Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The one that looks back on 2014 and looks forward to 2015.

2014 has been an incredibly blessed year for me. It's also been a year full of struggles.

First off to begin 2014, there was the birth of my incredible son.


But having a brand new baby and owning your own business is by no means easy. My marriage struggled with the 60 plus hours a week I was working and my sanity really got strained. I started off the New Year of 2014 wondering how I could possibly juggle it all. I was pumping, feeding, working, and never sleeping. It put such a huge strain on my marriage because I physically couldn't stay up after about 8 o'clock. My husband and I never got to see each other. The first 6 months of Tristan's life until finally closing up the daycare really just flew by. 

Then there is the daycare itself. It was such an emotional roller coaster to come to a path where we had to decide to expand or to close. Our problem was not that our business was unsuccessful. Our problem was that our business was too successful. We quite quickly outgrew our space. We had capped out at an income that was jokable. We knew if we ever wanted to make more money we'd have to start over at a new space and it just became impossible to think about working even further on a second location or a new bigger location. We were all missing our family lives and returning to them became most important. 

The last half of 2014 my family and I have spent re-adjusting to life as a one income family. Things have not been easy. Not one bit. I am so thankful that I have an incredibly supportive husband who is willing to try anything to make me happy. We have struggled so much this year, but in a good way. We are really growing into a stronger couple, I truly believe that. And sometimes we have knock out, drag down fights because we are both passionate, stubborn people. We are not perfect, our marriage is nowhere near perfect, our life isn't perfect, but it is perfect. We are making it. We know we can do just about anything and that's very empowering. 

This year was the year that my mental health struggles really came to a head. I was diagnosed bipolar and I found some peace in that. Coming to terms with my mental health issues and using them to empower me rather than tear me down is something that I'm still learning. 

Some things I'm looking forward to in 2015 are continuing to grow this blog, to offer more opportunities and contests to my readers, to keep doing what I love, and probably even more things I haven't even thought of yet. I hope you all have an incredibly Happy New Year. I'm spending mine with my loves. It won't be perfect, but it will be.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

The one about Seventh Generation Touch of Cloth Diapers

Recently I was sent a sample of Seventh Generation's new Touch of Cloth diapers. The sample included 2 diapers and lucky (or maybe unlucky) I ended up with 1 dirty and 1 wet diaper which made for a pretty good sampling of what to expect from these new diapers. First of all, I was a bit surprised (in a good way) to pull them out of the package and see the 2 completely white diapers. I hate the fact that good diapers are covered in characters that you have to pay extra money for. Secondly, I noticed they feel a bit more starchy than a normal diaper. Not less soft, per se, but just a drier feel. I wanted to break it down into pros and cons that are just easy to understand:

PROS
-The diaper is free of inks, lotions, and chemicals.
-The diaper is all white so you aren't paying for character licensing fees.
-The diaper held up well to my heavy wetter. (Seriously my kid eats like a horse, so his wet diapers are always super soaked) No leaks.
-The diaper held up well to a dirty diaper. (TMI: A soft one) No leaks.

CONS:
-The dry texture of the diaper could be off putting to some people, but it didn't bother me.
-The price. The price is higher for less quantity of diaper, but you are paying a slight premium to not have your baby touched by chemicals all day. This diaper, in my opinion, would be the second best option to cloth if you could afford it. A 66-pack runs $27.99. The equivalent in Pampers runs $23.49. If I had the extra money to spend, I wouldn't mind spending it on a chemical free diaper.

OVERALL:
Seventh Generation Touch of Cloth Diapers are a great alternative when you're out on the road and cloth diapers are a hassle. I still love my cloth diapers, but I do disposables when I'm out for convenience. The price is a bit steeper, but it's really worth it.

DISCLAIMER: I was sent this sample pack of diapers for free, but the opinions in this post are my own. :)


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The one that talks more about my bipolar disorder.

I've had several people email me asking me more about my bipolar disorder. How did I know I had it, how did I find out that's what it was vs. postpartum depression, etc. I want to try and answer all those questions because this issue is so near and dear to me. I think it's so important to acknowledge mental health issues and deal with them head on. If you are suffering with mental health issues, don't just ignore them. GET HELP. I can't stress this enough. I was bound by time constraints and availability of my psychiatrist, but if I could have gotten help sooner, I definitely would have. There is no reason to suffer. Mental health problems are real and they affect a lot of people. So here are some of the common questions that I've been asked.

1. How did I know it was something more than regular depression?

This question is tough, because honestly I didn't. During the start of it I felt really bad off. I felt suicidal. I actually saw another doctor before my psych who thought it was just a really, really bad case of postpartum depression. I had just had my son a few months before. She put me on an antidepressant which did help the depression side of it, but something was still off. I had a lot of terrible mood swings and a lot of anger. I felt really out of control. This out of control feeling was really what set off me wondering if there was something more at play than just regular depression or even postpartum depression.

2. What kind of medicines do you take everyday?

I take a regular antidepressant. I also take a type of medicine called a mood stabilizer. It helps curb my mood swings, but doesn't make me feel like an emotionless zombie or anything. I'm still in the process of getting the dosage correct with my mood stabilizer. This has been ongoing for almost 3 months, another reason why it's so important to get help as soon as possible. The medicines take a long time to get into full effect. Bipolar disorder can also cause insomnia. Insomnia is something I've struggled with since I was a teenager. So I also take a sleeping medication. I am on a lot of medications, but without them I am a train wreck. Medicines can be scary to some people, but if you're struggling, I can tell you your life will improve tenfold by getting on them. Don't be afraid.

3. What does bipolar feel like?

Bipolar varies hugely from person to person. When I was describing everything to the psychiatrist and she came back with Bipolar disorder I was confused at first. I thought that mania always meant you were super happy and crazy. Not always. My mania looks angry and very moody. I was hyperactive. I would do things like clean every inch of my house. The depression part looks the same for most people and it's a classical depression type of feeling. Huge feelings of sadness, decreased enjoyment in life. Inability to carry on daily life successfully. It's pretty rough when you are in the depressive side of things.

4. Why did you decide to get help?

This one is easy. I could no longer carry on in my daily life without getting help. I was extremely moody and I was making myself and everyone around me miserable. Everyone would say things like, "Something is wrong.", or, "You're not yourself." My close family was scared for me. These are huge red flags that you need help and you need it fast!

So, in short, get help if you're feeling overly depressed or out of control. There is no reason to feel terrible everyday. Feel free to ask me more questions. I am an avid supporter of mental health causes and love to help. I don't feel like it's anything to be ashamed of at all.

I've included some links to some websites about bipolar disorder:

Mayo Clinic pages about Bipolar.

WebMD pages about types and symptoms of Bipolar.

Bipolar Screening Quiz. 

Bipolar Lives Support for Bipolar.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

The one about Dove Nutrium Moisture body wash.

It's no secret that I'm a frugal mommy. Shower routine to me usually means taking one as fast as I possibly can so that I can go to sleep. So I was especially excited this week when I opened up my mailbox to find my Dove Nutrium Moisture body wash. Dove is putting on the #OneShowerChallenge and so they sent me a free sample to take the challenge. When I'm at the grocery store, I normally don't like to spend a lot of money, so I generally don't buy body wash. But that's partially because it just seems like it's the same as shampoo. The first thing I noticed about Dove Nutrium body wash is that it is not the same consistency as shampoo at all. Dove Nutrium body wash feels like lotion. It's super soft and luxurious feeling. It also smells fabulous.

Basically, the body wash goes on more like lotion. It's not super sudsy. I like that about it. I take a super hot shower and the steam really carried the smell of the body wash to my whole shower and I really liked that. It was a nice break from hurry the heck up and shower. I felt like I was pampering myself and let's be honest, what mom couldn't use a little pampering? After the shower, I definitely noticed a difference in the way my skin felt. My skin is mostly soft except for my shins dry out in the winter time. My shins felt like I had put lotion on and that's pretty cool. My whole body definitely felt softer. Cool! I used to lotion after my shower before I had kids. I forgot how nice that feeling was. I will have to actually buy the Nutrium wash for myself, because it's like a two for one. Overall, I would definitely recommend trying Dove Nutrium body wash. Get some!

Also, there is still lots of time to enter my Calico Critters giveaway! Go on over and check it out!


Disclosure: I received this sample for free, but the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The one with the Calico Critters GIVEAWAY!!!! Woohoo!!

It's the day after Christmas, but I'm still in the giving spirit! Today I am hosting an awesome giveaway for a Calico Critters family!! I've already stated in a lot of my blog posts my love for Calico Critters and a family is a great way to start a collection. This is one of the cuter families, too in my opinion! The Tuxedo Cat family is dressed to the nines with the girls in silk dresses and dad is wearing a suit.

Calico Critters are great toys for imaginative play in kids. Plus they are just well made, wholesome toys. 

So go ahead and enter below! Contiguous U.S. only, please!!! :)


Thursday, December 25, 2014

The one with Christmas wishes.

From my family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. We spent yesterday enjoying food, family, and fun at Zak's Grandma's nursing home. Me and Harper got tons of cool Calico Critters and Tristan got lots of really nice clothes. Harper was so excited for opening gifts. Tristan was aloof about it, but then Harper was really excited to open up his gifts for him and of course pre-try them out. She's spent a lot of time playing with his stuff and probably thinking this big sister stuff isn't so bad after all!

Today we got to go spend time with Zak's dad and his wonderful girlfriend, Jane. We had a lot of laughs, some more good food, and a really good time. I was super stoked because they got me new dishes and we were in bad need of them. Can't wait to make my next food dish and take pictures on them! They are bright and beautiful. They also got me some cool casserole dishes.

Then finally, this evening, my sister and my dad came over and we had EVEN MORE good food. I made a big chicken dinner and the kids all loved their stuff they got.

All in all, my holiday was wonderful and I got to spend a lot of time with the people that I love. I don't know that there is much more that I can ask for. I want to send a big thank you to all the people who read my blog and wish you all a Merry Christmas. I am so thankful for each of you and for allowing me to have a positive outlet for my creative energy. Love you all,

Alex

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The one where I keep her up late.

Today I'm doing a flashback piece to one of my favorite posts that I don't think too many have actually read. It's a letter to Ms. Harper and I just love the way it turned out and so I want to share it again. I hope you all enjoy it.

To my amazing 3 year old:

Some nights I'm selfish. You should be sleeping. We pick out 2 bedtime stories but we read far more. You love the book I wrote for you about your first year and my pregnancy with you. We look at the ultrasounds and the pictures I spent hours pawing through when I should have been working and you tell me your story since we've read it so many times and my heart overflows with love. So I keep you up.

When we get into bed and I ask you your favorite part of the day and you always surprise me with what you liked the most, I keep you up.

When we talk about what we are thankful for and every single night you wrap your arms around my neck and tell me you are thankful for me and then go on to list every relative you can think of, I keep you up.

When sometimes you tell me I'm your favorite Alex, I don't correct you and say  I'm your mommy, I just keep you up.

As you reach for me to hold my hand sometimes as you fall asleep I remember you won't always be 3 you will be 13 one day and I will be longing for you to need me like you do now, so I keep you up.

As I watch you stroke the fur on the face of your lovey, Bunny Pillow, and slowly fall asleep and start to snore, my heart bursts and breaks at the same time knowing another day with you is gone. You are getting bigger and you are so excited to get big, but I will miss these days so much so I keep you up.

You are endlessly kind and loving to your little brother. He loves you so much and I am so happy we were blessed with both of you that I keep you up.

I keep you up because I can't believe that I made you and you are good. You are so good sweet girl. Don't ever forget that. And I may just be selfish again and keep you up because I can't stand to lose a minute of it.

Forever yours,
Your favorite Alex
Mommy



Monday, December 22, 2014

The one about my TOP 5 FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES!!

It's that time of year again. IT'S TIME FOR

That's right! I'm kind of like Oprah. This edition is about my top 5 favorite Christmas movies. Yes nothing gets Christmas going by exhausting your S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with some Christmas GLAD! In no particular order, because how do you choose just one:

5) DIE HARD. Do I even need to explain this? If I do, I'll just do it with this GIF.







4) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. This Christmas classic is one of my all time favorite movies in general. It's a classic. Again, I need a GIF.







3) Elf. This place reminds me of Santa's Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me. This is a goodie because kids like it as well as grown ups. That's a big thing around here. Watching movies that the kidlets will enjoy but that are tolerable to adults is my favorite.






2) Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It's got John Candy AND Steve Martin in it. Need I say more?







1) JINGLE ALL THE WAY. It's got Schwarzenegger in it. Zak and I are crazy about Schwarzenegger. And don't forget, you're my number one customer!






Some close calls are A Christmas Story, Scrooged, the classic Rudolph cartoon, and probably even more I'm forgetting. What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The one with the reindeer craft.

Sundays are our lazy days. We sit around mostly in jammies hanging out, watching football when it's the season (Zak loves football), I usually make a good dinner, and we just enjoy each other's company. Sometimes Sundays are boring, but in a good way. This morning we had an awesome breakfast with my angel mother-in-law. Good food and good times. This afternoon we napped and then once we were all awake Harper was kind of bored and mopey. So she and I were looking for a way to beat the winter blues. She really wants to go outside, but it's so brisk, I'm just not into it.

So I decided to whip up this easy little craft. It took me a few minutes. Here's what you'll need to re-create it:

Light colored paper
Paints
If you're Harper, copious amounts of glitter glue and I do mean copious.
Brightly colored background paper, Harp chose blue
Glue

First if you're artistically inclined, draw the reindeer and antler shapes onto a piece of thick paper and cut them out. If you're not artistically inclined, Google image search reindeer coloring page and prepare for an onslaught of Christmas. Print one out and cut it out. I drew mine and here's what I ended up with:


First we painted the head.

Then we painted the antlers.


Harper chose glitter paint, because GLITTER. It's the messiest ever and she loves it. The saying is that glitter is the herpes of the arts and crafts world. This saying is true. It's so, so awful. We'll be finding glitter on our table for 3 weeks. Lol. 

Next we glued the pieces on our background paper. You could just paint on your page you made, but I think it makes a cleaner picture done by a 3-year old to cut and paste. Then we put on the nose. We used a mix of glitter glue and paint, because again, can we do anything without glitter? The answer is no.


Then I cut out an eye. Harper had to put more glitter glue on that of course.


And then we went over the eye with blue paint. And then Harper decided to put random paint spots on other parts of the paper, because she's 3 and why not? There you have it! Easy peasy reindeer craft. 

In other exciting news, Tristan man cut his first tooth. Freaking finally!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The one about Love with Food: December Box Review


Yesterday I was super stoked to open up my mailbox and find my monthly snack box had arrived. Once again, Love with Food did not disappoint. This month I got:

  • Kettle Corn by Oogies 
  • Pitted Green Olives by Olympos 
  • Hazelnut Spread by Nocciolata 
  • Cookie Chips by Hannah Max 
  • Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels by Liddabit Sweets 
  • Chocolate Honey Mints by Honey Acres 
  • Espresso Candies by Bali's Best 
  • Dark Chocolate Coconut by Next by Nature
  • Numerous Coupons
  • $100 Wine Voucher


Now before I talk about the products, let's talk about Love with Food again. Love with Food is a monthly snack subscription service that is all about all natural snacks. You won't find any junk in these products and a good majority of them are organic, which I love. I'm on a cleaner eating diet. Processed food is terrible for you friends. Love with Food is an amazing organization for a lot of reasons:

1) They seriously care about their customers. Last month when my box was late, they sent me a personal email telling me sorry AND gave me store credit to buy snacks.
2) They are passionate in the fight to end hunger. For every box they send out, they donate a meal to a hungry child. So not only are you getting good, delicious, healthy snacks. You are also helping stop hunger. How cool is that?
3) They give you points for writing reviews and rating products. These points can then be used to buy snacks. It's the most delicious rating service ever.

Now let's talk about the food. This month, the first thing I tore open were the dark chocolate sea salt caramels. Holy cow friends, these did not disappoint. I'm a big fan of sea salt caramel. YES. Hubby's first venture were the Chocolate Honey Mints. He said they were fabulous. Harper's first try was the kettle corn. She ate the whole little bag. She's a picky thing so they must have been good! The point is, the snacks are great, the cause is even better. Subscribe today! You won't regret it. 

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, but I was not compensated in anyway. The opinions are my own. :) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The one about the snowy day.

Yesterday was a great day to just rest after our busy day on Wednesday. The kids and I were all whooped. But, something magical happened in the morning. Snow started falling and falling and falling. I had to get Tristan outside for the first time in the snow since my Grandma just bought him an awesome Christmas Story-esque snow suit. Unfortunately, Tristan is not a big fan of snow or snow suits, but I still got some cute pictures of his first time in the snow. Harper on the other hand is a huge fan of snow and she and I got to have some fun before Trist really worked himself up in a tizzy. We threw snow balls, giggled, built a tiny snow man, and tried really hard to get Tristan to have fun.

Sometimes I take staying at home for granted. I may shake my head and get frustrated with my kiddos. But other times like yesterday, I just bask in it. I may not have gotten to enjoy his first snowy day if I didn't get to stay at home. I wouldn't have gotten to fight him for 15 minutes to put on his bulky snow suit. I wouldn't have gotten to feel all his extra weight shifting around as I carried him or to try and convince him that the snow was okay even though it was cold. I wouldn't have gotten to see his first steps a few weeks ago. I wouldn't get to hear him try and say, "Night, night," to me when it's time for nap. I wouldn't know every little cry or noise he makes. I wouldn't get to see his scrunchy face when he's frustrated. I am not always thankful, but yesterday I was. Cherishing thankful moments is so important. It's what gets you through hard times and good times. Be thankful in all that you do as much as you can.

Here are the pictures of our snow adventure:

What fresh hell is this?

This is cold and awful!

I want to get up and run like sissy!

Looking miserable.

My snow baby.

The one smile I got out of him.

Guess where that snow ball is going?

She thought she was so funny!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The one about the ENT appointment.

We had our long awaited ENT appointment today for Ms. Harper. It was a long and arduous appointment. I'm glad it's over, although, we're not really fully resolved at this point about where we go next. Harper had an initial appointment, a hearing test, and a bronchoscopy.

Here is a diagram of the bronchoscopy:


This was totally awful with a 3 year old who doesn't understand what the hell is going on. They wouldn't let me hold her and she fought them tooth and nail. She did not want that thing up her nose one bit. They had to check her larynx, though, to make sure that it had resolved and did not require surgery, too. Another helpful thing (not) was that the lady who did hold her was not a warm, loving type at all. All of the nurses and doctors we encountered at Cardinal Glennon were amazing, but the support staff left a lot to be desired. 

The bronchoscope was very traumatizing for Harper and she cried when I brought it up most of the day. I took her to Starbucks and got her a special cake pop afterwards and let her pick out a Shopkins at Target and that seemed to help. She kept saying that she, "Would be brave next time the black spaghetti came near her nose". Poor baby girl. 

Basically, the good news we've figured out right now is that her nasal structures are normal. Her tubes in her ears are working great. She's hearing just fine. Her laryngomalacia has resolved. The bad news is that she most likely has asthma. She is a noisy breather, especially when she's excited or exerting a lot of energy. Since it's not being caused by her larynx, it's most likely being caused by asthma. The doctor put her on medicine to try and help out her athsma. She also has enlarged tonsils and adenoids and so those need to go, too. But because of her asthma, we first have to see a pulmonologist to make sure she is cleared and healthy enough for surgery. We will most likely have surgery in February or March. In the meantime, we are hoping that she is healthy and fine and will do well in all of her testing between now and then. 

Oh and the one bright point of our appointment is this happened:



Not everyday you see Santa ride in on a helicopter. So Merry Christmas, here's a tube down your nose! 





Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The one with the Calico Critters Display.

So as Harp and I gained more and more and more Calico Critters, I began trying to think of a way to put them up that's not all crazy cakes in a basket. I hate digging for things in a basket. Plus, they are ridiculously cute, so why not display them somehow over our play table? A lot of things came to mind, wall shelves, cabinets, etc. But none of them would really hold the Critters up well. Visually I figured, you know what, these guys are the size of spices. So that really drew my attention to spice racks. They make a lot of ornate, wall hanging spice racks. Perfect! And they don't cost that much! Double perfect. Our spice rack came yesterday and I have to say, it looks pretty nice up on the wall.

Spice Rack turned Critter Display Holder
It holds all of the grown up critters we have so far. Plus, look how cute it looks! I still haven't come up with a solution for the baby critters yet.

In other news, Harper's ENT appointment is tomorrow so I'd just ask for prayers, guidance, and overall good juju. I know everything will be just great, but it's still just a bit nerve wracking. Harper's sleep continues to get worse, though, so I know it has to be done and as soon as we can possibly do it. :)




Sunday, December 14, 2014

The one about getting up at 5.

My kids have some sort of evil plot against me and have decided that their new wake up time is 5 am. This is terrible obviously. No one loves getting up at 5 am. In fact I've compiled the Top 5 reasons why getting up at 5 am sucks.

5. No one is happy at 5 am. I'm crabby. The kids are crabby. Everyone is tired. No one got a desirable amount of sleep. 

4. You have to drink 2 cups of coffee in order to feel human. But 2 cups of coffee gives you the jitters and makes it to where you can't nap later. It's the ever apparent coffee/nap crisis. 

3. You are guaranteed to have a weird schedule for your baby for the rest of the day. When the first nap of the day is at 7 in the morning, you just know the day is going to be weird and illogical. 

2. The sun isn't up. It should be sacrilege to wake up before the sun is up. If the sun isn't up, you aren't up. I've tried to explain this logic, but Tristan just stares at me blankly as if he has no idea what I'm talking about. 

1. Caillou is on at 5. Caillou is terrible and all kids love it. There are so many terrible things about Caillou I could say. Why is he bald? Why is his show a dream sequence for puppets? Why does he have such a terrible, whiny voice. WHY?!?! Terrible. And if you get up at 5 you will be forced to watch that terrible show and it'll just irritate you because you should be sleeping but instead you are listening to that whiny little asshole complain.

In short, I'm crabby as hell. I hate getting up at 5. I would be cool with 7 or even 6. But, 5 just makes me say, really kids, really?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The one about cheese enchiladas!

We are on a no processed foods kick over at the Stroup household. I'm also in to anything that I can stick in my oven. Mostly because it helps keep my house warmer for that hour when I'm cooking. Also a fan of copious amounts of cheese. Pretty sure I should have been born in Wisconsin.
Today I'm featuring a recipe from another blog Gimme Some Oven. Last night I had a hankering for some authentic Mexican food. I had some corn tortillas and some cheese, so it was on! This recipe is vegetarian friendly and all delicious. Gimme Some Oven provides the sauce, I provide the tortillas and cheese. ;)



INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 4 Tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Oregano
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Stock (Or Chicken Stock for Non Veg)
  • 8 Ounces of Cheese (I used half White Cheddar, Half Monterey Jack) I always freshly grate mine with my food processor. Cellulose additive in shredded cheese always takes away some of the melt and deliciousness. 
  • 10 Corn Tortillas
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan. It should be starting to get bubbly.
  3. Add flour and mix until there are no clumps.
  4. Add all seasonings. 
  5. Slowly add stock and stir until smooth.
  6. Heat for 10-15 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken slightly. Woohoo! The first part is done and you just made the best enchilada sauce you've ever tasted! (Thanks Gimme Some Oven!). 
  7. Next you need to flash fry your tortillas in the sauce. Grab a pair of tongs. Dip the tortillas in your sauce and cover the entire thing. This goes fast and if you don't take them out fast enough, your tortillas will start to disintegrate. So you basically dip it in, pull it out, throw it in your pan to fill. Repeat with all tortillas. 
  8. Now you are ready to fill those tortillas up! Take some cheese and plop it in the middle of your tortilla and then roll it up. Repeat for all 10. Leftover cheese? There's an app for that. Throw that all over the top of your enchiladas. Can you ever have too much cheese? The answer is no. This is why it's hard to lose weight over here. :) Got leftover enchilada sauce, I have a remedy for that, too. Throw in a can of pinto beans with the sauce, a little milk, and grab a potato masher and make some refried beans. You're welcome. 
  9. Bake your enchiladas for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melty, gooey, and delicious. If you love calories, throw some sour cream on there. Eureka! Heaven is on Earth.

Hope you enjoy! My family ate all of them. Even my pickiest teenager said they were good. Picky toddler tried it, said it was delicious, and then refused to eat them on principle. She's in a super fun stage in case you were wondering. Seriously, though, all bellies were happy. Plates were cleared. No leftovers. That is a sign of delicious if I've ever seen one. 


Friday, December 12, 2014

The one about EdgeWild Restaurant.

Have you ever been somewhere so fabulous that you just have to tell everyone you know about it? That's what Zak and I experienced on Saturday night when we had his work party at a place we'd never heard of called EdgeWild Restaurant. This place is just fabulous. When you drive up, immediately you are thrust into a really cool environment. The restaurant itself is beautiful inside and out. It makes a great first impression. We were seated and our waiter, Paul, was incredibly cordial, friendly, and spirited. He walked us through the whole menu.

We picked out a few appetizers. We settled on the Artisan Cheese plate, Andouille & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms, and finally Truffle Fries. When they brought out our appetizers, both our bellies and our eyes were intrigued! If there is one thing EdgeWild did not lack, it's presentation. Everything looked at beautiful as it tasted. Let's start with the Artisan Cheese plate, they brought out 3 cheeses which I can't even remember what they were, but I can remember that they were EXTREMELY delicious. They were served with fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, and crostinis. We all devoured it pretty quickly. Next, the Truffle Fries. Holy cow. These things were amazing. I'm a truffle lover of all sorts and it just had the most simple but decadent flavor that you could ever imagine. It was served with kalamata olive aioli and let me tell you, I'm a big olive fan. The kalamata olive brought out this amazing garlicky, salty flavor that was indescribably good. Finally, the Andouille & Crawfish Stuffed Mushrooms. They were spicy and savory and all around delicious. We all knew we were in for a real treat when our next course came out. Boy were we right!

The next course we got were salads. I got a Vineyard Salad. It was served with a goat cheese fritter and herbed ranch dressing. The goat cheese fritter was so delicious, I wished I could have had more! The salad was the perfect blend of greens and the oven roasted tomatoes satisfied even my horribly picky, tomato hating husband. He couldn't believe that tomatoes could taste that good!

As if it couldn't get any better, our main dishes came out. I ordered the Crab Topped Center Cut Sirloin. My word. First of all, I ordered my steak medium well. Rarely is it cooked correctly, but much like everything else at EdgeWild, they again got this right. The steak was topped with a delicious blend of black truffle cream and lump crab meat. The steak melted in your mouth. And that's not even saying anything about the perfectly whipped potatoes and grilled asparagus. If that wasn't enough, they brought out desserts.

The dessert menu isn't online and I was in such food heaven at that point, I don't remember what we got was called, but it was the most heavenly chocolate cake that I have ever had. Layers of chocolate and delicious. I can't even describe it to you. You HAVE to try it. Right now. And then they give you chocolates on the way out!!!

Overall, the service, the food, everything was just absolutely fabulous. I can't say enough good things about it. Zak and I can't quit talking about it and we are already planning another day back. I just had to spread the word because sometimes places are so fabulous you just can't shut up about them!!! Try them out!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The one about memories and tinkering.

There's something oddly satisfying to me about setting up mine and Harper's "Calico Critter City", as she so affectionately calls it. I don't know if it's the fact that I dreamed of having them as a little girl when they were still called Maple Town or if it's just tinkering with the tiny little pieces and arranging them that I find calming. My dad said he really thinks it's a good hobby and collectible because he says it's something that Harper won't forget. Our connection over shared interests even if it is a little goofy for an adult to like them. I don't care. 

I think my dad is right in that. My brain has blockaded most of my memories from childhood. Shrinks have told me that this is my brain's defense mechanism to block me from the harm and trauma. That's cool and all, but it would be nice to remember anything about being a kid. Pretty much the only memory I do have is of my sister and mom and I getting snow cones. I'm happy that Harper will have cool memories of us putting together "Calico Critter City" and not just one memory of snow cones. 

Harper wakes up most every day with eager anticipation asking if Daddy can watch Tristan so we can play Calico Critters. My awesome husband went out late in the night the other night to get a big, tall wooden table off of Craigslist so brother bear couldn't reach all our tiny pieces and we could leave our City up and not have to set up the City over and over again. He's awesome like that. I couldn't ask for a better husband. He doesn't think I'm a weirdo for liking dollhouses and he thinks it's fun and cool that I'm a nerd. I've got a couple things close to set up. We decorated our house for Christmas. :) Here are some pictures:
Our House 
Farmer's Market

Sophie Snowbunny in front of the Farmer's Market
Christmas Morning in Calico City

Anyway, this is how Harper and I spend most of our time and I'm okay with that, because we are making memories that will last both of us a lifetime. What are some special activities you do to bond with your kiddos? Leave me a comment and let me know.

With love,

Alex

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The one about spoiling your kids.

When I was a kid, things were not privileged. I lived life in an extremely poor family. I never left the state until I was 23 years old. We never vacationed. My dad owned his own business and he worked HARD. We struggled frequently. My mom made most of our clothes when we were very young. My dad worried about feeding everyone. We couldn't afford to buy school lunches. Christmases were dismal. These types of things are the harsh reminders that come with this time of year. This time of year is especially hard for me. Thinking about connections lost, my beginnings, etc.

It's also an extremely bright and wonderful time of year for me. I vowed as a child to never let my children know the life that I had. I think for the most part I am truly succeeding at that. We don't have a lot of money. But my kids don't know anything about that. They know that they are fed, clothed, and loved. They are spoiled anytime they can be. Which brings on what we did this weekend. Zak got a small bonus at work and for Christmas he let me and Harper have some money and just go have fun. Something that you dreamed about as a poor kid. Going to the toy store and picking out several things.

While I know people believe that we are bringing up privileged, spoiled, instant gratification kids in today's world, I also know the pains and struggles of the other side. If you can't possibly give your kids the world or even feed them a full meal for their bellies, is that good either? If you could shield your kids from those fears, wouldn't you want to? I'm not saying that over spoiling is great. But, I'm saying let your kids be kids and let them get spoiled every once in awhile. It's just as important, if you can do it, to let them know that they can have nice things, too. We instill in our kids how important it is for mommy and daddy to work hard so I can stay home and be with them everyday. We instill in our kids how important it is that they feel special and important. We instill love, kindness, and generosity. We instill gratitude and thankfulness. Everyday we talk about what we are thankful for.

So, in short, I think you should spoil your kids a little if you can. You might not be able to tomorrow. Let kids live those dreams that you had that maybe you couldn't achieve. If that makes them privileged or spoiled, maybe that isn't such a bad thing. If you teach your kids manners and gratitude, love and affection, you will reap what you sow. And I don't think there can ever be too much of that in this world.

Here are some of our spoils:







Sunday, December 7, 2014

The one about cloth diapering.

It's no secret I'm a thrifty mommy. I try all sorts of tips and tricks to save some money around the homestead. A great way to do this is cloth diapering. I'm going to instill my cloth diapering tips and tricks on you guys. Hopefully you can use it and maybe save some money yourselves!



We still use disposables overnight because T is a super heavy wetter. We also use disposables when we're out and about so I don't have to carry a wet bag.

What's in my stash:

20 Fuzzibunz One Size Pocket Diaper Covers
20 Microfiber Inserts
20 Hemp Inserts

What I've used in the past:
Prefolds
Thirsties Duo Wraps
BumGenius Diapers
G Diapers
Bumpkins Diapers

The Fuzzibunz that I use are hand me downs and that's why I have them. They are a basic pocket diaper and what I'll use for the examples. I've used a ton of different diapers in the past and the Fuzzibunz are right in the middle of the pack for your typical diaper. I suggest using Microfiber inserts with a hemp insert as a doubler AKA double insert. You want to use a doubler generally, because it helps to not have leaks. I suggest hemp because they are super, super thin and very absorbent. Here's some pictures of the cloth diapers and inserts:


Outside of Pocket Diaper
Inside of pocket diaper


Hemp Insert on Left, Microfiber on Right

Look at this cloth diapered cutie!

STRIPPING YOUR DIAPERS:
The first thing you are going to do when you get your diapers is to strip them. Stripping can be done a number of ways, but the way that I generally do it is put my washer on the PRESOAK setting. My washer is a newer style, but if yours isn't, you can just put it on your longest wash cycle on HOT. Then you will do another regular wash on hot and then 2 rinses on cold. This should strip your diapers of any yucky detergents that may be in your diapers. Since I strip with bleach, I only have to do this once a month to once every other month. Basically you strip when your diapers start to hold smell.

WASHING YOUR DIAPERS NORMALLY:
When I wash my diapers normally, I use All Free & Clear detergent:



First things first, shake out any solid BM's into your toilet. Next, I presoak before every wash. If your washer doesn't have the presoak function, you will wash your diapers through a hot long wash cycle twice, and two cold rinses. If your washer does have a presoak, you will presoak on hot, wash on longest wash cycle on hot, and then do one cool rinse. You will use an extremely small amount of detergent. Basically enough to just cover the cap bottom. You will only add detergent at the beginning. The rest of your washes and rinses will be detergent free.

PREPARING YOUR POCKET DIAPER:


Lay your microfiber insert over top of the hemp insert.
Open your pocket up.
Holding tight to your inserts to keep them straight, stuff your hand with inserts into your pocket in a diagonal.
Holding tight to your insert remove your hand.
Stuff your hand back in to flatten out the inserts.
A view showing the stuffed inserts. Hemp goes in back, microfiber goes in front.
Tuck the insert in fully. It's ready to be put on your baby!

Snap diaper on snugly using snaps or velcro on diaper. It needs to be very snug and tight around the legs with none of the inside of the diaper or inserts showing on the outside. Tuck in any parts that may be showing.
Cloth diapers have a shelf life of 90 minutes to 2 hours. You will need to change them more frequently than regular diapers. Also, you need to wash them every day or every other day. Don't let them sit any longer than that or it will be absolutely disgusting!

I think I touched on everything. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I can answer them!