Saturday, August 30, 2008

Envirosax, 3 Stars

It's no secret that I'm a "bag lady". I have a different bag for every activity I am involved in; one for church, one for work, one for Master's Monday, two for Pampered Chef, etc. My bag obsession has expanded now that many people have their own reusable grocery bags. I think I found these in Parent's magazine but I don't really remember. I bought a whole set back last fall and then my mom bought my sister and I a couple more for Christmas. I like them because they are much larger than your average grocery bag (at least 1.5 times bigger), they are machine washable, easily foldable, and come in a variety of colors. For Christmas we used these to transport all of our gifts to Louisiana. It was easy to remember what bag to get down at each house because of the different colors (yellow for Stelly's, blue for Boudreaux's, etc.).

I do love to use these for grocery shopping, but be warned: grocery clerks try to stuff all of your groceries into one of these bags. If they use their bags they put one or two items in, if they use these they try to shove 30 items in the same bag! I do often forget to bring these in with me so that is a drawback, but overall I really like these bags for groceries or other purposes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Moon Slings: 4 Stars

When I was pregnant I saw a mom wearing one of these slings with her 5 month old in it. He was so cute, and he looked so comfortable I just had to have one. Baby Moon Slings sells all types of slings, but mine is the Solarveil version. I have worn my little boy in it as recent as last week. He just sits on my hip like normal, but the sling slips under his bum and helps me stay hands free to browse through books (we were at McKay's). This version is unpadded which I liked because in August I stayed cool even when he was in the sling.

A picture of our newly expanded family back in July.
Their website has great instructions including different ways to wear the sling.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

g Diapers, 4 stars

Being a mom I know that we all struggle with the fact that the average disposable diaper takes 500 years to decompose in a landfill. Yikes! The solutions are not simple (or cheap) but in this case I can say that they are doable. I do know friends who use cloth diapers but I have found a fusion of disposable and cloth diapers that are really neat.

I first tried g diapers after reading about them in a Parent's magazine. These diapers are made up of three parts: a cotton outer covering, a plastic liner, and a disposable pad. At first I was a little disappointed. The pads did not seem to stay in place and #2's often got on the liners and made a really big mess. After giving them a break for four months I decided to try them again. They work great. I think four months ago the liners and covers were just a little too big and that led to more leaks, etc. Now they fit really well and I have not had a problem in the last two weeks of using them. I have not even thought twice about wearing them out in public, which I would have never done four months ago. It does help that my little boy does have more firm #2's now, but I think even if he didn't the fit is the key to keeping things un-messy. He weighs 20 pounds now and is in a medium cover and using the medium/large pads. He does still wear a disposable at night, but the website suggests doubling up on pads to help cope with the extra fluids during sleeping.

One of the neatest things about these pads is the options you have with disposal. They can be thrown away in the trash, flushed down the toilet, or the wet ones can be composted!! On their website there is a really neat video that shows the break down of the pads vs. a disposable diaper.

I did give these 4 stars instead of 5 because of the cost involved. An average disposable diaper will run you 10-25 cents a diaper and these are about 40 cents per pad plus the start up cost of buying the liners and covers. You can purchase these online, or I get mine at Earth Fare in Turkey Creek.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Insulated Food Container, i.e. a Thermos, 5 Stars

I recently went shopping for my son's new year at preschool. This year he has to bring a packed lunch everyday (what a big boy!). Not only does he have to have a packed lunch, but it needs to contain all finger foods! When I shopped for lunch boxes at Target and Walmart I was shocked to find that the lunch boxes of old are gone! There are no more plastic boxes with matching thermoses. I was shocked, and a little sad. Instead they did have food sized thermoses, but they were all over $12.00. Well, my friend suggested that I check out Land's End online for lunch boxes and thermoses. They sell a set of two of the above "insulated food containers" for only $15.00. How cool is that? Not only do I think I got a deal, but I have two thermoses so I don't have to wash his thermos everynight.

So, what will I put in this thermos for my son to eat? In September of 2007, Parents magazine published a list of suggested foods to go in a thermos that would remain hot until lunch time. Of course, I suggest priming your thermos with boiling water before placing your food in it. I'll let you know how these suggestions work out as I use them, and if you have a suggestion of thermos stuffers, please leave it as a comment here! Some of these are more finger food friendly than others, but I'm sure I'll try them all before we get to grade school.
  • Mexican rice and beans
  • Pizza bread (cut to fit)
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Bacon and eggs
  • Leftover Chinese food
  • Chili (with chips on the side)
  • Mini ravioli with butter and grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta rings with peas and corn
  • Grilled cheese (cut to fit)
  • Red beans and rice
  • Pasta salad (cold)
  • Macaroni and cheese
I'll be posting more lunch ideas on my family blog so look there if you are looking for some alternates to PB&J. I hope everyone had a great start to the school year and I hope these lunch ideas spawn some creativity in all of us!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Emergency Bag: 5 Stars

If I was in the practice of giving more than 5 stars to an item this would be it! My friend Betsy prepared this Emergency Bag for me for my son's first birthday. She recently left instructions on how to build the item on her blog, but I will reprint them here. This bag is meant to stay in your car so that you can use its supplies during an emergency (replenish as necessary). The bag can be any large bag and here is a list of suggested items:
  • Travel pack of wipes
  • Extra diapers
  • Extra onesie or t-shirt
  • Extra plastic bag or two (Betsy found a neat Glad dispenser of plastic bags that is really small.)
  • Old handtowel or something similar (I use a cloth diaper or small receiving blanket.)
  • Travel size sunscreen
  • Travel size bandaids
  • Travel size neosporin
  • Travel size hand sanitizer (be careful to keep this out of the hands of your little ones)
  • Snacks (packs of crackers, pretzels, etc.)
  • Small juice boxes
  • Bibs
  • a Travel pack of toddler ware (spoons and forks)
  • Bottle of water (to use in clean up)
  • Index cards and pen (in case you have to call the doctor and need to write something down)
  • A few small toys or a deck of flashcards (I found a set for less than $3.00 at ToysRUs)
I plan on using this birthday idea for many of my friends out there and being a mom of a one year old I have already used this bag many times!

Thanks Betsy for the great idea!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meat Tenderizer: 5 Stars

This picture is a little misleading because I use the flat side of this meat tenderizer.

When Philip and I first got married we never ate white meat. We mostly cooked with skinless boneless chicken thighs. I knew that chicken breasts were probably better for us but by the time they were cooked it would taste so dry. Now, eight years later, we eat boneless, skinlless chicken breasts all the time. This would not be possible if it were not for my meat tenderizer.

For the juciest chicken breast you have ever had follow the following steps:
  1. Place your chicken breasts on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. The wrap prevents nasty chicken juice from being splattered all over your kitchen.
  2. Pound the chicken out until all the thickness of the breast is uniform throughout. Part of the reason for dry chicken breasts is that by the time the thick part of the breast is done the rest is very over cooked.
  3. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and place into a skillet set on med-high heat.
  4. Cook chicken for 3-4 minutes on both sides.
  5. Remove chicken from pan.
  6. Let the chicken rest! This might be the most important step. Do not cut the chicken for at least 5 minutes after removing from the pan.
Occasionally I have had one of the thicker breasts be a little pink even after 8 minutes in the pan. Of course I don't discover that until I cut the breast after it has rested for 5 minutes. In this case I save the breast for another dish that will be cooked in the oven, or I finish the breast in the microwave.

You don't have to have a PC meat tenderizer to execute this method. Just use a big cast iron skillet or foil wrapped brick to flatten the chicken.

Ideas for using the cooked chicken are: chicken quesadillas, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad sandwiches, chicken salad, etc.

Here is the PC recipe where I got the original method. This is a great recipe:

Quick Chicken Primavera Risotto
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
olive oil
1 lemon, cut in half crosswise
1 medium onion
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2 packages (8.8 ounces each) buttery or roasted chicken flavor pre-cooked rice
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 medium zucchini
2 plum tomatoes
2 - 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Asiago cheese
1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
2 ounces mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

1. Flatten chicken to 1/2-inch thickness using flat side of Meat Tenderizer. Season both sides with salt and black pepper. Lightly spray (12-in.) skillet with oil; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until hot. Arrange chicken and lemon halves, cut sides down, in skillet; cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until center of chicken is no longer pink (do not turn lemon halves). Remove chicken and lemon from skillet. Cool slightly; slice chicken into 1/2-inch pieces.

2. Chop onion. Lightly spray same skillet with additional oil. Cook onion and pressed garlic over medium heat 4-6 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Add rice; juice caramelized lemon halves into skillet. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until juice is completely absorbed into rice. Cut carrot into julienne strips and slice zucchini. Seed and dice tomatoes. Add vegetables and 2 cups of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 4-5 minutes or until broth is slightly thickened. Stir in chicken; cook until heated through.

4. Remove risotto from heat. Add Asiago cheese and basil; stir until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened (adjust sauce consistency with additional broth, if necessary). Stir in mascarpone or cream cheese.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrients per serving: Light: Calories 250, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 45 mg, Carbohydrate 31 g, Protein 20 g, Sodium 940 mg, Fiber 3 g

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 5 Stars

So I'm sure everyone knows about this great book seller, their cheap prices and even cheaper shipping! But, did you know you can make a wish list for your little one(s)? Or add any product to this list, even if it is not sold by amazon? You can! After a librarian came to talk to our MOPS group I made Ethan a book wishlist.
My Wish List

Now it contains everything from toys to diapers. It is perfect for Christmas and Birthday time because people can see what toys or books he does not have. To set it up all you need is an amazon account and the instructions are under "Your Lists".

Happy Wishing!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Google (part 2): 5 Stars

SNL coined the phrase: "Google Maps is the best!" And I have to say, I agree with them. Google maps is so much better than your average map search engine. I find it to be the most accurate of all the map search engines including estimated travel time. Now you can even get travel time if you plan on walking! You can also get directions to several different locations at once. I work for the school system and it is very helpful to know the most direct route to travel from my house, to Karns Elementary, then to Powell High, and finally to the Sarah Simpson Teacher Center. There are now thousands of street view pictures which are very helpful if you are traveling to a location for the first time.

Google Maps also offers several features that I don't use very often such as live traffic feeds, terrain views, uploaded picture links, wikipedia links, and satellite views.

What is there left to say other than, "Google Maps is the best!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bullfrog Mosquito Coast: 4 Stars

This is not the first bug spray I have purchased for my little one, but so far it is my favorite. My friend Betsy first mentioned it on her blog and I had looked for it at several different stores. This weekend I finally found it at Food City. It works great! Ethan came in tonight with no new bites. As an added plus it also contains SPF 30 so that's one less thing to put on the little one!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Big Picture Story Bible: 5 Stars

I know that there are a lot of children's bibles out there but this one is a must have! This book does just what the title says, it explains the "Big Picture". You will not find Jonah in this book, but what you will find is the overarching story of God's relationship with his people. It took me about 30 minutes to read it from cover to cover (the illustrations are great) and when I was finished I just thought, "Wow, this is what it is all about." It does cover new and old testament promises of God and ultimately how they will all be fulfilled. I was even saying to my mother in law that it would be a great book to share with new believers (or unbelievers) because it does a wonderful job of conveying who God is. A missionary friend was even telling me he has all the babysitters that come to his house read a portion of this book to his kids. "That way you know even the babysitter in your house is exposed to the word of God."

The book starts out like this: "The Bible is God's story, and it begins with these big words: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Do you know how God created everything? Simply by speaking words. Imagine, making the Earth with words!"

I just love how over and over again this book points out that God told someone to do something, and out of obedience (or disobedience) they did the following thing. The focus of the story is always God's strength not man's.

You can get this book from Amazon for $15.63 and it would make a great gift this Christmas for anyone who has kids.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

MOPS: 5 Stars

I just got back from the MOPS leadership retreat yesterday and I thought, "I just have to write a post about MOPS on my new blog!" I first heard about MOPS from my friend Amy when I told her that I was pregnant. "You have to find a MOPS group as soon as you have that little one!" Well, my friend at school invited me last year and because of Amy's advice, I joined. Well I loved all of our meetings last year and now this year I am going to be a small group leader.

According to their website, "MOPS is an international support network of women who share the common bond of preschool age children." It was started by just eight Christian women who met to share the needs and joys of mothering. Now there are groups around the world that function to support and mentor mothers of little ones.

I attended the Central Bearden group last year and we met once a month during the evenings. This year we are expanding our schedule to accommodate more moms and we are meeting twice a month. During meetings childcare is provided at Central Bearden. We usually eat first, have announcements, and then a speaker, craft, or game. After that we break up into our small groups where we can have discussion and take prayer requests. The neat thing about the way it is set up is that you get to network with other moms, but you also have mentor moms available for questions that might need a little more experience behind them. Last year we had a librarian come to speak to us, as well as many speakers that were mentor moms. We also had a great time playing Bunco one night.

Who can join? MOPS is designed for moms from the time they are pregnant until their youngest child completes kindergarten. The yearly membership for our group is $35, but there are scholarships available for moms who can't afford the fee. With membership you will receive the MOPS magazine and access to the online MOPS resources. If you have any questions, or if you want to join, please email me. I hope all the moms out there will consider joining us on September 11th at 6pm for this year's "Adventures in Mothering".

Cordless Electric Water Kettle: 5 Stars

With as much tea as Philip drinks this kettle gets 5 stars in our house. It is an entirely stainless steel kettle (except for the lid) that stay cool to the touch even when the water inside is boiling. It is probably the fastest boiling kettle that I have ever used. The coolest feature is probably that it is cordless and works by just setting the kettle on the base. When Ethan was just born and we were warming up bottles upstairs at 2 in the morning, it was essential to our life. Now Philip uses it mostly for drinking tea, but any other time I need boiling water I will use it instead of the microwave.


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