Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Easter Ham Glaze


Every year, I host Easter. That's "my holiday", if you will. Thanksgiving always falls to one of my sisters-in-law. Mother's Day brunch to the other. And Christmas? Well, we usually gather at my mother-in-law's that afternoon. But every year, Easter happens here. It's kind of nice to know the routine. It's predictable! It also enables me to have a pretty set "plan" from year-to-year. And, I won't lie, weather-permitting it's just lovely to let the eight (soon to be nine!) cousins scamper around around our two acres on an all-out Easter egg hunt.

Since I host Easter, I make the ham. Everyone else brings side dishes to round out the meal, but the ham? That's my department. Over the years, I've played with my glaze recipe and I've finally arrived at a tried and true favorite.

This is it:

Easter Ham Glaze

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup orange flavored rum (like Bacardi O)-- you could use all orange juice instead, but the flavor won't be quite the same. If you know you won't use it for anything else, you can also look for one of those "shot size" little bottles in the front of the liquor store and just use that.

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Use to glaze ham during the final 30 minutes of baking.

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While we're on the subject of Easter feasts, I need to get the menu plan out to my in-laws soon. Any recommendations on side-dish requests? Anything more creative than the typical rolls, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, and salad that we tend to have? I'd love your suggestions in the comments!

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For more Kitchen Tips, be sure to visit Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday!
For more yummy recipes, visit Tasty Tuesday, hosted at Forever... Wherever!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Refill of Chocolate Mocha Perhaps?


Last week's Fiber One Spa Basket giveaway was rather popular- looks like a lot of you enjoy yummy products that sneak more fiber into your diet (and also bath products).

Happily, I have another one to give away this week!

I was so excited to receive my Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Chewy Bars Spa Break gift basket. Included was: a sample of the new snack bars, a bath pillow, chocolate scented soap, lotion (which smells like HEAVEN), bath salts, and a coffee scented candle.



My 4-year old son and I happily devoured those Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Chewy Bars. They had such a great combination of chocolate and coffee flavors blended in- two of my favorite things! These quickly became my "go-to" snack for right before my daily 4:00 pm treadmill work-out. Perfect!

To learn some more great fiber facts and to find out if you and your family are currently getting enough fiber (because most people are NOT), go here.

Would you like another chance to win one of these yummy, indulgent baskets?
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To enter, simply leave a comment answering this question:

What is your best tip for sneaking more fiber into your family's diet?

Fiber One Spa Basket Winner, Week 1


And the winner is...

Here are your random numbers:

25

Timestamp: 2009-03-29 15:33:05 UTC



Congratulations to Danielle who writes:

The Key Lime yogurt is a favorite of mine as well, but the Caramel Delight Cereal is my absolute must have..

I'm excited for you to receive your gift basket! I've already sent an email to get your contact info.

Thanks to all of you who entered. I loved reading about your favorite Fiber One products.

Didn't win this time? No worries!

You can try again this week (and next-- stay tuned!).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Burdens to Blessings


Today, I glanced at next month's calendar page just to see what lay ahead. I saw that my little girl has an appointment with Pediatric Ophthalmology in April. At 8:00 am. At first, I kind of rolled my eyes. For those appointments, I have to drive to our capital city and it will take me at least two hours, each way, with traffic. So I'll need to be out the door at 5-something. Even for early-bird me, that's early to have my 3-year old dressed, ready, and loaded in the car. I also need to make arrangements to have someone meet my 4-year old son when he gets off the bus at 11:30 since it's unlikely I'll be home by then. Kind of a hassle, all around...

But really? If I think about it?

I am so blessed.

Our pediatric ophthalmologist is amazing. He is one of my favorite doctors we've ever had and he is world-renowned for some of the work he does.

He practices at an amazing children's hospital (see the commercial footage we shot for Riley Hospital in my right side-bar)- the hospital where my daughter was born. The hospital with one the top 5 NICU's in the nation. His early diagnosis of my daughter's ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) is one of the main reasons we were able to get the surgery done to prevent her from completely losing her sight.

And my drive? It's not so bad. We'll sing some tunes, watch the sun come up, and I'll sip some coffee while she sips some milk.

What looked like a burden is truly a blessing. And realizing that? Well... that's a Finer Thing in Life.

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For more Finer Things, visit Amy's blog every Friday!

Sacrificial Hospitality Challenge: Week 5


Hard to believe I've been doing these challenges for a whole month now! This project has been such a blessing in my life and has come at a time when, to be honest, it would have been easy to wallow in self-pity. I am forever amazed at how reaching out to others and giving of yourself can leave you feeling so much more fulfilled and satisfied with your own life.

For this week's challenge, I will be crocheting preemie hats for the children's hospital that cared for my daughter when she was born. There are oodles of people out there who knit or crochet baby hats and donate them to hospitals (and hallelujah for that!). A small percentage of those people make them for preemies. But precious few make hats to fit micropreemies. Consider this- a hat made to fit an average newborn should fit on a grapefruit. A hat for a moderately-to-very premature infant should fit an orange. But a preemie born before 28 weeks has a head closer in size to a lime or lemon. That is TINY. I made a hat for my baby girl when she was in the NICU because I was frustrated at how swamped she was by even the smallest hat they had. I was lucky- I already knew how to crochet (and knit- but I'm faster at crocheting). Not all mommies do and I'm convinced their babies still deserve hats that fit their precious tiny heads! I like the idea that this is a challenge I can fit in when I have a few moments- during quiet time with the kids or while watching a TV show with my husband.

If you have any interest in joining me in this project, you can find directions for making these tiny hats here.

How about you? Have you ever used your time and talents to make items to donate to those in need? I'd love to hear about it!

13 Little Things I Miss While I'm Pregnant


(** Disclaimer: Please know that I am fully aware that not ONE of these of things is really a big deal and that having a happy, healthy baby trumps them all. I've had a great pregnancy and don't want anyone to think I'm complaining! But, just for fun, here are I few things that I must confess I'm looking forward to being able to enjoy again!)

1. Blue Cheese- I adore blue cheese... on a steak, in an omelet, you name it. But it's not pasteurized. Sigh.
2. Rare Steak- I really only like rare or medium rare. As a result, I pretty much don't eat it through the pregnancy...
3. Balance Ball Work-Outs- Really. I'm a fanatic about keeping my abs in shape. (Perhaps one of the reasons my bump is slow to grow!) I truly miss these work-outs, but it's great to know I'll have them to whip myself back into shape when the time comes.
4. A Glass Of Sauvignon Blanc- From New Zealand, please. Oh, yum. My very favorite wine- bone dry and crisp.
5. Raw Eggs- Okay, I don't actually eat raw eggs, but I am notorious for licking cookie dough and brownie batter when not pregnant. One of my favorite parts of baking!
6. High Heels- My center of gravity is not what it used to be. I fell on my face wearing flats yesterday. Heels are not something I want to risk at the moment...
7. Normal Flossing- I have major issues with bleeding gums when I'm pregnant. Kind of icky.
8. Regular Coffee- I'm pretty content with my decaf but there are days, oh, there are days when a little caffeine would sure help!
9. Lifting My Children- Having a restriction of "nothing over 15 lb" means they're both off-limits. We've adjusted pretty well but there are times when it breaks my heart that I can't pick them up.
10. My Waist :)- I normally have a pretty tiny waist. Right now I just feel kind of "thick".
11. Staying Up Past 10 pm Occasionally- I simply cannot keep my eyes open past 10. I've tried. It's ridiculous. But, on the plus side, it beats the first trimester when I couldn't stay up past 8:30! ;)
12. Jogging- Again, something I enjoy doing to keep in shape. I'm still walking on the treadmill every day for at least a mile and a half, but it never feels quite as invigorating.
13. Oh, for goodness sake, scrap it all! I wouldn't trade feeling this baby kick and somersault for all of those things put together!

How about you? If you're currently expecting, what do you miss the most? Or what do you recall missing during previous pregnancies? Always fun to share!

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For more Thursday {Thirteen}, be sure to visit Happy to be @ Home!

Sacrificial Hospitality: Week 4 RESULTS


Last week, I announced my latest challenge: making rosaries for a private juvenile detention center.

Unfortunately, I don't have too much to report this week...

My son and I did, indeed, MAKE eight rosaries together. Here he is with one of his favorites:



But I haven't been in contact with my sister-in-law's sister-in-law who is my "contact" at the center. And so, alas, the rosaries are currently packaged up, ready to go, sitting on my pantry counter. Not much hospitality going on there...

Here's what I can report...

A. and I had an absolutely delightful time making these together. It became a daily tradition, a ritual he would ask for. I am so proud to have a child who would choose to string a rosary over watching a cartoon! This beading time gave us lots of opportunities to pray together too, to review the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be together. Now, my son prefers to SING the Our Father (he is his mother's son after all!), but he enjoyed learning the sequence of prayers for the first time. My daughter, too, who is less verbal at this point, wanted in on the action and was starting to speak along with us... the repetition of the Hail Mary's made it easier for her to learn.

In short, while I would deem this past week's challenge as a failure, thus-far, in terms of delivery, it was still an incredibly fulfilling process. I also know that, eventually, these rosaries will make their way into hands that can benefit from them. Was it worth the time and effort? Oh, absolutely! I can easily see our family starting a tradition of making bunches of rosaries around Easter-time every year. Anyone care to join us? :)

To read more about these challenges and what sacrificial hospitality means to me, you can follow the series here.

Be sure to stop by later today to find out what my Week 5 Challenge will be!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lingerie Straps

I absolutely love to do crafts with my kids. And they love it too! Like so many moms, I could easily drop a bundle on craft supplies because there are so many fun and nifty things out there...

But I don't HAVE a bundle to drop on craft supplies and you know what? Kids really don't care. They don't need much "nifty" stuff to create, and they don't seem any more impressed with fancy kits than they are with some paper, glue, and scissors.

Ribbon is one area where I resolved to not spend a dime.

Do you wear this kind of top?



I do. I love these little tanks for layering and also for non-impact exercise. What I have never understood about them, however, is why they all seem to come with those ribbon loops inside... the ones designed for hanging? Because, really now... who hangs up a little knit tank top? Certainly not me.

I used to just deal with them, tuck them back in, shove them down the sides and try to ignore them. It was such a minor annoyance that I didn't think much about it....

But one day, I took a pair of tiny scissors to those ribbons and cut them all out. I was left with a wide array of colors of approx. 12" satin ribbon. Perfect for crafting...



What are some of your favorite "odd" items you've re-purposed for crafting?

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For more Works For Me Wednesday, be sure to check out We Are THAT Family!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keepin' the Mush Off My Mushrooms


We eat a LOT of mushrooms around here. We use them in our Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles to give it some "meaty" texture during Lent. We use quite a few in Chicken Marsala. We also put them in omelets, on burgers, in grilled cheese, on pizza, etc. Mushrooms, we love. Mushy, slimy mushrooms? Not so much.

To keep my mushrooms fresher, longer, I use this simple trick:

Transfer them from the plastic container they come in into a smaller paper bag (lunch sacks or the bags they put wine bottles in are the perfect size for this). I don't know all the ins and outs of the science of it, but I do know that by keeping the light off the 'shrooms and allowing moisture to leave the bag, the mushrooms stay fresher and have a superior texture... even after a week of rolling around in my fridge. This is especially handy when I pick up those "manager's special" mushrooms...

How about you? Does your family love mushrooms? Any tips for keeping them fresh?
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For more great tips, visit Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, hosted at Tammy's Recipes.
For more tasty ideas, stop by Tasty Tuesdays, hosted at Forever... Wherever!

Monday, March 23, 2009

All THAT and a party break too?


Welcome! It's time for the Ultimate Blog Party 2009, hosted at 5 Minutes For Mom. How fun! At six months pregnant with a 4- and a 3-year old, I don't get to many parties... you know how it goes.

If that's what brought you here, I'm so happy to have you.

My name is JessieLeigh and I'm the mother of a former micropreemie. My daughter was born at only 24 weeks gestation and weighed in at 1 lb 5 oz. Here, I talk about that journey and address some of the ongoing challenges that other parents of micropreemies can expect to face even after bringing their babies home.



I also spend a fair bit of time addressing hospitality and ways we can give back. I truly believe that most people have a desire to help and I try to offer some suggestions and experiences as guidance!



Finally, I'm currently 25 weeks pregnant with our third baby and I've been sharing the ups and downs of a pregnancy after having given birth so early last time. There have been challenges and a whole lot of joy. I admit I live in fear of going into labor any day...

Whether you're the parent of preemie, know someone who is, or would just like to learn a little about these inspiring tiny miracles, make yourself at home! I'm delighted to have you here.

Coffee Break, Anyone?

Several months ago, when I had the chance to give away three Baskets of Indulgence, interest was very high! I'm excited to be able to give three more readers the chance to win something yummy and indulgent!


Looks fun, doesn't it?


The lovely people at My BlogSpark recently sent me a Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Chewy Bars Spa Break gift basket. I am truly like a little kid when I receive these things- I was so excited to open it! Included was: a sample of the new snack bars, a bath pillow, chocolate scented soap, lotion, bath salts, and a coffee scented candle.

I've never had a bath pillow before so that was a treat indeed for this pregnant lady! And may I add that I really don't like bath products that are supposed to smell like food? They never actually do, in my opinion. That being said, this lotion smells exactly like some rich, yummy chocolate treat and I'm half tempted to sniff myself all day long when I'm wearing it- it smells THAT good. People standing behind me in lines have commented how they suddenly feel hungry. Hmm... :)

As far as the Fiber One bars go, both my 4-year old son and I really enjoyed them. We had tried other varieties of the Fiber One bars before and thought they were tasty snacks. This variety has a definite coffee flavor to it which delighted coffee-loving me! I have to admit I was surprised that my preschooler took to the flavor so much, but he gobbled it right down!


Here are a few fiber facts shared with me by the folks at My BlogSpark:
  • New Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Chewy Bars combine a rich chocolate taste and smooth coffee flavor with the benefits of fiber in one delicious snack. Each great tasting, chewy bar provides 35% of the recommended daily fiber intake and also is a good source of calcium.
  • Fiber can help you satisfy your appetite and manage your weight
  • Research suggests that people who have high fiber intakes tend to have healthier body weights
  • Fiber can help keep your digestive system on track
  • 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of fiber

Do you want to know if you are getting enough fiber? Check out the Fiber-O-Meter . Fiber One is now offering a $1.35 off downloadable coupon for one box of Fiber One Chewy Bars . (Some of you frugal people will already have printed this coupon, but it's worth checking out to be sure!)

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Would you like a chance to win one of your own? Just leave a comment below answering this question:

Have you tried any of the Fiber One products before? If so, what's your favorite? (Our favorite is the Key Lime Fiber One yogurt!)

I'll draw my first winner Sunday evening, March 29th announce the winning name on Monday, March 30th.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fruit Roll-Ups Winner!


Congratulations Shaybplus3!

You're the winner of the customized Fruit Roll-Ups. Hope you (and your little ones!) enjoy them.

Here are your random numbers:

4

Timestamp: 2009-03-23 10:40:33 UTC

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I've already sent an email to the winner; thanks so much to all of you who participated. Please be sure to check out yet another great and tasty giveaway going on this week. This was a real favorite of mine!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Buying a New Car


Last week, my husband and I bought a new car. New, new. Not "new to us". As in, less than 30 miles on it when we left the lot. Thanks in part to lots of great input from all of you back when I posted this question, we decided we would make it a goal and mission to trade in my 2002 GMC Envoy (a mid-size kind of "fancy pants" SUV) for a minivan. We figured this would be helpful in accomodating three car seats come June!

We talked it out. We debated. We came up with pros and cons. We tried to decide between buying used or buying new. And you know what? We decided to buy new.

You know what's funny? As we left the car dealership, this thought crossed my mind:

"My frugal blog friends aren't gonna like this. They're gonna think I made a big mistake. This doesn't fit in with my 'deal-seeking' self..."

Except... it does. Buying new was the logical, frugal thing for us to do. And here are some reasons why...

First of all, I really, really don't like the idea of not knowing the history of a vehicle... at least not "for sure". For the same reason experts advise against buying car seats at yard sales (you don't know for sure what they've been through), I don't like the idea of buying a car from a stranger. I KNOW where my minivan's been. And that makes me feel better. I've known too many people who bought used cars and inherited a bunch of problems.

My car has extremely low mileage. Is this a deal-breaker? Nope. But it's nice knowing that I am just THAT far from all kinds of necessary maintenance.

Speaking of maintenance, I love the fact that my car came with a 10 year/ 100K mile bumper-to-bumper warranty INCLUDING my tires and roadside assistance. Oh yeah, and they'll also fix minor scratches and dings from shopping carts and such for free. And change my oil. Because here's the thing-- I am not a mechanic. Nor is my husband. He knows his way around cars, but neither one of us really wants him spending his family-time poking around a vehicle and trouble-shooting. Plus, newer cars are so computerized there's not too much you can do from home anyway.

And aesthetically? My new minivan is clean, shiny, smells fabulous, and is the exact color I wanted. Those are all just perks, but I'm not going to deny that it makes me happy...

But what about the cost? Don't you know it depreciates when you drive off the lot? NEW CARS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY.

I can hear you all. I've heard your voices in my head for weeks now. Months even. And this is what I have to say to that...

Our new minivan did not cost us nearly as much as most people would expect. We chose a 2008 model since the dealerships are desperate to unload them. The economy is SO bad right now that the incentives are crazy ($8,000 cash back). Even though we plan to pay the whole thing off with cash, we went through the financing guy because he threw in all kinds of "extras" and "incentives" and "coupons" that saved us a bundle. Truth? Because my husband and I are real "financial types" (we both come from banking backgrounds), our credit scores are ridiculously high-- we have, and use, credit very wisely. The result? Finance companies fall all over themselves to make us happy because they're so delighted to have truly qualified buyers. We know this and we definitely benefited from it.

Still... a new car costs money. And likely more than a used one. Where did we come up with it?

Short answer? The stock market. My husband started with a very small investment and managed to grow it into many thousands over a few months. Is that a good way to go for everybody? Um, no. You just have to decide it's important and commit to scraping some pennies together in whatever way you know how- for some, that's selling things on Craigslist. For others, it's having an Etsy shop. Still others buy and resell from thrift shops. For us, it was stocks. Whatever works.

So now I have a brand new pretty blue minivan that I love. It is absolutely a Finer Thing to know I have plenty of room for my growing family! Yes, I bought a brand new car and I'm not ashamed. I'm also not wasteful.

New car = frugal choice?

In my case, I truly believe it to be so.
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For more Frugal Friday, be sure to visit Life as MOM hosted by Jessica.
To read about more Finer Things, check out Finer Things Friday hosted by Amy.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality Challenge: Week 4


Some of you may remember that I wrote a post about why I like to say the rosary. In that post, I also talked about making rosaries with my then-3-year old son. We still enjoy making them together and that's what prompted my next challenge idea...

I recently got in touch with my sister-in-law's husband's sister (I'll let you work that out for a second...) who works in a juvenile detention center for emotionally disturbed youth. Before I go any further, let me stop and tell you how very much I admire the work she does and the strength it takes to do that job every single day. There are some occupations that I believe take a very special kind of person to do them well and this is definitely one of them.

It is a private center, actually, which is what makes my mission possible.

I asked her if it would be possible to donate some rosaries along with prayer cards showing how to say it. I have a strong suspicion that many of these young men (for it's all boys at this particular location) are very lost and could use a dose of faith. Something, someone, to believe in. Because, disturbed as they may be, no one has ever really believed in them before. It is this fact that breaks my heart... I have found comfort in the simplicity and repetition of the rosary and it is my hope that perhaps even one of these young men might some comfort as well.

Now, let me be clear and let you all know that this will be my most "removed" challenge to date. I will not actually be delivering the rosaries to the detention center. This is because I feel my children are simply too young to visit such a place right now. I don't think it's a bad thing for kids to be exposed to the "real world" at some point... for some, it's a very good thing. But at ages 3 and 4? I just think it's too soon and I don't want to risk scaring them or exposing them to crass language or vulgarity. Since I am their primary caregiver and at least one of them is always with me, I'm going to sit this one out and just pass the rosaries on. As a result, my challenge results next week might not be as specific as usual... but I'll do my best to get a report!

"(Hospitality) is not just about refilling glasses; it's about refilling confidence and restoring hope."
-A slice of pumpkin bread: how hospitality heals, by Christine Cappecchi
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Will anyone join me? How can you share your faith and give hope to others? Can you think of a special way to reach out this week? Share any thoughts or ideas in the comments!

Sacrificial Hospitality: Week 3 RESULTS


Well, unfortunately (ha, ha!), our weather was just too beautiful this past week! I did not have a cold or rainy day available to me to complete my Week 3 Challenge. But I didn't let that stop me! Unloading several children is never easy, rain or shine.

I had to run some errands in town this morning anyway, so it was the perfect opportunity to swing by the school for morning drop-off! My first errand (delivering a few bags of clothes to Goodwill) couldn't be completed until 9 am when they opened anyhow, so meeting the mommies in the parking lot at 8:30 worked out just fine for me.

First of all, let me just say that this ended up feeling like the most self-indulgent "sacrificial act" I've done yet. Don't get me wrong- I still like the idea and think it's an important way to help! But, the simple fact is, I know a lot of these parents and they hadn't seen me in awhile so, in reality, it turned into a gab fest and a whole lot of gushing about my baby arriving June.

Because, while I was definitely enjoying the conversation and attention, it didn't really feel like hospitality-- I worked hard to seek out parents I did NOT know. I found three different families (two mommies, one daddy) who had other children they were trying to juggle while gathering their preschoolers.



And you know what?

They were THRILLED. Absolutely amazed at how much easier it was to only shepherd the one child inside (although, ironically, none of us realized it was easy when we only HAD one child!). In fact, the dad I helped had this to say-

"We should form a volunteer co-op! I could definitely stop by Monday mornings because that would work with my work schedule. We could make a schedule and wouldn't that make it so easy for everyone?"

Now, the thing is, I live 17 miles from town so I can't really commit to being on a regular volunteer schedule. However, I do know I will be happy to stop by the preschool and volunteer a few minutes of "watching kiddos" whenever I have errands to run. If I hadn't been chatting so much (oops!), the whole gig took less than 15 minutes. I can certainly fit that into my day! And I will tell you this... the very fact that my actions may have started some wheels spinning and may ultimately result in a simpler morning routine for several families makes me very, very happy.
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How about in your neck of the woods? Did you find a way to make an everyday errand simpler for someone? I'd love to hear about it.

Be sure to stop by later today to find out what my Week 4 Challenge will be!

To read about why I'm doing all this, please see this post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Been There, Done That Docs


Like most people, between my own and my children's, I've had a wide variety of doctors. Most of them have been perfectly adequate. A few have been some real doozies. And, then, occasionally, it seems like we've hit the jackpot. There are two doctors that I take my children to regularly now- our general pediatrician and my daughter's pediatric ophthalmologist. They are both incredible, amazing men who excell at their chosen professions. Aside from being caring, professional, and knowledgable, I think I've fnally stumbled upon what helps make them excellent doctors...

They both have children. Several. Our ped has four and our eye doctor has three.

The result? They really understand how I feel when I bring up concerns. And, rather than just quoting textbook, they offer me solid advice AND consolation. Don't get me wrong- they certainly know their medical stuff. But they also know their parent stuff. And that combination makes them phenomenal resources for a mommy at the end of her rope.

I'll never forget when my little girl was just over a year old and had to have her eyes checked to make sure her retinas were still healthy after surgery. We have to go back to the children's hospital where she was born to have this followed, since they have a team of actual pediatric ophthalmologists. I sat in the exam room with her and resident after resident paraded in to try to do the initial check-up before Dr. N. came in. She was having NONE of it and, finally, the fifth unsuccessful resident through his hands in the air and declared, "I give up- we'll see what the Bossman can do with you!" When the "Bossman" (AKA Dr. N.) came in, he had a trail of five glum residents behind him. He stopped in the door frame and said this,

"So here's what I see- I see a baby girl who is perfectly content snuggled up against her mom's chest and eating Cheerios. I see no reason to change either of those scenarios."

And he proceeded to do the exam while C. snuggled and munched. You know what? No problems. No fussing. He had all the information he needed within five minutes.

But those young residents? No one had suggested anything like that to them in med school, I'm sure! They expected her to sit up straight on my lap and cooperate. Well... how'd that work for you? :)

I love having doctors who know what it's like to have young children. I love having "been there, done that docs".

Works for me.
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For more Works For Me Wednesday, be sure to visit We Are That Family!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Portrait of a Pregnancy After a Preemie: Part 5


There I am as of today! The bump grows... slowly. :)

Well, I am just about 25 weeks pregnant and so thrilled to be at this point!

We got the results of our "big" ultrasound today and were told that everything looks great. Baby is an appropriate size and in good position. I'm measuring dead-on for 25 weeks and the doctor says the baby has dropped some since last visit, which is normal, particularly with subsequent pregnancies.

My blood pressure seemed high to me today, but the nurse and doctor didn't comment on it. I think sometimes I'm so used to having low blood pressure that the numbers that scare ME aren't necessarily all that bad.

I lost 3 lb since my last visit which means I've gained 9 lb so far in the pregnancy. A larger gain would be more typical at this point but, as long as I manage to not LOSE any more, it shouldn't be a problem. As I said, my goal is to gain between 25 and 30 lb like I did with my first pregnancy. We'll see how that goes!

I also had my gestational diabetes test today and should get the results within a week. I don't anticipate any problems. Gotta love that orange glucose drink though- blech. Tastes like Kool-Aid made with quadruple sugar!

I have strict lifting restrictions- nothing over 15 lb- because of my history with preterm labor of unknown causes. This is annoying (since I can't lift either of my children!) but not impossible. I'm still exercising 5-6 days a week and I feel great! Walking on the treadmill definitely eases the minor backaches I've been having. No heartburn complaints right now and I'm grateful for that.

My bump remains rather unimpressive and surprisingly small for a third pregnancy, especially after having had a c-section. :) But, as I point out to all the people who stare at me incredulously and say, "What??? You're six months pregnant???"-- every woman is different. I'm on the tall side (5'7") and that helps. I also just carry compactly. Always have.

I think being past that "24-week mark" has lifted a burden off my shoulders. I feel happy and lighthearted and healthy and energetic. I am delighted to feel each and every movement of this precious child and I look forward to 13 more weeks!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Snacky Kind of Giveaway!


Awhile back, I had the pleasure of offering three Baskets of Indulgence as part of the MyBlogSpark program. I had a blast trying out mine and giving a few away to all of you!

I am delighted to be able to offer you another great chance to win something yummy!

My Fruit Roll-Ups are a specially customizable product perfect for holidays, kids' parties, or just a special treat. Would I order these on a regular basis? Probably not-- because I'm a die-hard coupon girl and I don't really like to wait for things. :) That being said, I found the website to be extremely user-friendly (even with my dial-up internet!) and I received the package almost a full week before my "expected delivery date".

I had originally planned to order My Fruit Roll-Ups way back in January and to offer this giveaway as part of our Valentine's Exchange of Inspiration and Ideas. Unfortunately, between my struggles with first trimester nausea and a website glitch that didn't want to recognize my zip-code, it didn't happen. I mention the website glitch for a very important reason... when I brought this to their attention, I received incredibly prompt attention and service to ensure that the issue was resolved. It took one toll-free call and less than two minutes to be up and rolling. I tend to avoid conflict and complaints because I often don't feel I have the energy to work my way "up the food-chain", if you will, to get things resolved. Imagine my delight with how simple and supportive the customer service was this time around! I ended up ordering St. Patrick's Day themed My Fruit Roll-Ups. My kids were over-the-top-delighted to see their NAMES on their snack. How fun!

So what can you win? Your own box of My Fruit Roll-Ups (a $30 value), customized however you'd like!

To enter, simply answer this question in the comments:

How would you customize YOUR Fruit Roll-Ups? Visit the My Fruit Roll-Ups site and check out the options! Come back and let me know what you'd put on your snack!

For an additional entry (or two!), blog or tweet about this giveaway! If you blog about it, please come back and leave your link. If you tweet about it, leave a comment letting me know you did and be sure to include "@micropreemies" in your tweet so that I see it. Thanks!

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This giveaway will be open through Sunday evening, March 22nd. I'll draw a winner to announce next Monday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Personal Milestone


(Hey- so tell me this- my sister-in-law sweetly informed us that my mother-in-law said our baby looks like an alien...
what do you say? Alien or beautiful baby???)

By now, I imagine most of you have read my birth story. Having read that, you already know that I went into labor with my second child at only 23 weeks 5 days gestation. In fact, I started bleeding at 22 weeks 5 days. The story has a very happy ending (praise God!), but it was also, without a doubt, the most challenging time of my life.

That little child is now a 27 lb 3-year old who is doing beautifully. And I am now expecting our third child.

This week, I passed the 24-week mark. This little baby inside me is already bigger, stronger, and more capable of surviving outside the womb than my little girl was when she entered the world.

And so I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

I will breathe another huge sigh when I reach 28 weeks, a major milestone in a baby's development... (the survival rate is over 95% at that point).

If you're pregnant, I beg you...

  • cherish every single day that baby is inside of you
  • try to laugh at the discomfort and awkwardness of late pregnancy, even though I know it's sometimes hard
  • enjoy feeling those kicks get stronger with each passing week
  • and never, ever say, "I can't WAIT for this to be OVER!"... it is so worth the wait.

So, today, for me, still being pregnant and being past the 24 week mark is most certainly a Finer Thing. And I am so very thankful.

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For my Finer Things, check out Amy's blog every Friday!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sacrificial Hospitality Challenge: Week 3


I have to be honest... I am truly enjoying myself this Lenten season. I have been so much more MINDFUL of what the season is about this year and sharing hospitality has been such a rewarding journey. It hasn't been too hard to work these challenges with our current budget, but the creative thinking process has been good for me too.

And on to week 3...

I'm hoping this doesn't seem like a lame challenge to all of you! But, as I thought of needs I see out there that seem to go unmet, this one jumped to mind...

Let me start by saying that I absolutely adore my kids' preschool. The experiences and interaction they have there have been incredibly positive. It's an accredited public preschool (hence, on-site therapies, nurse, great resources) in a conservative town (where happily no one complains if you mention God and they DO celebrate Christmas, Easter, and other "religious" holidays). I wouldn't think of changing schools.

However, if there is one flaw with this location, it is the drop-off system. There is not a drop-off lane, if you will, for parents to pull up and have their child met by a staff member and escorted inside like at so many preschools. At our school, you must unload yourself and your child from the car, walk them to the entrance, ring the bell, and wait for someone to let you into the locked secure entrance.

No big deal, right?

Not really. Unless you have other children. And so many of us do! Then, you face the added challenge of juggling one, two, or three ADDITIONAL children while trying to get your preschooler in the building. It's time-consuming. It also often involves waking up a sleeping child. Because it's such an awkward process, I unfortunately witness a lot of mommies doing something that makes me incredibly nervous... they leave the other child(ren) in the car.

While it's true that the school is in a secure location and it only takes a couple minutes to drop off the preschooler, this practice still makes me anxious beyond belief.

We are fortunate, now, to have bus service for both of our children. This eliminates the whole drop-off juggling act for me. But I certainly remember it!

This week, I plan to drive to the school at drop-off and/ or pick-up time once or twice. I don't need to be there for my own kids. I just want to be there to help these moms. I want to offer to watch their sleeping/buckled/in-the-car children while they run in. Mine is a familiar face around there, lest you think I'll be creeping people out. (And, for the record, I seem to be one of the most non-threatening looking people in the country-- seriously, I NEVER get pulled aside for security checks and, in fact, people who are with me are often "released" just because they're traveling at my side... )

I know it would have made MY life so much simpler had another trusted mommy volunteered to keep an eye on my vehicle while my daughter slept inside and I ran in the building...

Maybe I can make some other busy mama's morning just a touch easier.

(**Note: I will be aiming for a day with unpleasant weather- cold and/or rainy- because that makes it even tougher on Mom!)
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How about you? Is there a way you could make an everyday errand simpler or safer for someone?

Sacrificial Hospitality: Week 2 RESULTS


When I headed into town with my 4-year old, it was still dark out and very, very rainy. To be honest, I would have just as soon delayed my errands for another day. I mean, it's not like we were OUT of milk. I could scrounge out another day or two with what we had...

But I had a mission. I had care packages to deliver. And what better day to spread some cheer than a gray, dismal, rainy one?

I had assembled our goodie bags earlier in the week and was all set to deliver them. I was excited, but a little anxious. What if other parents thought I was presumptuous? What if I tried to give one to someone and received a lecture on the corn syrup that was likely in that granola bar? I probably could have talked myself out of the whole idea during the 17-mile drive into town if it hadn't been for the constant singing going on between my son and me!

I used Hefty One-Zip bags to hold the items. I had picked up a box of these for free with a coupon. (Long story, but I bought a box one time and they were all defective. The company, in a true show of excellent service, paid me to send the defective bags to them AND sent me three free product coupons. Anyway...) In each bag, I slid a book (Beatrix Potter classics were clearanced for a quarter at our Target!), a couple coloring pages (I opted for doctor themes), four crayons, and a granola bar. Confession? Those crayons are "restaurant crayons"- the freebies they give you along with the kid's placemat? We don't go out to eat a whole lot, but every time we do we seem to collect more and more of those things. They're not new or pristine, but they still work! And, quite frankly, the ones I usually dole out in the waiting room have all been used too; I've yet to meet a child who cares. I actually usually make our granola bars, but these Fiber One bars were a fabulous deal and I thought strangers might feel safer with factory-packaged treats. I mean they don't know me like YOU all know me, right?? ;)

Sorry about the glare! I love that doctor pic- he looks so trustworthy! Actually, he kinda looks like my dad...


I had made up a half-dozen of these bags and that ended up being just about perfect! I was able to give two of them to the harried mom of twin newborns with two more kids about 3 and 5. I think because it was rainy, people seemed even LESS likely to be prepared. I could envision these poor parents dashing out the door with their sick little ones just trying to get to the car without getting soaked to the skin.

I received so many thanks and smiles... my son was absolutely delighted! He was so proud to hand them out. One woman gave him a Hershey's kiss as a thank you. It is true that one parent seemed afraid that I was selling the things and she seemed stunned and skeptical that I would just give it to her child with no strings attached. Again, this made me realize how infrequently we see such little displays of hospitality...

"Hospitality is a mark of affirmation, a signal that someone is special, like the ribbon bow on the baby shower invitation or the gold ink used to announce the retirement party. Little touches, big impact."
-Chirstine Capecchi
"A slice of pumpkin bread: How hospitality heals"


How about you? Did you find a little way to make someone's life slightly easier? Were you able to meet an unspoken need? I would love to hear about it in the comments!
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Be sure to stop by later today to see my challenge for Week 3.
To read what my Lenten journey is all about, see this post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Having A Flexible Spending Account


We have health insurance and always have. We pay for it through my husband's job and, let me be clear, I am TOTALLY OKAY WITH THIS. I could go on and on about the reasons I've been glad to have it, but instead I'll just give you the biggest one--

When our daughter was born at 24 weeks gestation and stayed in the hospital for 3 1/2 months, the bill was over 750k. That's right. Over three quarters of a MILLION dollars. More than the cost of all three homes we've owned combined. Yikes. Our portion? $250. Total. That was it. So, yes, premiums can be costly. But in the grand scheme of things? Still worth it.

All that being said, we still have to pay for health-related things of course... co-pays, deductibles, prescription co-payments, over the counter medications, my contacts, etc., etc. A couple years ago, my husband and I sat down and looked seriously at setting up a flexible spending account (FSA) to put aside money for these costs pre-tax. We crunched some numbers and figured out how much we KNEW we would spend and elected to have that amount pulled out monthly, before taxes, from my husband's paycheck.

The end result?

We really didn't miss it. It didn't really feel like his paycheck "shrank", per se. But when we had to pay up for something "medical", we had a debit-type card with money already set aside for that purpose. Easy and painless. We no longer had those pesky $15 co-payments popping up at odd times and throwing the budget off-kilter. It really worked for us!

The bonus? When my husband's position was suddenly eliminated only a couple months into the year, we were informed that the FSA is fully funded at the start of a new year by the company. So, essentially, even though WE had only "paid into" the account for two months, the full year's allotment was in there. And we were perfectly free to use it all before his position ran out.

Yet another thing to be grateful for!

Having an FSA has paid off for our family. It definitely Works For Me!

How about you? Does your family have an FSA? Has it been helpful or a burden? What questions do you have about FSA's? I'll try to answer them in the comments!

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To see more things that are "working", check out Works For Me Wednesday, hosted at We Are THAT Family.

Banana Cookies


These cookies are a definite favorite with my kids- they feel spoiled when I make them and, to be honest, I'm not sure I've seen many cookie recipes that can claim to be as healthy! Makes me chuckle every time they gobble one of these down for dessert and look like they've gotten away with something. :)

Banana Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 cups oats
  • 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 chocolate chips or nuts (if you wish-- I've made them plain, with nuts, or with choc. chips... they're good no matter what!)

Directions:

  • Mix first 3 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add egg whites and mix. Add remaining ingredients except nuts or chocolate chips. After dough (more like batter, really) is mixed, add nuts or chips.
  • Batter will seem too liquid, but drop on cookie sheet by tablespoon anyway.
  • Bake at 350 for approx. 12 minutes.
Notes:

  • I often make a whole batch of these, but I've cut it into a third before and used only one banana and one egg white. That worked! Each banana used seems to yield about a dozen cookies.
  • If I use nuts, I prefer walnuts or pecans for this recipe.
  • Don't know what to do with those egg yolks? I have another kid-friendly recipe coming up that uses just yolks!
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For more Kitchen Tips, be sure to stop by The Finer Things In Life, where Amy is guest-hosting for Tammy this week!

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Story Monday: My Children Meet For The First Time

When the day finally arrived for our daughter to be released from the hospital, I was very ready! I had spent the last few days in a frantic rush to pack up all of our belongings from the one room we had been living in for the past 3 1/2 months. You'd be amazed how much stuff you can end up with in that small of a space. We had already carted some of our stuff home and I had all the rest packed up for when my husband finished work for the day. It was a momentous occasion, to be sure, but that didn't mean he got the day off or even got out early-- he had recently changed jobs and was still too new there to really request any "favors". So I waited, along with my 14-month old son.

As soon as he got "home", he loaded up the rest of our gear in the car, we fed our son a quick meal, said tearful goodbyes to the Ronald McDonald House staff, and headed over to the hospital.

Considering all the hoops we had jumped through to get to this day, it was surprisingly easy to pick up our daughter. The nurses had her gear all packed in bags along with important paperwork including prescriptions for vitamins and her special formula. She was hooked up to her portable oxygen tank and monitor, and we settled her into her infant seat. I went through all these motions with the nurses while my husband waited in the waiting area with our son- being so young, he was not allowed back into the NICU area.

Once everything was hooked up and I had handles and straps hanging all over our body, we were set to go. I walked our little girl out to the waiting room...

I can't even express to you how amazing and, well, odd it felt to carry my little girl out like that. While she had tubes and wires all over her little body still, it just seemed to NORMAL to be able to walk around with her in an infant seat. And, in many ways, it was like we were leaving the hospital with any typical newborn-- we were a few days shy of her due date, she weighed a whopping 6 1/2 lb, and she was now our total responsibility. Of course, we all know just how much had to be done to get to this point. Still...

I'm not sure A. really noticed that I was carrying this tiny baby girl. He was in my husband's arms (he couldn't walk yet at this point!) and it had been a long day for him too. A nurse accompanied us to the car, helped make sure all the equipment was functioning just as it should, and wished us well.

And then there were four. Four of us. Mama, Daddy, brother, and sister.

We all got into the car. My husband backed out and we bid a grateful farewell to what had been my daughter's home for so very long...

I glanced in the backseat and saw my forward-facing son gazing at my rear-facing daughter and my eyes filled with tears. I had spent almost four months torn between these two precious children. I could finally be Mama to them both simultaneously.

I was more than ready for this next chapter in my life...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We Heart PBS

(Mr. Steve with my kiddos... and me because, well, C. just wasn't too sure about climbing on his lap!)

Our kids do not watch much television. I don't think it's evil or anything... I just also don't think it's necessary. And I think it is very unwise when parents choose to watch the shows THEY might enjoy while their children are still up and about (shows like CSI, ER, House, etc... good shows... just not kid shows).

What little TV our children do watch is limited solely to PBS. With a couple notable exceptions (Caillou comes to mind), the kids' programming on PBS is excellent and appropriate. There are no commercials so I needn't worry about my kids getting the "wantsies" about all kinds of junk food or inappropriate toys. Quite frankly, I trust PBS.

Not only do my children enjoy the occasional half hour of PBS, but my husband and I also find ourselves frequently immersed in a Nature program. Or Antiques Roadshow. Or some other interesting presentation that totally sucks us in and gives us something to talk about afterward too.

I'm also impressed with the fact that PBS offers family-friendly local events free of charge. We recently took advantage of one such event here in Indiana. Our preschoolers were able to attend story hour, do crafts, and see Mr. Steve perform live. (Our children adore Mr. Steve and, quite frankly, so do I... he's very clever!!)

We spent about three hours at the PBS event and had a blast. It didn't cost us a dime and our children left with happy memories, each with a brand new story book in hand (and they had excellent children's literature to choose from!).

For our family, PBS is not only a Frugal choice... it's also a Finer Thing!
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For more frugal ideas, visit Biblical Womanhood.
Be sure to visit Finer Things Friday over at Amy's place!

Sacrificial Hospitality Challenge: Week 2


Since last week's challenge was a definite success and my spirits are high, I am excited to face week 2 of my Lenten journey!

So here's something I've noticed...

Every time I go to the doctor's office for one of my kids- whether it be the regular pediatrician or my daughter's follow-up appointment at the hospital- I seem to be one of very few parents prepared for the wait. I always have snacks, books, crafts, coloring books and crayons, small toys, you name it...

And you know what ends up happening? Kids gather around me. I end up reading to a small crowd (which is perfectly fine, by the way!) and tearing out coloring book pages and doling out crayons. I really don't mind doing it, but I have to admit I sometimes feel sorry for the kids. And sometimes the parents seem somewhat embarrassed.

This week I plan to put together small "waiting room packages" to hand out. Children's books can be had for pennies at thrift stores or a dollar at Target. Or, quite honestly, I could retire a couple of our own for this purpose. We have a whole lot of crayons and coloring pages are easily printed up. I figure four crayons, a couple coloring pages, a small book, and a little snack (like a granola bar, for instance) would make a nice, neat package to help keep little ones happy and entertained. I look forward to being able to share these little treats with other parents and maybe making their day a little easier... it's not always easy to remember to pack those things when you're worried about a sick little one!

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How about you? Have you ever found yourself sharing with another family's children? Or perhaps you've benefitted from the generosity of others? What ways do you think you could reach out in a hospitable way? Feel free to join me on this challenge and be sure to come back for my results next Thursday!

Sacrificial Hospitality: Week 1 RESULTS


I rose bright and early, before the sun, on Tuesday morning and headed to my kitchen. I donned a pretty apron and set out ingredients to begin a marathon baking and cooking session. First on my list? Apple cinnamon muffins for Farmer Joe.

I mixed up my batter and, while the oven finished preheating, I started a pot of vanilla coffee- regular, not decaf, because unlike me Farmer Joe is not expecting. :) My kitchen started to smell divine and, as my spirits lifted, my voice rose in song. My 4-year old was my ever-willing assistant and the once frigid room quickly warmed up with the muffins in the oven.

Within a half-hour, the coffee was poured in a thermos, the muffins were fresh from the oven, and I was ready to head out to see Farmer Joe.



As luck would have it, those first bands of light were just appearing over the horizon and I knew he'd be heading for his tractor any minute.

I was there when he got there.

I actually think he was afraid something was wrong at first... which to me meant I don't do this kind of thing enough. When I handed him the coffee and warm muffins, his cheeks turned pink and a shy smile crossed his big face. Since it was still only in the teens, I knew some warmth would be welcome. He thanked me- several times- and promised to return the basket and thermos (as if I had worries or doubts! ;) ). I headed back to our house to return to my baking marathon...

The cost of all this? Well under a dollar of cash and a half hour or so of my time.

The benefit? A much brighter morning for me and, hopefully, for Farmer Joe. Also, I hope my actions may serve as an example to my children of the joy of hospitality and having a giving, thoughtful spirit.

Did any of you surprise a neighbor? Did you reach out in a way you might not ordinarily? I'd love to hear about it. Please share in the comments or, if you've blogged about it, leave a link so I can stop by and read about it.

For more information about my Lenten journey, click here.

To find out what I'll be taking on as a challenge this upcoming week, be sure to stop by later today.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zero Diaper Brand Loyalty


When my first baby was born and we were still enjoying the lovely double income that rolled in through my eight weeks of paid maternity leave, there was not a single diaper but Pampers that touched our little boy's skin. I tried a Huggies sample once when he was a newborn and it leaked so, I figured, those wouldn't suffice at all. And, in fact, even after those eight weeks were up, we continued to buy Pampers diapers because, well, they worked! But I'm almost ashamed to admit that we continued to shell out for those pricier diapers for almost a full year...

It was actually necessity that caused me to try something different. Living away from home at the Ronald McDonald House, still unable to drive after surgery, and out of diapers during a nasty bout of Rotovirus, I turned to the helpful volunteer staff at the House. They kindly gave me an entire box of diapers for my son. In his size. They were Kroger Comforts.

Hmm. I certainly wasn't going to complain! So I slapped that diaper on my baby's bottom and, you know what? It worked just fine. Even with a tummy bug. As time went on, we tried more and more brands and discovered that there were many, many that worked just dandy.

Lesson learned. We started switching up diaper brands much earlier on with our preemie daughter. Just as soon as she got out of the newborn size, in fact! I plan to do the same with this next baby.

Here's what I know now:

  • Newborns are notorious for having leaky diapers. High-priced premiums may serve you better through those early days, especially at night.
  • It is not uncommon for younger infants to be very sensitive to diapers and break out into rashes if you change. These same babies often do just fine with other brands once they're a little older, say six months or beyond.
  • All store brands are not created equal- you owe it to your pocketbook to try more than one variety. Consider networking with friends who have babies about the same size as yours and trading a diaper or two to try it out. Samples are also great for this purpose. Baby Cheapskate and Freebies4Mom are great sources for finding these!
  • There are "Huggies people" and there are "Pampers people". (Oh, and also "Luvs people"...) Likewise, different people will love different store brands. I'm partial to CVS and Kroger myself...
  • If you truly MUST use a premium diaper (and some people really, truly must), never buy them without a coupon. And a sale. You can save a bundle by observing those simple rules.

Brand loyalty? Not one my best-known traits. :) But it works for me.
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For more Works For Me Wednesday, please visit We Are THAT Family!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beer Bread


We use a wide range of bread around here... I bake white and wheat bread quite frequently. I also buy 88 cent loaves of wheat sandwich bread at Kroger pretty often (because, well, I like the convenience, quite frankly...)

Occasionally I run out of all of those but still want to have a fresh loaf of bread to serve up with a meal. When that happens, I often turn to my trusty beer bread recipe which I can make from start to finish in less than an hour. And which requires very few ingredients.

My husband and I are not beer drinkers, but we do have some in the family. Because of that, we often have leftover beers rolling around our fridge. This recipe is perfect for using those up and, for those concerned, it's nice to know that all the alcohol bakes out and the bread does NOT, in fact, taste like beer.

Quick As A Flash Beer Bread

Ingredients:
  • 2 2/3 cup flour (I use a combination of white and wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 oz beer (any kind), freshly opened, chilled or at room temp

Directions:
  • Heat oven to 375. Grease loaf pan.
  • Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl. Add beer and stir with spatula until flour mixture is just moistened. Dump in prepared pan.
  • Bake 50-55 minutes.
  • Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool.

This bread tastes fantastic with soup or stew and actually makes great toast! Sometimes I like to add some garlic or onion powder to the batter and I top the bread with some shredded cheese for the last ten minutes of baking. Super easy, super inexpensive, super fast homemade bread.

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For more Kitchen Tips, be sure to visit Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday!