Monday, November 25, 2013

DIY Craft: Personalized Santa Bag

I saw a really cute customized "Santa Bag" on Pinterest a while back and looked into buying one. The one I found ran between $50 - $100, which was a little too pricey for me. So I looked into Etsy, and there are some cute ones on there as well for around $30 - $50. Which now, after completing this project, doesn't seem so unreasonable. The ones you can buy are normally screen-printed, but I completed this project with the new Sharpie Stained fabric markers. They have a fine tip which was perfect for the small details.

Here's what I used:
• 1 large canvas drawstring laundry bag I got on Amazon for $11
• 3 Sharpie Stained Markers (about $2 each - 2 red and 1 black)
Artist's graphite transfer paper (I already had this, but a pack of 20 sheets is around $9)

1. Print out your design you would like to use. I designed mine in Adobe Illustrator and printed it out on several sheets of paper (since the overall bag is 24" x 36") and taped them together to recreate my large design. If you're feeling bold, you can freehand your design or use stencils.

2. Use your transfer paper underneath your design (the graphite side goes down onto your fabric - practice if you've never used this before), and trace your design using a ball point pen so the design will transfer onto the fabric. When you're done, you will have a pencil outline on your fabric. You can find out more information about using transfer paper HERE.

3. Simply fill in the outline with the sharpie fabric markers. It's just like a coloring book :).

* You may want to wash and iron your laundry bag before use - just in case it shrinks. There were also several wrinkles in my fabric I didn't think about before I started and had to work around them when I was using my fabric pens. Next time I will iron first!
* When using the fabric markers, use a piece of cardboard inside the laundry bag to make sure your ink doesn't bleed through to the other side.

I'd love to see finished products if you do this project!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Friday

Just a couple of quick announcements.

1. I've finally joined the ranks and started promoting my Etsy shop on Facebook. Feel free to go ahead and "like" me:

If I get to 100 likes, I'll offer a promo code for the holidays!

2. People, I have been crafting again. I've got some good ones coming up, but they're all holiday appropriate, and since Thanksgiving isn't even here yet, I'll save them for a couple of weeks.

Until then, I'll leave you with this video, and a "Happy Friday!"

Friday, November 1, 2013

Obligatory Halloween Post

We had a great October! We had something going on every weekend with our families, so it will be a nice change of pace to just relax at home this coming weekend. This year, Judah went as legendary KSU coach Bill Snyder:

We used mousse and baby powder for the gray hair and hot glued some felt to a headset so it wouldn't hurt his head. He didn't really want to carry the clipboard (his "playbook"). This is the only picture I could get where he wasn't crying while holding it. He also was having no part of glasses or me drawing any sort of wrinkles on his face.

He's still too young for traditional trick-or-treating so we headed over to my Grandparent's house for a little one-house trick or treat.

You can see from the photos that the "gray hair" wasn't the most long-lasting solution and was only on the top of his head. At least he smelled good ;)

I think he could get used to the whole "treat" aspect of Halloween:

I hope everyone had a treat and chocolate-filled Halloween and that no one got tricked with eggs or TP! I'm looking forward to next year when Judah can really get into the spirit of the Holiday and do some real door-to-door celebrating.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On The Menu: Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm sorry I'm such a terrible blogger. It's been what? Two months? It just that life seems to pass by so quickly with a toddler. What on earth did Scott and I spend so much time doing before? I suspect there was a lot of TV and movie watching involved. Now our weekends are filled with things like air shows:

...and food truck wars:

...and zoos:
...and College Football Games:

So, you'll have to forgive me if blogging is spotty at best. And with all these things going on, I find I'm more and more likely to need a quick and easy recipe. I've been scouring the web and pinterest for REALLY good crock pot and slow cooker recipes. The slow cooker and I have a love-hate relationship. I've managed to burn chicken in a crock pot before. Plus, it's hard to find recipes that can truly cook all day and not turn to mush during my 8-5 workday.

The most forgiving recipes seem to be soups and chillis. I've seen several slow cooker tortilla soups, and this is my own amalgamation of several of them.

• 2 - 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, slightly thawed, whole
• 5 cups chicken stock
• 1 small white onion, chopped
• 1 can mild Rotel (or other brand diced tomatoes and green chilis), drained
• 1 15oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
• 1 packet reduced sodium taco seasoning

Combine the above in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. When the time is up, remove the chicken and shred and add back into the crock pot. Then add:

• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
• Juice of 1/2 Lime

Cook on low another half hour or so (optional). Garnish with:

• Shredded cheese (we used Colby jack)
• Tortilla chips
• Avocado chunks

Friday, August 9, 2013

My New Favorite Jeans

Something light hearted for your Friday: a shopping recommendation!

I have sadly been on the hunt for a good pair of jeans for almost 18 MONTHS. Since Judah was born I have not been able to find a pair of jeans I really like. I used to live in the Stella skinny leg jeans from Express. I do have some of their "jegging" line that I like because they still have a lot of stretch. But when it comes to true denim, putting on those jeans just didn't quite feel... right.

Anyone that's had a baby can tell you that even though you may weigh the same as before kids, your body shape may be completely different. And that's definitely true for me. I weigh exactly the same as I did pre-Judah...but clothes fit SO differently now! I'm a little thicker in the waist and my butt is flatter (what the heck is up with that?).

The problems I was having with jeans were endless - one was that I was between sizes, so it's hard to find something that fits properly without alterations. I was also finding that I would try a pair on in the store and they would fit great, but then I'd get home and they would start getting saggy really quickly. I was having to belt all my jeans or keep pulling them up constantly. It was because the denim was loosing it's elasticity too quickly, so I'd keep washing and drying them hoping for that "just out of the dryer" fit.

A lot of the problem comes from the rise of the denim - everything is super low rise now. That just doesn't work for me or my mommy muffin. Enter my new favorite: the Straight and Narrow Dark Wash Jeans from J. Crew Factory.

The rise actually comes up to my belly button. The denim is quality enough so that it doesn't get stretched out after one wear, and thick enough so that I know it's durable. The cut is simple and doesn't have a lot of trendy fading or distressing on the wash.

Image via
Best of all? Right now they're on sale for $44. I ordered a pair of skinny cropped jeans in coral from J. Crew Factory about a month ago when they were having a 40% off of their already reduced clearance and got this pair for $17:

Both jeans were a great deal since they're normally $80. They both fit great, and I'm looking forward to ordering more in the future. Hopefully THIS will finally be the brand of jean I've been searching for and can count on.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I have not done a new oil painting in more than two years... until now. I decided it was time to get back in the saddle, and I really missed working in my favorite medium. I stopped oil painting when I was pregnant with Judah because of all the toxic chemicals in the paints and in the mixing mediums and switched to watercolor. And then of course it's really hard to find time to paint with a toddler running around getting into EVERYTHING. So I moved my little studio to my office at work and started painting during my lunch breaks. It was perfect - quiet, and I didn't have to worry about a small human getting into toxic chemicals.

The subject is what scared me. I chose to do a portrait of Judah, and I was so worried because I wanted it to look like him. I am mostly happy with the way this turned out, and it looks a lot like the photo I was painting from, but I'll admit, it's rare that his face ever looks that serious. I searched and searched for the perfect image to use, and ultimately went with this one. It's one of the closest I have of his face where he's mostly still and has a lot of dramatic lighting. I'd like to share the process with you if you're interested.

I started my painting with a light pencil drawing straight onto the canvas which you can see a little bit of in this shot. I used only three tubes of paint with this piece because I wanted the finished painting to look cohesive: Cadmium Red - Medium Hue, Cadmium Yellow - Medium Hue, and French Ultramarine Blue. And Titanium White of course. Every color in the finished painting was mixed using only those three primary colors and white. I used very light washes to rough in the dark areas. If you want to know the medium I use to thin my paint this is my formula:

• 5 parts ordorless turpentine
• 2.5 parts linseed oil
• 1 part damar varnish

I work "lean to fat" - the darkest areas actually have the least amount of paint on them and are a bit translucent. The lighter areas have much more paint and go on towards the end.

Here you can see the picture I'm working from clipped to the top of my easel. This stage kind of makes me laugh. It's where I start tweaking it to actually look like the person I'm painting. I make a list of things that need to be adjusted. For example, I don't like in this one how his eyes look too intense and not really like the sweet baby that he is. His chin in a little too pointy and the eyebrows are too dark and sharp. The upper lip is also slightly too pointy. So I go through and make little edits and tweaks. Sometimes moving something a millimeter makes a difference.

And here's the final piece one more time! I have a home for it already in my renovated office at home on the gallery wall. I just need to find a frame.

If you're at all interested in a custom portrait, I do accept commissioned work. You can shoot me an email or contact me through my etsy shop. It feels good to be back to doing what I love!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On the Menu: Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad

I've been following Kraft on Pinterest and have to admit - they've got some great recipes! And they're all really easy, which is a nice benefit. If you click on one of their recipes, it will take you to their page so you can even make a shopping list.

This recipe for Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad has become Scott's new favorite. I love it because it doesn't heat up my kitchen. I've tried this recipe with pre-grilled strips from Tyson and also with grilled chicken that Scott made on the grill earlier in the week. Both are great options, but grilling your own chicken is definitely more economical. Also, I didn't take pictures of this one, but another recent hit in our house was this Bacon and Avocado Macaroni Salad.

Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad Ingredients:
• 2 cups cooked whole grain penne pasta
• 1 cup cherry tomatoes - quartered
• about 1/4 of a red tomato - diced
• 1 4 oz container of feta cheese - crumbled
• 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
• 1/2 lb chicken breast - grilled and cut into 1/4" strips
• A handful of fresh chopped basil if you have it, 1/2 tsp of dried basil if not
• A package of Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix - prepared with the "less oil" directions (you'll need oil and vinegar to mix)

Combine all ingredients and enjoy! Serve room temperature or chilled.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Office Re-do Reveal...Finally

So...all the way back in January I let you in on my dark secret of the awful home office. Well, it's finally done! Mostly. There are still a few projects left to tackle, but most of the work has been completed. For a reminder, here was my original plan:

And here are the before and after shots! Click on any of them to enlarge.

Looking into the room from the doorway

Scott's work area...still much messier than mine :)

My work area and solid corner of curtains
Here are a few more shots as well:

Still working on my gallery wall.
That pillow from Target was one of my original color sources for inspiration

So proud of my chair re-do. I like it a lot better than the oak wood and green pleather cushion that was there before.

I still have a few projects to complete. That cabinet in the last shot needs sanded, painted and new hardware, but I'm having trouble deciding on a color. I'd like to get some wood blinds for the windows, and there's nothing on the wall opposite the gallery wall. I was also thinking of Modge Podging the trunk under the side table. I got it at Wal-Mart over 20 years ago, so it's a piece I feel ok messing up. Furniture/Paint sources are:

1. Wall Color: Mountain Ridge by Behr, Home Depot, $35/gallon
2. Curtains are burlap,, $49 for a set of 2 (we ended up with 2 sets to go across the corner)
3. Faux Mercury Ball Curtain Rods are from Target - $30 each
4. I spray painted the chair with Hammered Rust-Oleum white paint - 4 cans
5. Fabric for the chair is duck cloth from Hobby Lobby
6. Rug is from Target, $80 (5x7)
7. Mirrored crackle glass lamp from World Market, $49 + $20 burlap shade
8. Art is from etsy, and the tiny watercolor is from our trip to Paris

I can honestly say I'm pretty happy with how this project turned out! Anyone have any suggestions for hiding that vacuum in the corner? We have zero storage space.

On The Menu: Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Mango Black Bean Salsa

In the summer I'm always looking for simple recipes with fresh flavors that DON'T heat up my kitchen. Our kitchen is very warm in the summer at the back of the house and it's almost unbearable to stay back there and have to turn the oven on to make dinner. Which is why I was so happy to find this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats. I followed her recipe to the letter, so I'll let you click the link and read her instructions. The only thing I DID change was to add a half of one avocado - cubed - to the salsa. I also used minute rice so my cooking time for the rice was a little shorter than what she has listed. Hopefully you enjoy this summer meal as much as I did!

Friday, June 28, 2013

On The Menu: Turkey Pesto Meatballs

This is a recipe adapted from Baked Bree (her original uses 2 lbs of turkey and makes quite a bit) to serve 4 people. I like this one because you can easily adapt it - we either serve it with a marinara pasta or an alfredo pasta. This past time I made it, I happened to have a box of Butter & Garlic Pasta Roni on hand, so I took the easy way out and served the meatballs with that instead! But even this cut down version makes quite a few meatballs (about 25), so you could always freeze half if you're serving for two. This is also one of Judah's favorite meals!

1 lb. Ground Turkey
3/4 C. Bread Crumbs
1/2 C. Pesto (we buy a large jar at Costco, but you can make your own if you prefer)
1/3 C. Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 egg
Salt and Pepper to taste
A Handful of Grated Mozzarella Cheese

1. Set up: preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a wire cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet and spray with olive oil or pam. This allows the cooking grease to drain onto your cookie sheet and for easy clean up. It also makes it so you don't have to turn your meatballs over during cooking time.
2. Combine all meatball ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.
3. Form into walnut-sized meatballs and place on wire rack on cookie sheet. I usually get between 25 - 30 meatballs.
4. Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden brown.
5. Serve by themselves with marinara sauce or with pasta and your choice of sauce.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On The Menu: Crispy Cornflake Chicken & Creamy Bowtie Pasta

Another day, another Pinterest Recipe. This one courtesy of the blog Jamie Cooks it Up. You can view her original recipe or use my slightly adapted one below. I've changed the proportions to serve about 3 people. This one tastes delicious and is extremely filling, so I don't make a side for this one.

Clockwise starting from the top left: 1.) My set up - 1 large deep pot, a pasta pot, and an aluminum foil covered baking sheet 2.) My three Tupperware containers for coating chicken 3.) No need for a meat tenderizer - I just use a rubber mallet 4.) The finished product (and Judah's portion for the next day) 5.) Frying up my chicken

• 2 Large Chicken Breasts
• 3 Cups Frosted Flakes (You can use Cornflakes, but I'll actually eat the leftover Frosted Flakes and the sugar helps caramelize the chicken a little more)
• 1/3 Cup All Purpose Flour
• 1/2 Cup Milk
• Salt and Pepper
• 6 T Vegetable Oil
• 8oz Farfalle (Bowtie) Pasta

Sauce Ingredients:
• 1/2 Container of Italian Herb Philadelphia Cooking Crème
• 1 Can Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
• 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
• 1/4 Cup Milk
*Optional Fresh Chopped Parsely

1. Get set up ready. Line a baking sheet with foil and set to the side. Fill your large pot or pasta cooker with water, and put your oil in your deep pan or skillet. Place your ingredients for your chicken coating in three separate containers - one for your milk, one for your flour, and one for your cornflakes/Frosted Flakes.

2. Place the chicken breasts into a large Ziploc bag and pound thin with a meat tenderizer or rubber mallet. You'll want them about 1/4" thin. Then cut each one in half so you have four pieces of chicken.

3. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat the chicken in flour and place them on a plate in the freezer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, crush your cornflakes by hand or with a food processor, get your water boiling, and heat up your oil (over about medium high). Preheat your oven to about 300°F.***

4. Get your pasta cooking. Meanwhile, take your chicken out of the freezer. Place each side in the milk and then immediately into the crushed cornflakes. Coat well. Cook your chicken in the hot oil over medium high for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, REDUCE the heat to medium, COVER your pan/pot and cook for 7 more minutes, being careful not to burn the bottoms.

5. Remove the chicken from the pot and place onto your tinfoil lined baking sheet and slide in the oven for 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile use the same pot your chicken was cooking in to get your sauce ready.

6. Combine all sauce ingredients with a whisk until bubbly - about 3-5 minutes.
7. Combine cooked pasta and sauce. Top with your crispy chicken and enjoy a very filling meal.

***Note that because all ovens/ranges are different, cook times are approximate and may vary.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

StyleMint Review & Mystery Box Reveal

A few weeks ago I won some credits to StyleMint from the fabulous blog A Cup of Jo (Thanks, Joanna!). StyleMint is a subscription site with great basics and an ever-changing inventory. The stylists behind the site are Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen - and love their style or hate it, they've got a great eye for classic basics and flattering tops. When you make your first purchase on StyleMint, your account is activated and you get a credit every month to use towards a purchase unless you choose to skip the month. It's nice because you really don't have to buy something every month, but it can be kind of a pain to go in to the site and remember to "skip" if you don't want your credit card charged $29.99 (the cost of most tops on the site).

I loved the two pieces I got with my free credits: the Grace Tee in Navy and the Turner Sweater in Cream. Both are flattering, and the tee shirt is the softest I've ever owned. The sizing is a little strange on StyleMint - You choose from sizes 1-4, but I've found going by their sizing chart is pretty accurate. I chose to order my items in a 2. The pictures on the site normally tell you what size the model is wearing so that helps as well.

So, after being happy with my original choices, I thought I would be adventurous and get one of the StyleMint Mystery Boxes they offer every so often. I chose the "Summer Escape Mystery Box" for $34.95. I was guaranteed at least 3 items but could receive up to 10 items at a $300 value. I'd been planning so much for our upcoming Seattle trip that I haven't really gotten a lot of summer items, so I figured this would be a good time to do so, and I'd have some fun while doing it.

Now for what I received... We'll start with

The Good
Item #1 was a brightly colored headband. This will be great during those summer days when I don't feel like doing my hair and want to keep it off my neck.

Item #2 was... a black longsleeved turtleneck? Well, nothing quite says, "Summer Escape" like a black turtleneck. Although it's a very soft and lightweight quality. It will be good for the fall. I'm not usually one for taking "selfies" but I thought I would for this exercise to give you an idea of how things fit.

(I had to do some serious cropping so you couldn't see my dirty bathroom. Also, self portraits in the bathroom make you realize how dirty your mirror is).

And now onto...

The Bad
Item #3 was exactly what every woman who's ever given birth needs... a crop top! Don't worry, I didn't do a self portrait for this one. I guess at least it fits with the summer theme? I don't think I will ever wear this. Maybe under a top that's too low cut? I dont' know. If anyone has any suggestions for how to style this to disguise it or de-slutify it, feel free to let me know!

and finally

The Ugly
Item #4 was at least a tee shirt - the bread and butter of StyleMint. However, with this tie die pattern and flutter sleeve and flimsy tie at the top, it resembles something I wore in 7th grade circa 1997. Unfortunately there are no refunds or exchanges for Mystery Box contents. I'm also open to any suggestions on how to style this one.

So, needless to say, I probably won't be ordering anymore Mystery Boxes from StyleMint. The only top I could still find at the site was the turtleneck, and it was on sale for $12. I'm pretty sure I just barely got my money's worth. I'll stick to picking out my own items from now on. If I could have built my own "Summer Escape" Mystery Box with my own picks, I would have loved to have received Orion Tank, the Marconi Scarf, the Richmond Shirt, and the Keen Shirt. Now those are true summer essentials!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Taking Advantage of Corporate America... free sample at a time.

That's right. I like free stuff. How many times have you come across an ad like this on the internet:

"Free Samples! Sign up today, no obligation!" or "Make $2000 a month just for giving your opinion!"

They're pretty ubiquitous, right? And many of the times, they seem too good to be true (and they often are). But there are a few gems out there. As a mom with a lot of unexpected expenses, I love finding ways to save a buck and cut corners. In my spare time this year, on lunch breaks, weekends when the baby is napping, etc., I have filled out forms, clicked "like" buttons, retweeted, taken surveys, and more. I have gotten free samples and full sized products from:

• Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
• Oil of Olay
• Ponds
• International Delight
• Quaker
• Goody Hair Products
• Dove
• Pantene Pro-V
• Several Free Pizzas from Red Baron, Freschetta, and Totinos
• Perfume Companies
• Chocolate Companies
• Bear Naked Granola
• And a whole lot more

Yesterday I received a package of over 50 diapers, just for agreeing to give my opinion on them. I've also made over $300 in paypal cash and gift cards. I've also won free StyleMint credits and earrings from blog giveaways. My husband jokes that now I get a package every week. It's all about knowing which sites to use for the greatest reward for your valuable time, and I'm here to share which ones I think are top notch.

1. - this one is pretty easy. It lets you earn "SwagBucks" for doing things you would normally do online like shop, search the web, and participate in special offers and surveys. Just using their search engine as my home page lets me earn SwagBucks. Generally 500 SwagBucks = a $5 gift card. Pros: a lot of different ways to earn points. Cons: can take a long time for your rewards to be redeemed and a while for the points to start adding up.

2. - This site sends you emails when free samples are available for practically anything - beauty products, coupons, baby stuff, and more. This is how I've gotten free Bobbi Brown mascara and a free tumbler. They advertise pretty heavily on facebook. Pros: no time commitment, just let the offers roll in. You can pick and choose which samples you want. Cons: Every time you click on anything it opens a new tab in your browser (this is just a pet peeve of mine). They send a LOT of emails, so if you don't like receiving a lot of emails, this one is probably not for you. Also, a lot of the offers are for in-store coupons. Aint nobody got time for that.

3. - The premise of this site is to write, read, share, and discuss about products you have used in the past. This one probably takes the most time to earn any tangible rewards. You can pick the categories of products you feel you're an expert on - beauty, fashion, games, movies, drinks. There are quite a few "badges." Each time you review a product or complete any of the tasks assigned to you, your Influenster "score" goes up. The higher your score, the more likely you are to receive products to test in the mail. If you have a high influenster score, you can qualify to receive what are known as VoxBoxes. These are similar to subscription boxes, usually with a theme, full of 4-5 full sized products that are shipped to your home. You test the products, give your feedback, and perform additional, optional brand challenges - which let you have a chance to win more products from one of the brands in your VoxBox. I've received one VoxBox so far - the 2012 Holiday VoxBox which included Quaker Real Medleys, NYC Lipgloss, a Goody QuickStyle Brush, Energy Drink Mix, Face Masque, and a coupon for SoleSociety. I've also competed in brand challenges and won products from Ponds and Ferrero Rocher. Pros: Really good rewards for being an active participant. Not hard to give reviews, and there's a lot of categories for you to review products from. Cons: They can be pretty selective about who gets a VoxBox. You have to dedicate a lot of time to writing reviews and tweeting to be selected, and REALLY like talking about products.

4. - By far my biggest money maker. I can usually earn anywhere between $20 - $50 a month depending on how many surveys I qualify for and take. This one is simple - you sign up for an account, fill out a profile so they can match surveys to your profile, and then start earning points by taking surveys. Points for surveys usually range between 5 - 40 points, but sometimes there are higher paying surveys available. 10 points = $1. You can cash out your points for Paypal,, Itunes, or donate your money to the American Red Cross. Pros: points can add up pretty quickly, and I love the ability to redeem for cash. Also, a lot of the surveys are for in-home market research. I love getting products to test in the mail and then report back on. The funniest one I did was a perfume survey where I had to wear a different perfume every day for 5 days. Cons: most of the actual surveys come from other sites and can be a little buggy with technical issues. However, I've found the support team to be incredibly helpful and they always credit my account when something goes awry. The biggest con is spending time taking a survey only to find out you don't qualify for it towards the end. It can be frustrating, but I just plug away and try to find another one I will qualify for.

The thing to remember is: nothing is really free. You may be paying in time or in personal information. Since signing up for all these programs, I have received a LOT more spam email and telemarketing calls. That's fine with me, I knew it was part of the deal. But just be aware, you are throwing a lot of personal information out there. I would never recommend signing up for any site that wants access to a credit card or bank account. If you think you can just sign up for a site and then do nothing, you'll be disappointed. It is possible to get a lot of free stuff online, but it takes time and patience!

Monday, April 29, 2013

On The Menu: No Peek Beef Tips

This is one of those Pinterest recipes that sounded too easy to pass up. Plus, only a few ingredients makes this mama very happy. This recipe comes to you courtesy of the blog Mommy's Kitchen.

• 2 lbs stew meat, beef tenderloin tips, or cubed chuck roast (I used stew meat)
• 1 small can mushrooms (4-6oz.), Optional
• 1 packet dry onion soup mix
• 1 packet brown gravy mix
• 1 can cream of mushroom soup
• 1 cup water

• Preheat oven to 300° F
• Spread your meat out in a single layer in a 9x13 baking dish
• Mix all other ingredients in a bowl and pour over beef tips. Stir to coat all pieces evenly.
• Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 300° F for 3 hours - no peeking!
• Serve over rice, egg noodles or mashed potatoes - we went with rice!

We also had it with some fresh french bread - perfect for sopping up extra gravy. My only complaint about this recipe is that I found it a little salty. If I make it again I will find low sodium versions of the mixes and soup. Other than that it was a nice hearty meal that made a lot of leftovers, and reheated well over the next week.

Friday, March 29, 2013

In case you missed it...

I posted this on facebook, but it was too cute not to share. See! Babies don't cry forever ;)

This was a couple of nights ago right before bath time. Judah has really picked up some awesome dance moves!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What I've Learned Part 3: Crying

So this week's Part 3 is a little bit shorter, because sleeping and feeding are really overarching themes when it comes to babies. Everything else is in its own little subcategory, so you'll have to forgive me for this being kind of random. But isn't that what parenting really is? Flying by the seat of your pants, learning-as-you-go randomness? Let's get to it...

I took this picture as a reference for future use if we ever decide we want more children.


There's a few things in this world that can truly make you feel inadequate. I would imagine meeting Bill Gates would be one. A screaming infant is definitely one. You check out of the hospital (not always but in most cases) and are presented with a squalling baby and a "good luck" from the staff. And unless you've been around a lot of babies or read a lot of baby books, (and sometimes even then) everything you've heard about calming the crying goes out the window, and you're left standing there panicking wondering how the heck you're supposed to do this.

I remember in the beginning being very nervous every time Judah would cry within earshot of anyone else. I was so worried that people were judging me as a bad mother because my baby was crying. Even in the hospital, Judah had a crying jag that lasted for about 15 seemed like hours. I was paranoid that the other moms with their newborns would be wondering what I was doing in our room and why I couldn't get my baby to calm down.

Of course, that is just not the case. Any parent knows that babies cry. It's their one and only form of communication in those early days and essential to their survival. They cry because they're hungry, wet, uncomfortable, tired, stimulated, and sometimes for no reason that's apparent to you. I found the key was to keep repeating, "It won't last forever. It won't last forever." And you know what? It didn't last forever. I think we are extremely lucky - we didn't get a baby with colic - which is usually defined as a baby that cries unconsolably for at least 3 hours a day for 3 or more days per week.

Judah usually only cried for the "Big 3" - Hungry, Tired, Lonely. He never cried when he had a dirty diaper. To this day he will poop at 4 am and not wake up to complain about it - which is an entirely different issue. The longest he ever cried unconsolably was about an hour, and at the time, it seemed like it would never end. That happened a couple of times during his 6-8 week growth spurt.

Whoo, this boy scremed for his first bath. At least we knew the cause of the crying.
What you have to do is find the calming technique that works for your baby. And the cruel part? Just when you find something that works for a couple of days, your baby will switch it up and decide that doesn't work for them any more. So it helps to have a lot of tricks in your bag. Harvey Karp's 5 S's System - of The Happiest Baby On The Block fame - is a good place to start: Swaddling, Side/Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking.

What worked for us:
• White Noise: We would turn off all the lights in the first couple of months and go turn on the clothes dryer while we swayed with him in our arms. I laugh now to think of Scott standing by the back door at 2 am swaying by the running dryer with no clothes in it. We also downloaded some creepy white noise loops on our iPod and played it in his rooms during a few naps. It worked maybe 50% of the time and it sounded like aliens were talking to him in his sleep.

• Fresh Air: Weather permitting, if we really couldn't stop the crying, all we had to do was walk outside into the backyard and he was usually immediately silent. It's like the fresh air reset his brain or something.

• Swaddling: We loved the breathable, stretchy Aden + Anais muslin swaddlers, and Scott was the king of the swaddle technique. I could never wrap him quite tight enough to where he wouldn't escape within 5 minutes. If you're going to swaddle, please do it safely and learn a technique that will keep your baby's hips moving freely. You could do serious damage to their hip joints if not, or use a hip-safe swaddling blanket like the Halo Swaddle. We would swaddle him up and then put him in his...

• Swing: Usually the cradle motion of the swing would calm him down within a couple of minutes. This is one of the reasons he lived in his swing until about 4 months or so.

• Babywearing: I would wear Judah in the Moby Wrap and walk around the house or backyard. Being close to me and warm would immediately make him fall asleep. He slept on me for three hours during a friend's baby shower at 3 weeks old in his Moby. I liked this wrap a lot, but it is a bit of a production to get it on, and it's not too great for older babies.

Hopefully you can use a few of these, and always remember that it WON'T last forever. Don't get me wrong, my 13 month old still cries. Most of the time it's just whining - dear God, the WHINING! And true crying happens when he falls down for the 437th time that day or when he's extremely overtired. But little crying babies grow up and become eventual functioning children and adults who don't cry quite so often.

And, sad though it is, I feel like it needs to be said: if the crying is really starting to get to you and wear you down, please do NOT shake the baby. Terrible things happen to overtired, overwhelmed parents who are desperate for their baby to stop crying. If you feel like this might happen and that you're not in control, put the baby in a safe place like their crib, and remove yourself from the situation for 5 minutes. Your baby won't be damaged by crying in their crib for five minutes so you can get some perspective. Never be afraid to ask for help!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Help Me Pack!

So, I've recently discovered the website - where you can curate shopping collections for yourself and others. It's the perfect way to organize what we'll need to bring on our trip to Seattle in June. It's kind of like Pinterest where you can view all your items, except it searches the internet for the cheapest prices and best deals! You can view my full collection of items here. But I'm having a little trouble coming up with a full list. Here's a few things I have so far:

I'll need a good rain jacket.
I like this one from Michael Kors:

But at $118, it might be a little pricey. I also like this one from LL Bean that's a little cheaper at $99:

I'll also need to get a rain jacket for the little guy - he has a really cute plaid one right now that I LOVE, but he'll grow out of it by June :(. He's also walking more and more which means he needs more shoes. Have you seen the Skidders? Judah has a pair of Thomas the Train ones that are pretty cute, and I love the cleat-like grippers on the bottom. Plus the soft soles make it easy for him to walk. He's not so much a fan of hard-soled shoes yet.

They're not too badly priced either at $12.95. I always have to laugh when I see $40 toddler shoes knowing they're going to grow out of them in a month. Babies require a lot of stuff to travel, so I'm thinking of not bringing our giant Chicco stroller, and instead either borrowing an umbrella stroller or getting one like this:

At 45% off it's only $60, and I know we'd use it again. Plus, we can just gate-check it. And of course, the main reason we're going to Seattle is to see my sister graduate from High School! This gives me a major case of the "olds" - but I'll need something nice to wear to the graduation. Here are some options I like:



Thoughts? What do I need to pack for 5 days for a Trip to Seattle in June? With a toddler?!