28 February 2011

I Haven't Done the Math Yet, But...

I think I spent LESS than $300 on food this past month!!

Yes, I know it was a short month. And yes, 3/4 of us were sick for a week(ish) and didn't eat many family meals. So, OK, it's really not that impressive, but at least it's more money for the future!

Homemade Play Dough

I found this recipe on A Small Tribe through Embrita Blogging and decided to give it a whirl!

I tried to make purple, but it does sort of look gray. I do think I did something wrong, perhaps not stirring constantly enough, because I did have some non-colored clumps, but overall I think it was very easy and fun. Heidi actually helped me by dumping all the dry ingredients into the pan and stirring :). Then she had fun and kept asking to play with it more throughout the day.

And of course, Steve got in on the action too :).

26 February 2011

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

OK, so it's not technically a pie. But, I don't have any pie-like containers to make a pie or pot pie or whatever else is pie shaped so sue me. :)

So if you're interested in the recipe, here it is (I got this recipe from my Whole Living magazine, but it is not on the website to my knowledge):

1/2 cup hulled barley
1 cup water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 oz each)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely diced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp. flour
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
6 sheets whole-wheat phyllo dough
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt, for sprinkling

1. Bring barley and water to a boil in small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender and water is absorbed, about 50 minutes. Let cool.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute until golden and cooked through, 5 - 6 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and let cool slightly. Shred.
3. Heat pan with chicken juices over medium and add onion, carrots and mushrooms. Saute until tender, 6 - 8 minutes. Deglaze pan with wine.
4. Whisk flour into chicken stock. Add to pan. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until slightly thickened. Stir in barley and shredded chicken. Let cool slightly.
5. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using a 1 1/2 cup oven-proof dish or ramekin as a guide, cut phyllo to make tops (keep covered with a damp towel). Spoon mixture into four ramekins. Brush each sheet with oil and place on top of filled ramekin. Cut vents into tops. Sprinkle with sea salt.
6. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Obviously I don't have any ramekins. Also, I didn't find whole-wheat phyllo dough because I forgot to look for it everywhere I should and found crappy phyllo dough when I went out today that I didn't buy. I also didn't realize I was out of carrots until I started making this dish, not to mention not having mushrooms, so I used celery and green beans in their absence. Since I didn't have the specific dough they called for, I made this version:

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup shortening until dough pieces are pea size. Sprinkle 1 tbsp. cold water over part of the mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to side of bowl. Sprinkle an additional 3 to 4 tbsp. cold water over remaining flour mixture, one tbsp. at a time, tossing with fork until all dough is moistened. Form into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 13X9-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in pastry to allow steam to escape. (From my awesome Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.)

And there you have it! Everyone loved it (I think) though in my opinion, I made it a bit too salty. I try not to overly salt things for the girls, especially since those of us who want extra salt (Steve) can just add it while eating. This is not too work intensive, but is probably best done when someone else is watching your children. :)

Another One

Click here to see my latest post for Knickernappies.

24 February 2011

My Dilemma

I'm hoping you can help me with my dilemma. It's very important to me and I'm just not sure what I should do, so read on if you will.

As you may know, we are currently renting. We do not have a large patio area and I'm not one hundred percent sure that I can put raised beds on it, but I'm going to check with the office. Yardley has a community garden not too far from here where I can get a plot, but the size is not guaranteed because it depends on how many people are interested. The plot costs anywhere from $15 - $25 and there's a refundable $10 deposit for cleaning up at the end of the year. I'd also have to put in 10 volunteer hours over the course of the summer (not a big deal) and attend three of the gardening workshops they offer (also not too big of a deal though I'd have kids in tow.)

So this is my problem: Is it economically worth it to "purchase" a plot in the community garden to grow some food or should I just grow some things here for free (assuming that I can)? If I add up the cost of the plot, plus the gas getting there (again, it's not far, but it will still add up), plus the cost of the seeds and other supplies, will I save that much money by gardening myself? I'm still unsure of what I want to grow as I have limited space here to keep things. I'd definitely like to do lettuce, maybe some pepper plants and a couple cucumber plants (which would have to grow on a trellis because of limited space no matter what), but I'm not sure what else. I can't do potatoes really because I have no where to store them. I was thinking about having one tomato plant since I'm the only one that eats them and I'd like to do some herbs too so I can dry them.

What should I do? Spend money on the community garden or spend money here, investing in a garden bed that could be used again?

23 February 2011


I use vinegar for everything.

Let me repeat that: I use vinegar for everything.
What is everything, you may ask? Well I first heard about the use of vinegar in the laundry a number of years ago from my Aunt who used it to soften clothes and remove detergent residue. I have always been very sensitive to detergents and I used to itch like crazy from anything but All Free and Clear. However, I liked my All Free and Clear so I never tried to vinegar trick. It wasn't until I started using cloth diapers that I began incorporating vinegar into my life.

It began with a simple pour of vinegar into the rinse cycle for my diapers. Then I poured it into the rinse cycle for my regular clothes. After that, I discovered several websites that detail the amazing qualities of vinegar and I started experimenting. I bought a huge bag of baking soda at Sam's Club in addition to the two gallons of vinegar they sell and I started cleaning.

I poured vinegar into the toilets and let them sit overnight, scrubbed them in the morning and discovered that they do indeed sparkle. I poured some baking soda down the drain in the tub and followed with vinegar for some foamy cleaning action. To scrub my stainless steel stove, I made a paste the same way by spreading out some baking soda and spraying it with vinegar. Oh, did I mention I bought a spray bottle to contain my new all-purpose cleaner?

I spray the high chairs and trays, the counters, the cutting boards, the floor, the fridge, the bathroom sinks, the table, the chairs, the washing machine, the walls, the carpet, the fridge, and I use it as my rinse agent in my dishwasher. There is nothing I won't use vinegar on (except wood...they don't get along)!

Vinegar is my friend and it can be yours too.

22 February 2011


Yesterday, when we were getting ready to go out, Heidi was being extremely helpful by getting everyone's shoes ready. First, she took out her own boots and put them right next to each other. Then, she grabbed a pair of shoes for Daddy and brought them over to him. She also got my boots for me (one at a time cause they're heavy, I guess) and set Piper's shoes out for her. It was truly adorable.

19 February 2011

In Case You Missed It...

I contributed this post to the Knickernappies Blog and figured I would post a link just in case you didn't see it plastered all over Facebook. Go here!

Purse Play

Lately, Heidi has been very interested in the extra purses I have stashed in my closet. Every time I have switched purses, I've left everything that was "useless" in that purse, so she never knows what she's going to find. Unfortunately, I also never know what she's going to find. So, in an effort to attempt to satisfy her craving for digging through purses, I decided to take a couple of my old purses and fill them with safe stuff.

I didn't get everything in the picture into both purses, but Heidi did have a good time going through everything to find all the stuff. I put things into the old diaper wipe box and also into the change purse. So this occupied her for about five minutes. But at least it was five minutes that I got to walk around and do something.

17 February 2011

I Can't Do Anything. Ever.

It has recently come to my attention that I cannot do anything. At all. Ever. When I do things, other bad things happen.

Example A:

One evening I went to the bathroom. When I came out, Heidi had taken a bag of onions, a bag of garlic, potatoes, and a box of tea bags off the kitchen counter. The onions and onion skins were littered between the kitchen floor and dining room carpet, the potatoes were rolling around aimlessly, the tea bags had been crumpled individually and strewn about the living room, and the garlic was just on the floor. You would think that would teach me to go to the bathroom.

Example B:

I overslept the other morning (bad, bad, bad) and went into Heidi's room to find it covered with Styrofoam. It was also in her mouth. Yum. After I corralled the two of them downstairs, fed and changed them, I dragged the vacuum cleaner upstairs to clean the mess. When I returned downstairs, I found this.

Not to mention the lovely purple color of the carpet beneath the dining room table of the town home that we RENT. At this time, I contemplated investing in straight jackets.

Example C: Heidi knows how to undo a zipper. Zippers of importance include my breast pump, my wallet and change purse, and the diaper bag. Need I say more?

Example D: Heidi can pull out the dining room chairs and climb up to sit on them. The dining room table is where I keep all of my sewing supplies. Again, need I say more?

So to those of you who have two (or more) children, you know what I'm talking about. And those of you who want, are going to, or already have your second child but it was just recent, I say good luck with that. :)

16 February 2011

Things I Love #2

I love Bragg's Amino Acids.

I grew up with Maggi seasoning, which no one has ever heard of, and I love it. It has changed since I was a child and it is now very hard to find the original version I know so well. This may be a good thing because it is extremely high in sodium and also contains MSG. I know, it's terrible, but I love it. There are very few recipes I use it in now, but sometimes you just need a certain taste (like when I make sauerkraut) so I'll grab the familiar bottle for a few shakes.

A few years ago, my mother started using Bragg's liquid aminos and urged me to do the same. She said it tasted the same as Maggi but without the high sodium and MSG. When I first sampled it, however, I did not agree. I didn't like the taste that much and certainly didn't think it tasted like my familiar Maggi. As time went on though, I started to change my mind. First, Wegman's in Dickson City, PA stopped carrying the version of Maggi that I used regularly. We bought just about every bottle that was on the shelf, but I knew they wouldn't last forever and since I wanted to share that taste with my children some day, I needed to find an alternate seasoning. So, I turned to Bragg's and this time, I really enjoyed it!

Rather than go through a lengthy explanation, I'll paste the description of this lovely product directly from their website:

"Bragg Liquid Aminos is a Certified NON-GMO liquid protein concentrate, derived from healthy soybeans, that contains the following Essential and Non-essential Amino Acids in naturally occurring amounts:

16 Amino Acids

* Alanine
* Arginine
* Aspartic Acid
* Glutamic Acid
* Glycine
* Histidine
* Isoleucine
* Leucine
* Methionine
* Phenylalanine
* Proline
* Serine
* Threonine
* Tyrosine
* Valine
* Lysine "
(This information was taken from the Bragg's website, found here.)

So why is Bragg's so great? It has all the salty flavor you could want but it actually gives you protein! It's non-GMO and gives an added level of tastiness to just about anything. I sprinkle some in Heidi's scrambled eggs and I use it to make my own salad dressing. Technically, it is not the same taste as Maggi, nor as soy sauce, but it is a very viable replacement because using it is a win-win for everyone.

I must say that I am in no way being compensated for this post, with the exception of the tastiness of Bragg's. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to eat healthier without adding salt.

11 February 2011

I Gave My Daughter A Muffin

I'm not proud of it. Not at all.

I made muffins the other day (blueberry) as those of you on Facebook may have gathered. While the recipe does not call for a lot of sugar (1/3 cup), it is generally still by my standards considered to be off-limits for Piper. Why? Because when I was pregnant with Heidi I made the decision that for her first year of life, I would not give her anything with added sugar. Of course I gave her fruit and when she was older I also gave her watered-down 100% fruit juice, but if there was sugar or even 'evaporated cane juice' in anything, I would not give it to her. This is partially what started my obsessive reading of labels and my utter disgust with the food industry that hides sugar in absolutely everything. So Heidi literally went her entire first year without any processed sugar, up until her first birthday when I made her cupcakes with half the sugar in them and she had some whipped cream on top.

Of course, I planned on following this same pattern with Piper because I think it is important to start a child off right nutritionally and there may not be another year in her life that is completely free of sugar. Unfortunately, the completion of this task started to seem more and more difficult to me as the months went on because Piper has one very important thing that Heidi did not: an older sister.

I know this has been going on for a while now, but there's a limit to what I can do. Heidi loves to share with her sister (most of the time). I cannot always separate them when Heidi is eating something Piper shouldn't eat, nor do I always see what both of them put in their mouths. So I know that for a while, Heidi has been giving Piper muffin pieces, or at the very least, Piper has picked the crumbs up off the floor. Even if she was getting sugar that way, I justified it by saying that at least I wasn't physically giving it to her. Until the other day.

Piper will be a year old in just a few weeks...the time is near! Maybe that's why I've gotten a little lax, but the other day when I made those muffins, she wanted one so badly it was clearly painful. She saw me give one to Heidi and then when I did not also immediately give her one, she became visibly upset. She cried a little and came after me, hoping to get at least a morsel to satisfy her craving. So, I gave in to my better judgment, picked her up and gave her a piece. And she was happy. Oh well. At least I tried.

05 February 2011

Swollen Lymph Nodes

I've got 'em. Still.

A week ago Steve started feeling feverish and achy. Two days later he was found to have acute bronchitis. That same day, Heidi got her first fever since she started getting teeth (which was right after she turned one) and I knew she was also achy because I could hardly touch her without her crying. She'd also have random bouts of crying, seemingly out of no where, presumably from the aches. I was doing so well with this until I didn't sleep that night. Between Heidi waking up unusually and Piper waking up as she usually does, I might have gotten 2 hours of sleep. Thus, I succumbed to whatever this was and I'm still having trouble kicking it. Heidi is fine; she was only sick for 2 days. Piper never got sick at all. Steve is fine, though still coughing here and there. I no longer have a fever or aches, but I can't shake the cough, the lack of energy/tiredness, and odd appetite.

I have so much to do yet no energy to do it. Go away crappy feeling!