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?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thrifty Thursday - "sack" lunches

Back to school means back to packing lunches with a bit more regularity. The Chewy kid did have a couple of day camps where we needed to pack lunches - but for the most part - summer meant we got to come up with lunch menus on the fly. Mr. Chewy also takes his lunch to work, and on the days I'm at work over lunch, I pack as well. Why do we pack lunches? I think the two main reasons are to save money and to eat healthier. In order to do both of those we need to plan ahead! Mr. Chewy and I have the luxury of microwave use most of the time, and access to a fridge to keep things cool as well. The Chewy Kid has an insulated storage container that can keep cool things cool or hot things hot until lunchtime if primed well. (I fill with either hot water, or ice water to set the temp while I get the rest of his lunch ready.) Here are some of our standbys that aren't just "leftovers":

Main Dish
Elvis roll-up -tortilla smeared with peanut or soy nut butter wrapped around a banana
quesadilla - cooked, cooled and cut
pinwheels - tortilla smeared with low fat cream cheese, slice of turkey or ham, wrapped around a pickle
homemade "lunchables" - meat, cheese, crackers
tuna or chicken salad - and a rice cake to put it on
bagel/cream cheese

Favorite "leftovers" for lunches (Chewy Kid)
Any soup
pizza - yes, cold
most casseroles

Side Dishes
Well, Mr. Chewy is easy for sides -- everyday he takes a different main dish, but always has applesauce, chocolate pudding and a string cheese. I learned the hard way - don't try to surprise him with a different pudding!
Other sides:
veggies with dip
fresh fruit (cut for the chewy kid so he'll eat it all)
muffin or quickbread

Lowfat flavored yogurts
quickbread or muffin
fruit/cereal bar
small granola bar

100% juice - The Chewy Kid always takes juice, I know he'll drink it! I throw a couple of ice cubes in his reusable "drink box" to keep it cool. Mr. Chewy and I generally pack water and/or that occasional Coke Zero or Diet Dr. Pepper.

I'm working pretty hard for "waste free" lunches. I'm not there yet. Hoping to eliminate ziplock bags this year, although, especially with the kids smaller lunchbox - that's a bit of a challenge - but we're getting closer. We use a lot of Tupperware and Tupperware like objects.

I am more than open to any lunch packing ideas, tips, and recipes! What's in your lunch?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Best of Show State Fair photos!

Ok, I'm putting in a few words here. As you can tell, the Chewy Kid is the photographer, not me - but wanted to share his photos. My photos of his photos do not do them justice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mish Mash Monday - catching up

Ok, it's been a rough couple of weeks - the cold came back, only this time it was bronchitis - so a trip to the dr. was necessary. Now that we're on the mend - I'm hoping to get back into the blog swing and get back to posting at least 3-4 days a week.

So here is a quick catch up of interesting things:

Des Moines Sidewalk Chalk Flood: Looking for something cool to do in Des Moines with the family this Saturday? Bring your ideas and creativity, chalk is provided - Downtown at the Western Gateway Park. I'll be looking for you!

If you are trying to cut back on your Fast Food purchases - or even if you just should - you should check out this post from Mr. Chewy's blog. I think I need to paste a few of these facts to the dashboard in my car! We eat a LOT less that we did a few years ago - but could trim it back even more.

How about 5 Super Cheap Green Items Everyone Should Own? The list is over a year old, but a great starting point for anyone - although I'd go as far as to say you should own AND use them. Living in a condo - we have a drying rack instead of clothesline, but I will admit to not using it as much as I should.

For those of you with e-book readers check out this great site ( is updated with the free book offerings. They post with the newest offers first, so it's an easy way to check in once a week or so to make sure you have the opportunity to "buy" any of the free books that may be of interest to you. I've had my Kindle since February and have yet to pay for a book, and have been able to get a great variety of free books.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Talk back Tuesday - Grown up time

I LOVE the boys - really! But I'm starting to think I need some occasional time away. Nothing crazy - but I think I may need to make sure to take a couple of hours here or there - with a friend, or catching up with Mr. Chewy. What are some of your favorite "mommy time" or "mommy and daddy time" quick fixes? How do you make it work?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Home Cold remedy check in

It's been five days, so I thought I would check in regarding the home remedies I have been trying since Tuesday. (original post here)

Raw Garlic - Went fine the first day or so, by day 3 - it was like the 3rd day of cough medicine, even the thought of taking and chewing the clove made me shudder. I felt like I smelled of garlic. However, I stuck with it. Whatever it did to the breastmilk, the chewy tot did not seem to mind.

Special "tea" of hot water, honey, lemon, cider vinegar and cayenne - Didn't taste nearly as bad as one would think. I drank about 5-6 cups worth each day starting Monday evening through Friday, and am having a mug tonight (Saturday) before bed. It really clears the sinuses and soothes the throat.

But, what you want to know.... did it work?

Well, about 95% of the time, any cold I get ends up in my chest and into full blown bronchitis. I can tell I'm getting better, and believe (and hope!) I am past and have avoided that stage this time. I feel like the combination of the garlic and tea worked at least as well if not better than traditional over the counter cold meds. I have no scientific proof, but I know that is all I've done differently. I do know that I will definitely give it a go again next time I have a cold.

I am not 100% back up to par yet - but as mentioned, believe I'm on my way there. As I would with OTC meds - I'll start easing up on the remedies unless I feel the symptoms worsening again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Five - The Chewy Kid's Summer Faves

As we wind down the summer (school starts a week from Wednesday here!) I thought I'd have the Chewy Kid help by making a list of the top 5 things he did this summer!

5) Making a "Can-Jo" and other workshops at Community!Youth Concepts: This week the Chewy Kid got to participate in a couple of free workshops hosted by Community!Youth Concepts in partnership with Metro Arts. Their summer theme the artists are all using is "Green Arts" Professional artists share their knowledge with the kids and then do projects. Today he got to play a washboard, washtub bass, and with a limberjack. Then they made instruments out of items found in recycling tubs. The kids also got the chance to accompany the professionals as they played. It's not the greatest photo, but here he is with his "can-jo"

4) Going to overnight camp at Camp Hantesa: This was his second summer to head off for a week of resident camp - and I think it was a bit easier on all of us! He had a great time, he loves doing drama, although I'm pretty sure that party night was the highlight of his week. Everytime we visit, all the staff know who he is, I hope that's a good thing!

3) Hanging out: This is the first summer that I haven't worked full-time, and he really had a chance to hang out. Pajama mornings were a favorite.

2) Going to Living History Farms and Blank Park Zoo: While he's been to both of these for field trips in the past - I really think the slower pace and the fact that it was just us, we all got a lot more out of these great local attractions. There was no need to rush, and it was ok to spend an hour playing parlor games in one of the homes on the farms. I hope we can visit both again during the fall. If you missed it, you can check out an earlier blog post on the zoo and farms here.

1) Spending time with the family: When I was working full time in camping, when we were home, it was pretty low key. This summer while we haven't been as active as planned we did go camping, have done some geocaching, and spent some time playing board games and even some Mario Kart.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Try-it Tuesday - Home cold remedies

Mr. Chewy is such a kind and sharing guy -- he even shared a cold with me this weekend! It's been almost 20 months since I've been able to have any over-the-counter cold meds due to pregnancy or nursing I've been looking at home remedies that are ok while nursing. Obviously, you don't HAVE to be nursing to give any of these a try!

The two I've committed to trying for the next day or two:

Raw Garlic - One raw clove - 3-4 times a day. The cold-fighting compound in garlic is thought to be allicin, which has demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties. Allicin is what gives garlic its distinctive hot flavor. Obvious downside to a lot of raw garlic - the odor. I'm also wondering if these amounts of raw garlic will affect the smell or taste of my breastmilk.

Honey/Lemon "tea" - The "tea" is in quotes because use can use tea, or just hot water depending on your taste preference (or need for caffeine I suppose!). The honey soothes the sore throat, and the honey and lemon are also supposed to loosen mucus. I've also read about adding a bit of apple cider vinegar and/or cayenne pepper, so I gave that a try - opened up the sinuses right away and wasn't near as scary or nasty as I thought it would be.

I am more than open to any other ideas anyone is willing to share. I'll be sure to let you all know how these help as well!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Taking a tip from Mr. Chewy's blog, I decided it was time for a top 5, so , without further ado, the top 5 things I love about being a (mostly) SAHM! Ok, I'm not positive they are a "Top 5" but they are definitely 5 things I really enjoy (and you will not see sleeping in or watching soaps on the list!) about being able to stay home (aside from the obvious spending more time with the boys!)

5. Comfy Clothes - yeah, this one is pretty selfish, but I love being able to wear old comfortable clothes and not worry about "work wear". I'll also admit to an occasional "pajama morning".

4. Shopping during the day - even taking the Chewy tot along, it's not nearly as crazy shopping and running errands during the middle of the week. Everyone (both other customers and staff) are generally less frazzled and more pleasant.

3. Lunch - again, on the selfish side, but it's a lot easier to create something on the fly than plan for what is going to sound tasty 5 hours in advance. With the Chewy Kid home for the summer and the Chewy Tot starting to eat more solids this is handy as well.

2. Field Trips - while we haven't been out as much as I'd like, I'm really getting to see and experience things in our area. On a school day off last spring we went to the State Capitol Complex, visited the State Historical Society and The Chewy Kid took some great photos on the grounds that he's entering in the State Fair. We've also been to the Zoo and Living History Farms.

1. The ability to "go with the flow" - occasionally I do need to head out early for one reason or another and it always leaves me with the question "How do people do this with kids every day?" If the Chewy Tot is crabby and needs a nap - we stay home. If he's sleeping, we very rarely have to wake him up to go somewhere. He can eat on demand. The Chewy Kid can get homework done right after school without distractions so he has more time to hang out and do family activities after Mr. Chewy gets home. We can do impromptu visits with family and friends.

Most of the time - I love being at home with the boys and the rewards can't be matched - but that may be another post!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Breastfeeding week post

Here it is Thursday already - and I've waffled back and forth about writing a post for Breastfeeding week -- why? Our tale isn't typical - not that I'm embarrassed or anything, but let's just say breastfeeding has been a roller-coaster for us at best.
A year ago, we were eagerly anticipating the chewy tot's arrival. Ultrasounds had indicated that he would have a cleft lip - and although he didn't let us see the palate (he was a finger sucker from the VERY beginning!) family history and other indications (amount of amniotic fluid) indicated that he was very likely to have a cleft palate as well. With a cleft palate, breastfeeding is not possible, we were ready to go with a double pump - and the plan was to pump and then feed with an adaptive bottle for at least 2 months.
Fast forward to birth day -- and the little guy is born with his palate totally intact. I remember a nurse handing him to me and asking if I'd like to nurse him, and I was pretty confused, I mean, I'm not SUPPOSED to be able to, I have a breast pump! I really had to wrap my head around this change since I had spent MONTHS planning, and reading about feeding with a cleft palate. Now it sounds pretty silly when I think about it!
During our two days in the hospital - we exclusively breastfed - although, he really struggled and got upset when I tried to nurse on the right side. I really had mixed support from nurses - depending on who was on duty, including one who cautioned me about smothering my baby since I had large breasts, and another who would literally shove his entire face into the breast. A lactation specialist did check in - and I remember voicing some concerns, but was pretty much told that when my milk came in, it would be easier, and given information for a breastfeeding support group for after I was discharged.

We came home on a Friday afternoon, I continued to exclusively breastfeed, and baby was getting more and more upset, and could not sleep. By Saturday night, Mr. Chewy stepped in and said we needed to try some formula and/or pumping. (I was a bit hysterical saying that we couldn't do a bottle and all the books said I should only offer the breast.) The baby inhaled about an ounce of formula - while I tried to pump and got only a few drops. In my mind, my milk had not come in yet - I continued to pump every hour and every few pumpings I would manage to amass a total of about 1/2 ounce of milk. We tried alternating this half ounce with some formula - but I had NO IDEA how much milk I should be producing, or how much the baby should be consuming. Meanwhile, he did NOT want to nurse.

Monday we had our check-up with the family doctor. Baby had lost too much weight, and we were immediately put on "weight gain bootcamp" of 2 ounces every two hours. I was pumping every 90 minutes trying to increase production and supplementing with formula. (Slurping down mother's milk tea and eating a LOT of oatmeal too!) We did make weight by 2 weeks - but it wasn't easy. Baby still really had no interest in the breast, but I continued to pump, and offer the breast on occasion. We were able to get production up to about 50% of his daily intake. The goal was to pump and suppliment as needed up to 2 months - as I couldn't see myself maintaining this more than that - it was taking up most of my waking hours between feeding and pumping!

Somewhere around 2 months, baby and I were sleeping in the living-room one night, and out of desperation/exhaustion, I offered the breast one night - and he latched on and nursed himself to sleep. I decided, as long as he'll nurse at night, it's worth pumping during the day. Eventually, he started taking the breast occasionally during the day as well, and eventually we got to the point where we alternated breast and bottle. At this point, I was only pumping occasionally, like when he would fall asleep without nursing. I decided - we could maintain this through his cleft lip surgery at 6 months.

Throughout this time, my production did not increase beyond somewhere between 12-15 ounces per day. No matter what I did - supplements, pumping every hour, etc., and 90% of that was coming from one side.

We made it to surgery day -- I was able to nurse just a few hours before his surgery, pump, and then post surgery he was ready/wanting to nurse (and just "rest" on the "girls" for comfort). I was very glad I had been able to keep milk for that moment. Since then, We have made no attempt to wean, yet, I haven't pumped for months either. He is able to nurse 2-3 times a day - mostly nap/bedtime. He is still being supplemented with formula, and taking more table food every day.

It has been HARD not only breastfeeding, but coming to terms with having to supplement. It has been a challenge as I've wondered if other natural parenting advocates think I've let my baby down, or wonder what they are thinking when they see me feeding my baby a bottle of formula. Did I try hard enough? Is there anything different I could have done? I don't know. What would I do differently if I have this opportunity again? I would have a better idea of my resources and babies needs for sure.

I am so glad that I have at least been able to breast feed part-time. I realize the health benefits, and bonding we've experienced are irreplaceable, however, I can't feel guilty about supplementing.

So there it is -- a very non-traditional World Breastfeeding Week post. I do believe very strongly in breastfeeding and that it is best for baby and am thankful to have had the opportunity to breastfeed part-time. I also believe that we as natural parenting advocates need to remember that there are circumstances that may make exclusive breastfeeding not possible, and not instantly jump to conclusions, or make these parents feel bad about their decisions and situation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Try-it Tuesday - Flip Diapers

Ok, it's been awhile since I've done a diaper post - so it's definitely time right? As we're preparing to go on our first vacation with the Chewy Tot this fall, we starting thinking about what we wanted to do for diapers. I love our Smartipants pocket-diapers (you can read more here) but could not see us able to effectively wash them on the trip. I had heard too many negative things about using resort/cruise laundry facilities for diapers due to the shorter wash cycles. I'm also concerned about using disposables on the Chewy tot due to not only the thought of all those disposables, but also, didn't want to risk a negative skin reaction to the chemicals, especially since he is not used to them. I was intrigued by some of the hybrid systems out there - gDiapers, Flip and GroVia are the "big 3" gDiaper inserts are available to be delivered to our cruise ship - and as a bonus -- They are flushable/compostable. I liked the colors and the look of the Flip diaper covers though.
So I went into Little Padded Seats to ask about hybrid systems and got my hands on the ones they carry, the Flip diapers. Since these would be going in my stash for regular cloth use as well, I wanted something that would enhance my current collection. I immediately fell in love with the Flip Diaper with the organic insert. Very soft and absorbent, great traits for my heavy wetter. The moonbeam color is also a great bold blue color. I purchased a day pack (2 covers, 6 inserts) and home we went. I got them washed up and into the rotation.
As a straight "cloth" diaper, I really do like the Flip. In fact, for the price, if they had been available and I had been aware of them when creating my initial stash - I'm pretty sure it would have been about half Flip. They are easy to use, affordable, and I haven't had a leak yet. I really like the way they fit and because of the absorbency of the organic cotton, they really are pretty trip for a cloth diaper. For those that have not used a cover and insert - the insert is folded and lays right inside the liner. For regular "wet" diapers and minor poops, you just pull out the insert and lay a new one in the cover. If the liner gets really wet or poopy, you just wash it like you would an all-in-one or pocket diaper. Minor spill or leakage, just wipe it down with a wipe, and you are ready to go again.
Flip also makes disposable inserts, but to be fair, I have not used them, as they were out of stock everywhere I checked for them. I am able to buy gDiaper flushable inserts locally, so I gave them a try. I had used one or two of them here or there with success. I did have to read up on how to properly flush a diaper, you do have to tear the sides of the insert and shake the middle into the toilet - but really, not a big deal, and I really don't get gross or messy. This past week, we were battling a bit of diaper rash, and I needed to bring on some harder hitting rash cream, and since diaper rash treatments and cloth diapers don't get along well, I decided it was a great time to "test drive" extended use (2 days) of the disposable inserts. They worked great, cleaned up easy, and I even "practiced" hand washing the Flip cover and having it dry overnight in the bathroom - and it all went beautifully. Mr. Chewy and I now think we are set to operate this way for our fall vacation. We do think we will need to step up to a total of 4 covers to make it easier, and be a bit more prepared for any "messes".
So, for the Try-it Tuesday Verdict(s)

What I like about Flip Diapers:
  • Choice of inserts
  • Organic Cotton is very absorbent and soft. Only diapers we have that don't need to be "doubled"
  • Cover is "one size" so can be adjusted as he grows - seems to have more room for growth than our one size diapers
  • Can use the covers for cloth or "disposable" inserts - a multi-tasker!
  • Much trimmer than our pocket diapers
  • Other disposable inserts fit and can be used, giving you more flexibility on the road.
  • Affordable (average about $10/"diaper" with using one cover for 2-3 changes) Great for an organic diaper
  • It holds it all in!
What I'm not so crazy about with Flip Diapers:
  • Their disposable inserts have been hard to come by - and as far as I can tell, are not flushable, although you could probably compost them
  • very limited color options
  • the inserts do shift a bit - still no leaks, but that means pretty much any poop requires a change/wash of the liner
  • Organic Cotton does stain
What makes Flip Diapers a good "Chewy Granola" choice
  • The option for "disposable" inserts for when cloth is not a realistic option
  • The liner/insert option is less expensive than all-in ones or pocket diapers
  • Still easy enough for most anyone to use
Overall we have been very happy with our Flip Diapers. We've had them and used them heavily in the rotation for about 2 months now, and I'm happy to have an option for extended travel that I see as a pretty good compromise between disposable and cloth.