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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cooking : The Good, The Bad and The Surprising

I have always loved to cook. I assume it is the same with many families but for me it was always a time of togetherness with a side of great adventure. My mother had this spiral notebook which held mystical recipes that she used to turn boring dinners into tasty delights. I remember fondly my excitement at being old enough to use that notebook with my mom, and one day on my own. We would wear these matching aprons my grandmother made for us. They were reserved for these special occasions. Now my children fight over who gets to wear them (too many kids, not enough aprons!).

So my mother taught me how to follow recipes, how to make the time special, and how to keep organized. She was always patient with me. My dad taught me how to think on the fly. Can I add that looking back it was fantastic that I actually cooked with my dad. My fondest memory is of him and I baking a cake for my mom and promptly dropping it on the floor. My dad picked it up and pieced it together and used icing to glue it in place....thinking on the fly, being creative and having fun. Those are things I carry with me to this day.

I have always cooked with my kids. I have not always been patient but I try.

There have been a few times in our married life when money has gotten super tight. My love of cooking has gotten us through. I found reasonable (and super cheap) meals to cook. I've gotten creative with ingredients I have on hand. The most recent tight spot I found myself in was a blessing in disguise.

I had bought a bag of flour right before it went downhill for us and boy that was our saving grace. I ended up using almost the whole 10lb bag in a week. I baked our bread fresh daily (with the help of the kids of course) and when I cooked spaghetti that loaf of french bread became tasty garlic bread! We usually pay about 4$ a loaf at the store for garlic bread and here I spent 9$ on this big bag of flour. I made two loaves of garlic bread, several pizza crusts, six loaves of bread and countless muffins, scones and cookies!!! What a deal ! What I learned during those early cooking sessions sure came in handy.

But the super great thing was when I ran out of olive oil to put in my pizza crust, I substituted the Kraft greek olive oil dressing we had in the fridge and my kids loved it so much that now they won't have it any other way. I also managed to substitute sugar for honey which gave the crust a richer taste. That's thinking on the fly.

What else made it even better you might ask? I decided to check through the cupboards and found all sorts of ingredients I had bought over time and never used up.

Ok so I go in stages....I make everything from scratch for a period and insist everything that goes into my kids mouths is healthy or at the very least a healthy version I made. Then one day I walk into the kitchen and see my daughter eating Mr Noodle raw out of the pack. Whaaaaa? How did I get here, I wonder. I take a look back and realize that slowly my resolve weakens and one day I buy a pizza pocket (and yes I have made my own they are fantastic) and between birthing and nursing and changing diapers it happens... we're eating questionable pre-made food.

So back to those magic ingredients.....I found some cocoa and decided to make brownies while my sweet husband put the littles to bed. My daughter joined me and decided she would make the icing. Of course there was not enough cocoa but she said its ok mom I got this and improvised a fantastic icing for our brownies that I wish I could replicate. Of course most of those times we are not paying attention, we are creating and never write down and only some of the time remember how we made it.

So now I see it in my kids ...those gifts my parents gave to me..... of learning to cook, of learning to be resourceful and make it up as we go along... and I'm pleasantly surprised to find that even being short on cash can be such a great gift.

A September Visit to African Lion Safari

A few weeks back we did a weekend getaway to Cambridge and took the girls and my mom to African Lion Safari. It had been two years since our last visit. This time the weather was definitely of the "fall is approaching" variety, cool and drizzly. Which I actually loved as the crowds were thinner. Also compared to when we had last visited on a very hot day in July, the animals were less I'm just going to lay here and hide in this piece of shade and more active and interesting to watch.

We didn't spring for the guided ride in the bus on this visit, but instead just rode through the safari in our van, went and took in a few shows, had a picnic lunch and then road through the safari a second time. The water play area was closed for the season, which the kids found disappointing as the water play area there is pretty darn awesome. So I could see this being the one reason we would go back during the summertime.

Otherwise September visit to African Lion Safari for the win. All in all a lovely day at what remains one of my favourite Ontario attractions.
Monday, October 5, 2015

TODAY is my favourite day!! {Monday Musings}

"What day is it?", asked Winnie the Pooh.

There is always lots of excitement and squeals going on in this house, and I'm pretty sure today is my five year old's favourite day too!
Saturday, October 3, 2015

How to Make Your Kids Clothes Last Longer...

Confession time -- I am horrible at doing the laundry. Both my mom and my mother-in-law are going to shudder when they read this, but I don't sort things by like colours. I don't sort things at all. I just dump dirty laundry bins into the basket by the armful, toss it in the machine and wash it. Everything goes in on the same setting, heavy, cold water, second rinse, extended spin. Then into the drier, and off we go with the next load. Rinse and repeat, quite literally.

Um. Pre-treat a stain? What's that? I'm busy just trying to keep up with Mount Laundry. Usually by the time I notice something is stained it's already been through the wash. I notice there's a problem as the clothes are getting put away, or even better, when my daughter comes running out of her room wearing it and I need to send her back for a wardrobe change. My solution usually involves creative uses of jumpers and overalls, or when all else fails adding the item to the growing pile of  "art clothes" (perfect for painting in, or otherwise making messes, and not much else).

When the kids were little I could get away with this lackadaisical approach, however as they get older they are starting to have favourite pieces of clothes and some pretty strong opinions on my lack of laundry skills. At the same time, these girls are hard on their clothes. When they step off the bus at the end of a typical school day they are covered in an assortment of grass, glitter, dirt, snot, juice, sand, food, glue, blood, marker, paint and other unidentifiable bits. (Seriously, my 5 year old comes home from school looking like she could be the stand in for PigPen, live action Peanuts movie anyone?)

So I've got two options, I can either treat their clothes as disposable (um, hello, even used clothes costs money, this is not really an option!) or I need to step up the game when it comes to stain removal. So I've started doing something a little crazy, I've been grabbing the most obviously horrible messes and pre-treating them before they hit the wash.

Case in point, we've got this cute #LikeAGirl t-shirt, which is a little big on my 8 year old, but she likes using it as PJs. The other night she spilled tea all down the front of it, and of course didn't mention anything to me about this until it was dry. Tea stain on white shirt. This can't end well, right?

Well, I pre-treated it with Resolve Gold In-Wash Stain Remover, and, well, watch and see....

When I showed it to her my daughter was super impressed that I "saved" her t-shirt. She has even started handing me specific pieces of clothing telling me to "use your magic stain stuff on this". Um. Okay, or you know how about just not spilling your entire dinner down the front of your shirt, maybe? On the bright side I've got the kid pre-sorting for me.

Do you have any good stain removal tips? Share your stain removal tip on the Resolve TipExchange and you could win a $5,000 shopping spree! The site is full of awesome stain removal tips, which frankly I need to read through because I am really trying to brush up on this whole laundry thing.

What about you folks? Are you the master of stain removal? Got any tips to share? I'd love to hear 'em (and don't forget to enter your tips at the Resolve website for your chance to win!).

Disclosure: This sponsored post was brought to you by Resolve®. As always my words and opinions are my own.

Friday, October 2, 2015

How I'm Saving Money by Using Thermos Funtainers...

The school my girls go to offers a milk program. For $2 a day you can get a serving of milk to go with your lunch, in one of those wee personal-sized cardboard cartons. They offer both chocolate and white milk, though my eldest daughter confided in me that no one ever takes the white milk.

I've been sending my daughter to school with milk in a bottle since kindergarten, and over the past four years we have experimented with several different types of bottles. Some didn't keep the milk cold enough, and it spoiled. Others kept things cold but were too hard for her to open, or were difficult to clean when it came time to wash them out.

If I were to buy milk for both girls through the school I would be putting out $4 a day, a.k.a. $20 a week, for milk. Presumably chocolate milk, and I would be hoping they drink the whole thing because it's not like they would be bringing home leftovers. I know that chocolate milk is just as good for you, but I always feel like if they are drinking the chocolate milk they will end up developing a preference for sweeter tasting things. So I prefer to keep chocolate milk for a sometimes treat, versus an everyday beverage. But despite all of that, I was tempted to give in and buy milk through the school this year because we had yet to find a milk bottle that we really loved.

Then Thermos sent us some Funtainer bottles to test out. I figured worse case scenario these would be the girls new water bottles (I've been sending my kids to school with one bottle of water and one bottle of milk each day). But of course I was also excited to test these Thermos bottles out for milk, and three weeks into our new school year I'm here to tell you they passed the test with flying colours.

Now instead of spending $4 a day on milk, I'm sending the girls to school with Thermos Funtainer bottles. Each bottle holds about 350ml of milk. Most days they finish it at school, but if they don't they can finish it off at home with their after school snack. The Thermos Funtainer bottles do an awesome job of keeping the milk cold. Thermos claims the bottles will keep drinks cold for 12 hours. The milk is definitely still cold and totally drinkable when the girls bring them home, which is about eight hours after we pack their lunch sacks in the morning.

I'm actually ridiculously excited about having found bottles that the girls love, which stay cold, and which come clean when I wash them. Instead of spending $4 a day on milk I'm spending about $4 for three bags of milk, which lasts me the week. Instead of getting wee 250ml cardboard containers from the school, the girls are getting Thermos bottles full of 350ml of cold milk.  Yay!

What about you folks? How are you saving money when it comes to packing lunches? Have any of you given the Thermos Funtainers a try?

I need to take back the dollar amounts part of this post. My daughter just brought home the school newsletter today and it says milk is $1. I don't know if it was actually $2 last year, like I thought it was. Or if I had the wrong amount in my head all along. But it would cost $10, not $20, a week to buy my girls milk through school. Which is much more reasonable. However, we'll still be sticking with our Thermos bottles, since the girls like this set up and I like not having to worry about sending cash to school with them.

So Long Pampers? No! Always a Pampers Mom

You guys probably didn't even notice when it happened, but a little over a year ago now I took the "Pampers Mom" button off of my side bar. Now I don't usually do a happy dance when I take a button off of my side bar, but this time was different. For me this was a break out the wine, let's all jump and dance, cheer-worthy moment. You see me taking that button down marked the fact that for the first time in seven years I was no longer buying Pampers, in one form or another. It marked the fact that my big kid was no longer wetting the bed and little sister was finally potty trained.

My first daughter on the day she was born, sporting her tiny newborn sized Pampers. 

For seven years I was a Pampers mom. For seven non-stop years first one girl and then the next was wearing Pampers, Easy-Ups or Goodnights. But somewhere along the line my eldest child's bladder finally caught up with the rest of her body and the bedwetting problems magically and suddenly stopped. Goodbye Goodnights! Can't say I'm sorry to see you leave. And then just as suddenly my very stubborn second child started using the toilet, instead of intentionally peeing in her Easy-Ups.

Last year I wrote about my frustrations with potty training my second child. Maybe a few weeks after that my daughter started using the toilet regularly. There were a few accidents here and there, but overall it was as if someone flipped a switch, and bang she was potty trained. This came as a bit of a shock to me because with girl number one it was a slow and on-going process, where she still needed to wear Easy-Ups come bedtime. But kid number two, I was amazed to discover, had zero bed wetting problems. Which means, quite suddenly, I found myself with no need to buy disposables (and a healthy stash in the closet that a few months later I ended up donating).

Paaarty time. Take that badge down! Woot! But once that initial celebratory fizzle wore off I was surprised to realize that I still am, and forever will be, a Pampers mom. For one thing I still buy Pampers Baby Wipes. Um... This is perfectly normal behaviour, right? To be buying baby wipes when the youngest child in the house is five? (I also still get called upon to help wipe the occasional bottom. Someone please tell me this is normal.) What's more, and feel free to laugh at me because I realize this is a bit weird, I still find myself window shopping for diapers. Everytime I see a good sale in the Shopper Drug Mart flyer I think, wow I should stock up. And then I think, wait, I don't need those any more. Silly! And yes, my kid has now been out of diapers for well over a year.

So instead I buy Pampers and give them as baby shower gifts. I mean I find myself habitually shopping for them anyway, I might as well pick them up now and again, right? Plus I know diapers were a gift I appreciated receiving when my girls were born.  I also still pay attention when Pampers announces some new innovation, and get excited and think, wow that sounds great. I think this either qualifies me as a)a diaper geek or b)someone who needs more babies in her life.

So what about you folks? Are your little ones still in diapers? Can't wait for the day when you put diapers behind you for good? Or maybe, just maybe, sort of missing them like I am? Any other honorary Pampers moms out there?

PS. I put the badge back up. Figure I may as well come to terms with it.
      Once a Pampers mom, always a Pampers mom.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When your room looks kind of weird and you wish that you weren't there... #ThrowbackThursday

"When your room looks kind of weird and you wish that you weren't there, just close your eyes and make believe and you can be anywhere."

Here's my little sister playing with her gifts on Christmas morning, circa 1985 -- complete with baby Big Bird and Muppet Baby Kermit.

Anyone else remember the Muppet Baby theme song? Um, no, just me? I really loved that Saturday morning cartoon.

{wander off muttering to herself... I've got my computer. I fly through the air. I play piano. And I've got blue hair!}
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Hi, I'm , a Canadian stay at home mom to two rambunctious little girls.
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