Friday, December 2, 2011

Construction Theme Birthday Party Ideas

Last year for C's 3rd birthday party, we did trucks and tools and since those are still his favorite things we're going to do the same theme this year. We didn't get to do as much as we had wanted last year so I'm hoping to get to have a little more fun with the theme this year.

I thought I'd share some of the ideas I have with you in case you would also like to do a construction themed party.

  • Fun construction hats
  • Little trucks for goody bags
  • Reshaped truck & tool Crayons for goody bags. Here's the how (best directions I've seen so far). Here are some molds to use.
  • Themed cookies or brownies cut out with these
  • Dump truck cake (I'm planning on doing cupcakes since I'm not good at icing cakes.)
  • Chocolate cupcakes iced with "mud" (chocolate icing with finely crushed oreos mixed in)
  • Invitations & party decorations designed with these scrapbook kits (turned out awesome last year!!)
    • Under Construction by Laura Banasiak & Suzy Q Scraps
    • It's A Boy Thing by Crazy 4 Monograms
    • Bonus: you will already have a matching scrapbook kits to scrap the pictures from the party. You can also use it to make cute borders around the pictures you put in frames. Don't forget matching thank you notes! I use Paint.net which is a free alternative to photoshop to make all these things. I LOVE custom stuff!!
  • Have truck & tool puzzles for kids to play with (we'll have younger kids coming to this party).
  • Paper bags lunch bags (for a dirt look) for the goody bags. I folded them down, punched two wholes in the folded part, strung a coordinating ribbon through, and tied a tag made from the scrapbook kits into the ribbon.
Some other fun stuff:

                     

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Angel Food First Impressions

Got our Angel Food boxes today! They look so yummy! Quality looking stuff too! My husband was definately surprised how far the money we spent for the food went. We got the Bountiful Blessings Box and a popcorn chicken special.

Each location is a little different I'm sure, but at our location we just drove up, told them our name, and they loaded the food in our car. As we drove away my husband said, "Do they offer this service for groceries?" It was definitely the quickest shopping trip ever, it was awesome!

My husband already had plans to meet a friend for breakfast this morning so me and the boys ate some waffles and breakfast links. The links were from the angel food box and yummy! C decided to just eat the waffles but O ate both of the boys links! I was surprised once I got them that the links were chicken, not sausage like I've seen before, but they tasted the same! The texture inside was slightly different, but not TOO noticeable.

I'll let you know more once we get a chance to cook some more of it! So far we're definately planning on doing this again!



           

Friday, May 20, 2011

Yummy Homemade Vegetable Soup

Did I mention this is so yummy! My husband had a taste (thinking it would be bland) and said, "woah, this is tasty soup!"

I used the recipe on the back of the Kroger 14 oz. can of vegetable broth for a guideline but I tweaked it with what I had on hand and LOVE the outcome! Here you go:

Ingredients:
  • 3 bags (12 oz.) frozen "vegetable soup mix" (Kroger brand)
  • 3 cans (14 oz.) vegetable broth
  • 1 can (29 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes (if diced, run them through the food processor before adding to recipe)
  • 3 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp. dried cilantro
  • 3/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
Directions:
  • Add everything to a large pot (I used a pasta pot with the strainer removed)
  • Turn the soup on high to boil
  • Once boiling, reduce to medium heat and cover. Stir occasionally.
  • Remove from heat once the vegetables are done (and your preferred softness).
  • Remove 1 - 1 1/2 cups of vegetables from the soup along with 1/4 cup liquid and put into the food processor. Pulse until veggies are somewhat pureed. Add back to pot of soup and mix thoroughly.
This makes at LEAST 10 cups. We ate a few portions ourselves before I divided it out to freeze and still ended up with just under 8 cups to freeze. So the amount could even be closer to 12 cups! I'll add the exact amount next time I make it. Until then, just know it's a lot! This is a great soup to make ahead to freeze for nights that you don't have time to cook or to bring to someone who is needing friends to bring food to them.

Price:

This is a fairly cheap soup as well. The bags of vegetables are $0.88 a piece at Kroger. I forget how much the broth is but I don't think it's more then $2.00/can. In fact I'm thinking it's closer to $1.50/can. The tomato sauce is definitely under $2.00. And the diced tomatoes always seem to be hanging around my house even though I have nothing to use them for! Well, until now!!! Everything else is just seasonings we always have on hand.

Enjoy!
           

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Long Can You Cook From What You Have on Hand?

I've been trying to cook from only what we had in the house this week. It has been interesting for sure!

It all started because we had a small food budget this paycheck. So I purposely went to the store as soon as we got the paycheck and bought as much food "ingredients" (vs. cooked prepackaged meal items) as I could for as cheap as I could. I made sure everything I bought could go together to make a meal (instead of just buying items we liked). Also, I checked prices and made sure to get the best price I could on everything I bought and definitely got a lot of store brand when it was a good option. Something different I also did was order some food from Angel Food Ministries. We'll pick it up this saturday so I can't comment on how that went yet. I'll tell you how that goes once I have a chance to look it over and try some of it.

What has come out of it? A few new recipes and a LOT of hearty wholesome meals! And surprisingly, it hasn't taken MORE time out of my day. Instead of us waiting until we were starving and putting together the quickest thing we can (which probably wont fill us up), I'm cooking up something during nap time and it's all ready to eat when we're just starting to get hungry. Ed and I have both noticed that we have more energy the next day since we've been eating more filling (and rounded out) meals in the evening.

I will be posting some of the recipes I've come up with as well as recipes I've found and used during this time. I plan to continue this until at LEAST next weekend. But honestly, we will probably carry it out longer then that since we have so much food and are really enjoying eating this way. Having only the food in our house as an option has always challenged me to be creative in the kitchen. It's good for us to do this every so often!

Keep in mind the ingredients in these recipes were chosen from what I had on hand. So don't be afraid to tweak them a little if you don't have something on hand. Most of the recipes were loosely based off another recipe and they turned out great!

           

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

31 Days to Clean

Hey ladies!

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try you just can't keep motivated to keep you house as it should be? I'm not talking about the over obsessive, wrap your kids in seran wrap so nothing hits the floor clean. I'm talking about the clean and organized home that blesses your family. The home that you can find what you need to in without getting frustrated. The home where everyone knows where to find something. The home where if friends want to come over, you don't cringe inside because it has been way too long since you vacuumed or mopped. If you too struggle with this (I know I do!!), then I encourage you to check out 31 Days to Clean. It's about changing your heart attitude toward cleaning, not just giving you more tips on how to clean. It's an e-book so no waiting for shipping and it's only $4.99! Really, you can't beat that price! So please, hop on over there and check it out!

           

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Water Intake Tricks

We always hear that drinking enough water is very important, but actually doing it? That's another story all together! Now that I'm pregnant, I'm trying to be more aware of how much water I drink. I know that I tend to not drink enough so it's definitely a conscious choice to get in the recommended amount. Of course, I do live in TX, so with summer heat being right around the corner (didn't you know? We have summer 9 months out of the year here! he he), there's even one more reason to be diligent with my water intake. Here are some things I have done, as well as ideas from friends, to help reach the recommended amount of water each day.
  • We have a water pitcher (w/filter) to keep us from using the taste as an excuse (Dallas does not have the best tasting water). We even have one with "flavor options" meaning you can push a button and the flavor of your choice will be squirted into your water. Personally, the flavors were too artificial tasting to me, but it did help my hubby drink more water for a while.
  • We also keep water bottles around. I know they are not the most green choice but it is definitely healthier for my body then no water at all. If I don't have it easily attainable then I will quickly get side tracked and forget to drink it. We are very careful to make sure they all end up in the recycling cart. Please do recycle them if you go this route. That's a lot of plastic that adds up very quickly if you just throw it away.
  • I also have a few reusable water bottles to take with me so I'm never without water, but you have to hand wash them every couple days. I tend to misplace them around the house, so inevitably, they are always in need of washing. If you go this route and are not a diligent hand washer, then I suggest you go with Nalgene bottles, or another dishwasher safe bottle, to keep them at the ready.
  • My husband has a camel back from his army days that he still loves to use. He particularly finds it useful to hang on the back of his chair so he can drink while he is working at his desk. He found that this dramatically increased his daily water intake!
  • After a while I still end up in a water slump no matter which method I use because, let's face it, sometimes you just want something with some flavor! I like hot herbal teas, decaf iced tea, and fruit juices (every now and then) so that helps some. Another thing I enjoy on occasion is a koolade type flavoring packet. I know they are super sweet, but again, I figure that is still better then no water when I'm in a water rut. Here's a trick for you, instead of buying those individual serving packets to throw in your purse, buy a canister of it (think countrytime lemonade). You can then divide it into water bottle size servings in snack baggies. Still individual serving sized, but much cheaper! To determine the right amount for your bottle (16 - 20 oz. if you buy bottled water, various amounts for reusable bottles), look at the back of the canister. It has a tablespoon amount for 8 oz. Just adjust that to the amount of ounces your water bottle holds and you've got personalized flavor packet on the cheap!
  • A friend of mine had a cool little gadget to help her. She bought a reusable water bottle (at Target if I remember right) that had a digital screen on it. She programed in how much she wanted to drink each day and it told her how much she had left. It helped her out a lot!
  • Another easy way to get in more water is to increase your intake of water rich vegitables and fruits like watermelon.
Now that I have shared my ideas, PLEASE share yours with us! We can help each other be able to reach our water intake goals for better health!

           

Sore Throat Remedy

In one of my searches when my firstborn was a baby, I ran across a great home remedy for sore throats. I do not remember where I found this information, but it seems to be a fairly well known remedy so I feel comfortable posting this without any reference.

The easiest, cheapest, remedy for a sore throat? A spoon full of honey. My husband hates honey but decided to give it a try the other day since he was feeling desperate. You should have seen the look on his face a minute later. He looked at me like I had just come up with a magic cure for something. He couldn't believe taking the pain away could be that easy. So next time your sick, give it a try!

           

Saturday, February 12, 2011

DIY Maternity Jeans Pre-Tutorial

Ok, so whoever it was that said you "blossom" faster with each pregnancy...they weren't kidding!!!

Here's me at 4 weeks:


And at 6 1/2 weeks:


I am now 7 1/2 weeks and can zip my pants up most of the way but there is no way they are getting buttoned without cutting off some serious blood flow! So I've been pulling back out my beloved bella band.

On a side note...I have a similar maternity store brand band from my first pregnancy, but silly people call it a one size. Yeah right, you think "one size will fit most" pregnant women from 3-9 months?!! You've got to be out of your mind!! It was way too small not very far into my second pregnancy and I am not a big girl by any means. So I am very happy I bought a bella band last time around because it comes in SIZES! Who'd a thunk it?! It is soooo comfy!

So back to the point of this post. I love my bella band, but there are times when it's a little bit annoying. Like when I'm working in childcare at church and I'm bending over every few seconds. It has a tendency to ride up a little when you bend over, so every few bends, it's above the top of the back of my jeans. So I end up readjusting my clothes every couple minutes which gets pretty old about 15 minutes into it.

Sooooo, I'm going to make a transitional pair of maternity jeans to wear in those instances. I debated between buying a new pair of jeans to use (only one kind of jeans really fit me right, thankfully they are from Target so only $20) or cutting up one of my favorite pairs that I already have. I knew I would regret cutting up all of my jeans, after I have the baby, but I didn't want to pay full price in case I messed up or could only wear them for a very short time. I decided on a compromise. One of my favorite pairs of jeans is starting to get thinner in the butt so they are not worth saving until after I have the baby because they will only last a few months longer. I also found a pair of the jeans I like on clearance at Target the other day so I only ended up paying $13+. Two pairs of transitional jeans should be enough for now since I can still wear my other jeans when I'm not going to be bending over a lot. And once I get much bigger, I have a box of maternity clothes waiting for me from the other two pregnancies.

I will be using a mash up of these tutorials:
I have seen anything from 6" - 12" listed as the appropriate hight for your tummy panel. I say do it as big or as little as you want. Personally, I am going for a longer length since my tummy's still got a little of the mommy "fluff" going on. I like having the panel to smooth out my silhouettete. Besides, the longer size gives me the versatility to wear it high, or fold it in half for an under belly style. If you are a first time mom or just really good at keeping your tummy in shape pre-pregnancy then you might can totally get away with one of those cute under belly styles. Just keep in mind, if you're not using your belly to hold your pants up, then you're going to need to be sure your band is tight enough to hold your pants up on their own.

I will be working on these this weekend and will post the tutorial once I'm done.

           

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Repairing Cloth Diaper Elastic

I Love my cloth diapers, even the very used ones. But as I was folding them today, I noticed that quite a few of them have VERY shot elastic...as in they lay perfectly flat! he he. So it's definitely time to sew in some new elastic! For any of you who are needing to repair the elastic in your diapers, here's two helpful tutorials I found. Hope they help you!

http://bloomingbums.blogspot.com/2008/06/tutorial-elastic-repair-casing-style.html

http://bloomingbums.blogspot.com/2009/12/tutorial-fixing-elastic-in-ruffle-edge.html
           

Friday, January 28, 2011

Blog Re-Design Update

The blog is taking longer then I expected to re-design. It's not complicated, just time consuming. Something has recently come up at our house that is taking more of my time and energy (and attention) so it will be a little while longer before I will be able to get the blog finished. I am so very sorry for any frustration it might have caused. Thank you for your patience!

Smoothies

An easy way to get fruit into your kids is to make them smoothies. My kids love them! They consider it a treat. They are a great breakfast or snack option...or really you could even use them for a desert if you like! Here is my favorite recipe (from weelicious):
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup fruit
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
She calls it the "Smoothie Your Way", and that is exactly what it is. I love this recipe because it leaves lots of wiggle room to make it just the way you or your kids like it...or need it. My littlest one is lactose intolerant so I use lactose free milk. I found a tub of vanilla organic yogurt on clearance so I used that in place of the plain yogurt. You can use whatever fresh fruit you have on hand or you can choose from the variety of frozen fruit that stores carry. It really is up to you. There are lots of smoothie recipes out there, but I suggest you give this one a try if you'd like to have some freedom with the recipe.

I have a 3 cup food processor and this recipe works in there great. It is listed on her site as being one serving, but it makes two servings for my boys.

On a side note, if you haven't ever checked out Weelicious, I strongly advise you to. It has LOTS of great healthy recipes to serve your family.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to Get Photobucket to Stop Resizing Your Images

  1. Sign into Photobucket.
  2. Look on the right hand side of the top navigation bar. You should see your username with a little arrow pointing down.
  3. Click on that arrow and choose "Account Settings."
  4. Click on the "Album Settings" tab.
  5. Click "View My Upload Options."
  6. Choose "Best possible quality (while staying 1mb or less)"
  7. Click Save, scroll down and click Save again.
  8. DONE!
Now upload any file under 1 MB and it wont resize it. If you'd like to upload a file larger then 1 MB without it resizing, you'll have to upgrade to a Pro account. I use .gif files whenever possible to keep the file size low.

Please Excuse the Mess!

I apologize for the glitchiness that will likely last through next week. I'm in the process of re-doing the blog YET AGAIN. But this time...drum roll please...I'm designing the layout myself using some digital scrapbook kits. So please bare with me as I get everything in order. The background is a sneak peak to what it will look like, but even it will get a final tweak before next weekend rolls around!

           -Christina

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Menu Plans

Happy New Year! I hope this first 2 1/2 weeks have treated you well!

We have been doing a few things differently around my house that I'd like to share with you over the next few weeks. One thing I'd like to introduce today is a meal plan. I realize a lot of other blogs already do this, but I figure every one you look at gives you meal ideas to incorporate into your own life...so the more the merrier!!! :)

I've wanted to do this for some time, but just couldn't get myself together to do it. So this past Monday I decided to do a no pressure approach. In the past, I have always gone about this by pulling out a bunch of recipes, trying to narrow down what ingredients we have in our house, what we might want to eat on what night, and it just gets overwhelming. If it isn't super easy, I'm not going to do it.

So I just wrote down what we had already decided we wanted that night; then I wrote down a super easy meal (tri-color rotini mac-n-cheese) for the next night, that we had already eaten and loved the past week. Next I looked in the freezer and notice we had raw hamburger. So I asked my husband if he'd like tacos or spaghetti for dinner the next night and then wrote those two into the days he chose. That left Friday, which was easy, pizza! Also in the freezer was hot dogs and hot dog buns so that was a simple fill in for Saturday.

Some days I plan on making more specific (exact meal) and other days I plan on just writing the main idea (pizza) which could then become several different things depending on our mood that day (french bread pizza, thin crust pizza, regular pizza crust pizza, or even pinwheel pizza!). Trying to come up with every detail for everyday has always overwhelmed me, but doing it this way was VERY do-able! It took about 5 minutes (including the convo. with my hubby)!

Here's our meal plan for the week:

Monday: Chicken Fajitas
Tuesday: Tri-color Rotini Mac-n-Cheese
Wednesday: Spaghetti
Thursday: Tacos
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Hot Dogs

For the Fajitas, we already had chopped green pepper frozen (great way to get rid of the rest of a green pepper if you're not going to finish it before it goes bad) and already cut, seasoned, and cooked chicken so this was a really easy meal. All that was left to be done is slice the onion (my sweet hubby volunteered to do the chopping, we used half in this recipe and threw the other half in the freezer so it is ready for the next fajita night!), throw everything in the skillet, and sprinkle on the seasoning.

On Monday, I threw the hamburger in the fridge to thaw. Wednesday, we'll cook both lbs. of hamburger together, then split them into two pans and add the sauce to simmer in one pan, and water & taco seasoning into the other. That way the next night is already half done. Let's keep things simple. That's the only way we're really going to do it right?!

As far as pizza goes, let me teach you a few simple tricks to always being able to make pizza easily (and much cheaper then buying it in the store or ordering out).
  1. Buy a loaf of fresh french bread (I buy the $1.50 loaf at walmart). Cut it into thirds and then cut those in half lengthwise (like a sub, but all the way through). Now throw those in a freezer bag and put them into the freezer for next time you want french bread pizza.
  2. Buy a large can of tomato sauce (29 oz.) - store brand should work fine. Make your own sauce with this simple recipe (cheaper then buying the "pizza sauce" and delicious!) :
    • 29 oz. tomato sauce
    • 6 pinches of Basil
    • 2 pinches of Oregano
    • 2 pinches of Garlic Powder
    • 6 pinches of Sugar

      Put it all in a microwave safe bowl and stir until mixed well. Heat on high for 5 minutes. Stir well again. Use however much sauce you'd like to  and then set aside the rest to cool completely. Once cool, spoon the rest into a clean ice cube tray and put it into the freezer. Once it's fully frozen, pop the cubes out and into a freezer bag.

      Now whenever you need pizza sauce, you can just pop out a few cubes and melt them in the microwave! Just as quick as a jar of sauce but MUCH cheaper!
  3. Keep a pack of pepperonis in the freezer and you can toss them on your pizza frozen whenever needed. This keeps them from going bad in your fridge if you don't use them often.
  4. You can also keep shredded cheese in the freezer and throw that on your pizza without thawing it out.
Some of these will inevitably get shifted around a bit, but that's alright!

Another big motivation for me is pretty things. If it's pretty to look at, I'm more likely to take the time to read it and look at it through out the day. So for my menu plan, I printed out the bottom half (just the months you need right now, we can print out the rest as we need them) of a center folded calendar I had purchased during the holidays to make calenders for family members (I used Just So Scrappy's Center Folded 2011 Calendar). I printed it out on card stock and punched holes in it so it would fit in my kitchen control journal (the central place for recipes I have printed off the web, healthy snack ideas, kitchen how-to's...pretty much whatever I need to have at my finger tips in the kitchen). The dates for the month are already on it so all I had to do was write the meals down. It took me maybe 1 minute MAX.

Hope these tips help! I'll be back soon with more! :D Have a great week!

                       -Christina