Life in Bullet Points #3

 

  • Attempting bread baking again. Started a loaf yesterday and exercised real patience to try and soak it for the first time.  My friend Sarah had a recipe that already had the soaking instructions incorporated and I could not help but soak it…although it was a little painful to wait even longer. Currently the dough is rising by the (gas) fireplace and I have high hopes. If it knows what is good for itself it will turn out. -Update-Bread fell a touch, but turned out yummy and with great soft texture.

  • Having one of those weeks where the children seem to need my constant direction, help, and training. Love those sweet ones, but looking forward to a time when they play together more peacefully and moods are a bit more even. Some weeks are good, some are hard. As I type this Little Lady just went in and woke sweet baby up trying to video tape her sleeping. WHAT? Guess we won’t be starting school yet this morning. We will get through and next week will be better. 🙂 But look at them…can you resist that?

 

  • Loving our new Berkey water filtration system (Royal size). After an unusual number of tragic rare cancer cases of the same type occurred in our area of town, I was feeling a bit helpless. Environmental causes are in the back of some peoples brains. We won’t know for quite some time if a cause is found, but at least I know we are drinking clean water.   On a recent night away Little Lady was drinking bottled water with a pretty label on it from a nice hotel and said, “This is nice, but I wish it was from our FRESH water at home.” Little man has all on his own declared it “Our BEST purchase ever!” I have really not made a huge deal about the filter so it makes me giggle that the tots are so passionate about it. (I also got the fluoride filters to get the fluoride out. To consume or not to consume fluoride should be a personal decision. Not sure why they think they need to make the choice for us and add it to our water supply…rant over.)
  • Saturday we pick up our first Bountiful Basket (we chose the organic option)! Can’t wait to see what is in it. Why do I get so excited about groceries? Seems like I spend a good chunk of time shopping for and feeding this family of mine. I am so thankful that hubs is a great cook and is so good in the kitchen. It really takes some pressure of that he often cooks for us. Love that man.

Trip to Grocery Outlet 1-25-13

Today I hit up the Grocery Outlet near downtown Salem.  Found a few fun things and thought I would share a picture and some prices for those who are interested.

 

Total today for all of this was $46.11.

Here is what I got:

Organic Yellow Potatoes $2.49

Organic Coconut Milk $1.99

Tillamook Sour Cream 99 cents

Organic Broc (big bag) $3.49

Hair things 99 cents

Aluminum Foil 75sq ft $2.49

Plastic Wrap $1.79

Clif Bars $3.49 (treat for hubs)

Loreal Mascara $2.99 (SO out and desperate)

(4) Annie’s Bunny Pasta 99 cents

Kettle Chips $1.99

Food Should Taste Good Lime Chips $1.49

Natures Path Organic Love Crunch Granola $2.49 (Granola is hubs love language)

Organic Black Tea $1.49

Seventh Generation diapers $6.99

 

Hope this helps! There were lots of other fun things including more organic and natural stuff.

Review-Kashi’s Chocolate Soft-Baked Squares

I was recently selected to sample a new Kashi product through a Moms Meet sampling program.  I always get a little giddy when I get what I like to call “happy mail”. 

Both my husband and children thought they were yummy and had great texture.  They even snuck in some ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans.  They are also made with Kashi’s classic “seven whole grains” and have a good amount of fiber and protein. They are free of artificial additives and preservatives and are minimally processed.

When I you don’t have something homemade to offer your family, this is a great option.  Because they look like a brownie chances are good your little people will really like them.  One thing to be aware of is that they contain peanut flour and almond flour if someone in your family happens to have a nut allergy.

Generally I think this is a great product.  It is so great to have companies like Kashi that are aware of the types of ingredients they put into their food.  The only thing that makes me a bit hesitant to give it my complete “seal of approval” is that it is not an organic product (and thus may contain GMO’s).  BUT, some of Kashi’s products are organic.  I currently have a couple cereals in my pantry that my children snack on that are totally organic.  I share this just to make sure that “natural” does not always mean organic.

You should have no trouble finding this product in most grocery and “big box” stores.

Happy snacking!

*I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.

Life in Bullet Points #2

  • Yesterday I found the twinners cuddling like I have not seen for a LONG time. Melt me now.  I overheard her softly say to him, “I want to cuddle because I love you and it is so cozy.”

  • Yesterday I ordered the mother of all planners. My Erin Condren planner will be shipping “on or near Sept 14th.” I will be watching.

  • Yesterday was a happy mail day. I got another free $10 Kohls gift card (you gotta get on their mailing list), a free Starbucks drink coupon, a $40 Nordstrom Note (thank you double points), a $25 off a $50 purchase from Pottery Barn Kids, and my MuTu DVD to review for my blog (The Essential Foundations of a flatter Post-Baby Tummy)! I am so excited to have something else in my arsenal to help heal my Diastasis.

P.S. Did you know that tons of mamas have a diastasis and that any common exercise where you lift your shoulders off the ground (crunches and situps) make it WORSE….as well as anything with a cross over motion?  If you are a mama (others can suffer as well) and you have a weak core, or your tummy pooches out, your struggle to have good posture, have back pain, have bladder/pelvic floor struggles (tmi alert…luckily I don’t have this symptom), etc. you likely have a diastasis.

A diastasis is a vertical separation in the muscles of the abdominal wall.  Getting on most traditional workout plans will NOT help you heal your diastasis. In fact, it will probably make it worse. You might lost weight for awhile, but your tummy will never get flatter and your will likely be further separating the muscles.  Isn’t that a bad deal!? This is one huge area that the medical and fitness professionals are largely ignoring, or more likely are unaware of.  It is crazy that something that affects so many people is rarely discussed. Here is an awesome video to show you how to check for a diastasis. Here are also some great diastasis blog posts from Fit 2 B Studio (she is local too!).

 

  • Sunday we hung stuff on the walls that I had been wanting to get up for awhile. It feels so good!

 

  • Saturday we were blessed with club level tickets to a Duck game. We dressed the tots in all their gear and had a blast…never mind little sister decided not to nap on the way there and was a bit delusional by the end.  But, we got through the entire game melt down free. The children cheered, yelled, danced, ate popcorn, and loved every minute.  So did we. What an awesome family memory. Quote of the game was when Little Man said, “My ears are PLUGGED!!!” Yes, that would be because you are wearing ear plugs. P.S. The orange wax ones worked best of the two types we bought.

 

$100 a Month Grocery Challenge Wrap Up

*After a couple of my friends asked me about how the month went, I remembered I needed to write an update on our totally (not so) interesting month of going cheap on groceries.

-Go HERE if you want to read my first post about challenge.

During the month of August I challenged myself to try and restrict our grocery spending to $100.  We normally spend $500 or more to feed our family of 5 a mostly organic diet (this includes bulk purchases, stockpiling what I can find on sale, etc.).  I knew that spending $100 was definitely going to require a different mindset.  Because the pantry and freezer was fairly full I knew we could do it.

Result? We came very close. I am guessing we went just a bit over $100. My plan to use cash did not work out well for accounting purposes because I was often buying non-grocery items in the same purchases and just ended up using our card.

Here are the main areas we spent our money this month.

1) Fruit! I am guessing we spent $45 on fruit. We go through lots and I did not want to skimp in this area.

2) Eggs-We go through a good amount of eggs. I even bought the cheap ones (gasp) a couple times.

3) Milk- We don’t drink a ton, but I think I bought 2 gallons worth of organic milk last month.

4) Small items to complete some meals.

 

One thing that gave us a little buffer was that we had a couple things to return to Costco last month (Jeans, Burt’s Bees Baby wash, and some electronic thing I can’t remember). This provided us with a little extra wiggle room and we bought whole wheat english muffins, organic olive oil, cheese, and some other small things I am forgetting.

Two areas that I did not count towards our $100 were a small party I planned for my daughter’s (very late) birthday party, and also a couple meals we took to friends.  I did not want to shy away from doing things like that because of a silly challenge.  Hubs said to go for it and not count it towards the $100. So we did cheat a bit.

Overall it was totally do-able and nice to not feel the pressure to go out and spend time grocery shopping.  It definitely freed up some of my schedule a bit and I was able to spend more time on Wednesday mornings (and other times) throughout the month doing other things. It was a nice change of pace. I almost feel like we could do it again for September.  We still have a pretty good amount of food in the freezer and my kids would not starve, but we need more variety again.

Where did I shop this month?

3 trips to Grocery Outlet

2-3 trips to Fred Meyer

1 trip to Costco

1 trip to Roth’s (Which might have resulted in me overreacting about my husband buying prosciutto and parmesan the first week of the month…”You spent how much on what???”)

 

What did we eat? Roasted chicken, white bean and tarragon soup (SO GOOD), chicken tacos, pizza, lots of homemade refried black beans, rice, pizza, parmesan and basil chicken pasta, beef tacos, and more.  See? We still ate good.

Meat for the above recipies included; 1 medium sized roasted chicken which we used the bones for making broth for the base of the soup. 1 pound of McK Ranch ground beef that we turned in taco meat and stretched with tiny diced zucchini and squash, and 1.5-2 pounds of chicken breasts for the pasta.

Now excuse me while I go prep for a Trader Joe’s trip.

Have you ever experimented with your grocery budget?

How to Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

One of the supplements we give our children on a regular basis is Elderberry. It is fabulous for immune support.  The stuff is pretty spendy and I wondered if I could make my own.  We were initially paying about $13 for a 1oz bottle, and then started buying the 4oz bottle for a little over $40 when I realized that our store carried it. It would last us a little over a month, but it was worth it.

After going through a couple of the 1oz-ers and one of the 4oz bottles, it was time to jump in and try to make it myself.  I checked at our local health food store (LifeSource) and they did not carry Elderberries in their bulk department, but were happy to order them for me.  About a week later I had my 16 oz bag from Mountain Rose Herbs waiting for me at customer service.  With most regularly priced bulk special orders they give you 20% off. My bag came to $16.80.  After doing some research I decided that I could not find just the right type of recipe so I just looked at some of the ratios they used and then made up my own guess.

 

Here is the recipe I have used twice now with great success:

1/2 cup of dried Elderberries

2 cups of water

1 generous tablespoon of local raw honey

 

Odds and Ends Needed:

1 pot and lid

Measuring cups

Cheese cloth or metal strainer with very small holes

Spoon for string

Something to mash with

A bowl

A bottle or container for your finished product

 

Directions.

Measure and pour 2 cups of warm water into a saucepan and then add 1/2 cup of the dried elderberries.  Let simmer gently with a lid on for about 25-35 minutes and stir occasionally.  After it is finished cooking use some sort of tool for mashing it up a bit to get the juice from the berries (I used our potato masher that has lots of surface area on the part that mashes). After it has cooled a bit strain through some cheese cloth (works best), or a very fine strainer.  If you use cheese cloth be sure to put a glove on before squeezing out the last of the the juice. Last time I made it I went to an ICAN (c-section support group) meeting at Bella Vie with one very purple hand.

After you strain it out and have it in a bowl stir in a tablespoon of honey (I used local raw) while it is still warm enough to mix in. This will help sweeten it a bit and is also supposed to act as a natural preservative.

The first time I made the recipe I cooked it a bit longer without a lid and ended up with about 7+ ounces. The second time I made it I got 11.5 ounces.  I am guessing my 16oz bag will be enough to make at least 5-6 batches.  Although the potency may not be quite as strong (I have no idea how to actually know), the value is incredible over the store bought Elderberry Syrup/Extract. We have been just as healthy, if not healthier that when we were using the Elderberry from the store.

 

 

Condensed directions-Simmer water and berries for 30ish minutes, mash up a bit, strain, add honey while elderberry is still warm, bottle and refrigerate. So simple!

*I give the children about 3/4ths of a tablespoon everyday by spoon or in their supplement mixture and they have no problem taking it.

*If you have a little one too young to have honey yet you can just leave it out. It might be a bit tart, but would still taste good. You could also mix it into something else if you are having trouble getting them to take it from a spoon or syringe.

Hope this is helpful to other families! Anything that saves money and contributes to good health is a “win” in my book.

 

Old Navy Back to School Sales (through 8/15)

Its that time of year. Even though it sure feels like Summer, the stores are calling it “Back to School”.  For us homies (homeschoolers), back to school means time to stock up on jeans and school/art supplies for the year.  Old Navy is where we tend to get most of our jeans for the little ones. They hold up well and if I buy them during this time of year I can get them for a great price.

Today I went to the Keizer Station store and right now almost all of their basic jeans in the toddler, boy, and girl departments are $10.  Look for the big walls and they will be clearly marked.  This was my first time getting out of the toddler department for any of my children and I have to say that I am a little sad.  It is nice to have more options for fit and washes though.  For my daughter I got a pair of the Skinny and Super Skinny (they are not “painted on” at all on her). She wears so many leggings that she says that boot cut pants feel “weird and too big” to her.  Since she wears them with dresses, tunics, and boots during most of the year they seem to work well.

For my son I got the toddler Regular Fit jeans (Jeans shown above are from Boys).  The toddler boys painter style are super cute, but are cut wider and we need the more narrow cut for him.

Some of the other deals I was excited about were boys polos for $5! Girls knit shirts for $3-5 (the solid $3 ones are a super cute cut). I also loved the camis for women for $3.50. I love layering most shirts and dresses with a cami and this is a killer price.  They also had some great colors.

Because I am a shortie I always have lots of interaction with the employees when I am trying to get my hands on sizes. Today I was blessed to be able to get out of there with almost everything I was looking for.  As a stay at home mom I find myself having way more conversations with strangers than I used to. I think Brooklyn (the uber sweet lady who rang me up) might be my new BFF.  We laughed about color strategies when purchasing camis and I was this close to giving a PSA for the Clean Well (all natural) hand sanitizer I purchased to bump my purchase up to get some Super Cash.

I also noticed quite a good selection with the Women’s markdown area.  If you interested in any of the back to school items for children I would head down there as soon as possible.  Some of there sizes were running low.  The toddler department looked to be running out of some sizes.  If you are needing a size that you can’t find in store I would recommend buying the same color and style that you want in a different size and then exchanging it for the right size when they get a new shipment (I was told that it might be a while before they have a new shipment).  Ask an employee if you have a question about the best way to get what you need.  You could also try shopping online if you are sure of the sizes you need.  I always like to see the items in person whenever possible.

*It sounds like their back to school sale ends on the 15th so if you need basics head down there within the next few days.

Happy back to school shopping, but don’t forget to enjoy your Summer!

$100 a Month Grocery Challenge

For the last couple weeks I have been thinking about taking a month to really cut back on grocery spending and eat mostly from what we have on hand.  We have a fairly stocked freezer with a good amount of fruits and veggies and a few packages of meat. Our pantry is moderately stocked and we have a good amount of most of the items we use in bulk.

My husband and I have been talking about our budget more lately. It feels good to have some goals. It is also a good reality check to break everything down in our monthly spending and and see where we need to be.

I want to do my best to only spend $100 on groceries for the next month and see how it goes.  I will still be buying the same types of natural and organic items we normally do, just less of it.  It will definitely be challenging.  We spend quite a bit more that $100 on a monthly basis. Also, I normally make small trips to about 3 stores a week for sales and to look for markdowns.  Our children are beginning to eat a lot more than they used to and we can go through a good amount of groceries.

By the way, we will not be increasing our eating out budget to cut back on grocery spending. 🙂

Here are the ways we will save this month.

-Eat more from our stock at home.

-Eat slightly more creative meals.

-Use recipies that stretch meat a bit more than we are used to.

-We might be making a few more things from scratch. Maybe more bread?

-I will likely go to fewer stores than I usually do.

-If there are not any exciting sales some weeks I might skip shopping altogether for a week or two.

-We will probably eat a bit less of a variety of fruits and only buy what is on a SUPER sale.

-We will still get most of our veggies from our CSA and garden.

-We will switch to using an envelope and cash rather than a card. This will be the easiest way to track my spending and my first time using this system.

 

If you are motivated to cut your grocery budget this month, or even join me in the $100 challenge leave a comment.  Even if you start after the first of the month just roll your 30-ish days into September.

How I use Ebates to Earn Free Money

I have had some friends ask about ways I earn money and gift cards.  I am going to start posting more on some of my favorite sites and programs I use.

In addition to Swagbucks, Ebates is one of the easiest ways I earn free money.  This is not something where you earn points for doing surveys or jumping through hoops.  It is simply a site you click through before you make any purchases online.  Ebates  gives you a percentage back of what you spend and then they mail you a check every 3 months.  There is no minimum to meet before they send you a check! Isn’t that awesome? Cash back for things you are already buying. You don’t even need to enter a code when you are shopping either. After clicking through Ebates there is nothing else to do.

Also, when you sign up you can choose a free $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble, Target, or Home Depot. Back when I signed up this was not offered.  You will earn the gift card with your first $25 purchase.

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Here are the easy steps to getting started and using Ebates:

1) Go to Ebates to sign up.

(To shop with Ebates)

2) Visit the site before shopping to look for the store you know you want to shop from, OR search the categories to find a store that carries the item you want and click on the store. 

3) Shop just like normal! (I guess that is not even a step)

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Another way to earn is by referring new customers to Ebates.  Normally this is $5 per person who spends $25 or more when shopping through Ebates.  Sometimes they have promotions where you can earn even more. (So far I think I have referred 2-3 people…don’t worry. I am not raking it in. I too earn most of my money through regular cash back transactions. 🙂 )

Also, frequently certain stores offer double points. 

Right now Nordstrom is offering 5% back! This is awesome because the Anniversary Sale starts tomorrow!  A few days ago when I was looking at a couple things I noticed it was at 2%.  I waited a bit and went back and it was at 5%. Score! I am hoping that it stays at 5% for a bit so that people can take advantage of both the sale and the 5% cash back.  (Side note-If you happen to have a Nordstrom card you can also get double points from the 20th-22nd on your card.)

Keep in mind that you save more by spending nothing at all.  This should only be used when you actually need to make a purchase.  Spend wisely! This is just another way to get some money back for what you are already doing.

Ebates partners with TONS of web sites! Here are some of our favorites

Groupon!!! -Currently at 3%

REI and REI Outlet-Currently at 2.5%

Gap-Currently at 2%

Nordstrom-Currently at 5%

Target- Currently at 2%

Disney Store-Currently at 3%

Diapers.com-Currently up to 4% depending on category

Zulily- Currently at 3.5%

Toys R Us-Currently at 1%

6pm (Great place for shoes, bags, and clothes)-Currently at 3.5%

 

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions and I can try to help you find the answer!

 

 

Wainscoting Project Reveal

Our walls in our eating area were showing serious signs of wear.  The finger slime spots were a bit out of control and the chairs were leaving marks.  We decided that beadboard/wainscoting would be a cute solution.  My dad is a gem and did the bulk of the work.  He went with me to purchase the materials, installed the boards and trim, and helped with some of the staining.  My hubby did lots of painting late Saturday night and early Sunday morning and the best masking job I have ever seen. I chose the materials, look, color, and helped with a bit of the staining (which does not count for much of the actual work). Its a good thing I am surrounded by good men.  My projects would not get far.

We sprang for the packages of real (pine) wood panels that fit together rather than the large sheets of white press board.  The thinking was that the real wood might look more natural and wear better overtime.  The cost difference was only about $20 because we were able to cut the boards in half (from 8 ft. to 4 ft. tall) and did not have any waste.  Either would have probably worked fine and for a larger room we might have went the cheaper route.

We spent about $75 for 6 packages of the wainscoting panels, pine boards to run along the top (not actual trim), and Liquid Nails (glue to mount the boards…along with nailing them).

The paint was another $35.  Ouch! We wanted a low VOC paint and primer in one. We got the Behr brand from Home Depot.  The green was a bit bright (long ugly story) and so we used a glaze to soften it and give it a more antiqued look.  After that my dad put some varathane over the top to seal it and make it more “wipe-able”.

Basic DIY instructions-

1) Choose the type of wainscoting you are going to use and measure and purchase.

2) Measure and cut.

3) Remove outlet and switch covers.

4) Starting at one edge (not corner) start attaching one panel at a time (or sheet). Apply liquid nails with a calking gun and then nail into place (nail gun works the best). Dad used 3 nails in each panel.

5) Measure and cut to accommodate outlets and switches.

6) Finish with trim at top.

7) Calk edges.

8 ) Putty holes you do not like if using natural boards.

9) Mask edges with blue paint tape.

10) Paint a couple coats (and add glaze and/or varathane if you desire).

11) Put outlet and switch plates back on. We chose to replace the plastic ones with wood covers that we could paint to match. We found these at Home Depot.

Project length-1 weekend

Project cost-$105 including basic materials and paint. (This does not include calking, glaze, varathane, or new light/outlet plates.)

It has been a couple weeks since we finished the project and we LOVE it. It really perks up the area and adds a nice custom touch.  I think that it will add interest and continue to be a nice classic element long after we are living here.  The paint color would be very easy to change at any point to accommodate taste preferences.

Are you working on any large or small projects at your house?