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?