Monday, May 4, 2009

Morning Routine

I came across The Inspired Room's post about her morning routine. I guess I was just facinated by the many responses. It made me a little more reflective upon my own routine! Here is what works for me... there's no coffee, no dogs, and no bed making right away. (Though that's because my HH is still in the bed when I get up)

Get up, pee, put contacts in, brush teeth, wash face
Talk to HH for a min as he's getting in the shower
Go to the kitchen, take in the disaster left over from last night, and get to work
Make smoothies, make HH's lunch (big salad)
Get the kids up, and make them pee (I have a 3 year old, and a 20 mo old who is potty training)
Get them breakfast, kiss HH and send him out the door with his fuel for the day
Sip my smoothie, make my lists for the day, and keep working on the dishes
Set the kids down in front of something educational and take my shower
Make my bed, clean the room, get some laundry going
Then I sit down and check my e-mail, the weather, and other news

Then depending on what day it is, I'll do my cleaning, shopping, take my kids to the library, walk with a friend (we're stroller buddies), or take care of some things I volunteer with for my church. Then it's lunch, naps, and I try to get some more time on the computer, or work on my various projects around the house, or do some crafts. I may also try to get a head start on dinner. Then HH gets home, and we get some excercise. Then it's baths for the kids, dinner and bed time. HH and I watch a movie or a couple shows online and have our "us" time.

I am totally envious of women who have the energy of getting their kitchen cleaned up after dinner. By that time of the day, I am just ready to sit down, especially after getting the kids washed, fed, and put to bed. But eventually I'd like to get into the habit of cleaning up before bed. It would make the morning so much nicer!

Please share your schedule and any tips on keeping your morning organized and getting a lot done!

Low-Stress Entertaining

At our house, entertaining is a pretty casual affair! Over time we've decided that that's how we like it, and that's what makes our typical guests most comfortable! When making plans to have people over, those are two important things to think about: What would make the evening fun and relaxing for you? And, what would make it fun and relaxing for your guests? For me, not having a ton of dishes to do, and getting to spend more time talking with my guests than cooking is important. The grill out back is a great solution to both these problems! We like the party to start outside around the patio, then migrate inside for the actual dinner part of the evening.

There's several other tips we've found make our guests more at ease:

Have plenty of beverages, and let your guests help themselves. This gives them something to do and it communicates that the mood is relaxed and casual. I like to have a little area designated for drink choices, plenty of ice, and glasses. I also love those ice tubs for bottle drinks.

Have lots of seating! Nothing makes people more uncomfortable than having no place to sit. Some inexpensive lawn chairs outside, and some extra folding chairs inside is all it takes to make sure no one is stuck standing.

Don't feel like everything has to be perfect! This actually intimidates people. I know when I walk into a friend's house, and everything is perfect, it makes me feel a little out of place, and I start praying my kids don't touch anything. When the spread is too beautiful to eat, whatever I brought to contribute never seems good enough. Plus, how many times should I compliment the hostess about how nice everything is? Try to picture things from your guests' perspective. Also, if you are having female friends over, leave a little something for them to help you with, like folding the napkins. It gives you a chance to chat with them while you are finishing things up in the kitchen, and it lets them contribute a little something too.

Don't make everything yourself! It's really okay to buy the desert, or one of the sides. Time you save can be spent making the house a little cleaner, getting everything ready ahead of time, getting yourself ready, and just trying to relax and enjoy the whole thing.

Make yourself a good list of what you want to get ready before your guests arrive. Things like setting the table, making the salad, and lighting some candles should be done hours before the party. Try to do your major cleaning and shopping the day before. That way you can take care of your "problem spots", make a final toy sweep, and have an empty dish washer on party day. And have plenty of time to get yourself ready and into the party zone! A relaxed, happy hostess makes the atmosphere much more at ease, and the evening will be much more enjoyable by everyone! (including your husband and kids!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fiber Fun

My junk-food loving husband has recently become obsessed with Fiber One Chocolate Oat bars. He eats them for a mid-afternoon snack at work, as a much needed blood-sugar booster to hold him over until dinner. I'm pretty excited he's volunteerily eating an extra 4 grams of fiber! So I was looking for some Fiber One coupons and found some for $1 off on their website (look towards the bottom). While I was poking around there, I came across a nifty list of 10 ways to get more fiber in your diet. I thought it would be nice to share, so here ya go!

Scan for Bran
Look for “bran,” “whole grain” and “whole wheat” on product packages and ingredient labels. These ingredients can help boost fiber intake.
½ cup Fiber One Original = 14g fiber
1 cup Fiber One Honey Clusters® = 13g fiber

Grab the Whole Food
Munch on a whole piece of fruit, in place of drinking a glass of juice. You’ll get the nutrients and the fiber too.
1 medium apple = 3g fiber

Savor the Skins
Eat fruit and vegetables with the skin on. Eating the skin helps to bump up the fiber, plus it provides texture and a bonus of other nutrients.
1 medium baked potato with skin on = 4g fiber

Screen for Beans
Replace your typical side dishes with high-fiber dried peas and beans, such as kidney, pinto, lentils or black-eyed peas. These fiber-packed legumes make it easier to meet daily fiber goals.
½ cup canned red kidney beans = 8g fiber

Go Nuts
Jazz up salads, vegetables, snacks and desserts with almonds, sunflower seeds or soy nuts. Nuts and seeds add fiber and fun-to-chew crunch to foods.
1 ounce roasted almonds = 3g fiber

Be Berry Wild
Choose raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries to add variety to your cereals. These berries have twice the fiber of many other fruit selections.
½ cup fresh raspberries = 4g fiber

Bring on the Brown
Use brown rice instead of white. Switch to whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat flour whole-wheat breads and whole-grain crackers instead of regular white versions.
1 cup brown rice = 3g fiber

Skip the Chips
Select snacks that are a good source of fiber. Instead of potato chips, go for low-fat popcorn, whole-grain pretzels or oven-crisped whole-wheat pita triangles.
3 cups popcorn = 4g fiber

Drink Up
Water is a healthy beverage choice—especially as you up the fiber. Your body needs more water to help process the added fiber you eat.
Aim for eight 8-oz glasses of water each day.

Sneak in Some Fiber One® cereal
Mix Fiber One cereal into your favorite side dishes or top yogurt, salads or oatmeal. Even a small amount of Fiber One cereal makes a difference.
¼ cup Fiber One cereal for sprinkling = 7g fiber

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What every women should know (but no one wants to talk about)

I don't know why I always forget how much of a pain it is! Every month I have two days from heck, followed by probably six days of interruption and concern. In my own defence, it wasn't always this way... after my daughter was born I got an IUD (Paragard). For many reasons, such as no hormones, total dependability, and my lack of ability to take pills daily, it was the best choice. I had never had crampy, heavy, drawn out periods before, but having the IUD has made a big difference. However since my stance on the big three factors I just stated, and since we do plan on having more children someday, the IUD will stay, and instead I have become more adept at dealing with that "time of the month".

With the dramatic increase in the number of tampons I use, I started thinking about where all those tampons are going. I hate the pre-programmed "flush it and it goes away" attitude of our society, so I've done a little research, and the news is, well... pretty gross.

Most tampons made today are "biodegradable" which means that when you flush them they will eventually break apart and decompose. In six months. Yeah, really, and not the whole thing usually. In fact, the Women's Environmental Network says that 70% of blockages in the sewage system are caused by sanitary waste. Yes, that's a lot of tampons, taking a very long time to decompose.

And speaking of "The Network", they'd also like to raise concern over the amount of pesticides being used on the cotton that will make it's way into your body's most absorbent place. There are organic cotton options available, like from seventh generation, but they are a little hard to find still. While times have improved since the high rates of TSS due to Staphylococcus bacteria, and other toxins such as dioxide (from bleaching) have been reduced thanks to information and education about these issues. The question still remains, "Are tampons the best solution?", and if not, what are our other options?

Here's what I've come across...

The Diva Cup (also Moon Cup and Keeper Cup), which is a silicone cup inserted just inside the vagina creating a seal preventing leakage. Several times a day, you remove it, dump and wash it, then reinsert it. They last a really long time, and there's no trash generated. I do have one of these and I do use it each month. However, due to my not doing enough kegals, and a really heavy start, it does sometimes leak. I don't usually use it the first 2 days, and since you need to have a sink reachable from your toilet, public bathrooms are not an option. But I do like it a lot; it does save me from using more tampons than needed, and for medium to light flow days, I'd say it's pretty great!

Fabric pantyliner, like Glad Rags which are washable and, from what I've heard, do a pretty good job. I do not speak from experience on this one, as I just don't think they would work for my horrible flow. But it's a very nice concept, if you don't mind dealing with bloody "rags". Women have done it for eons, so it's probably not all that horrible, once you get used to it. It seems like they usually have little buckets of vinegar water with a lid next to their toilet, or some similar preparedness. Women experienced in cloth diapering probably have lots of good ideas for how to deal with these in a smell/bacteria controlling way.

I should mention that the backing of regular synthetic pantyliner never biodegrades, so if you use them, please consider switching to the above. Thanks!

So then we're back to the organic cotton tampons, or at least the lowest impact ones. I admit, I live in a small town with pretty much no access to green products, other than through the internet. I usually buy o.b. tampons. At least they don't have the applicator to throw away, though the string doesn't ever biodegrade (polyester), the rest of it does, eventually. They are convenient and small, and take up less packaging. Mainly, I try to use the Diva Cup as much as possible, and make sure that I keep in mind what I am flushing, and continue to be proactive in finding a better solution that works for me!

I'm always open to the wisdom of other women, so if you have any tips you'd like to share on this subject, please comment!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recipe Puppy

This is super-fun and just what every mom in a rush to figure out what's for dinner needs! The Recipe Puppy website searches tons of recipe sites according to the ingredients that you type into the search bar. So lets say you have chicken, broccoli and hmm, how 'bout some ginger? Oh, but a lot of the returns have cheese, and I'm fresh out! You can place a minus (-) sign in front of an ingredient you don't have, or that you don't want in the returned recipes! I've also found that it has an easier time if you put commas in between the ingredients. So go try it out! You'll be ahead of the game of figuring out what's for dinner!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Chores a 3-year old can do

I have a wonderfully active 3 year old son. Note the "active" part! I feel like all that energy needs to get put to good use, so I've come up with a list of easy chores he can help me with!

  • Put his shoes in the "shoe spot" This means less mess in the living room, and he's learning everything has place
  • Put his plate and cup in the sink after meals. Sometimes I have him do his baby sister and Daddy's too, bwaaa haa haa! (okay, I hate clearing the table) I'm hopeing to get him to put the salad dressing back in the fridge door in the near future.
  • Empty the drying into the basket. This works well when I'm putting another load in; he wants to participate and this is something that actually helps me get done a little faster.
  • Pick up specific toy items, like the blocks, trains, or legos. We're still not at the point of being able to clean the entire room by himself, but if he has one specific task to focus on he does pretty well (especially if a little treat is offered to help him stay motivated)
  • Sort the silverware. I take the sharp knives out first, but then open the drawer and let him stand on a stool and sort the spoons, forks and knives. I always fondly remember doing this for my mom when I was little, and it's good sorting skills for him to work on.

So what simple chores do you have your busy little person work on? Please share your tips and ideas in the comments!

Want to make a cute customized chore chart for your favorite helper? Check out these from Alenka's Printables. Just click one of the four designs and you can fill in your child's name and the chores and print it right off!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Know what you're eating

My nutritionist friend, Wendy Wallace, just sent me a few very interesting tid-bits that peeked my curiosity. These are some "hot topics" that I'd heard about, but hadn't really gotten around to researching. I've included the links where I got this information.

Genetically Modified Produce:

This is a controversial method of making "hybrid" fruits and veggies quickly and accurately by combining genes from other plants or organisms (animals, bacteria) with a plant's genes to give the GM plant specific desirable qualities (pest and drought resistance, nutritional value). Before this process, "genetically engineered" just meant a careful and complicated series of cross pollinations between similar plants with desirable characteristics. This resulted in prize-winning beefsteak tomatoes and nectarines and the like. The changes were incremental and took a while to get the desired result. However, genetically modified foods can be created relatively quickly, thus many varieties can be experimented with, and the changes that are made to the food can be less predictable. Some may not have a change in their outward appearance, but the change in genetics can make a big difference in the resulting plant.

To my mind, this is not necessarily a bad thing, if due caution is taken, and sufficient research is done to observe the implications of each variety on human health and the environment. However, as new GM plants are quickly propagated, I don't really foresee the appropriate amount of caution and research being taken before these foods quickly become a part of our diet, especially since our culture pays very little attention to where or how our food comes to us.

Here are a few sites for further reading:

Science, Religion and Technology Project
Genetically Modified Foods: Helpful or Harmful?
Mercola <- This one is more the scary stuff, but it does talk about how prevalent GM foods are already! It also talks about how to identify what produce in the supermarket is GM, which was very helpful to me.

High Fructose Corn Syrup contains Mercury:

Apparently, part of the process for making it can involve mercury. You would think that food manufacturers would know that they would get in trouble for this sooner or later, but hey, don't people who use lead paint on toys know that too?

Washington Post
Institute for Aggriculter and Trade Policy

This is just yet another reason why consuming high fructose corn syrup is a bad idea

Instead of being subjected to unhealthy sweetener, give some of the low-glycemic, natural sweeteners a try! Here are a few of my favorites! (Okay, organic honey and real maple sugar aren't low-glycemic, but they are super tasty!) Use these to put your body on a healthier and happier track!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Green Givaway from SHAPE

I love SHAPE magazine! It is a wonderful inspiration for me to be healthier in all areas of life. This month they have some especially good giveaways, including the super-awesome Envirosax, $40 worth of Seventh Generation products, and a book that I have been wanting: Big Green Purse.

There's other cool stuff to register to win for too, so click on over!

I got my subscription to SHAPE for free on, though unfortunately they are not offering that particular one right now, they do have a ton of other popular magazines you can subscribe to for FREE. If you love parenting mags, make sure you check if there are any here that you're not already getting (there's tons of good ones!).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Fruit Salad Sandwich

No, this isn't your toddler's peanut butter sandwich! It is, however a great way to get a little protein, healthy fats, fruit and fiber into your day, while you're on the run, of course! I got the inspiration for these at my local natural food store, which has a little smoothie/sandwich counter. Of course, they charge like $6 for one of these babies! Feel free to take creative license, and comment on whatever additional toppings you find to be delicious!

Fruit Salad Sandwich

  • 2 large slices whole grain/high fiber bread
  • 2+ Tbs nut butter (organic peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter etc.)
  • 1 Banana, sliced
  • 1/2 C sliced strawberries, blueberries, peaches, kiwi, apples, mango, or whatever else!
  • 1 Tbs Honey

Spread the nut butter on both pieces of bread. On one side, arrange the sliced banana, then the other fruit, using the honey to help it stick together. Lay the other slice of nut-buttered bread on top and enjoy!

P.S. I just have to brag that I got those blueberries on sale at Wal-Mart for $1.50 a PINT! The strawberries were $2.50, which isn't great, but with my Strawberry Monsters to feed, it wasn't like I could pass them by. The delicious berries just make me wish summer was here and we could go pick them for ourselves at the farms close to us! My favorite berry farm (organic), the Greer Farm, just started selling their free-range brown eggs again, now that there's more sunshine during the day. (important for laying production) I can't wait to try some, as well as the organic veggies they are adding this year!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Handy Hubby

My HH graduated from grad school in December, so since then he's been catching up on some projects that have been neglected around the house (he has worked full time, while going to grad school full time, so needless to say, my "honey-dos" took a back seat). But recently he has done a couple things that have just made me fall in love with him again! Behold, my very own wash sink! Any mommy who deals with exploding dirty diapers, and 3 year-olds who love mud REALLY needs one of these. I did my best without one for a long time. But HH finally bought the sink, built the stand for it, and did all the plumbing work for it himself! I love it; it's great!

The second thing he's done is help me with a couple things for my beloved veggies. Last year I carried ash from our burn pile to my garden in a wheelbarrow and dumped it in. I did not realize that the ash was still hot enough to smolder through my landscaping timbers!!! Yes, I caught the grass on fire, and would have burned down the fence, if I hadn't seen the smoke in time! Alas my poor garden went for a year without proper edging. You can see the nice new timbers down at the end in the picture, where my HH repaired them.

You can also see in the picture that I have a fancy veggie irrigation system now! Yes, my hybrid beefsteak beauties will never have to fear the drought again! He even put little hoses in my planters, where I'm going to try some herbs this year! What a guy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Homemade Oatmeal Packets

My three year old loves oatmeal! I am very thankful for that fact, and try to encourage it. I came up with these packets so that I can save money by buying oatmeal in the canister and have a little more control on the sugar (and sneak some flax seed in there too! Shhh!) Thanks to the pre-packed portion size he can easily help himself (though I still pour the hot water) and I don't have to measure it out, and break out the brown sugar, flax seed, and cinnamon every morning.

Thrifty's Oatmeal Packets

For each packet:
1/2 cup quick-cook oats
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
1 Tbs brown sugar (You can use less of course. 1 Tbs brown sugar = 12g sugar. I will probably lower the amount for my son over time, but I want him to keep liking the oatmeal, so 1 Tbs is good to start.)
A couple dashes of salt
A few dashes of cinnamon.

Seal it all up in a little baggie, then all you have to do is dump it into a bowl, add hot water, and stir!

Other options you may like to add:
~Raisins or other dried fruit.
~Nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice
~Nuts like cashew pieces, almonds, or pecan pieces

You can always add on top!
~Fresh fruit like strawberries, blueberries or bananas
~Honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup (in which case you may want to omit the brown sugar from the recipe)

Have fun coming up with your own creations, and let your kids help! Feel free to share your ideas!