Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tasty Goodness:
Whole Wheat Banana Nut Pancakes

My husband LOVES pancakes.  And generally, the fluffier, and whiter, the better in his book.  I am always on a quest to convert him to whole grains, so whenever I see a recipe for whole grain breakfast treats, I give it a go.  I've had a few successes, but Patrick is rather suspicious of such things, so I've learned not to tell him when I'm trying out a whole grain recipe. :)

Yesterday was Breakfast for Dinner night at our house, sparked by a new blog I've been reading called Trainer MommaTrainer Momma is a health nut (I mean that in the best possible way) who has made it her mission to inspire the masses to exercise more and eat healthily.  She's posted scores of recipes on her blog (as well as exercise plans) to help us do just that.  I saw a recipe for Whole Wheat Waffles that intrigued me, so I decided to give it a go. Since I had three very ripe bananas, I decided to modify the recipe to use those, especially because I thought the added sweetness of the bananas might make the waffles more palatable to Patrick.  I did decrease the added sugar in the recipe to 2T., though, so they weren't too sweet. 

The waffles turned out great in my opinion.  Very tasty.  Patrick liked them, too--Yippee!  We used our Belgian waffle maker, because that's the only type we have, but I imagine this recipe will work well on any waffle maker.  Here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Waffles
modified from Trainer Momma's Whole Wheat Waffles

3 very ripe bananas
2 c. whole wheat flour
4 T. canola oil
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
3 t. baking powder
3 eggs
2 c. milk
2 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat your waffle iron.  In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until just combined.  (I like to lightly whisk my eggs before adding to break up the yolks and help the eggs mix in better.  Just don't over-whisk them.)  Then spray the waffle iron with cooking spray and start making your waffles.  Trainer Momma suggest 1/4 c. of batter for a regular waffle iron.  Our Belgian waffle maker uses 3/4 c. of batter per waffle, and we ended up with 8 waffles.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A little perspective

Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality.  I vacillate between being grateful to have a solid roof over our head that we can afford on one income, and maniacally looking for ways to get out from under said roof.  We live in a nice 3 bedroom condo.  Our complex was converted from apartments into condos 4 years ago, and when they did so they updated the finishes and did any necessary repair work.  That's a big reason why we bought this place-- because it was move-in ready.  It is a perfectly functional, adequate home.  And with only 3 of us, we do have enough space.  But the trouble is I never thought we'd be here once we had a kid, and now that my kid is super mobile, the small space is really getting to me. 

I know that in many, many places, 1038 sq. ft. for a family of three is spacious.  I also know that it is adequate.  But the trouble is that I long for more.  Is that terrible?  I know that I should be grateful for what we have, and find ways to make it work, and most days I am and I do.  But other days, I just can't take it.  And the thought of adding another person into this space (no, I'm not pregnant, just thinking of the future) makes my head spin.

Having said all that, looking at the new IKEA catalog makes me realize that there are many ways to make this space work even with another little one running around.   So I'm planning to make some changes.  But I'm going to make them small changes that can come with us.  Because I don't want to be here forever, and I think it is ok to plan for a time when we'll live in a bigger house.  I think that's practical, not ungrateful.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Better Late Than Never

You know how pregnant women are supposed to enter a nesting phase and suddenly, in a fit of organization, put together the nursery before the baby comes?  Yeah, that never happened to me.  I got the furniture in place, and had the basics set up, like a changing station, the crib, a rocker for nursing and bedtimes, and a diaper setup, but I never got around to making it look pretty.

It's not that I didn't think about it.  In fact, the sad part is that I had almost everything I wanted to put on the walls by the time Claire was born, but by then I was too exhausted from teaching all day to be bothered to hang anything.  And once I was on maternity leave, I was huge (I swear I provided Claire with a 3-bedroom condo of her own in there), and didn't have it in me to hang things on the wall.  Besides, have any of you tried to hang things straight with a baby bump sticking out in front of you?  Not so easy.

I told myself I would do it once the baby was here.  After all, I'd be able to stand straight and move much more easily (ha!  First-time mom naivete showing!).  But the reality is that once Claire was here, the nursery was the last thing on my mind.  Or what mind I had left at that point.  I tell ya, between my sieve-like trap of a memory, sleep deprivation, and pregnancy/nursing hormones, I was pleased to remember how to take care of Claire most days.  I had no mental capacity left to care about what was on the walls in her nursery.

Then life kept happening, and I stopped worrying about her nursery.  Afterall, she only slept and got dressed in there.  She certainly didn't care and I had bigger fish to fry.  Right around her first birthday, though, it began to bug me.  I realized that what was once an excusable delay was now just plain embarrassing.  So I started working on it.  In fits and starts at first, because let's be honest, a toddler keeps you just as busy as a newborn, but I puttered away at it bit by bit.  And about a month ago, we got it done.  Well 95% done, anyway.  Here are some shots of what we did:
This was the first area that was setup, because, as you can imagine, we spent LOTS of time there when Claire was an infant.  This was our feeding, rocking, singing, soothing station, and it worked wonders.  Happily today, as seen below, Claire still loves it and has turned it into her bible reading station:
That's Claire's look of pure delight.  This kid is such a character! :)
This part of her room was completed last summer, because I used this area all the time.  Her closet has a dresser in it that I use as a changing table.  I DIY'd the letters hanging above using artist canvases, mod podge, and scrapbook paper.  Fun fact:  During Claire's first year, Patrick liked to randomly rearrange the letters to see how long my mommy-brain would take to notice.  :)

The rest of the room waited a LONG time to finish.  The pieces we collected were stacked against the wall for months.  When Claire started picking them up and spreading them around the house, I knew I needed to do something about it... 
These shelves hold all of Claire's special mementos.  There's her custom imprinted silver piggy bank from cousin Sally and Evan, a Japanese doll that means Bright Light (also the meaning of Claire) from Grandma, one of C's ultrasound pics, her first pinecone (my kid has a thing for pinecones), and the "Saving Up for Baby" piggy bank that my mom gave us when we first started the Baby Fund years ago so I could be a stay-at-home mom.
These fun paper flowers were inspired during a internet trolling session when I was trying to find idea's for C's first birthday party.  I'll do a post later explaining the process.  They're a bit time consuming, but fairly easy to make.

The last part of C's nursery features her magnet boards (the front of our fridge is not magnetic and she needs a place to practice her letters!!), bookshelf, and a gallery wall.  But this is where the room was only 95% done.  I hadn't thought about what to put into all of the frames yet, and so I used pics of C I had printed for her birthday party.  Seemed like a good idea, especially since those are my favorite pics of her first year.  But it came out a bit shrine-like.  I love my daughter dearly, but I was a bit creeped out by a wall-o-Claire.
 So, I searched through all our pics, and came up with pics of Claire and her most important peeps instead.  It's still a work in progress, but here's what it looks like today:
Some of the frames are still empty (or still hold the fake family pics they came with).  I have plans for those, and I want to replace some of the current pics with some art pieces I have my eye on over at Etsy.  Just got to save up my pennies first. :)

In the meantime, Claire is greatly enjoying her magnet board and chair, and I'm happy to have a functioning, decorated nursery for her.
Anyone else take FOREVER to finish their child's nursery?  I know I can't be the only one, right???

Friday, August 12, 2011

Toys, toys, toys

Toys are the bane of my existence lately.  My daughter doesn't have a ton of toys, but for the life of me I can't seem to come up with a good storage system for them.  I've tried numerous ways to contain the chaos, and none of them seem to work long term.

Part of the problem is that my daughter loves to take toys out of the bins, strew them about the room, and then walk away.  Claire actually likes to organize things and put things in bins, so I need to harness that and teach her to put them back in the bins.  In order for the to happen though, I think we needed to overhaul our current system.

The lastest iteration of our toy storage system was to create a little "toy nook" for C.  It was supposed to look something like this:

But on a good day, it tended to look like this:
Not quite the orderly, easy to keep tidy space I had in mind.  I think Claire had a little too easy access to everything, so she would just pull everything out on the floor, and walk away.  (Note- I promise that Claire doesn't generally play with the cheese slicer.  It is supposed to live in the bottom drawer of the kitchen, and lately Claire has decided that's her satellite toy bin.  Time for the next phase of baby-proofing...)

So I decided that once again I needed to rethink C's toy storage.  I was trying to keep that area free from furniture, because it's only about 3 ft by 3 ft, and I wanted to keep it feeling spacious.  Instead, with the toys everywhere, it felt cluttered, so I decided to bring something in to wrangle the toys.  Enter the bookshelf from C's nursery.  I had hoped that C was at the age where we could start transitioning her play space to her room.  I set up a bookshelf in there with some bins of toys and books for her to enjoy.  However, she's more interested in the diaper pail than her toys in there (yuck!) so that's out. 

Now I'm trying the bookshelf out in the living room.  I'm hoping having the bins on the shelf will mitigate her spreading toys everywhere, because she can't see them all at once.  And, although it takes up more visual room in the space, the bookshelf definitely looks more organized and tidy, so I think that's an improvement.
Notice that I can't get a picture of an organized space without C in it?  This kid loves it when her toys are put away.  It's like suddenly she notices them again.  Oh well, at least she seems to like it.  And I'm happy to report that a couple hours later, the only toys off the shelves were the puzzles.  For now, I think we may have a winner!

Do any of you have some brillant toy storage solutions?  Please do share, because I figure the countdown on this current solution is T minus 15-ish days... :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

School Supply Donation Challenge Complete!

I did it!  I spent $100.31 purchasing as many school supplies as I possibly could to donate to Hopelink, a local charity that helps kids in need.  When I started this challenge, I knew I could get a fair amount of supplies because I have lots of experience with discount school supply shopping (more on that here).  However, I was pleased as punch to discover just how far $100 could really go.  Ready to see the grand haul?  Here it is:
Here's a breakdown of exactly what's on that table:
  • 18 packs of filler paper (a total of 2,790 sheets!)
  • 32 spiral notebooks
  • 2 binders
  • 2 Insertable divider 5-packs
  • 20 bottles of school glue
  • 56 glue sticks
  • 88 pens
  • 11 colored pencil 12-packs
  • 15 crayon 24-packs
  • 10 thin marker 10-packs
  • 5 reams of copy paper
  • 2 packs of 100 3x5 index cards
  • 2 mini-staplers
  • 10 scissors
  • 39 highlighters
  • 20 Sharpie markers
  • 41 mechanical pencils
  • 115 wood pencils
  • 10 rulers
  • 11 pencil sharpeners
  • 153 cap erasers
  • 20 pearl erasers
  • 32 folders
Not shown (because I forgot to put them on the table.  Whoops.)
  • 2 backpacks
  • 3 pencil boxes
Cool, huh?  I figure that is enough to completely outfit two students, to provide 8 more students with everything but a binder and a backpack, and then provide assorted supplies to many more students. 

Tomorrow I will drop it all off at Hopelink.  I'm excited to talk to them to find out the results of their drive.  Have any of you been gathering supplies to donate?  Did you miss the Hopelink deadline?  Remember, you can also drop off donated supplies to most office supply stores.  If you need help finding a place, let me know!

Shopping Results
Week of 8/7

I'm done!  I have officially finished spending all 100 of my dollars for my personal school supply donation challenge.  Before I tell you what I accomplished with that money, let's recap what I got this week. 

Earlier this week I posted my shopping plan, but I ended up abandoning it for the most part.  I realized that I had been shopping sales, and not really thinking about what Hopelink said they needed most.  So, I looked back at their most needed items (here), and then did an inventory of what I had purchased thus far.  So glad I did.  Ends up I had plenty of many of the items on sale this week, and hardly any of a couple of things on Hopelinks most wanted list- specifically, binders, markers, colored pencils, and rulers.  So, I redid my shopping list and ended up with the following items for the week.

Target (Round 1):
I ended up going to Target twice this week.  Once because I needed a few things for the house, and swung by the school supply section (like I could resist!)  However, since I didn't have my list with me, I just got things that I knew I wanted to purchase. 
  • 2 Mead 5-Star spiral notebooks for $1 (I had a $1.00 off of 2 coupon)
  • 1 Kid scissors 2-pack for $0.90
  • 2 Up & Up eraser 2-packs for $0.20 each
  • 4 RoseArt thin marker 10-packs for $0.50 each
  • 1 Up & Up wood pencil 24-pack for $0.90
  • 2 Bic Shimmers mechanical pencil 8-packs for $0.90 (I had $1 off of these, too)
  • 2 wood rulers for $0.50 each
  • 2 Up & Up pencil sharpeners for $0.20 each
  • 5 RoseArt school glues for $0.20 each

Fred Meyer
  •  6 filler paper 150-sheet packs for $0.48 each
  • 12 2-pocket folders for $0.08 each
  • 10 sprial notebooks for $0.10 each

  • 1 Zebra ballpoint pen 7-pack FREE (after Easy Rebate
  • 10 2-pocket folders for $0.01 each
  • 2 cap eraser 12-packs for $0.10 each
  • 2 Sharpie 2-packs for $0.25 each
  • 2 reams of Hammermill copy paper for $0.50 each (after Easy Rebate)

  •  3 filler paper 280-sheet packs for $0.99 each

At this point, I had spent about half of my weekly budget, leaving me with about $14 left to spend for the whole challenge.  I decided to prioritize my spending so that I would be able to provide enough complete supply kits for 2 students, enough supplies (minus backpacks and binders) for 8 more kids, and then the other assorted supplies would be bonus.  Does that make any sense?  So that meant I still needed to purchase 2 binders, 5 packs of colored pencils, 6 packs of markers, and 7 rulers.  Considering the price of binders, I knew it would be tough to get that all for $14, but I was determined to try.  Here's how I did:

I stopped at Goodwill on the way (I've been looking for an entry storage solution and found one there for a great price.  More on that later...) and actually found a 2-inch binder in excellent shape for $0.99. Score!
 Then to Target to see if I could get the rest.  I got:
  • 1 Avery 2-inch binder for $4.29
  • 7 rulers for $0.50 each
  • 5 RoseArt colored pencil packs for $0.50 each
  • 6 RoseArt thin marker 10-packs for $0.50 each
  • 1 pencil sharpener for $0.20
I bought the pencil sharpener thinking I was about 15 cents short of my $100 grand total.  However, after I got home and added everything up again (from all 4 weeks of the challenge) I discovered that I had made a mistake earlier and was actually still $0.68 cents short.  I hate to leave money on the table, but I also am done shopping, and did not want to make yet another trip to Target.  So instead I threw in a pack of Crayola colored pencils I had picked up for myself.  That made me $0.31 over, but I can totally live with that.

So there you go, shopping done, and challenge done!  Now I just need to gather it all up, take some pics and share with you what I got.  Look for that later today. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

3 Days and Counting
a.k.a School Supply Shopping Plan
Week of 8/7/11

Wow, I am just 3 days from the end of my school supply donation challenge.  If you want details, see here.  To date I've collected 170 school supply items for just $71.95.  That leaves me with $28.05 and three days to shop this week's sales to see just how many school supplies I can drop off to Hopelink on Friday.  Here's where I plan to spend the money:

Fred Meyer
  • Filler Paper 150-sheet 2 for $0.96 (Limit 6)
  • Spiral Notebooks 70-sheet 10 for $1 (Limit 10)
  • 2-pocket folders 12 for $0.96 (Limit 12)
  • Filler Paper 280-sheets $0.99 each
  • Zebra pens 6-pack FREE (after Easy Rebate)
  • 2-pocket folders $0.01 each (thru Wednesday, Limit 10)
  • Sharpie 2-packs $0.25 each (Limit 2)
  • Staples cap eraser 12-packs $0.10 each (Limit 2)
  • Hammermill Copy Paper reams $0.50 each (after Easy Rebate)
Office Depot
  • Office Depot glue $0.01 each (Limit 5)
  • Sharpie 5-pack $1 each (Limit 3)
  • Up & Up eraser 2-packs $0.20 each
  • Up & Up pencil sharpeners $0.20 each
  • RoseArt glue $0.20 each
  • RoseArt glue stick 2-packs $0.20 each
  • Up & Up kid scissors 2-packs $0.90 each
  • RoseArt Thin Markers 10-packs $0.50 each
  • 5-Star 1-subject Mead spiral notebooks $1.00 each (plus I have a coupon for $1 off of 2)
  • Bic Shimmers mechanical pencil 8-packs $0.90 each (I have a coupon for $1 off of 2 these, too)
  • Up & Up pencil 24-packs $0.90 each
  • Wood rulers $0.50 each
Basically, I plan to shop at all the stores except Target, add up what I've spent, and then spend the remainder of my money at Target.  Then, I'll post a final recap of what I gathered before dropping it off on Friday.  Remember, if you've been collecting supplies, too, and would like me to take them down for you, you need to let me know by Wednesday.  Happy shopping!

Shopping Results
Week of 7/31

OK, I'm way behind, but with the baby shower this weekend and my birthday yesterday, I'm ok with that.  I didn't get a ton of things last week, but found some decent deals.

I spent more money than normal at Walgreens, because they had a good deal on backpacks.  Here's the scoop:

  • 2 Backpacks for $9.99 (Buy 1 Get 1 Free)
  • 10 packs of Filler Paper at $0.59 each
  • 3 Sharpie 2-packs at $0.69 each
  • 2 mini-staplers at $0.29 each
  • 4 Penway eraser 2-packs at $0.29 each
  • 6 Penway cap eraser 15-packs at $0.29 each
  • 4 Papermate highlighter 6-packs at $0.39 each        
Slim pickins at Target last week:
  • 2 Elmers glue stick 6-packs @ $1.00 each
I'm lovin' the Free after Rebate deals at Staples lately.  

  • Pentel RSVP pen 5-pack FREE (after Easy Rebate)
  • 2 3x5 lined index cards 100-pack at $0.01 each
  • 2 Sharpie highlighter 2-packs at $0.01 each
  • 2 Staples pencil 8-packs at $0.01

So, last week I spent $28.04 on 40 items.  That brings my total so far to $71.95 for 170 items.  This is my last week for shopping because the HopeLink drive ends on Friday.  That means I need to get as many items as possible for $28.05 by Thursday.  I'll post my plan for this later today. 

If you are gathering supplies and would like me to drop them off at Hopelink, let me know by Wednesday, please.  Otherwise, I have seen drop bins for different charity supply drives at many stores including Fred Meyer, Staples, and Office Depot.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Baby Shower Garland

OK, I've completed the Pinterest Challenge.  Kinda.  I know we were supposed to do something for our own homes, but I am knee-deep in baby shower decorations, and I found it nearly impossible to shift gears and think of something for my house, so I went with something I was planning to make for the shower.  I figure it counts because it turned out so cute I want to make a modified version for C's room.  (For more info on the Pinterest challenge, see here, here, and here.)

On to the project.  Here is the inspiration pick I pinned on Pinterest:

Pretty cute, right?  But when I linked back to the website it came from, it was even more adorable.  See??
Source: http://blog.creativityforkids.com/2011/02/indian-inspired-elephant-paper-mobile/

I love the contrast of colors and simple design.  The baby shower theme we're working with uses elephants, giraffes, and turtles, and I knew I could make this work!  So I started designing my own garland. (BTW, if you want to make the exact garland above, go to the source link, and there's a tutorial right there for you)

I first sketched out the animals on cardstock to use as a template.  (I freehand-sketched based on what I found here, here, and here.)  Here's my cast of characters:

Then I set about tracing them on cardstock.  I traced eight of each, which ended up being way too many, but I'm glad to have the extras to use for other shower decorations. The giraffes went on pink paper, the turtles on light green, and the elephants on brown.

Once I cut out my animals, I laid them out on my ribbon, but realized there were missing a bit of pizzazz.  So, I got out my scallop and circle punches and whipped up some flowers using some coordinating scrapbook paper.  Here's the basic layout:
And here's an up-close and personal shot:

I absolutely love the coordinating polka dots.  Then again, I have a long standing love affair with polka dots.  Don't tell Patrick. :)

After I had it all assembled, I was quite pleased with it.  I wish I was able to get a fantastic shot of it, because the pics I took don't do it justice.  Oh well.

I hung it on our living room curtains so you could get an idea of what it looks like stretched out.

See the shadows of the giraffes on the ceiling?  Love.

Here's a closer view:

I think at the shower I'll hang it straight across a ledge, because in my opinion it looks best straight. 

So there you have it, my pinterest challenge complete.  Here's a breakdown of the cost and materials I used:
  • 1 sheet Stampin' Up cardstock in Gable Green (already had)
  • 1 sheet Bazzill Basics Paper cardstock in Pinkini $0.33 (on sale)
  • 1 sheet Bazzill Basics Paper cardstock in Mud Pie $0.33 (on sale)
  • 1 sheet Itsy Bitsy Ditsy scrapbook paper by Recollections in Cherry Pie $0.25 (on sale)
  • 1 sheet mystery pink polka dot scrapbook paper (sorry, there's no info on it) $0.59
  • 3 yards Celebrate It Basic Ribbon $1.99 (on sale)
  • Stampin' Up Scallop punch (already had)
  • Stampin' Up Circle punch (borrowed)
  • Scotch Quick-Dry Adhesive (already had)

Total cost: $3.49 and about 2 hours of solid work time.