Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Joys of Toddlerhood: The Food Battle Part 1

Periodically I have been posting about The Joys of Toddlerhood (Part 1Part 2) and the fun that comes with these years! When I say fun, I actually mean it! Everyday is like a new adventure for him and it's fun to watch him grow and learn! A common battle with these toddler years is the food battle and I thought it would be a fun blog to write about this topic. I have several friends with kids his age or soon to be kiddos his age that have asked me what I do for food so hopefully I can answer all their questions with this two-part blog. 

In this first part I will start out with my philosophy on eating and in the second part I will cover some foods he loves to eat and I keep on hand for him to eat.

What We Eat
I am not a person who believes in only buying organic, grass-fed, all natural, and no sugar items for our food.  I am not vegetarian or vegan and we don't have any special diets we follow. I have nothing against those people that buy that way and I will buy the items if they are a great price, but normally I buy what is available to me and cost effective. I do buy items that are lower sugar, low salt, and I try to cook all my meals....which translates to we don't buy a lot of perservity pre-processed foods. We have a large garden and I use as much as I can out of our garden and can/freeze what I can't use. However, saying this, you will find some pre-proccessed foods on my list (in the next post) for convenience and I always say

What He Eats
A few months ago we went through this food battle, sort of. I noticed he was becoming picky about his eating and wouldn't eat certain things we put in front of him. My son like meat and fruit. Everything else is just something to play with. When we first became parents, we decided to feed him what we eat. He doesn't get some special meal of hot dogs and chicken nuggets every meal....he eats the exact same food we are having for that meal.  He eats what we eat and if he doesn't like it, he doesn't eat. At first I felt guilty, scared he might starve to death, but my husband put me in check. He said "People are programmed to eat when they are hungry and even if they don't like the food, they will eventually eat it." With his medical experience, I decided he is most likely right. I usually feel just fine knowing that he eats one really good meal each day, which he does. 

Variety Is The Spice of Life
I have found that my child likes a variety of foods. Each meal I give him a small amount of a each item that we eat and throw in a little extras. He will eat little bites of everything and overall gets a nice variety of nutrition from each item. Muffin Tin Mom has some great ideas for meals for your toddler if you want an example of foods. I don't use the muffin tin, but it's a good concept. 

In addition to variety, we let him try new things all the time. For instance, my son really didn't like salad until one day while out to eat with my husband's aunt she gave him a piece of her lettuce that had balsamic vinegar on it.  You know what, HE LOVED IT! Now when we have salad, he eats his with balsamic vinegar on it! I am not big on condiments so I try to keep those to a minimum but we have found he likes barbecue sauce with his baked french fries, so I let him eat that too. 

Eat Like A Grown-Up
In addition to eating the same meals we eat, I have started to transitioning him over to grown-up eating. He sits in a booster seat at our table, eats with glass plates and metal silverware , and even puts his hands together in prayer before every meal. (Obviously, with the forks you have to watch him very closely, but we are right next to him.) I think he likes the feeling of being a "big boy" and the newness of the glass plate and metal silverware he uses are something different to play with so he eats more. We hope to tackle the normal cup soon!

Give Up The Battle
I will not fight with my child over his food and decided to give up any battle that might arise with his food. I like to give him options. Today for breakfast, I asked him if he wanted Nutella or peanut butter on his toast, he chose peanut butter.  He can choose between mozzarella cheese or cheddar cheese, cucumber or green pepper, grapes or strawberries....  If he eats, he eats.  If not, he will be hungry later and he will get the same plate that he didn't eat before. I do this quite a bit with lunch because sometimes he isn't very hungry for lunch after his big breakfast and usually an hour later he will walk over to his chair and say "eat". He gets the same plate again and will usually eat it. 

I hope this post helped some of you Moms out there with the food battle you might be having with your little one(s). I am no expert on kids, as this is my first, but have found these little rules work great for us. However, one thing I have noticed being a Mom is all children are different...so this might work for me, but not work for you. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the post and look for part two of the post where I list off some of the best toddler foods to keep on hand. 

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Greener, Cleaner, Cleaning Products

A few months ago I really started noticing how every time I cleaned my house my nose would run like crazy. I loved using Mr. Clean Febreze, it left my house so nice smelling but the nose running was terrible!

At some point my cleaning, probably while scrubbing a toilet, I decided that my problem was most likely the chemical smell coming off the cleaner. Not just this cleaner, really all my cleaners I have the problem with. It was then I decided to research alternative, more green (as the hip kids say) cleaning products for cleaning my house. 

First it started with the windows. My mother in law gave me some of these Norwex Window Cloths.

They work great on the windows, don't leave streaks, and when they get dirty I just throw them in the wash!

Next, I came across this homemade dust cleaner on Pinterest from The Make Your Own Zone

I mixed up her recipe (which is basically lemon extract, olive oil, vinegar, and water) and started using it for all my dusting.  You know what, I LOVED IT! I decided to try more "homemade" or "green cleaning products".

I was in search of a spray I could use on my son's high chair that wasn't full of chemicals--- I mean after all he eat there! I just happened to be at Walmart on day as saw Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner. The product is anti-bacterial and smells great! It's all I clean the high chair and counters with now. 

Last year, after we had are septic tank pumped, the septic guy informed me that one of the worst things you can do for your septic system is to use bleach. I decided that for all of my cleaning products I would try to go bleach free. After my great success with the cleaner cleaners above, I searched on Amazon for great reviews on a more natural cleaner and I came across this product: Biokleen All Purpose Cleaner Super Concentrated 

One of the reviews on Amazon said, "I use this stuff on everything. Bathrooms (sinks, counters, tub, and toilet) hard floors, walls which have been "decorated" by the kids with crayon and marker, carpets, shoes, scrubbing our window screens.....being on a septic, it's kind of tough to find stuff that's technically completely safe to rinse down the drain, so this stuff rocks." 
They had me at septic tank! I LOVE this cleaner and have used it to clean so many things! I use it on the sinks, floors, toilets, carpet....everything! It even says I can use it for laundry but have yet to try it! 

I am still on the hunt for more green, cleaner, cleaning products and would love to hear ideas for what you might have tried and worked. I still am pretty bad about using dryer sheets, Spray N'Wash, and Oxiclean for the laundry, but hoping to run across some good substitutes soon. Until then, I will keep trying new products until I find great ones that work, don't make my nose run, are OK for the septic, and overall put less chemicals in our house.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby 2.0: The Girl Nursery Before

A few months ago we found out that we will be having a girl for our second child, and we couldn't be more excited! The last blog post was about ideas for the girl nursery (see post here) and I thought it was about time to show you the room that will be the nursery. (To see more posts about Baby 2.0 you can click here.)

This room is the front of our house, and honestly our largest bedroom. According to our fuse box, it use to be a formal living room...which would have made this house a 1 bedroom house? Which seems strange to me because supposably the people who built this house had 7 kids!! 

Like the rest of our house, it is a very dated 1978 room. Complete with the swag window treatments, plastic blinds, and dated ceiling fan. We have used this room as our guest room and basically our overall storage room. 

This is what it looks like when you walk into the room: 

A view from the other side of the room. I plan on keeping all this furniture in this room. I like the idea of a full bed in the room for those late night nursings! 

This is a better view of the fan, which I would love to switch out! I actually have a chandelier I would love to replace it with, but the ceilings are so low that you would hit your head on it! I will write more about the fan drama later...  Also, you might notice Aiden rocking away in the rocking chair. He loves that chair!!

At this view you see our closet, crib, and guitar. You might notice I still have the drop side crib, but in my defense you need to be a body builder to get the side down. We didn't take it down once with Aiden and it's really hard to move it down, so we decided to keep it as the danger of them is suppose to be the sides falling down.

Here is an up close of our super jammed packed closet! We used it as extra clothing storage for our clothes, but I guess those will have to be moved to the basement now. I hate these doors! There is no bottom track, so they smash your fingers very easily. Also, they slide off their top track which is super annoying to get back one. They are going to go away! 

Well, that is the room before. I am excited to show your the room after!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

This is a great recipe to use up any only bananas you might have in your freezer. My husband is not a normal fan of banana bread, but this recipe with the double chocolate kick made him change his mind!

1 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
6 brown bananas, mashed
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease and flour two bread loaf pans.
3. In large glass bowl, melt butter in microwave.
4. With mixer, mix sugar and eggs with butter until combined. Beat for a minute.
5. Mix in vanilla and brown mashed bananas.
6. In sifter, place flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift into bowl with liquid mixture. Stir with spoon until combined.
7. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
8. Pour into greased bread loaf pans and place in center rack of oven.
9. Bake for about 55-65 minutes until knife inserted in middle of each loaf comes out clean.
10. Let cool slightly before removing from pan. Enjoy!!

Makes two - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaves

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Baby 2.0: Girl Nursery Ideas

Yes, that's right....it's idea time for our little girl's nursery! This has been one the best rooms to get ideas for decorating! There are so many different themes you can go with when it comes to a baby girl nursery. You can go either all out "girly" or stay on the neutral side. 

With Aiden's room, I opted for an alphabet theme with colors of blue, green, and brown. (See The Nursery Remodel Complete)

To start with ideas on our girl's nursery, I thought I should pick the color scheme and that was easy. I love green. I have green things left over from Aiden's nursery and thought there is no better girl color combo then green and pink! I will also mix in some browns to match the furniture and other decor. I found this picture on pinterest and LOVE the color combo.

I wish my ceilings were that high! I have the perfect chandelier to hang in her room, but unfortunately everyone would bump their head on it if I hung it up. 

Then I saw the nursery below and I really do like the wide stripes. They are a great geometric element added to the room.  Also, the other element of the picture that I like is the large bed in the room. We have basically two normal sized rooms on our main floor and one really tiny room. Aiden took the very tiny room and the other will have to double as a guest room and nursery. 

I actually love having a queen bed in the same room as the baby, for those nights when I am nursing at 3am. It will be nice and comfy to relax on and my husband loves that I won't wake him up! 

I went shopping for fabric the other day and found the perfect fabric for the room. It was almost love at first sight and you can laugh at me, but I am serious! I saw this fabric from across the room and knew that the nursery and it were meant to be together! I plan on making curtains out of this fabric, covering a couple lamp shades, and making pillows with it. 

Now onto the theme! With Aiden's nursery I put very large vinyl cut alphabet letters on the wall, but with this nursery I decided to go a little more natural. Maybe it's because our current land we have over 108 trees or maybe because it could be the nursery trend right now, but I am LOVING the tree nursery theme. 

I liked the tree below for the dark silhouette and the birds. Very cute!

This one I love the pink flowers and the curly branches. 

The one below I not only like the tree that goes into the ceiling, but I loved the baby quote on the wall. Also, the brown bark with blue leaves was a great way to tie in the colors of the room. 

Honestly though, this tree wins out of all of them. I loved the swirly branches, the fact it goes into the ceiling, really everything about it. However, I would like to add some color into the tree. The image below is a wall decal you can purchase, but I didn't want a decal-- I want to paint it on the wall. I emailed the artist and asked if I could purchase the digital image from her so I could paint it on my wall. Unfortunately, I had no response from her. Using my graphic design skillz, I decided to attempt to draw a tree myself or something similar to this tree.

Other then trees, I have found a few little accessories to use. I picked up this really large shelf at a garage sale for $2. I plan on hanging letters from it to spell out her name like below. 

The nursery currently has very dangerous closet doors on the closet. They have  no bottom track, they come off their top track all the time, and have pinched my fingers not once but several times. They need to go. I have opted for something like this to the closet and adding in a cute closet organizer of some sort. 

Those are my ideas so far for the room. I just need to get painting and I am sure more ideas will come to me soon! I am going to try to reuse as much as I can from Aiden's nursery to save money, but we will see what kind of deals I can find. Until then, happy painting!!!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Moroccan Chicken with Currants and Almonds

For our early Father's Day celebration, my husband made us dinner. Yep, you read that right-- he cooked for himself on Father's Day! He likes cooking and I am more than willing on some nights to give up the cooking task. He made this super yummy dish and I had to stop mid-eating to take a picture of it. I told him it was totally blog worthy!

This chicken meal combines a variety of earthy spices with the sweetness of currents and the crunch of almonds. Not to mention the whole dish is pretty low calorie! I hope you enjoy as much as we did! This will become a regular meal for us!  

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons dried currants
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups cooked brown rice

1. Toast your chopped almonds. You can either use the broiler or use a small amount of oil in a pan. The broiler adds no extra calories!
2. Add olive oil to a pan and cubed chicken. Cook until almost done.
3. Add garlic and continue cooking chicken until cooked all the way through.
4.  Add salsa, water, currants, honey, cumin and cinnamon to the chicken.
5.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. (If the sauce gets dry just add a little more water, it will vary based off the type of salsa you used.)
6. Serve over cooked brown rice and top with some toasted almonds.

The Skinny: Serves 4 @ 383 calories


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Saturday, June 9, 2012

DIY: How to Replace End Fittings on a Garden Hose

At the beginning of the summer my sprayer on my hose broke. The plastic that holds the handle onto it split in two and it has been very annoying to hold it together so I can water my flowers. Now most normal people would say to just get a new sprayer and I would but our hose baked in the west facing sun all last summer and somehow the sprayer welded to the hose. My husband tried for about an hour with pliers to get the two apart with not luck. The only option was to cut the hose and replace the end of the hose.

In addition to the one end needing to be replace, the other end of the hose that attaches to the hose reel is broken too. It sprays tons of water and we tried to replace the washer in it to find that is was still broken.

It's been quite the hose drama. Now I could go out and buy a new hose, but honestly this hose is awesome and was pretty expensive brand new. Instead, we decided that we needed to replace just the end fittings.

Now when I first picked up the new end fittings for the hose, I looked at this and thought, "There is no way I can do this."

I mean I am the girl that will usually try anything once, but these little fittings seemed like a task I need to have my husband do. After weeks of nagging him to do it, it wasn't done. Last night I decided to do it myself and you know what, it was SUPER easy. Here is my little DIY on how to replace the end fittings on your hose. Some of you might laugh at this super simple DIY, but I know I can't be the only one out there who didn't know how to do this. 

To start, you will need to the following items:

male/female hose fittings for your hose size (standard is 5/8")
small handsaw
plumber's tape
(Don't ask my why I have needle nose pliers in this picture.)

Using the saw, cut the old hose end off and try to keep the cut straight. 

Place the new hose fitting into the hose and screw it in as tight as you can and as far as it will go. 

Using the pliers, squeeze down the metal teeth around the hose until very tight.

 If you are doing the sprinkler end, you are done!

However, if you want to know how to attach it to your hose reel without leaks, continue on:

Start by wrapping your plumber tape around the reel fitting end in a clockwise direction. 

Cut the tape when wrapped once around the reel fitting and smooth out with fingers. 

Start attaching your new hose end and you most likely need to use the wrench to attach it all the way. Don't do it too tight if you have a plastic one like me, you could break it.  

And you are done! No leaks from your hose!

I hoped this DIY helped some of you out there who might need to tackle this annoying little task, really it's super easy and fast to do!

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

UPDATED Current Beauty Essentials (non-makeup)

Hello everyone! Yes, this blog is still a sisters blog but you wouldn't think so based on the last several months.  Again, I thank you for your patience and understanding about my absence.  However, the good news is that I am in MY LAST SEMESTER OF GRAD SCHOOL! Omigosh, is it over yet?  Come July 31st I will feel like a brand new woman.  Note to self (and readers): working full time while attending grad school full time is completely crazy.  Yikes!

This is SO me (Redbull and all)!!!!!!
Photo Source

Anyway, since I had a second tonight and know that I will be especially absent these remaining 53 days, I thought I would update a post from March 2010: My Current Beauty Essentials.

While looking through the post I realized that many of the items were outdated or had changed slightly.  So here is a quick recap of where I am as of today...

#1:  Matrix Sleek Look Shampoo & Conditioner

Okay the funny thing here is I am STILL obsessed with the shampoo and conditioner. Whenever I try a different kind I immediately notice the difference and have to go back to my staples. One thing that has changed though, is that I really haven't been using the Extreme Creme.  

I've become a little infatuated with serums for whatever reason.  I usually alternate between Organix Brazilian Therapy Anti-Breakage Serum and as of late, John Frieda's Frizz-Ease Extra Strength formula.  

Truthfully, I think the John Frieda product might be too much for my hair.  My hair still has the frizz and curl I have to tame with styling tools but it almost makes my hair greasy and I'm only using one pump.  So I think I will start using the Organix serum more regularly (plus it smells like heaven!).

#2  Equate Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

I used to be committed to the Neutrogena product but once I tried the Equate alternative I was hooked.  Who wants to save money?  This girl!  This product works just as well as Neutrogena's and is affordable to boot.  Sorry, Neutrogena!  You've been replaced.

#3  Equate Advanced Anti-Wrinkle & Firming Eye Day/Night Cream

Once again Walmart tricked me into buying one of their off-brand alternatives. This eye cream is gentle and soothes the sensistive skin around my eyes and costs about half the price of the L'Oreal eye cream.  Once again, I'm sold.  

#4  OPI Nail Products

I am still obsessed with OPI but given the price tag, I'm always looking for great alternatives.  Regardless, I still reach for the base coat but have transitioned to a different type: OPI Nail Envy.  I have only bought 2 bottles of this in the last 2 years and can easily tell when I try to skip and use a different base coat.  This really helps keep my nails strong and I love it!  

#5  Yes to Carrots "C Me Smile Lip Butter"

I still enjoy Burt's Bees but for my morning/evening lip balm ritual I find myself reaching for the Yes to Carrots balm.  This balm feels less... waxy.  Does that makes sense?  So I feel like there is less of a coating on my lips and just moisturizing, organic goodness. I do purchase the mint flavor because I love the tingly feeling that comes with it :)  

#6  Kenra Perfect Medium Spray 13

Since I have been curling my hair less I tend to rely on hairspray with a softer hold (enter Kenra 13).  I love this spray for taming flyaways and for softly setting the curls I get with a single-barrel curling iron.  However, when I need a strong hold I still reach for my Kenra 25.  This isn't very often anymore but I have it stashed for when I neeed it. 

#7  Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser (for normal to oily skin)

My skin used to be very dry and sensitive but for whatever reason I am now a member of the t-zone club and am constantly battling the dread midday shine on my face.  Once I switched to the Cetaphil for normal to oily skin I noticed a huge difference.  My face really felt cleaner and I could tell that it was better suited for my skin.  Though the original Cetaphil is for "all skin types"but  I definitely realized it wasn't working for my skin (or my husband's!).  


Considering my non-makeup essentials were so out of date I should probably updated my makeup essentials!  In the meantime, let me know what your beauty essentials are!  I love discovering new products :)


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