Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Coupon Train

Choo! Choo!  I'm on board a pretty cool train that I had never heard of a mere 4 months ago.  A group of my fellow March 2010 moms decided that we wanted to save money and start sharing coupons, but not quite to the extent of shows like Extreme Couponing found on TLC.  To be honest, watching that show kind of scares me...the people seem nice, but it's almost like they are hoarders in disguise.  I mean, who needs 64 bottles of Soft Soap or 100 cases of Power Ade even if it is all only for $20?!  I can think of at least a dozen other things I'd much rather spend $20 on...ah-hem, pedicure!
One of the moms in my group had "ridden" on something called a coupon train in the past through the (fabulous) website called A Full Cup and said it worked out well.  So, we asked for interested riders among our group of moms (since charing addresses would be required) and started our own coupon train.  The first train ride was just 6 weeks long with 6 riders and was a big success.  Several of the moms really got into clipping coupons from circulars and printing them from on-line from various websites.  We decided to test run a second train ride and invited more moms to join in.  Our second train ride just ended with a 9 week long cycle and nine riders.  We just started our third train ride and now have a whopping 16 riders and it will last for 15 weeks!!  Most of us don't spend a lot of time couponing, but it can be a time guzzler if you're serious about it.  Several of the moms have spreadsheets that keep track of their spending and savings and what the price of a good is at the particular stores they shop at regularly.  By doing this, they can hunt for super sales and end up buying the products they use regularly for next to nothing by combining a store sale with coupons from the coupon train.  Considering a lot of the moms stay at home and need to balance a super tight budget, this coupon train is a huge help for only the cost of one envelope and one stamp per week.
The coupon train can have as many riders as you want, but works well with at least a half dozen or so to get a good variety of coupons in circulation.  Each week you cut out coupons that you aren't going to use and look for coupons that you know the other train riders need and send them out in an envelope.  Around 30-40 coupons can be sent with one postage stamp depending on the paper they are printed on (cardboard coupons are heavier and could weigh an envelope down).  On a typical week, I take the envelope I recieved from the prior week, go through the coupons and pull out what I need, then throw out those coupons expiring that week, and then add the coupons I've clipped from the Sunday paper or printed from on-line and add them in, address the envelope, and then mail along to the next train rider.  The total time I spend on it varies, but usually it's no more than an hour. If I go on-line in search of more coupons it can take a bit longer.

I organize the coupons I get into envelopes right now in my purse. I have three envelopes (household items & baby, food & restaurants, and cleaning supplies) and each time I make a shopping trip I check my coupons and use what I can.  If a product I buy every so often (think shampoo, deoderant, razors, toothpaste, cleaning supplies) is on sale and I have a coupon, I usually buy it in advance to save extra.  It's a bonus if I am able to double the coupon on top of the sale!  I haven't yet started to track my savings, but I think by the end of this coupon train cycle I might be ready to or at least curious to see what my actual savings are in dollars.  If you are interested in couponing check out http://www.afullcup.com/ and if you'd like to inquire about joining our coupon train feel free to leave a comment and I can add you to the next round!

Friday, August 26, 2011

17 Months! Really?!

This was scheduled to be posted yesterday, but Blogger didn't do it.  STUPID technology!

Warning: cliche mom-like saying is about to be typed/read/said once again.  Squish your eyes closed and block your ears if you have to!
Time flies by.  I mean it really zooms on in the blink of an eye.  One second you have a newborn and the next you have an almost 1 1/2 year old "kid".  I never really noticed the passing of time before I had a little one.  My sweet baby is 17 months old today and I don't see the baby in her anymore.  My fellow moms out there will understand what I mean.  It makes me a little sad in a bittersweet sort of way.  I look at M now and I see a little person, not a chubby roly poly baby.  She's becoming more independent by the second and I have to steal my hugs and kisses before she runs off on her next adventure.
This girl has two speeds.  Stop and run.  She never walks anymore and the stop mode only happens when she's eating or sleeping.  Every day I'm amazed by her.  M is kind, gentle yet rough, loving, easy-going, determined, smart, and stubborn. (Hmm, I wonder where she gets that from?!  Dare I say, moi? Nah!)  Her best friend is our dog, Tomas, and her cousins (except her cousin, J- they fight constantly and my poor mother-in-law has to keep the two of them apart all day while they are in her daycare.  I bet they'll be best friends and he'll protect her when he's older, though!  J, you have my permission to drag her out of the club and scare any potential boyfriends off!).  M LOVES Barney and I often wonder if she thinks her stuffed Barney will come to life like the one on the television.  She dances.  All the time and everywhere.  If she doesn't like the song, she'll wait for the next one and dance to it.  My father-in-law writes and plays music on his Spanish guitar and M loves to watch and listen and dance with him.  It melts my heart and I'm sure his, too.  She is his only girl afterall. 
The girl also speaks both English and Spanish and understands it both which I find absolutely fascinating considering after two semesters of Spanish I barely know the basics and am still a little embarassed to try to speak what I know in front of my fluent in-laws.  You know, with my "American" accent and all... :)  She speaks too many words to count and can even do phrases like "I did it!", "I want that.", "Uh-oh, Mami" (never good to hear this one over the baby monitor), and "I peepee/caca". We retired her highchair and she now sits in a booster seat at the kitchen table with us.  She drinks from a cup and hates sippy cups now (we retired bottles at 14 months).  M also has her first potty, but she doesn't seem interested in it yet.  She likes to put things in my purse and the trash.  There was a vacuum cleaner attachment in my purse yesterday and I regularly find her toys and Tomas's ball in our kitchen trash.  M unrolls toilet paper and uses it to wipe her face or "blow" her nose.  And at long last she's discovered the toilet and how things disappear into that never ending abyss when you flush it.  How fascinating it must be for a little person to discover such things!
Everyday, I make sure I hold her close and tell her I love her and that she's special even as she's trying to wriggle out of my arms.  When she does let me hold her, oh how intoxicating her hugs and kisses are.  There is nothing like chubby toddler hands clenching you close in a tight squeeze.  I cherish the two nursing sessions we still have each day as I never know which one will be our last.  I remember rolling my eyes when my own mother used to (and still does) tell me I'll always be her baby.  Thanks, Mom, I get it now.  M, you will ALWAYS be my baby even as I watch you spread your wings and fly away.  Just please don't leave our little nest too soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Slow Cooker Creamy Tacos

I found this recipe on the blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, and thought I'd try it out.  It was super easy and quick to prepare (great for a work day meal) and came out tastey.  I don't like a lot of spice and was not disappointed with this recipe.  It is even A.R. approved.  I must say that I've bought a couple other flavors of the Philadelphia cooking cream to try out.

2 pounds chicken breast pieces (I used frozen- no need to thaw first)
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes (you can use garlic-seasoned, or plain)
1 (10-ounce) container PHILADELPHIA Cooking Creme--- Santa Fe flavor
taco shells or corn tortillas

Optional- 1 cup frozen corn, 1 can black or pinto beans- drained

optional toppings:

sour cream
avocado slices 

shredded cheese

Use a 4-quart slow cooker (if adding the optional add-ins, a 6-quart might be a better fit).
Put the chicken into your cooker. Add the entire can of tomatoes. Scrape out all the Cooking Creme.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until chicken shreds easily with a fork. Stir well and serve in taco shells or corn tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Baby Red Potato Salad

Um?!  Who doesn't love a delicious potato salad in the summer time?  This recipe is both delicious and also a healthier version of a picnic time favorite.  Thank you to Gina on Skinnytaste.com for this recipe.
4 cups baby red potatoes, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
3 scallions, diced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise
salt and pepper

1. Boil potatoes in salted water until soft, approx 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
2. While the potatoes are boiling, combine red onion, green pepper, mustard, olive oil, vinegar and mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and let the flavors marinade while the potatoes cook.

3. Once the potatoes are done and cool, mix into the bowl and add scallions and additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Classic Turkey Pot Pie

I got this recipe from a Diabetic Holiday cook book gifted to me from a friend and I've been delighted with the number of delishous recipes I've made from this book.  A.R. has been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, so I've been slowly altering our eating habits and trying out new healthier recipes.  This cook book was a good start for us both to get back on track with our diets and we have been pleasantly surprised that eating healthy doesn't mean bland.  Don't let the steps in this recipe intimidate you...it's actually easy to make and fairly quick.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cubed peeled potato
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups cubed cooked turkey breast (about 10 oz)
1/3 cup frozen peas
Biscuit Topping: (I actually cheated and used Pilsbury pre-made biscuits to do the topping)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons cold reduced-fat stick margarine, cubed
3-5 tablespoons buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 425 F

2. For filling, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add bell pepper, celery, and onion; cook and stir 4-5 minutes.  Stir in flour until blended.  Stir in broth, potato, thyme, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 8-10 minutes.

3. Stir in turkey and peas; simmer 5-7 minutes or until potato is tender and peas are hot.  Pour into 1- 1 1/2-quart casserole

4. For topping, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.  Cut in margarine with pastery blender or 2 knives until margarine is the size of peas.  Stir in buttermilk until dough forms.

5. Place dough on floured surface; knead lightly.  Pat out to to about 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut into 5 biscuits with 2- 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, rerolling dough as needed.  Place biscuits on top of filling.

6. Bake 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Family Room Progress!

Looky what A.R. put up in our family room just before we left on our trip!  Me likey a lot.  We still have to paint that wall, so this isn't the final snapshot (it's taken at night BTW- hence the glare from the flash), but you get the idea.  The only photo that isn't ours is the 5x5 on the left side, I'll be putting a picture from our cruise in there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Something Blue by Emily Giffin

This book wasn't actually a bookclub selection, but I read it anyway after reading the first book, Something Borrowed.  I hate to admit it, but I love me a juicy chick lit book every now and then and this one filled that craving as anticipated.  The first book in the series was from the point of view of best friend, Rachel, while the second book was from the point of view of best friend, Darcy.  The book did not end as I thought it would, but it did end in the all warm and fuzzy feeling way a chick lit book should.  At least that is my opinion...popular or not. :)  And seriously, I would totally love to try living in another country and starting all over again after reading this book.  What an adventure it would be! 

If you need a quick read and want to get your fill of some juicy chick time (think Lifetime Movie), this book is for you.  Put on those fuzzy bunny slippers, curl up in your bathrobe, grab some dark chocolate and enjoy.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bermuda. Bahama. Come on pretty mama!

It's that time again folks. Cruise time.  It's been almost two years since our last cruise and boy are we long overdue for another vacation.  As you read this post, I'll probably be on board with a mojito in one hand and my daughter in the other.  Relax.  I'm far from a lush (in fact I can't even remember my last drink) and we aren't cruising alone this time.  My parents-in-law are coming along with one of my brothers-in-law, his wife, their three boys, my sister-in-law's mother and brother, so we'll have plenty of sober adults on hand for toddler wrangling.  I cannot wait to see how M likes cruising and show her what we love about it.  I really hope she takes to the pool and beach this year as we'll be docked in sunny (I'm ignoring Tropical Storm Emily's potential storm path) Bermuda for three days.

Without further adieu I hope you have a wonderful week and I hope to have a few blog posts set up to post while I'm away for your entertainment.  Bon Voyage to my family and I!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

No Boil Lasagna

My friend never boils her lasagna noodles before making a lasagna and I wanted to try this fabulous time saver myself.  My grandmother wasn't feeling good a month ago (she had Lyme Disease and a muscle disease with some long complicated name on top of a clogged carotid artery that required surgery) and I wanted to make some meals for her to freeze and reheat and I thought I would use her as my test dummy.  Lucky for her I found this recipe and it really worked and the lasagna was delishous!

No Boil Lasagna (from Cooks.com)

1 lb lean ground beef or Italian sausage (I used the sausage and always do in my lasagnas)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jar (32 oz) spaghetti sauce
3/4 cup water
1/2 pkg (8 oz) extra wide lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (it's best if you use fresh grated instead of pre-packaged)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat oven to 375.
2. In a 10-inch skillet brown meat, onion, and garlic; drain.
3. Combine spaghetti sauce and water in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan, parsley, and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese.
4. In a 13x9 baking dish, layer 1/3 of sauce mixture on the bottom of pan, 3 uncooked lasagna noodles, 1/2 of combined ricotta mixture.  Repeat layers ending with sauce mixture.  Cover tightly with foil.
5. Bake 1 hour; uncover, sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese and continue to heat until cheese is melted.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Mmmmmm!  You can freeze this lasagna before cooking for a quick meal as well.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Family Room upgrades

A.R. and I have slowly been getting the itch to paint and finalize the rooms in our home ever since we painted M's nursery over a year ago.  That's probably a good thing since all white walls is getting rather boring and we have lived in our home now for almost 2 3/4 years (yes, I just actually counted that out...).  I'm sure our neighbor wouldn't mind us putting up the remaining curtains in the back windows of our home if I just actually took the time to sew them!  A.R. still gives me a hard time for not making the curtains for the solarium and formal living room considering I've had the fabric since before I was pregnant with M (I'll let you do the math on that one!).  I tell him I'm in no rush because we haven't painted yet and he has yet to buy the curtain rods.  Hello?! Can't hang pretty curtains up without those.
After view of our FR in the evening

Before view
Since he is not a fan of my artistic skills with the paint brush- he saw those skills when we painted my condo- I'm not allowed to touch a roller in our current home, so the most I can do is tape and clean up.  Let me tell you that putting up painters tape with a toddler following behind you and peeling off said painters tape you just applied is a real treat.  She even had painters tape stuck to her Baby Legs yesterday as we try to get our kitchen painted before our great vacation (more to come on both of those)!  We finally painted the focal wall in our family room when Uncle Sam was rather kind to us and A.R. found a good sale on a new flat panel television we've been eyeing to hang above our fireplace.  Yup, that was back in March and we are just now finishing up the room.  Disclaimer: it still isn't done if you count finding a mantel, valances, and hanging pictures after painting the other 3 walls (we have a light tan color picked out already, but it will involve painting up a staircase and the entire upstairs hallway at the same time). :P

After- I have a family photo to hang in the spot above these shelves

Anyhoo, the focal wall is painted, the flat panel is mounted above the fireplace, and we have fabulous new shelving courtesy of my local IKEA.  The shelving is all custom from IKEA's Besta line.  The best part is that we were able to childproof the DVR and satellite boxes behind glass doors so we can turn the television off/on, change stations, and use the Wii without little sticky toddler fingers pushing random buttons.  Of course she has figured out how to sneak her little arm behind the door even with the childproof latch and turn the surround sound off and on, but the novelty of that is quickly wearing off for her when she realizes it makes Barney go away.  The paint color is Macchiato from The Home Depot's Behr Premium Ultra line.  The paint is pricey and is supposed to include primer, but we still had to do two coats of it to cover all of the original white paint.  Here's hoping that it doesn't take another month to finish the room up and hang the last of the pictures!  The link is the picture collage we will be hanging above M's toy box which is to the right in the first picture.

Monday, August 01, 2011

An Inconvenient Wife by Megan Chance

This is the first novel in a long time that left me wanting something more.  I wanted to identify with one of the main characters in the book, but I found myself just getting angry with them.  The story line itself was interesting and captivating and I couldn't put the book down after reading through the first chapter.  I think the setting itself and the history of what our culture used to be like is what interested me even though the characters angered me.  The book is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Lucy, an upper class housewife who doesn't wish to conform to the "norm".  She is attended to by her seemingly doting husband, William, and a new doctor, Victor. 

For me, the story was an interesting glimpse into what life must have been like for some women in the 1800s.  I found myself angered at the oppression against women and against Lucy for just not fighting for herself (or did she?!).  On the other hand I was angered at her physician, Victor, for using his patient to boost his own career and at Lucy's husband, William, for not only killing his wife's spirit just to conform to the social norm, but for using her wealth to build his own social status.  To him, life was all about keeping up with the Joneses.  At times I was sympathetic to Lucy and her predicament, but I truly feel she had an "out" and was too concerned about pleasing others due to her upbringing that she would rather draw attention to herself in other ways (her fits) then escape to a bigger freedom.

I didn't hate the book, but I didn't love it, either.  I really think it was just because I couldn't sympathisize completely with any of the main characters.