Friday, January 31, 2014

Meal Planning

I don't consider myself a chef but I sure do love cooking. I enjoy trying new recipes for me and Jon, and really enjoy making meals for friends and family. Being a mama I don't exactly have all the time in the world to prepare a meal but even before Ford was born, I was NOT about to spend hours on a recipe. I am all for finding ways to bring a new and yummy meal to the table in under an hour (while simultaneously watching Scandal and singing silly songs to my baby in a highchair). When Jon and I first got married I would go to the store once a week and just buy stuff. Chicken, pork chops, random veggies and fruits that were on sale. I never really went in with a plan. Nightly dinners would be a meat (grilled chicken, flank steak, ground turkey), a starch (cous cous, potatoes, rice) and a veggie, most likely frozen. When we moved into our house about 2 years ago, I was ready to change up our meals. 

I am a huge proponent of meal planning because I am borderline OCD when it comes to organization and it saves me time and money! With a traveling husband, it also helps us from wasting food. Meal planning can be daunting for some people so I wanted to share my routine.

  • I go to the store once a week, never a specific day but usually when we are running low on milk and fruit
  • Over the weekend Jon and I will go through our weekly schedules. He usually travels 1 night a week, sometimes 2, but sometimes none. I don't plan to make dinner on the nights he is gone and if he returns in the evening, he always picks up takeout for us which is a nice treat.
  • We go to community group every Thursday night and have family dinner twice a month. If it is a family dinner night, I prepare my side dish/dessert/etc but if it isn't, we usually eat leftovers.
  • Now that we have a baby, we like to go out for lunch rather than dinner since we try to keep a good routine for him. We usually go out to eat 1-2 times a week, mostly on the weekends but some nights when it is spontaneous. 
  • So if Jon is traveling 1 night, bringing home dinner 1 night, and it is a family dinner week, that leaves 4 nights I need to plan for. I won't cook every night because we love eating leftovers and that frees up time we can spend together in the evening. If I have 4 nights to plan for, I will plan 2 meals.
  • I tend to stock up on meat when it goes on sale so I will check my freezer to see what meats we have on hand (chicken breast, ground turkey, Italian sausages, turkey sausage, fish). Then I head over to my Pinterest boards or blog recipe page and browse recipes that A. use the meats we have or B. Look good. I don't always have meat on hand but try to use the weekly ads from the grocery store to get the best deal. I also try to plan a side if I think of something that would go well with the main dish but often times I will just grab a couple of florets of broccoli, a pound of fresh green beans, or carrots to steam alongside dinner. 
  • I love trying new recipes and try not to make the same thing twice too close together. Since it's been cold lately, we've been loving having soups in the crockpot which are so easy and great for warming up leftovers! 
  • So once I decide on what I'm making, I go through the ingredients and cross reference what I have in my pantry. Do I have breadcrumbs? Italian seasoning? Sour cream? I also take inventory on our staples- milk, bread, eggs, cheese, cereal, yogurt, lunch meat, etc. I use the Cozi iPhone app to write down my grocery list, it has separate lists for grocery and wholesale (Costco). I organize my list by how I walk through the grocery story. I enter in the produce, walk through the meat and dairy, then hit the dry goods, followed by household/makeup/baby, and end with frozen. That way I am efficient with my time and am not running around the store with a baby.
  • And it's as easy as that! If I plan on making XYZ on evening and it requires shredded chicken, I will try to prep and cook the chicken beforehand if I have a free moment during Ford's nap, etc. Last minute dinner prep happens when Jon is off of work and hangs with little man or I set him up in the highchair with a teether.
One of our recent favorites, baked chicken Parmesan

Meal planning shouldn't be daunting! It requires just a few minutes of prep and is worth the time, money, and food savings. If you have any questions about recipes, meal planning, or food prep, feel free to email me!
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cartwheel by Target


It's not a secret that Target is heaven on earth for pretty much any female with a pulse. (Target was Ford's first non-doctor appointment outing!). Actually, I remember dragging my husband to Target with me last year for something random and I encouraged him to checkout the men's clothes. We ended up leaving with 3 pairs of shorts and a couple of shirts! That next Christmas I basically got an entire new wardrobe from Target. He was hooked too.
 
Cruisin & snoozin in a Target red cart
 
Now something else that most human beings have in common is an attraction to saving money. As a one income family, I feel that it is my job to make sure we are stretching our dollars as far as possible. This means buying our clothing on sale, thumbing through grocery store circulars, and using coupons whenever possible. Enter the Cartwheel app.
 
 
 
I had seen people post on Facebook about Cartwheel and I saw the little Target emblem and thinking back... what the heck took me so long to see what it was all about?! Cartwheel is a Smartphone app powered by Target that offers over 700 coupons to be used in store. Cha-ching! Grouped by category, the app makes it easy for you to find instant savings coupons for everything from milk to swim suits to basketballs. The savings range anywhere from 5% off to 40% off! And the Cartwheel app can be used in conjunction with manufacturers' coupons or Target weekly ad savings! I am also a Target REDcard holder and already save 5% by using that, so I save at least 10% when using the Cartwheel app. 
 
Here are a few ways I've really maximized my savings using the Cartwheel app:
  • At Christmastime Jon and I sponsor children with different organizations through our church and last year we took their wishlists to Target. We were able to use the Cartwheel app on baby dolls/accessories, board games, and sports equipment allowing us to stretch our dollar and give more.
  • My postpartum body is definitely different than before having a baby so I rewarded myself with a few new swimsuits. Cartwheel was offering 20% off of Mossimo swimsuits that week plus my 5% off with my REDcard and I saved about $10-$12 per suit! That is a cover-up or summery tank top right there.
  • Groceries. Normally I wouldn't buy my groceries at Target because I rarely go with the intention of coming straight home to put cold stuff away but now that the Cartwheel app offers 5% off eggs, milk, and other staple items in our household, I make sure to stop by on my way home. 
Here's a screenshot of my current Cartwheel. Milk and baby wipes... household staples. Mamas are especially going to want to download this app immediately. Diapers, wipes, baby food, formula. It's all on Cartwheel!
Downloading the app is a piece of cake. It is available in both the iPhone and Android app stores and, to make it even easier, you can create an account with your Facebook profile. You use the app by browsing through the collections of offers and adding items to your Cartwheel list. You start out with the ability to add 10 offers to your list at once and you "unlock" more spots the more you use the app. Instead of having to scan a bunch of different coupons, the app gives you a single scan barcode for all the offers on your list. Simply hand your phone to the cashier for a quick scan and then watch your total drop! The ease and simplicity is what I love most about the app. No having to clip coupons, or filter through them while trying to push a cart and entertain my baby. It couldn't be easier. The Cartwheel app can only be used on in-store purchases which is good because I tend to go crazy with online shopping (free shipping with the Target REDcard... you'll thank me later!)
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Finish This v4

Linking up with these ladies (Nicole {Three 31Lisa {The Coastal Chicster}and Becky {The Java Mama} Jen {The Arizona Russums}) for a new weekly series called Finish This. 

1. I use my "green thumb" to...kill plants. Ha. I go through phases of getting pumped up to grow things and keep plants in my backyard and I inevitably forget about them. Right after Ford was born I got a ton of cute little succulents, watered them, nursed them to health, and now they are wilted and brown, ready to be tossed in the trash (I would like to blame the bipolar Texas weather though). I make up for my lack of green thumb by being green...cloth diapering, recycling, and using my reusable bags at the grocery store. Boom.

2. The secret to life is...community. A strong family and group of friends is what makes my life enjoyable, fulfilling, fun, and manageable. Life is not meant to be lived alone. Also, marry someone that makes you happy. Life is pretty darn awesome when you do. 

3. I get my money's worth by...stuffing my face silly at brunch buffets, using a spatula to get every single atom of peanut butter at the end of the jar, and being married to a sales guy who has been known to barter and purchase items at ridiculous prices. 

4. On a scale of 1 to 10, my level of organization is...Jon would say a 100. I would say a solid 9 because there is always room for improvement. Currently our house is a ripped apart, dust filled mess while we have wood installed downstairs and my little OCD heart is ready to burst. We have couches in our garage and desks in our kitchen. Just 3 more days Ruthie. Seriously I got giddy last week when Jon suggested I organize all the screws on his workbench. He knows me well. (I will admit that it stresses me out that I have to organize Ford's closet based on size instead of color coded like mine...)


5. A gentleman always...pays for their lady. 

6. Handwritten notes are...under appreciated. I always hand write thank you notes but I have to admit, an email would be so much easier. 

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meeting Motherhood

I had the honor and pure joy of reading a copy of Nicole Joelle's new e-book, Meeting Motherhood. In a collection of snippets and letters, Nicole journeys through the end of her pregnancy and the first couple of months as a tired, joy-filled, hopeful mother. Reading this ebook couldn't have come at a better time for me. Long nights, a vulnerable heart, and yearning for understanding and acceptance as a new mommy myself. 

“I can choose to embrace
grace and the
unexpected. To laugh. To
enjoy it. Or I can choose
to be disappointed about
my cold tea or unchecked
to-do boxes.”

Oh boy has The Lord taught me grace while becoming a parent. I sat there reading Meeting Motherhood with a constant nod, agreeing to almost every single word Nicole shared. Babies peeing on walls, incredibly frustrating and awkward public nursing experiences, and days where your baby is fighting sleep to the death. We are in this together, this beautiful, crazy, wild ride. Motherhood is so much harder than I could have ever prepared for but so much better. 

Veteran mom, new mommy, or mama to be, I encourage you to grab a copy of Meeting Motherhood because it is full of truth, hope, and will give you a few good giggles. It's the perfect late night nursing companion that will fill you with encouragement. 




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Friday, January 24, 2014

Randoms

I haven't done a random post in a while and I have random thoughts, pictures, and notes piling up so here we go!

Today shall go down as the Texas snow blizzard of 2014. School is cancelled, roads are closed... look at these dangerous conditions!

Where did my son get these eyelashes from? Seriously?!

My mom and sister are using NutraLuxe Lash MD and omg you would think they wear falsies! It is basically like Latisse but cheaper and I just ordered some for my stumpy little lashes.

Bought Ford some skinny jeans for next winter and can't believe how off sizing is based on store. Salmon ones are 18m from Carter's and the plaid are 18-24m from Old Navy. Weird huh?

Ford sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time last week and it was funny, he was gangster leaning. I think we have a few more weeks before he is sturdy enough to actually enjoy sitting in one. 

I went to the grocery store alone last Friday AND to the dentist. Wowzas that was relaxing...never thought I would say that

Something to think about...

Sweet babies FaceTiming

I absolutely love the TimeHop app. You sync all your social media pages and each day it shows you pictures, statuses, tweets from that day in history. No this wasn't 4 years ago but I posted it on Facebook 4 years ago...me, my mom, and Cori looking pretty sweet!

We are taking a family trip to the beach in a week (YAY!) and Ford had to have some stylish sunnies. He was hilarious in them. 

Other random stuff...
  • Jon got me crocs for Christmas. They are canvas boat shoe loafers and I love them. 
  • We are getting wood floors downstairs so our house is in shambles and we are camping out at my parents. I am so excited for the final results!
  • We got a new bottle, the Medela Calma, and are going to test it out on Mr. Bottle strike this weekend. 
What random stuff do you have going on?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finish this V3

Linking up with these ladies (Nicole {Three 31Lisa {The Coastal Chicster}and Becky {The Java Mama} Jen {The Arizona Russums}) for a new weekly series called Finish This. 

1. A typical day in my life...is fun, chaotic, exhausting, and full of surprises. I spray poopy diapers, soak through shirts with breastmilk, eat handfuls of peanut butter pretzels for lunch and wouldn't change it for the world!

2. You'll never see me...say no to dessert. I love sweets. I workout so I can eat them. Enough said. (feel free to send me chocolate peanut butter anything)

3. It's really unattractive when a guy/girl...smokes. Yuck! I cannot stand it. 

4. If I could buy one thing right now, it would be...a maid. I used to think "oh yeah when I stay home I will have all this time to clean"....crickets. I am great at keeping the house organized and neat but like I mentioned last week, I loathe the deep cleaning. One thing I have totally given up on is washing the walls. Ernie is absolutely obsessed with playing fetch with a tennis ball and his slimy balls bounce off our walls and leave marks that you can see in just the right sunlight. It grosses me out but it happens every.single.day so there is no use in me trying to maintain clean walls!

5. I have high expectations for...my son. I grew up where good grades, obedient behavior, and politeness was expected. My parents didn't pay us for getting A's, they expected it. I have high expectations for Ford's future being a sweet, polite little gentleman and high expectations for him to excel in school. My expectations of him sleeping through the night at 12 weeks didn't exactly happen... hehe.
Ford Hart...future valedictorian 
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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roasted vegetable mac & cheese

I saw someone post this recipe as the perfect meal to freeze for after baby and I was sold! We are huge fans of homemade mac and cheese and I love the thought of making it a little healthier with adding fresh veggies. Paired with grilled turkey sausages, this meal was awesome (and I even made double so I could freeze for after baby!)

Ingredients
1 cup chopped up fresh broccoli florets
1.5 cups chopped bell pepper (I used red, orange, and yellow)
1 cup diced baby carrots
*you can add additional veggies you have on hand (squash, zucchini, etc)
2 cups whole wheat macaroni pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp white flour
1.5 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper *optional, leave out if you don't want an extra kick
Salt and pepper to taste
Panko breadcrumbs (I used Italian flavored)

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Place your veggies on a foil lined baking sheet, spray with olive oil, and bake for 20 minutes until tender
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package.
3. In a large pot, saute the garlic in the oil.
4. Whisk in flour and gradually whisk in milk until thickened
5. Remove from heat and stir in cheese slowly until melted and a sauce is formed.
6. Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper
7. Stir macaroni and vegetables into cheese sauce.
8. Pour macaroni into 9x13 inch casserole dish and top with Panko breadcrumbs
9. Broil on high for 5 minutes until breadcrumbs are crispy




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Monday, January 20, 2014

Ford's First Food

We finally caved and gave Ford his first food last week, Friday January 17th! Our doctor recommended waiting until 6 months but said if we get to 5-5.5 months and we think he is ready, we could go ahead. Ford has always eyed our food like a hawk but last week he started reaching for it and opening his mouth as if to say, "feed me!". Jon traveled last week and I told him the second he comes home, we are starting food. After doing research (Wholesome Baby Food), we decided to start initially with organic oatmeal mixed with breastmilk. Ford was pretty hilarious, I will let the video and pictures do the talking. 


I'm ready mom!

Thank you to Dr. Brown's for sending me all sorts of goodies to start the baby food journey with Ford! We love the flat tipped spoons for feeding since babies tend to be quite messy. 

Ford's great grandparents (his namesake) gave us a monogrammed silver spoon for our little prince and I knew I wanted to use it for his first bite. They also gave me one when I was born so it is pretty darn special. 

After the first few bites we switched to the Dr. Brown's flat tipped spoon.



This isn't mommy's milk!



Supposedly it can take up to 20 tries for a baby to enjoy a certain food so we are not giving up! 90% of the battle is getting him to understand how to swallow it and since he doesn't take a bottle or paci, he doesn't have that sucking reflex. I read that cinnamon is super food so I added a dash to his oatmeal on Saturday and he kept a lot of it in! I also decided that a hard, plastic bib (baby bjorn bib) is much better for feeding our messy boy! 



Much happier!



We gave Ford some mashed up avocado mixed with breastmilk last night which he wasn't a huge fan of but they say it can take up to 20 tries for a baby to like a certain food. I also let him gnaw on a few cucumbers he loved it! Good for his fine motor skills and good for his teething. Right now we're just working on him getting used to something in his mouth. I've picked up the ingredients to make some yummy first foods for him this week (butternut squash, green beans, sweet potato). Check out the swag Dr. Brown's sent me! Can't wait to share what foods we are making, why we chose these foods, and how we made them!


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Friday, January 17, 2014

Traveling husband with a baby

Travel is a requirement for my husband's job and as much as I would love him home every single night with our family, it's his job and it is what it is. He usually travels 1 night a week, occasionally 2 but this week he was gone all week for sales kickoff at his company's headquarters. This was the longest he's been away from Ford and I could tell before the trip and during that he really missed our little guy. Thank God for Facetime, right?! Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts and some tips on manning the household and caring for your babes while your husband is traveling.

Jon stopped traveling when I was 36 weeks pregnant because we all assumed I would pop at any moment.. yeah that never happened! He took a month off from travel after Ford was born thanks to the help of coworkers stepping in and customers taking web meetings rather than face to face. Those first few weeks are so emotionally and physically draining that I think I would have gone crazy if he'd left me alone. When the time came for Jon to get back on the road, I assumed all hell would break loose when I was alone with Ford. And you know what? It didn't! We survived! I remember so vividly feeling like I'd conquered the world spending my first night alone with my brand new baby I was still getting to know. I can do this! (side note, I exclusively breastfeed Ford so after the first few weeks of adjusting, Jon no longer got up in the middle of the night since I was the sole food provider. So nights alone aren't that bad). 

I tend to keep my same routine when Jon is gone for 2 days. I may have a home day to get stuff done, standing play dates, bible study, etc. but this past week when he was gone, I knew I needed to plan ahead to preserve my sanity. Ford is such a fun baby. He's a lot easier than he used to be, napping regularly, and incredibly easy to make laugh and keep happy. But child rearing for 100+ hours straight on your own is a little tiring. Not a little, a lot. Pretty much every night this week I put Ford down at 7:30p, played with Ernie and straightened up the house and was in bed fast asleep by 9p. A husband is an extra set of hands that sure does come in handy!

Last week, knowing Jon would be gone, I sat down with my calendar and started to make a game plan. When I'm alone for a few days I try to get at least 1-2 things on our schedule to keep me energized and encouraged. This week Ford and I visited our 2 day old friend Mae in the hospital, had a play date with a 7 week old and 4 month old, played with Aunt Tomi, lunch with buddy Max, hosted new friends for breakfast, took walks with neighbors, braved the mall, and went to Target (twice). I made sure that we could stick to Ford's nap schedule but get out and about, catch up with friends, and keep our sanity ha! My sister came over Tuesday night and just that extra set of hands to help with bath or entertain Ford while I take a shower makes all the difference!

Because my husband has to travel and most likely always will, I really don't mind it and am used to it. I can see women whose husbands don't travel having a hard time being alone but like I said above, it is our situation and we make it work! On nights when Jon is home we strive to be intentional with each other and spend time together once Ford goes down so being alone gives me time for me. Again... not that I don't love spending time with my husband because I am crazy and never get sick of him, but those nights I am alone and the baby is down, I can indulge in TV, dive into a good book, or proudly be conked out by 9pm. I have no one to worry about but me.

So... no that I've rambled, here are some tips I have for surviving at home when your hubby is gone.

  • Plan activities- look at your schedule, decide how much you have time/energy for, and start calling friends. Even if it is just a quick park date with a neighbor, you will have adult conversation and if your kids are older, they can run off energy
  • Plan food ahead of time- make a big meal or 2 ahead of time that way you aren't scrounging for ideas while trying to bath babies, read to toddlers, and feed the dog all by yourself. 
  • Treat yourself- find a new show on Netflix (Scandal!!!), pour a glass of wine, or read celebrity gossip magazines. You deserve it. Laundry, vacuuming, and dishes can wait. 
  • Tell someone- make sure to tell a few neighbors or close friends that you are gonna be a single mom for the week. It's nice to be invited over or checked on throughout the week and know someone is thinking of you. 
  • Remember it is temporary- I don't know how you single parents do it but I want to give you a giant hug. You rock. When we have hard days I remind myself that everything is a phase and tomorrow will be totally different. And when we have hard days while Jon is gone, I feel peace when I remember he is coming back. I love the days Jon comes home, even if he was just gone for a night because all he wants to do is play with Ford and I can exhale for a moment. 
It's really not that bad. I feel blessed to be able to stay home with Ford and a traveling husband is a part of that package. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Do any of you ladies have traveling husbands? Any tips or tricks to share?
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Finish This v2

Linking up with these ladies (Nicole {Three 31Lisa {The Coastal Chicster}and Becky {The Java Mama} Jen {The Arizona Russums}) for a new weekly series called Finish This. 

1. If I could make anything grow on trees, it would be...time. Money doesn't constitute happiness and I can't say I need more decadent chocolate growing in my front yard but time is so precious and fleeting. Sometimes the days are long but the years are short, especially with a baby. More time for family, more time for friends, more time to be outside, volunteer, see movies, nap. 

2. I can't stop smiling...when I see my little boy happy. Laughs, giggles, how can you not smile...

video

3. I get back to nature by...turning off my phone and walking outside. Sure we live in suburbia where not a minute goes by before I see 10 minivans and slews of kiddos riding bikes down the street but we live in a neighborhood with hills and pretty views of the hill country reminding me of the peace and beauty of nature. When Ford was a newborn he had a dreaded witching hour between 5-7p and going outside would instantly calm him down. My boy is going to be an outdoorsman and I can't wait. 

"Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience." -Emerson





4. I dread washing...my house? Does that count? I really don't mind doing the laundry or even washing poop out of cloth diapers but when it comes to deep cleaning the house....yeah don't look too closely at my baseboards. I actually enjoy vacuuming and sparkling my kitchen but dusting, baseboards, blinds. Ugh. Speaking of washing, my car needs a good scrub.


Can you finish these sentences?
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