Secrets of Mom Search Results

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


 Last weekend I was talking to my husband about something I found on Pinterest that I wanted him to make. (He's pretty handy when it comes to building things.)
 "Wait, you're using Pinterest?"
 "Yeah, I've found lots of great ideas there."
 "What exactly is Pinterest?"
 "It's a social networking site for sharing webpages and ideas. Why, what did you think it was?"
 "Well, a co-worker said it was soft porn for women."
 "Wat? No. Why do you think that?"
 "It's just women looking at a bunch of stuff they can't have."
I laughed. "Ok, I can see that. But I use it to get recipes and other ideas. Well, ok I do have a thing for pretty cakes too."
 So, yes I finally jumped on the bandwagon that is Pinterest. If you are so inclined, you can follow me here. Oh, and Happy Leap Year!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wedding Apparel for $10- No Sewing Skills Required

Last August I found myself in a predicament. My husband's little sister was getting married.  I needed to find something for myself and my newborn to wear to her wedding reception. When looking for dresses for my baby, I couldn't find the right colors. Everything that was white was  a) too big, b) covered in sequins c) cost a lot more money than I was willing to pay for something she would wear once or d) all of the above. I couldn't see myself spending $60 on something that she was going to pee, poop and/or throw up on and had to be dry-cleaned. Fortunately, my best friend came up with a brilliant idea. Make her a tutu. She can wear it with a white onesie, it's comfortable and if she poops on it (which she did), I can easily change it out.  I got the materials for the skirt for $2, watched an internet video and had a tutu in less than 2 hours. Tada!

 Originally my sister-in-law had planned on having her wedding a couple weeks before my due date, but when I said that we would not be able to travel she changed her wedding to a week and a half after my due date. I appreciated her consideration so that we could be there, but either way it left me having a hard time finding something to wear. (My MIL insisted it didn't matter what I wore, but I didn't want my SIL forever looking at her wedding pictures and thinking, 'Remember that time I got married and Heather wore a hospital gown to my wedding reception? Yeah, that was something.')  How do you find formal wear when you are nine months pregnant with your third child or for that unknown size you are going to be immediately after having said child. I was pretty sure that after having the baby I would be smaller than pregnant, but how much smaller? Not down to pre-pregnancy size. One size? 3 sizes? How do you plan for that? (Also in one department, smaller is not the size direction that you go.)  I spent dozens of hours in stores and online trying to find a dress that would work. I found one dress with an empire waist that almost fit at Dillard's when I was four months along and called their website looking for a size or two up. No luck, they had sold out of those sizes in every store across the country. Awesome.
 After I had Miss Cindy Lou Who I called every clothing store in town. "Do you have something formal or semi-formal in green apple or royal blue in my size?" One girl responded "Are you fifteen?"
"Then you probably wouldn't wear the only thing I found in royal blue. It has spaghetti straps and a mini skirt."
 "Um, no. I can't say that that would work."
 There is another store on St George Boulevard that always has lovely dresses in the display window. I called them and they had one dress in each color. And because they close before my husband gets home from work I went down there with my infant and my three-year old. (Yes, crazy. I know.) Each dress was around $165 and both of them were several sizes too big and would need to be tailored, drastically. I looked at them on the hangers while Thing 2 ran in circles around me and the racks of dresses, and said "This isn't going to work."
 The shop lady responded with a very patronizing tone "Well, we could have helped you if you had given us a few weeks more notice."
 "Well, a week ago I was pregnant and couldn't tell you what dress size I needed anyway." Not to mention I can't see myself spending that much money on a dress that I am not absolutely in love with.
 Then I tried a second-hand store that I had called earlier. Second-hand stores have changing inventory, so it was worth a shot. I found a blouse in royal blue for $8.50. Cha-ching!!! And I had a 20% off coupon. I paired it with my favorite black skirt and we were in business.

  So there we go. My husband had the rented tux provided by the groom's family, Thing 1 had her green apple Easter dress, Thing 2 had the tux that I bought him for the last family wedding (this time he had grown into the smallest size available), baby and I were covered and I did it for under $10.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Food Storage Friday: Sweet Pepper Rice

I found this recipe on Skinny Bovine's Kitchen. She says this rice is drool-worthy. I have a hard time drooling over anything that isn't cheesecake, but it was definitely yummy. And unlike the Sweet Chilean Rice that I did a few weeks ago, it was actually sweet, but not too sweet. I served this with burritos, but it would lend itself well as a side to anything Mexican.

Sweet Pepper Rice
Food Storage Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups white long grain rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Fresh Ingredients:
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1 Tablespoon butter

1. Finely chop onion, pepper and cilantro. (Or if you're lazy like me, pulse them in the blender for a few seconds.) 2. Melt butter in a large pan and cook onion mix until onions are soft. 3. Add salt and garlic powder, cook for one minute 4. Add rice and cook for another 5-10 minutes. (Until most of the moisture is gone.) 5. Dissolve sugar in broth. Add to rice. 6. Bring to a simmer and then turn to low and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serves 6.

Notes: I used half of an onion, instead of a whole onion, to increase my odds that my children would eat this. They tried it, but they weren't fans. My husband said that even half an onion made his eyes burn. I tried it with some peach salsa and that was yummy too. At some point I'll have to experiment and try this with brown rice.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Visit from the Cleaning Wizard

So as I have mentioned before, there has been a fair amount of havoc around here. I'm a mom of three kids, I'm not getting enough sleep and as those who know me well can testify, I am a chaos magnet. A side effect of all of this is that I have been losing the constant battle of me versus the mess.
 A few months ago I made a new friend at play group, we'll call her Sarah. :) She has three very active boys and newborn baby and still manages to keep the chaos to a minimum. For awhile whenever I went over to her house I was fairly amazed at the fact that she managed to keep things clean. And I have seen and heard plenty of examples of destruction from these boys, it's not like they are low maintenance. (Meanwhile when she came over to my house she said it was like seeing a vision of what her life would be like post-baby. I told her not to worry, it would only be this bad if she's crazy enough to have 4 surgeries right after having that baby.) One day Sarah showed up on my doorstep with her cleaning caddy and while our babies laid on a blanket and our kids played together we attacked Thing 1's room. The progress that we made in an hour and a half was nothing short of astounding. I snapped a picture and sent it to my husband. (I'd post the picture, but it doesn't mean very much without the before shot.)  He asked me if a wizard had visited our house. Almost. Here are some tips that Sarah gave me as we cleaned.
  • Tackle one room at a time, and if you can, do it with a friend. :)
  • Take at least half the toys and pack them away. Rotate them when the kids get bored or request one that they can't find.
  • Throw things away. Be ruthless. (Apparently throwing things away is one of Sarah's favorite-st things to do. And she always throws away all McDonald's toys. It made me think, instead of buying the Happy Meals in the first place, I may just pay my kids $1 every time to not get the toy. Then they can save up for something nicer.)
  • Don't leave the room to put things away. You're wasting time and energy. Give yourself 3 (or 4) containers. 1. Put away (elsewhere in the house) 2. Throw away 3. Give away (4. Pack away- toys or seasonal clothes.) 
  • Teach your children not to hoard. It's a tough thing, kids like to collect things with little or no value. And Thing 1 is the 'hoardiest' child I have encountered. Really, I adore her, but she wants to save every ribbon, every paper, every broken balloon, every rock and every leaf.  It's not conducive to keeping her room or the rest of the house clean.
  • Hangers are your friend. Kids have a tendency to 'dump' shelves and drawers. Hang up as much stuff as you can.
  • Clorox tabs help keep your toilet clean between scrubbings. (Sarah said without them and with three little boys she had to scrub her toilets daily.)
  • Pumice stones are great for removing any hard to remove spots on the inside of your toilet bowl.
  • Energy efficiency toilets are much harder to clean. We have a regular toilet in the bathroom that gets used the most and a "low-flow" toilet in our master bath and I couldn't figure out why I spent twice as much time scrubbing our master toilet with lesser results. Sarah enlightened me. So I may be saving some water with that toilet, but not to make up for the wasted time, energy and cleaning supplies that I have to put into maintaining it. This is a case where I don't think trying to save the environment pays off. If only dual-flush toilets were easily available in our area like they are in Europe.
I think that the biggest enemy to maintaining a clean house is clutter. At first when Sarah was strongly pushing me to throw stuff away, it was slightly uncomfortable. I felt like the guests on 'What Not to Wear'. They know that they don't dress well, but they have a hard time parting with their old clothes that are what make them poorly dressed even though someone is giving them $5000 to spend on new better looking clothes. There's an emotional attachment to the old clothes. I feel the same way about the clutter. I know that if my house is ever going to get clean I have to get rid of a lot of the junk. Part of me says 'But I spent money on this junk! How can I throw it away?' or 'But (fill in the relative) gave them that toy, sometime I will get around to fixing it.' Yeah, well I have to get over that, uncomfortable though it may be. The reality is that I am not going to get around to fixing broken toys and having a clean house is more important to me than having a bunch of junk.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Food Storage Friday: Squash and Bean Quesadillas with Apple Salsa

This recipe doesn't contain a "ton" of food storage ingredients, but it's tasty, healthy and a good way to mix it up. I found this recipe when I googled "the best thing to do with butternut squash". My husband hates squash and really liked this, so you know it's good. I have to apologize for the lack of picture. I made it when my family came to visit, and all portions were inhaled before I had a chance to take a picture, but here's where I found it. (Of course I changed it some.)The quesadillas without the fresh salsa are ok, but the apple salsa is what really makes this.

Squash & Bean Quesadillas
Food Storage Ingredients:
1 can (14.5 oz) beans, rinsed and drained (I used kidney)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Ingredients:
3 cups of cooked and peeled squash (I used butternut, the original recipe called for acorn)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
12 small tortillas
2 medium apples, diced
1 large handful cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lime juice

1.Mix salsa ingredients and store in fridge. 2. Cook chopped onion & garlic in oil in a large skillet until onions are clear. 3. Add squash & spinach. Cook for 10 minutes. 4. Stir in beans, cumin, salt and pepper. 5. Spread 1/6th of squash mixture on a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and cook in skillet until cheese is melted. Cover with a second tortilla, flip and cook until second tortilla is toasted. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Cut tortillas into wedges and cover with apple salsa. Serves 6.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What Happily Married Couples Do

Recently I read an article in a Church publication called "What Happily Married Couples Do: Ten ideas for enriching your marital relationship". (Click on the link if you want to read the entire thing.) It has ideas that can help every married couple to improve their relationships.

  1. Have positive conversations. I think this is a part of any healthy relationship.
  2. Show affection. Everyone needs to be touched.
  3. Remember that you are each other's therapists. You are the one that knows more back story than anyone else.
  4. Be humble and cultivate Christ-like attributes. Christ knows that your spouse is a person of worth with great potential, talents and someone who was worth sacrificing for. Something to consider.
  5. Date frequently. Something that is often hard with small children, but so important!
  6. Enrich your intimacy. This made me smile. What a delicate way of saying, 'Make sure you and your spouse get it on.'
  7. Spend time with children and grandchildren. Family is a mutual interest and inherently part of your relationship.
  8. Seek feedback and help each other. It's important to communicate and work together.
  9. Eliminate anger. How can you be happy when you are angry?
  10. Be sensitive to each other's stress levels. Ditto to my comment about #1.
I think that this is pretty sound advice. I don't think these ideas will solve all domestic discord, but I can see them making things better for a lot of people. If you value your relationship with your spouse, you have take actions to maintain and improve it. Happy marriages don't happen by accident or by magic. They require thought and effort. And you don't have to do all of these ideas at once, try focusing on one each month. Hopefully they will bring smiles to the face of you and your spouse.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Food Storage Friday: Sweet Chilean Lime Beans and Rice

Recently I got a recipe exchange chain email from a friend of mine. I passed it on to several people in my address book including an old nursing instructor. She's currently serving a mission so declined to participate, but did give me this recipe for Sweet Chilean Lime Beans and Rice. I tweaked it so it worked well in my crock pot and had a stronger lime flavor. My husband (one of my toughest and most important food critics) loved it. This with a side of fruit makes a complete meal, but it would also go great as a side with enchiladas, tacos or chipotle seasoned and grilled meat. The lime and sweetness is subtle, but gives it a nice flavor. Honestly it has more of a pepper, garlic and onion flavor than sugar and lime.

Sweet Chilean Lime Beans and Rice
Food Storage Ingredients:
4 (15 oz) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
7 cups broth (chicken, vegetable, whatever)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons white sugar
2 cups brown rice or 3 cups instant white rice
salt to taste

Fresh Ingredients:
2 green bell peppers, seeded, 1 diced
2 yellow onions, quartered
2 cloves garlic 
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup champagne (I used sparkling red grape juice)

1. Put 6 cups of broth, beans and diced bell pepper in crock pot on high for one hour. 2. Blend onions, remaining pepper, black pepper, cumin, sugar, 1 cup of broth and garlic until smooth. Add to beans. 3. If using brown rice, stir into beans and cook for three hours. If not, just cook for three hours and add instant white rice ten minutes before done. 4. Half an hour before finished slowly pour in champagne (or juice) and lime juice. Makes 10 servings.
Notes: The original recipe called for instant rice. I really prefer brown, so that's what we used with my adjustment, but the instant white rice should work.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Book Review: How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family

To give me some ideas to make it through my pantry challenge, I read How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family: So Many Innovative Strategies You Won't Have to Cut Coupons by Steve and Annette Economides. I enjoyed reading it. It has lots of great suggestions, even if sometimes it's a little on the cheesy side. I love that the authors emphasize that your time is at least as valuable as your money. They spend $350 each month feeding their large family, and they don't do it by hitting the loss leaders at 6 grocery stores per week. The strategies that they use work for them because they provide them with more time with their family. And their basic suggestions aren't new or revolutionary, but they do elaborate with lots of examples that have worked for them and other families who read their blog.
  • Have a plan- plan your grocery list, plan your meals, plan your money
  • Look at ads, then coupon and price match 
  • Stock up on good deals
  • Shop once per month
  • Cook once per month & freeze multiple meals
  • Get your family involved
  • Organize your kitchen/pantry/freezer in a way that makes shopping & cooking efficient
  • Learn to cook and eat at home
  • Garden
 That's the basic premise of their book. These down-to-earth ideas are all things that we have heard before, but I think the key that really brings it all together is having a plan. This is true when it comes to most things, whether you're talking about feeding your family, saving for college or running a business. You have to decide that your are going to save money on your groceries and how you are going to do it.
 At the end of every chapter they have suggestions for which ever level you're at. If you're a beginner there are suggestions for you, there are suggestions for those with some experience who are trying to do better and then there are even tips for the experts. In one of the book reviews I read, someone complained that all of the ideas in this book were great if you have a large family, but irrelevant for most people. I have to disagree with that. They have suggestions that work for the young, old and in between. There are ideas that can work if you live by yourself or are part of a family of 12. You just have to pick out the ideas that are relevant to your situation.
  Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:
  • Buy produce in bags, you get more for your money. Produce bags have to be a certain minimum weight, but often weigh more than that and are usually cheaper per pound than loose produce.
  • Share recipes with friends to get new cooking ideas.
  • Put a small plastic basket in your cart where you put all of your "impulse buys". Before you get to the check-out evaluate if you really need any or all of those items.
  • Picky eaters can easily sabotage frugality. Find creative ways to get them to eat what the rest of the family is eating.