Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Pinterest Addiction

So like every other girl/woman (yes, I'm finally beginning to consider myself a woman) in the world, I have a Pinterest account. To be accurate I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict. I will sit for minutes hours on end pinning away finding ways to clean my house, make my baby cuter, and fix the perfect meal. But this evening as I was drudgingly cleaning up my kitchen (no amount of pinning makes that easier), I got to thinking. How many of those hundreds of pins will I actually bring to life? To go a step further, how many have I actually done? I had to give myself a few criteria: 1. It couldn't be something from my own blog and 2. It couldn't be from because I've been doing her stuff long before pinning become popular. With that set, I looked through all my pins and came up with the rather short list below including my graded experience.

1. DIY T-shirt scarf: D-
    It wasn't an epic fail but it was pretty close. I didn't use a shirt without seams, mistake #1, and I think I cut the strips too thin. All in all I might do it again but I don't have enough clothes to experiment too much.

2. Repurposed Plastic Closures: A+
    It's hard to mess this one up. You basically take those plastic tab closures, attach to electronics cords, and label with a sharpie. Great way to know what cords are what.

3. Yarn Mobile: B
    I did this in varying sizes for my son's mobile over his crib. The small versions turned out good but the larger ones have started to unravel.

4. Microwave Potato Chips: A-
    They taste good, come out crispy, but to it takes a lot of potatoes to make a substantial serving.

5. Razorback Subway Art: A+
    The pin actually takes you to someone's Etsy site but my husband and I managed to put our efforts together and create our own version of this. Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration.

6. 2-Minute Mug Brownies: A++
   This alone is worth Pinterest existing. Best thing ever!

7. Crispy Sweet Potato Fries: B-
    Don't get me wrong, these tasted good and everything but I was really hoping for crispy as the recipe claims. Maybe it's just my oven but rather than getting crispy they just started to over brown/burn on one side. I think I'll stick with my unhealthy fried version.

Well there you have it out of almost 350 pins I've actualized 7 of them. Sad but true. So I'm curious, how many of your pins have you done?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Top 10 Must-haves for New Baby and Mom

So that little bundle I made the post-partum pads in preparation for finally arrived and only 51 hours of labor! With his arrival, I got to thinking about those "essentials." You know the handful of things that actually make life possible after the baby comes. So now that I'm a mom of two and a total baby expert (*extreme sarcasm*), I thought I'd pass on all my matronly wisdom in the realm of stuff you'll need. So here are my top 5 baby and top 5 mommy must-haves.

*I should note (not that it matters) that I have in no way been compensated by the makers of any of these products to promote their wares.*

Baby's Top 5
1. Swaddling Blankets: I'm not talking those little receiving blankets. I mean the stretchy cotton, baby burrito-style wrapswith the velcro. Because let's face it the worst thing is trying to rewrap a screaming baby at 2 a.m.

2. FuzziBunz Cloth Diapers: Obviously this one is a little taste specific, but now that I'm on cloth diapering baby #2, I can say these are by far my faves. Sturdy snaps, adjust to fit my newborn and my giant two-year old, and clean up great.

3. Moby Wrap: I say Moby because it's what we have but truly any baby carrier will do. I'm not really one of those huge proponents of baby wearing (yes, it's a thing), but it's nice to be hands free when doing things around the house.

4. Soothies Pacifiers: Not much to say other than they may not be the cutest but they do the job the best.

5. Aveeno lotion and wash: I love Aveeno for myself and love it for baby. It's mild, has a pleasant but light scent, and it feels good on mommy's skin too!

Mommy's Top 5

1. Medela Tender Care Lanolin: If you are nursing you are going to want lanolin. I love Medela brand because it comes out smoother and softer than other brands.

2. Post-partum Pads: Check out my previous post for more info. Basically it's soothing relief to your lady parts.

3. Medela Double Electric Breast Pump: If you're not needing to pump because you'll be away from baby, this fancy one probably isn't necessary, but I'm sure glad I have mine for when I head back to work.

4. Mascara: If you don't get to put any other makeup on before leaving the house, or even at home, put on some mascara. It always makes me feel a little more put together. I love Maybelline Define-a-Lash.

5. Mug Brownies: I discovered this recipe on Pinterest a few months ago and the two of us have become good friends. Put 1/4 c. flour, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 2 Tbs. cocoa powder, an pinch of salt in a mug. Mix. Stir in 2 Tbs. milk and 2 Tbs. oil until it's a thick paste. Microwave 60 sec. That's it!

Well there you have it. The products I love for mommy and baby. Obviously there could be many more and are that I love, but these are the ones I am loving right now.

Here's the inspiration behind this post. Pretty cute, huh?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Postpartum Care

Just a few weeks from delivery date and we are in full prep mode! That includes prep for my own care as well as baby's.

If you've had a baby or even if you haven't, you probably know, have read, or have had the life scared out of you by other moms about what things are like postpartum (aka after a wonderful baby the size of a melon pushes forth from a part of your body that went from being the width of a finger to being the width of a DVD). In a much understated word...OUCH!!

Now that that's been explained, it's time to talk about taking care of afore mentioned traumatized nether region. To avoid being to graphic let's just say that things are not so pretty. Lots of swelling, extreme tenderness, and let's face it the biggest period you will ever have. At the hospital they usually provide you with some stylish mesh panties courtesy of Victoria's Not-so Secret and a giant ice pack/mondo pad. Truth be told I greatly appreciated every bit of aid I got in the hospital. They may not have been pretty but the soothing relief was much desired. Sad to say they do not send you home with a month's supply of these ice pack pads, that's where the Pinterest-coined "padsicle" comes in. 

So for all you moms-to-be out there, enjoy this quick and worth while tutorial that quite literally came to my rescue. It may have even been more helpful than all those wonderful meals I didn't have to prepare myself...well at least tied for first.

Step 1: Gather your materials

  • Mondo pads: As in the longest, biggest, most absorbent pads you can find. Some moms suggest the incontinence pads but I'm all about Always brand extra long, overnights. The best part is it's not super bulky and they re-wrap easily (an important thing to keep in mind for this project).
  • Witch Hazel: Usually found in the first aid type stuff in the pharmacy near rubbing alcohol.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: The same stuff you rub on your skin after a sun burn
  • Small Spray Bottle: Used to dispense the magic concoction onto the pad.
  • Foil: You'll probably have this lying around the house

Step 2: Mix it up

Mix 1/4 c. of the witch hazel with a 2 tablespoons of the aloe gel in a bowl. Carefully pour into the spray bottle. I would make at least a double batch for a full box of pads. Any extra you may have can be stored in the fridge and used as a soothing spray during potty time.

Step 3: Spray it on

You'll need to carefully unwrap the pad and gently remove the center plastic that covers the adhesive on the wings.

Now spray a good amount (enough to sufficiently saturate) of the mixture onto the center part of the pad. Basically you want the part of the pad that will make direct contact with your sore lady parts. Be careful not to spray the adhesive on the wings or else they won't be sticky anymore.

Step 4: Wrap it up and freeze

Once you're pad is sufficiently dampened, carefully replace the plastic coving the wing adhesive and gently wrap the pad back up. Cut a sheet of foil that will completely wrap the pad.
Next wrap it up like you would a foil pack, sealing the ends.

Now repeat the above steps with each pad. Once finished put them back in the original bag/box and pop in the freezer. 

Step 5: Enjoy soothing relief for your aching lady parts

Once you run out of the few ice packs the hospital sends home, use one of these "padsicles" instead of a regular pad. It will not only take care of flow issues, but provide the soothing relief of cold (frozen) and gentle healing properties (aloe & witch hazel). 

I went through about two boxes of these with my first baby. I made up one ahead of time (about 3 weeks out) and made another one when I realized I was going to need more. Hope this helps. I know I appreciated having them ready for me when I got home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Budgeting 101: To Market, To Market

Well so much for being consistent about blogging. A month and a half later here I am back again. Truth be told, life caught up with me a bit. The Bear got bronchitis (major ugh!), work got a little hectic, we celebrated year 4 of married life, and let's face it the energy level is ever decreasing as I near the birth of baby #2. That said, I am here to deliver my shopping plan as promised.

Step 1: Take Inventory
Probably the most important step is to know what you have in your stash and what basics you're running low on. My basics are things like coffee, crackers, cheese, flour, sugar, rice, pasta, canned soup (tomato, cream of chicken and mushroom), canned veggies and beans, potatoes, as well as paper goods (TP & paper towels). Things of that nature. These are things my family uses a lot of and so I make sure we have it all in the house. After the basics I take inventory of our meat. Know what you've got to work with.

Step 2: Plan Your Meals for the Week
1. Take into consideration what you already have in stock before you start looking at what you need to buy. If you are really trying to save money, also look at what you can substitute in recipes. For example this very evening I substituted a can of green chiles for a few chopped jalapeno slices in my chili recipe.
2. When it comes to planning meals, find a balance of proteins and get creative with them. Let's face it, unless it's majorly on sale, beef is really not an affordable option, even ground. We stick with whole chicken (it can go a long way), pork when on sale, beans (pick a night to go all veg), and fish. I try not to have the same protein more than two meals in a row just to keep the variety going.
3. Shop the ads. I'll be honest, I don't really do this but I have been blessed by Aldi where I don't necessarily have to shop ads because their prices are already lower than most brands on sale. That said, I don't buy meat from them (solution added is not okay in my house). So in the way of meat, shop the ads. And fresh produce, buy on sale and in season!

Here's an example of a weekly meal plan I did. Hopefully in the near future I can post the recipes.

Monday: Roasted Chicken & Greek Potatoes w/Green Beans
Tuesday: Southwest Veggie Bake (lots of beans) & Salad
Wednesday: Honey Garlic Pork Chops w/Broccoli and Baked Potatoes
Thursday: Chicken Lo Mien & Crab Rangoons
Friday: Mushroom Steak (using cube steaks) w/Green Beans & Mashed Potatoes

We are a family of 3 and yes my toddler eats like an adult so I count him. I usually make enough for 4-5 servings so that there is a little left over the next day for lunches.

Step 3: Make Your Shopping List
Now that you've got your meal plan and know what you have in house. Make your list. The key to this is being detailed. I shop two stores: Wal-Mart & Aldi. I know these stores and where everything is. I make my list according to the store's layout. At Wal-Mart I start at the back and work my way up. Aldi you walk in and end at the check out. Making your list to suit your store is important for a few reasons. First, it saves you the time and frustration of going back and forth and up and down a bunch of aisles as you realize you've missed something on your list. *Disclaimer: this still happens to me as I sometimes skip over things even when they are in order on the list.* Second, it saves you from going down aisles you don't need to go down and being tempted to purchase things not on your list.

Step 4: Go Shopping!
Normally, a woman loves to go shopping, but let's face it grocery shopping is tedious. Having the list makes things so much easier and more efficient. There are two major tips: 1. Stick to the list & 2. Write down the price of each item. This second step is super important when it comes to the budget aspect. When I write down the price I over estimate to the next half dollar. Actual price, $3.15; Written price $3.50. This helps take into account tax. I like to add as I go so I know where I am budget-wise and know what to expect when I get to the register. Sometimes the prices will ring up different from what you estimate. Don't be afraid to double check on stuff if it rings up more than you wrote down.

Okay, I think that's it. Probably not as detailed as I could have been and may not even be that helpful, but I got it out there.
Forewarning, next post will probably be baby related. I'm thinking 'What's in my bag, hospital addition' and probably my amazing recipe for postpartum care.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Budget 101: The Cardinal Rules of Grocery Budgeting

To really get your grocery budget in check, you’ve got to follow a few cardinal rules.

1.  Embrace the generosity of others.

    This is probably the most difficult but the most important rule of all. There is a fine line between enjoying the generosity and taking advantage of it. Every family’s version of this is different. For us it includes participating in WIC. If you are unfamiliar, WIC is a fantastic government-sponsored program for families with young children that provides very basic groceries such as milk, cheese, bread, cereal, beans, and an allotment of fruits and veggies based on financial need. Truth be told this is the biggest source of help when it comes to our overall grocery budget. WIC provides at least another $100 a month to our groceries. It took me a little bit to get over the stereotype I had associated with WIC, but putting my own pride aside, I did what was needed for my family.
    Aside from the generosity of taxpayers, we have also learned to embrace those families who love us enough to share a bit of their blessings with us. If someone invites you over for Sunday lunch, accept graciously and always offer to bring something. If you have a friend who happens to slaughter a cow or have lots of venison left from hunting season and offers you some meat, open up that freezer and allow them to share the wealth. And of course, if your loving parents or in-laws ask how they can help, tell them they can take you to the grocery store.
    Husband and I look forward to the day that we too can pour out our blessings on others, but for now we are the ones receiving the blessings from others. Now on to the other ‘rules.’

2.  Set your budget and stick to it.

    Take a hard look at your finances and see what your average spending for groceries and toiletries have been over the last 6 months. See what you specifically spend on meats, produce, dairy, and dry goods. If possible also look at what meals you prepare on a regular basis. This will help tremendously when you move on to other steps. Now set your budget. Again every family is different, some spend more, some less. We stick to an average of $50 a week. Some weeks are more, some less. Knowing your budget and sticking to it strictly is the key.

3.  Shop with cash.

    This has truly been the money saving tip of the century. Every two weeks I visit the bank and take out the grocery money for those two weeks. When I go to the store I know that that’s all the money I have for two weeks. If the money runs out, I don’t by anything else. When you have that cash in hand it makes you much more aware of how much you spend.

4.  Shop with a plan and a purpose.

    Before I even think about going to the store, I make a plan. I know what stores I will go to, what meals I will make that week, and exactly what I am going to buy. I’ll go into more detail about the planning stages in another post. Basically, in making a plan you can save yourself time and money.

That’s the basics of it all. It sounds so simple and yes, it is once you get the hang of it all. Next post I’ll share how I do my shopping plan. Enjoy your first full week of June!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Budget 101: The Basics

Look at me two posts in 1 week. Woohoo! So if you are part of the privileged class known as our friends and family, you know that we have always been on a tight budget and now with both of us only working part time the budget is even tighter.

In an attempt to get some creative ideas for our budget I started looking around the world wide web for ideas. Lo and behold my idea of a strict budget varies greatly from the general population. I feel like we live on the bare necessities but I guess you can be the judge of that. Without going into too many details, here's the general scheme of our monthly budget.

Essentials (aka bills we can't really change)
$500  Rent
$400  Health Insurance (it super sucks having to pay for your own insurance)
$128  Car Insurance (trying to get creative with our agent to get this lower)
$200  Student Loans (only 6 more years to go!!)
$180  Car Loan (only 20 easy payments left)
$272  Tithe (give to God what is God's, pre-taxes of course)
$200  All Utilities (this is the top budgeted, we have yet to actually spend this much monthly)

Extras (aka stuff we need and yet don't need)
$139 Cell Phones (ugh! why does it cost so much?! trying to figure out a way we can get this lowered)
$24   Internet (yes, we need it. How else would I get to blog?)

Grocery & Gas (the most creative section of budgeting)
$200  Groceries (yeah you read that right, $200 a month = $50 a week)
$100  Gas (this has been the most difficult and the one we fudge on the most) 

That brings us to a grand total of $2343/month. When I add it all up is sounds like so much but I guess in comparison to others it's not so bad. I won't go into the detail of saying how much we actually bring home (I gotta keep something private!), but let's just say there's not much left for fun and games. Oh, by the way, the grocery budget also includes any toiletries we might need to get. That money doesn't just appear out of thin air. With what is left over every month, we set it aside for things like oil changes, insurance co-pays, and a little bit of cushion.

So there you have it, that's the budget. The funny thing is, out of all the money we spend every month there's only a few hundred dollars worth that we actually have real control over. Since that is the case over the next few posts I hope to focus in on one particular area: groceries. It's the one with which most people struggle (notice my amazing grammar there?) and it's the one with which I've had the hardest time finding help via the internet. 

Tune in next week for some general tips on sticking to a small grocery budget.

Have a wonderful weekend!!
Husband, the Bear, and Brother at Run Ruckus (from back in March but I'm still pretty proud)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

1st Birthday on a Budget: Part 2

Wow, I am really bad at this blogging thing! But hey, working and raising a family is hard work and let's face it, blogging isn't exactly top priority. That said, here's the rest of the Bear's 1st birthday.

Step 3: Pick a Menu ($30) & Make a Cake ($8)

Since we did a Razorback themed party we opted for game day food including hot dogs, beans, salad, and chips and dip. Not the healthiest of menus but hey it's a party. The key to food at a party is to keep it simple, inexpensive, and of course have the grandparents chip in a little. They kicked in a little when it came to the sides and we handled the rest. Super easy and cheap.

When it came to the cake, I tried to be ambitious and make one from scratch. Who knew that cake is next to impossible to get out of a custom cake pan without cake release? Not me. The first version failed miserably so I did what every good mom does and bought a mix ($2). The most expensive part of the cake ended up being the icing. I purchased a tub of plain white ($1) thinking I would get off cheap but lo and behold to get a quality red coloring I had to go to the cake decorating section. Let's here it for $5 for a small canister of crimson food gel. I know it's probably horrible for us and will someday give us cancer but I used it anyway. So now we are to a grand total of $8 for the cake. I guess in comparison to a store bought cake it's no big but it was more than I had expected.
Finished cake w/decorations (His name was across the top, again removed for privacy)

Step 4: Favors ($7)

For favors I opted for cookies and mints. The mints I had left over from a shower so they were free! For the cookies I borrowed some cookie cutters from my mother-in-law that were jersey and football shapes. I spent my $7 on the baking supplies, frosting (which I homemade), and the dye ($4). I had some red from the cake but had to buy the brown for the footballs. Again, good food dye is expensive.
I found the key to good cut out cookies is to cut them again after they bake. This gives you clean lines when you decorate and you get to munch on the crusts!
Fresh baked sugar cookie

Place cookie cutter over cookie and give one firm press

Result is clean cut cookies
The finished product (sorry I didn't get a pic of them decorated outside the bag)

Step 5: Presents ($40)

I feel like deciding on a gift is always the difficult thing. Do you go one big gift, several small, consider the party itself a gift and let the grandparents handle toys? Because it was so close to Christmas we opted to go very simple on gift. One gift for birthday and one gift for Christmas. The Christmas gift I snagged for $10 so that left us a little more to spend on birthday. While perusing the aisles at Target we came across this little darling and knew it was perfect for our little Bear.
Awesome Little People Batcave

So there you have it. 1st Birthday party for just under $100. 
Let's review shall we: Free (decor & cute outfit) +  $11 (invites) + $30 (Food) + $8 (Cake) + $7 (Favors) + $40 (Present) = $96

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

1st Birthday on a Budget Part 1

I realize that this post is more than 3 months overdue but hey a lot has transpired. We moved, Husband got a new job, I got a new job, Bear had a birthday, and we're expecting again. So there is a little slack to be cut.

So the Bear turned 1 a few months ago and did so on a very tight budget. Like most young families, we don't have an abundance of funds and that didn't miraculously change when the Bear's 1st birthday rolled around. We had to really think about what we wanted to do and how much we wanted to spend.

I started mapping this out and discovered that it was way to long for one post so I'll break it down into two. Part 1: Planning/Prep and Part 2: Party

So here are the guide so to speak of how I kept my son's birthday from start to finish for under $100.

Step 1: The Theme/Decor (Free)
I started planning my son's party while I was still pregnant. Call me crazy but doing so saved me some serious dollars when it came to the party. How so you may ask?
I saved the decorations from the baby showers!
We did an Arkansas Razorback themed nursery and so two of my showers were also Razorback themed. I saved napkins, streamers, wall hangings, stickers, plates, etc. Yes they took up a little closet space and yes my husband tried to throw things away a few times, but I hung on to it all! I also borrowed some decorations from the Bear's nursery and set out his baby book, photo albums, etc.

I didn't have to buy a single decoration and the space looked great.
Cute baby stuff

Banner from one of my showers

Pictures of the Bear over the last year

Step 2: The Invite List (Free) and Invitations ($11)

I know the tendency of 1st timers is to go overboard with the first birthday. Hey, I was in the same boat. If I could have, I would have gone all out and probably tried to get Tyler Wilson himself to come to the Bear's party (wouldn't that have been awesome)! But, again, reality set in.
Rather than inviting everyone we knew with kids, people from church, and every family member we could find, we kept it to our immediate family and a few close friends with kids.
I made the invites using a combo of stuff I already had and a few simple purchases
  • Wrapping paper from a shower
  • Brown scrapbook paper
  • "You're Invited" rubber stamp ($6 from Hobby Lobby)
  • 12 pk. of red envelopes ($3 from Hobby Lobby)
  • 12 printed pics of the Bear ($2 from Wal-Mart)
Here's the finished product. Not bad, eh? (The blackouts were obviously not on the actual invite, just personal stuff blocked for this post.)

Step 3: Super Cute Outfit for the Birthday Boy
Just like every mom I wanted by Bear to have a cute out fit to wear. Something that had a "1" or "Birthday Boy" or something similar on it. Truth be told I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for so I just made it myself. I am not a master seamstress so I assure you anyone can do this. I took a white onesie we already had and some material that was left over from covering a footstool in the nursery.
I cut out a one and zig-zag stitched around the edge. Done!

That's it for now. Still to come are The Food/Cake, The Favors, and The Presents.

I'm glad to be back in the blogging world after my brief hiatus.