Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Dishwasher & Laundry Safe Labels

Mary loves her sippy cups. She also happens to love other kids sippy cups too! I'm always trying to watch her at play dates to make sure she isn't drinking after other kids and spreading her cute little germs all around.

Enter Applied Labels - dishwasher safe labels that last and last and last.

I stuck our labels on every sippy cup in our house a few weeks ago and they haven't gone any where even though each cup has been washed almost daily. We go through a lot of cups in our house every day.

I designed our labels to be super simple so both girls, mommy, and daddy could use them. I just put our last name and a star picture on them. This helps the nursery workers at church and MOPS too. No more markers rubbing off or masking tape being peeled off when the edges start to curl.

We used to have some stretchy, bumpy name labels, but they were very specific to each child. Also, they were too thick to let us stack the cups unless we took them off before putting the cups away. That was annoying so those labels didn't really get used once we switched to stacking sippy cups.

A neat feature of the Applied Labels is that they can also be used in clothing or shoes, which is great if your kids go to day care or summer camp. To label clothing, sandwich an Applied Label™ with one of our blank backers. For shoes, stick on a Shoe Shield™ that will keep labels in place all year long.

All Applied Labels are lead, DEHP and BPA-free made with permanent adhesive and ink. Based on our experience they certainly are permanent!

If you are interested in learning more about Applied Labels, you can check out their website, Twitter page, or Facebook page.

FTC Disclosure: I received 1 set of Applied Labels to facilitate my review. No other consideration was given and all thoughts and comments are my own.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com created by WebBizIdeas.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

Review: Recaro ProSPORT Car Seat

Choosing a car seat is a big deal - they are expensive, everyone has an opinion, you don't know how fast or slow your child will grow, and you have to make sure you buy one that fits your car.

More than anything though, we want our kids to be safe when they are in our cars. That is the main reason we put so much effort into choosing the best car seat we can afford. I know that I spent a lot of time researching car seats online before I ever set foot in a store to buy one. I read reviews, posted messages on forums, and checked out consumer magazines. In other words, I took it as seriously as any other parent.

We've had really good luck with the seats I choose. The girls both started out in a bucket seat (a Graco Quatro Tour) before moving into a rear-facing convertible seat (the Evenflow Triumph Advance). And now they are both forward facing in convertible seats. 

Several weeks ago I received a Recaro ProSPORT car seat (in Hanna) to review. I knew it was coming and was reasonably certain we'd like it based on the research I did online. Also, I drive a 2008 Swagger Wagon so I wasn't too worried about the seat being too big for my van even though I had read this is a large seat.

Warning - This review is longer than most because I want to cover as much of this seat as possible to help other mo
ms decide if it is right for them. Choosing a car seat is a personal decision that needs to be based on what fits in your car the best. Ultimately, the seat that is installed correctly is the safest seat.

First Impression: While it isn't super important, as soon as it came out of the box, I loved the way the seat looked. The pink and brown of the Hanna version are really cute and Charlotte liked having a pink seat. Then, I noticed how heavy it was (20.5 pounds). Fortunately, most of us put the seats in our cars and then leave them there. I knew it was heavier than our other convertible seat by a couple of pounds and looked up several other seats online to see how the Recaro compared. It wasn't the heaviest among the top sellers on Amazon, but it was near the top.

I suppose one reason it is so heavy is because of the EPS foam. And I definitely knew I wasn't getting a flimsy car seat. To make it easier to transport Recaro added a handle at the top which I really appreciated as I carried the car seat to the van for installation. Our other seat doesn't have a handle.

Installation: Installation time came and went quickly. I installed this seat with all 3 parts of the LATCH system in very little time. Recaro developed what they call the "push button" LATCH system which makes it very simple to install.  One click on each side and then I was done with that part. The rear tether was just as easy.

Charlotte's Feedback: Since Charlotte is old enough to provide feedback, I let her try this seat out first. She is accustomed to climbing in and out of her other convertible car seat herself and had a harder time getting in and out of this one. After checking it over, I realized the base of this seat hangs off the front edge meaning she can't step onto the vehicle seat before climbing into the car seat. She manages to get into the Recaro on her own, but it is harder for her (she is 39 1/2" tall).

The fit of the sit suits her very well (she is a little under 30 pounds). I did have some trouble switching to this tightening system (our other seat uses a different process), but a learning curve is normal and I did eventually get it. I complained to my friend that it wasn't tightening enough and they tried to tighten it and it worked. So... I guess that was user error because I wasn't tugging hard enough.

Mary's Feedback: Mary is 20 months old and is thrilled whenever she gets to do something Charlotte is doing. So naturally, she liked sitting in the seat. I found it very easy to adjust the straps to suit both her and Charlotte.

Keeping It Clean: I haven't had to take the seat cover off yet to clean it, but reports I read online suggest it is easy to do. And the straps do not have to be unthreaded to take the cover off, a big plus in my book! The Hanna model is made with denier fabric, which is easy to wipe clean (which I have done with a wipe).

Drawback: My only real problem with the seat is the removable cushion that the child sits on. It slides around a lot and was always getting in our way. Eventually, I just took it off and Charlotte didn't seem to miss it the extra padding. Same thing for the protective sleeve that goes over the actual buckle. It came off too.

Safety Thoughts: I am satisfied with the safety that the Recaro ProSport provides. It is specifically designed to protect against side-impact collisions, to "protect each of the 5 vulnerable areas of a child in a side impact crash including their - head - neck - face - torso - pelvis." Even though I didn't have to personally test the safety of this seat, Consumer Reports ranked it as safe as several other top selling seats, including the other seat we own. The only exception was for rear facing with seat belt installation. I don't know anyone who drives a car without the LATCH system and imagine it is pretty rare in the US for someone who is considering a $279 car seat to be driving a car built before 1989 (when it became an industry standard).

If you check out the Recaro child safety website site, you can read more details about the specifics of this seat and who can use it.

FTC Disclosure (which I would do anyway, even if the feds didn't require it): I received no compensation for this post. The Recaro ProSPORT car seat was sent to me to review at no cost to myself and I get to keep it, courtesy of MomSelect and Recaro. All opinions on the seat are my own.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day

I first heard of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day more than a year ago. I thought it sounded great, but making homemade bread was sooooo.... NOT on my radar. Now though, I've spent most of this year making a couple loafs of homemade Amish white bread a week and feel like I am ready to venture into more interesting textures and flavors of bread.

After 3 hours of rising in a 2 gallon bucket
After a reminder about this book from Tracey (yes the same awesome friend who started an Amazon Wish List for Joplin, MO moms), I decided to buy Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day.

And I don't regret it.

I knew I was going to like the bread I made when following the procedures in this book. I even went ahead and doubled the Master Recipe because I knew I couldn't fail. That's how easy the authors made the process. The basic premise is to make up a master batch of dough and then pull chunks of it off to make individual loafs through out the week. The dough can last for up to 14 days in the refrigerator, or longer if you freeze it. There is no wearing out your arms endlessly kneading and punching down bread. The whole process is based on a very wet dough which results in crispy outsides and creamy, dreamy insides.

It didn't surprise me when the brioche came out exactly like the book said it would, even though my skills at creating a gluten cloak were severely lacking. Wanna see what it looked like? I know you do!

Here's what the inside of the loaf looked like. It was super moist and spongy in a good way.

And yes, there is a chunk taken out of that slice. I couldn't resist myself once my hands were on it and had to have a piece!

Charlotte regularly tells me that my homemade bread is her "favorite thing ever!" She even liked this brioche despite the crispier crust. She asked me to cut off some of the darker spots, but still ate most of the crust she was given. We had company over the day I made this and they all liked it too.

Bruce doesn't prefer the super crispy crust, so I may make some and then put it in a zip top bag to soften it up some. Overall though, he enjoyed it and said it would have only been improved with some butter. I wasn't offended though because I know butter pretty much makes every thing better. Right?

Do you make bread at home? If you do or if you don't, I'd highly recommend you get a copy of this book. With the narrative about how and why this method works, I could have started my homemade bread making journey with this book and given my bread maker away. I can see how these recipes would be great for working moms, stay at home moms, or people who live alone but still want to enjoy fresh bread regularly. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking about making a master batch and taking it to my mom so she can have some of this fresh bread goodness!

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Anniversary Gift to Bruce

What exactly should you get your husband as an anniversary gift for year 13? Especially in a year when the schedule is as tight as the budget.

The traditional list for anniversary gifts suggests lace. And I can think of some fun ways to interpret that for a husband... but none that I would blog about. The modern list for anniversary gifts suggests textiles or fur. Let's just say, I didn't go that route either.

Instead, I gave him something very unconventional. He wasn't expecting it and it still made him smile the next morning when he saw it. What is this magical gift that makes him smile the next day and I can still blog about?

I cleaned our master bedroom.

Shocking. I know. I'm living on the edge here with my wild and crazy gifts. Seriously though, if you knew what I had to work with, you'd appreciate the 4 hours I spent working on the room to make it look like this:

The scroll work piece over the bed is new to us and I finally hung it up. This sort of thing is usually Bruce's job, but I did it and I'm very proud that I got it up level and even. Even better, I bought it at a yard sale for $5! I've seen these things sell for $45-50 elsewhere so I'm very proud of my deal.

Looking at the room this way, you can see one of my favorite pieces of art in the entire house. The gold plate on the dresser is from Hoy Poloi in Downtown Disney and was made by Stephen Schlanser. It was an anniversary gift to me several years ago, and I still feel as if I rarely live up to its sentiment.

(Image courtesy of Gallery Judaica, and his art used to cost a lot less than this!)
And in this picture you can see that we still haven't settled on a paint color for the walls. I'm leaning towards a warm taupe color since none of the blues really worked with our bedding.

A special thanks to my friend Amy too for watching the girls while I concentrated on making our bedroom something other than an oversized closet with a bed!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

13 Years - A Couple That Works


It is supposed to be an unlucky number.

But not yesterday. Yesterday, Bruce and I celebrated 13 years of marriage.

And it was good. Luck had nothing to do with it - good or bad.

There were no fireworks, or fancy meals at restaurants with large skewers of meat or pots of chocolate. But it was good.

I take that back. There were fireworks. And balloons. Bruce drew some for me on our master bathroom memo board.

It was a simple day, simply marked by a meal together as a family and plans to go out on a date this weekend.

13 years ago, the best man at our wedding, Justin, gave a speech. And in it, he called us "a couple that works." I've reflected on this description a lot over the years and think he meant that, even though we weren't obvious choices for one another at the time (to anyone but us that is), we still made sense together to those who knew both of us well.

I truly believe that statement is as true today as it was 13 years ago. Bruce and I are not perfect, but we are perfect for each other. His strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths his weakness. And with each passing year, we get better at relying on one another to fill in our own gaps.

And isn't that a big part of what marriage is about? If you are married, how do you fill in the gaps for one another?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Helping Moms in Joplin, MO

Sometimes it takes a personal story for us to really see the need when other people are experiencing a tragedy.

Today, even though I had been aware of the horrible after math of the recent tornadoes in Joplin, MO, I finally saw the human side of it.

My friend Tracey shared about the moms of young children in Joplin who had lost their homes. It hadn't occurred to me, but these moms probably didn't crawl into their bathtub or basement with their baby's lovey or pacifier. And of course, the Wal-Mart suffered a lot of damage so they couldn't just go out and replace these items easily. They can't really do any of the daily stuff of raising preschoolers easily.

So Tracey, because she is awesome and responded when she saw the need, created an Amazon.com Wish List for the moms of Joplin, MO. On this wish list are things like pacifiers, diapers, blankets, and other items that moms will need in the coming weeks but won't have easy access too.

The MOPS group of Joplin is the intended recipient and will be distributing the received items as they come in. (Did I mention Tracey is a MOPS leader? She really loves moms!) When you buy the items on the Wish List, they will automatically ship to the MOPS group's home church (College Heights Christian Church). This makes the process so easy!

And if you decide to make a donation, you should sign up for Amazon Mom first. This will get you free shipping on several items in this Wish List (plus stuff you might buy for yourself down the road).

Here's what I ordered:

I placed my order tonight using money I've earned writing sponsored posts on this blog. Thanks for reading those posts and making this donation possible. If you decide to order something from the Joplin MOPS Amazon Wish List, leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interview with Charlotte

Several months ago, I came across this simple interview (don't remember where) and thought it would be fun to sit down with Charlotte to capture her answers. She'll be 4 in August (less than 3 months away!) and it was nice to hear her insight on Mommy.

  1. What is something Mommy always says to you? - "I love you."
  2. What makes Mommy happy? - "When I say I love you and hug you."
  3. What makes Mommy sad? - "When there is no love in the house."
  4. How does Mommy make you laugh? - "Jokes, like the elephant joke."
  5. What was Mommy like as a child? - "You always wanted an apple."
  6. How old is Mommy? - "5" (!)
  7. How tall is Mommy? - This tall (she spread her arms out). When asked to tell me how tall that was, she said "19 feet long." (19 is her new favorite number.)
  8. What is Mommy's favorite thing to do? - "Snuggle with me."
  9. What does Mommy do when you're not around? - "Type messages to me."
  10. What is Mommy really good at? - "Computers, loving me."
  11. What is Mommy not very good at? - "Spanking." (Bruce would affirm this.)
  12. What does Mommy do for her job? - "Type."
  13. What is Mommy's favorite food? - "Apples." (This happened to be what Charlotte was eating when I interviewed her.)
  14. What makes you proud of Mommy? - "When you hug and snuggle with me."
  15. If Mommy were a cartoon character, who would she be? - "Huckle (from Busytown Mysteries), because you help me solve mysteries."
  16. What do you and Mommy do together? - "Go solve mysteries."
  17. How are you and Mommy the same? - "We both have blue eyes and brown hair. And we both have flowers on our shirt."
  18. How are you and Mommy different? - "I have more flowers on my shirt than you do."
  19. How do you know Mommy loves you? - "I asked you."
  20. Where is Mommy's favorite place to go? - "MOPS"

It seems like she does know me pretty well! I do love snuggles and typing and MOPS!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's the elephant joke:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giveaway: (in)spired deals from Dayspring

My 3 (nearly 4) year old knows that some day, Jesus is going to knock on her heart's door. And to hear her tell us that she is looking forward to that day makes my heart happy. And maybe it makes my eyes a little wet too. She already has a love for God that impresses me and I can't wait to see what happens when He really takes hold of her life. I'm sure I'll need some help letting go, but she'll be in good hands.

Almost daily, my husband and I make efforts pour the love of God into her and her sister, in ways they can recognize and in more subtle ways that they may never notice. Bruce prays Numbers 6:24-26 over them each night. I try to teach Charlotte and Mary Bible verses that will build their character. Ultimately, we are trying to teach them that they are loved not only by us, but by God too.

Some of these efforts come out in the books we read to our girls. Some of these efforts are seen in the television shows we let them watch, or not watch. And more recently, these efforts have been reflected in the ways I am decorating our home.

I've added touches of scripture in the form of vinyl stickers or printables that I create myself. For a long time we've had an illustration of John 3:16 hanging at the bottom of our stairs that reminds us Jesus came for everyone.

Recently, I was given a new piece of art to put on my walls to reflect the lessons we are teaching Charlotte. It is a wood carved wall hanging that says, "Ask, Seek, Knock."

Image courtesy of Dayspring
I love the daily reminder I see each time I walk past this piece. It reminds me that I need to make sure my home is a place where Jesus will come to knock on the heart's door of my little girls. I am trying to use my home to serve the littlest members of our family. To saturate their lives with scripture and the love of God.

How are you using your home to serve the Lord?

Because Dayspring is a generous company, they want to offer one of you a $20 giftcard to be used at the Dayspring online store. You can use it to buy something from the (in)spired deals page or anywhere else in their online store. During the month of May, you can also use the coupon code MAY20 for 20% off.

How to Enter: There are five ways to enter and you can do any of them you like, for up to five entries:
1. Leave a comment telling me how you use your house to serve others,
2. 'Like' Family Musings on Facebook and Dayspring on Facebook, then leave a 2nd comment with your FB name telling me you did,
3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or subscribe by email, and leave a 3rd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed,
4. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post, or
5. Follow Family Musings on Twitter  and Dayspring on Twitter then tweet this giveaway and leave a 5th comment with the twitter id or permalink. Here's your tweet:
Win a  $20 gift card @Dayspringcards & @FamilyMusings http://bit.ly/fM4Eka #giveaway 
That's it. 5 ways to win and 1 lucky winner. This giveaway will end Saturday, May 28th at 9 pm. Read all contest rules here.

FTC Disclosure: I received one item from the Dayspring Online Store to review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are mine. The giveaway is sponsored by (in)spired deals and Dayspring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Signature Pasta Dish & My #Carrabbas Pasta Personality

Someone was asking me about cookbooks and recipes today when I came across the Take the Carrabba’s Personality Quiz on Facebook. I quickly took the 5 question quiz and discovered that my pasta personality is Penne Franco, a dish with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and ricotta salata. It sure sounds like something I'd enjoy and now I might be inspired to make an Italian style pasta dish for dinner tonight! 
My husband's favorite pasta dish is a Creamy Spinach-Chicken Lasagna. I was sure I had posted it before, but couldn't find it any where on the blog. And since it is one of our favorites, I thought I ought to share it with you now. It started out as a recipe from my mom, which I've now made so many times, I don't even look at the written recipe any more. Plus, since my life is busier, I've turned it into a no-boil lasagna to make assembly quicker. 

Creamy Spinach-Chicken Lasagna
  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bag mozzarella cheese plus extra if you like it really cheesy!
  • salt & pepper
  1. Combine mushroom soup and milk with red pepper flakes. Mix thoroughly and pour just enough into your pan to cover the bottom.
  2. Layer 3 noodles over the sauce.
  3. Combine ricotta with egg, 1/4 cup Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the lasagna noodles, top with half of the spinach, half of the chicken, and some of the mozzarella cheese.
  5. Pour some of the soup mixture over top and then add 3 more lasagna noodles. 
  6. Repeat all layers again. Then top with remaining soup, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese.
  7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5-10 minutes until it is bubbly and your cheese starts to brown.
I always credit the original version of this recipe with my husband deciding he wanted to marry me. I think my revised version is just as good and easier to make than boiling lots of noodles.

Why don't you take the Facebook Carrabba’s Pasta Personality quiz, and leave a comment letting me know what your pasta personality is?

Right now, Carrabba's has several limited time special offers that sound really yummy to me. These seven dishes start at $10 and include soup or salad. They are only available through the end of July, so you have 2 full months to enjoy them! I've never been to Carrabba's, but am really looking forward to going to enjoy these sometime this summer.

Pasto Rambo – Named for the chef who created it, it’s made with shrimp tossed with imported Italian linguine, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes sautéed in our basil lemon butter sauce. Lobster is available instead of shrimp for an additional cost.

Other Limited Time Offers:
Parmesan-crusted Chicken – Topped with fresh arugula and grape tomatoes tossed in a hand-prepared lemon vinaigrette, served with choice of side. Substitution of wood-grilled chicken also available. Pairs well with Estancia Pinot Grigio.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin – Three pork tenderloin medallions wrapped with prosciutto, wood-grilled and topped with an apple and fig infused port wine sauce, served with the vegetable of the day. Pairs well with Coppola Pinot Noir.

Limoncello Bread Pudding – Back by popular demand! Brioche bread pudding made with fresh Madagascar vanilla beans and a rich custard, served hot out of the oven. Topped with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and drizzled with Carrabba’s homemade Caravella Limoncello liqueur sauce.

Now Introducing:Peach Sangria – Carrabba’s new light and fruity Peach Sangria blends Copper Ridge White Zinfandel, Absolut Apeach vodka and Patrón Citrónge with a splash of citrus. Topped with a fresh lemon wedge and strawberry, it’s a taste of the Amalfi Coast in spring.

If you aren't sure if there is a Carrabba's near you, you can check their locations by visiting www.carrabbas.com for the closest Carrabba’s location. I hope you have one near you because there are more than 230 locations nationwide. 

Oh, and if you make my Creamy Chicken-Spinach Lasagna, let me know what your family or guests think!

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Carrabba’s blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Closing Doors & Opening Windows

How do you know you are truly loved by your friends?

How about when they all gather around you in prayer to encourage you and ask God to bless you, even though you are leaving their happy fellowship?

That's what happened to me this morning. You can't see me, but I'm in the middle of that cluster of lovely, praying women. I am the recipient of their happy blessings.

Today was the last day of the 2010-2011 MOPS year and, in the midst of celebrating all of the good things they have learned and accomplished this year, they took a quiet moment to lift me up as I continue the process of starting a brand new MOPS group at my home church.

The testimonies shared by several women today have reminded me that I am on the path God has set for me to reach out to other moms that need someone to come beside them and care about them and their children.

The laughter shared over a delicious brunch encourages me to continue to build the relationships I have with my MOPS friends and to find other moms who need some laughter in their day as well.

But it was the prayers of my friends that fueled and filled me the most today. These women are generous with their time and their love and have been an excellent example of all that I want to be as a woman, a mom, and a MOPS coordinator.

Thank you Jenn, Bethany, Amy, Ida, Sue, Karissa B, Karissa J, Shelley, Sandy, and Kim for standing with me this morning. And thank you to all of my other MOPS friends who prayed for me too and offered encouraging words before our morning was over.

I look forward to making sure that even more moms in the Lakeland area don't have to do it alone.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blueberry Picking, 2011 Edition

It seems that picking fruit has become a tradition for our family. We missed strawberry season, but we did make it out for blueberry and tomato picking. This year, a friend from church invited us to come and pick at their large blueberry patch since they had more than they could pick before they went all bad. It was a gorgeous morning, topped off with getting to pet their horses.

Mary seemed to know exactly what to do and took her bucket straight to the first blueberry bush. She already looks like a pro!

Charlotte too remembered what to do and actually told Mrs. Lori, "I know how to do it!" when Mrs. Lori tried to show her which ones to pick.

Such joy from a small little berry. They tasted delicious right off the bush, super sweet with a nice pop when you bit into it.

Charlotte being very earnest to choose the best berries.

Mary wasn't as professional as I would have liked and her favorite thing to do was dumping the bucket out after she had several in it.

Mrs. Lori showed up a bird's nest inside on of their bushes. We didn't see the momma birdy anywhere, but her eggs sure are beautiful!

Did you pick any fruit or vegetables this Spring?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Charlotte's First Sleepover

Today was a big day in the life of my Charlotte Moon.

She went on her first real, planned sleep over tonight. It's at her G-ma's house and she has been talking about doing this for at least a month now.

Charlotte and I made a list of the things she would pack and this is what she decided she needed to include:

I added some clean clothes for the next day, zipped it up and she was ready to go!

We met my mom halfway between their house and ours and then I left Charlotte and my mom so they could have breakfast together. A few hours later though, my mom called to tell me Charlotte had a fever. 

The fever stuck around for several hours and really put a cramp in their plans together, but eventually the Tylenol brought it down from its high of 102.4 and by 9 pm, my little girl was her typical self! My mom was in for a late, fun filled night now that Charlotte was well rested from a late afternoon nap.

Mary and I stayed home this evening and had a good time being silly and eating fun foods. There were lots of extra cuddles today and I really enjoyed that.

I didn't really start to miss Charlotte until I talked to her around 9 pm. I'd been looking at the picture of her with her suitcase and then her little pip squeak voice came on the phone and I almost lost it. I'm not a very sentimental person and didn't expect to get all teary eyed, but I sure did.

And to my little Charlotte, if you are reading this post years after the fact, wherever you are right now, just remember that I'm certainly missing you just as much!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I Must Be Doing Something Right

Sharing free ice cream at Chick-fil-a yesterday
Just a moment ago, Charlotte asked me for a snack. She settled on a slice of "flat cheese." As I opened the fridge, I told her she'd need to take a slice to Mary too.

Then, when I opened up the drawer, I saw there was only a single slice of flat cheese left.

I gave Charlotte two options - eat it in the kitchen, or share it with her sister in the living room.

She quickly and cheerfully said she would split it and then did her best to fold it in half evenly.

I guess that means that some of what I am trying to teach her is sticking in her heart!

In honor of my daughters sharing so well, I decided to create a little poster for them to help them remember a Bible verse about sharing. I'm not in the habit or practice of making "printables," but I think this turned out kind of cute and thought you might want to share this verse with your littles as well. Or maybe you just need it as a reminder for yourself.

Paper & embellisments courtesy of FreeDigitalScrapbooking.com
Click on the free printable to see a larger version and download it. It will print on standard 8.5x11 paper or cardstock.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final Thoughts: The Bag Holder

I finally knew the Bag Holder had secured a permanent place in my kitchen when I went to cook dinner last night. Without even thinking about it, I reached for the Bag Holder to prepare a chicken and rice recipe I've made before using regular bowls. It wasn't until I added the last ingredient that I even realized that I had changed the way I cook, bake, and store food. Thank you Kara for sharing this simple yet innovative kitchen tool with me. It's a true multi-tasker that would make even Alton Brown proud!

And before I sign off with this series of reviews, I thought I'd share a few of the ways I've used it that haven't been documented on the blog yet.

I used the Bag Holder to put up about 70 pounds of tomatoes. I was able to buy them for about $3 so I couldn't pass them up, but I had to figure out a quick way to store these gems!

Ready to be flash boiled to make skin removal easier.

After their ice water bath and skin removal. They felt so velvety!

Using the Bag Holder to make storing in gallon size bags easy. It took 2 hands just to get the tomatoes into the bag, I couldn't imagine how messy this task would have been with out the Bag Holder.

Tomatoes ready for the freezer!!!

I also found the Bag Holder was useful as a trash bowl if I loaded it with a spare grocery bag.

Mixing cupcake batter was easy enough that my three year old could help with out making a mess. And I had these frosted in about 45 seconds once I had the Bag Holder loaded with the frosting.

I've been questioned about the environmental impact of the Bag Holder and at the end of the day, I value my family time more than I value green living. So, if I can get dinner made for us to enjoy together around the table and I've cleaned up more quickly, with the only impact being a single plastic bag instead of the few bowls and spoons that I have to wash (which also has an environmental impact), then I have made the best choice for my family.

Finally, I made a couple of videos to demonstrate how easy it is to use for lots of things around the kitchen.

What do you think? Do you want a Bag Holder now? What would be the first thing you made in it?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

My Mother's Day Gift to My Mother

Forgive me for posting this when it is probably too late for you to do anything about it. But, well, my mom is great and she reads my blog. So if I posted this idea before she got it, then she'd know, and the surprise element of the gift giving would be lost. And that would be sad. Because I love surprises.

This gift is highly customizable and can be adjusted to suit the tastes and preferences of the recipient.

You can click on the image to see it better. Her name is Debra, which is why it is bigger and centered in the middle. The rest of the names are her immediate family members. If you let your eyes be creative for a moment, the names are in the shape of a tree. So this is kind of like a family tree, just arranged artistically, not chronologically. And it's a complete coincidence that my name is at top. I swear!

I learned how to make this flower from Emily, of Jones Design Company. She shared a great rolled paper flower tutorial on her blog last week, and I was glad they were as easy to make as she said they would be.

The words in the frame were designed used Tagxedo. I used to be a Wordle fan, but Tagxedo has a wider range of options and lets you download the resulting image as a .PNG or .JPG file, which makes them infinitely more useful.

Happy Mother's Day! What special gifts did you make or receive this year?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Thoughts About Mother's Day

All day I've been cranky. It might have something to do with the lack of sleep this past week, but more likely it has to do with unmet expectations.

I'm talking about my own expectations of myself. I expect a lot of my mothering. And some days I live up to them, but typically, most days I fall far short of my mothering goals.

I find myself crying at 3 pm because I have no idea how I am supposed to mold these little girls into Godly women with the example I am setting for them.

My patience wears thin with the high expectations I have of them and of myself. Nobody could meet these expectations. I know this, but that doesn't make it easy to let them go.

But, I'm working on them. I talked with an older, wiser woman last week who helped remind me that I lack perspective right now. She helped me to remember to look at my 3 year old and my 1 year old as exactly what they are - 3 & 1.

They aren't sissies, but they are fragile in some ways. They are watching me. They watch everything I do. And Charlotte is at the age now where she can communicate her needs in a meaningful way.

I think it all really hit me a month or so ago when, after bath time and washing of hair, Charlotte was thrilled when I pointed out that her hair was curly like mine. And when I say thrilled, I really mean it. She began dancing around proclaiming that she "always wanted curly hair like Mommy!" I got tighter hugs in that moment  than in a while.

And that wasn't the only time she declared she wanted to be like me. It's come up again several times in the last four weeks. And each time I resolve that I will be a better mother. That I won't yell at her and Mary. That we'll read our Bible together more. That we will play outside more. And it usually doesn't take more than a few hours before my resolve has disappeared in a cluttered house and piles of dirty laundry.

I get cranky when I can't meet my own expectations. And this largely happens because I don't manage my time well enough.

So this Mother's Day, I resolve to do less of everything else and more mothering. Fewer hours spent online. Less time on the phone. More time creating a clean, safe environment for them to play in. And more time with me, just sitting on the floor playing with dolls or sitting at the table playing with play dough.