Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday-Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

Halloween book-Room on the Broom || What We're Reading Wednesday || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales 

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson is one of our favorite Halloween books and we keep it special because we only get it out in October.  Does anyone else do that?  My son has so many books that we put some away and only get them out at certain times of the year.

  Room on the Broom features one of the nicest witches since Hermione Granger.  While traveling on her broom with her cat one night, her hat blows away.  While directing her broom down to the ground, a dog brings the witch her hat and the witch invites the dog to join them on the broom.  The book follows this pattern until the witch invites so many creatures to join her on the broom that the broom snaps in two!  While on the ground, a dragon chases the witch and decides he wants to eat her.  She is saved by a giant monster, who scares the dragon away.  The monster is, in fact, all of the witch's new friends who are covered in mud.  The witch is so happy to be safe from the dragon, that she uses a spell to create a brand new broom with enough seats for her and all of her friends.  

On the surface, this book is merely a rhyming picture book to read to young children at Halloween-time.  In actuality, this book has an excellent message for young and older readers alike:  helping others will bring rewards.  The golden rule comes to mind.  Because the witch was kind to the creatures and invited them on her broom, they helped her when she was in need.  Room on the Broom also features excellent vocabulary and we are able to use context clues to determine the meaning of the interesting words.  Just tonight my son was able to deduce the meaning of the word 'clambered'.  This is a word we study in fourth grade while reading James and the Giant Peach!  I was quite impressed!  

If you're looking for a book to gift this Halloween (because books are always better than candy!), I highly recommend Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What I'm Pinning This Week - Halloween Crafts

I'm one of the head room moms for my son's kindergarten class.  Basically that means that I help plan the parties.  I'm in charge of the craft for the upcoming Halloween party, so I went to everybody's favorite site for crafty ideas-Pinterest!  Our schools still do Halloween-how fun is that?  No "Fall Parties" or "Harvest Parties" here.  And the kids and teachers still dress up!  See, they haven't taken all the fun out of school!  Here are some of my favorite pins this week-Halloween-craft-style for kids.

DIY Monster Pencils from the36thavenue

How cute are these?  The weirdo teacher in me hates that you ruin a perfectly good eraser, but the erasers on these decorative-type pencils are usually no good anyways.

Fingerprint Bat Silhouette from Crafty Morning

This looks like a fun one.  After I pinned it, I think it was pinned again 12 times!  I probably won't do this at the party, but I might try it with my kids at home.  While finger-painting is fun, you could also use a paint brush, a cotton ball, q-tip, or pencil eraser.  

Scissor Skill Pumpkins from Nurture Store

Scissor skills are HUGE in kindergarten!  My little guy is still working on his skills.  This is a cute craft that incorporates a necessary learning activity.  

Paper Plate Witch by Crafty Morning

Crafty Morning may just be one of my new favorite blogs!  The witch's hair is the kid's hands!  Adorbs.  If I were doing this at school, I would pre-cut pieces for the hat and the eyes to save time.  I would also have the kids color the face with markers instead of paint.  The kids can practice their scissor skills by cutting out their own hands.  A little prep beforehand, and this might just be the perfect halloween party craft! 

Cotton Ball Ghost by 366 days of Pinterest

First of all, what a neat concept for a blog!  I'm just not that crafty or handy to do a Pinterest project for every day of the year.  I guess I could try every day, but I can guarantee you they would not all be successful.  This is cotton ball ghost is probably the craft we will do at the party.  It's simple, it takes very little prep, and will not cost very much money.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Top 5 Table Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World

In keeping with my little Disney theme here on Must-Have Monday, I have decided to write about the restaurants you must visit while you're at the happiest place on Earth.  It makes me happy to write and think about all things Disney.  I have a little over a month until I get to book my Disney dining reservations for our June 2015 trip and I'm already planning where we will eat!

First of all, if you stay on property, you MUST book the Disney Dining Plan.  The Quick Service plan is cheaper, but you will want the Table Service.  To be honest, there's really no other way to do Disney.  The meals are just as much a highlight of the trip as the parks, especially for the adults.  We can't travel when free dining is offered, but we always pay for it and it's always worth it.  If you can travel when free dining is offered, then that's just a bonus!  Enjoy!  The following are all table service restaurants that I highly recommend for your next Disney vacation!

These restaurants are my top five, from my personal experience.  There are plenty of restaurants at Walt Disney World that I have never eaten at.  One of these days I will visit them all!  There are also plenty of restaurants that I would not recommend, but that's another post for another day.  That being said, here are what I consider the top five table service restaurants at Disney.

 Best Table Service Dining-Walt Disney World || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

1. Ohana.  "Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten."  Do you know that quote from Lilo & Stitch?  Sidenote, Stitch is probably one of my favorite Disney characters to meet at the parks.  Ohana is in the Polynesian Resort, which is one of the monorail stops. You can park at the Polynesian or park at the Ticket Center and hop on the monorail to get there.  On our last trip, we didn't have time to go back to our resort before dinner, so we took a boat ride from Magic Kingdom.  While Ohana does have a Lilo & Stitch breakfast buffet, we've never attended.  We've always gone for dinner and we probably always will.  There is entertainment at dinner, but it's not a character meal.  Ohana is Polynesian food served family style to your table.  The servers come around with chicken, steak, and pork on skewers and give you as much as you want.  The rice, noodles, and vegetables are also all-you-can-eat.  Come hungry to Ohana, and I promise you will leave stuffed.

Best Table Service Dining-Walt Disney World || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

2.  Crystal Palace.  This is the Winnie the Pooh character buffet inside Magic Kingdom and the breakfast is delicious.  You really get more bang for your buck when you book buffets, especially when you're on the Disney Dining Plan.  If you're traveling with a child under three, she can eat off your plate as well.  As with all character buffets, each character visits your table, signs autograph books, and poses for pictures.  Bring your own camera, the Photopass photographers don't come to the restaurants.  The character's "handlers" will take pictures for you, though.  Book your reservations early, and you have access to the park before anyone else!  You can even get your pictures taken in front of the castle with no crowds in the background.

3.  Garden Grill.  Garden Grill is in Epcot, inside The Land.  We tried this one for the first time on our last trip because we booked late and it was one of the few restaurants we were able to get reservations for.  We loved it so much, we will probably be going again in June.  The food was clean and fresh.  Most of the vegetables were actually grown in the same greenhouse that the boat ride goes through!  It's a really great lesson in farm-to-table for your kids.  This is also all-you-can-eat, and the server will bring out seconds and thirds of anything you would like.  It's fun because the restaurant rotates.  It goes slow, don't worry about motion sickness, but it's fun to be able to see the inside of The Land attraction.  The bonus?  It's also a character buffet!  Meet Chip & Dale and their friends, which when we went happened to be Farmer Mickey and Pluto.  Dale is probably my second favorite character to meet.  He's so silly and the kids love him.  I have the cutest video of Dale cheering up my very cranky then-three-year-old at Goofy's Kitchen at Disneyland.
 Best Table Service Dining-Walt Disney World || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

 Best Table Service Dining-Walt Disney World || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales4.  1900 Park Fare.  This is inside probably the fanciest resort on Disney property, The Grand Floridian.  It's so nice inside that I was a little embarrassed going dressed in my shorts and tank top. Everyone is dressed differently, though, so don't be, I'm just weird like that.  1900 Park Fare is the Cinderella dinner, where you meet the Princess herself, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, and those evil stepsisters, Drizella and Anastasia.  While the food is good, and the strawberry soup is to die for, this dinner really is all about the characters.  They are amazing.  Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters are so evil and never break character.  They are absolutely hilarious.  They fight with one another over the Prince, and they will plant big red kisses all over your little boy's face.  Cinderella and Prince Charming also dance beautifully in the middle of the ballroom.  Once again, don't forget your autograph books and cameras!

 Best Table Service Dining-Walt Disney World || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

5.  Raglan Road.  This is one of the many restaurants at Downtown Disney.  Raglan Road is a true Irish pub, and many things in the restaurant are imported from Ireland, including the band and the dancers!  When you book your reservation, make sure you will be there when both are performing., they really do create the atmosphere.  While my husband loves the Shepherd's Pie, my favorite part of the meal is the bread pudding for dessert.  Although it is a pub, it is still very family friendly, so don't hesitate to bring your children.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Centers At Home

My son is on Fall Break.  I loved fall break as a teacher.  It came just at the right time, after long nights of conferences, and with report cards due right around the corner, fall break was a much needed R&R.  My son woke up Thursday morning and groaned when he remembered he didn't have school.  That was my evidence that he has finally adjusted to school and actually likes (dare I say loves?) it!  He was truly disappointed.  I asked him, what is your favorite part of school that you wish you could do today?  Honestly thinking he was going to say gym or recess, I was quite surprised when he said "Centers!"  Centers?  I can totally do centers!  I can do gym and recess too, but centers actually have some learning involved.  It was time to brush off my teaching hat.

First, I asked him what his favorite centers were.  Evidently they have a center called "Farmer's Market."  I still can't fully determine what exactly they do at farmer's market, but I know there is a baby involved.  I'm guessing it has something to do with role playing and perhaps they're shopping?  Either way, our farmer's market was going to take place in the kitchen.  He's got an excellent imagination, he could make it work.  I even tried suggesting C could be his baby.  He didn't like that idea so much.

He also wanted a lego center, science, writing, and coloring center.  I convinced him to also have spelling, reading, and computers.  He wanted me to make him a board with his name on it.  Easy enough.  I found clip art to represent the centers, printed, and laminated it.  Yes, I have a personal laminator.  I'm a teacher, you shouldn't be surprised.  And it comes in handy way more than you would ever think.

At-Home Centers || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales
Center Board
The farmer's market, lego, and coloring centers were easy.  I didn't have to prep anything; he has a lego table in his room and access to paper and markers.  I took to Google for the spelling and writing centers.  For spelling, I created a practice worksheet on using his Kindergarten sight words.  For writing, I printed Kindergarten blank lined paper from Paging Supermom.  Because he loves to draw, I printed the show and tell paper with a space for drawing and blank lines for writing a sentence.

The Science center was the fun one!  Of course, Pinterest has all kinds of great ideas, and I found this Walking Water Experiment from Coffee Cups & Crayons. As soon as we started the experiment, T says to me, "Oh, I know this one! We did this at bible school!"  Of course you did.  You all know I ask him to tell me about the things he does at school, and bible school for that matter.  And because he's five, he doesn't always tell me.  So, we did an experiment that he's already done before.  But, because he's five, he didn't care.

I originally planned for about 10 minutes per center.  Usually the rule of thumb is a kid can keep his attention on something for about one minute per year he is old, but I was pretty certain he could handle ten minutes per activity.  Some activities he wanted to stay at longer, some shorter.  We're on fall break, it's not school, I was ok with that.  We had a great morning; he had fun and we squeezed in some learning!  Overall, I would say very successful!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Must Haves for Airplane Travel with Kids

It's Must-Have Monday!  I'll be honest, I'm starting to struggle coming up with these "must-have" lists.  But, since we just recently booked our next Disney trip (June 2015!), I thought this would be a good topic.  We have traveled with my son since he was a year old.  Our next Disney trip will be his 7th trip!  All seven trips we have taken an airplane.  It's probably safe to say he's been on a plane at least 10 times.  Each time is different.  Once, when I was traveling with him alone (he was two), we had to make a stop at Dulles.  It was just supposed to be a stop--no changing planes.  The best-laid plans right?  Well, as we were taxiing to our gate, our plane got hit by a fuel truck!  No joke!  There was no real emergency, but they did make us exit the plane and wait for a new one before continuing on to our final destination.  I must say, it's always a fun story to tell.  Definitely one for the baby book.

Since I feel like I'm somewhat an expert in the area of flying with kids, here are my must-haves for airplane travel with children.

1.  A Car Seat.  Don't check it; bring it on the plane with you and have your child sit in it.  Number one, it's safer and the FAA recommends it.  Number two, it keeps your kid contained during the entire flight.  I've been on many a flights (remember, we're always going to Disney) where kids are all over the place; in the aisles, standing on the seats, etc.  Not my kid.  He's always well-behaved strapped in his car seat.  Number three, you have your own seat if you are renting a car when you reach your destination.  Your kid will be comfortable and safe.

2.  An iPad or Tablet & Headphones.  You already know that we are an iPad family.  An iPad on an airplane is a must-have because it helps pass the time quickly.  Even our two-hour flights to Florida get a little long, so an iPad allows your kids to watch a movie, play games, read books, listen to music, etc.  Headphones?  Well those are for all the people around you.  Yes, I have actually been on flights where the children were using an iPad without headphones.  Very annoying.  We buy the kid-size ones, not earbuds, they're more comfortable and your kid is more likely to use them.

3.  Snacks & Sippy Cup.  If you're on a flight that is only a couple of hours, the flight attendants typically only come around once with snacks and drinks.  If you're traveling through rough air, they may not even reach your seat.  Bring pre-packaged snacks (fruit snacks, small bags of animal crackers or chips, etc.) or package your own in snack bags.  DO NOT bring a huge bag of pretzels!  Bring more than you think you'll need, and don't forget about your return trip.  If your child is sippy cup age, make sure you bring one on the airplane with you (and don't forget to pack a few in your luggage as well). I have even spilled those tiny airplane cups before, so you can imagine the damage a three-year-old can do.  If you are bringing a baby on board a plane, TSA will allow you to bring formula or breast milk through security.  They just have to test it first.

4.  Quiet Activities.  Although I think the rules are starting to change, typically electronic devices cannot be used until you reach 10,000 feet.  This means no iPad until you are well under way.  Bring a small book, a few toys, a coloring book or (even better!) a Color Wonder book.  We brought a latches puzzle with us once, and that was great, but it was kind of bulky in the carry-on.  I've also seen those really neat quiet books that you can make.  I'm thinking about making one for the baby for our trip next June.  Remember, any activities you bring can also double as rainy-day or even restaurant activities when you reach your destination.

5.  Blanket & Travel Pillow.  Airplanes are cold!  Chances are, you're bringing your kid's blanky with you on vacation anyways, so you might as well throw it in your carry-on to bring on the airplane as well.  My son loves his little "Nemo" travel pillow.  You know, the kind that wraps around your neck?  It makes for a comfortable airplane ride, and it's also a special lovey to have at your home-away-from-home for the duration of your trip.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday: Moo, Baa, La La La!

What We're Reading Wednesday photo Screenshot2014-09-22at34012PM.png 

Ok, I'm going to admit it, my What We're Reading Wednesday is kinda lame.  We haven't been to the library the last few weeks, and my son's current (if you count the last 3 years as current) obsession is superheroes, so we've been reading a lot of superhero books lately.  The other day I mentioned that we went to the bookstore.  As much as I encouraged him to get the newest Otis book, we ended up with Guardians of the Galaxy .  There wasn't much argument from me because 1.) he's choosing his own books, that is a great skill to build as he gets older; and 2.) The hardback Otis was like $14.99 and Guardians was $5.99.  We're big-time budgeting, remember?  Actually, I just looked on Amazon and Otis and the Scarecrow is only $10.86.  Halloween present, perhaps?! I said, we ended up with Guardians.  But, now that we have two children, one couldn't get a book and not the other.  I know, she's only five months and doesn't know any different, but that's beside the point.  Momma loves buying books.  What did baby girl end up with?
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton

Yes, this book is as old as me, but it is so cute!  Just look at those animals!  I'm fairly certain this is not the first time that title has entered our household, but I haven't seen it lately, so we now have another copy.  Baby girl is at the age where she L-O-V-E-S funny noises.  She especially loves when her big brother makes those funny noises, so this is the perfect book for him to practice his reading while entertaining little sis.  

So that's what we're reading Wednesday.  I warned you, it's not as fun as Dragons Love Tacos.  And it's probably a title you've either A.) have read once or a thousand times or B.) you could care less about a board book written for a baby.  But, that's my life these days, and I wouldn't change it for the world.  I promise, though, next week's What We're Reading Wednesday is going to be absolutely awesome.  Awesome.

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links**

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chiropractic Care to Cure GERD

 Chiropractic Care to Cure GERD || Family, Love, and Fairy Tales 

My baby, who was nothing but absolutely perfect while I was recovering in the hospital, developed GERD, or acid reflux, shortly after we arrived home.  She was miserable, I was miserable.  Pretty much the whole family was miserable.  When you have a baby suffering from GERD, the whole house suffers.  My experience with HELLP taught me to be an advocate for my health.  Magnify that times 100 when it comes to one of my kids.  I immediately called the pediatrician.  I told them I understand the difference between a "happy spitter" and an "unhappy spitter," my baby is not happy and she is in pain.  I honestly expected a fight, but I didn't get one.  I must've been pretty assertive.  They told me to give her a 1/2 teaspoon of Maalox before every feeding for 72 hours and call them back with results.  I noticed an immediate change.  She was no longer in pain, she didn't scream at all hours, and she we didn't notice her getting the acid coming back up as much as it was.  (We could tell when she had the acid coming back up because she would get this horrific look on her face and stick her tongue out).  Because of the success she had with the Maalox, she was prescribed Zantac.  Always the scholar, I decided to do some research.  I found a few success stories with chiropractic care in treating GERD.  Right around that time, I was watching a local morning show and a chiropractor performed an adjustment on an infant.  When I saw how gentle it was, I decided we should try it.  My husband's cousin, who is a chiropractor, sent this website:  ICPA 4 Kids, which is the International Pediatric Chiropractor Association.  From this site, I was able to search for a chiropractor in our area who specializes in pediatric chiropractor care.  There were only 13 in a 25 mile radius of my home.  I chose one who was nearby and made an appointment.  Baby girl was only six weeks old.  Meeting Dr. Lisa instantly calmed any fears I was having, which to be honest, weren't a lot.  I've seen a chiropractor before and had great success.  After feeling my baby's spine and muscular area in her back, she determined what needed adjusting.  She had a little tool called an activator that she used for the adjustment, but before touching my baby with it, she let me, my husband, and even my son, feel it on our arms.  It was very gentle, and caused no pain whatsoever.  Baby C did not even flinch when she got adjusted.  In just a couple of weeks, I really noticed a difference.  Having just started the Zantac, however, I didn't know if it was the Zantac or the chiropractor, and I didn't want to take the chance of removing the Zantac quite yet.  At her two month appointment, I told the pediatrician that we were seeing a chiropractor and would she recommend trying to wean from the Zantac.  She actually told me that they tend to see an increase in acid reflux between 4-6 months and she wouldn't recommend it.  She said if I chose to wean from it, that it wouldn't hurt anything if I needed to start it back up again.  At around three months of age, I decided to stop giving the night dosage.  I didn't see any increase in pain or fussiness.  Shortly after, I cut back the morning dosage as well.  While cutting back the dosages, Baby C continued to see Dr. Lisa every two-three weeks.  By four months, she was completely off the Zantac!  We still see Dr. Lisa every few weeks.  She said we could come on an as-needed basis, but we've had so much success that I'm not willing to stop just yet.

Besides curing her acid reflux, Dr. Lisa also helped us in other ways.  Baby girl was sleeping through the night by two months of age.  I'm talking 10-12 hours!  My son didn't sleep through the night until he was weaned from the breast, so this was HUGE!  I'm personally convinced that this is from getting regular adjustments at the chiropractor.  C also had a lot of gas in the beginning and she would grunt constantly in her sleep.  Dr. Lisa suggested I start taking probiotics and that would pass to her through the breast milk.  She was very clear in the type of acidophilus that I needed to take; the kind with live bacteria that is kept refrigerated. I was able to purchase it from Whole Foods.  This enabled the baby to start passing the gas more easily, and again, was in no pain.  I don't think I could ever speak highly enough about how much Dr. Lisa has helped our family.  If your baby is suffering from GERD or acid reflux, I highly suggest finding an ICPA chiropractor!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Best Books for a Baby Shower

Best books to Gift For a Baby Shower || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

Whether you've been invited to a book shower, you've been asked to bring books to a baby shower, or you just want to give the gift of reading to the new bundle of joy, this list is for you!  I am a reading teacher, so I love books.  Just yesterday, my friend (another teacher) and I took our kids to the movies.  The movie ended up being a tad scary (whoops!) so we left after about five minutes.  Because the kids, who have been best friends since they were under a year old, haven't seen each other a lot lately (darn Kindergarten!), we didn't want to just go home.  We asked the kids, "Do you want to walk down to Barnes & Noble?" and were answered with screams of "YES!!!"  That's when you know you're a teacher's get excited leaving a movie to go to Barnes & Noble.  If only all kids were like that...

Without further ado, here is my semi-educated, but mostly because I love these books, list of best books to gift at a baby shower.

1.  On The Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier.  This book explains how everything in the natural world aligned, ready to greet a new baby on the day you were born.  I was given this book at my first baby shower, and we read it every year on his birthday.

2.  Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.  "Goodnight room...goodnight moon. " The best bedtime book, hands down.  This is a classic book that many of you might remember from your childhood, and it should continue to be read by generations to come.

3.  Tickle Monster by Josie Bissett.  This is such a fun book!  What kid doesn't love to be tickled?  Kids love the anticipation of the tickle monster coming to attack!  You can also purchase tickle monster gloves to accompany the book.

4.  Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.  "I'll love you forever.  I'll like you for always.  As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."  Another classic book that I love.  I cannot read it without crying, but it's still a book that every mother should read to their child.

5.  Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems.  Every kid has their favorite lovey.  For Trixie, it's her Knuffle Bunny.  But when Knuffle Bunny gets left behind, Trixie's world turns upside down.  The pictures in this book, drawings on real black and white photographs, are absolutely amazing.

 Must Have Monday || Family, Love, & Fairy Tales

Saturday, October 4, 2014

HELLP Syndrome Awareness

If you've read my blog since the beginning, you have learned that I suffered from HELLP syndrome during my last pregnancy.  Since then, I have made it my mission to raise awareness about HELLP syndrome.  I had never heard of HELLP prior to getting my diagnosis.  It is such a rare disease that even doctors miss the symptoms.  Now that I am on the mend, and I finally feel ready to actually face what I went through, I've started doing some research.  I found this excellent website called What the HELLP?  It was started by a woman who lost her sister due to HELLP syndrome.  There are also many stories about others who have suffered from HELLP.  I actually cannot bring myself to read the stories, it brings too much pain to think about what might have been, but the infographic on the homepage is amazing.  It literally takes two minutes to read the infographic and learn a little more about HELLP syndrome.  Doing so can save the life of a friend or relative, or even their baby.

I also found a website through the Preeclampsia Foundation called the Preeclampsia Registry.  It acts as a "Living Database" to help advance Preeclampsia & HELLP research.  If you have suffered from Preeclampsia and/or HELLP, I urge you to register as well.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Favorite App Friday-Evernote

Favorite App Friday-Evernote ||
Photo: "iPad2" by IntelFreePress CC by 2.0 added text
Ok, this one is for all you mommies out there.  Evernote is probably my most favorite app of all time!  I use it for everything!  If you're not familiar with this app, it is a notetaking and organizational app all rolled into one.  Within Evernote, you can create individual notes for anything you want.  You can then place those notes within a notebook, then place notebooks into stacks.  Think about it like this; an individual page ( note) within a spiral notebook, then you stack your notebooks together.

click for link to iTunes store
I first downloaded Evernote to use in my classroom.  I created notebooks for each of my students.  Within the notebooks, I had different notes.  I had notes for discipline, reading conference notes, test scores, parent communication, etc.  If a student got a detention or a parent sent in a note, I snapped a picture of it and put it into the appropriate note for that student.  I also had notebooks set up for lesson plans.  It was so freeing to do away with all that paper!  It also made everything more accessible to me, because as long as I had my computer, iPhone, or iPad, I had everything at my fingertips.

I don't just use Evernote in my teaching life.  I have a "bills" notebook for any paper bills that I still receive.  After paying the bill, I snap a picture of it and upload it into the appropriate note within the bills notebook.  The paper bill gets shredded.  I also have a recipes notebook.  Evernote has a "web-clipper" functionality.  If I find a recipe I really like, I can clip it from the webpage and it automatically gets saved into my Evernote notebook.  It's more convenient than Pinterest because you do not need the Internet to access those recipes.  I was waiting at the ophthalmologist not too long ago and I was reading a Good Housekeeping.  There were cleaning tips and tricks, and one was how to clean your jetted tub.  I hate my jetted tub because it's so hard to clean.  I took a picture of that article and placed it into my "Household" notebook.  (Side note...I tried it and it worked.  I now have a clean jetted tub!).  I also have notebooks set up for each of my children.  My son comes home from school with all kinds of paperwork.  Anything that seems important, I scan in and put in his notebook. I know my kid cannot be the only one who goes through Target's toy section and wants everything in sight.  To appease him, I take a picture of what he wants and put it in his "wishlist" note.  If someone calls me wanting to know what kind of gift to get him, I have lots of ideas on hand.

Amazon affiliate link

Can you see why Evernote is my favorite app?  The possibilities are endless!  The app is free, and there is a free download for your computer as well.  They all sync together seamlessly.  Do you Evernote?  In what ways do you use this amazing app?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How Costco Saved My Family Money

When I decided to stay home this year and take an unpaid leave of absence from my job, I knew I needed to buckle down and really set a tight budget.  I changed our television service provider, discontinued our use of TiVo (serious sad-face), I canceled our home phone, and I did not renew my Sirius radio.  Doing all of this probably saved us about $100 a month.  It actually made me angry that I had been wasting $100 a month all this time.  But $100 a month savings was not going to cut it when losing half our income.  Aside from our mortgage and my car payment, our biggest budget buster was our grocery costs.  We live (literally) right around the corner from Kroger.  We've always loved it.  If we didn't know what to fix for dinner, we'd hop on Pinterest or All Recipes and find something that sounded good, then go to Kroger to get what we'd need.  I would venture to say we made at least two Kroger trips a week.  My husband loves to cook so he would always want to try out new recipes.  They were always good, but sometimes used really strange ingredients that we would never use again.  Being around the corner from Kroger is a curse when trying to stick to a budget.

About a year ago, Costco came to our area.  Not around the corner; more like 25 minutes away.  We love everything about Costco; the free samples, the decent prices, the pizza at the Cafe!  We even like their business-sense and how they treat their opposed to that other warehouse store.  Once we finally hammered down a grocery budget, we set out to shop once a month at Costco for nearly all of our monthly groceries.  Of course, we still needed to visit Kroger once a week or so for milk and bread and such.

Before our Costco trips, we plan meals for the month.  I would say this is the hardest part.  How do I know what might sound good to eat at the end of October?  Especially with our crazy Ohio weather...we might plan for Chili and it's 85 degrees outside (this actually happened this weekend).  We don't stick to our meal plan religiously, but it really does help.

We also have weekly meals.  Our favorites that my son can count on.  The two that we have every single week is Taco Tuesday and spaghetti with meat sauce.  When my husband travels, my son loves to eat butter noodles (egg noodles with butter and parmesan cheese).  I really dislike cooking, but this is one thing I can make and we both actually like to eat it.  We also do pancakes for dinner when my husband travels.  Again, something easy that I'm pretty good at making.  And I make them from Bisquick here!).  Having certain meals that we eat every week or every other week make the monthly menu planning much less daunting.

We write a list and stick to it...for the most part.  You know, sometimes they just get you with those dang samples!  The list reflects our monthly menu and anything we might need for school lunches.  Once every few months, we need to stock up on toilet paper and paper towels.  But that's the beauty of buying in bulk, it's only every few months.

Buying in bulk really is cheaper.  We buy our ground beef in 10 pound packages.  It comes out to $2.99 per pound, nearly a dollar less per pound than at Kroger.  We have a scale and a food saver, and my hubby weighs out the meat and packages it into 1 pound portions.  We also buy 10 pound packages of chicken breast, but those already come prepackaged for us.  We have a small deep freeze and a second refrigerator to store anything we buy in bulk.  A package of capri suns, go go applesauce, and string cheese will last for two months worth of school lunches.  We buy lunch meat in bulk as well.  We freeze the packages until we're ready to use them.  We even buy our eggs in bulk!  There are a few things we found that is actually cheaper at Kroger.  Just this week we were going to buy a chuck roast, but Kroger had a buy-one get-one sale.  So, you still do have to watch the sales to make sure you are getting a better buy, but normally Costco is the way to go.

Sticking with this plan, we have kept our grocery bill to under $300 a month for three months straight!  We do get our produce through a delivery service, which is $35 every two weeks, so I guess technically, I should say our total grocery bill is under $400 a month.  That's still pretty good for a family of four.  That's $3.57 per person per day!  

How does your family save money?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What We're Reading Wednesday-Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

 What We're Reading Wednesday-Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin ||
We have Taco Tuesday every week at our house.  Tacos are one of the few things T loves and it makes menu planning easier.  But they have to be beef tacos.  I tried to change it up once using chicken in the crockpot and shredding it up...not so much.  Whenever I remind him that it's Taco Tuesday, he always makes sure we're having beef, not chicken.  Oh well, I tried.  So What We're Reading Wednesday is Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin.
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Did you know that dragons love tacos?  They do, and they also love parties.  But they especially love TACO PARTIES!!  But they do not like spicy salsa, so if you ever have a dragon over for tacos, make sure that you do not give them spicy salsa.  The book explains why.  You can probably imagine the effects spicy salsa might have on dragons.  

Dragons Love Tacos is such a fun book to read with your kids!  It's very original.  Who knew that dragons love tacos?  I sure didn't, but after reading this book, you want to throw your own taco party and invite dragons!  The author's voice really comes through in the text and you feel as though they are truly talking to you, explaining to you just how much dragons love tacos and warning you about the spicy salsa.  The illustrations are also very amusing. You can probably tell just from the cover alone.  Who says you can't judge a book by it's cover?  This is a great book for your kids to practice "reading the pictures" because they do tell the story so well.  

If you love tacos, or dragons, or even spicy salsa, you need to check this book out today!  

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