Monday, September 1, 2014

Bye bye summer, hello Cookie

Goodbye summer break. The kids will miss you.
Just kidding...they are so ready to go back to school!
(Same here)

We had some fun in the beginning of summer, but the last month with Harper being here has been pretty boring. It's kind of hard to take a newborn to the beach or water park, especially when it's around 100 degrees outside. I've been afraid of taking her out because its been so hot and sunny out every day. I was worried she'd be too hot or get too much sun or something. Maybe I'm paranoid, but we've been cooped up inside for most of her life so far. My two older kids, Ayden & Lily, have been great sports about it, but they've been getting pretty bored lately- so much so that they are excited to go back to school. Poor kids!

The first day of school is Wednesday so we decided to get out and enjoy these last few days of summer break. It's finally cooled off a little and you can actually go outside without completely melting! We walked to the school to see the class lists and find out who the kids have for teachers this year. The walk was so nice- it's about a mile round trip, and it's slightly uphill on the way home. I was breathing pretty heavily and even broke a sweat! Harper hated the stroller and screamed the entire way. That should be so fun when I walk to pick up the kids every day (weather permitting). I can't believe I have a 1st and 4th grader now!

Ayden earned a free ticket to an amusement park for meeting his reading goal last school year and he finally got to use it. My good friend Anna offered to take him with her daughter, Violet (who also earned a free ticket). They went last week and he rode his first roller coaster...and hated it. They looked pretty excited beforehand, but afterwards they decided not to ride any other roller coasters and stuck to the less-crazy rides for the rest of the day. I'm so glad he got to go and use his ticket before summer's end! He had a ton of fun and I was jealous that I couldn't go too.

Last week my best friend Breann was in town visiting family, and I was lucky enough to get to spend a couple of hours with her before she had to leave. Our other friend Jodi met at a park with her 2 kids (she was pregnant with me & we had our babies 1 day apart!) Normally we'd meet up for lunch and shopping whenever Breann comes to visit, but with 5 children between us (2 of them newborns) we figured the park/splash pad was probably a safer choice this time. The kids had fun and were good for the most part, and I got to carry on an adult conversation with someone besides my husband for a change. It was nice! Wish I did it more often.

Baby date! Max and Harper snoozing next to each other.

Sundays are daddy's day off, so we usually get out of the house and do something has a family. We decided to hit up this fun thing our city does every summer called Pig Out in the Park. It's pretty self explanatory- it's a food festival in the park and you go there to eat. It's pretty cool if you can handle the crowds. I'm not a huge fan of public events like that because I cannot deal with the amount of people, but I'm a pig and I love food, so we went. I ate some yummy Thai food, part of Lily's corn dog, and a snow cone. I was hoping to get these really good looking chocolate covered strawberries on a skewer, but the line was moving way too slow for me and Harper was getting fussy so we decided to call it a day and go home. Man, I really wish I would have gotten some of those strawberries now!

Speaking of pigging out, look at this little chunk. She had her one month check up about a week ago and she weighed 9 pounds 6 ounces- up from 6 pounds 9 ounces at birth. She's not even quite 6 weeks yet and she's already maxing out that 0-3 month onesie! I guess Harper and I will have to go on a shopping date when the kids go back to school.

And it looks like there might be a new member of our family. I found this adorable kitten meowing in my front yard a few days ago. She was really scared, filthy, and starving and I didn't see anyone outside looking for her, so I brought her inside and fed her. I couldn't leave her outside and I knew we had to take care of her until we figured out who she belonged to. I immediately placed a few ads online in the lost & found section and hoped someone would identify her, but so far no one has responded. Judging by how hungry and dirty she was I'm thinking she was probably abandoned. Isn't she adorable? My little cat-lady, Lily, is calling her Cookie (to go with our cat Muffin). I'm really not a cat person, but I kind of wouldn't mind if no one claimed Cookie and she got to stay.
So pretty soon I'm going to be home all day every day with just a newborn and 2 cats.
What a glamorous life I lead!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Date night in with Chili’s® at Home frozen meals

Date night. 
Oh date night, how I miss thee.

When I became a mom I didn't realize how few night outs I'd get alone with my husband. Finding a babysitter is hard, especially when you have more than one kid. Throw a newborn into the mix and you can basically kiss date night goodbye. Paying the sitter would probably be more expensive than the actual date, and then I'd probably end up checking my phone and texting the babysitter more than I would be talking or spending quality time with my husband. So we've had to find a way to make our date nights home that doesn't involve one us cooking and making a huge mess or just staring at the TV together.

Chili’s® at Home frozen meals is a great option for you moms and dads out there like us, or anyone wanting a bold, delicious dinner without having to leave the house.

Bellisio Foods, a leading frozen foods manufacturer, partnered with Chili’s® Grill & Bar earlier this year to introduce a new line of licensed Chili’s®-inspired frozen meals — boldly flavored and deliciously prepared to enjoy at home. Chili’s® frozen foods is inspired by some of the restaurant’s most popular and innovative dishes, like their Pepper Jack Mac ‘N’ Cheese and Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl, just to name a few. Chili’s® frozen foods let consumers treat themselves or their families to the experience of bold Chili’s®-inspired flavors — right in their own homes.

Here's how our date night went:

My husband and I put the kids to bed (which took a few tries with the baby, since she likes to pretend to be asleep and then fuss and squirm herself awake over and over again). So after the kids were for sure asleep, we prepared out our Chili’s® at Home dinners. It's really easy to do, and you can use the microwave or your oven. I opted for the microwave because I was starving and was extremely impatient.

 I chose the Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese.

It took about 6 minutes total to whip up this quick and delicious Chili’s® dish. You can pair your date night dinner with a glass of wine, or if you're like me and you're breastfeeding, maybe a nice cold glass of milk. But be sure to make it fancy and put it in a wine glass anyway. This is a special occasion, after all!

The Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese was delicious! Really bold and flavorful, and not bland at all like most frozen meals I've tried. My husband opted for the Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo and he loved his as well. We ate our Chili’s® at Home dinners and curled up in front of a movie together in the living room. It was a really nice date night at home, and we didn't even have to leave the house. Plus it cost a fraction of what an actual dinner out would, and we didn't have to leave the kids with a babysitter. Win-win for everyone.

Flavors you can try include the Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo, Cheesy Chicken Pasta Florentine, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl, Island Chicken & Rice, Mango Chicken with Rice, Pepper Jack Mac ‘N’ Cheese, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Chicken Fajita Rice, Nacho Potatoes with Beef & Bacon, and Seasoned Chicken Bites with Honey Chipotle Sauce

You can find this yummy new line of Chili’s® at Home at major retailers nationwide, including Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Food Lion, H-E-B, Meijer, Giant Eagle, Schnucks and many more. I found mine at Safeway and they were on sale- always a great selling point for a frugalista like me. Make sure to grab a coupon here so you can try out Chili’s® at Home for yourself!

What Chili’s® at Home meal are you most excited to try?
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Thank you to Bellisio Foods for sponsoring today's post and for keeping my meals tasty and bold!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cleaning up messes with Viva® Vantage
These guys. I love them, but my goodness are they messy.

I'm a mom of 3, with one of those being a 4 week old baby. I've been pretty busy the last few weeks so I haven't exactly been spending a lot of time in the kitchen or cleaning the house. That means a lot of the cooking and cleaning has been up to my husband and older children, and that also means big messes. They aren't so good at cleaning up after themselves. A lot of times I'm greeted by stuff like this when I try to make something to eat:

Looks like someone decided to make brownies. With caramel. Huge mess.

Enter Viva® Vantage paper towels. I picked up a bunch of these on my last trip to Walmart, and they've got me breaking up with my old paper towels. Their stretch, absorbency, and scrubbing powers are perfect for a sticky, gooey, chocolate & caramel-y mess like this. 

Just one wet Viva® Vantage paper towel was able to clean this up.
The first picture shows the mess before, the second picture shows one pass with Viva® Vantage, and the third shows after a second pass with Viva® Vantage.

This towel really stretches- that's why it scrubs so well. I had to do the "stretch test" myself. I got the Viva® Vantage paper towel wet and gave it a little tug. Sure enough, it stretched quite a bit without ripping! I've never had a paper towel do that. Usually if you tug on it, it rips. Not this one. I was able to scrub the sticky, semi-dried on chocolate and caramel on the counter top without it ripping to shreds. I even rinsed the towel and scrubbed some more and it stayed in tact. That stretch and great scrubbing power comes from the revolutionary V-Flex Weave found only in Viva® Vantage paper towels. It also gives it sponge-like absorbency to soak up major spills. These are some serious paper towels!

Whether your messes are big or small, Viva® Vantage will have you covered.
Make sure to head to head to Walmart and grab some.
What kind of messes do you think would be a good challenge for Viva® Vantage?

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Many thanks to Viva® Vantage and Walmart for sponsoring this post and for helping me clean up my messes! All opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why I'm going to cloth diaper this time around

Cloth diapers.
Definitely not something I thought I'd ever be using in my life.

However, after seeing my niece in cloth diapers and learning how many of my friends have used cloth diapers I decided to read up on them and maybe give them a shot with baby number 3. I was pleasantly surprised  to hear from fellow moms who love cloth diapers, and to learn that they are pretty relatively easy to use.

Why would I want to do cloth diapers? Well, lots of reasons. The price was the first thing that got me interested though. When I realized I could buy enough cloth diapers to last Harper her entire diapering years for around $200 that did it for me. $200- that's it. She's only 3 weeks old right now and we've gone through 2 boxes of disposable diapers already, which puts our diaper costs at almost $50 already...just for 3 weeks of her life! The average cost of disposable diapers in the US is around $800 per year. So 2-3 years of diapers (depending on how early/late you potty train) puts you at $1600-$2400 in disposable diapers in your baby's lifetime. Obviously, cloth diapers are a lot less, even when you factor in laundering costs (water, detergent, electricity to dry them, etc). Who doesn't love to save money? The frugal side of me was thrilled.

Another cool thing about cloth diapers that I loved: never running out of them. I can't even tell you how many times I've had to call my husband at work and remind him to pick up another box of diapers for one of the kids. I mean, yeah, I have to actually wash the cloth diapers and keep a clean supply so I always have fresh ones. I can run out of clean ones if I slack on the laundry, but I'll never have to dash out at the last second to buy more diapers.

I also love the idea of cloth diapers being less wasteful. I mean, think of all of those disposable diapers you've thrown away. Hundreds of them. Thousands per child, and they all end up in landfills somewhere. Plus factor in the chemicals and resources used to mass produce all of them- I doubt that's very good for the environment either. I'm no hippy, but I'm big on reducing, reusing, and recycling whenever possible, and cloth clearly wins out in this area.

Here are some more facts about cloth vs disposables:

I took all of this info into consideration, plus listened to my cloth diapering mommy friends' input and decided to go for it. I could do it. Why not? I'm not working outside of the home, so that's not an issue. I'm home all the time, and soon it'll just be Harper and I for 8 hours during the day while the older kids are in school. I have a washer and dryer, so clearly I can wash them. With a family of 5 now I've already got a ton of laundry as it is, so what's a little more at this point? Plus, they are just so cute. This could very well be my last baby, so why not give it a try and put her little butt in cute, fluffy cloth diapers?

Now it was time to figure out what type of diaper I wanted to use.

Today's cloth diapers are nothing like the big flat ones with huge safety pins from the "old days." OK, maybe some people still use those kind, but they've have come a long way since my mom used cloth diapers on me. There are so many different styles and types to choose from though, and I didn't know where to start really. I did some internet sleuthing and read blogs all about cloth diapers and compared the options. Cleaning and caring for the different types varies, so I took that into consideration when making my choice. After asking all of my cloth diapering mom friends I decided to go with one size pocket diapers (which is what my niece uses, so I've changed a few of them myself). The brand I chose is called Alva, and here's what I ended up getting to start my cloth diaper collection, or stash:

I ordered 20 Alva diapers with inserts a couple of months ago from their website to get started. I decided on a variety of prints and just selected anything that looked cute online. I love all of the ones I ordered. 20 isn't quite enough for a really well stocked cloth diaper stash, so earlier today I ordered another 10 for a total of 30 cloth diapers. The 20 diapers cost me $106 with free expedited shipping. The order of 10 diapers was $52, again with free expedited shipping (on orders over $49). So far my cloth diaper stash is only at $158 and those should last me quite a while. Remember, I've already spent almost $50 on disposables in just the first 3 weeks of Harper's life, so $158 total for all of the cloth diapers I need is an amazing deal!

Here's a closer look at an Alva pocket diaper:

These are fully adjustable and are one-size diapers, and are supposed to fit 6-33lbs. I think they would have been absolutely huge on Harper as a 6lb 9oz newborn though. I know a lot of people use disposables for the first month or two until baby is a little bigger and can fit into the cloth diapers better. I'm not sure how much Harper weighs now, but I tried one on her last night and it looked like it was just about perfect on the smallest snap setting, so I'm looking forward to using them very soon! I have one more box of disposables left and then I'm going to start using cloth. 

Check out this one I ordered. I'm so excited for her to wear it!

I'll be sure to do a follow up post on my cloth diapering experience as I try to figure it out and get comfortable with them. I sure hope to report back with good news and rave about how awesome they are!

Have you used or wanted to use cloth diapers?
If so, which kind did you/would you try?
What was your experience?

I'd love some input and would love to hear what you think!
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