Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All Things Pumpkin

Being Halloween, I decided it was time to equip you with all things pumpkin. There is something heavenly about a pumpkin candle burning, sipping a pumpkin latte, or munching delicious pumpkin muffins. Or pancakes. Or get the point. And since Thanksgiving is less than a month away, I figure we need to enjoy these warm flavors before St. Nick comes a' calling. So here goes, a few fun and delightful (and slightly indulgent!) recipes to get you into the spirit of fall. Treat yourself today!

Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pancakes (thank you, Pioneer Woman!!)
  • 3 cups Cake Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2 cups Canned Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2-1/2 cups Milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Butter, For Serving
  • Maple Syrup, Warmed, For Serving
  • Finely Chopped Pecans, For Serving
  • Caramel Sauce, For Drizzling (optional)
  • Mix first nine ingredients and drop tablespoons of batter onto hot griddle. Flip after about a minute and let cook until golden brown. Toppings optional but what good is a pancake without all the accoutrements?? Enjoy!!

    adapted from

    Here are a few more ways to use canned pumpkin (15 oz. can):
    Easy Pumpkin Pie- Combine one can pumpkin puree with one block softened cream cheese, one cup sugar and half tub Cool Whip. Pour into prepared graham cracker pie shell and top with the remaining Cool Whip. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve!
    Pumpkin Brownies- Combine one can pumpkin puree with one box brownie mix and bake according to box directions. That's it. Seriously!!
    Pumpkin Spice Latte-  Are you sooo over paying $4+ for a cup of Jo?? Me too!! Prepare your own coffee (one cup) to taste with sugar and milk, then add 2-3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin and about 1 teaspoon cinnamon, to taste. Simmer over low heat until pumpkin has dissolved.
    There are endless ways to use this year's bounty of pumpkins so get crackin'!! What will you make?? Happy Halloween! Be safe!

    Sunday, October 28, 2012

    Getting My Groove Back...Slowly

    Recently, I've felt more tired than ever. It's like four-and-a-half years of being a stay-home mommy have finally caught up to me. The sleepless nights with a two-year-old in my bed, running after toddlers and caring for a home, planning meals and potty training have all got me feeling like a train wreck. Oh, and I gave up caffeine. And after a short bought of the stomach flu, I finally feel like I'm getting back on my feet. It's taken a couple weeks, but I'm slowly pulling things together. I decided I needed to ditch the excuses and get back in the game. So what did I do?? First, I started walking again. It was easy to get off track while I was sick and all the pathetic justifications to myself piled did a few pounds!! It's amazing what a difference a daily dose of exercise makes!! And I'm getting outside, taking the kids for walks, doing projects and just keeping busy. So I'm getting there one day at a time. Whatever is going on in our lives, it's so important to find a way through the mess and take time for ourselves. "Mommy" is the best and hardest job I've ever had but I'm doing it and surviving!! How do you beat a case of the "blahs"??

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    My Menu

    Today I did my grocery shopping and spent a little more than usual. A couple snacks/some candy for Halloween parties..etc. and I racked up $70.00! Normally, my total is anywhere from $50-$60 and people have asked how I do it?!? Well, by the end of the week we are scraping by and eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch, I don't buy any drinks except for milk and sometimes mixes from the 99 Cent Store and I plan inexpensive, but healthy meals ahead of time and save by keeping things simple. Oh, and the "dinner out" night is usually something we have coupons for like Del Taco, Subway or an In-N-Out splurge!! Here's how this week looks:

    Saturday: Hash brown casserole with cinnamon rolls (hubby's request!)
    Sunday: Shepherd's pie
    Monday: Rigatoni with meat sauce/salad/garlic bread
    Tuesday: Hot dogs/organic oven fries
    Wednesday: Halloween!! Grilled cheese and turkey "batwiches"/carrots and broccoli
    Thursday: Tuna casserole
    Friday: Out!!
    What are you eating this week??

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    The Tooth Fairy Debacle

    Yesterday, my daughter's first tooth finally fell out after being loose for months. Of course that meant Daddy and I had some work to do. Some Lalaloopsy stickers, a couple gold coins and a little fairy dust and we were good to go! Or so I thought. After placing the treats under her pillow carefully and leaving a sweet but urgent note from the tooth fairy, (be a good girl!! Obey Mommy and Daddy and no hitting your brother!!) she awoke excited and surprised. But then something unexpected happened. Jovie wanted to look online at all the Lalaloopsy girls so I obliged. After perusing the different dolls,  there was one that looked a little...creepy. At least to a four-and-a-half year old. So the meltdown began and for the next hour, she sobbed, wailed and cried. I tried to distract her, refocus her attention on books, play-doh..etc. to no avail. Finally, finally after her brother and I were almost done with a princess puzzle, she came around to help. This left me wondering why I even bother. No, I can't always foresee what will set my kids off but I guess I just need to be a little more discerning in the future. So the Tooth Fairy tried. She did her best and hopefully by this afternoon my little lady will forget all about the horror of the Lalaloopsy doll. Sometimes you win some and sometimes you lose, but I guess that goes with the territory of being a parent.


    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Every Night is Date Night

    Ok, ladies..I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure when we become mommies, date night goes out the door. It's just a fact. Along with long, hot showers, pedicures, shopping in peace, and peeing with the door closed, date night goes bye-bye. Don't believe me?? Then you are a freak. And I envy you. Ok, there. I said it. So for the rest of us harried, wary, tired, cranky and just-barely-treading-water mommies, stay with me. Oh, and I have to confess. Date night has lost it's luster a bit in light of the fact that I'd much rather be in bed in my jammies at 9:00 than out on the town. Glad I got that off my chest. But with all that said, I actually do grasp the importance of it. And Mama's going to start embracing it. Yes, we are busy. We are tired and my hubby works a lot but you know what I've realized? It doesn't really matter how fancy, how unique or how long your date night lasts, it just matters that you have one once in a while. Last night, we went to the movies (Taken 2- really good, by the way..) and got dinner after and it was awesome. But if you can't get a sitter or don't have it in your budget to go out, pick a movie, a board game, a meal and go at it. Have some fun together, some time to talk and to really enjoy each other. When the kids are grown and it's just the two of us in the house, I want to still know my hubby, to still have things to say to him and for him to know that I'm still making an effort. Oh, and that I am still in love with him too. Yes, we are all trying to survive these crazy years with little ones and it's not always easy but it's so worth it. So pencil him in and get started! What will you do for date night???

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Grocery Store Savings: My Menu

    I went to the grocery store today instead of tomorrow, my regular shopping day, since I got some awesome coupons from Vons and additionally, they always have special deals on Fridays! For example, $5 for various bulk items such as toilet paper and snacks and $5 pizzas. So with coupons in hand, I spent the next forty-five minutes or so wrangling my kids and shopping cart and filled up on the great deals. The coupons from the mail (keep an eye out..they don't expire until Oct. 31st..) had $10 off $50 or more, a $5 rotisserie chicken and a FREE bagged salad, french loaf, and box of Rice-A-Roni!! Talk about saving money!! So I shopped wisely and spent a mere $41.30 on my groceries for the week. Now, as is my usual disclaimer, I will probably need a few odds and ends during the week (a cookie mix from the 99 Cent Store, perhaps??) but I am well below my weekly budget of $100!!! I try and use the grocery budget for other incidentals during the week as well like a contribution towards my bible study potluck or snacks for my daughter's play group. It all comes out of that $100. Here's how my menu looks:

    Saturday: Rotisserie Chicken/Rice-A-Roni
    Sunday: Date Night!!!
    Monday: Spaghetti/Garlic Bread
    Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Wraps/Organic Oven Fries
    Wednesday: Chicken Salad (with leftover rotisserie chicken..) French Bread
    Thursday: Chicken and White Cheddar Flautas
    Friday: Out!!
    I know there's a lot of chicken dishes but with my $5 chicken and organic chicken on sale, I couldn't pass it up!! What are you cooking this week???

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Halloween Fun: DIY Style

    The past couple of weeks, my kids and I have been ensconced in all that is Halloween. From crafts to goodies and everything in-between, our home has been transformed into a festive fall fest. There are sooo many things you can do with your kids. All they need is a blank canvas and their imaginations will go wild! Blank paper, wood frames or shapes, cupcakes and more can be turned into a wonderful afternoon project. On our agenda?? Painting frames and decorating cupcakes. All you need are a few supplies: paint, stickers, pom-poms, pipe cleaners and for the treats? Frosting and sprinkles! Kids are just begging to get their hands dirty and create something all their own! So get going and get into the spirit of all that is Halloween!
    And speaking of the spirit of Halloween, there's no better DIY project than making your kids a one-of-a-kind costume! Here are some ideas:
    - Bugs! Ladybugs, bees and butterflies are easy to make. A pair of wings, leggings and an antennae headband are simple to put together.
    - Superheros can easily be made by creating a no-sew cape out of an old t-shirt (cut the sleeves off and leave the back and neck to slip over their head..) Add a mask and voila! Superhero!
    - Turn your little one into a cowboy or girl by throwing them in jeans, a flannel shirt and a hat from a discount store.
    - Recycle an old holiday dress and add a wand and tiara and you'll have a princess in no time!
    Check out and Pinterest for more fun ideas!!
    What will your little one be??

                                                                          more paint...

                                                                      Gobbling cupcakes!

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Hot Dog Diaries

    I have a confession. We eat a lot of hot dogs around here. I mean a lot. For instance, my son just requested one for a late-morning snack and my daughter will eat a hot dog as her main course daily. Now, I know they are not the best dish ever but I buy either organic or kosher hot dogs and serve them with fruits and veggies so as not to feel quite as bad. But still, a hot dog is a hot dog. They are relatively inexpensive, go perfectly with homemade mac n' cheese (or the boxed kind, let's be real..) and are a super easy go-to as they simply require a quick zap in the microwave. I know, I know...I should switch it up and offer my kids a bounty of options at mealtime but when I find something they LOVE and will eat happily (with no arguing or whining or fits, I might add...) then I stick to it!! So come on and confess, what's the one thing you can't keep from your kiddos???

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Too Busy For TV

    Lately, as the weather has taken a cooler turn, my kids and I have had the joy of going outside more without worrying about sweltering heat. It's amazing how much fun kids have just running, playing, digging and being outdoors. Lately, there have been more and more times where a whole day will go by and we haven't made any "deposits" in our TV account. I see it like this: TV, for me, is used as a chance for my kids to relax a bit and take a break from a long day of hard play and/or a chance for mommy to have a little quiet time. Sure, there are plenty of ways to keep them occupied but sometimes, TV is the answer. I allow my kids no more than two hours a day and honestly, most days we rarely hit that quota. Between reading, drawing, outdoor time, playing in their room, doing puzzles...etc., it's easy to forget about TV altogether. And the more I just let my children "be", without feeling like I need to plan their entire day, the better they play. It seems the less I meddle, the more they come up with things to do on their own. Yes, most of my day is spent sitting cross-legged on the floor playing or sitting at the table doing projects with my kids but as they get older, they are becoming more independent and playing better together. At first, it kind of freaked me out. I've had moments where I think "ummm...what do I do with myself??" but I quickly find a project, a pile of laundry or my very favorite...a  good book!! So let your kids be kids and give them time to find things to do when the boredom bug bites. The less TV they watch, the more time they will have to learn, play and explore!! What are your favorite activities to do with your kids?

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    My Menu

    Today, after spending $43.32 at Sprouts, I knew I would need to hit Target also but was off to a good start with my menu. I LOVE Sprout's for their abundant selection of healthy and organic options, low priced fruits and veggies and for their bulk bins. However, they do lack certain items I use like Nathan's hot dogs and Gatorade. So yes, I will have to go to another store this week but with our new $100 a week food budget, I have plenty to spare. Here are a few tips to stretch your grocery budget that have helped me:
    - Spread your meat through the week. Use it as an accent to a meal instead of it being the star of the show. Instead of using a 20 oz. package of ground turkey for a meatloaf, use half for tacos and half for spaghetti. Be creative in your cooking and go meatless now and then!
    - Buy your produce in it's most simplest form. A head of lettuce, for example instead of a bagged and washed variety or carrots whole instead of pre-cut in a bag. All the prep work you do will cost you a little time, but save money!
    - Quit buying boxed and packaged snacks. This is a toughie...I would much rather hand my kids a granola bar than cut up apples, cheese and carrots but the extra work is worth the time and health of my children! Make it easy by prepping food as soon as you're home from the store!

    Here's how my menu looks:

    Saturday: Spaghetti with ground turkey/garlic bread
    Sunday: Hot dogs/organic oven fries
    Monday: Organic chili/cornbread
    Tuesday: Meatball subs with mozzarella
    Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner!! Blueberry pancakes, bacon and hash browns
    Thursday: Grilled cheese/salad
    Friday: Dinner out!!

    What will you make this week??

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    God Made Dirt...

    And dirt don't hurt! At least that's what I've been telling myself the past couple days as my kids have discovered the joy of making mud. It's incredible how much time they can spend digging in the dirt, covered from head to toe in pure delight. Although today is cold and calling for rain, I acquiesced when my daughter begged to play in the dirt on the patio. She had to make her mud creations, her hot chocolate and cakes. How could I say no? So out my babies went to play in the dirt. The same dirt we had covered with mulch in an effort to make our patio presentable. I can't complain though because I am crossing things off my to-do list in no time! Just this morning alone I was able to make a grocery list after perusing various websites for recipes, check my e-mail, pay some bills and most importantly, get some reading in. All thanks to the mud. Yes, I'll have a mess to clean up later on and the kids will no doubt traipse in barefoot, bringing the yard in with them. But for some peace and quiet, I will pay the devil his dues! A little water will make it all better. How do your kids stay outta your, I mean how do your kids stay busy??

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Crisis Averted

    We went to Palm Springs this past weekend and although we had a few speed bumps along the way, I'm soooo glad we went. First, I left our Knott's Soak City passes at home (the reason behind the trip!!). I didn't realize until we were almost there so on to Plan B we went. Trying to fill that empty day with fun for our kids proved easier than I thought. A trip to the mall, a park, and the movies all proved to be delightful time spent as a family. But then, while we were waiting for our horse and carriage ride, my kids found a patch of dirt and got...dirty...really, really dirty. But Logan had an even better surprise for Mommy. He had an accident...a messy, messy one. His legs, underwear, was everywhere! But I was undeterred. A visit to the car and a whole pack of wipes later, we were back on track. And while my kids had trouble settling in to sleep in the hotel beds and were grouchy in the morning, a cooked to order breakfast made us all a little happier. All in all, we had a great time soaking up the sun, swimming, playing and having an adventure together. We are blessed that my hubby has a stable job (with vacation time!), healthy kids, and a car to take us on our not-so-perfect trips together. I'll take time with my family any way I can get it! So take some time to enjoy your family, in whatever way your budget allows. As long as you are together, it doesn't have to be perfect. What will you do??

    Pre-poop disaster..
    At dinner
    My boys ;)
    Posing for Mommy after much arm-twisting!

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    A Week of Groceries

    Here's my meal plan for the week, based on a mere $55.47 spent at Sprout's. Because we were out of town this past weekend, I shopped today instead of Saturday. Here's how it looks:

    Monday: Chicken Ranch and Bacon Paninis with Potato Chips
    Tuesday: Talapia with salad and baked potatoes
    Wednesday: Chicken Tacos
    Thursday: Penne with Homemade Meatballs and salad
    Friday: Dinner out!
    So far, we have stuck to our fast-food budget and have cut loads of calories as well, I'm sure! What  are you making this week??

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Budgeting 101

    October being the Beebe Family Money Challenge kickoff, I wanted to think of more ways to save besides at the supermarket and drive-thru. I got to thinking where I might be able to cut corners even more and realized there are little things that add up. There are the obvious things like brewing your own coffee instead of hitting Starbucks daily, cutting back on cable and internet service and eating more meals at home. This one is hard for us. Normally, when my hubby and I are craving something sweet once the kiddos have gone to bed, Mike immediately heads out for Jack in the Box shakes. We don't think twice to run out for dessert or snacks as a treat. But those treats add up. Not only do they cost dollars, but calories as well...a LOT of calories. So last night, craving a treat after dinner, we decided to take the kids for a walk to the 99 Cent Store. I got a small snack size cookie mix for just a dollar and made us a little bedtime treat with waaaay fewer calories and it took some walking to get them!
    Speaking of walking, I happen to be lucky to live in an area of my city where my kids and I can walk to a lot of places. The park, library and a small shopping center are all less than a half a mile from our house. Walking not only gives us something to do to get out of the house and get fresh air, but it also gives us a chance to save money on gas. We try to fill up no more than once a week and there are some weeks when we're on fumes by Sunday. I try to plan my week strategically, making sure I'm not taking too many long trips. The gallons add up and while pinching pennies doesn't seem like the most fun family activity, I challenge you to start small and see where you can save. Maybe you've been wanting to kick the fast food and get into better shape, start that savings account, or just have a little more at the end of the month to help someone in need. Where will you start??

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    It's a Wrap

    Here's a great dinner idea that's fast and requirements for meals around here! I slow cooked a 2-pound portion of chicken tenderloins with half an onion, reserving about a quarter of it for enchiladas tonight. With the rest, I added BBQ sauce and rolled it into spinach wraps and added shredded cheese. I served it with a quick boxed pasta salad mix and that I added fresh veggies to. Wraps are a little different and a little more fun than a regular tortilla because there are so many varieties to choose from. They can also be high in calories so keep an eye out. Mine had 210 calories each but I used lean chicken breast and just a sprinkle of cheese so I ate dinner happily and guilt free! These are also a great use for lunch the next day as you can stuff them with anything....veggies, salad, beans, name it!!! What will you put in yours?

                                                                          Wrap it up!!!

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Potato Cheese, Please

    My hubby and I have been fans of potato cheese soup since way back when. The warm, creamy flavors hit the spot without hitting your pocketbook! I made a big pot of it just yesterday and for about five dollars for 8 servings, it's a deal indeed! It's velvety and rich, thanks to the addition of cream cheese. I was skeptical at first...cream cheese in soup??? But let me tell you, no other recipe I've tried for this soup even comes close. Here's my version, adapted from a few online and I highly recommend doubling it so you can freeze half. It's a bit time consuming but worth every minute!!

    Potato Cheese Soup
    4 cups chicken broth
    4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (I baked mine in microwave 10 minutes first to speed things along!)
    1 tablespoon butter
    1/4 cup minced onion
    1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 teaspoon red pepper
    1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into chunks
    Saute the onion and butter until onions are soft. Add broth, potatoes and spices and let boil until potatoes are tender. Mash soup slightly to release starch from potatoes then turn heat to low and add cream cheese. Let simmer until cheese is completely melted. Enjoy!