April 25, 2014

Yard Sale Season

As the weather warms up, flowers bloom, kids head outside and the sound of lawnmowers once again invade our ears, I'm reminded of another season that's upon us. Yard sale season! Once the nice weather is in full force, signs start cropping up and those looking for a good deal emerge from their homes in the early mornings.

You can take advantage of this wondrous season to save money and also to make it. Yard sales are often filled with kid toys, clothes, bikes, outdoor and sport equipment and so much more at a fraction of the price you'd pay new. Some sales may be duds, but dig around and you'll find some amazing deals that are sure to keep some green in your pocket.

While you're spring cleaning, take a look around at all the stuff you no longer need or use. The old saying about one man's (or woman's) trash being another's treasure is so true. Keep your eyes peeled for:

  1. Kitchen gadgets taking up space that you never use
  2. Clothes your kids hate or have outgrown that won't work as hand-me-downs for your family
  3. Old baby equipment you no longer need
  4. Toys stuffed in a corner, never to be loved again
  5. Clothes in your and the hubby's closet that you/he never wear
  6. Accessories you don't wear, including shoes, purses, jewelry, scarves
  7. Knickknacks and art you're tired of and have stuffed in storage
  8. Old furniture you're not using
  9. Items from a move that you didn't find a place for in the new house
  10. Boxes of "junk" you stuck somewhere to get it out of the way and haven't thought about since
  11. Anything and everything lying around taking up valuable space and making cleaning more of a chore

Collect it all, put on price tags, set it out nicely on card tables, strategically place easy-to-read signs along main roads and get your yard sale rolling! You'd be surprised what can make you a few extra dollars. If you're ambitious, ask neighbors and friends to join in to expand the offerings. The more you have, the more you'll attract buyers. Anything you don't sell you can save for another sale or donate.

We're currently working on sorting things out for our own sale. After we moved last year, there were so many things that just didn't work in this house or that the previous owner left behind. We also ended up with a ton of stuff from my childhood that my parents unloaded on us now that we have space. It's taking time to go through and sort it all. Once we're done, I'm hoping we'll make enough cash to buy M2 her winter duds and an outdoor playhouse. Oh, and a pizza for Mama and Dada. ;)

April 21, 2014

Easter Dinner Redux

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! We celebrated as a family on Saturday then M2 and I spent the actual day with her cousins, uncle and aunts. She had a ball and has spent most of today sleeping to recuperate. Her Easter basket of books, tub toy, stuffed animal and plate and bowl set was a hit. The little chair, giant ball and Cozy Coupe went over even better. She even figured out the egg hunt quickly and loved that, though she insisted on opening every egg (once she figured out they opened) as soon as she found it and bit a few head off some chocolate chicks and bunnies--foil and all.

As I mentioned in my Easter Dinner post here, I'd planned to share the recipes. However, I ended up not making the cheesecake, Jello salad or bunny rolls and the monkey bread went a bit screwy. It was still edible and not horrid by far, but wasn't what it should be or good enough to share. I'm still not entirely certain what went wrong, all the yummy goo just disappeared or turned hard. We were left with a pan of biscuits covered in cinnamon and a bit of goo here and there. M2 loved them, though she's also never had the really good ones so isn't the best judge.

The macaroni salad turned out well, that one is hard to mess up and I had A do it. It's his family recipe so he knows what he's doing. I'd share that recipe if I weren't afraid of making the family angry. Though, it'd probably be worse if I gave out the pierogi recipe that's been passed down through the generations. In my family, it's the sugar cookie recipe that's kept under tight lock. We'll be enjoying the leftover ham, veggies and mac salad this week.

How was your Easter?

April 17, 2014

Parental Language

I was thinking today: Since becoming a parent, there seems to be some set phrases that are said over and over and over. Daily. Here are the ones that come to mind:

1. NO!
2. How in the heck?!
3. Stop that!
4. Don't touch!
5. Why did you put X in your mouth?
6. Would you please go to sleep? PLEASE?
7. Don't shriek at the cats.
8. It's not nice to hit.
9. Give Mama her phone back.
10. Awwww! You're so cute!!
11. Good job!
12. Yay!
13. You're so silly!
14. Mama loves you.
15. Aww Mama needs a picture of you!
16. Do you want to read a story?
17. You're so smart!
18. Mwah!
19. Can Mama have a hug?
20. You give the best hugs.
21. You're so sweet.

April 16, 2014

Easter Dinner

Our yard in spring last year.
I love holidays. It's a good excuse to spoil M2 some, spend a relaxing day with family and cook up some yummy food. Easter for me means beautiful flowers, warmth returning and the start of something new. The flowers rank especially high on my list.

This year, due to A's work schedule, we're celebrating Easter on Saturday. I'm spending the days leading up to it getting the house spic-and-span (with A's help) since I've been too sick as of late to do much cleaning. A clean house for a holiday is a must for me.

It'll be the first Easter that M2 is old enough to participate, so I'm also planning some surprises. She'll have a fun egg hunt and a bunny basket with a few goodies, along with her first outdoor riding toy in the form of a Cozy Coupe and huge bouncy ball.

Another surprise is a day of yummy food. We don't usually do fancy breakfasts, meals or desserts, so I'm going to make up something extra tasty and indulgent. Of course, I'm planning for leftovers to cover everyone's lunches for the week.

Here's our menu as a prelude to future posts with recipes. I'm drooling just reading it!

Cinnamon butterscotch monkey bread--this is a family tradition, usually done at Christmas, for which I'm going to try a new recipe.

Baked ham
Bunny rolls
Spring veggie mix
Fruit Jello salad
Macaroni salad--another family tradition and a holiday must

Mini cherry cheesecakes

April 14, 2014

Delicious Hummingbird Cake

The hummingbird cake is the cousin of the carrot cake and is perfect for Easter (or any time, really). After researching the name, it seems no one really knows how it got its name. It's possible it came from the "mmm" you say once you have the first, unexpected bite.

The recipe I used is adapted from one originally printed many years ago in Southern Living magazine. It seems the recipe is the most-requested one ever since it first ran back in the late 70s. My cousin first introduced me to it and I'll be making it many more times, I'm sure! M2 loves it since it has bananas.

Delicious Hummingbird Cake

by The Stay-at-Home Life
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients (Two Layer Cake)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 2 1/4 pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup oil
  • 10 oz crushed pineapple, if from can undrained
  • 3 large bananas, mashed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon in a stand mixer and mix on stir setting until blended well.
Add eggs, vanilla, oil, pineapple and bananas and mix until all ingredients are moist
Spray two 8 inch round cake pans well so that the cake will come out easy after baking. Divide batter between the pans, they will be very full.
Bake 35-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean.
Let cake rest in the pans 30 minutes then take them out and place on cooling rack to cool completely.
Make your favorite cream cheese frosting.
Once cooled, put one half upside down and frost. Then place other half on top, ride side up, and frost.
Decorate as desired. Mine was for a spring party, so I dyed the frosting robin's egg blue, added chocolate sprinkles to symbolize a nest and dusted with clear sprinkles for sparkle.

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I mashed the bananas in the peel to make it easier.
They rise nice and high.

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April 9, 2014

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

Time to get cleaning.

I'm reviewing the products above today, just in time for spring cleaning. From left to right, there is the lemon verbena hand soap, lavender dish soap and geranium countertop spray. All are touted as being environmentally friendly and safer for you, along with being made with essential oils and free of chlorine, fake colors, parabens, phthalates, glycol solvents, animal-derived ingredients and formaldehyde. Because it is biodegradable, these would be great for those readers with septic systems.

The Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day website gives you more information about each product, what's available, and, best of all, breaks down all the ingredients to tell you what they are and what they do. That's a wonderful feature many companies don't do. The site itself is easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye.

The line comes in many different scents and offers other products. You can find them on Amazon and in some stores. I love how the packaging has a 50s-housewife-feel, while being modern. It's very fun and upbeat and the colors are perfect.

Hand Soap
Ratings (out of 10)
Overall: 7
Scent: 7
Gentle on Hands: 6
Cleaning Power: 7
Cost: 4

In our house, we usually keep regular dish soap in a dispenser at the kitchen sink as a multi-purpose soap. The Mrs. Meyer's hand soap is much easier on my hands for sure. It's taken up residence next to the dish soap. A little bit goes a long way, there's no need to use a giant squirt unless your hands are really, really dirty. However, it is nice. The lemon verbena scent is nice and leaves your hands smelling pretty for awhile. I'm usually not a fan of lemony scents, so that's saying something! Even A has been using this instead of the dish soap. I don't think it's a ton better than other hand soaps, maybe a touch.

What sets this soap apart is the cruelty-free and biodegradable qualities. The soap is clear because it's free of all those fake dyes. In fact, all the products I tested are. I really liked that about them.

This bottle made from 25 percent post-consumer plastic. All the ingredients I can't even pronounce listed on the bottle do worry me, but the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day website does the breakdown of each ingredient and what it does on the website to give you peace of mind. One bottle is much more expensive than Softsoap or the store brand equivalent. You can also get some fancy soaps for around this price.

Final review: It's a solid product. If you really like it and have the extra money to spend, I'd say go for it. We don't, so I'll be sticking to cheaper brands.

Countertop Spray
Ratings (out of 10)
Overall: 8
Scent: 9
Gentle on Hands: 8
Cleaning Power: 8
Cost: 5

The counter top spray one was my favorite of the three. I tried the geranium scent and it smells so good for hours after use. It definitely freshens the air as it claims. My countertops are left sparkling clean and any gunk was easy to get off. It is not a disinfecting spray, by the way. Like the hand soap, 25 percent of the container is post-consumer plastic. I haven't tried this in the bathroom but imagine it'd work well on counters there, too.

The bottle says the product is 98 percent plant derived, which is a big environmental plus. Again, the list of ingredients make me a bit leery, but there is a breakdown on the Mrs. Meyer's website for this one as well. The bottle is running out rather quickly, but I also tend to spray a lot to be sure I'm getting everything clean. You could probably use less and be fine.

Final review: This is a great product! While I really like it and it works great, I don't think I'll be a regular customer since my usual vinegar wash works almost as well, disinfects and is cheaper--mainly, because it's cheaper. Though, the vinegar doesn't smell nearly as good! The best part of the cleaner is really having the geranium scent for hours so your house smells like fresh flowers. If we had the extra cash, this would go on my shopping list. I was going to give this one a 9 (it's hard to get a 10 from me!) what brought it down was the price. If you have the money to splurge or hate vinegar, I'd say go for it.

Dish Soap
Ratings (out of 10)
Overall: 4
Scent: 3
Cleaning Power: 3
Gentle on Hands: 6
Cost: 3

The dish soap was my least favorite, by far. The first thing I noticed was that while the soap does have those essential oils, it still has sodium laureth sulfate--basically an inexpensive cleaning agent added to many soaps, shampoos, etc. It's also an ingredient I expect "healthier" brands to not have. A bit of disappointment from the start. This bottle is also only 25 percent post-consumer plastic, though that's still much more than many companies can say.

The soap cuts grease well but I found I had to use more soap than I'd expected for a more upscale product. The bubbles just weren't as plentiful as I'd like, especially for the price.

I'm a big fan of lavender, it's one of my favorite scents, but this soap is STRONG. After using it for a bit it started making me sick to my stomach and I had to switch to another. That may not bother someone else, but it bugged me. The upside of the strong smell is that all those plastic sippy cups, bibs, etc., that smell manky over time lost the mank once I soaked them with water and this soap in the sink for awhile. Not even baking soda got it all.

The biggest drawback and what cinched this as a "will not buy" for me was that it leaves a scent on all the dishes. Yes, it gets rid of the manky smell, but they're going to smell like lavender for sure. It does seem to fade eventually. That still doesn't sit well with me though, especially when using this on baby items.

Final review: An ok product. There are worse products, but there are also much better. I'll be using up the bottle and that's it. This one is not going to find its way onto my shopping list, even when we do win the lottery. I'm hoping they reformulate and improve this soap because it just isn't in line with the other products which tested much more solidly. This one's really the black sheep. For now, a skip it for sure.

This post contains affiliate links.

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April 7, 2014

Healthy, Quick, Money-Saving Snacks

If you're like me, when you want a snack you want it quick. You don't want to have to put something together, especially when the baby/toddler/kid is liable to get into SOMETHING while you do it. Whatever you see first is liable to be what you grab. If you go the pre-made snack route, many of the ones you can buy are expensive and not even that healthy.

Veggies and fruit
We keep containers of carrot sticks, fruit and/or other veggies in the fridge. I change it up depending on what we have at the time. Right now, we have the carrots and grapes. Last week, we had strawberries instead. You can also do orange slices, mandarin oranges, apple slices (dipped in lemon juice to keep them fresh for a few days), cucumber, snap peas--whatever you like. This helps to sneak in extra servings of fruits and veggies as well.

Carrot sticks are really cheap when you avoid the trap of baby carrot bags. At Walmart, I can get two pounds of carrots for $1.52 vs $1 for 12 oz. of the baby carrots. I simply peel and slice them, then stick them in a container full of water in the fridge. It takes 15 minutes, tops, to fit a large bucket. They're the first thing we see when opening the fridge. Tasty, healthy and easily accessible. I reuse large yogurt and butter containers for further savings. The carrot scraps can be put into a compost pile.

For fruit, I find something that's on sale, wash and/or cut it up and put it in a reused container in the fridge. That's all there is too it! Be sure to keep the containers up front in the fridge so they don't get lost and forgotten about.

A loves carrots, so a large butter tub of them lasts about a week. I refresh the containers (including hand washing them) when they get empty.

Another plus? This technique is very helpful for weight loss as well. Instead of being tempted by the granola bars, bread or other easy-grab items, I can nab a handful of these babies. Mmm.

Another quick snack, albeit it does take a few minutes to put together,  is air-popped popcorn. I've read so many studies that say the microwave bags are just plain bad for you, plus they're pricey and you can't control the butter and salt content. Instead, we keep a popper (it was $20 tops at Walmart, cheaper around Black Friday) and a bag of kernels on hand. It's easy to dump in the kernels after the popper has heated up for a moment, stick a bowl under the popper to collect it, melt a bit of butter and then drizzle it on top. If you want, you can add salt or cinnamon and sugar. Be careful, the more butter and toppings you add the less healthy this one gets. This is great for afternoons, rainy days, during movies--whenever! We even have a popcorn bowl for big batches. M2 is a big fan.

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April 3, 2014

Dishwasher Disconnect

It's a standing rule that when you own a home, something will always break. For us, the March breakdown was our washer and dryer. Both were promptly replaced with new Whirlpool models that (knock on wood) work great and I love. In a matter of three days, we went from old and busted to new and energy efficient.

April's break down is our dishwasher. It came with the house when we bought it last summer and was brand new. It's not top-of-the-line by any means but worked great and had no reason to go kaput in less than a year of use. I had run it and when A went to unload, he noticed it was all still dirty with water in the bottom. Thinking it was a clog, he checked for that. Then checked the sink. Then tried Draino. It just didn't make sense! What was up with this thing?!

Before he dismantled the sucker, I suggested we run it to see what would happen. A was leary; what if it started leaking all over the place? That would not be a fun mess. As we debated, I checked it out further and noticed that there wasn't much water in the bottom. Odd, if it had just stopped draining there should be more. Also, the dishwasher itself was dirty as though no water had run through it for long. Plus, the soap dispenser never engaged. That happens early on in a cycle. Sherlocking it out, I realized it must have stopped early into the cycle and never even washed. But why?

Then I figured it out. The day I ran the dishwasher, one of the outlet breakers had popped when I accidentally pushed it putting in those safety outlet covers. I kept popping it as I was pushing the test rather than reset button. The dishwasher is on the same breaker. It had popped, stopping the  dishwasher, and I just never noticed!

We started the dishwasher up again, keeping an eye on it, and the first thing it did was drain the water in the bottom. Obviously, no draining issue if it did that! Followed was an uneventful wash cycle.

If only all home breakdowns and repairs were this easy. The takeaway of this story? When it comes to something electronic, check your breakers. It may be an easy, quick fix.

Easy Crockpot Mushroom Veggie Chicken

I had to change my weekly meal plan for tonight as we didn't have the leftover I'd planned on. Wondering what to make in a pinch, I pulled out the chicken breasts I bought the other night, pulled out the slow cooker, and started on this recipe.

2 cans mushroom soup
1/2 mushroom soup can of water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp parsley flakes
3 large chicken breasts
1/2 bag broccoli pieces
1/2 bag cauliflower pieces

1. Dump one can of soup and 1/4 soup can of water into the slow cooker.
2. Add the chicken
3. Dump other soup can and other 1/4 can of water on top of the chicken.
4. Sprinkle seasonings on top
5. Turn slow cooker on high, cook for 6 hours
6. Shred the chicken in the pot, continue cooking
7. Microwave the veggies, add to the chicken mixture
8. Stir it up and serve!

Easy and tasty. We severed ours sans side starch.

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April 2, 2014

Getting to Know You

A few things occurred to me today that I thought I'd share so you can get to know me better.

  1. We're going to wait until next year to do a veggie garden. This year, we're way behind on putting it in and realized with all that's going on there's a good chance it'd end up being too much work. Which would mean it'd sit there rotting, making it a complete waste of time, effort and money.
  2. I have a new recipe for crumb cake. We're hoping it turns out well, if it does, I'll share the recipe in the future.
  3. I don't think I've ever done an April Fool's prank! So sad.
  4. M2 is still rather stuffy. Despite this, she enjoyed our shopping trip yesterday and even got a new hat for Easter. She picked the color on her own--blue.
  5. M2 tries to clean things up now. The cat puked all over the floor (oh, joy!) and she had to run and find rags. She then tried to use them to clean it up. Very cute, but it also became very icky!
  6. M2 knows how to wash her hands, loves it and when they get icky even holds them out to be washed. This was done after her foray into cleaning cat puke.
  7. I think I may have an obsession with lists. They're just so neat and organized though!
  8. None of my household cleaning, other than throwing laundry in the wash, has been completed this week. That will make for a very busy rest of the week!
  9. Spoilers, sweetie!! Unlike many, I enjoyed the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. I thought it fit well with the whole series in many respects. It told about how Ted met BOTH the kids' mothers (assuming he marries Robin she'll become their mother, too) and it gave proper respect to the Mother. It's not like Ted ran out as soon as she died to hook up with Robin. In fact, he needed a push to do it. I also liked that Lily had another kid. I did not like that they didn't share her name.
  10. I can't end a list on an uneven number. It's a thing.

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