Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday 5 - Gift Wrapping

If you are like me - you are realizing it might be time to wrap your Christmas gifts. We bought some paper this year - but I've been thinking, and trying to be more creative with how I wrap items. If I'm going to spend the money on a bag or wrapping, why shouldn't it be useful as well? Here are a few (ok, 5 - it is Friday after all!) ideas of items that either I, or I have seen used as successful gift wrap!

Reusable shopping bags - This is probably the most used "wrapping" I have ever received. Sturdy, nice sized, and available about anywhere for $1. Can't beat that!

Cloth Napkins (dishtowels, etc.) - A lot of colors and patterns available! Perfect for smaller gifts - may have to check out the after Christmas sales for some cool patterns!

Receiving Blankets - I've seen baby gifts tied up in these - very cute and useful. Maybe not so much for Christmas (except for babies) but very cute for Baby Shower's or new arrivals!

Plastic Totes - Great for kids toys, especially ones that will need something to contain them afterwards (Legos, Blocks, or Hot Wheels anyone?). There are a lot of colored totes available in a variety of sizes, or if you use a clear tote, a piece of scrap fabric as an inside liner can make it opaque.

Re-use a gift bag! - We have a stash of paper gift bags in our closet. Granted - most of them are from baby gifts, with a few birthday and Christmas bags mixed in there. There are a few in there that have gone away and come back again, nothing wrong with that!

I will admit - we do have some wrapping paper here, that will get used for gifts. But I'm hoping to do more planning ahead in the future, and present gifts in a re-usable, practical wrapping.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Diaper Rash Remedy follow up

It's been three weeks since the diaper rash remedy of burnt (or is it burned?) flour was posted. (Original post here.) I'm happy to report that the Chewy Tot is all healed over - a few scars - but they should fade in time. We had a regular well-child visit at the family doctor this week, and he had never heard of the flour trick - but that it appeared to do the trick, and was fine with it. (Of course, I still would have used it regardless, I mean, what can it hurt, and well, it WORKED!)
The biggest issue was coming up with a place to store the flour, so it was easy to use, and stayed clean. While shopping at Kmart the other day - Mr. Chewy came across this beauty:

It's a flip top shaker, with large enough holes for the flour - and you can use it one handed. There is a button to press to flip it open, and you can press it again to close it. For $2.99 it was an easy investment to make as well. My favorite part is there isn't the flour mess in the changing area - and because it's easier to target, you use less, so I haven't worried about using diaper liners! For those of you that do cloth diaper, I haven't had any problems yet with repelling or issues with my cloth. So an inexpensive, cloth diaper safe, effective treatment -- sounds pretty Chewy to me!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

In the "obscure National 'Holiday'" realm, today is both National Games day and National Sangria day. Two totally different things that I really enjoy - and don't enjoy often enough. So have a glass and play a round or two of one of your favorite games to celebrate both.

This past week we battled croup with the Chewy Tot. When I recognized that barking seal sound, I went straight to This is my absolute favorite resource for questions about the tot's health, ideas for treatment, and at what point to call the family doctor. This is also where I found the best information and a simple, printable chart for introducing solid foods. Oh, and the tot is doing much better! (Although he was nice enough to share with Mom and Dad.)

For those of you that think Marching Band is the best part of the game, time to see the Marching Band become part of the game!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday 5 -- Regifting!

I've been thinking about Christmas and gifts quite a bit lately (naturally!). Every year I ponder the following question.... is it ok to re-gift?

The more I think about it - YES! it is ok to regift. Why?

It was a gift - As a rule, gifts come without strings. It is yours to do with as you wish. Let me clarify - the vast majority of the gifts I receive - I use - I don't re-gift a lot. Most of the items I have regifted are random items I have acquired through "grab bag" type exchanges -- not directly from family or friends.

Move it on! I don't mean in that "white elephant" gift sort of way - but you know you have them, those gifts you've received, you aren't sure what/when you will ever use it - but it's too nice to let languish on the shelf. Do you know someone who will appreciate it? Actually use it?

It's the right item for the occasion. You are not going to see a random gift that doesn't "fit" because it's in my closet. I might regift for a grab bag exchange, or if it is to a specific person, it is because it is a great fit. I'm pretty sure some of the baby items we received when the chewy tot was born were re-gifted - does it mean any less? Nope. They were unused items that maybe were for the wrong season for the gifters baby (or they got multiples of the same toy). The gifter gave me a useful item and I will use it, and pass on a heartfelt thanks.

Save resources. Isn't re-gifting the epitome of reduce, reuse and recycle? Instead of sitting in a landfill, it's sitting in your closet/basement/ there much difference?

It's frugal. Ok, I almost didn't use this one -- but I think with explanation, it's ok, it's not CHEAP, it's frugal. I don't think this is the mail reason to re-gift - however it's a nice by-product. I don't know about you, but I like to give gifts, especially meaningful gifts. If I can give more gifts and share with more people because I haven't spent as much money...I think that is a good thing. Again, I think this only qualifies if it a meaningful gift -- I'm not sure my brother would appreciate a large bottle of flowery bubble bath, but he might like a comedy dvd or movie tickets that I probably won't use.

Is re-gifting for everyone? Probably not. Do I announce which gifts have been re-gifted? Nope. I never re-gift home-made gifts, that is a totally different situation. I have just decided I will no longer feel guilty for occasionally re-gifting.

Honestly, the majority of the gifts we give are purchased or made for the occasion, re-gifting is just something that happens on occasion. If you've received a gift from me, was it re-gifted? Does it really matter?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mish Mash Monday - crazy busy

I've been a bit busy the past week - and this week is looking pretty similar - so it may be pretty quiet in the post department - although here are a few things I've discovered over the past week I wanted to share.

I stumbled across the "Cheap Healthy Good" blog this week. Some great ideas and recipes for stretching the food budget. All presented with some humor.

Remember the CBS Eye on Parenting episode about 6 weeks ago that was supposed to compare cloth to disposable diapers? If you follow cloth on Facebook or blogs you definitely heard about this one sided report that in the brief mentions of cloth spoke about "pins and plastic pants" Well, the reported accepted a 30 day challenge using cloth on her son. Find out how it turned out here, and see the follow up segment she had to push her producers to do for the show!

As for the video...I suppose this could be a wordless one :) It's probably my favorite secular "Winter Song" and this arrangement is by far my favorite. Sit back and head back to the John Williams days of the Boston Pops.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Try-it Tuesday - Home Diaper Rash Remedy

Ok, it hasn't been a secret that we've been battling diaper rash on and off for the past couple of months. The Chewy Tot's bum will start to get a little better, and then before I know it, it's all raw again. :( So, in conversation with my sister, she mentioned that when she had the same problem with one of her boys - our Grandma told her to use burnt flour. She said my reaction was pretty much like hers... Burnt Flour? Really? I've never heard of sounds totally ridiculous, and if it really worked, wouldn't I have heard about it before now?

Well, everything else we had tried would start to get better, but then just not quite heal up - and cause another flare up. I was ready to try anything, and on Thanksgiving, my sister reminded me again, and how it had worked for her. So, that night, I put about 1/2 cup of white flour in a cast iron skillet, and started cooking and stirring with a wooden spoon over medium heat. It took about 5-10 minutes to get it to a dark tan color (about the color of a brown paper sack), and I was constantly stirring and scraping it from the bottom of the pan. WARNING - it does STINK!

The next morning, I starting using it on the rash - using a pretty hefty pinch and rubbing it right on the sores. (I use about a teaspoon each change.) Within a couple of changes - we could already see dramatic improvements! What I really noticed - was the flour was keeping his sores DRY. There was a dry layer of flour still against his skin. The other flour that does get wet, isn't gluey either like I thought it would be - I'm guessing that is because of cooking it.

We have now been using it for a few days and he is almost totally healed up, the smaller sores are all better already. He also doesn't freak out for diaper changes like he had started to (he knew it was going to hurt!) so those are about back to normal, except for the addition of the flour - which is MUCH easier than trying to smear any cream on!

We did switch to disposable inserts or disposable diapers while we are on the heavy doses of the flour - I just don't want to risk gumming up the pocket diapers. Now that we are mostly healed - I am hoping to start to just use a sprinkle of the flour until we are totally healed - and with the smaller amount, I think I will just use a liner in my pockets - and not worry about a little bit of flour if it gets through.

Overall, I am totally AMAZED at the success of the burnt flour, and surprised that it isn't something that I had heard more about. I think it's a great "chewy" choice since it's cheap, single ingredient, and "homemade".

I let my sister know how well it worked, and I got the same response that I'm sure she got from Grandma White twenty-some years ago... "I told you so!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

While most people are aware it is Cyber Monday - I understand it is also National Chocolates day (I don't know if that means you should or shouldn't poke holes in the bottom to see what is on the inside - I'm in favor of springing for custom mixes so I know I like them all!) If you aren't a fan of chocolates - you'll have to check out National Chocolate Day,or National Bittersweet Chocolate Day, or National Chocolate with Almonds Day, or National Milk Chocolate Day... (you get the idea) on their respective days during the rest of the year. Evidently it is also Lemon Cream Pie day too.

Considering the Chewy Tot has starting dragging things around the house (I was folding laundry today and he started pulling a pair of Mr. Chewy's pants on the hanger around.) I think it's a good thing we got him a pull toy for Christmas! I can't believe I'm so excited about a simple kid's toy -but I hope he likes this one! We got this Plan Sorting Bus at Little Padded Seats at their Black Friday Sale. Always thrilled to support a small , local business - but even more when it's a great sale! I'd love to tell you what we got the Chewy Kid for Christmas... but he subscribes to the blog - so I'd better not!

For a video this week -- I think it's time for a classic Christmas tune....

Friday, November 26, 2010

Family Friday - Christmas Traditions

Advent starts on Sunday - wow! This year we are hoping to be more intentional with some of our preparations - and hopefully creating some new and meaningful family traditions (as well as continuing some!) in the process.

One thing we have already done is collect items for and deliver our Operation Christmas Child boxes. We will have the opportunity to track our boxes and see where they go this year. What a great way to show the Christmas spirit - buying gifts and sharing the love of Christ with people we will never meet.

We will probably get out the Christmas tree this Sunday afternoon. Over the past several years we have purchased a Christmas ornament on our family vacation. Looking forward to adding a Disney Cruise Line ornament this year! It's always fun to talk about and remember the vacations when we put them on the tree. Maybe this year we'll be able to laugh about the "Cackler Curse" of illness when we put the Animal Kingdom Lodge ornament on the tree... maybe...

I know we are hoping to do some more baking this year - I'm hoping we can share with friends and family too.

What are some of your traditions? Any particular recipes we should try? Stories? etc.?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is able to take some time to reflect on what they are thankful for - I am ever so thankful for my family, my salvation, my home, my job, and of course, the internet! :D

Thanksgiving at the Chewy house usually means a bit of a slower morning, and making a side dish or two to take to my family for Thanksgiving dinner - and then the craziness and fun that comes from a lot of people getting together to talk and eat! The chewy tot is the youngest participant, and with him being especially mobile this year - I'm sure it won't be dull at all! After dinner, we head over to Mr. Chewy's dad's house to watch football. It makes for a busy day - but it's tradition!

And, a little bit of Muppet Thanksgiving humor...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Post #100

Wow -- a hundred posts - I don't know which is more amazing, that I've come up with 100 things I've wanted to share, or that people actually read them...

I have enjoyed sharing random thoughts about the family, our activities, and why we do what we do. I have also enjoyed and gleaned wisdom from your comments as well (and if you don't leave comments (either here or on Facebook) why not? It's never to late to start.

The next month is going to be a bit crazy, but I am hoping to post when I can. As always, I'm open to ideas - let me know if there is anything you think I should tackle here!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Family Friday - vacation

A quick photo overview of our recent vacation!

Water and beach play!

Finding our first "International" Geocache!

Great Food!

Getting out and exploring new places...

Interacting with wildlife...

and of course, grabbing some rest whenever, and wherever we could!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Talk back Tuesday - Diaper rash

Ok, now that all of the non-parents have tuned out - we're talking diaper rash, and I want to know what has worked for you to get rid of it! We went a year before we got our first diaper rash, and now I'm having a hard time getting it gone! Give me your homemade cream recipes, tips, favorite over the counter remedies, and anything else to help us get through this - I've got one unhappy Chewy tot - and that makes for an unhappy mama.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Monday

Is it really Monday again already? That week went speedy fast!

A blog I want to point out this week is Minnis Moments. My friend Kim is a super creative (and frugal!) SAHM who is always coming up with great projects for her kids and her house without breaking the bank. Check out her blog for some easy, creative ideas!

Ok, my frugal friends -- seems there is pretty low interest in my "Rockin' Green" giveaway... hmmm, free soap? What's holding you back? Check out the details and enter for your chance to get some great (and free!) laundry detergent here.

Pretty exciting news at the "Chewy" house this week for Mr. Chewy... many of you know that I'm a Disney fan -- well, Mr. Chewy is even more so! His e-book about Festivals and Celebrations at Walt Disney World has been printed by the publisher and will be on sale in early 2011 -- however, if you just can't wait - you can pre-order at Amazon, or order the e-book directly from the publisher at He also joined the blog team at and will be contributing regularly there as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Try-it Tuesday - Rockin' Green!

(For those of you who don't wash diapers, please read on, this is a great detergent for all laundry too!)

When I decided to cloth diaper the chewy tot - -as I did my research, one question that kept popping up was "What laundry detergents are safe for cloth diapers?" I had been using pretty much whatever "free and clear" detergent was on sale (or coupon/sale combo!). My diaper manufacturer said that my detergents were ok, just to use less - so that's what we did. However, after awhile I would notice a funky smell coming from my drier....soap buildup. Yes, I was doing an extra rinse, yes I reduced the amount of detergent even more, and the only thing that would take care of it -- stripping them by washing 3 more times after the detergent cycle to get out all the soap. That's a lot of water, and a lot of time for washing diapers. ***Curious if you have soap buildup in your diapers or other laundry? Take a few clean diapers (or if you don't do the diaper thing a few of your clean bath towels will work) and toss them in the washer without any soap/detergent. Part way through the initial wash cycle take a you see any soap suds or residue? If you do, you've got buildup.***

I started researching different "cloth friendly" diaper detergents. I came upon the Rockin' Green website - and this video convinced me to give Rockin' Green a try.

About this time I also needed to order some other items I can't get locally, so with the Rockin' Green I qualified for free shipping from Once it arrived (of course the morning after I did laundry!) I got ready to "Rock a Soak" which is what they recommend to get the stinkies out. I did a pre-rinse of my diapers and then set the washer for a hot wash, filled it up - put double the amount of soap in, let it agitate for a couple of minutes and then stopped the machine and just let it soak for a few hours. (OK, I would go in and have it agitate a minute or so every hour.) When done, I let it rinse, did another cycle without soap - and into the drier (or on the line for some of the covers) everything went.

When I opened the drier -- I must say it was not totally funk free, but it was so much better, I was sold, and since we've had a few laundry days since then, the funk is pretty much gone! Also, I have greatly reduced my extra rinses. In fact, I'm not sure I even have to do the single "extra" rinse setting on my washer. If I go in during the rinse cycle and look at the water, it's CLEAR!

One thing I was a bit unsure about with Rockin' Green was the different scents. Really? If it rinses clean (ie. no smell) what is the point of scented detergent? Well, it may sound silly, but it makes my laundry closet "happy". I love the smell when I open it up, and it makes me smile. I think it also makes the whole room (the laundry closet is in the "boys" bathroom :) ) smell a bit better! You also purchase specific formulas based on your water type (Hard Rock, Classic Rock, or Soft Rock). It's so logical, you wonder why no one else does it!

Right now we are primarily using the Rockin' Green on diapers (although it is what we packed for our vacation laundry) while I use up the rest of our other detergent, however, I anticipate going to primarily Rockin' Green once we exhaust that supply.

I will say it is a bit more expensive per load -- however, I feel like the cost has been worth it - if for no other reason, I'm using a lot less water and energy by not needing all those extra rinses. It's also made in the USA and phosphate, dioxin, animal product, and petroleum free.

For those of you in the Des Moines area - Little Padded Seats in Valley Junction is now carrying Rockin' Green, and have sample sizes for sale if you just want to give it a try. I was in the other day and had fun using the scent testers available to check out the different scents available.

So, it's been awhile since I've done a review - but as always:

What I really like about Rockin' Green
  • Has cut the time I spend doing diaper laundry in half by eliminated excessive rinses
  • The scents make me smile
  • Small business with a sense of humor (and great use of puns)
  • A detergent I can use on EVERYTHING (also worked well for some handwashing on vacation, and have heard it's a great carpet cleaner too!)
  • Great customer service -- questions answered quickly whether through website, or on Facebook fan page
  • I can get the type that is formulated for my water
Things about Rockin' Green that aren't always so great
  • As a small company experiencing fast growth, there are occasionally growing pains - but they continue to be less and less (a specific formula or scent out of stock for awhile, etc.)
  • Not always easily available (although we now have it local here in DM!) If you need to order online - you need to plan ahead.
  • Because I need to either go to my Natural Parenting store, or order online, I generally end up buying more stuff ;) (OK, definitely not a RnG issue, but reality!)

The best thing? Rockin' Green has agreed to host a giveaway! One reader will win a bag (45/90 loads) of Rockin' Green in the scent/formula of their choice! Only one entry -- please visit their website: and then leave me a comment here as to what scent you'd like to try. Please have all entries in by Midnight CST November 16th. I will use to select a winner.

While Rockin' Green is providing the prize for this giveaway, I received no personal compensation, samples or product in conjunction with this review.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

Cloth diapering in the news. CBS did an "Eye on Parenting" segment on cloth vs. disposable diapering last week that was pretty much pro-disposable. Considering that the cloth diapers they showed were "old fashioned" Gerbers and they talked about using pins... To be fair, there was a quick mention of newer diapers using "velcro, snaps, or buttons" but none were shown. Well, in the comments of the online posting, the cloth diaper supporters of the world spoke, and the journalist has agreed to give modern cloth diapers a try. Check it out here, and be sure to vote in their poll as to whether you prefer cloth or disposable diapers.

Turns out November is National Peanut Butter Lover's month. Now there is a month long holiday I can get behind! I'll be looking for some new peanut butter recipes to celebrate! Check out for some interesting recipes. Here's a simple one from our home - and a quick breakfast - take a fajita size tortilla, smear with peanut butter and wrap it around a banana. We call it an Elvis Roll Up.

Now, for a "food" product I just can't get behind and will NOT be trying anytime soon... Bacon soda from Jones Soda -- uh, just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. If you want more details or to see some interesting videos of the taste tests check it out here.

This weeks YouTube video may cause you to get a bit weepy, but in a good way... check out this 8 month old as his cochlear implants are activated and he "hears" his mom for the first time. This one has been viral for awhile- (and there have been some debates as to whether or not he was born deaf or lost his hearing) but regardless, it's beautiful.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scripture Saturday

Going to change it up a bit today - but earlier this week I was reading in Romans -- Chapter 12 to be exact. I was really hit by verses 9-21 - in the ESV headed as "Marks of the True Christian". Phrases like "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." (v.13) and "Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited." (v. 16)
These verses hit me pretty hard, along with reminders to not repay evil with evil and live peaceable with all. I think I can (and have) followed these, when I want to... but I'm pretty sure that the intention is NOT a "when it's convenient" sort of thing.

Most of these verses have now been printed up and are posted around our home as reminders of how we can show Christ's love both at home and in the world. I'm not going to agree with everyone out there. These verses remind me that even those that blatantly go against God's laws, I should show them goodness, without an attitude.

Now that is a challenge, but one I must take.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Five - Travel accessories

Back from the first big family vacation with the Chewy Tot. He did great - and thanks to a few items from home - it was a great success.

Snacks He ate plenty of new food - but there were times (like on the airplane) it was good to be able to pull out something familiar that I knew would be a hit. Graham crackers, saltines, and veggie puffs all made the trip. I knew I could get him to munch on these during take off and/or landings and help his ears out.

Diapers we did a mix of our Flip diaper covers with disposable inserts and some leftover Huggies Pure and Natural we had from the diaper rash incident. We used the full disposables on the flights and on excursion days. With the Flips - we hand washed out the covers and hung them to dry each night -- took about 2-3 minutes total. The Disney Cruise Line provided a diaper genie - but what they didn't provide were directions on how to use it - I think we got it figured out by the end of the week...maybe...

Toys I wasn't sure how many toys to bring along. We ended up bringing a couple of small familiar toys, a favorite book and the mini activity center that you can strap on a carseat or bouncy seat. I strapped the the little activity center on the desk drawers and it was a familiar treat. He of course also had access to his other favorite toys - tv remotes, and spoons throughout the trip.

Umbrella Stroller We already have a great, sturdy, deluxe stroller (with cupholders, and a basket to hold all our extra stuff!) But opted to purchase an inexpensive umbrella stroller for the trip. It was easy to carry when needed, and folded up and fit under the bed. We used it at the airport and gate checked it -- easy!

Ring Sling baby carrier When we were hiking, going to/from the stage shows, in buffet lines and just running about - I loved using the ring sling to keep the Tot close. I often call it my "third arm". When we spent the day at the Magic Kingdom he spent a LOT of time in the sling when we'd park the stroller. Honestly, I felt the combination of Umbrella stroller and sling was about perfect! I just might have to do an entire post about how we discovered the ring sling and how it quickly became both the Tot and my favorite carrier!

Overall, I did learn that traveling with a toddler is interesting at best - when you have the chance to let them run around (water play areas, play rooms at the airport, empty hallways, etc.) you need to GRAB IT! I also learned that I packed to much - and can go lighter next time! Overall, it was a great trip for the entire family - and wonder if it's bad that I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Monday, November 1, 2010

and... we're back!

Yes, we are home from vacation - between vacation and vacation prep it's been a bad past couple of weeks for blogging. So, now it's time to get back into the groove! In the next couple of weeks look for our favorite items for traveling with a toddler, a few vacation photos, my first giveaway and more!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

True-Confession Tuesday

I bought disposable diapers today. The Chewy Tot has a nasty rash the Dr. says is virus based - but need to bring on some heavy duty ointments. I have been using gDiaper liners in our hybrid shells since we started using some creams - but between the creams and handwashing the shells, knowing this is going to be for several days and the cost of the liners... well, I caved today. So one large package of Huggies Pure and Natural Diapers came home when I picked up his prescription.

So, we'll spend the next few days medicating (with the Dr.'s suggested mix of 2 parts zinc based diaper cream, 1 part Hydro-cortisone 1% and 1 part of the prescription diaper ointment) 3-4 times a day, having baking soda baths and "free time".

Oddly enough, when we filled the prescription, the pharmacist recommended that in addition to "free time" we should try cloth diapers.

I'm hoping this doesn't last too long. Although, you sure wouldn't know he was "sick" by looking at him!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Simple Saturday - One bowl chocolate cake

This cake recipe is about as easy as using a box cake mix - AND I can pronounce all the ingredients. I rarely have buttermilk so "make" it by putting 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in the measuring cup and fill it to make one cup. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to sour and use as buttermilk.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 cup hot water

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Stir in oil, buttermilk and eggs. Add water and stir until combined. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35-38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely and frost with a favorite frosting recipe.

I'm thinking I need to make this using hot, strong coffee in place of the hot water!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Five - Board Games

While I've done some more in-depth board game posts - and I'm sure I will again, this is a quick list of some of the board games that get the most table time when the whole family plays. Please leave any input, and/or questions regarding the games in the comments - are there any I missed?

5 - Cloud 9 A fairly simple press your luck game where the bigger the risk, the greater the payout. As the balloon rises players have the option of "bailing" and keeping points earned to that point, or staying in the balloon as the probability of completing the hands gets more difficult. Player build a hand of colored balloon cards that are then used to "pay" for passage to the next level based on the roll of the dice.

4 - Scene It, Disney - Like the other games in the "Scene It" genre - this one involves watching movie clips, puzzles or other items, all from Disney movies, and then answering questions. There are two sets of cards, with one set especially for the younger players. Questions are such that even those without a lot of Disney knowledge will have a shot. Not only is it something fun for the whole family, but it has reminded us of some older Disney classics, and encouraged us to get them out and give them another watch.

3 - Carcassone
A great tile laying game with mechanics easy enough for a young player, but strategy to keep the older ones (and adults) intrigued. I had a full post about it here. This is one of our favorite "gateway" games with families. As mentioned in the original post - there are multitudes of expansions for this one. We finally wised up and marked the various expansions and play with no more than one or two on any given game. Really, the base game is sufficient.

2 - Pandemic! We are a competitive family. Very competitive. Probably why we enjoy games so much. What I love about Pandemic! is that it is a cooperative game - everyone wins, or loses. Your goal is to beat the game. In this map based games, each player has a role (Scientist, Medic, Operations Expert, etc.) with special skills. How you use those skills to cure and eradicate the diseases is up to you. What makes this a great game for families - is, since you are working together, there is plenty of table talk, and it is perfectly acceptable to bounce your ideas and suggestions off of the entire time. It's also a great change to really discuss strategy. The fact that everyone either wins or loses is an added bonus. Here is a time lapse video of Mr. Chewy and I playing a game.

1 - Ticket to Ride While this has nothing to do with the famous Beetles tune, I bet it's in your head now! Geography, History, a simple rummy style mechanic - what's not to love about this one? This favorite made an early appearance in the blog here. This is another one that we will bring out frequently to introduce people to a "different" board game. We have had the most success with the Chewy kid playing with the basic rules/US Map. Each turn you must choose whether to collect or play cards that are used to complete various routes for points. Longer routes take more time to collect the cards, but the payout is exponentially greater!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

It's another New York Times Op-Ed piece that I heartily agree with. I have no problem with food stamp programs for those that need it - but it makes me cringe to see people spend their allotment on junk and processed food. This is only a small step - yet one in the right direction.

Check out the "online community" map at xkcd - pretty interesting - too large to try to paste here - I'm particularly fond of the "northern wasteland of unread posts" on the massive country of "Facebook"

Looking for some crock pot inspiration? While I'm not ready to commit to using it every day for a year - I do need to use mine more. Here is a blog with a LOT of crock pot recipes! A Year of Slow Cooking. The writers resolution was for 2008 - but the blog is still updated regularly with new recipes! I need to dig a bit deeper at this site.

and for the Mish Mash Monday video -- this one has been out and about this week - but it is good -- and who can resist lovable, furry, old Grover?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

I've talked about geocaching before, and it is one of our favorite family activities - and I think fall is generally our favorite time to get out and find a few caches. If you are interested in giving it a try, but don't necessarily want to invest a lot of time or money until you know you are hooked, try an introductory event. If you are in the Des Moines area - there is a great intro event happening at Community!Youth Concepts on Saturday, October 23rd. Flier and registration can be found here. If you are interested in an overview of geocaching check out my post here.

I'm a babywearer. The chewy tot loves his ring sling, and from the beginning it has been a back and sanity saver! I love having my arms a bit more available, and that out and about, we both feel more comfortable being cozy. Especially since we use a ring sling - a lot of people have asked concerned about the bad press slings have received in the past year. The models in question are NOT like the simple ring sling we use (a Maya Wrap). Kim at the Dirty Diaper Laundry blog has shared some great information about promoting baby wearing safety - check out the blog post and information on the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance.

Ok, true confession time -- I was a bit of a Bert Fan - and I even had the "Doing the Pidgeon" Album. I never knew that he was "uncool" sigh.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Five - Things that make me non-crunchy

First of all -- sorry for the gap in posts this week. Please hang with me as I try to get ahead again (or at least not so far behind!)

I've stated before that as a "chewy" family - we are not green at all costs - so what are some of my "non-green" guilty pleasures that I have a hard time letting go of?

5 - Clothes Drier I have a rack that I can use inside or outside. But I don't use it very often. I like how the clothes/diapers are nice and soft after using the drier with the drier balls. Also, I tend to do laundry pretty last minute.

4 -Organic Food I don't buy much organic food. I try to buy local as much as possible, but for the most part, a lot of organic food is not in the budget, or locally produced.

3 - Zip top bags Over the past several months I have greatly reduced the amount of plastic bags we use, but have not been able to eliminate them. They are just too handy for holding miscellaneous items, being a great "safety net" for potentially leaking items getting packed, and more.

2 - Non-local foods While I buy local whenever possible - I do have a soft spot for seafood - and there isn't a lot of coastline in Iowa. Bananas, pineapple, citrus fruits, avocado, not so local either (but very tasty!). You are likely to see some of these items in my grocery cart each week.

1 - Travel Our family loves to travel - and we love cruises. This year we will fly, and then get on a cruise ship for a week. Not very green at all. Right now for us, the benefits are outweighing the negatives. I want my kids to travel, see the world, and learn about places and people that are different from us. I love the time we get to spend together, relaxing, renewing, and trying new experiences.

I'm sure I could come up with more - but what are your items that you just can't let go? Do some of these ring true? Are there others? Please let me know in a comment!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mish Mash Monday - September 27

Today is Family Day - A day to eat dinner with your Children. We really do try to make eating dinner as a family a priority. Yes, it's usually cheaper and healthier - but more importantly, we get to catch up on the day and what's going on with everyone. Ironically enough, I have to work tonight... However, we are able to eat as a family most nights of the week, and if someone is gone, those at home still sit down at the table for the meal.

As for other unique holidays - it's also National Crush a Can Day - I guess that is more exciting when you live someplace where there is not a deposit for pop/soda cans.

OK, just in case you didn't know, my favorite TV show is "The Amazing Race" Just in case you missed the premier of the new season - you can catch the episode on the Amazing Race page at If you haven't been there before, they actually have clips each week from "Elimination Station" Where the eliminated teams hang out for the duration of the race.

Found another song that makes the Chewy Tot smile when he's crabby - so glad we have another option besides "Winnie the Pooh" now!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Simple Saturday - Apple Pancake

Ok, another "In-season" recipe - this Apple "puff" pancake makes for a great special breakfast or fun supper - we had this along with some Sausage for the Chewy Tot's birthday supper last week!

Baked Apple Puff Pancake

2 tablespoons butter
2-3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/8 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 cup light brown sugar, packed

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large ovenproof skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the apple slices and cook, stirring, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add brown sugar and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt, milk, and flour. Pour this batter over the apples in the skillet, transfer to the oven, and bake until puffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. When the pancake puffs, remove from the oven, pour and spread butter over the entire pancake, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and return to the oven to bake until browned, about 10 minutes more. Serve in wedges right out of the pan.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

A few interesting items from the past week - very few -- will have to surf and read more blogs this week I guess...

Eagle Scout, Africa and Cloth Diapering – an inspiring story - I love to see youth making a difference and it looks like this young man has made a very real, sustainable difference in the life of kids, and those that work with them half way around the world.

While checking out calendars to see what September 20th was - I found out it was "National Punch Day" I never found much information, so I'm still wondering if it is the kind of punch you drink, or the kind of punch you throw when you are angry. I'll go for the ginger ale, sherbet and frozen fruit.

Poor Beaker...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five - What I learned the first year

With the Chewy Tot's birthday yesterday - I have done a lot of thinking about what I've learned this first year in my job as a full-time mom. Since this is the first time we've done the baby thing - it has been a lot!

5 - The "extra time" I thought I would have "staying at home" doesn't exist. You know, "I can work on the house during the day so we don't have to do it nights or weekends." or "I'll have plenty of time to visit and help other people." and "I'll finally have a chance to read some of these books!" I'm not positive where all the time goes, but dishes and laundry are definite culprits!

4 - Sleep Deprivation is real - but survivable. Although I am still questioning that. I often tell people that of all the things I gave up when I had the Chewy Tot - I definitely miss sleep the most. Not sure I'll know what to do when we start having multiple, consecutive nights of uninterrupted sleep. I still haven't figured out if the current occasional quiet nights are a beautiful gift, or a cruel tease.

3 - There are no rules -- mostly "guidelines". As time went on - I found myself giving a bit more on some of the "rules" especially with toys and food. Age suggestions are just that, suggestions. We ate tomatoes before we were one, and melon too! Will still hold off on nuts for awhile - but as long as we are watching for problems - I think we're good. He has definitely surprised us with grabbing and mowing down on items from our plates - so it doesn't look like we have a picky eater!

2 - Things don't always go as expected! The prime example of this for us can be read in a prior post for World Breastfeeding Week.

1 - It's amazing how one little person can shake up the entire household routine - yet still make everyone in the family a better person. As we have all had to adapt to having the tot as part of the 'Ohana - we have all grown and had another real-life example of putting others before self. It is so fun to watch the Chewy Kid play with, or comfort the Tot- and know that he is learning some really important parenting skills/lessons in the process.

Can't wait to see what the next year holds!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thrifty Thursday - Biscuit Mix

So last night I wanted to make some cheddar biscuits, but did not have enough Bisquick. I have always thought of trying to make my own mix - but the main reason I buy Bisquick in the first place is that I hate cutting shortening into flour mixes. In a "I must have cheesy biscuit" frenzy - I started looking for biscuit recipes and was shocked to come across a recipe for biscuit mix that used oil instead of shortening. I decided to give it a go and about 10 minutes later my biscuit mix canister was full and ready to go.


* 10 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup baking powder
* 2 tablespoons white sugar
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil


1. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add oil and mix with a fork or pastry blender; you should have small lumps throughout the mixture.
2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to three months.

Use just like you would a commercial biscuit mix to make biscuits, pancakes, waffles and more.

Of course, this is much less expensive than buying biscuit mix - I would guess about 25% of the cost - but I have not figured exactly. I also like how I get a bit more control over the ingredients - I think I will try using some whole wheat or oat flour in it to punch up pancakes/waffles. There are also more oil options available than in solid shortening.

Do you make any of your own mixes? or have a great recipe to share using biscuit mix?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Talk back Tuesday - Fall Activities

Fall is starting to cruise in! What are some of your favorite fall activities? What are you really looking forward to this fall?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

Today is National Peanut Day and Snack a Pickle Day - sounds pretty tasty, but not together.

Remember the Sidewalk Chalk Flood mentioned a couple of weeks ago? It was a great event, and check out the photos here to see what a great time we had and how creative and colorful the artwork on the sidewalks was! Between the artwork, creativity, water, and music - I think everyone had a blast. I also learned that the Chewy Kid knew the Electric Cha Cha!

If you are interested in a blog that keeps track of sales, special coupons and great deals along with an occasional giveaway - check out Because More is More Last week they posted some great coupons on manufacturer websites - and they always post a link to what coupons are going to be in the Sunday paper - so you can decide whether it is worth buying (or do like me and ask people who get the paper but don't coupon to save for you!)

Mini-Movie review -- Watched "Bedtime Stories" for the first time this weekend - I had heard it described as a "cute movie" which was pretty accurate. As someone who as a rule can't stand Adam Sandler, I actually found myself forgetting it was him on the screen - that's a good sign! Overall an enjoyable "feel good" movie - thanks Netflix!

Saw this online - not quite so sure this is a smart idea:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Simple Saturday and Sunday - Ground meat Veggie mix

This meat/veggie mix is a staple at our house - It is usually made with either ground turkey or ground beef - but have used sausage in the past as well. When I make it, it is divided in half and the 2nd half is put in the freezer for a quick meal at another time. Use one 1/2 of this mixture like you would use one pound of ground meat in a recipe.

Ground Meat/Veggie Mix

1 lb ground meat (beef, turkey, pork, sausage)
1 onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped (any colors will work)
1 t. chopped garlic

Brown ground meat with veggies. Drain/blot off any excess fat/liquid.

Seasoning varies on what it is to become, so I usually only season the half that I'm using. Chopped jalapenos and/or chili powder and cumin for tacos/enchiladas, Italian seasoning for spaghetti, etc. I have used this in:
Sloppy joes
Tortilla Soup
Cheeseburger Macaroni
Beef and Noodles
Tator Tot Casserole

Friday, September 10, 2010

Family Friday - Getting Away

It's no secret - I LOVE vacation. One of the big reasons we are frugal is so we can go on vacations. Luckily, Mr. Chewy loves vacation as much as I do and even wrote about it in his blog "Stuff I Like" last week. What makes these family trips worth the investment?

Breaking Routine - It's far too easy to get comfortable with life routine - changing it up can be a great thing. Mornings can get a little crazy at the Chewy house - breakfast, work, school, etc. Having a chance to change it up a bit can be refreshing.

Reconnecting - Sometimes it feels like we are all going several different directions at once, and our paths rarely cross. Ok, I am generally with the Chewy Tot - but otherwise - even though we don't participate in a lot of "extra" activities -- school, work, and church activities keep us on the go. Having the time to reconnect with each other - in ways other than "Here, let me help you so you don't miss the bus!" is much needed. Mr. Chewy and I also generally have some quiet time when the boys are asleep or busy with other activities - a chance to talk and really reconnect more than "can you pick up the milk tomorrow or do I need to?" We have also been blessed with a lot of friends from all over that we have the opportunity to meet up with during vacations. Reconnecting and catching up is always a great time.

New Experiences - Even though we have spent a lot of our vacations in a couple of different spots (Walt Disney World and the Ozarks) we are always having new experiences. Trying new foods, learning about history, hiking new trails, or listening to new music. Seeing the Chewy Kid after his first ride on the Tower of Terror at Disney World - priceless! With the Chewy kid getting older, I'm looking forward to even more new experiences as he learns more about the US and the world and hoping we all have the chance to see more of it first hand. I hope to continue to learn more about the world around me and the people in it - and I can't think of a better way than first hand!

Respite - Ok, as a mom - I don't get a complete vacation - the kiddos still have to eat, diapers need to be changed - and yes, the tot will probably get up in the night too - but it is still a respite from the "normal routine" I'm not wearing so many hats either which makes it a lot more enjoyable.

Memories - I know we are making family memories that will last a lifetime - from silly car games to fancy dinners - vacation stories come back over and over again.

Overall - I think back to family vacations growing up. I loved the places we went, the things we saw and experienced, and the time together. My parents taught me two very important things about family vacations:

1 - Taking the time to plan and experience a family vacation says you really do enjoy spending time with your kids, and creating memories and experiences together.

2 - Make sure you get a haircut and look your best - the majority of the photos in the family collection are of vacation!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thrifty Thursday - Menus

I must admit that I have strayed from menu planning in the last few weeks, and MUST get back to it. I know it saves time and money. I also know that it helps me plan more balanced and healthy meals for the week. It doesn't take that long - and the time saved at the grocery store more than makes up for it. Another advantage - I usually take the time to seek out and try at least one new idea or recipe.

Some people I know are really good and plan all three meals - here, not so much. I plan one meal a day, and maybe one breakfast for the weekend. A sample week might look something like this:

Sunday - Chili, cheese bread, fresh fruit
Monday - Chicken and Dumplings, fresh fruit
Tuesday - Baked fish, brown rice, green beans
Wednesday - Bbq pork sandwiches, jello/fruit, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
Thursday - Spaghetti with ground turkey/veggie sauce, salad, bread
Friday - Pizza, salad, fresh fruit
Saturday - Grilled chicken sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw

Breakfasts I try to have about 3 options available for the week. This week there is Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon (I cooked up a bunch of apples w/cinnamon and have them frozen in 1/2 cup containers), Apple Zucchini Bread, and "Toasty O's" cereal.

Lunches are generally leftovers but I also try to have a couple of other options around like meat for sandwiches, boiled eggs, cheese/crackers, and a couple of emergency cans of soup or single serve soups in the freezer. And, if you know me, there is always peanut butter!

My one addendum is that there is almost always a couple of "back-ups" in the freezer, cupboard for a quick substitution if something comes up and there isn't time to prep ahead or if we suddenly have the opportunity to be hospitable and need to increase the amount of food. Examples are fixin's for grilled cheese to go with soup, ingredients for mac and cheese, turning meat for sandwiches or grilling into a casserole, etc.

There are a lot of great frugal menu sites available, including this great booklet from the USDA including food plans and recipes for thrifty family meals.

Do you plan ahead? Are you willing to share a sample menu?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Talk back Tuesday - vehicles

So, after having the rental HHR while the Chewymobile (Malibu) was in the shop has us contemplating what we should do for our next vehicle. We've been looking at HHR flexfuel (runs on E85) as we feel that would have enough space for us and our stuff while traveling - and still not too horrible on the budget.

So, what are your main considerations on a vehicle? Thoughts on flexfuel, hybrid, etc.?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

Today is Labor Day which has been a Federal Holiday since 1894 -- How "should" we celebrate? From Wikipedia:
The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Hmmm, not seeing that much anymore.

September is Library Card Sign up month - so go sign up for a card at your local library (or dust off the one you have) and use it! Here are some ideas From the American Library Association to get you started: 52 ways to use your library card

A great Op-Ed piece from the NY Times about schools - and what we we know about how kids learn, and how modern education doesn't embrace it. What does an ideal school day look like? A lot of reading, conversation, writing, basic math facts and opportunity for creative play. Sounds like a great recipe to me! Please read the entire piece here.

Great video - they asked mothers if they could go back to right before their first child was born, what would they tell themselves:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Five - Cloth Diapering Accessories - 2nd try

Apologies to those that got my "oops I hit the wrong button" post last night let's try again!

In no particular order

Cloth Wipes - We had been gifted a few cloth wipes and a LOT of baby washcloths -and realized pretty quickly that since we were washing diapers anyway... We have since supplemented with more and have realized that cloth wipes are GREAT for the "big messes" I can have them as wet or dry as I'd like and we're good to go! These will be great for washcloths or clean-ups when we are done with diapers!

Wipe Solution - I started out by making my own solution just using a bit of baby wash mixed with water. I stopped into Little Padded Seats one day when the Chewy tot had developed a very minor rash asking about possible solutions and had the Baby Bum Drops recommended. They have been great! They may seem a bit expensive at first ($12 for a box) but it makes about 50 cups of wipe solution. I'm still on my first box I purchased last November. Whether you purchase or make your own, we keep some in a spray bottle to either spray on wipes or right on the bum, and I always keep a few that are wet (but not dripping) in a plastic container ready to go for the big messes. I'm really thinking about adding a small bottle of this solution to our travel first aid kit.

Wet Bag - The key to cloth diapering on the go! Wet bags have a traditional cloth outside, but are lined with PUL or another waterproof fabric on the inside. The dirties (and any dirty clothes) can get zipped up in a wet bag and the rest of the diaper bag stays clean! On laundry day - they just get emptied into the washer and the wet bag gets thrown in too - easy enough! They also get used for trips to the pool/beach. Can also work in reverse if needed -- you can put items inside to keep them dry! I would also think this would be pretty handy even if you don't cloth diaper as a place to keep those wet clothes after a leak or mealtime mess.

Stuffins -The Chewy tot is a heavy wetter. I added some terms like "double stuffed" and "triple stuffed" to our pocket diaper vocabulary pretty quickly. I'm sure there will be a whole post on this someday - but items we have shoved in the pockets include the traditional stuffins like microterry inserts, hemp ovals, loopy do's and super do's - and some non-traditional choices - microfiber automotive towels, Dollar store "sham-wows" , and cheap old school cloth diapers.

Diaper Friendly Rash Cream - Traditional diaper creams can really wonk up a cloth diaper. Their job is to repel wetness and that is exactly what they cause cloth diapers to do! Helpful tip we didn't do - get it BEFORE the first major rash. There will be one, and another, and another. We use Grandma El's and it works great - no liners needed.

For those of you familiar with Cloth Diapering, you may notice a glaring omission here... no diaper sprayer. Our toilet was not sprayer friendly, and before we had the chance to adapt it - we realized we had adapted just fine. Any waste that doesn't "flip" into the toilet gets scraped off with a re-used plastic spoon (don't worry, this is it's only purpose!) And this seems to be working fine for us so far.

What did I miss?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thrifty Thursday - Consignment Stores

I am not ashamed to admit I shop both thrift and consignment stores for clothing. I'm almost more ashamed to admit I don't do it often enough. They not only save money, but also save resources.

Children's Consignment Stores: We have 3 within a few blocks of each other here locally which makes it handy when I'm on a mission. Because we've been blessed with a lot of gifts and hand-me downs for the Chewy Tot - we haven't purchased a lot - but I did find Iowa Hawkeye gear for both boys last winter, and have purchased sandals and Roobez shoes at great prices. My best find was my ring sling - which the tot loves to chill in when we are out and about - $7 ! I have asked about cloth diapers at the stores and have been told they don't consign them because of sanitary issues. I guess I find this somewhat amusing since I'm pretty sure that the occasional pee/poo makes it way onto most clothes.

Traditional Consignment Stores: I worked next door to a consignment store for several years - and it was a lifesaver when I was losing a lot of weight. I was able to get a lot of designer clothing for great prices. Most consignment stores I've visited have been very organized by size/style and have rooms available to try on. When I was teaching in Missouri I had a consignment store I frequented and after a few purchases, the staff knew that my tastes were similar to a particular consignor and would let me know if she'd brought anything in.

Thrift Stores: Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. I recently purchased some items at Goodwill. I blouse and dress I'm planning on wearing on an upcoming vacation as well as a couple of pairs of shorts. I feel that this is by far the most "chewy" option as in addition to purchasing used to save money and resources, I'm also helping these charities serve people. What I don't care for is wading through the items (many sort by colors or style, but not by size) so it can take a lot of time.

I have been considering taking some of the boys clothes to one of the consignment stores - but haven't. Well, honestly, not sure the Chewy kid has many clothes in good enough shape - he wears them pretty hard - like a growing boy should! For right now I'm opting to hold on to them and pass them on when I hear of people that will take them. I am so thankful for the hand me downs we receive - I'm more than willing to pass on down! For Mr. Chewy and I we have always donated our clothes to either people we knew could use them, or to Goodwill.

Do you have a great consignment/thrift store find? Have you consigned?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mish Mash Monday

A few things I've discovered, or re-discovered this week:

Microwave Potato Chips Uncle Bill's Microwave Potato Chips to be specific. no "As seen on TV" supplies needed at all! It takes microwave safe casserole dish (I used a glass 13 x 9 pan) a spray of non-stick spray and potatoes - real sliced potatoes. We seasoned with seasoned salt to add a bit more flavor. I was very skeptical when I saw the recipe at first but the boys have declared it a hit.

Need an easy, tasty, stovetop macaroni and cheese? Unlike the blue box and it's clones, I know all the ingredients in this one! We use Alton Brown's recipe as seen on "Good Eats". Make it Cheeseburger Macaroni by adding a 1/2 pound browned ground beef or turkey (mine usually includes some onion and pepper as well. I usually just use 8 ounces of cheese and use whatever types of cheese we have on hand - cheddar, co-jack, whatever.

Time for a science lesson about the life cycle of a frog... a fun puppet video to go along with the Barenaked Ladies children's song "Polliwog in a Bog"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simple Saturday and Sunday - in season recipe

I needed to make a cake earlier this week (Thanks for having a birthday Amy!) And as I was deciding what to make looking around my kitchen, I had several apples from Dad's tree and an apple cake sounded like a great idea. When wanting to make something like this, the cookbook I consult? Grandma's small town church cookbook! I found a recipe - but of course had to tweak it before I ever started (hey, there was no cinnamon or vanilla in the cake!). It's a nice cross between a coffee cake and dessert cake.

Apple Cake

2 c. sugar
2 T. butter
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 c. milk
4 c. raw diced apples
sugar and cinnamon mixture

Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs, and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to mixture. Add milk and mix well. Fold in apples. Spread in buttered 9x13 pan and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. (I used about 1/8 cup) Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350.

I made this on Tuesday, and the last piece was still moist and tender on Friday. I was a bit concerned about "creaming" 2 cups of sugar with 2 T. of butter, but the Kitchen Aid made it happen. This will definitely stay in the rotation, I think next time I may try swapping out some of the flour for oat flour and grating in a little nutmeg with the dry ingredients.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Five - Kitchen Items

What are kitchen items that I think have been worth the investment? Things that maybe were a bit more expensive than other alternatives, but have proven totally worth it in the long run? I'm sure I'm missing some - but these are items I use a LOT.

Good Knives - I remember cringing the first time I spent somewhere between $30-$40 on a chef's knife - yep, worth it. The first time I chopped an onion with it, I felt like a professional! A good paring knife, chef's knife and bread knife can accomplish a lot in the kitchen.

Zyliss Chopper - While we're slicing and chopping, I love my chopper. It's been great for baby food - I can quickly chop up fruits, veggies, or whatever we're having for dinner if appropriate. It's also my favorite way to chop garlic and hot peppers as I don't end up burning my hands. It goes in the top of the dishwasher to clean, how easy is that? After 6 years of heavy use, I'm finding the blades are getting a little dull, although still great for the majority of uses.

Rock n Serve (by Tupperware) - I have several Tupperware items, but if I could only keep one, this would be it. The shallows (both the square and the large shallow) get used the most as they tend to be the most efficient with the freezer space. My pieces are all at least 10 years old, and going strong. I've got a couple lids that are a bit funky on the corners after all that time, but can still get them sealed with some work. The square ones get used in the freezer most often to hold my standard "ground meat mix" (usually ground turkey cooked with garlic, bell peppers and onion) since I only use half of this mixture when I make it. They are great for packing in lunches - and if not in use for the freezer, you may find the shallow square doubling as a sandwich keeper in a lunch.

Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons and Dry Measuring Cups - Not super expensive, but enough more than their plastic counterparts that for many years, I passed them up for the cheaper option. So what did I do? I eventually asked for them for Christmas. I love that the spoons stay together and that the measurements won't rub off. The cups are sturdy, easy to clean (and get grease/fat off of) and are sturdy. They have lasted much longer than the plastic ones and would have been more than worth the initial expense.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer - I waited and saved for years before picking up this expensive counter top appliance. I eventually ordered a refurbished model online. I knew I did not want the "basic" model in most big box stores, but the step-up Artisan or Professional model -- I ended up with the Artisan for a great price and have been very happy with it. While it doesn't get used as much as any of the other items mentioned - when it does get used it saves time and gets the job done better than any other methods I've tried. The Kitchen Aid has mixed cookies, cakes, breads, pizza dough, and even meatloaf. And honestly, I've been a bit afraid of the hand mixer since "The incident" and never found it very useful for any mixes of substance.

So 5 items that I really love in my kitchen that are not always considered "frugal" but I believe have saved me money in the long run. Both in the fact that they have lasted much longer than their less expensive counter parts - and in the fact that they work enough better to help me enjoy spending time in the kitchen and creating foods for my family, which in turn saves money. I'm sure I've left something out though! What are your go-to kitchen items?