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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Updates

Great news!
  1. I passed the CPN exam! I am now a Certified Pediatric Nurse and I get to put extra letters after my name. Wahoo!
  2. Cindy Lou Who's reflux is getting better. She's still on more than $500 worth of medication each month and I still can not have tomatoes or onions, but I can have small amounts of cranberries, chocolate, citrus, beans and dairy. Really, this is huge people.
  3. We had a great Christmas, including some time with my brother-in-law who just came home from the Philippines.
With these big things behind us I'm ready to conquer the world. Or maybe just tackle my house. It needs serious work. And perhaps get around to fixing my blog, that is getting my computer programming husband to fix my blog. Starting the first of the year I'm going to try something new: The $100 Challenge. For the month of January I plan on spending no more than $100 on groceries for my family of five. It's basically a pantry challenge, but gives me some leway to buy milk and fresh produce. I'll share my menus and food storage ideas here and I'll find prizes for some of those who want to join me in my endeavors to rotate my pantry items and save some money. Who is with me?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy Dairy-Free Ice Cream

Ice cream is a big comfort food for me, and unfortunately with baby's reflux I can't have it. My husband who loves me found a recipe for dairy free ice cream on the internet. Then I improved it. I have to say this stuff is pretty darn good. It doesn't give you the "full" feeling that a bowl of ice cream and chocolate give you, but it sure tastes like ice cream, which is good enough for me. It is also significantly better for you than regular ice cream, but you do have to plan for it at least a few hours ahead of time.

Dairy-Free Banana Ice Cream
Ingredients:
1 banana
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
cashews (optional)
caramel (optional)

1. Select a ripe, but firm banana. Peel it and break into thirds. 2. Freeze chunks until solid (at least three hours). 3. Puree bananas and vanilla until creamy. You need a pretty good blender for this. Usually I blend them into a chunky mush and then I have to scrape the size of the blender to get the much all back and the bottom and then I blend again until I get the desired product. 4. Top with caramel and cashew if desired. (Honestly you can top it with anything that you please, but those are just some of the few things that don't bother and infant with reflux, so I take it.) Makes one serving


I'm taking a break for the next few weeks. We've got family stuff going on, Christmas, birthdays and I studying to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse. But rest assured that I have many more things to say.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Raspberry and Spinach Pasta Salad

I created this recipe with my extremely limiting dietary restrictions in mind using things I happened to have in my fridge and pantry. So if you aren't married to a vegetarian and you aren't breast-feeding an infant with moderately severe reflux, feel free to add some grilled chicken strips, mandarin oranges, feta cheese and/or chopped kiwi fruits. I actually can have kiwi, I'm just out.  You can serve it as a side (I had mine with grilled fish) or eat it as a light meal. Whatever floats your boat.

Raspberry and Spinach Pasta Salad
Food Storage Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons toasted almonds
2 cups cooked pasta
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinaigrette dressing (I used Private Selections from Smith's because it doesn't use soybean oil.)

Fresh Ingredients:
handful of fresh raspberries, torn in half
1 Bartlett pear, chopped
1 large handful of baby spinach

1. Coat cooked pasta with olive oil. 2. Toss all ingredients together.

I love this because a) I'm allowed to eat it, b) it's healthy, c) it's delicious and satisfying and d) it's super quick and easy to make. We have a winner! If I were in a situation where I was using only my food storage I could use reconstituted dried raspberries and canned pears and probably just forgo the spinach. The fresh is better, but I could make do without.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Preparedness Wednesday: November in Review

October was a crap shoot: newborn with pretty bad reflux, 4 surgeries, a root canal, Halloween, ring-around-the-rosie with the insurance company over my baby's medication and a few more curve balls that life had for me, meant that I didn't accomplish any of my preparedness goals. But I did better in November.

Doing:
  • Bought a second shoe rack (this one for my closet), so the area by the backdoor could feasibly be a little more organized
  • Attended a meeting where mom's shared ideas about how they manage to keep their houses clean and organized.
  • Paid off a chunk of my husband's student loan with my credit card, because the interest rate is significantly better. (Sad, huh?)
  • Had a gate installed so my neighbors dog won't be able to poop in my backyard anymore. Yay!
Food Storage:
  • Dole pineapple tidbits- 50 cents per can @ Albertson's
  • Campbell's cream of mushroom soup- 39 cents per can @ Smith's
  • Swanson's vegetable broth- 39 cents each @ Smith's
  • Natural canned black olives- $8.97 for 8 pack @ Costco (We recently discovered that not only are these cheaper than your average black olive, they also taste much, much better.)
  • S&W canned black beans- 49 cents each @ Smith's
  • Progresso Vegetable soup- 75 cents each @ Albertson's
  • Cold milled flax seed- $8 @ Costco, shelf life is not as long as whole flax seed, but it's still a couple years and it sooo much more convenient.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Natural Solution for Clogged Tearducts in Infants

 When Thing 1 and Thing 2 were infants they had clogged tear ducts. They almost constantly produced these really thick tears that would dry and leave their eyes crusted together. I squeezed their tear ducts with a q-tip, just like my pediatrician showed me, but it didn't seem to help much. It finally resolved itself when they were each around 6 months old.
 When I took Cindy Lou Who in for her first checkup, she was starting to develop the same problem. Now keep in mind, my pediatrician is very conservative in his practice. (A different pediatrician since we moved a couple years ago.) I know this from my experience with my kids and from working with him at the hospital. He's not one to throw around alternative therapies and often gets frustrated when his patients put so much faith in them. So when he told me the following I figured it was worth a shot. "Ok, I know this sounds crazy and when I worked in Detroit I never imagined that I would ever suggest this to a patient, but it works. If you squirt a little breast milk in their eye it takes care of the clogged tear duct. If that's too weird for you, here's a prescription for antibiotic drops."
 And I'll admit it sounded a little weird. I know that breast milk has antibiotic properties, but would you really squirt dinner in your eye and expect it to clear up and infection? Generally not. However, when the thick tears and eye crustiness started getting worse I gave it a try. After a feeding I just squirt a bit of breast milk in each eye. It was pretty freaky looking to see her eyes coated with milk. But it didn't seem to bother her at all and she had no more issues with goopy eye secretions or crustiness after that point. I'm not going to guarantee that it will work for everyone, but it's a pretty harmless intervention and worked really well for my baby.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Vegan Pumpkin Waffles

 Lately I haven't been doing much with my food storage because there is so much of it that I can't eat due to the fact it makes my breast-feeding baby scream and vomit. Because of my dietary restrictions, I'm also getting very tired of the things that I can eat. I've gotten to the point where I usually would rather go hungry than have oatmeal for breakfast again. Enter friend Julie, who has also done a stint as a vegetarian. She gave me a recipe for these great pumpkin waffles that are satisfying and were a hit with all family members. Now that's saying something when you're cooking for my crew.  Thanks so much Julie! Of course I made a few changes so I was incorporating food storage and making them a little healthier. They're great with maple syrup or Apple Cider Sauce. Makes 12 waffles.

Vegan Pumpkin Waffles 
Food Storage Ingredients:
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Fresh Ingredients:
2 cups rice, soy or almond milk*
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed*
1 Tablespoon wheat germ*

1. Thoroughly mix wet ingredients and sugar in a bowl. 2. In a separate (large) bowl, mix dry ingredients. 3. Combine wet and dry ingredients. 4. Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and prepare according to waffle iron instructions.

Notes: Currently I can't have soy or dairy, so I made these with almond milk. I imagine that someday when my diet is less restricted and I'm in a pinch, I'll use the powdered milk from my food storage. From what I have read whole flax seed has a shelf life of three to five years, while ground flax seed can go rancid in as little as a week. I generally grind a cup at a time and store it in the fridge. Ground flax seed is great vegan source of Omega 3, 6, & 9 fatty acids as well as fiber. Wheat germ is a good source of fiber and B vitamins. Whenever I make waffles I add both wheat germ and ground flax seed for their health benefits and the fact that you can't taste them. Both these ingredients are optional, but I figure if I can get my family to willingly eat better, why not?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reducing Stress at Thanksgiving

 First of all I have to say thank you to all of my readers who have stuck with me despite the fact that my posts have been very sporadic. Life has been crazy. Having three kids has thrown me for a loop and of course life had several curve balls on top of it. Blogging was pushed to the back burner, but I'm finally feeling a little more on top of things. This week I went to a RS meeting on getting organized and I thought I would share some of the things that I learned. (And then I can have all the info here and toss the handouts so they aren't cluttering my house.)
 Here are some suggestions they gave to make the big Thanksgiving meal go a little smoother and more enjoyable.

  • Plan the meal in advance, divide up assignments between guests that are coming. Just because you are hosting the party doesn't mean that you need to stress over everything. Assign someone to bring snacks.
  • 2 weeks ahead of time- order a turkey (hope you've done that already)
  • 1 week before- clean out the fridge, use up any leftovers and mostly empty bottles of condiments
  • 3-4 days ahead- if using a frozen turkey, put in the fridge to thaw (1 day for every 4-5 pounds)
  • 2 days ahead- make pie dough and refrigerate, toast bread for stuffing (if you're not just using Stove Top, ;) ) and pecans for pie.
  • The day before- trim and peel vegetables, caramelize onions and make pies
  • The morning of- prepare potatoes and refrigerate, make sure everyone has breakfast so they're not irritable all day
  • 3 & 1/2 hours before- bring turkey to room temperature, start roasting, make glaze
  • 2 hours before- cook side dishes, put egg beaters & a bowl in the fridge so they can fluff up whipping cream faster
  • 30 minutes before- while turkey and potatoes are cooling, cook stuffing and make gravy
  • After the meal- get everyone involved in putting away and cleaning up.
I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast Feeding vs. Infant Formula

  Whether you choose to breast-feed your infant or not, is a very personal decision. When I first started working on a Postpartum unit the lactation specialist gave me a list of 101 reasons why women should breast-feed. Most of them were completely ridiculous and several of them were listed two or three times. You have to choose what will work for you, your baby and your situation. I don't believe that you should let anyone try to convince you to do anything that you're not comfortable with or won't work for you and your infant. I'm not writing this post with the intent to make anyone feel guilty about their decision, but to go over some the facts about each side of the issue.

 The Case for Breast Feeding
  • Breast milk is perfectly designed for your infant at each stage of his/her development.
  • Breast milk is much cheaper than the alternative. (I won't say that it's free, because it requires way to much work to qualify as such.)
  • Breast feeding helps the mother's body to heal. It makes her uterus reach its pre-pregnancy condition more quickly.
  • Breast feeding decreases a woman's risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. I mention this one because I've heard it numerous times and I feel that this fact is very misleading. Research shows that if a woman breast-feeds for 14 years of her life, it decreases her risk of cancer by 20%. So if iI have 7 kids and breast-feed them for 2 years each I will decrease my risk of cancer of my reproductive organs by 20%?! That doesn't seem like really good motivation for me.
  • Breast feeding burns calories! During pregnancy our bodies are designed to store fat, so that we can feed a baby. What better way to get rid of those extra pounds?
  • Breast feeding promotes bonding between mother and infant.
  • Breast feeding provides infants with immunity against illnesses. It provides immunity against diseases that the infant is too young to be safely vaccinated for and for other diseases that the mother has immunity against where there are no vaccines available.
  • Breast-feeding is environmentally friendly. Little or no packaging or containers required.
  • Breast-feeding decreases a child's risk for allergies and auto-immune diseases.
  • Breast-feeding makes for overall healthier children. I breast-fed Thing 1 & Thing 2 and the first time that I had to take either of them to a doctor for anything beyond a well-child check was when Thing 2 needed stitches at age 2.
  • Infant formula just does not taste or smell that good. Yes, I have tasted it. I make it a point of tasting anything I force my patients to take (within reason).
  • Breast-milk has antibiotic properties.
  • Breast-feeding means fewer bottles to wash. (Unless you work and pump. Then you have to wash your bottles and your pump parts. :S)
 The Case for Infant Formula
  • Infant formula has improved dramatically since it was first developed.
  • It is very physically demanding to breast-feed an infant.
  • It is sometimes inconvenient to breast-feed an infant. 
  • Breast-fed infants are often resistant to taking a bottle when mother is unavailable.
  • Breast-feeding is very time-consuming.
  • Society (and sometimes family and friends) are unsupportive of breast-feeding moms. They are often intolerant of breast-feeding in public, yet most establishments do not provide a clean place to breast-feed in private.
  • Some women for physical reasons can not breast-feed.
  • Some women can't breast feed for a multitude of other reasons.
  • No one is ever offended if you bottle-feed your infant in public.
  • Some infants don't take well to breast milk.
  • It's easier to wean infants off of formula versus breast milk. (Or so I hear.)
  • Formula fed infants are less likely to come down with jaundice.
  • Mothers of formula-fed infants have no additional dietary restrictions.
 I think that more or less covers it. Can anyone think of any points that I left out? And you don't have to be strictly one or the other. You can breast feed sometimes and bottle feed at others. It's up to you. I choose to breast-feed because it makes my children healthier. There is something so adorable about watching my babies breast-feed. I love it. I love to snuggle with them every few hours and listen to their satisfied eating noises. And it saves me a lot of money. I breast-feed exclusively because I have not been able to convince any of my babies to take formula on any occasion after my milk came in. Ever. (The first day that I went back to work after having Thing 2, it took him 11&1/2 hours before he was desperate enough to even drink pumped breast milk from a bottle, let alone formula. He always was a stubborn child.) Breast-feeding Cindy Lou-Who, with all of my diet restrictions is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, I have a hard time coping without food  but I do it because I love her and I feel breast milk is best for her. But after this experience I have new empathy for mothers who throw in the towel and switch to a bottle. I feel that breast is best, but there are plenty of good reasons not to breast-feed.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Food Storage Friday: Plum Sauce

     Several weeks ago we found ourselves with a surplus of plums from our Bountiful Basket. I remember when I was growing up my mom and grandmothers canned plums and I thought that they were gross. But I decided that there had to be something delicious that I could do with these. The answer: Asian Plum Sauce.  Now this recipe itself calls for both fresh and food storage ingredients, but the real beauty of it is that once prepared it makes preparing quick and healthy meals  with food storage a snap. It goes well over stir-fried vegetables and rice.

    Asian Plum Sauce
    Food Storage Ingredients:
    3 Tablespoons soy sauce
    1 teaspoon canola oil
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 Tablespoon cornstarch + 1 Tablespoon water


    Fresh Ingredients:
    3 lbs plums, pitted and chopped
    5 cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 oz ginger
    1 small onion, minced
    2 cups water
    1/4 cup lemon juice

    1. Puree fresh ingredients. 2. Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and Tablespoon of water. 3. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes. 4. Mix water and cornstarch, add to sauce and simmer until thickened. 5 Can in a water bath according to canner directions. (The recipe I found said 10 minutes, I felt more comfortable with 20.) Makes 4 pint jars


    I served this over brown rice I had prepared in my crockpot and four cups of chopped and stir-fried mixed veggies. My husband added some stir-fried tofu to his, but you could just as easily stir-fry some chicken or pork and add that.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Varicose Vein Surgery

     When I was nineteen I started developing varicose veins. It's genetic. I started wearing support stocking religiously, but let's face it, I picked the wrong profession if I wanted to protect my legs and veins. And having three babies didn't help either. When I had Thing 1, I was told that I needed to wait until I was done having children before I did anything about fixing them. Technology has advanced since then. (Which is good because after my pregnancies and standing on my feet for so many years not only do my legs look terrible they hurt a lot too. Lots of burning, aching and cramping.) The first time I saw my OB he told me that I needed surgery on my legs and there wasn't really another answer. As soon as I could get in (after my pregnancy) I went to see a vascular surgeon. He said I that I have venous reflux disease and it's actually better to take care of it sooner versus later. What has been happening is that the valves in some of my veins aren't working effectively, which causes the blood to back up and some of the smaller veins to swell to the point that they are completely ineffective and not to mention ghastly looking. The longer I let it go the more damage will occur to the small veins.
     The solution is the VNUS close system. The surgeon inserts a catheter into the ineffective veins and irradiates them and as he pulls the catheter out they seal shut. That's procedure #1. On the second day he fixes the smaller swollen veins that possibly can be fixed and cuts out the others. They don't use general anesthesia, so there is less risk (and cost) to the patient. Just a Valium, a Keflex, a Percocet and some Lidocaine. (Although I still fell asleep half way through each surgery.) Each procedure takes less than an hour and has a pretty short recovery time overall. (It used to be that surgical intervention involved 'vein stripping', where the vein is literally removed through incisions in the groin and knee areas. It required general anesthesia and involved a long and painful recovery. Currently there are other options besides the VNUS procedure, but this is the one my surgeon prefers because it has the best outcomes.)
     So that's what I was doing Tuesday on my husband's lunch break. When I laid down on the table the tech said "Now there is proof positive that nurses don't just sit on their butts."  (That's right!) I felt very loopy for the rest of each day, but I was functioning fairly well by Thursday. Ok, ok my house was sliding even further down hill and I couldn't stand for very long, but my kids were happy and taken care of and that's what matters, right? I have to say that now my leg feels sooo much better. No more cramping, aching or burning. The staples and stitches are annoying, but they'll be gone soon. I've known people who have had it done and the scarring is pretty minimal too. So we're going to do this party again tomorrow! That's not the way I planned it, but while I was on the table the nurse mentioned to the surgeon that he had a cancellation that they needed to fill and I said that I would take. Probably crazy after the week I just had, honestly worst week in recent memory, and it had little to do with my surgery but my surgeon is good, busy and really hard to get into. Not to mention if I do it now, versus next February when he has openings it would save me several thousand more dollars. Yup, tomorrow is good for me.

     So here are some tips and lessons I learned from the experience:
    1. If your varicose veins are causing you pain, you don't have to wait until you're done having kids to get relief. And you don't need an extended recovery time either.
    2. Choose the surgeon that is hardest to get in to see and pray that someone cancels. He's the guy who knows what he's doing. I've heard scary stories of people who went to surgeons with less experience because they were easier to get into.
    3. If your baby has reflux and you're having surgery, live it up and eat what you want. You have to pump and dump anyway, why not enjoy what you are eating for a couple days? (Although don't go to overboard, small amounts of those irritating foods will stay in your system for more than a few days.)
    4. My surgeries on my leg didn't hurt nearly as much smashing my toe this weekend did. That's the real reason I walk with a limp.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Postpartum Depression

     Postpartum blues effects up to 85% of women in the period after they have given birth. Postpartum depression is a more severe condition that effects up to 25% of women. "Symptoms include sadness, fatigue, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, reduced libido, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability." No kidding. Suddenly you have a bundle of joy who needs constant care and attention, doesn't let you sleep, siphons off your energy, doubles your load of housework and reduces the time that you have to do it. Not to mention it's a pretty big change for your body. Giving birth/having surgery and recovering from it is very physically demanding, and then there's the hormone imbalances too. And if you're like me there's a pretty big change in routine. I went from working full-time to spending my days sitting on the couch breast-feeding. Instead of seeing friends, coworkers and other people on a regular basis you stay inside because you don't want your baby to get sick and you feel like you are constantly breast-feeding. And you can kiss your personal time goodbye. No wonder women get depressed after having babies. This motherhood business is a challenging undertaking.
     I share my story in the hopes that it will help someone else. The first couple weeks after I had my baby I was feeling pretty good. I was so excited not to be pregnant anymore. No more sciatic pain, no more gallbladder issues, my back injury resolved, my varicose veins were improved, and no more of all those other pregnancy inconveniences. Not to mention my baby is so sweet and beautiful and I am so excited to have her here. At about two weeks things became more difficult. My baby stopped sleeping through the night, my three year old was turning from mischievous to terror. I was dropping weight fast because while trying to meet the demands of three small children I just didn't have the time time to make myself three balanced meals a day. People were complimentary, and I would be polite, but think 'Are you crazy? It's not healthy to drop 26 pounds in two weeks.'   I was discouraged with my inability to keep my house clean, and take care of the needs of my family. I thought 'What is wrong with me that I can't do this? Many of my friends have more kids, and they can still maintain a clean house.' I adore my children, but was struggling to cope with them. I craved peace, quiet and enough time to sit down and eat. At work at least there are federal laws that demand that I get a lunch break. One day I calculated I had about 700 calories in the entire day. (And normally I eat a lot more than that. In high school my husband nicknamed me "The Vortex" because I could eat him under the table at a time when he had regular swim practices.) That same day someone called to check on me and gave me some unrealistic advice. Not very helpful. It just made me feel frustrated and that people didn't understand what I was going through and had higher expectations of what I should be doing than I could possibly achieve right now. I started having thoughts of killing or hurting myself on a regular basis. I wasn't prepared to take any such actions, I just felt unstable. I thought about calling my doctor, but decided against it because I work with him on a fairly regular basis and I'd rather he didn't think that I was crazy. Besides that I was pretty certain that my problem could be better fixed by methods other than taking medication.
     I talked to my husband and let him know that I had a problem. I told him I needed more help with the kids and the house and that I just needed to eat better. He made a point of helping me out more and regardless of the chaos going on made sure that we had a regular date night. I found that as long as I could get three healthy and satisfying meals a day and few good snacks, I was happy and doing ok, with or without sleep. I made some energy bars and some meals with leftovers that could be reheated quickly (and also supplemented my diet with a daily dose of ice cream). When my baby was almost four weeks old, I started taking my kids to a weekly play group again. (With work, it had been over a year since I had had time for that.) It felt so good to talk to other adults again. I discovered that my neighbor who I have always thought of as one of those "supermoms", had struggled with postpartum depression too.
     Just when I thought I had this business under control my baby developed reflux. She was vomiting quite a bit and irritable. There's something about being covered in vomit on a daily basis that's just depressing. And there's something so frustrating about having your baby cry all the time and not being able to fix it. So I cut out all of the "naughty items" from my diet. There are more things that I can't eat, than items that I can. (This included my energy bars, because those had cranberries, peanut butter and chocolate chips.)  Once I made these adjustments she was a significantly happier baby, throwing up less and sleeping more, but I felt like I was starving. I looked at my very well-stocked pantry and felt discouraged because I could eat almost nothing in it. The few things I can eat are pretty bland and tasteless. Once I woke up to feed her in the middle of the night and cried myself to sleep afterwards thinking about the mint brownie ice cream in the freezer that I couldn't eat. Sometimes I would think about slashing my wrists or hurting myself in other ways, but would step back and realize "I don't really want to do this. I'm just losing my mind because I'm hungry." Not to mention that would just be an extra mess to clean up.
     Last week I had my six week check-up and mentioned that I was having struggles with postpartum depression. My doctor made a few jokes and asked if I wanted a prescription. I don't need drugs. I need FOOD and CHOCOLATE. Can you write me a prescription for a chef and a maid? Do you think you could clear that one with my insurance? (Not that there is anything wrong with taking medication if that is what you need, but I'm pretty sure that I need calories, not pills.) Oh well, too bad for me. My baby is seven weeks old and my diet is still a huge stumbling block. It's hard to have energy and feel happy when getting balanced nutrition is so difficult, but I am pulling through. Now that we have her reflux under control I am able to eat a few more things. I'm coming to terms with the fact that food is more about the nutrition it provides than actually having any taste. I don't feel like hurting myself anymore and  I know that I can get through this.

    Here are some things I recommend trying if you are having struggles with postpartum depression:
    • Talk to someone, your spouse, a friend, your doctor, someone. Talking helps. (If you have no one else, shoot me an email. I'll listen.)
    • Get some sleep. Let your house go a little. It's ok. When your baby is sleeping, squeeze in a nap. Your physical and mental well-being are more important that the state of your house. (This one is hard for me. I have a hard time relaxing when my house is a mess.)
    • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of water. If you are breast-feeding, you should continue to take your prenatal vitamin, drink two liters of water and eat an extra 300 calories per day.
    • Don't try to be perfect. No one is. Supermoms are a fairy tale.
    • Get out of the house. I highly recommend joining a playgroup. In talking to other moms you will discover one of three things: 1. The other moms are going or have gone through the same thing. 2 Other children are more difficult than your own, consider yourself blessed. 3. Your children are more difficult than your average child, consider yourself strong. 
    • Exercise. I know this is hard to find time for this and I personally don't do enough of it, but if even if you can put your baby in the stroller and go on a walk, it helps. (Although don't overdo it, you just had a baby.)
    • Try to do something for yourself on a weekly basis. I would say daily, but if you're like me that just ain't happenin'. Take a long bath, paint your toes, read a book, have a bowl of ice cream.
    • Remember that this condition is temporary. If it doesn't go away, get some professional help. There is no shame in getting help so you can take care of yourself and your family.
    If you are having problems with postpartum depression, let someone know. You need help and support (not to mention food and sleep). Being a mom is hard work. Being a mom to multiple small children is even harder.  Don't be discouraged if you can't do it all, because no one can. Find a friend, family member or neighbor who can listen, give you a break or even just do lunch with. It's amazing how therapeutic it is just to talk to someone else about the problem. For other resources go to www.depressionafterdelivery.com or www.postpartum.net

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Preparedness Wednesday: September in Review

    For those of you just tuning in, every week I try to do something to get my house in order (fix things, get out of debt, etc) and purchase something to add to my emergency supply. If you want to follow my deals as I find them, I post them on my public facebook profile. For those of you who have been reading for awhile you know that I have an adorable new baby with reflux. The upshot is that I am no where near as productive as usual, so there was a lack of getting things in order this past month. It was all I could do to maintain things, and even that was questionable. But look how cute my baby is!


       

    Doing
    • Paid off one of my husband's student loans- the big one with the higher interest rate. Hooray!


    Emergency Preparedness/Food Storage:

    • Made and canned Asian plum sauce (recipe to follow in an upcoming post)
    • Canned homemade salsa
    • Canned apple pie filling
    • A case of instant oatmeal from Smith's- $18
    • #10 cans of powdered eggs @ Costco- $12.47 (Best price I've ever seen, I highly recommend you take advantage of this if you can.)
    • Vital Wheat Gluten @ Walmart- $6 for 15 oz (although I discovered you can get 27 oz for $8 at the local Bosch store, so if you live in St George, I recommend that.) Wheat gluten is a great shelf stable source of protein. Unopened it is good for 10 years.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    St George- Local Businesses

     When you move somewhere new, it can be hard to know where to go for various goods and services. It certainly took me awhile to figure it out. (And I can't say I've got it all down yet.) Here are some of the local small businesses that I have had good experiences with. I am not being compensated in any way for endorsing them. They don't even know that I am endorsing them. Each of them have just done a good job at a fair price.

    Bosch Kitchen Store- 188 North Bluff Street  This place has the best prices on fresh organic bread. $1.84 per loaf and occasionally they have other deals going too, like buy 1 get 1 free. They have a good variety of breads at this price. My kids love the Cinnaburst bread, which makes great french toast. Cafe Atlas, the restaurant that they have inside the store, has some really yummy sandwiches and soups, but unfortunately they are only open until 4, or I swear I would go there a lot more often. The Bosch store is also the best local place to go for less than usual baking ingredients, like wheat gluten and a variety of grains. They also offer free cooking classes. Sometimes there are coupons for both the Bosch store and Cafe Atlas in the Valpak envelope, and Cafe Atlas has a deal on the Dixie Direct card.

    Coyote Exchange- 140 N 400 W B3- A local second-hand clothes store with a really great selection. My husband's little sister recently got married and I had been looking for something to wear since before she was engaged. I had looked at every store locally, several online stores and a few dozen stores near where my family lives without any luck. Two days before the wedding I found a satin blouse in one of her wedding colors here for less than $8, and it looked brand new. I also found good deals on a few other items for myself and my husband. (They don't carry children's clothing.) They often have coupons in the newspaper, and have several in the local coupon calendar that comes in the mail. I am certain that I will be going back here.

    Dixie Battery- 1250 W Sunset Blvd Ste C-18 This place is kind of hidden, and easy to miss, but they provide the best prices on car batteries. They were also knowledgeable and friendly guys.

    The Tailor Maid435-674-7102 The summer before last my brother got married and I had a difficult time trying to find something to wear to his wedding and reception. A few days before we were to leave on our trip I found the perfect dress in a whole size to big. I called a few other seamstresses in the area first who said that taking it in would cost $60-$100 and take at least two weeks. That just was not going to work. Karen took in my dress in less than an hour and only charged me $10. I felt like I had found my fairy godmother. She has over 35 years of experience and did a fantastic job.

    Terminator Pest Control435-862-9334 If you live in this area good pest control is a must. However I find that most local pest control places are ridiculously over-priced. And most that I talked to want to you sign a contract and have them come back every or every other month to spray again, charging around $90 each time. Ridiculous. John is nice, amiable guy, recommended by my neighbors and charges less than half of anyone else's best offer that I could find.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    What I've been up to

     I swear I have a dozen blog posts bouncing around in my head, but not enough time to write them. That is, time where I'm in the 'writing zone' plus had enough sleep plus have 2 hands free. I've written a couple in a state of sleep deprivation and come back to proofread them and I'm not quite sure what I was trying to say, so we'll get back to those. So I'll just summarize what I've been doing in list form, because Heather is all about the lists. :)
    1. Feeding the baby- She gained 3 pounds in 4 weeks. I spend a lot of time feeding the baby.
    2. Chipotle Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas- I found this recipe on Skinny Bovine's Kitchen. I left out the corn, and added 2 tomatoes, 1& 1/2 medium carrots, one Hatch chile and doubled the chipotle (and left in the seeds cause I'm lazy). It was so yummy. Unfortunately baby couldn't handle the spiciness, and the two times I ate it as soon as I fed her she projectile vomited on me. But if you aren't breast-feeding I highly recommend it.
    3. Started reading How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. In the introduction he says that he tries to run his pantry dry at least once a year. I thought, I need to do that. So I have been trying to plan all meals around what I have in my pantry. In addition to rotating things, it just makes it easier to organize when I give myself a little space. And in the next few months I know there will be many sales on non-perishable items and I need to make room.
    4. In my efforts to clean out the pantry I made Peaches and Cream Oven French Toast, using canned peaches, evaporated milk and powdered eggs. It was pretty yummy and all members of my family or at least those with teeth ate some (Cue angelic chorus). However, I'm pretty sure that I could come up with a healthier version that is just as yummy.
    5. Dealing with reflux- A new development in just the past week. I've determined that baby can't handle it when I eat anything remotely spicy, but it seemed like cutting that out wasn't enough. No, no- there is a huge list of things that I have to cut out. And since I have it has made a huge difference. She's happier and sleeps longer through the night. The problem is when I got out beans, dairy and many fruits and vegetables, it makes it hard to find anything to eat, let alone anything vegetarian. (And I had gone weeks without eating meat and was feeling fine!) I may need to go back to being a carnivore for baby's benefit for awhile.
    6. Enjoying my oh-so-adorable children who are probably the only people whom I would tolerate such shenanigans from.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Maintaining a Clean House

    Maintaining a clean house is just about that, maintaining. You've got to keep the mess at a certain level. If you aren't constantly taking small steps to keep it under control, things get out of hand and quickly. How you run your house depends on your household, needs, circumstances, etc. Here is the dynamic that we have going on our house:

    • My handsome husband- really great about playing with and teaching our kids when he's not at work full-time. He has recently become a vegetarian (with lots of allergies), which means that meal preparation requires more thought and planning and take-out or instant meals are rarely an option. 
    • Thing 1- 5 years old and just started Kindergarten. She loves to help as long as what we are doing doesn't involve the word "clean". (Pull weeds, scrub toilets, sort laundry, fine, clean room-no way) A real sweetie-pie who is everyday is saying 'teach me, play with me' and loves to help with the baby.
    • Thing 2- A three year old ball of energy and oh my goodness he's going to be a heart-breaker. It's really not fair that a boy have such gorgeous blue eyes and such long eye lashes. I adore him, but he can be difficult, especially when it is too hot to play outside. He's a adjusting to not being the baby of the family and it's a big adjustment. A couple weeks ago he single-handedly convinced my sister-in-law that she is not ever going to have children. His favorite job is throwing away poopy diapers. Don't ask me why.
    • Cindy Lou-Who- Almost four weeks old, and a little easier than my previous two (yay!) However, she still wants to breast-feed most of the day.  I love, love, love that she's getting fat rolls.
    • Then there's me- mommy, not sleeping as much as I would like, but hanging in there and enjoying a whole lot of sweetness.
    That's my family and meeting their needs is more important than a spotless house. However, some of those needs include maintaining some amount of cleanliness. On every given day, my house is not has clean as I would like it to be. But I'm trading that for the little sleep I can squeeze in and time with my family. Here are the things that I do to try to maintain a state of livability.
    • Every morning I make my bed. It is the largest feature in my bedroom, and if it is made the whole room feels cleaner. (Learned that one from my MIL)
    • I have my kids pitch in a little at a time. Before my kids can have treats, play games or watch movies they have to 1) get their stuff out of the living room and 2) pick up and put away five things in their rooms. They also have to pick up the last game that they played with if they haven't done so. They also are rewarded for doing chores beyond managing their own messes.
    • Every day I get rid of at least five things. Junk mail, newspapers, magazines, etc.
    • When I get bills I pay them and file them immediately so they're not cluttering up the house.
    • When I go grocery shopping I take the recycling bins with me. (They could stand to be emptied more often.)
    • I wipe up spills as they happen.
    • I sweep every other day, and mop at least once a week. Ok, sometimes it's like three times a week. The house isn't clean if the floor is sticky. (Not to mention where I live, food and spills on the floor attract insects.)
    • Once a day I pick up the living room, and every other day I vacuum. Unless you're walking in through the back door, it's the first room you see and it takes up a big chunk of the house. If this room is a mess, the whole house feels so.
    • At least once a day I wipe down the counters and the kitchen table. (Ok, I'll be honest, that's not entirely true, but that's my goal and when I neglect it, it just makes more work later.)
    • At least once a day I load the dishwasher. Even on the rare evenings when there aren't enough dirty dishes to run it, I load it so I can empty the sink.
    • Then I scrub the sink. It takes two minutes, some Ajax and a scouring pad, but if the kitchen sink is clean it improves the appearance of the whole kitchen. (Learned that tip from the FLY Lady.)
    • About every other day I wash a load of laundry. Part of this is because baby creates so much dirty laundry, and part of it is it's much easier to deal with when I handle it one load at a time.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Homemade Salsa Revisited

     You may have noticed that my posts have been a little more sporadic lately. I'm still here, still buying and using food storage, still trying to do my small part to make the world a better place. Having a third child has sucked away all of my free time, even if she is my easiest baby yet. And in addition to sucking away my time and energy, she has also sucked away all of my pregnancy weight, so it's not all bad. So believe me I still have plenty more to say, I just don't have as much time to do it.
     Along with everything else that has been happening I found myself in possession of two boxes of beautiful tomatoes from my parents' garden (they tried to give me more than that.) After giving a bunch to the neighbors I decided that newborn or no, I really had to make salsa. I just did it crockpot style. That way I spent about 45 minutes chopping & rinsing ingredients, let it simmer for 6 hours and processed it for 20 minutes at the end. Totally doable.
    Aren't they beautiful?

    There is something so satisfying about home canning. It makes my house smell good and it means that I'll have yumminess in my pantry for quite awhile. 3 dozen tomatoes made 12 pints canned, plus 3 more pints that are in the fridge. (And I still have plenty of tomatoes.) For the recipe I used go here. Although instead of jalapenos I used the red Anaheims from my garden, and instead of the green Anaheims I used some green Hatch chiles from my thirty pound monster bag of a couple weeks ago. This made for spicier salsa than usual. That's ok, I like spicy food. Unfortunately we have discovered that baby really doesn't like it when I eat anything remotely spicy, and lets me know by giving back any tainted meals that she is given. Speaking of which I have laundry to do. ttfn

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Preparedness Wednesday: August in Review

    I didn't quite make my typical preparedness goals, but I feel entirely justified because it was over 100 degrees here every single day of the past month and I had a baby. I'm amazed I got anything done .

    Doing:
    • Had the air conditioning fixed, which should dramatically reduce our next power bill
    • Made 4 digital photo books (I think this falls under getting things organized)
    • Experimented numerous times with my sun oven
    • Harvested onions and peppers from my garden, then planted seeds for our winter garden
    Emergency Preparedness
    • Cottonelle Toilet Paper- $3.25 for a 12-pack at Walgreens
    • Geisha canned mushrooms- 25 cents each at Walgreens
    • Skippy Natural Super Chunk Peanut Butter- Amazon Subscribe & Save- I love it when my food storage buys itself.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Tips on Newborn Diapers

    Cindy Lou-Who modeling the W brand diaper
     Through personal experience and talking to other moms I have determined that when it comes small babies (7-10 pounds), Pampers Swaddlers size 1 (8-14lbs) are more effective than Huggies at preventing leaks. After that stage I generally use Huggies because there are more coupons and deals available, and there's not a big difference.
     Last Saturday night, we were staying with family and I realized we only had 3 diapers left. So I made a late night run to Walgreen's. They did not have Pampers Swaddlers in size 1 stocked. So I decided to give the store brand a whirl. The Walgreens newborn diapers are sized up to 10 lbs, so I tried those.  I found that I have been having even fewer leaks than I did with the Pampers, and they are significantly less expensive.

    Here's the price comparison for the Walgreen's that I stopped at.
    Pamper's Swaddlers size 1- 40 diapers- $11.99
    Walgreen's Newborn- 42 diapers-$8.99

    Currently there is a P&G (manufacturer's) coupon out for $1.50 off 2 packs of Pampers or one case, and if you ask at the make-up counter there is another coupon (store) for $2 off any package of Pamper's diapers. At Walgreen's you can use both a store & a manufacturer's coupon for the same product. (Ask for the Infant Care coupon brochure.) So if the Pampers were available my total would have been $18.48 plus tax.

    Currently (through 9/24/11) there is a deal where when you buy one Walgreen's product you can get a second of the same for 50% off. And in the Infant Care coupon brochure there is also a coupon for $2 off any Walgreen's Brand diapers jumbo pack. (Because it is a store coupon the $4 is taken off before the 50% off discount.) So my total was $10.48 plus tax for 2 packages of diapers. And they are just as good if not better for the stage that my infant is at right now. And yes, you don't have the reward codes, but a discount of $4 per package of diapers is worth more than a reward code.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Green Chiles

    So last week, a few hours after delivering Miss Cindy Lou-Who, I got online to order a Bountiful Basket (which btw was an awesome basket). One of the extras they had available was a 30 lb bag of Hatch green chiles. I love green chiles and my in-laws really love green chiles so I thought I would split a bag with them. My husband got up early Saturday morning to fetch our produce and I mumbled  "Don't forget our 30 lb bag of green chiles". He thought I said 3 lb bag of green chiles because there is no way I could have bought a 30 lb bag of green chiles. Oh, I did.

    So Saturday morning I opened the bag and looked at a few of the beautiful chiles within. Fantastic. Sunday morning I noticed a small puddle next to the bag. By Sunday afternoon a good part of my house was permeated by a rotten earthy smell. My ox was in a mire of rotting chiles. The original plan was to bag and freeze the top half of the sack and give the bottom half (or more) to my in-laws when I see them later this week. I'm sure that's exactly what they want to deal with on the day of the wedding reception. Not to mention that I am not really keen on having my house smell like rot until we leave, or having it in my car. Gross.

     So to my in-laws "Happy-your-baby-is-getting-married-and-I-know-that-you-don't-want-a-smelly-bag-of-rotting-peppers"

      To everyone else I recommend that when cutting large quantities of peppers that you wear gloves, because even mild peppers have oils that can cause burning and skin irritation.

     I was disappointed that so many of the chiles had gone bad and that it caused such a mess. I would say about a third of them were rotten. Even so $19 for 20 lbs of green chiles is a great deal. In the future I will post multiple recipes showing how I go through my half of the peppers. But for now here is one of my father-in-law's favorites (he's from New Mexico and happens to know his chiles)

     New Mexico Chile Verde
    2 tsp olive oil
    1/2 lb pork loin (remove visible fat and cut into 1/2" chunks)
    3 small garlic cloves, finely minced
    1 red onion, finely chopped (optional)

    8 T flour
    4 T cornstarch
    4 T water

    28 oz Hatch green chiles (roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped)*
    1-2 T chopped fresh jalapeno
    2 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp white pepper
    4 chicken bullion cubes
    1  14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes

    1. Saute pork in olive oil until pink is gone. Move pork aside in skillet. 2. Add garlic (and onion) and saute until sizzling. Put in crockpot on high. 3. In a small bowl make thickener of flour, cornstarch and water. After mixed thoroughly add to crockpot. 4. Add chiles and spices to crockpot. Bring to a low boil, then turn to low and add tomatoes. Simmer for at least an hour or preferably all day. Serve plain over rice, burritos, chile rellenos, chimichangas, etc. Freezes well. Serves 4-6

    *His notes say 1 bag, which is about a quart ziplock bag, roasted.
    For those of the vegetarian persuasion I haven't tried making this without the pork before, but the pork is such a small part of it I think that it would still taste great without the meat. I know my other chile verde recipe worked just fine when I left out the pork.

    And when I wasn't washing, sorting and chopping chiles, this is how I spent my weekend:
    I'm in love.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    She's Here!

    Miss Cindy Lou Who arrived Monday afternoon weighing 7 pounds even. Everything went perfectly (I was pretty shocked). Now I'm at home recovering and enjoying some time off with my three sweet kids. :)







    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Getting Ready to be Outnumbered

    With any luck by the time you are reading this I will no longer be pregnant. Hooray! Pregnancy itself is a generally an unpleasant experience, but being 9 months pregnant in August in St George, UT makes it worse.
     With Thing 1 I was sent into labor by being hit by an industrial flat-bed truck. With Thing 2 from the time I started having contractions to the time I was complete was twenty-five minutes, going into labor that fast put my body into shock. So let's hope that Miss Cindy Lou-Who arrives without a traumatic experience. My husband is pretty stressed about it. I figure being stressed isn't going to change the outcome, so why bother? I'm too excited to not be pregnant to worry much about what could possibly go wrong between here and there.
      In preparation for her debut I have been getting ready for quite awhile. Here's what I have been up to:
    • Since about March, every time I saw a "stock-up worthy" deal on diapers I bought a few packages.
    • I snagged numerous cute outfits from the clearance section. (Once I got several Disney themed onesies for 50 cents each at Walmart.)
    • I thoroughly cleaned my house so I have less to worry about later.
    • I made a few freezer meals to make life easier.
    • I finished all of my back to school shopping in July.
    • I packed my bag and arranged childcare.
    • I ordered a new car seat and bassinet, which are ready and waiting.
    And as Thing 1 observed, "Now all we need is a baby."

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Food Storage Friday: Chile Verde Burritos

     Whenever I have made chile verde sauce my family pretty much inhales it. Here's the secret to my awesome chile verde sauce: I throw in a bunch of stuff until it looks and tastes right and call it good. The recipe below is what I did most recently, but I can't guarantee that it will turn out the same next time. Peppers have a tendency to vary in flavor and hotness. You can't look at a pepper and know how potent it is going to be. If I mix everything together and it's too bland I throw in a dash of green Tabasco or sprinkle in some red pepper flakes. If it needs to be toned down a notch, I'll finely chop up 1/2 a bell pepper and add that to the sauce. May the force be with you in your endeavors.

    Chile Verde Burritos
    Food Storage Ingredients:
    Re-fried beans
    Canned pork (optional)

    Fresh Ingredients:
    tortillas
    grated cheese (I've used cheddar, colby, monterey, pepper jack, and mozzarella, all with great results.)
    sour cream
    1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled
    4 Anaheim peppers
    3 banana peppers
    4 jalapeno peppers
    8 tomatillos
    4 green onions, chopped

    1. Remove pepper stems, leave the seeds. Remove and save tomatillo husks. Cut tomatillos in half, hamburger style. 2. Roast peppers, garlic and tomatillos until well blistered. (Generally 45 minutes @ 375. I did mine in my sun oven, and it took an hour and a half before I was satisfied with their appearance, but it's cooking times will widely vary.) 3. Puree tomatillo husks and roasted vegetables. 4. Simmer pureed pepper mixture with green onions on low for 15-20 minutes or until desired thickness. Add pork if desired. 5. Assemble burritos as desired. (Whenever I make these I like to make extras and freeze them.)
    I like my green sauce to be nice and thick.

    Notes: I have found that the best re-fried beans come from the LDS Church canneries; they are so delicious. (Don't worry you don't have to be LDS to buy food storage there. They love to encourage everyone to be prepared.) I also love that they are not actually re-fried and are completely fat free, unlike real re-fried beans which are made with lard. (Bleh.) I have heard people complain that they are bland, but it is all in how you cook them. According to the instructions you mix the dried bean flakes in boiling water and let them set. Before I let them set I mix in a pepper. Either a dried and crumbled Chipotle pepper, a chopped Anaheim or whatever other spicy pepper I have convenient. After the beans have absorbed the water, add a heaping teaspoon of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Mix it all together and it makes great burritos, improves 7 layer dip, makes an easy Mexican food side or stand alone bean dip.
    When I say Anaheims I mean these beauties
     And as for Anaheims, some stores refer to them as Anaheims, others as Cubanos. I'm not sure why. And when I planted Anaheims in my garden, none of the plants I could find had pictures that looked anything like the Anaheim peppers that I am familiar with. And the peppers that grew were small and red.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Some Tips About Upromise and Sallie Mae

    So a few years ago I opened a Upromise account to get a head start on saving for my kids college. It's somewhat like Ebates. You get a percentage of what you spend online put into an account that you can use to pay off student loans, or pay tuition and other college expenses. There are a few other ways of earning money too. Sometimes there are surveys you can take, you can earn money back on dining, groceries, etc. Originally this money was to be for the kids' college fund, but then my husband went back to school and had to take out some loans, so I wanted to the money I've earned to pay off his loans first. His loan was already linked to the account, but there was not an option online for me to transfer money as payment towards his loan. I called the number listed on the website: 1-888-434-9111 (Whatever you do, do not call that number.)

    The person I talked to at Upromise said they had to transfer me to Sallie Mae. Fine.

    The second person I talked to said I was not authorized to information related to his account. Fine, talk to him. Why would I be trying to pay off his student loan if I am not his wife? He promptly gave them permission, because that means I'll take care of it and he doesn't need to worry about it. After I got back on the phone they transferred me to someone else because they were not authorized to transfer payments.

    The third person I talked to was kind of confused and transferred me to someone else. He said that I needed to link the two accounts together before I could do anything and I should try making a payment online. If that had been a possibility I would not have bothered calling.

    The fourth person I talked to was also confused and tried to tell me that I couldn't access the loan information, before changing their mind about it. There is no information that she could give me that I couldn't access myself from the Sallie Mae website. She transferred me to someone else.

    The fifth person I talked to tried to give me all of the same bologna that the other incompetent people gave me, before deciding that I needed to call Upromise. "I did call Upromise, and they transferred me to three other people before you." "Oh, well just a minute." She gave me a different number to call. 39 minutes of my life wasted. And guess where the number she gave me sent me?

    A Ford dealership. No, I'm pretty sure that they can help me about as much as the fools at Sallie Mae. Later my husband asked me a question about the account. I told him that the people at Sallie Mae were idiots. "Well, at least they are using the money we are paying in interest to provide jobs for the handicapped."

    I went back to the Upromise website and found a different number. 1-800-877-6647. After talking to the guy for a few minutes, he set it up so at the beginning of the next quarter all my money will be transferred over to the student loan, and every quarter when there is a balance of at least $10, that money will be applied to the student loan also. Hallelujah! $689 down, some odd thousand left to go. Why couldn't I have talked to that guy in the first place?

    Lessons learned:
    • Call Sallie Mae at your own peril and only if you are interested in being transferred around in circles and hoping to waste a lot of time.
    • Some customer support numbers listed on websites are better than others. The one that actually spells the name of the company is usually a safe bet.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Food Storage Friday: Stir-fried Green Beans with Rice

    Sometime in the last month we got green beans in our Bountiful Basket. My husband has a tendency to turn his nose up at green beans and my kids won't try them either. One day I mentioned that we should eat them and my husband said "I can't imagine that there is anything you can do to green beans to make them delicious." I took this as a challenge. Heather has a tendency to be fairly irritated when someone tells her that she can't do something. When I was in college my department counselor laughed at me for a good 15 minutes when I told her I was thinking about graduating with University Honors. I did it and in less than four years too, so there.  So I turned to How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food  for ideas. I found a recipe for Twice-Fried Green Beans, that sounded like it had potential, except it involved deep-frying, which I am pretty aversive to. So I took all of the ingredients, stir-fried them and served them over rice. My husband loved it and admitted that green beans can taste good as long as they don't come from a can. He liked it so much that I caught him multiple times sticking his finger in the empty pan to scrape out the remains of the sauce. Mission accomplished.

    Stir-fried Green Beans with Rice
    Food Storage Ingredients:
    rice, prepared per package directions
    4 Tablespoons of oil
    1/2 cup cashews
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    2 Tablespoons soy sauce
    1 Tablespoon sugar
    dash of salt

    Fresh Ingredients:
    1 1/2 lbs fresh green beans
    1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
    1/2 cup scallions, chopped*

    1. Stir-fry green beans in oil for ten minutes on medium heat. 2. Add cashews and cook until they just start to brown. 3. Add garlic, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Cook until onions turn clear. 4.  Add soy sauce and salt. 5. Sprinkle sugar evenly over vegetables. Saute until evenly coated with sauce. (It will be thick and sticky.) Serve over rice.

    *The original recipe called for scallions, but I used the small red onions that I had just harvested from my garden with very satisfactory results.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Where to Find Grocery Coupons

    Recently a neighbor asked me where I find my coupons. Here's my list.
    1. Newspapers- I take a subscription to the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune for weekends only. I know that The St George Spectrum carries the Red Plum inserts in addition to Smart Source, Proctor & Gamble, and General Mills, however the subscription costs 6-8 times as much as the Salt Lake papers, so whatever additional coupons I would get are not really worth the cost. Two newspapers provides me with more than enough coupons. If there is something to good to pass up I'll get it from a newsstand.
    2. Coupon printing websites- Coupons.com is the biggest one, but I have found that most often any coupon found there can be printed from the Swagbucks website instead, which gives you points that can be exchanged for Amazon gift cards.  Big food companies like Kellogs and General Mills will often have coupons on their websites that you can print. You can also try RedPlum.com & SmartSource.com, but I have found the printing widgets to be less reliable and their trouble shooting tips to be worthless, and I consider myself to be fairly technically competent.
    3. Facebook- Many companies will allow you to print coupons for their products if you "like" their page. I tend to not use my personal account to do this, because I prefer to have my FB feed be full of updates from my family, friends and neighbors and not cluttered with ads. When I find great printable coupons I share them on my public Facebook profile.
    4. GrocerySmarts.com- I Heart this website. Not only does it match up coupons with ads, it tells me where I can find individual coupons to print. It totally makes my life easier. This one also gives tips on how to get Catalinas.
    5. Mail- Because I am pregnant I have been getting oodles of coupons for infant formula for free (I think I filled out a survey at some point and that's what started it). Smith's also send me a booklet of coupons for various products at least once a month. If you are really ambitious you can write away for more coupons, but I'm not. CouponingtoDisney is great reference for companies you can write to for coupons and samples.
    6. Rite-Aid.com- Another printable I am generally not patient enough for this one. There are great savings to be had, but I usually have to sit and watch a video to get them, and I find that the vast majority of the time when I go to Rite-Aid the great deals are all gone.
    7. Grocery Checkout- Often coupons (aka Catalinas) will print when I am paying for my groceries, or sometimes they will be on the back of the receipt.
    Virtual Coupons- I love these because there is no clipping involved. The only hassle is remembering your login and password to load them.
    1. Upromise- These can be stacked and do not show up on your total. I often forget about them. You just have to link your grocery cards to the Upromise website, and if you purchase one of the items instead of getting "money off", you get "money back" in the form of college savings. The problem with these is that are for national brands and I find that many of them are for products that my local stores don't even carry, but I still try to look through them once a month. Another problem is that these coupons are slow to show up and there have been occasions when I know I have bought a product from the list (even without stacking with other coupons) and never received credit for the coupon. But I have saved a few dollars using these.
    2. pgeverydaysolutions.com- These Proctor & Gamble coupons are also linked to your grocery card, but are not stackable. There is some overlap with Smith's digital coupons. You can also request that they mail samples and coupons to you and I find that these coupons often are of higher value than the ones found in the newspaper inserts, plus they're free.
    3. Smith'sFoodandDrug.com- These are also linked to your grocery card, but are not stackable. This site sometimes also provides a few additional printable coupons. You do have to wait at least two hours after loading them to redeem them. Warning: if you have a better paper coupon for a product and have already loaded one of these to your card, you don't get to pick. You have to take the digital discount. There is an exception to the stacking rule. As an example if you have a digital coupon for Reese's Puffs and a paper coupon for 2 General Mills cereals, you can use both if you buy 2 GM cereals and one of them is Reese's Puffs. This site also sometimes has promotional games you can play for free stuff. Last summer I played a spin game and got a free package of Johnsonville sausage and a free Gatorade.
    4. Shortcuts.com- Same rules as the first two, and it also offers a few printable grocery coupons, but I have never printed from this site. There is some overlap for the digital coupons found here and the Smith's website and sometimes it won't let you load from both, but then sometimes it will, you just have to purchase 2 of an item to redeem both coupons. Annoying thing about this one is they are always sending me emails trying to get me to do my online shopping through them. I'm happy with using Upromise and Ebates.
    5. Cellfire.com- I like this one because I log in using my cellphone number and birthday. I can remember that regardless of what computer I am on. This one doesn't offer a huge selection, they're mostly GM product coupons that are also found other places. But when I find a stock-up sale on fruit snacks they come in very handy.
    6. Savingstar.com- This one is either really great or meh. Like Upromise you link coupons to your grocery card and you don't get money off, so they're stackable, and once you reach a savings total of at least $5 you can use your savings to purchase a gift card. (The only one I remember is an Amazon gift card, but there were others.) I've gotten some awesome ones like Huggies and Carnation Instant Breakfast, but this month doesn't offer much that I might actually buy. I also found that they're somewhat retroactive. I bought the Huggies and the next day discovered the digital coupon here and loaded the coupon in case I went back for more. I never did and the next time I checked my account they had given me credit for the Huggies coupon. Sweet. (That was just my experience, no guarantees that that will happen every time.)
    Are there any places that I have missed? I hope that was helpful.

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Thoughts on LDS Doctrine & Vegetarianism

     Last week I wrote a post with a vegetarian recipe and some good reasons to consider becoming a vegetarian, or at least eating less meat. Anna commented that she and her husband have been considering the change because of what is said in the Word of Wisdom. This is something that I have been thinking about, but not saying. For those of my readers who are not LDS, the Word of Wisdom is a name given to some guidelines given to us in the scriptures that we believe will increase and preserve our health. In addition to the advice to avoid "wine, tobacco and strong drinks", it gives recommendations on what we should be eating. Some of the relevant points I will summarize and discuss below.
    • wholesome herbs are for the use of man
    • fruits and herbs are to be used in season
    • flesh of beasts and fowls of the air are to be used sparingly and only in times of winter, famine and excess hunger
    • grain is good for the food of man and to be the staff of life
     When I was in college I was required to take a class called "Nursing Ethics and Values". One discussion centered around diet. I remember one of my classmates mentioned that she was a vegetarian and she received a lot of flack for it. Almost everyone asked "How in the world can you not eat meat?" (BTW, this was at BYU, where the vast majority of the student body is LDS.) Her response has stuck with me. "The Word of Wisdom says that meat is to be eaten in times of famine and excess hunger. I don't feel that during my lifetime I have ever really experienced a famine. If I do experience a famine I will start eating meat." That makes a lot of sense to me.
      As I read it, the scriptures are saying that our diets should be built around grains and include fruits, herbs and vegetables in season. We can have meat, but very rarely. Sounds almost like a vegetarian diet to me.
      I also believe that the Lord loves the animals that he has created, and while he said that their "flesh is ordained for the use of man", I don't think He approves of animal cruelty. The more I read and hear about how livestock is raised in America, the more unsettling it is to me. I don't believe that He intended the lives of those creatures to be such a completely miserable experience. There is something very wrong about raising an animal to spend its entire existence in a cage, fed on a diet mixed with steroids so that it's legs can not support it's own body weight.
     And lastly as members of the LDS Church there are some basics that we have been advised to have in our food storage: beans, rice, wheat, oats, pasta and potatoes. We have been advised to store these staples and rotate them on a regular basis. We have been told to store these items because they have a long shelf life and these items can sustain life. It seems logical that meals that are centered around these food items would include many vegetarian entrees.
      Now I am well aware that giving up meat is a huge life-style change for most Americans. We love our meat. In most restaurants, most options are centered around meat. I can't say that it is easy or convenient, but I do believe that it is good for us to cut back the meat content in our diet. And I can't say that I personally have been able ever go 100% without meat, but I'm working on it. The way to do it is start with one vegetarian meal a week and build from there. And I just have to say that I think that sometimes pregnancy and breast-feeding count as times of excess hunger. There were times when I was breast-feeding my kids that I would have a baby on the breast in one arm and a tall glass of undiluted eggnog in my other hand and I felt that there weren't enough hours in the day for me to get in all of the calories that I needed. The Word of Wisdom says that if "they do these sayings they shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge...and shall run and not be weary and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them." Those are some pretty great promises, and it seems that they are worth putting forth an effort to earn them. I'm not trying to tell anyone what they should believe or what they should eat, that's up to you, but I believe that eating less meat is definitely worth some consideration.

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Food Storage Friday and Vegetarian Link-Up

     My husband has recently decided to be a vegetarian. And I sort of follow suit because I don't want to bother making two or three meals every night. Right now I find that if I go two or three days without eating meat I start feeling weak and nauseated (more so than usual). I also found that when I don't eat meat I don't gain weight, which I need to be doing right now. I don't need a lot of meat to fix the problem, a turkey sandwich will usually do the trick, but I have to have meat. Perhaps I will give it a more concerted effort when I am not trying to grow a person in my belly. For now I cook vegetarian meals at home and when we go out to eat, or sometimes when I'm at work I eat meat. (The kids don't really like to eat meat anyway, except for the occasional chicken nugget.) So I'm eating some meat, but not very much.
     So why go vegetarian? Here are a few bonuses about the lifestyle:
    • It dramatically lowers your cholesterol and calorie intake.
    • Cutting out the meat significantly reduces your grocery bill.
    • Vegetarian protein sources are cheaper to store and last significantly longer in your food storage than canned or dried meat.
    • Meat is unfortunately "fortified" with steroids, antibiotics and growth hormones. None of which I recommend taking without a prescription.
    • It forces you to pay attention to think about what you are eating. While you are looking at the ingredients, it's more likely that you may be thinking 'Is this good for me?'
    • Vegetarians live longer and don't get sick as often.
    • Going vegetarian leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
     Here's the my vegetarian experiment of the week:

    Crock Pot Pepper Pasta
    Food Storage Ingredients:
    2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
    1/8 cup olive oil
    2 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
    2 Tablespoons jarred, pre-chopped garlic
    1 Tablespoon dried basil
    1 Tablespoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon dried rosemary
    1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
    1 lb pasta, prepared according to directions

    Fresh Ingredients:
    3 bell peppers, chopped into 1 inch pieces
    1 medium onion, chopped
    6 Tablespoons shredded Parmesean

    1. Mix everything except pasta and cheese together in crock pot. Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours. 2. When sauce is almost done prepare pasta. 3. Season sauce to taste. Serve with Parmesean.

    This stuff made my house smell wonderful. I served it over whole wheat pasta with green apples and french bread (in the interest of providing something I could guarantee my kids would eat.) I thought the sauce was a little thinner than I liked, so next time I may drain one of the cans of tomatoes. My husband loved it the way it was and used his french bread to soak it up.

    Now I am well aware that giving up meat is a huge life-style change. I obviously can not say that I have managed to do it. But if you can reduce the amount of meat that you're eating, think of the benefits. You will save money and improve your health, (which also saves you money). It has taken a little work and experimentation, but I have found myself trying and loving many foods that I never would have thought of trying before. Vegetarian cooking has also given me a boost of confidence in my culinary skills. Where my husband works they go out to eat/order in pretty frequently, and usually he's more interested in my leftovers than what is available at local restaurants. Haha!  So this week I am inviting anyone out there to share their favorite vegetarian recipes. And if it includes rice, pasta, oats, potatoes, wheat or beans, all the better!

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Preparedness Wednesday: July in Review

    For those of you just tuning in, every week I try to do something to get my house in order (fix things, get out of debt, etc) and purchase something to add to my emergency supply. If you want to follow my deals as I find them. I post them on my public facebook profile as I find them if you are interested.

    Doing:
    • Had the yard done. It looks soooo much better. It makes me happy.
    • Bought a sun oven. Actually my husband bought this for my birthday. For all of the sun that we get here in St George, why not use it to cook my meals instead of heating up my kitchen? (I'm putting this with doing because it makes my home more energy efficient.) Expect a post about this in the future.
    • Replaced the air conditioning filter to help it run more efficiently
    • Got an estimate on air conditioning and heating installation for our basement so we can start finishing it.
    • Made curtains for the area under Thing 1's loft bed. Ok, actually I just bought the material and my mom made them when she came to visit for my birthday while I took a nap. Thanks Mom! This was very important to Thing 1.
    Emergency Preparedness/Food Storage:
    • Made peach salsa & peach raspberry pancake sauce
    • Bought a few jars of Classico Pasta Sauce- $1.04 each after coupons at Smith's
    • Maggie Moo's Powdered Milk & Chocolate Milk- $11 each for a #10 can at Walmart (this is was their everyday price) I've had friends claim that their families can't taste the difference between this and fresh milk.
    • Wheat Gluten- I thought we would try this stuff out, but I didn't buy much because I've yet to find it at a good price. But we have been experimenting with it.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Book Review: Full of Life

    Full of Life: Mom-to-Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was PregnantIt is my belief that just because this is my third baby and I have a BS in Nursing doesn't mean that I know everything there is to know about pregnancy and having babies. So I picked up Full of Life: Mom-to-Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant by Nancy O'Dell, hoping for some new insights. This book is not an encycolpedia reference for pregnancy and motherhood, however it was more enjoyable to read than any of the other pregnancy books that I have read. It didn't tell me anything that I didn't know, but it does have some really good tips and is written in a style like you are talking to a friend. I would recommend it to first-time moms. Here are some the tips that I thought were most helpful.
    • A typical fertile couple has a 20% chance of conceiving with each cycle and an 85% chance of becoming pregnant within one year.
    • Your pregnancy is really 40 weeks, not just 9 months.
    • Your cravings may be very specific and may change at a moments notice.
    • When telling your boss the news, know your rights before hand. If you have worked for a company full-time for at least 12 months before your date of delivery the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles you to 12 weeks of maternity leave, during which time they have to hold your position for you. Whether or not you get paid during that time is another story.
    • If you were exercising regularly before you were pregnant, it is safe to continue to do so while you are pregnant.
    • It is not uncommon to have irrational, panic-inducing dreams while you are pregnant.
    • If you are having constipation issues, try baking pureed prunes (yes, baby food will do just nicely) into a spice cake. It should take care of the problem without the taste and texture of actually eating prunes.
    • When creating a baby registry, don't register for blankets, stuffed toys and smaller baby clothes. You will probably get enough of those anyway. Register for sizes 9 months and above, and items like a 2nd car seat base, strollers and baby socks.
    • Sleeping on your left side is best for baby. It improves circulation. Sleeping on your back can cut off circulation (and oxygen) to your baby.
    • Things that can prevent leg cramps: drink plenty of water, eat Potassium rich foods, take a warm shower and stretch your calves before bed.
    • Things to relieve leg cramps: get you husband to massage your calves (yes, I realize these will probably occur at some ungodly hour, have him do it anyway), stretch and flex your calves repeatedly, get up and walk it off.
    • Fetal hiccups show that baby's diaphragm is working.
    • Your breasts can leak breast milk even before you have a baby.
    • Bladder leakage can happen: wear a pad, do your kegels, limit bladder irritating beverages (those that are carbonated, acidic or contain caffeine), and cross your legs when you cough.
    • Breast-feeding is not automatic. Take a class or read a book before you have your baby.
    • Register at the hospital before the big day.
    • In addition to comfy clothes, make sure that you pack your laptop, camera, extra batteries and camera card for your trip to the hospital.
    • The most effective way to push a baby out is like you're pushing to have a bowel movement. Yes, it is true.
    • Despite all of the discomforts and trials of pregnancy, it is all worth it in the end. :)