Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Stockpiling Update: Year End Review

My freezer four months later






Happy New Year everyone! It’s time for me to take stock of the deep freeze and see how we did. We didn’t manage to eat all the freezer food, but we came pretty close.  Like most yearly goals, all we needed was another few days!

Here’s the run down: The door used to be full of side dishes and lunches, and now it’s full of breastmilk, so I don’t really count that. The middle shelf has quite a bit of baby food at the moment, but the way Franci eats it will be gone quickly.

The bottom shelf used to be full of meat, but now it contains butter, nuts and nut flour, and chocolate. Basically, things that don’t have to be refrigerated but since a full freezer is an energy efficient freezer, I might as well store them there. [While technically I am stockpiling baking ingredients, I can’t bring myself to count them as such since I can’t go out and buy them at a moments notice (being specialty items).]

The one question I get most often is whether or not we got sick of the meals. I chose some pretty good recipes that our family considers comfort food, like Lasagne and Chicken Pot Pie. So the answer is No, with one exception. I’m sick of roasts! I think the shelf would be empty if not for the roasts. I’m not a fan of pot roast, and it seems like any related cut tastes the same to me once you slow cook it with carrots, potatoes and onions. And it is surprisingly hard to come up with recipes that don’t end up tasting the same! I tried one Asian version, and it was a failure. So if anyone has a recipe for slow cooked beef that might be less traditional, please share!

I may have failed my goal of finishing the freezer meals by the end of the year, but I feel pretty good about the progress. I hope I’ll be able to declare victory by the end of the month!

Baby’s First Trip to the Beach

Beach Combing

Beach Combing

We’re headed to the beach next month to enjoy some fun in the sun, and I can’t wait!  I’m excited to watch Frances take in an assortment of new sights, sounds, smells and tastes on her first tropical vacation. I was hoping she would be able to run around on the beach, but I think it will be a more relaxing trip since she is not yet walking. Unless she has a huge breakthrough in the next two weeks, I expect her to spend most of her vacation time sitting.

Which brings me to my question. If I were 10 months old, what would I like to play with on vacation? And no, Mama’s cell phone is not an option. But it better be at least as exciting as all the flotsam and seawater she will be drawn to ingest.

Since we have to pay for checked bags, we’re hoping to travel light. And I would prefer to not resort to buying a bunch of cheap plastic junk from the beach vendors. To top it off, Franci’s toy-of-the-moment is her set of wooden blocks. Unless we want to return home with half as many as we started with, I figure we should leave the tiny toys at home.

So I’m at a loss. I have no idea what to pack for her, so I hope someone has a few suggestions for me!

Recipe: Rolo Pretzel Bites

Rolo Pretzel Bites

Rolo Pretzel Bites

If you want to bring a homemade treat as a hostess gift or to a party but don’t have time to make anything, try this recipe! By the time the oven was preheated they were assembled and ready to bake.
Rolo Pretzel Bites

  • Small pretzels (the square ones would work well too)
  • Rolos
  • Pecan halves, and/or red and green M&M’s
  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment. Unwrap rolos. Place unbroken pretzels on baking sheet.  You can crowd them in real close. Place a rolo on each pretzel in the center.
  3. Bake for 3 minutes until rolos are soft but not melted.  Meanwhile, pick out a few intact pecan halves from the bag.
  4. Remove pretzels from oven and place a pecan half or M&M in the center of each and press down.
  5. Wait until they have hardened completely before storing. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.

This is another recipe that would have a bunch of great variations.  Try cooked bacon instead of pecans or M&M’s!  Use peppermint Kisses instead of rolos!

Homemade Presents for the Holiday


Owl Pillow

I started a tradition a few years ago to make gifts for my nieces each Christmas. I love to craft and sew and, since I can never get organized enough to make them birthday gifts as well, it’s my mission to send them Christmas gifts that I’ve made myself.

This year, the project was Fleece Owl Pillows. My mom and I found a pattern at Jo-Ann Fabrics months ago, and when I told her a few weeks ago I wanted to make them for my nieces she said. “I was going to make Frances one for Christmas!”. It was destiny. So yesterday we got together and busted them out. They are so cute I should have made one for my self!

Ever since I read Joy’s post about DIY Fabric Gift Bags, I’ve been using more and more fabric bags. So of course the owls are going in their own re-usable fabric gift bag. They are especially great for over-sized or oddly shaped gifts.

Fabric Gift Bags

Fabric Gift Bags

If sewing isn’t your thing, there are a million other craft ideas. If you’d like to make your own holiday crafts, get thee to Pinterest now!

Are you making your own holiday gifts this year? I’m always looking for good ideas so please share!

Starting Holiday Traditions

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Traditions

Now that we’re approaching our first holiday season with Frances, I’ve been thinking a lot about family traditions. What rituals did I relish as a kid? What yearly activities do we want to incorporate into our celebrations? Is it time to re-imagine some of our current traditions?

Quite a few years back we decided to have a Greek-themed Thanksgiving for once. No, we’re not Greek. I wasn’t looking forward to cooking for three days, by myself, only to sit down to a meal I was tired of eating. I think the year before we had turkey for Thanksgivig and Christmas, and I was still burnt out on it. Plus, it’s such a rich and heavy meal! I wanted a menu that incorporated a few more fresh and raw ingredients, and that was a little more vegetarian-friendly. Thus, Greek Thanksgiving was created.

I haven’t looked back since. I love lamb, hummus, tzatiki, tabboleh, greek salad and, most of all, baklava for dessert. Plus, almost everything is made ahead of time. No sweating over the gravy as guests salivate over their wine glasses. It didn’t occur to me that I would ever do another turkey Thanksgiving until my husband brought it up. Didn’t I want Frances to experience what every other American child does? To relate to the tastes and smells of a “traditional” feast?

No family celebrates the holidays in exactly the same way, but a Turkey on T-Day is pretty much assumed. So maybe we’ll have to alter our family tradition just a little. Maybe next year we’ll have a turkey, or a goose the year after that. Or maybe Franci will just end up with those crazy parents that don’t have a turkey on Thanksgiving??

  • Filed under: Family Life
  • Stockpiling Update 4

    costcoFailure, thy name is Costco.

    In an attempt to empty our deep freeze enough to defrost it, and because of my stockpiling reduction quest, we’ve been putting off a trip to Costco for months. It’s been so hard watching the coupon books come and go and to NOT jump in the car to stock up on coconut water or ziplock bags, but until this weekend I remained strong.

    Finally, we could wait no longer.  Well, the dogs couldn’t anyway, since their food comes from Costco. So we made a family trip to our favorite warehouse store and filled not one, but TWO carts! So now the fridge is full and the one empty freezer shelf was filled. I just couldn’t help myself! The holidays are coming, and I am determined not to run out of butter or pecans this year.

    The only upside is that we managed to avoid buying even one package of meat, which is a personal best. I couldn’t avoid stocking up on parchment paper, however, since like Christmas, it only comes around once a year.

    Correcting Bad Baby Behavior


    Me, bad?

    Frances’ “bad behavior” started off with hair pulling and nipple biting.  A stern “NO” and forcing her to release the hair (or nipple) still results in a giggle and a big smile.

    Like all babies, she loves computers.  If she’s sitting on my lap while I type, she struggles in my arms to reach for the keyboard.  Moving her farther away, or removing the keyboard from her path, results in a meltdown.

    Now that Frances is crawling, she’s getting herself into a lot more trouble.  We’re more into “house-proofing” the baby than “baby-proofing” the house, but parenting books don’t seem to get into the “how-to’s” of accomplishing that. I’ve read different ideas on correcting “wrong” behavior, and I’m curious to hear what our readers have found to be successful.

    What do you use as an age-appropriate “punishment” for your infant? How do you discourage “wrong” behavior?

    Halloween Costumes Using Your Baby

    It’s one thing to coordinate your Halloween costume with your baby.  It’s a whole new level of awesome when your baby is essential to your costume.  As a devoted baby wearer, I especially like the costumes that utilize a sling or carrier.  A quick Google Search while give you some great ideas.  Here

    are a couple of my favorites:


    All you need is for mom to dress up as the three breasted woman!


    My favorite spider costume



    Would work just as well with baby facing in

  • Filed under: Family Life
  • Using Baby Sign Language

    “More” by Lynn Kelley

    I’ve been using sign language casually with Frances for a couple of months now. I chose a few verbs and nouns we use most, like sleepy and nap and I sign them several times a day. Frances is pushing seven months so I figure she should be ready to sign back, but she shows no interest what’s so ever!

    I explain to her what the signs mean and how to make them, but she would rather squawk and babble than sign. Or so it seems. Maybe I’m going about it the wrong way. Maybe I’m choosing the wrong words. I’ve started “all done”, but haven’t shown her “more”. Perhaps she would be more interested if the verbs were more active than passive?

    I was all geared up to read a book about baby signing, but apparently I’ve misplaced it. I looked in all my stacks of books, and have yet to find it. Maybe my “stacks” aren’t the best choice for being organized. Ah, well, I’d rather hear some real advice about the topic any way.

    Do you use baby sign language with your infant? How did you introduce it? Are there any secrets that might encourage Frances to communicate with signs?

  • Filed under: Family Life
  • Recipe: Chili Verde Pulled Pork

    Photo by The Hungry Dudes

    On the days that I work until dinner time, I don’t have time to prepare a whole meal. While there is always a frozen dinner I can pull from our stockpile, such meals still take time to heat up. I decided it was time to dust off my slow-cooker and put it to work. That way I can start dinner in the morning and have it ready to eat when I get home. Slow-cookers are an easy and economical way to put dinner on the table!

    I had some delicious pulled pork burritos at my parents’ house the other weekend, so I thought I’d try out a similar recipe.

    Green Chili Pulled Pork
    Based on Slow-Cooked Carnitas Recipe

    • 1 boneless pork shoulder butt roast (3 to 4 pounds)
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 cup minced fresh cilantro
    • 1 cup prepared salsa
    • 2 tsp chicken bouillon
    • 1/2 cup tequila
    • 8 oz chopped green chilies (mild or spicy)
    • 2 tomatillos, pureed* (or juice from a couple of limes if you don’t have tomatillos handy)

    *To prep tomatillos, peal husks off and place in boiling water for 5 minutes or until soft. Puree in a food processor or blender (or just mash it up however you want).

    Place pork in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

    Remove pork from slow-cooker, shred meat with two forks (or even better, try out these). Add meat back to slow cooker to reheat.

    Serve pork in warm tortillas with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, cilantro, cojito cheese diced tomato or onion and a little cabbage. I like mine with fresh salsa or hot sauce!

    The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
    Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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