Monday, August 23, 2010

11 Months Old Today!

My girl turned 11 months old today. This past month went by way too fast. This past month, K learned how to pull up and stand. Within a week she was an old pro, pulling up on everything and taking steps holding onto her crib. We've had to do a lot more baby proofing the past couple of weeks. She cut her 5th tooth and is working on the 6th. Getting her to eat solids has been a slow process, but she's finally getting the hang of it. She has a trigger gag reflex so she still can't eat anything except purees, but she's not picky anymore. She's eating foods now that we couldn't get her to eat before or that she only liked when mixed with applesauce. She usually eats around 4-6 ounces of food a day now. Not nearly as much as most kids her age, but definitely an improvement for her.

The weather was beautiful here today, so we took the opportunity to take a few pictures outside.

I posted the next to last picture on Facebook today and my old babysitter said K looked just like she remembered me at that age. She posted a picture of me when I was 1 to prove her point. Here's the comparison:

(click to enlarge)

What do you think?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Owl Applique

I've been busy sewing stuff for K's birthday lately. I'm finally getting around to taking some pictures so that I can share them. This one is my favorite so far.

Owls must be the popular thing right now because I keep seeing them everywhere. Shirts, softies, fabric, stamps, you name it. Inspired by some adorable owl corduroy at Joanns, I decided to make an owl applique shirt.

I searched for owl pictures and found one that I loved. Then I copied and pasted it into a word document and enlarged it. I wanted to off-set the pocket at the top, so instead of tracing my image backwards onto my heat-n-bond like you're supposed to, I just traced it normally so that I would end up with the reverse image.

I used different types of scrap fabric to add texture. The eyes,feet, and wings are knit, the leaves are flannel, the body and branch are cotton, the beak is fleece, and the head is from an old pair of comfy knit dress pants.

I also made K a pair of pants from the same old gray knit pants. I used the existing hem and outside seam, so I was able to finish them in about 10 minutes.

The owl shirt was definitely a labor of love, since it took awhile to cut out, place, iron, and sew down all of those little owl pieces. But I'm really pleased with it and I can't wait for her to wear it next summer.

Linking up with:

Fresh Poppy Design

make it wear it

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yummy Bran Muffins

I tried a new muffin recipe last week. I made a few substitutions to make them healthier and they were SO good. I forgot to take a picture before we ate them all, but here's my version (original version here).

1 1/2 cups bran flakes (I couldn't find wheat bran)
1 cup yogurt
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat or white wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins*
1/4 cup dried cranberries*
1/4 cup chopped walnuts*

Mix together bran flakes and yogurt, slightly breaking up bran flakes as you stir; let stand for 10 minutes.

Beat together applesauce, egg, sugar and vanilla and add to yogurt/bran mixture. Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into yogurt mixture, until just blended. Fold in raisins, dried cranberries, and walnuts and spoon batter into greased muffin tins.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 

* I didn't really measure here, so these measurements are a guess. You could substitute anything you want here. I made a batch with chocolate chips and they were pretty good. I also think these would be yummy made with blueberries or cherries.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: 10 Month Photos

K's 10 month pictures, wearing this dress. A huge thanks to Mandy Jones for doing such a fabulous job.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saving Money: Groceries

Cutting back on your grocery budget doesn't have to mean eating ramen noodles every night. As I've said before, we've cut down our grocery bill by about $100/month so far and we still eat meat almost every night. Here's what helped me:

Meal planning
This is SO important. Sitting down at the beginning of the week and planning out your meals helps you make an accurate grocery list and keeps you from running to the store during the week. Less trips to the store means time, gas, and money saved. Every Sunday evening, I sit down with my local ads, coupons, recipe book, and computer and write down my meal ideas and make my grocery list. It's nice not having to scrounge around at 4:30 wondering what in the heck I'm going to cook for supper, too.

Utilize leftovers
I like to make my meal plan to include one or more meals that share an ingredient. A can of pineapple, for example, can be used to make pineapple chicken and have enough leftover to use on homemade pizza.

Another example: Friday I made mini meatball subs (on homemade bread) and brown rice with peas and mushrooms. I used the leftovers in 3 meals:
1. Leftover mini meatball subs; roasted potatoes, squash, zucchini, and carrots (I just use whatever is left in the fridge and toss with olive oil and either oregano or grill seasoning)
2. Chicken parmesan; penne noodles with leftover marinara; leftover veggies
3. General Tsos chicken; fried rice (using leftover rice from the first night and leftover veggies from the second night)

Look for cheap alternatives
Some cheap substitutions:
- chicken or beef bouillon cubes instead of broth
- mix your own spices instead of buying premade packets (taco seasoning, for example)
- regular rice instead of instant
- dried beans instead of canned
- cream of anything mix instead of canned soup (I haven't actually tried this yet, but I'm going to this week)
- generally, anything homemade instead of prepackaged/convenience foods

When I look at a recipe, I like to look at it and figure out how to make it cheaper. Creamy chicken enchiladas is one of our favorite meals (thanks, Debbie!), but gets kind of pricy. So to make it cheaper I make these substitutions (original ingredient in parenthesis):
- 2 cups of water with 1 chicken bouillon cube (chicken stock)
- 8 oz of yogurt cheese (sour cream) - this has nothing to do with cheapness, I'm just lactose intolerant
- a few chopped jalepenos - I keep a jar in the fridge (green chilies)
- cooked and mashed dried pinto beans with cumin and chili powder(refried beans)
- chili powder, cumin, crushed red peppter (taco seasoning)
I also use Kroger brand tortillas. They're the best kind we've tried (and the cheapest!). The wheat ones are the best. I like to double this recipe because they are soooooo good leftover.

Stock up on sale items
This is how I manage to serve meat nearly every night. Kroger runs a sale on chicken breasts for $1.99/lb about once a month. So when it's on sale, I buy several packages. I set aside 30-45 minutes, grab a big cutting board and a knife, and trim away all the yucky stuff. Then I cut into strips or small pieces, wrap up meal-sized portions in freezer paper, label it, and throw it in freezer bags for good measure. Not only does this save us money, but it saves me a ton of time. Instead of having to cut up chicken every time I need it (and dirty up a knife and cutting board), I just unwrap the pack of chicken and let it thaw in cold water. Easy peasy. You can easily do this with other types of meat as well.

You can also watch for sales and coupons on pantry staples and stock up. I'll do a "couponing 101" in my next post.

Make extra and freeze it
This is another time and money saver. There are some meals that are a pain to make, so you might as well make double while you're at it. I like to make 2 lasagnas at a time and freeze one. The saving money part is small here - it gives me a quick dinner option so we don't resort to eating out in a pinch and it dirties less dishes, so we save a little water and electricity. Muffins, chicken casserole, spaghetti sauce, chili, and soups also freeze well.

I'd love to answer your questions or hear how you save money on groceries!