Thursday, March 27, 2008

Write this down!

I don't know about you, but it seems like I've been forgetting a lot of things lately. Well, actually it started about the time I got pregnant with my second baby... but this is not my attempt to blame her! No, instead I'm trying to make up for my common human shortcomings... by making more lists!

I have always been somewhat of a listy person. "To dos" and schedules have been my friends since before college, but frankly as life gets busier my little notebooks get fuller faster. I find the best way to organize myself is to keep one of those little 5x7ish spiral-bounds handy at all times. I take notes as I listen to podcasts, I make lists of what calls I need to make, errands to run, people to write Thank Yous to... you name it, I write it!

Now I do keep a separate list for groceries and my weekly menu. I have mentioned before that I shop once a week. So I made this file that I print on both sides of once piece of paper, then cut into 3rds so I have my shopping list on one side, and my weekly menu on the other. (I actually print a whole bunch at once and cut them all so I don't have to think about it later)

Other things you should make sure to write down are:

  • Tangible, Quantitative Life Goals - Like going to Africa before I'm 40!
  • A Journal or Blog - Organizes your thoughts about life and helps you remember significant events!
  • Everything you Love about your Spouse - I don't think I have to tell you that having something like that written down is priceless!
  • Log your Progress - Losing weight, reading your Bible daily, cutting wasteful spending and anything else that you are trying to improve for the long haul -- having a log will encourage you to keep trying and rewards you when you do well!
What things do you find necessary to keep a written record of?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The 10 Diaperbag Essentials

I hate clutter, and I love not having a back ache. So, I have carefully researched and experimented in the scientific field of Diaper Bag Management. The rewards have been outstanding! Being equipped for nearly every instance, while not being overloaded with any unnecessary items is the ideal all moms of little ones strive for.

One of the prime directives in this science is "Think Small". Choose the smallest sized diaper bag that will adequately fit your needs. Trim any unneeded items, and buy a small size in the items you do carry.

The second directive is to think about where you are going and how long you will be out. (i.e. Take what you Need, Not what you Don't!) My average shopping/lunch trip is about 3 hours. I try to keep it to that because my kids still need naps. Your needs may be different, which in that case you may need to scale this list to fit your average outing.

The third directive is to leave extra stuff that you might need, but probably won't, but shouldn't be caught without IN THE CAR. I have a medium sized box that I keep extra diapers, wipes, a change of clothes for each child, hats, sunblock, bug spray, a large towel, paper towels and antibacterial wipes in. I also pack an extra juice box or two, and some snacks for in the car. I don't carry these things in with me to the store, library, or wherever else I am going. That is my backup supply for IN THE CAR. I often allow my 2 year old to select one or two toys to take with him. Those don't stay in the car, that is the rule. I attach a different toys to my baby's carrier, so she also has variety, yet my car remains relatively free of toy castoffs.

Now that you have my general scientific philosophy, here are the specifics of the 10 Essentials!

  1. 2 diapers per child
  2. small travel wipes (I like the new plastic bag ones from Huggies with more wipes, but no hard plastic. Yes, I still refill them, just less often!)
  3. Antibacterial Spray (there are these little pen-looking spray dispensers now... very tiny, very multipurpose... they work for hands, as well as shopping carts and restaurant tables)
  4. 1 juice cup per child (or bottle, if you're still in the bottle phase, and one of those to go formula packets)
  5. A baggie of cheerios, or other healthy emergency snack
  6. Tissues
  7. Infant Tylanol
  8. First Aid Kit in a Baggie (several alcohol wipes, bandaids, antibiotic cream)
  9. A Camera
  10. Mom's Essentials Bag (Keys, Cell Phone, Wallet, a Pen and whatever else you can't leave home without. I actually devote the small front pocket of my diaper bag to these things, but if you carry one of those un-divided tote types, try putting your things together in a small makeup bag or the like)

There you have it! All of the above fits neatly into my "diaper bag". Yes, everything really fits into something this small! And it's hands free!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sorry Dieters!

You know I love cooking, deserts especially! Well, I also love trying new things. I forget what I was listening to, but someone was raving about Butter Cake... how it was just the best Southern desert ever... Well, I am from the South, and I'd never even HEARD of Butter Cake, much less made one... so I scoured and found a recipe! (there were many, but this one has the best reviews) I tried it, and it turned out just beautifully! It doesn't actually have that much butter, though it does have a whole package of cream cheese! It's really more of a bar recipe than cake, and the texture reminds me a lot of lemon bars, but not lemony flavored. It's a nice, not-too-sweet, but deeply craveable desert perfect for fancy or informal sharing. Just don't make the whole pan for yourself... you WILL eat it all up!

P.S. It is super easy, and yet another wonderful use for yellow cake mix!

Butter Cake Recipe
1/2 Cup Butter (I did use margarin)
1 (18.5 oz) Package Yellow Cake Mix
3 Eggs, divided
1 (8 oz) Package Cream Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
4 Cups Powdered Sugar

  1. Heat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch cake pan.
  2. Melt butter or margarine. Stir melted butter along with 1 egg into cake mix. Press/spread into bottom of prepared pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, almond extract, powdered sugar and remaining 2 eggs. Beat for 3 minutes with an electric mixer on medium high. Spread mixture over top of cake in pan.
  4. Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes and until browned on top. Allow cake to cool before cutting.

Yum! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thankful = Happy

I get really frustrated with myself sometimes, because I have pretty high expectations and there are a lot of things I want for myself and my family. Don't get me wrong, those things are really good! But I've noticed that when I focus on those things, my attitude gets kinda crummy. Ya know... frustrated... impatient, and dare I admit it, self-centered. Which is the complete oposite of why I have those goals. I want to be happy, joyful and content, but dwelling on all the things I havent accomplished yet really robs me of enjoying what I have accomplished.

Have you ever thought of it that way? Taking satisfaction from what you've accomplished makes you happier! Appreciating what you have makes you more content with it, and less discontent in general. A great way to do this is by expressing gratitude. Saying the words out loud, like "Thank you for doing that!", or "Wow, this is such a nice ___! I sure appreciate it!" provides the opportunity to reenforce to yourself that you are thankful, as well as making the other person happy because you appreciated them! Sometimes it's hard to be thankful when we don't get exactly what we wanted, or things don't turn out the way we planned, but if we make an effort to say something enthusiastic, and look on the bright side, we will often find our attitudes following our sentiments.

It does take work; there is certainly no such thing as an "eternal optimist" (except God, of course!) but by putting energy toward being thankful, that will take our focus off of being discontent. And if we busy ourselves with recognizing the progress we've made, we'll then have the energy to keep pursuing the rest of our lofty goals!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Learn from our Home Buying Mistake!

It is really hard to go back to renting once you have bought a house, but that is what we plan to do after our next move. We have owned a home for over a year now, but will probably move again in another year when HH will be changing jobs. We love our house, but bought a little more than we could afford. The mortgage is alright, we were careful to work out the budget there before buying, but it's an older home that needs so much fixing, and the huge lawn is a burden to keep up with. Another nasty part is how much we will lose when we sell the house, because we will only have lived in it for 3 years. We are hoping to sell for more than we bought, of course, but it's likely to be the other way if the economy keeps going like this. We won't have any equity built up, and will have to pay realtor's fees and many others.

After we make the move we plan to live in an apartment for at least 6 months. When we bought this house, there weren't many options on the market, we didn't know the area, and of course, it was our first home. So that lead us to make a quick decision because we just "needed" a house. We also weren't sure at that point how long we would be living here. HH loves his current job, but we decided he should go through grad school online so that he will be able to advance in the future. (Without a Master's he's pretty stuck at his current level) Well, when he finishes grad school and we have to start paying the loans, we will need more income, which will lead us to a new job with more money, and it's very likely that it will have to be in another location.

So, this is what we figure we should do (and really should have done the first time) We will live in a cheep apartment and save as much money as possible for at least six months. During that time we will watch the housing market, scout locations and homes, and also really consider if the job and the area is a good fit for our family for the next five years or more. We won't commit to buying a house until we know that we are staying put, and that the timing is right. It will be really hard to give up having a 2 car garage, and a big shed, plus the extra space that the few possessions we had when we moved in have now multiplied to fill. But it will be an important step to take for the ability to save for the future we want our family to have.

So what are your home-buying strategies? What has worked for you and what hasn't? Any tips for saving up a nice hefty down payment?

Super Mom Badge

I am excited to announce an award I will be giving away called the "Super Mom" award. It is no ordinary award! I will bestow this lovely badge only to those moms who exemplify a caring spirit to both their children and the planet! If you have a blog, and have recently posted about something you have done that has helped your kids be safer and healthier, as well as made a positive impact on the environment, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments section of this post! I will check your blog and if you show you've done a super job, I will gladly dub you a "Super Mom"!

I will also be on the lookout as I search the web, read friends' blogs, and receive recommendations for others whom I may give my appreciation to!

Monday, March 3, 2008

My Latest Craft!

My newest trick is actually a food-craft! Sushi! Yes, I the Thrifty Domestica, have taught myself to make it at home! I was forced to do this for several reasons. 1. I love sushi with a passion! 2. HH hates sushi and won't take me to sushi bars. 3. It would be a lot cheaper for me to make it at home than buy it in the grocery store (not that any of the grocery stores in my tiny town sell it anyway!) and 4. It looks so cool and fun, I just had to try it!

So the last time I was in Whole Foods I picked up a sushi mat and some organic sushi nori (the seaweed sheets) for myself. The back of the package of nori had some tips on how to cook the rice and roll the sushi. However, upon experimentation, I found this information to be incomplete. I don't know if it was because I used regular long grain white rice, or what, because they suggested cooking it WAY too long! The result was almost spreadable with a knife! Not the nice texture I was going for!

However, I did learn something interesting. The nori is very dry and light. It's easy to break it getting it out of the package. Once you put the rice on it, it will quickly absorb some moisture from the rice and become soft and a little bit rubbery. It needs enough moisture from the rice to get nice and soft. Also the rice must be moist enough to really stick together well. I also found that it needs a little flavored rice vinegar to give it some flavor, otherwise the sushi will taste really boring. Letting the roll rest for a few minuets after you roll it and before you cut it helps it stay together a little better, as well as allowing the nori to finish absorbing moisture and gain the best texture. Also, make sure you use a REALLY sharp knife. It is so devastating to ruin your nice roll by smooshing it with a dull knife!

And now, here are some recipes to whet your appetite! Go try them yourself!
California Sushi Roll
Philly Roll
Crazy Kiwi Sushi Roll
Simple Tuna Roll (lots of other recipes on this page)

Skinny = Cool, or Cool = Skinny?

Some Harvard doctors have done an interesting study associating weight gain during adolescence with perceived popularity. Girls who report themselves as a 4 or greater on a 1-10 ranking scale of social standing in their school are 70% less likely to have their BMI go up, or to gain weight disproportional to their developmental growth. Girls who ranked themselves below a 4 were likely to gain excess weight. Why?

The study made allowances for family history, mother's weight, income, television viewing habits, and of course diet. But these other factors couldn't account for a strong connection between a girl's weight and her social status. The experiment has done a lot to disprove the myth that it is because a girl is overweight that she is unpopular. The contrary seems far more likely! Girls who are more socially active and involved are less likely to gain excess weight!

The doctors who are responsible for the research encouraged parents who are concerned about their daughter's weight to not only push a healthy, balanced diet, and exercise. But stressed the importance of devoting time to friends, social activities, team sports and other group based extracurriculars.

This makes perfect sense to me! Girls that "belong" socially will be happier about themselves, which means they will have lower stress, fear, anxiety and depression, all of which are known to offset hormonal balances that trigger hunger, "emotional" eating, and weight gain. Everyone knows that "misery loves company", and "company" to a lonely person is usually food!

Weight gain is such a difficult social issue; a very emotional issue to young ladies, especially. I do believe that frustration about weight can lead to frustration in your social life, but that it is usually self-inflicted. Everyone can relate with wanting to lose some weight, and should seek help and support from friends in a quest to become more healthy!

I liked these articles on the subject:
Natural Weight Loss
Building Your Network
Sharing is Achieving

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Fabulous Mom-prenures

As you know, I have babies! I also try to tell myself, I have a sense of style. That combined with my penchant for crafts and handmade things makes me an expert on the subject awesomely-unique baby items, right? (just smile and nod, okay) Here's a few hot sites that are hard to resist.