. Since then, I've done 2 more birthday cakes, and have been asked to do 5 other birthday cakes, and 2 wedding cakes. I have a friend who doesn't get on Facebook much (you KNOW who you are), and she asked me to post pictures of the cakes I've done so far. So, here they are:

Penelope's 2nd Birthday Cake:

 All the butterflies are made out of gum paste and 100% edible (although I wouldn't recommend it. Gum paste doesn't taste good once its hardened). The top tier was a 6 inch vanilla cake with chocolate ganache filling, and the bottom was an 8 inch chocolate cake with a raspberry filing. The cake was frosted with buttercream in pink and blue (Penelope's two favorite colors)


 LuLu's Bakery Class Cake:

 I got a Groupon for a cake decorating class for super cheap and after months of trying to get ahold of the lady, I finally got to take the class. And this is my little creation. It was a 6 inch half chocolate and half yellow cake with a buttercream frosting. All the piping was buttercream as well.



Travis Drummond's 31st Birthday Cake:
So my best friend had quite a summer this year. He turned 31 and got engaged to the most wonderful girl in the world (seriously, we adore her!). He is a HUGE University of Miami Hurricanes fan so I decided to do a cake in the Miami colors. His aunt (the party planner) expected quite a few people so I had to make a larger cake. This was a 10 inch chocolate cake with Miami orange buttercream filling. The cake was frosted with dark green (you don't EVEN want to know HOW MUCH green!) and the piping is the same color frosting that is used in the filling.


My husband's 30th birthday cake:

I've said it before, my husband is a total geek. So when we started planning for his big 30th birthday, I asked him what kind of cake he would like and how he wanted it decorated. Being the big geek he is (love you, honey!), he asked for a circuit board diagram cake. This one was quite a challenge and I studied circuit board diagrams for WEEKS trying to get them right. In the end, he was very pleased with the cake and so was I. The top tier was a 6 inch carrot cake with cream cheese filling. The bottom tier was an 8 inch chocolate cake with cream cheese and fresh strawberry filling. The cake was frosted with cream cheese icing, and the piping was done in chocolate buttercream. I also used candy pearls to give a little bit of dimension.

Since doing these cakes, I've been asked to do another birthday cake for the 8th, the 14th, and 3 in October. I also have a wedding cake to do on the 29th and a wedding cake to do in April. Not to mention that with the holidays coming, Bake Fest 2012 (see Bake Fest 2011) will be starting soon, and I will definitely be staying busy! Stay tuned for more pictures!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Today my Husband turns 30

Today my husband turns 30. I've been teasing him all week about it - "You're gonna be old! I can't believe I'm gonna be married to a 30 year old man! That's just weird!" etc. But amidst all the teasing (because, frankly, I just can't help it), lies a wife who is truly proud of the man her husband has become.

We met in high school when we were 16. We had a geometry class together and he sat in front of me. After our teacher finished the lesson, we usually had 15-20 minutes of time to work on our assignments. I, the ever studious student, would begin working on it while Travis would sit and talk to me. If you would have told me then that I was going to marry him someday, I probably would have laughed in your face.

A little over a year later, in November of 2000, our school had assembled all the seniors in the auditorium for the morning because the other classes were standardized testing. At one point, someone corralled us to sit down and talk to us. I really don't remember what was said, because my best friend and I decided to sit in the two empty seats next to Travis. He had a Popular Science magazine and we started to flip through it together. We began dating a few days later. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Five years later, on June 25, 2005, we got married. And life has been such an adventure ever since.


Now, 7 years later, my husband turns 30. And I've enjoyed every minute of watching him turn into the man he is today. Have we had our bumps? Of course. Every marriage does (and if you say you haven't, you're lying). But we have weathered every storm and come out stronger on the other side. And I've learned things about my husband, some that make me laugh, and some that still bug me ;-)

- Travis has an amazing sense of smell: To a fault, sometimes. He's got what we call a "super sniffer." This man can smell a musty smell on clothes that sat in the washer for an hour before being rewashed and then dried. What you and I think is clean, isn't to the super smeller.

- Travis is a crazy hard worker: He's had numerous jobs since we've been married, and every single one has been to help support us, whether he likes the job or not. He's worked crummy jobs, and he's now found a great job where he fits in with the crew and truly likes it. He works so hard that I have been blessed to be able to stay home with our little one.

- Travis is an amazing father: The man who had never held a baby until our little Penelope was born is the most amazing father in the world. From the second he walks in the door, Penelope is all over him, asking him to "Daddy, play you?" And ya know what? He does. Every time.

- Travis is NOT a morning person: This is one of those things that I always thought I would be able to change. Because that's what we women do. We marry a guy and then try to change him. I have accepted that this will always be this way. It's a miracle if he is up before 8:30 during the week and 10am on the weekends. And he usually emerges from the bedroom ala zombie.

- Travis has amazing faith: Even when I worry and start to stress about something not going right, Travis is right there next to me reminding me that we've been given a promise, we have favor, and as long as we trust in God, we will get through whatever "this" is.

- Travis is super random, goofy, nerdy, and geeky: The thought trains this man comes up with astound me sometimes. We can be sitting on the couch and he will get a bout of goofiness, look at me, and say "pigeons dance in an elephant moonlight." To which my response is usually a raised eyebrow, followed by uncontrolled giggles.

I think this about sums it up

The point is, my husband is the perfect husband for me. He takes care of me, supports me in any and all en devours (and there are quite a few!), snuggles with me when I've had a bad day, listens to me complain about anything, takes care of our daughter like a champ, gives me evenings off from Penelope's bedtime routine if I've had a tough day, gives me a couple of hours of shopping alone if I need it, and lets me relax and be myself. He is an amazing man, and I am so blessed to be able to spend every day with him.

5 years of dating. 7 years of marriage. 12 years together. 30 years old. Here's to another 30 years.

Happy birthday Travis. My best friend. My protector. My comforter. My silly-goofball-makes-me-laugh-on-a-daily-basis-husband. I love you

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mystery SAL: Page 1

I finished the first page of the SAL last night. Well, most of the first page. The LNS didn't have some of the supplies I needed (one or two braid colors, beads). Once I get my spending money next week, I'm going to order a large (read 20in) scroll frame, and the rest of the sparklies I need.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A New Project!

Ok. I know what you're all thinking - Does she REALLY need ANOTHER project?

Normally, I would agree with you, but this project is a very different type of project. This project is a year long mystery stitch-a-long (SAL)

The SAL comes from Passione Ricamo, an Italian based cross stitch designer who's site I have visited many times, but never purchased from. I've always loved Laura's designs, but have always been in the middle of something and haven't been able to purchase...until now.

I found out about the SAL from a friend on Facebook (thanks Irene!), and quickly went searching for information. Laura had originally closed the registration on the 30th of June. She had such a huge influx of people emailing her, saying that they missed registration, that she reopened registration until July 30th. I'm glad she did, because I was able to sign up..and I am so excited! I think a friend of mine mentioned that there are over 80 of us around the world signed up.

So, how does a SAL work? Well, exactly how it sounds. Everyone works on the same project at the same time. But this...this is a MYSTERY SAL. Which makes it a little more fun

With a mystery SAL, you only get part of the pattern at a time. In this case, at the beginning of each month, Laura will send us the next page and we have a month to stitch it. Based on the schedule on her website, we'll get the entire top row first, and then she'll start to deviate from that. So you never know what the full picture will look like unless you keep stitching. That's the mystery part of it all.

Some SALs are free, but this one is not, however it is far from expensive. For a mere 12,00 EUR or $15.10 US, you get the page each month for a year. That's actually a pretty fair price for a cross stitch chart, and the added fun of it being a mystery SAL makes it even more exciting!

I signed up last night and promptly got my pattern for the first page. I only have a few weeks to stitch before the next page comes out, but I'm pretty sure I'll get it done. This is me, afterall :-)

First section
As you can see, there are LOTS of embellishments and pretties in this pattern. One thing that really surprised me was the chart has directions if you want to use the pretties (beads, metallics, etc), and also directions if you DON'T want to use them, and just stick to DMC. I plan on using all the pretties because I LOVE the way they look.

Stay tuned, because I will DEFINITELY be posting pictures of my progress as I go! I can't wait!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Stitching Progress

I figure since the title of this blog is Stitching Momma, I should include some pictures of my current stitching progress! And a big hello to my About.com Cross Stitch Forum friends!! :-)


John Wayne:
  






Penelope's Quilt Center:

And finally, a completely unrelated photo of Penelope helping me bake, because its just oh-so cute :)


Saturday, June 2, 2012

100 Days of Eating Better: Week 1

Travis and I are trying to start eating better, and are following a modified version of the 100 Days of Real Food that we created. (See original post here). We're hoping to remove most processed foods from our diet and just eat better in general. We're doing this over 14 weeks (roughly 100 days), and each week we add a new "rule" as we've come to call it. Here's the rules so far:

Week 1: No eating out - at all

We're on our (almost)last day of week 1 and so far so good. We really didn't expect this week to be too much of a challenge, but we figured it was a good place to start, and we did it with only one hiccup. A family emergency on Friday caused me to eat out for breakfast AND lunch, but it was due to circumstances outside of my control.

I have to say, I'm already feeling better. Now I understand this could just be a placebo effect, but I'm not complaining. Feeling good is never a bad thing. I also know that this "no eating out" rule is going to help our wallets feel better too. (That, and we're going to be able to refinance our house in a few weeks! SO EXCITED!)

So, on to week 2. We are compounding each week onto the week before so by the end of it, we'll have 14 rules to follow. Again, we are following these as strictly as possible at home, however, we are not going to force what we're doing on anyone. If we're at someone's house for dinner, we are not going to refuse food because it doesn't follow our rules. People who do that are rude, and we don't want to be those people. So here are the rules for next week:

Week 1: No eating out - at all
Week 2: Try a new food

I've decided that the new food we're going to try this week is kale. I have a friend over at Here We Go... (you should check out her blog, she's a great writer!) who's little girl (just a few weeks older than Penelope) LOVES kale. I've heard tons of good things about it, but frankly, I've been afraid to try it. I've always sorta considered kale one of those "weird things that organic-and-tofu-eating people eat." (Ok, I do like tofu, but only in my hot and sour soup). I've seen it at the grocery store a few times and have been interested, but still a little scared. Well, this week, we're going to try it. I've picked 2 recipes that I am very excited to try: Sausage and Kale Soup and Kale Crisps with Sea Salt and Lemon. (I HATE that they're both Martha Stewart recipes!) and I'm hoping that we end up liking it. I'll probably do a recipe review on either/both.

So that's the recap from week 1, and the game plan for week 2. Here's to a good week!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Coupon Savings: May 2012

This month was pretty good. May is usually a VERY busy month for us, but we still came in under budget! Woohoo!

We hit $1,000 saved for the year this month!This is the first month I have saved less than 30% (but not much less), mainly because I was stocked up pretty well for the entire month so I spent most of our budget on things that we needed that we don't stockpile, or weren't on sale.

May 2012:
Total (before savings): $525.80
Spent: $372.56
Savings: $153.24
Percentage: 29.14%


2012 YTD:
Total (before savings): $3,351.37
Spent: $2,316.95
Savings: $1,034.42
Percentage: 30.87%

100 Days of Eating Better

Junk food. We all love it. I know I certainly do. Same with processed food. It's all so quick, easy, and oh so convenient. But its also pretty bad for you. French fries are probably one of my most favorite foods in the world. Especially Chick-Fil-A's. The waffley goodness, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, all covered in salt. They truly are heaven. :-)

Ok, enough day dreaming. We all recognize that we can eat better. High fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING, and as much as I love french fries (*sigh*), I know how bad they are for me.

So I found this site called 100 Days of Real Food, and got inspired. This woman, and her family, decided that for 100 days, they would eat absolutely nothing processed. Her list of rules included no processed sugars, whole grain everything, and lots of fruits and veggies. I love the idea of this, but I personally think some of her rules won't quite work for us (locally raised meats, organic everything). I don't really buy into the whole organic thing. If you disagree with me, fine. I'm not here to argue it. Just stating my point of view.

That being said, Travis and I really liked the idea, but realized that doing this cold turkey was going to be very difficult - especially for Penelope, who every time we go out for any sort of meal starts begging for french fries (looks like she got my tastebuds!) So what we've done is come up with a schedule for us that will help us to wean off of processed foods slowly, but still allow us to get there, and will allow us to try all sorts of new foods that we never would have considered. In fact, that's one of the new rules. Every 2 weeks, we have a try a new food we would never have considered before.

We've divided our steps into 14 weeks (which equals about 100 days), and each week, we will add a new "rule" to our habits. Some of them will be easy for us, some will be tough (NO soda, EEK!), and each of us will have different rules that are harder for us than others. Either way, we're both looking forward to doing this and giving it a try.

Our one other rule - we're going to be as strict as possible about this for ourselves when we're at home. However, if we're out with friends, or at a birthday party, we will eat whatever they provide and will not preach to them about what we're doing and cause a stink. If they offer us cake, you can guarantee we're gonna have cake. :-) Because honestly, if you completely deprive yourself of certain things, you're self control is eventually going to break down, and you're going to binge. That's why we're taking this in baby steps and only making single changes each week (sometimes 2 because of the new food rule)

So, that being said, here is our plan:

Week 1: No eating out – at all
Week 2: Try a new food
Week 3: At least 1 serving of fresh fruit everyday
Week 4: 1 soda the whole week. Try a new food
Week 5: New recipe week! Try a new recipe every day
Week 6: Make homemade stocks/broths. Try a new food
Week 7: To the farmer’s market for veggies
Week 8: Vegetables at every meal. Try a new food
Week 9: Only one small serving of sweets for the whole week
Week 10: Try making your own whole wheat bread. Try a new food
Week 11: New recipe week! Try a new recipe every day
Week 12: No soda. Try a new food
Week 13: No sweets
Week 14: Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label. Try a new food

Our weeks are going to start every Monday, because that is my grocery shopping days, and we've decided that today is our first day. One exception to the no eating out rule is on Monday afternoons. Penelope and I share a Publix sub for lunch, but its already included in the monthly budget, and frankly its just easier to give that to her to keep her busy when I'm trying to put groceries away. 

Care to join us? Feel free to use our plan, or create one that works better for your family. Either way, you'll be eating better, and it won't be quite so painful all at once!

Or don't. If you're happy with what you're doing then great! I'm not here to preach about this or judge you based on what you do (see previous post). I just know for us, this is the direction we need to head towards! 

So if you're going to try this, good luck! If not, look forward to weekly posts about our adventures, how things are changing, and how we're feeling!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Clarification

So I caused quite a stir on Facebook yesterday with a link I posted that really explained well how I feel about breastfeeding and parenting in general. (The link) And I didn't realize what all the stir was about until I clicked on the link and it brought me right to the comment that I had posted on the blog. Oops.

Let me first apologize for that mistake right now. It was not my intention to post my comment on the blog to Facebook. My intention was the post the entire blog post, as it screams what I feel about the topic. For those who's feelings were hurt because of what I said, I'm sorry your feelings were hurt.

That being said, I am not apologizing for the link, as I still believe it explains how I feel very well. I hate...HATE this arguing, judging, preaching, pushing, that is constantly happening between parents - especially mothers. Everyone seems to think their way is right, and is always trying to make the other side feel bad about it.

You're guilty of it and so am I. And it's not right. Not at all.

We moms should be supporting each other REGARDLESS of how we feel about someone else's parenting practices. It just frustrates me so much that we are constantly being pitted against each other when we should be more understanding of each other! We're all moms, doing the best that we can, and doing what we feel is best for our children! I'm about to impart a huge word of wisdom that will shock you. You ready?

IT'S OK IF WE DISAGREE!!

Crazy I know.

I'm not going to go on and on about this, because, frankly, most people aren't going to listen. I don't want to start another riot, and this is all I'm going to say on this topic. So here it is: my stance on any and all things parenting:

You're going to do what you feel is best for your children, and I'm going to do what I feel is best for my children. If we don't agree, don't preach to me or judge me for doing parenting my way, and I won't preach to you or judge you for doing parenting your way. All children are different and we're all going to deal with our children as we see fit. Plain and simple.

So, breastfeed or don't. Circumcise or don't. Give birth in a hospital or don't. Use drugs during childbirth, or don't. Co-sleep or don't. Vaccinate or don't. Cloth diaper or don't. It's up to you and no one else.

Now, can we PLEASE just play nice?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Coupon Savings: April 2012

This month was a bit rough for us. Not only was it a 5 Monday month, but we also had Easter, and I bought a bunch of diapers to help us stock up. Thankfully, we won't need any for awhile :-) Here are the numbers!


April 2012:
Total (before savings): $869.93
Spent: $587.58
Savings: $ 282.35
Percentage: 43.79%


2012 YTD:
Total (before savings): $2,825.57
Spent: $1,944.39
Savings: $881.18
Percentage: 31.19%

Here's hoping May is a little easier!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Recipe: Lamb Bone Broth

I love Easter, and as a Greek tradition, my family always has lamb at our Easter feast. This year was my turn to prepare the lamb - a feat I had never tried before. I cooked the entire meal and gave my mom the day off from cooking. I had such a blast doing all the cooking, and the meal was amazing! After we picked the lamb clean, I was feeling bad about throwing away the lamb bone because there was so much goodness still left on it, even though it was in little pieces. My mom suggested I boil it and make a lamb broth. So that's just what I did.

Recipe: Lamb Bone Broth
The great thing about broths is you can use pretty much anything you have on hand to put in the broth. Any veggies, spices, etc will work to help flavor your broth. I used carrots, celery, and onion and no spices. I wanted the flavor of the lamb to speak for the broth...that and my lamb was already seasoned from the meal. To make this broth, I used filtered water from my refrigerator. Everything I saw online suggested filtered water because any extra minerals in the water can affect the taste of the broth. I've made broths with tap water before and never had a problem, so its entirely up to you.

I choose to make this in a crock pot so that it can simmer as long as I want it to, without the risk of an open flame in my kitchen (we have a gas stove). It's a lengthy process but oh, so worth it!

Ingredients:
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
1 onion, quartered
1 lamb bone - I used a leg bone, but you can use any bone
Enough water to cover the bone by 2 inches
Crock pot
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Procedure:
1. Using a heavy knife, split the lamb bone at the knee (if using a leg). If you have a knife heavy enough to cut the bone into 2 inch pieces, do that. If not, just cutting at the knee will work.

2. Place the bone in the crock pot, and add the veggies. Pour enough water over the top of the bone to cover it by 2-inches. The vegetables will float.

3. Add the apple cider vinegar to the pot and give it a little stir. Cover and allow to sit for an hour - this draws the calcium out of the bone.

4. After an hour, give the broth another stir and then turn the crock pot to low. Let simmer for 48 hours, stirring occasionally. This is why a crock pot is handy. You can literally set it and forget it. You'll notice after about 12 hours, that the broth is darker and may be starting to simmer. This is when it gets good. The longer it simmers, the darker the broth, the more tasty it becomes.




5. After 48 hours, turn off the crock pot. Strain the broth through a sieve using a ladle.



6. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool. This will cause the broth to solidify and all of the fat to rise to the top.

NOTE: If the broth doesn't solidify, that's ok. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it. It just means you didn't tap into the marrow in the middle of the bone. Mine didn't solidify.

7. Once cooled, scrape off the congealed fat. Feel free to put the remaining broth back in the refrigerator to allow more fat to come off. I left mine in the fridge for 24 hours.

Eww!

8.  Spoon the broth into a large saucepan, a little at a time to melt it down. Skip this step if your broth didn't solidify. Mine didn't.

I took cup sized portions, put them into ziplock freezer bags, and placed them on a cookie sheet in my freezer. The broth will last 6 months to a year in the freezer

11.5 cups of broth! Just under 3 quarts!
Enjoy!

Oh, and just because I think its really funny, this is what the bone looks like after simmering for 48 hours. The knee literally fell apart as the connective tissue holding it together disintegrated.


So now what? You've got all this broth. What can you use it for? Well, you can substitute this broth in any recipe. Or, you can do what we're doing and make this: Leftover Lamb Curry. Come back tomorrow for my review of this recipe!

Friday, March 30, 2012

FLYing

Last week I posted about a new home cleaning endeavor I was taking on at Flylady.net. I must say a week and a half in, and I'm quite impressed! Every morning when I wake up, I know exactly what I need to do to get my day started. I get up, make coffee, have my quiet time and pray, and work for 2 hours while everyone else is still asleep. Then, when Penelope wakes up, I give her breakfast, empty the dishwasher, make the bed, and start a load of laundry. Then while she's watching Sesame Street, I'm stacking the dishwasher, doing 15 minutes of decluttering, and the mission of the day. I typically have it all done by 10:30. And my house? Well, each week, it looks better and better.

Last week, we were in the master bedroom. I was able to clean the bedroom, go through some books, and get our sheets clean. Now that I see how lovely our room looks clean, and how little time it takes to make the bed, I do it just about every morning! I was able to jump right in and start doing the missions on the launch pad where they were, just like Flylady says. I didn't try to catch up on the week, like my previous instincts were telling me.

This week was my first full week FLYing. We were in the living room and I did each mission every day. I also decluttered for 15 minutes every day and got our media tower, mantle, and Penelope's things cleaned up and put away where they needed to go. I cleaned inside my couch, dusted my trinkets and decorations, dusted the entertainment center, and gave the whole room a really good vacuum. You'd be surprised at how little time all of this takes when you do it a little every day.

 I must say, this Flylady thing is working out really well, and I'm really happy with how my house is looking. Each week, my house is slowly being put back together and the CHAOS is slowly leaving. In fact, my sister came over on Wednesday and commented on how the house looked :-)

Happy FLYing!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Coupon Savings: March 2012

I did REALLY well this month! I even came in under budget! Woot! Here are the numbers:

March 2012:
Total (before savings: $548.68
Spent: $373.37
Savings: $175.31
Percentage: 31.95%


2012 YTD:
Total (before savings): $1,955.64
Spent: $1,356.81
Savings: $598.83
Percentage: 30.62%

I'm having such a hard time believing that its almost April already! This year is just flying by so fast! AND, Penelope will be 2 in just a few months! June is coming WAY too fast!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flylady Baby Steps: Day 1

I am not a good housekeeper. People think that staying home, I would have all the time in the world to keep my house clean. But the reality of it is, between changing diapers, walking the dog, making meals, playing "cooking", counting to 10, saying the alphabet, and cuddling while Elmo or Curious George dance across the TV screen, and trying to fit in 4 hours of work, there just isn't enough time. (Come on, SAHMs. You KNOW what I'm talking about!)

I'm at the point where I want to give up. I tried to create a schedule of "clean this room this day", but I've never stuck to it. Some rooms just seem SO much to tackle. Add that to the fact that we're trying to clean up the office so we can move Penelope into her big girl room, and the whole house becomes overwhelming...until now.

A few months ago (or maybe closer to a year!) a friend of mine told me about The FlyLady. It's essentially, a step by step road map to cleaning your house and keeping it clean. FlyLady asks if you have CHAOS in your life - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. With a screaming yes, I raise my hand! I looked into what she wanted us to do and decided, at the time, that I wasn't really sure I was ready for all that. Well, now I am.

The principles of the FlyLady are simple. Every day, you have a morning and an evening routine, and then you spend time in a particular room (Zones). You work on one Zone for an entire week before moving onto the next zone and you rotate through those zones so once a month, your entire house gets a tune-up. Seems simple enough. I was still pretty overwhelmed by all that I had to do each day, but then I found a few quotes on the site that helped to put all that into perspective

 - “Your home did not get dirty in one day, and it will not get clean in a day either.”

 - "You are not behind! I don't want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are."

 - "Perfectionism is Shelved in 2012!"

The second one in particular hit me pretty hard. I tend to have the "all or nothing" idea about cleaning. If I'm going to clean a room, I'm doing it all and I have to start from the beginning to make sure I'm where I'm supposed to be. The fact that I could just start today, on some random Wednesday, and not worry about if I did Monday or Tuesday made me feel really good about the whole program. From how I understand the program, I'm supposed to be subscribed to the daily emails (which I am), and once I get through the Baby Steps, then I start working on the different Zones. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong). I had a little extra time today, so I decided to do the Flight Plan for today which was dusting the top and bottom of my door and window jambs in our bedroom. I feel pretty good about it.

Today began my Baby Steps. Day 1: Shine Your Sink. I've got a stainless steel sink and always thought it was pretty shiny, until I followed FlyLady's instructions. Man! I've never seen my sink THAT shiny! Don't take my word for it! See for yourself!!

Before

After 
See what I mean? It almost looks new (besides all the scratches)! My sink NEVER looked this good no matter how much I cleaned it. I definitely have a sense of pride about this sink now - even though the rest of my kitchen is still in shambles. That's ok. My house didn't become a mess in one day, and it isn't going to get clean in a day either.

I look forward to getting into these habits so I no longer have CHAOS :-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coupon Savings: February 2012...and some exciting news!

I'm really proud of myself this month. I went over budget again, but it was only by $12. Since we are starting to transition Penelope from cloth diapers to disposables, that accounts for the extra money. But still, I'm doing great for the year!

February 2012:
Total (before savings): $590.68
Spent: $412.98
Savings: $177.70
Percentage: 30.08%


2012 YTD:
Total (before savings):$1,406.96
Spent: $983.44
Savings:$423.52
Percentage:30.10%


And now, for some exciting news...My sister is getting married!!! She and her boyfriend went on a cruise this past weekend and he popped the question! They've been together for nearly 5 years so its been a long time coming, but we are so excited for them! Congratulations Ariel Stewart and Tony Kasten!!! :-D

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Culinary Experiment: Homemade Fruit by the Foot: Part 2

I've been attempting this fruit leather recipe for weeks now with little success, hence the reason I haven't updated you yet. I've been talking to Amy at Superhealthykids.com, looking for any suggestions on what I could do to make it better. And I learned a few things:

1. Putting the pan in the oven before turning the oven on helps a bit. It still takes nearly 24 hours for it to dry out perfectly and I still need to turn the oven on the next day to help dry out the middle...which of course dries out the ends too much.

2. Cooking spray works better than spray oil from my Misto. I used Pam with this last batch and got a full pan's worth, that pulled off wonderfully.

3. Aluminum foil is definitely the way to go with the liner. Wax paper and parchment paper don't work.


So I'm still working on it, but I'm definitely getting closer. I've got a couple of things I want to try to hopefully perfect this one for me. After getting a taste of a good batch, I want to conquer this one. Here's my ideas:

1. Use a smaller pan. The one I have been using is 11x17, but I also have a 9x13 pan I can try.
2. Increase the "cooking time" to 30 minutes instead of 15 minutes at 250.
3. Pour the mix onto the pan, letting it settle itself, without tilting the pan to spread it out.
4. Increase the heat to 300 and leave it in for the normal 15 minutes to hopefully let the middle dry out.
5. Decrease the heat to 200 and increase the "cooking time" to  an hour.

I will keep you posted!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recipe Review: Chicken Fajita Pizza

Got a recipe you want me to review? Email me here

If I am perfectly honest, pizza is the greatest food of forever. I mean, what's not to love? It's cheesy, with a yummy sauce of a multitude of varieties, and topped with whatever your heart desires. Plus,  you get to eat it with your hands!! What could be better?

I do love me some pizza, and I'm always looking for interesting toppings to add to the fun of eating it (my current favorite is jalapeno and pineapple), so when I stumbled upon this recipe, I was really excited about it. We like to have pizza about once a week, and we had exhausted all of the other pizza recipes we usually make, so we wanted to find something new. I was looking for a good chicken fajita recipe and found this one instead.

The Recipe: Chicken Fajita Pizza

The Procedure:
The how-to for this recipe was pretty simple. Slice up some green peppers, onions, and cut chicken into small bite-size pieces (the recipe specifies 2 inch pieces). I heated the oil in my skillet (I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil), and tossed in the chicken. I decided to let my chicken cook for 7 minutes instead of 5. I'm a little paranoid when it comes to chicken being cooked all the way through. I think it made the chicken a little drier, but Travis said it was perfect. After the chicken cooked, I added my veggies and seasonings, and let it cook for another 3 minutes.

For the crust, I just used the store bought pizza crust and I sprayed it with a little cooking spray beforehand (I used my Misto). I spread my yummy chicken mixture on the pizza, making sure it covered every spot. Then I added the salsa and fresh shredded monterrey jack cheese. And into the oven it went for 12 minutes!

Ready for the oven!

Look! Fiesta plates! :-)
The Verdict:
Mmmmmmmmm. The spices, combined with the veggies and the chicken, made it taste like a fajita, and the pizza crust and cheese made it taste like pizza. It was such an amazing combination of Mexican and Italian cuisine. We ended up with 6 slices, and it was so filling, I could only eat 2. Travis ate all his! :-P

The Low-down:
This recipe was super simple and so tasty. The cheese was melted and nicely browned when it came out of the oven, so if you like your cheese not toasty, pull it out a minute or two early.

This was amazing! 5 stitches!