Monday, December 13, 2010

The Most Important Little People

This year I bought the Fisher Price Little People Nativity set, and the girls have played with it almost every day.  This morning while Rachel and I were learning a new Christmas song, I peeked over at Reese and saw that she had placed people and animals all around Baby Jesus.  I'm pretty sure her setup is not far off from the reality.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baby Gizmo Giveaway

If you're a mom, Baby Gizmo is a great baby product resource site to have in your favorites!  They have reviews, news and price comparisons for tons of baby products!  On top of all this, they host some awesome giveaways!  Right now they are on day 12 of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!  Sadly I missed the first 11 days, but day 12 is totally worth entering - a Bugaboo Chameleon!
In addition to the Christmas giveaway, they are hosting a giveaway for a $250 Visa gift card to bloggers who help spread the word!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Giveaways!

I'm a little late posting this given that the giveaways are halfway through, but there is still time to enter and win!!

One of my favorite sites, Hip2Save has been doing giveaways all day from magazine subscriptions to fruit baskets to flip flops :)

Frugal Coupon Living is part of the "Win Giveaways" facebook group of 12 bloggers, which means up to 12 chances to win!  These giveaways include shoes, a Dell printer, a bike, a Red Envelope credit, and restaurant gift cards!

My newest finds are two awesome blogs who teamed up for a holiday gift guide & giveaway!  A Mom's Balancing Act and Thanks, Mail Carrier have giveaways for a Bissell floor cleaner, a Nestle baking gift basket, a Kolcraft Contours stroller, and lots more!

Check them out, enter, and win!  :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Last Minute Gift Ideas

If you're really organized and plan ahead, you're probably already done with your Christmas shopping.  You're "one of those" who have shopped and stocked up all year long and finished up with a few last deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  But if you're like me, a major procrastinator, there are still gifts to be found and bought.  This one's for you.  Here are my quick & easy go-to gift suggestions:

For the Kiddos
These are tried and true favorites/most played with!
Fisher Price Little People - the beginnings of imaginative play!  Remember all the time you spent playing Barbies?  This is the 2-5 year old version.  We have the house, the barn, the castle and lots and lots of people and animals (mostly from yard sales :), and the girls play with them almost daily. 
Magnetic Doodler - aka "Magnadoodle".  We started with just one of these, and then the girls fought over it so much that we bought another.  We also have mini Doodlers for the car - great as stocking stuffers!
Tag Reading System from Leapfrog - I actually won this from a Leapfrog sweepstakes after Christmas last year and both girls have loved using it. I ended up getting a Tag Jr for Reese (age 2), but she can use the Tag pen just fine, and it reads both Tag books and Tag Jr books (the Jr only reads Jr books).
anything Crayola Color Wonder - This is one of my favorites!  If you haven't yet discovered this awesome line from Crayola, it is a mother's dream!  Mess-free markers and paint!  They are clear and only appear on the special Color Wonder paper - not hands, clothes or the wall!

For Me (and others like me)
You know all those techy gadgets that everyone has?  Well everyone doesn't have those, because I still don't!  I still don't own a smartphone or a gps or a flip video camera.  Mostly because when it comes down to spending money, I try to only buy things we need.  But I'd gladly take any of those as a gift ;) Anything that would make someone's life easier is always a good bet.

Gift Packages
For the people who have everything or whom you don't know well enough to know what to buy them.  A gift package is easy to put together and fun to receive!  Stick it all in a nice basket and add a bow!
  • Movies - a favorite movie, popcorn, a blockbuster/netflix gift card
  • Cookies - ready to mix cookie recipe and some cute cookie cutters
  • Cocoa/Coffee - a package of special coffee and a fun mug and some biscotti
  • Wine - a fav bottle, wine tags, bottle stopper, cheese, etc
  • Cocktails - all the makings of a favorite drink and a fun new glass
  • Music - concert tickets or an iTunes gift card & snazzy headphones
And when all else fails, bake a bunch of cookies, snag some gift cards or give to their favorite charity in their honor!

Monday, December 6, 2010

God Gave Us So Much - Book Review

I'm excited to have joined a couple of book review sites where I will be sent a free book of my choice (from their list) in exchange for my review of it.  How fun!

The first book I received was "God Gave Us So Much" written by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryan.  This is actually a 3-in-1 Limited Edition that includes "God Gave Us the World", "God Gave Us Love" and "God Gave Us Heaven".  My four-year-old and I started reading as soon as we opened our package, read through all three stories, and have read it a few times more since then.  Each story is about Little Cub and her many questions about God's creation and His love.  I love that many of Little Cub's questions are the same ones I have heard from my own girls, and that the answers she receives from her Mama, Papa and Grandpa are loving, honest and biblically based.  In addition to the stories, we also really enjoyed the illustrations of the polar bear family and their love for each other.  This book would make a great gift, keepsake, or to use as a reference when your own kids start asking these questions!

Feel free to rate my review here.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Not your average Cranberry Sauce

When my sister Brooke tried to find "her thing" to make for Thanksgiving dinner, she went to a trusted, reliable source.  And not her usual fall back, Martha Stewart; she turned to Williams-Sonoma.  She serves this recipe over cream cheese with crackers and it's usually half-eaten before dinner is even served.  Please enjoy another favorite recipe from our family's menu!

Apple Cranberry Sauce

    • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
    • 1 granny smith apples
    • 1 3/4 cups water
    • 1 3/4 cups sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. Sort the cranberries, discarding all the soft ones and removing all stems. Peel and core apple, then dice into small pieces.
  2. In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine all ingredients, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, partially covered, about 15-20 minutes. The sauce should have thickened, the apple tender and the cranberries burst.
  4. Cool before serving.  Serve over cream cheese, at room temperature, with crackers. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Thanksgiving Specialty

Every year since I can remember, we've always celebrated Thanksgiving at home (my parents' home) with my Granny, aunts, uncles, cousins and whoever else wanted to come along.  It seemed like everyone had their own special thing that they always made, and since there were so many people, we always had a lot of food.  Chicken (Mom prefers it over turkey), ham, sweet potato casserole (the kind with nuts and brown sugar - yumm!), green beans, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce (homemade!), cole slaw, rolls....not to mention all the desserts!  I'm salivating just typing it all.  So once I was old enough to pitch in, I had no idea what to make.  After looking through recipe after recipe, I finally decided on corn pudding.  I prefer a sweet corn pudding and think this recipe is perfect!  It is now "my thing" to make every year :) 
In an effort to add more to the blog and get into the Thanksgiving food mood, I'm sharing it with you and hopefully a few more family specials! 

Corn Pudding
3 Tb butter
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3 cups corn
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter molds or casserole dish.  Beat eggs; stir in sugar, cream and milk.  Add corn and salt.  Mix thoroughly with wisk; pour into baking dishes and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake in a water bath for 45 minutes or until custard is set.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fall Projects

From October:

finger painting to copy Eric Carle's style in "A House for Hermit Crab"

leaf designs:  painting, stamping, crayon rubbing

our own Halloween "party" because we missed the one at the library

making caramel corn with chocolate!

finger painting a pumpkin patch

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Things Only a Mother Would Do

I usually don't let my kids bring a toy with them in the store, mostly because they would end up losing it.  But today was a running around town, no nap kind of day and one of our last stops was Target.  Rachel asked if she and Reese could bring in their horses (the small ones from the Lincoln Logs).  "Sure," I answered because I didn't feel like arguing.  Halfway through the store, Rachel says, "Reese!  Where's your horse?!"  We found it in the big part of the cart, and when Rachel wanted to get it out, I told her I'd get it when we were paying to leave.  Of course you know what happened.  We paid.  We went out to the car.  And "Ah!  Reese's horse!  You forgot Reese's horse!"  Reese could have cared less, but no-nap Rachel freaked out. 
"Mom!  Go get it!  You have to go get her horse!" 
I tried telling her I'd buy another horse next time. 
"No!  It won't fit with the Lincoln Logs!"
She had a valid point.  I tried explaining that our cart was most likely already being used by someone else.
"Pleeeeaaassssee, Mom!  We have to go find it."
So laughing to myself at the ridiculousness of what I was about to do, I got both girls back out of the car and went back into Target.  I eyed two women, each with empty carts, quickly leaving the dollar section.  I followed them, trying to see if the tiny horse was in their cart, but unfortunately they were not in the mood for browsing.  I had to follow both of them halfway across the store before one of them turned into the make-up and one to the greeting cards, and I was finally close enough to see The Horse!  Not only did I laugh at myself for cart-stalking, but also because now I had to explain to the lady why I needed to reach into her cart.  Thankfully she was totally understanding.  She has a granddaughter who also loves horses and would have had a fit if that happened to her. "Don't you worry, honey, I would have done the same thing."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Saving on Diapers

Diapers:  the totally necessary, can't get around it, money-sucking must-buy when you have a baby.  That is, unless you are brave enough to go with cloth, which I am not.  So, what is your diaper-buying, money-saving strategy?  Here are my own personal tips:
  • Definitely start with coupons.  Every few weeks they can be found in the Sunday coupons ($1 off).  Even better, sign up with your favorite brands, and they will often times mail you higher value coupons ($2-3 off!). 
  • Stack your manufacturer's coupons with store coupons!  Did you know that you can use both a Target coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on the same item?  And when you sign up for a Target baby registry, you will usually receive (in the mail) a coupon booklet full of Target coupons for baby/toddler items.  You can also stack coupons at BJs!  Not all stores have their own coupons or will allow you to stack, so be sure to double check first. 
  • Match your coupons with a sale!  Target often has diaper sales in which you get a $5 gift card when you buy 2 boxes of know you'll use them eventually!
  • My most recent diaper deal is from Amazon! (thanks, MamaCheaps!)  Join Amazon Mom (free!) and get 30% off select diapers and wipes when you use "Subscribe and Save" delivery (this signs you up for scheduled automatic shipments, but you can cancel it immediately after you place your order and the shipping is free!).  But wait, it gets better!  On top of my 30% off, I also was able to stack a coupon code from my November issue of Parenting magazine for another 20% off!  Here's my breakdown:
                        Pampers Baby Dry Diapers, Size 4, Economy Plus Pack, 176 Diapers
                                                                                Item(s) Subtotal:     $37.98
                                                                         Shipping & Handling:       $0.00
                                                Amazon Mom & Subscribe and Save:   -$11.39
                                                     Parents magazine coupon Applied:      -$7.60
                                                                                               Total:       $18.99

Do the math!  That's less than 11 cents per Pamper!  The only other time I find a deal like this is when I have a coupon for diapers that are on clearance, and even then I am lucky if they have the size we need!
Here's hoping this helps some fellow mommies make it to... potty traning! :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Little One Turns Two

My baby is no longer even close to being a baby anymore.  Yesterday, she turned two and I fear they might be terrible!  But even with the already increased whining and stubbornness, there are still a million reasons to love her.  Here are a few...
  • The way she refers to herself in third person when she is talking about something possessive.  "Reesie's blanket" or "Reesie's milk".  Yes, she calls herself Reesie, even though I usually do not.  However, she says "Aahh come, peeez" for "I wanna come, please!"  Rachel was such an early, talker with correct speech that I just eat this "learning to talk" speech right up.
  • Her manners.  She may not be in the habit of saying please and thank you on her own yet (although she does with prompting), but she does say "excuse me" at the appropriate times.  She even surprised me the other day when she was trying to get past Rachel and said "ooozme, Yashel"....which leads me to...
  • Her pronunciation of certain names.  She calls Rachel, "Yashel"; Brooke, "Byookie", and Olivia, "Ahhya" but has recently been saying "AahYIVia".
  • The way she shares.  Anytime she gets any sort of treat (candy, gum, etc) she always asks for a piece for Rachel too.  Now if it's a toy, it's sometimes another story, but after asking her to share it, she usually will with no problem.
  • The little mommy she is already.  Whether it's helping take care of her baby cousin, Olivia, or playing with her baby dolls, she has got it down and knows just what to do.  From breastfeeding to changing diapers, she pretends to do it all!
  • What a great helper she is!  Asking her directly to do something helpful will always get it done, but even if she overhears someone say they need something, she is on it!  And when it comes to cleaning, the girl will put things away that she didn't even leave out.  She will be my little neat freak.  And with Rachel as my little hoarder, they will make for some interesting times down the road!
  • Her mostly predictable prayer.  Every night before bed, we say our prayers, and every night, Reese says the same thing, "Yord (Lord)...Jesse, Nana, Joey, Hayee(Halie)...Amen!"  She thanks God for some of her favorite people.  Occasionally she thanks Him for her family too ;)  And last week she surprised me by praying for Rachel's headache....a hint that she might be starting to understand what it's all about!
  • Her beautiful sweet smile!  She just has the cutest smile with a little gum showing and a tiny dimple...
I am so blessed to have you, Reese Caroline!  Love you to the moon and back!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Forgotten Treasures

Today's letter of the day was N. Rachel got a little frustrated while writing her lowercase N's and asked, "Mom, when will I be able to write neat like you?" I told her it took a lot of practice, and while she wrote a few more, I pulled out a special box from underneath my bed. It has all sorts of random papers from my school days, from preschool to high school, and I was able to find some of my Kindergarten papers showing that my writing wasn't always so neat. She loved looking through the box with me. What really was a surprise was the ziploc bag my mom had saved with hair from my first haircut at age 5. People find it hard to believe that I was once a blond, but here's the proof - it was a perfect match to Rachel's hair!

*Our favorite find: My Rhyming Color Monsters book...I wonder if I can find something like it online..."Brown, Brown, your jeans fell down!"

Mix It Up

For the first few weeks of school, Rachel was up, ready and eager to learn. Last week was the first time she just didn't want to do school "work". I try to add fun things to our day - our stretch and wiggle song and some sort of craft, but she just wasn't feelin' it. So, onto plan B. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous fall day outside, so we ditched the books; well, all but one. "Why Do Leaves Change Color?" by Betsy Maestro is an awesome book that explains the change in the leaves through all seasons and even has some pictures for identifying different types of tree leaves. So out we went, Mom, Big & Little, on our search for different types of leaves.

I was able to even throw in a little math. We counted leaves, added & subtracted leaves, and did leaf patterns. Here's to mixing things up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Other Things Kids Say

Rachel just came to me near tears and asked, "Are Reese and me always going to be together? I mean when we get bigger. Not like I'm going to marry her, but what if I move to Alaska and Reese moves to Florida? It makes me sad to think about it. How are we going to be together?"
Isn't she a little young to be thinking these things?! But I LOVE that she loves her sister that much!! I assured her that sisters are best friends forever, and even if they move far away from each other, they can still talk on the phone or the computer and visit each other. And whatever the communication of the future will be. Teleporting or something.

Things the Kids Say

Brian singing to himself: ridin' solo, ridin' solo...
Rachel: Who's Brian Solo?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

monkey see monkey do

I don't know about other 4 year olds, but mine is terrible about holding her pee until the very last minute. And that minute usually happens in the middle of the grocery store when I have a full cart and a curious toddler to tote along with us into the tiny, nasty public bathroom. [as a side note: Thank God for the family bathrooms at Target!]
To keep this from happening more often, I'm really trying to remember - and get Rachel to remember - to use the bathroom before we leave the house. Today, I remembered while walking out to the car (better late than never!), so I told her to go back in and potty and come back out to the car. After a few minutes, she runs back out with an armful of sale papers from Sunday's newspaper proclaiming, "Mom! I brought all these coupons for Target for you!" What a good kid. I love how she picks up on my habits so quickly. Maybe I should start going potty before we leave the house too...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

School in our Jammies

Today was officially our first day of school at home. Here's a peak at what we did:

8:30 am - Bible time using this Boz book. Today's lesson was "Jesus Knows Me". We also had prayer time.

9:15 - Breakfast. The girls both chose Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal :)

9:45 - Handwriting & Reading. Rachel practiced writing her A's, did a workbook page, and then both girls played on Starfall, doing the short a sections.

10:30 - Stretch & Wiggle time! We did the "Stretch It Out Simon" song. They loved it.

10:40 - Made a book all about Rachel to tie in with "Jesus Knows Me"

11:00 - Numbers. Rachel practiced her 1's and 2's and we did a workbook activity.

11:30 - "God's World" and "Health, Safety and Manners" - both A Beka books

12:00 - playtime

12:30 - LUNCHTIME! Pasta salad and chocolate covered frozen bananas for dessert

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Overheard in the Backseat

"She's going to go get her hair done..."
I look back and the girls are playing with their Disney Princess felt book.
Cinderella, you've come a long way from cleaning the drapes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Phipps Reunion 2010

Today we chose to spend time with family. We had a great reunion with all of our Phipps aunts, uncles and cousins.
In loving memory of our dearest Granny.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saving Money: choice or necessity?

For most these days, saving money is a necessity. For us, it has become a lifestyle! Long gone are the days when we had extra cash to freely spend on whatever tickled our fancy, but even then, I tried to find the best price. Now clipping coupons and matching sales is a weekly event, one I could not do without some of my favorite money saving sites. Most of these sites have price match-ups, drug store deals, links to free samples, and the best current deals and sales. Here are the sites I check regularly:

Hip 2 Save
Mama Cheaps
Frugal Coupon Living

Group buying sites are also growing by the day, offering daily deals on everything from dining to spa services to golf! They often have half price savings and some up to 80% off, so you can get some great deals, just be sure to read all the restrictions and fine print. Here are some of my favorites for the DC area (also NoVa and Richmond since we're in between):

And Deals for Deeds which lets you choose from 3 charitable organizations to which 5% of your purchase will go.

In addition to online deal scouring, I also frequent my local Goodwill stores. Admittedly, most of the good stuff I find is for the girls since kids grow out of clothes so quickly, but I have also happened across a few good items for myself or my husband or the house. Some of our best finds:

  • This Step 2 play kitchen in perfect shape, which was an upgraded version of the one we already had. For SEVEN DOLLARS! So what did we do? We upgraded!
  • A like-new Columbia coat for $9
  • A pair of Pottery Barn shelves for $5 each
  • A super cute J.Crew dress for $6 that sadly did not fit me, so I sold it on ebay for $30
  • and tons of Gymboree clothes for the girls, books and home school curriculum
So now you know all my secrets when it comes to getting stuff on the cheap. Okay, maybe not ALL, but I have to save something for next time. Like yard sales and Craigslist!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Becoming My Mother...

I grew up in a house with a strict, Christian mother and a father who was a little more lenient but usually just went along with my mother to keep the peace. We had all sorts of rules growing up that I never thought I would impress upon my own children. But now, it's happening. Now that my oldest is beginning to pick up song lyrics that I'd rather her not know and attitudes that I could definitely do without, I'm beginning to impose the guidelines from my own childhood into our household.
The day when I heard my 4-year old daughter singing Britney's "Womanizer" is when I really knew it had to start. No more listening to my own top-40 in the car; we have since then switched to the Christian radio station. Which is probably what I should have been listening to anyway - using my time to praise my Savior instead of Lady Gaga. This also goes for tv and movies. No more watching "big people" shows with the kiddos around. Who knows what they would pick up and say to me in public!
This year has brought us to a bigger decision to make: public school, private school or homeschool? I'll admit that for the first 27 or so years of my life, I would not even consider homeschooling. Mostly because all of the homeschooled kids I knew growing up were "sheltered" or not socialized or just generally dorky. And also because my mother has been trying to persuade me to do it (maybe out of guilt since she didn't homeschool us). Since having children of my own, I had hoped that we would be able to just sent them to a Christian school, but alas, we cannot afford it. So here I am, getting ready to start homeschooling. Partly because she's such a smart cookie and she already knows so much, so why not continue filling that little sponge and letting her be ahead of the gang? And since she's a sponge, I want to fill her with all the wisdom and grace and knowledge of God's love in hopes that she will be salt and light in the world. After all, she is just like her daddy - already a chatty, "people" person. :) And an obvious perk is that we get to spend more precious time together; I'll get to watch her learn new things and see her eyes light up as she figures something out. The decision I have to make now is what support group to join, what extra classes and activities she'll be taking, and how many extra cups of coffee I'll be needing to get me through the end of the day.
So even though I thought my mom's rules were sometimes ridiculous, I know (and deep down knew then) that she was just trying to do what was right for us. Which is exactly what I'm trying to do now.