Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweet First Words

She reaches her chubby arms up to me in the morning...

"Ma Ma!"

She smiles her coy little smile at her daddy upon his return from work...

"Da Da Da Da!"

Her big blue eyes grow bigger at the sight of frozen blueberries...


She peeks out from behind her burp cloth with a proud grin...


Sigh. Heart melting.

My 10-month old baby girl is starting to talk. That would be a wonderful thing in and of itself...

Having my third baby talking already after my first two children both had significant speech delays? Well... that's also a bit of a relief for me.

Sweet, sweet first words... whenever they happen to come.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seriously. Pro-Life. No Matter What.

On this post ("Why I'm Pro-Life... No Matter What"), I received the following anonymous comment:

Agreed with most of the post, but not with the "no matter what." The only major exception I can see is a threat to the mother's life. A fetus should not be given any more priority than the alive mother. Granted, this may constitute a small percentage of total cases, but it's a real viability and should be considered as such. I'd like to see that clearly addressed in your post.

Since it was left anonymously, I unfortunately cannot reply directly to the commenter. That's okay though... perhaps it's something I should address in a post. Odds are good that the commenter is not the only one who feels this way.

Here is my thinking...

First of all, we need to back up to that whole "a fetus should not be given any more priority than the alive mother" sentence. In my view, that sentence would look more like "a BABY is every bit as precious and deserving of life as the woman who carries him". It's all just a matter of perspective. While the use of the word "fetus" dehumanizes the child, the use of the word "mother" makes the woman seem all the more human. I'm also not exactly sure why the word "alive" is used to somehow differentiate the baby from the mother since that baby is also alive- unborn, but alive . I am not saying that the commenter's language is wrong; I'm just trying to explain why the title of my previous post holds true for me.

When my daughter C was born at 24 weeks, we elected (against the head OB's recommendation) to have the riskier surgery to give her her best shot. There was certainly the chance either one of us could die either way... there was also the chance that we might both survive either way. I remember- vividly- looking my husband in the eye and saying, "Whatever they have to do in there- no matter what is happening to me- you HAVE to stand up for this baby. Make sure they do what's best for our baby... that's most important to me." It didn't much matter that I was basically guaranteed survival with a vaginal delivery of a one pound baby while there was a slim chance that she'd survive no matter what I did.

Now, listen... I am not comparing my "risky surgery" with "sure death". I understand that there are women out there who are at grave risk... and I'm not saying that I think all of them should put their babies first....

I'm saying that I would. I AM pro-life... no matter what.

I hope that clearly addresses my stance on that one.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raising Good Eaters: Some Final Thoughts

For the past three weeks, I've been sharing some of my tips for raising good eaters. If you've missed any of those posts, you can find them here:

For this final part of the series, I want to just review a few main ideas and thoughts:

  • Your child will not starve. I said it in the very first part of the series- as long as you're making healthy, balanced food available to your child, he or she will eat... eventually. It is far more important that your child is getting water than food, to be honest. Don't panic if she doesn't eat for a meal or two... or even more...
  • It is NOT child abuse to not give in to your child's wishes. Some people seem to think that if their child is screaming and crying and acting like it's the end of the world then, well, it is. It is not. You are doing your child (and all future teachers and caregivers too, for that matter) a favor by sticking to your guns and making the decisions.
  • You are the parent and you are (or should be) in charge. Like I just said- you need to make the decisions. It's your job. Quite frankly? It's a cop-out to serve up chicken nuggets every day. And you are better- and stronger- than that.
  • Just because your child is not a good eater now doesn't mean he or she has to stay that way. Ready for a confession? I was a bad eater as a child. Picky, picky, picky. I outgrew it. I'm a fantastic eater and have been for years. There are two things going on here-- first of all, your child may simply outgrow the pickiness over time. Second of all, you can start changing those picky behaviors today... you do not have to keep making grilled cheese every single day.
  • If your child eats well for other people, there is no reason that he or she can't eat well for you. Oh, how many times do I hear this one? "I just don't understand it! He ate EVERYTHING for the (baby sitter, teacher, aunt, *insert person other than you*)" It's not that I don't believe it... I do. But guess what? That means that if YOU stop giving him options, he'll eat it for you too.
  • It does not matter what your neighbor/friend/sibling/etc. is serving their children. There are people out there who will try to make you feel like you're cruel for not letting your kids have Kid Cuisine or Kraft Easy Mac or pizza rolls or bagel bites all the time. My honest opinion is that most of them are kind of jealous of your steel-cut-oat-eating kid while they serve up Pop-Tarts every morning. I'm just sayin'. But, regardless of the reason, do not worry about what they're serving up or their opinion of what you're serving.
  • Be confident and determined. The most important piece of advice I can give you is this... As you set out to raise good eaters, be confident about what you're doing. Whether you decide that you will re-serve a plate until it is finished or you will with-hold privileges until the veggies are consumed... feel good about what you're doing. Know that you are on an honorable mission and needn't feel like a bad person. When it's tough, carry on. The rewards are great.
Thanks so much for joining me on this journey toward raising good eaters! What questions do you have for me? Any specific issues you wish I would have addressed? I'd love to talk about it in the comments!

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mexican Pantry Pie

One day, my plan for grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch fell through when we ran out of bread (I really, truly thought there was a loaf in the freezer - oops). I could have baked some, sure, but it was already 11 am and I didn't really have time before having to get my son off to school.

I opened the fridge and faced a whole lot of leftover scraps-- a few bits of chicken, about 1/2 cup of pinto beans, a small chunk of cheese. Not enough for a meal, certainly.

My eyes fell upon a sleeve of saltine crackers. Yep, that's right. Saltines. Hmm...

Mexican Pantry Pie

1 sleeve saltine crackers (I used the rather oxymoronic low-salt variety)
1/2 package taco seasoning (or make your own- definitely make your own if you use traditional saltines or it will be WAY too salty)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup cubed or shredded chicken
1/2 cup cooked pinto or black beans
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used jack, but cheddar or co-jack would be great too!)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine first three ingredients in food processor; press into pie plate to form a "cracker crust".

Bake for about 8-10 minutes to help "set" it. Fill pie with remaining ingredients in order listed.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Lunch was served!

This post is linked to:
$5 Dinner Challenge
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 4/25 Some Bloggy Faves

Whew! Can I just tell you how happy I am that it is NOT Spring Break this week? Last week wore me out! We were busy, busy, busy the whole darn time. This week should be more typical, giving me a chance to whip up some old favorites and also enjoy a few new-to-us meals...


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L -"Eggs in a Hole", Jello, Fruit
D- Supper after the race! I'll be pushing Baby G. in a 5K today that my sister organized. Looking forward to it!


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Amy's Shrimp Dip with Crackers, Milk
D-Chicken Alfredo Bake


B- Banana Bread, Applesauce, Milk
L-Buttered Pasta, Cheese, Juice
D-Ham & Cheese Frittata, Salad


B-Cereal, Cheese, Juice
L-Hot Dog in Bread (AKA- I'm out of buns), Fruit, Milk


B-Peanut Butter Toast, Sliced Apples, Milk
L-Rice Mix, Chicken, Green Beans, Water


B-Banana Bread, Yogurt, Milk
L-Peanut Noodles, Applesauce, Milk
D- Chicken and Mushroom Pizza & a Movie Night, Water


B-Eggs Florentine, Toast
D-Mac 'n Cheese w/ Hot Dogs, Green Beans

I'm looking forward to some of my old favorites from around the blogosphere- like Lynn's Rice Mix and Sherry's Aussie Chicken- and trying Amy's Shrimp Dip for the first time! My seafood loving kiddos (including the baby!) are sure to love it!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Save Dough- Make Dough

I live in an affluent area now. I feel a little bit like a fish out of water, but I'm not about to give up my frugal, money-saving ways. (For the record, we couldn't AFFORD for me to give up my frugal ways either, so it's a good thing that I'm pretty set in them!)

I don't find many people to "talk thrifty" with, it seems. Recently, however, at a four-year old birthday party, I started chatting with another mom who originally hails from Wisconsin. She has a frugal spirit much like my own. We got along smashingly. One of the things we discussed happened to be the tradition of a Friday night Pizza & A Movie Night. That seems to be a pretty common weekly event, even around here. What's not so common? Actually making the pizza yourself. But we both do. Hooray! Someone who understands! Further conversation revealed that she buys her pizza dough for $2.50 at a discount grocery store... way more affordable than buying a pizza pre-made, for sure, but not nearly as affordable as making your own...

I shared my pizza dough recipe and she has never looked back.

Here's how I do it:

1 tablespoon yeast (.05 - I buy my yeast in bulk bags!)
1 teaspoon sugar (.01)
1 cup very warm water (free)
1 tablespoon oil (.05)
1 teaspoon salt (.01)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional- I sometimes add it and sometimes don't...) (.03)
2 1/2 cups flour (.15)
total: .27 (max... I think I usually come out even less than that what-with sales and coupons... and the fact that a teaspoon of salt doesn't even cost a penny.)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water until nice and foamy. Add remaining ingredients in order listed. I like to mix mine in my KitchenAid with a dough hook. Transfer dough to an oiled glass or ceramic bowl, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm place for 20 minutes. Punch down, let rest a couple minutes, and spread on pizza pan. Continue as usual with your pizza making!

Making dough saves dough. Easy as that.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Green Giant Prize Pack Winner!

And the winner of the Green Giant Prize Pack is...

#25, Keli!

True Random Number Generator 25Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Keli writes:

We have our own garden, we recycle, and compost. We try to be engery efficent and water wise too. I love to read about new ways to help us go green. :)
Sounds like some great ways of reducing your carbon footprint, Keli! Thanks to all of you for your great comments in the entries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Call My Lawn Boy "Honey"

Lawn boys are a common sight around here. I watched them tidy and rake the neighbors' lawns throughout the Fall and now they're back again, mowing and fertilizing. I see the homeowners around me step out to critique the work they've done and inquire about additional treatments they may need.

Those lawn boys... they've asked me before if I needed their services, if I'd like to get on the schedule.

But I politely decline.

Because, you see, I already have a lawn boy. Fact is, I have two lawn boys.

And I call them both "Honey".

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Raising Good Eaters: How to Incentavize

Okay, first things first, lest I receive a bunch of emails... incentavize is not a word. Not at all. But it has a much nicer ring than "bribe", does it not? And so I'm going to use it. You can choose to think I'm weird or think I'm clever or a little of both...

For the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about Raising Good Eaters. The first week, all I asked you to do was get used to the idea that your child won't starve. I think that's one of the things that irks me most of all... parents who just throw in the towel because they think their little angels will waste away to nothingness if they're not given precisely what they WANT to eat. Kids aren't stupid. And they're human, just like us... we are hard-wired to eat to survive. If it takes getting really hungry to make your child eat a variety of wholesome foods then, I say, go for it.

Last week, I shared a little bit about my personal goals for my own good eaters. I have very definite ideas of what I hope to see from my children and I outlined the steps that I must take to help achieve them.

This week, I want to talk about bribing incentavizing.

Incentavizing can range from the extremely simple and obvious ("You may not have dessert until you finish your meal.") to the more sophisticated and complex ("You need to eat your vegetables to get the vitamins you need for energy. If you don't get that energy, you won't be able to practice baseball with Daddy.")

Truth? I use both in my house. Shamelessly. I prefer the second method because I think it helps to really illustrate the benefits of healthy foods for our bodies. I also like the idea of not using a sweet, "unhealthy" treat to get your child to force his way through the healthy stuff. I find that the reward of being able to do something fun with Mommy or Daddy is a really good incentive.


The dessert reward works well with young children too. Kids need to have a certain level of reasoning to be able to make that whole "veggies=energy=able to play sports" equation. It works great with my five-year old. With the four-year old? Not so much. She's still at the, "Do you want a cookie? Yes? Then eat your green beans" phase. And I'm okay with that.

I've heard all the arguments about why it's not a good idea to encourage "clean plates"... why you shouldn't "reward" eating with sweet treats... why you should allow your child to take a small bite and spit it out if she doesn't like it... I am not saying that these studies have no merit. I'm sure a lot of money went into figuring out that the way we've been raising kids for hundreds of years is no good. And that's dandy.

But, for my family, I will continue encouraging good eating and offering incentives. To me, it's no different than allowing myself fifteen minutes to relax with a book after cleaning the first floor of my house... it does not take away from the accomplishment, but it helps motivate me along the way.

I do not have to make these "deals" at every meal or even every day. My kids are pretty well-trained now, if you will, and they know what is expected of them. But it helps to have these tricks up my sleeve... and to be willing to use them.

What tricks do you have to incentavize good eating habits in your children? Are you comfortable using "bribery" or do you think it's a bad move?

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Batter-Dipped Chicken Sandwiches

AKA "Mama Is A Total Rockstar Sandwiches"

These are such a hit in my family. Every single one of us gobbles them up. And they're frugal! Because the chicken gets pounded thin, it doesn't take much. I use the breast meat I can easily trim off of two bone-in breasts to feed my family of four plus one baby who eats nibbles. :)

Here goes...

Batter-Dipped Chicken Sandwiches

  • chicken breasts (boneless or bone-in is fine... if they're on the bone, just use a knife to cut the big meaty chunk off- that's what you'll use for this recipe. Cook the rest up in a pot of water and save it for any recipe calling for shredded or cubed cooked chicken!)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • buns, lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayo... anything you want to top your yummy chicken sandwich!*

Butterfly each piece of breast meat. Place between sheets of waxed paper and whack the heck out of it with a heavy skillet. You want it as thin as you can get it without tearing holes in it. Now isn't that scientific? Melt your butter and mix in remaining ingredients until you have a pale, orange-ish looking batter. Meanwhile, heat about 1/8" oil in that heavy skillet you used earlier over med-high heat. When it gets up to temp (about 5-7 minutes), you can start adding the chicken. Dip each half-breast into the batter until fully coated. Lay gently in pan of hot oil and cook until nicely golden brown, about 4-5 minutes each side. Drain on a paper-towel- or cloth- lined plate. Serve on buns with desired topppings.

**To make the Italian Chicken Sandwiches I posted in my Menu Plan yesterday, just top with your favorite red sauce and some melted mozzarella or provolone... yum!
This post is linked to:
$5 Dinner Challenge
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Menu Plan: 4/18... Spring Break!

It's Spring Break for us! My husband took the week off from work to spend time with the kids (and me), so it will be all five of us all week long. I'm looking forward to lots of warm breezes, care-free days, and flexible menu options.


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L -French Toast, Ham, Fruit
D-to be determined! We usually do Sunday supper with my parents, but this week they're in AZ visiting my grandma... and bringing her back with them for a visit! Can't wait! Baby G's named after her.


B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Grilled Cheese, Grapes, Pretzels, Water
D-Garlicky Clams Linguine (we just had this on the 9th for my nephew's eighth birthday, so I'm thinking I'll be substituting something different here... suggestions?)


B- Oatmeal, Fruit, Milk
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Juice
D-Italian Batter-Dipped Chicken Sandwiches (recipe coming tomorrow!), Broccoli w/ parm


B-PB Toast, Applesauce, Milk
L-Chicken Strips, Toast, Yogurt, Juice
D-Loaded Nachos, Salad


B-Pancakes, Grapes, Milk
D-Homemade Fried Rice


B-Oatmeal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Rice, Yogurt, Grapes, Milk
D- Ham Pizza & a Movie Night, Water


B- Scrambled Eggs w/ Cheese, Cinnamon Rolls (my fave breakfast combo, EVER)
L-Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Apple Slices
D-Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots

I'm excited to get some things done this week and enjoy the whole family! Spring Break in the Midwest was always mid-March, so this feels pretty late to me. Here's hoping we get some nice, warm days as a result!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Pitter-Patter of Tiny Feet

I am so blessed. So blessed to hear my children's little feet running through my home. So blessed to tickle tiny baby feet until belly laughs erupt. So blessed to have all sorts of little socks to sort...

And more blessed than you can imagine to have those feet pictured above- the feet that were the same size as my thumbprint- now create such a ruckus, I would swear there's a 29 lb elephant in my home.

Little feet? They're a finer thing in life.

**Lest anyone think I just have gigantic hands, I assure you, I do not. I wear at size 4 1/2 ring. :)**

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Saving Money at the Grocery Store: Local Contacts

I'm far and away the biggest "deal-shopper" in my family-- either side, for that matter. I'm the one who matches all the sales and coupons and saves 75+% with staggering regularity.

But get us together and here are some things you'll hear:

from Dad to sis, "Hey, they had canned clams marked way down at Big Y."

from my mother-in-law to me, "Eggs are 69 cents a dozen right now at Walmart."

from me to sis, "Did you see that they had unbleached flour for a buck at Northville?"

from Dad to me, "I saw they had whole chickens for 89 cents a pound..."

from me to Mom, "Stop & Shop has a good deal on yogurt right now... I found coupon blinkies right next to the display..."

from me to my brother-in-law, "They marked the canisters of steel-cut oats down to 89 cents at Aldi!"

It's all just casual conversation. It's not some big discussion about grocery shopping or the merits of couponing or any of that. It's just little snippets in passing.

And you know what?

It saves us money. We may not jump on every deal we hear about, but we're able to file those little nuggets away and use the ones that work for us.

The bloggy world is far-and-away my best source for finding good deals, but there's something to be said for having local family and friends with whom you share deals too. For one, the deals they mention are easy for you to get to... that's the beauty of "local". Added to that, they're less likely to bother telling you about sales on things you never buy anyway and that saves a little time and energy. People who shop the exact same stores as you can let you know of specific items on close-out or the marked-down shelf. Handy!

Sharing deals with local contacts saves me money. How about you?

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hunt

This is how C. spent the Easter egg hunt her first Easter... when she was 1 day old, adjusted, and had been home from the hospital for five days. (She was nearly 4 months old, in reality.)

And this is how she spent this past Easter...

May miracles never cease.

This post is linked to Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Raising Good Eaters: Determine Your Objectives

It's a funny thing, this whole "parenting gig". We all have different ways of defining success. What I consider an example of "good eating" may fall way short for you. Likewise, my expectations may prove to be too lofty for others of you. And that is absolutely A-OK, either way. The idea here is to get where YOU want to be with your children. As you set out to raise your own good eaters, I believe you should start by determining your objectives.

Determining your objectives is basically just deciding what you're hoping for. As a jumping off point, here is a list of mine:

  1. I want my children to eat what I put before them.
  2. I expect my children to be polite, even when something isn't their favorite.
  3. I will not let my children be in charge. I am willing to accept that they will each have a few foods that they simple don't care for (we all do), but I refuse to let them dictate what is served to them.
  4. I want my children to try different, unusual, unknown foods.
  5. I am not afraid of any single food group- including dessert :) -but I would like to see all of them represented (and consumed) at mealtime.

Those are five objectives that I have when it comes to feeding my children. Yours may look very different. The important thing is that you have a concrete idea mapped out in your mind of what you expect, where you're willing to compromise, and where you are not.

From there, I need to come up with actual, do-able steps that I can take to help achieve those objectives... these are things that I will do, not things that my children need to do. As far as their part and how I bribe "incentivize" them, well, I'll address that next week.

Here's how my steps might look:

1. I want my children to eat what I put before them, therefore...
  • a. I will serve them small, manageable portions.
  • b. I will serve a variety of foods at every meal.
  • c. I will dish up reasonable portions for myself and my husband and we will be good role models of eating what we have.

2. I expect my children to be polite, even when something isn't their favorite, therefore...
  • a. I will model this by example; I will eat things that I don't "love" and will always decline politely when it is something I just cannot handle.
  • b. I will continue to serve my children things that aren't their very favorites so that they are used to compromise and the fact that, well, that's life.
  • c. I will not hesitate to correct my children, even in public, to ensure they use their manners.

3. I will not let my children be in charge, therefore...
  • a. I will allow my children to have a couple of foods they just do not have to eat, e.g. my son cannot stand pickles and my daughter doesn't like Swiss cheese. This is only fair. After all, I despise pineapple and no one makes me eat it.
  • b. I do not ask my children what they want for meals. Honestly, I rarely even offer choices, but- if I do- they are very specific, e.g. "Would you like a tuna sandwich or an egg sandwich with your apple slices?" I avoid asking open-ended questions. I am in charge of what goes on the plate.
  • c. I will give my children fair warning- the menu plan is posted, so they know what they're getting. Being able to see what's coming gives them a sense of control, but I remain ever-in-charge of what's being served up.

4. I want my children to try different, unusual, unknown foods, therefore...
  • a. I will not fall into a "menu rut"; I will try new recipes and serve up new flavors regularly.
  • b. Once again, my husband and I will model by example. We will try new things enthusiastically and talk up the process.
  • c. I will introduce spices and different flavors/textures from a very early age. We enjoyed Garlicky Clams Linguine for my nephew's birthday last week. Guess who was scarfing up garlicky clams? My ten month old. (For the record, my 4- and 5-year olds cleaned their plates too.)

5. I would like to see all food groups represented and consumed at mealtime, therefore...
  • a. I will menu plan. This ensures I have all bases covered.
  • b. I will serve small portions and insist that they all be finished before seconds are dished out, e.g."You may have more rice when you've eaten your broccoli."
  • c. I will teach my children what different types of foods do for their bodies-- what foods help their muscles, which strengthen their bones, which help build up their immune systems, etc. Kids are fascinated by having an active role in how their bodies grow and feel!
Those are my commitments. Is it ever frustrating? Sure. Would it be easier to toss PB&J and pretzels on a plate everyday and call it good? Yep. But that won't get me any closer to my goal of raising good eaters. Being willing to do my part in ensuring that my kids become well-rounded, open-minded eaters makes it easier (and more fair) for me to expect them to do their parts too.

What goals and objectives do you have for mealtime with your children? What steps are you willing to take? Are you having trouble coming up with YOUR steps for the objective? Let me know and I'll try to help!

Next week, I'll be talking about the role of giving incentives to get your kids to eat. (Controversial topic, to be sure, but that's never stopped me before!)

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chocolate Blueberry Muffins

It all started when I picked up some unsweetened chocolate baking chips at Aldi. I was just so sure that I would have oodles of uses for them. It turns out that I did NOT. My recipes seem to call for either cocoa powder or semisweet chocolate. Hmm. I went on the hunt. I vividly remember some ridiculously expensive but wonderfully delicious chocolate covered blueberries that an admirer once bought for me (that's a story for another day, as I was already engaged at the time), so I was intrigued by the idea of making a Chocolate Blueberry Muffin. Unfortunately, none of the recipes I found really worked with what I had. Time to improvise...

The result? Super yummy! Awfully indulgent for an "everyday muffin", but tons of fun for a treat. Even my hubby- who doesn't like muffins with fruit in them- enjoyed these. I hope you do too!

Chocolate Blueberry Muffins

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 T vinegar in a scant cup of milk)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (yep- soda, not powder)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • approx. 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease 12 muffin cups. In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over medium-low heat until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and baking soda. Gently mix with the liquid ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Spoon the batter into well-greased muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool on rack. Drizzle the cooled muffins with the semisweet chocolate. Allow to set at least 15 minutes before serving.

This post is linked to:

Tasty Tuesday

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Cupcake Tuesday

Menu Plan: 4/11... Showers and Flowers

April is such a fickle little month! Temperatures in the seventies crept up into the high-eighties last week (yikes!) only to dip back down in the fifties for the weekend. Rather than complain about it, it seems like the perfect opportunity to enjoy some last "comfort food" meals while throwing a few lighter, fresher options on the menu too... because, like April, I can be fickle. ;)


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L -Migas, Fruit
D- Sunday Supper with Bama & Papa


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-PB&J, Applesauce, Pretzels, Water
D-Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti


B- Cinnamon & Sugar Toast, Fruit, Milk
L-Buttered Noodles, Yogurt, Juice
D-Lentil & Rice Burritos w/ homemade salsa


B-Oatmeal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Cheese Quesadillas, Corn, Juice
D-Egg Noodles w/ Creamy Mushroom Marsala Sauce


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Egg Noodles, Cheese, Crackers, Milk
D-Chicken Scapariello over Pasta


B-Jelly Toast, Cheese, Milk
L-Rice, Diced Chicken, Fruit, Milk
D-Jalapeno Burn Pizza & a Movie Night, Water


B- French Toast, Sausage
D-Italian Wedding soup, Italian Cheese Bread

The more I write these menu plan posts, the more I realize I really need to get my act together and post more of my recipes! If there's anything in particular you ever want to see, please let me know in the comments, 'k? Enjoy the showers and flowers that are so much a part of April's beauty!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kids' Toothpaste

Have you see these toothpastes before?

Or maybe this kind?

What about this neat-o tube with Elmo on it?

Those marketing people are geniuses. They're banking on a few things:
  1. Your kids will whine and beg for these products because of the nifty-snifty characters they have on them.
  2. You'll buy whatever you have to in order to get your kids to brush their teeth.
  3. You'll buy into the hype that, for some reason, children require pastes that taste like bubblegum or berry punch.
But you know what? While you can manage to score a decent deal on those kids' toothpastes by combining a coupon and a sale, I've never managed to find a way to get them for free. And, believe me, I get free toothpaste all. the. time.

And here's what those marketing people won't tell you...

Cartoon characters may get kids excited, but you know what else gets them excited? Getting to be like the "big people".

And so here's our kids' toothpaste:

Minty-fresh. Easy. And, oh yeah, free.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Why I'm Pro-Life... No Matter What

I've blogged before about being pro-life. Even my "About Me" declares that I advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn. If you didn't know all this about me already... well, there you have it. I am, as I always say, "unapologetically pro-life".

When you declare yourself as being pro-life, the question that people love to throw at you is this:

"What about cases of rape or incest?"

It's a good question. It's also an easy question- those are the circumstances underwhich so many people feel abortion is completely defensible. It makes it kind of "fun" to challenge those of us with different ideas. I've never once had someone ask me:

"What about cases when a woman gets pregnant and it's inconvenient for her?"

Because, well, where's the fun in that? Suddenly, the defense of life makes total sense.

Anyhow, I'm getting off-topic. The question is this:

"What about cases of rape or incest?"

My answer? I'm still pro-life. And here's why:

  • Rape and incest are crimes and need to be treated as such. When a pregnancy occurs, there is a huge problem. But the problem is not the baby. The problem is still the crime. The violence needs to be dealt with (and severely, in my opinion), but not through the killing of the most innocent party of all...
  • Abortions being performed to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest are extremely rare (at .3%)... rarer, even, than those performed because of fetal anomalies (.5%). But over 97% of abortions are completely elective-- not a result of rape/incest, not because of fetal defect, not because of risk to the mother. Just because the baby isn't "wanted".
  • Finally, I don't believe putting a "rape/incest clause" on the law books would help. If we're to "illegalize" abortion (as I firmly believe we should), it will not work to write in such exceptions. Why not? I hate to say it... but... women will lie. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we'll hear more women "crying rape" in order to be "allowed" to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. And that helps no one. If we don't require that charges be filed, it will make it too easy to claim an unwanted pregnancy was the result of a rape. If we insist that charges be filed in order for the woman to proceed with the abortion, we'll over-burden our already stretched-thin law enforcement departments with a bunch of bogus claims. I just do not believe it will work.

Please don't think that I'm trying to down-play the horror and devastation of incest and rape. I do not claim to be able to even imagine the fear and disgust and anxiety that would accompany a resulting pregnancy.

But I'm still pro-life. I will defend those precious unborn children for all of my days. And I will pray- not just today or on Sundays, but every single day- that someday, maybe even during my own lifetime, people will respect and honor the sanctity of life... the miracle of creation... the wonder of being given the gift of an innocent child.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Raising Good Eaters: An Introduction

My children are far from perfect. And, believe me, I am far from a perfect mother. But you wanna know one thing I'm pretty confident that I'm good at? Raising good eaters. I hear time and time again from teachers, family, and other parents that my kids are great eaters. When people aren't remarking on what good eaters I have, they're lamenting their "only eats Eggo waffles and chicken nuggets" offspring.

Truth be told, these other parents very, very rarely seek my advice or input on how to broaden their children's gastrointestinal horizons. Frankly, it's easier to throw up your hands, shrug, and declare, "What can I do? He's just picky." If that's where you're at- no problem. But this series isn't for you.

Likewise, if you're looking to transfer your child over to a vegan diet or raw diet or completely sugar- and flour-free diet or any other fairly specific and narrow meal plan... this probably isn't for you either.

This series is for parents of babies and toddlers who want to raise children who will try things. Explore things. Eat what's set in front of them. Learn to take bites and say "no, thank you" if it's truly something they don't like. It's for parents of persnickety preschoolers who are wondering where they went wrong and if it's even possible to get back on track. I want to share with you all both the philosophy behind how I approach feeding my children and specific steps I've taken to ensure they're the kids labeled "good eaters".

Throughout the month of April, I'm going to be offering up tips and suggestions to help you raise your very own troop of "good eaters". I encourage you to join me on this journey if you're trying to improve the variety in your children's diets. I also encourage you to chime in if you're raising your own good eaters! I have no doubt that there's a wealth of knowledge out there and I still have much to learn... after all, my oldest is still in preschool.

For this week, I just want to leave you with one thought in your head... one little nugget to file away and keep ever-present in your mind... because it is crucial that you get this concept if this process is going to be successful:

Your child will not starve.*

That's it. That's all I want you to focus on and let mull around in there for the week. Really think about it and allow yourself to get comfortable with the idea that, as long as you're making nutritious food accessible to your child, he is not going to starve.

I'll see you next week and we can really get started.

(* note: Clearly, these posts are designed for parents who are raising "typical" children who are picky eaters, but otherwise healthy. Please do not think I intend these suggestions to be appropriate for all children. I realize there are special circumstances. All that being said, however, please be aware that one of my preschoolers is a former micropreemie who had all those "difficulty gaining weight" preemie issues... and she still turned into a good eater- and there's not an ounce of Pediasure in our home. Use your own -and your doctor's- good judgement here.)

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

A cool, drizzly afternoon and a raging sweet tooth a week or so ago put me in a baking mood and sent me searching the cabinets. When I came to the realization that I had no cocoa powder, no chocolate chips, no rolled oats, and I was super low on peanut butter... well, I was feeling a little uninspired. Then my gaze fell upon a little tupperware container of whole almonds and the wheels started turning...

I brewed up some decaf and got to work.

I now share with you....

Almond Streusel Coffee Cake

1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9" round pan. Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl. Add milk, butter, and vanilla. Beat until well-mixed (I do this with my mixer) and then add egg. Beat until smooth.

Pour into prepared pan.

Almond Streusel

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chilled butter
2 tablespoons flour

I chose to throw all of the above in a food processor for a few seconds until I had a nice, crumbly mixture.

You could certainly chop the almonds by hand and cut all the ingredients together, however. Sprinkle over cake batter.

Bake for approx. 20 minutes until center springs back when touched.

And that's that! This recipe could easily be adapted with a different variety of nut or with the addition of fruit... I would love to try a blueberry pecan or cranberry walnut version.

This post is linked to:
Tasty Tuesday

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Menu Plan Monday: Happy Easter 4/4/10

Happy Easter!! It feels like maybe Spring has finally sprung around here! We're excited to get out there some more as T-ball season begins and family walks brighten our weekends...


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
D-Leftover picking if anyone's hungry...


B-Jelly Toast, Yogurt, Juice
L-Mac & Cheese, Corn, Milk
D-Spinach and Feta Stuffed Turkey Burgers w/ Red Onion, Roasted Greek Potatoes


B-Oatmeal, Red Grapes, Milk (I found Steel Cut Oats marked down at my Aldi for 89 cents a canister!!!)
L-Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Yogurt, Pretzels, Water
D-Garlic Spaghetti, Broccoli, Garlic Toast (that's a lot of garlic!)


B-Peanut Butter Toast, Applesauce, Milk
L-Mac & Cheese, Mixed Veggies, Juice
D-Pigs in Blankets, Pickles, Baked Beans


B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Grilled Cheese, Apples, Milk
D-Bourbon Chicken & Rice with Carrots & Broccoli


B-Pancakes, Apples, Milk
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Milk
D-Pepperoni Pizza


B-Homemade "McGriddles"
D-Fish Sticks, Fries, Corn (I have not had fish sticks since I was a young child and my children have never tasted them... we'll see how this goes! ;) )

I hope you all had blessed Easters with your own families and are ready to embrace the rest of this lovely Spring!

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, April 2, 2010

"But There Are No Good Coupons!!"

I spent the past four weeks providing you all with forty different opportunities you might have to get those coupons clipped. It was important to me that I dispel the myth that you don't have the time to do it. You all jumped right on board with me and offered up some more great suggestions in the comments.

A few of you, however, do not seem to be having issues with finding the time to clip coupons... you just don't believe me that you can use coupons to buy quality, healthy foods. "They're all for junk!" you tell me. Or, "I never find any coupons for anything I would ever buy for family!"

Okay. I hear you. And there is the chance that, perhaps, there really are no coupons out there that will suit your particular family's needs. But I kind of doubt it. And I do challenge the notion that all coupons are for junk. I think we can all agree that we all have different ideas of what constitutes "healthy", but stick with me for a moment...

This was my quickie grocery trip I made after church this past Sunday:

And, okay, those fruit snacks are junk-y. Nothing "fruit" about them- I am aware of this. I am also aware that I am not the only mommy buying them occasionally. The other stuff I brought home?

  • Yogurt
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Pasta
  • Chocolate Chips (not healthy but, hey, I love to bake!)
  • Soap
  • Sour Cream
  • Cottage Cheese
This is not "weird" food, people. These are things that I would, indeed, be buying even if I didn't have coupons. But here's why I choose to use the coupons:

By using my grocery store's "loyalty card", I saved $12.05. That's good. But my coupons saved me- wait for it- $23.09. All told, I bought $40.82 worth of food for $5.68... a savings of 86%. Want me to sweeten that deal for you even more? All of those coupons (except for $1.50 off the fruit snacks, which was mailed to me) were internet printables. I did not even have to purchase the Sunday paper to get those savings.

Still skeptical? What do I need to do to convince you that coupons could probably help your budget? Let me know in the comments!

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Finery, part deux

Last year, I shared about how much I love seeing my kiddos dolled up in their Easter Finery. It still makes me smile to look back at that picture and see my son and older daughter snuggled together!

This year?

We've added another precious little girl to get all dolled up...

And that, my friends, is a finer thing indeed.

Did your children be get dressed up for this blessed Easter Sunday last weekend? I'd love to hear about what they were wearing!

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

"We're Pregnant"

No, no we're not. Or, rather, no I'm not. Because, see, despite the fact that we have three children together, my husband has never been pregnant. Not once. He never will be. He's, ahem, a man. And men do. not. get. pregnant.

I know it might seem silly. I also realize it's a petty thing to let bother me. But I just can't help it, people...

It drives me batty when couples announce, "We're pregnant!"

Yes, I am fully aware that the man was involved in the process and is, hopefully, very excited about the bundle-of-joy on the way. I'm really not trying to deny him any of the credit he so richly deserves...

But I'm thinking...

Do you think maybe all you glowing parents-to-be could perhaps change your lingo to the more accurate...

"We're going to have a baby!"


"We're expecting a baby!" least when you're talking to me? :) That's all I ask. Oh, and by the way...


(Isn't it convenient how this post ended up being on April Fool's Day? Hadn't even planned it!)