Friday, September 30, 2011

A study of the Letter "Cc"


We have been learning about the letter "Cc" all week in Tot School. My daughter is 27 months and this is her first introduction to the alphabet. She has really enjoyed her studies this week and picked up the letter "c" and the sound it makes very quickly.  In fact, on the third day she was walking around the house making the "c" (hard sound) sound and saying "cup". I was really impressed that she identified a word that starts with "c" all on her own! The activity pictured above required her to put circle stickers on the letter "c". 

One day we did some sponge painting with a letter "c" sponge. We also painted with a circle print roller.We did a cat lacing card. She was not enthused about the lacing at all.

Here are some of the books we read this week. She loves to read and really enjoyed the stories this week.


We also made some cat cookies this week using sugar cookie dough and some cookie cutters.


The cats look a little bit like blobs but she did not care one bit. She had so much fun with this activity! Here she is hard at work decorating her cats.



She could not wait any longer. She just had to taste test!


Little sister enjoyed the cookies too!


Here is the finished product. She was quite proud of them!


We had a lot of fun this week and a lot of learning took place as well.


A Field Trip to the Humane Society

Look a Cat!

We have been studying the letter C all week in Tot School and our theme has been Pets. We have been talking about C is for Cat and reading the book If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff. We have two doggies at home but no cats so I decided that we needed to see some in person to make our theme more concrete. We took a quick little field trip to the local Humane Society. My daughter has been saying all week that she loves cats and has been hugging a big stuffed black cat and lugging it around the playroom. When we arrived she loved the bronzed cats outside the building and was all about touching them.


The first thing we saw were some cute little kittens.  My little girl peered curiously at them and seemed to be excited.




Next, we looked at some more cats in individual enclosures and she was very interested.


She talked about how they had food and toys and that they were sleeping.


Then, we approached the area where you can actually go in and pet the cats. She said "you go in Mommy" and was not excited about going into a room full of cats.


I managed to talk her into petting this cat but it was just a quick pat across the back and then she was done and wanted out. I think the only reason she even touched this one was because it looked just like the stuffed cat she has been professing her love to all week.


We looked at some more cats but she was over it and wanted hand sanitizer. I guess cats are not her thing :)


We also looked at some dogs while we were there as they related to the pet theme. She was not impressed. Her baby sister was excited though and kept exclaiming "buh, buh, buh!".


We did see some puppies that she found amusing and I was awfully tempted to take one home with us!


We had fun on our little trip and as we left she waved to the cats and said "Have a nice day cats!"




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Weight


Well it has been seven months since my precious second child was born and I am unfortunately sitting at about 20 pounds heavier than when I was first pregnant with her. Oh, I can give excuses like I have a bum thyroid, I don't have time to take care of myself, and I'm trying to be good. However, those don't cut it anymore. I have been frustrated with the scale because it just seems to go up instead of down every time I weigh even though I have been doing a decent job of behaving myself. We no longer eat out, no fast food, we try to eat organic foods as much as possible, and we have cut way down on the processed foods and junk food. I don't keep things like chips, ice cream, and candy in my house. So you would think that would count for something right? That I should have lost some weight just by making those changes? Well, apparently not for me, grrrr!

So, I have decided to take a new approach. I am not looking at that scale everyday any longer! Instead, I am going to get moving. I have done pretty well the last several weeks. Today, for example,  I pushed my girls around the neighborhood in the stroller. That in itself is a major workout if you could see the HUGE hills that are throughout our addition. I have also started doing the power burn workout on the treadmill, done some exercise DVD's, and just started using EA Sports Active 2 for Kinect. I really think that this one tool in of itself just may help me get some results because it has a heart monitor and can tell me how many calories I am burning and will tailor workouts to my needs. It really is like having a personal trainer in my living room! The idea with this new strategy is to build some muscle and endurance so that I can hopefully speed up my nonexistent metabolism and even if I don't drop a single pound... if I have more muscle and more energy that will help me to be on the right track to a healthier body. Stay tuned for more on my journey to "Come Home" to a healthier body.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Organizing your art supplies


I found this nifty little white cabinet at Ikea and thought it would be just perfect to store art supplies in. It has 9 ample drawers, was inexpensive, easy to put together, and is attractive! I have it situated in the playroom and it is filled with pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes, stamps, Popsicle sticks, feathers, and so much more! Before this wonderful cabinet came into my life I was constantly digging out art supplies from storage tubs and looking in a million different places around the house for what I needed. Now, it is all in one central location and I can get to it within a moment's notice.


I filled the lower drawers with things that I did not mind my two year old getting into and now she can access to her favorite art materials on her own! I have some more art materials to dig out of tubs and place in the cabinet and I happy to say that I have not even been able to fill up all the drawers yet!


Please comment and let me know how you store your art and craft supplies at your house? I would love to get your feedback!



Tot School Binder

We have been following Tot School for several weeks now and are absolutely loving it! When I started I just kind of printed out the materials and had them in a big pile. It was starting to become a complete mess so I decided to do a little organization by creating a notebook to keep the materials in.


I have been using a lot of the printed materials for Tot School inside plastic sheet protectors and letting my little one draw on them with dry erase markers because it saves on paper and it is just plain fun. Also, I then can keep the copies to put into the notebook for review later and eventually to get back out to use with my youngest daughter when she is ready to start Tot School too!


I put all the small pieces  like the puzzles, lacing cards, and sequencing cards into a baggy for each letter and then hole punched it and put it next to the printed pages for that letter. I also put a copy of that week's lesson plan in as well for reference when I reuse the materials for my youngest child. We are only on letter C this week so I imagine that I may need to get a bigger binder to house everything. How do you organize your Tot School materials?




Organizing Coupons



There are many different ways to organize your coupons. After trial and error I have found that I like using the Coupon Wallet organizer method the best. It has a cute design, it is lightweight, fits inside your purse, and is designed to attach to the grocery cart.


I also really like that you can store and organize all of your store loyalty cards right alongside your coupons. I know that I can easily find my cards all in one place and don't have to dig around in my purse to find them. Also, this frees up a lot of space in your regular wallet. There are other pockets so you could store your money or your checkbook in this as well and only carry one wallet.


Inside, you store your coupons pretty much like you would in an old recipe box behind tabs labeled with things like Dairy/Cheese. The company also offers the ability to make your own custom tabs or to get all blank tabs with your order. 

I have been very happy with this purchase. Some people may say they don't prefer this method because they cannot see all the coupons in one glance like you would with a binder. I find that because I pull all my coupons and match them to my shopping list before entering the store that this is not a issue for me. Also, if I run into a great deal while in the store I can just pull out my coupon Wallet, flip to the correct tab, and quickly pull the coupon out. What is your favorite way to organize your coupons?



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tot School Success!

Today my  27 month old daughter asked for a piece of paper and announced proudly that she was going to write letter "A's". She concentrated deeply on her paper with her pink crayon in hand and drew tiny little lines on her paper. She said "Look, I made a Capital A!" Then she drew  more and said "I will make a lowercase "a"". This is after only three weeks of doing Tot School with her!!! I am so excited that she is learning so much so quickly and looking forward to tomorrow to see what she will do next!

Creating a Playroom



This is what our basement looked liked a few months ago. It was just a big empty space. Before it was a big empty space is was packed to the brim with manly type things and junk. It took us several weeks to sort, donate, and Craigslist items we no longer needed or wanted. We took the approach of if we haven't used it in the last year.... we probably never will. We knew we needed the space to be an office for my husband, playroom for the girls, a laundry room, exercise area, and sewing and craft space. That is a lot of different needs! However, we had a fairly good sized space so we were confident we could make it happen.


The first thing we did was purchase some great wood laminate flooring that was on clearance and my husband laid the new floor. Next, we painted a fresh coat of paint on the walls and went on a shopping spree at Ikea to get some furnishings for the playroom area. Then, I had tubs and tubs and tubs of teacher stuff that I sorted through and I picked out the stuff that I knew I wanted the girls to be able to use and set about organizing it.


I painted a mural on the wall and we hung up a fun swing chair from Ikea. We also purchased that cute little table at Ikea for only $7.00 and then used some little chairs we already had hanging around the house. My two year old loves the table and it makes a great place for doing lap books, puzzles, and Montessori activities.



We spray painted a cheap book shelf we already had black to match our new Ikea purchases and I used baskets that I had purchased from Really Good Stuff when I was still in the classroom to place activities in for my two year old to do.


We attached a magnetic office board down low on the wall so my daughter could use it for her magnetic letters. I placed board games, books, puzzles, and baskets filled with play dough and stickers on the large book shelf as well.

We still have lots of work to do like putting in a wall to separate the basement area from the garage, adding a drop ceiling, wiring for electricity, and closing off the stairs. However, it is now at least a usable space and the family has already begun using it every day.





Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall is Here!



I love fall! I love the way the sunlight is different, I love the cooler weather, and I love pumpkins and falling leaves! Fall is the time you can pull out the sweaters, start baking up a storm in the kitchen, and decorating in festive colors. You can actually go outside without melting in the heat or being eaten alive by insects, and there is actually something good to watch on T.V. again! I find Fall to be a really peaceful time of the year and I have been looking forward to Fall so much this year that I actually started decorating at the beginning of September!

We got a little creative this year and made a Pumpkin Family. It was a fun and easy project and my little girl loved helping me paint and decorate the pumpkins. She said they were "So cute and I love them". Next up on our to do list are some fun fall crafts and baking projects that I will post soon.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Homemade Goodness



Last week I did a little baking project for my former colleagues at work. I made organic Applesauce-spice cupcakes decorated to look like little apples. I have decided that I will try to drop by my former work every month or so and drop off a little bit of love in the form of baked confections! On this first surprise trip I also made Cookies and Creme bars and Devil's food cupcakes (pictured below).  I got all of these yummy recipes from a great little cupcake book called Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat. My sister had gotten it for me for my birthday one year and I had never cracked it open until now and I was pleasantly surprised at all of the great recipes inside!



I know in years past something as simple as making some home baked treats would have never crossed my mind because I was also so focused on myself. I am trying to work on that by being more giving to others and putting myself out there in ways that I would not normally do. I  got a lot of positive feedback from my friends about the treats and I could tell that people were genuinely touched that I had taken time to think of them and try to brighten their day. I hope that as time goes on I can get involved in more projects like this not only for myself, but also to show my children that giving and paying it forward is important in life however small your contributions may be.




Sunday, September 4, 2011

Couponing the healthy way


I would like to say that my couponing strategies and grocery shopping style has evolved over the years. I started couponing about two years ago and I have tried binders, only buying what is on sale and I have a coupon for, drugstore couponing, and several other strategies. I had always used a few coupons while shopping because growing up my Mom would use them occasionally.I started to try going a little more in-depth with couponing by buying a book which was good but I needed to see it in person and experience it first hand to understand all these new terms and concepts. So, I signed up for a couponing workshop which was really great and helped me to start really seeing the big picture. However, when I tried to follow the methods that they recommended to the letter I became frustrated and nearly quit couponing altogether because it was just not working for me(Please note that this workshop did not promote or recommend excessive couponing). I have learned some lessons along the way about couponing and would like to share here what I have learned and what works for me and my family.

Organization, Organization, Organization

I think the most important thing for a newby to couponing is determining a way to organize your coupons that makes sense to you. I started by using a binder and it nearly drove me insane! I had a lot of internet coupons and they would not fit neatly enough for me into the little slots within the binder. I also found the size of the binder to be way to cumbersome because when I go grocery shopping I usually also have to take my two children who are two and under with me. I had babies grabbing coupons out of my binder, trying to dump my binder on the floor, and I can't even tell you the trouble it is to try to lug a binder  with 20 plus pages of coupons and fifty pounds of babies across the grocery store parking lot! I did not have the luxury of time to browse my binder as I shopped and pull out the coupons as I go. I needed to get in and get out!

I finally decided on using a coupon organizer that is accordion style. I print off my shopping list before hitting the grocery store, pull out all the coupons that go with my list, and then sort the coupons in the order of the grocery store isles. I make sure to look at my coupons as I shop to ensure that I am getting the right quantity of item and that the coupon I have really meets the requirements of the products on sale that week. I toss my coupon organizer in my purse in case that I see a product in the store that I want but was not on my list so I can check for a coupon. I have found that this method saves me a lot of time and is more manageable for my needs. I know that some would find this method messy or aggravating because they can't see all of their coupons in one glance and that is why I say you have to try out several different methods and find the one that suits you, your personality, and your lifestyle the best.

What is your Coupon Style?

When deciding to coupon you need to decide how much time you want to devote to it to determine what kind of coupon style you will use. Will you be the  "Extreme couponer" ? Will you be the drugstore couponer? Will you be a multiple transaction type of gal(I could never get into this)? Will you shop multiple stores every week? Will you be a donation couponer? Or will you just do it on the weekends or here or there when you have time? I can honestly say I have almost tried it all and have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. I found shopping multiple stores including the drugstores got to just be too much. It was taking away family time and my children were sick of always being in the store. I was sick of always being in the store or preparing a trip to hit multiple stores. It was not a way of life for me that was sustainable. It was unhealthy. Too much of anything is unhealthy! Was my stockpile growing by leaps and bounds? Oh yes it was! But then I thought about what is this really costing me to save? I decided to dial it down a few notches and now I try to do my shopping at one main store every week and then occasionally I will go to a second or third store during the week if they have a specific item like meat or dairy on sale for a great price. This has saved me so much sanity and my children no longer think the only thing in life to do is shop.

What will you buy and how much?

I have tried shopping by only buying what is on sale and I have a coupon for but I realized that I had to stop this when my husband had no contact solution and I wouldn't buy him any because I did not have a coupon for the brand he uses. Does my husband need to see? Why yes, I think so! Also, we were eating weird meals and it was becoming easier to just eat out because we only had odds and ends to choose from in the house. I will say that I was saving 50 percent or more on my grocery bill every week but it was again just not healthy. I now make a meal plan for each month and choose foods that my family likes and new recipes that I want to try. I try to be conscious of what I already have in my stockpile that I can use when I make my meal plan but I don't hold myself to only using those items that I already have. I shop for the ingredients I need to make the meals for the upcoming week and then I also shop for some of the things that the store has on sale that week to add to my stockpile. Do I buy every item on sale just because I can get it for 10 cents a box or even for free? No, I don't. I only buy products that my family is really going to use and I don't clean out the shelf on those products either. I buy 3 or 4 at the most of an item that is on sale. I have found that the same items will eventually come back up for sale and so it is not necessary to get 60 boxes. I tend to go for items that fit in with our healthy lifestyle.

Couponing while eating organically

While you may not save over 50 percent or more on your grocery bill like you could by buying all of the boxed and prepared foods that you can always get for cheap or free with coupons, you can still save money when you eat organically and are a couponer. I find that there are more and more coupons available for organic products everyday. These products are finally becoming more mainstream for one and also a lot of the companies offer coupons to try to get you to try their organic food. I can almost always find coupons for the organic brands that we love and use everyday.  It is harder to find coupons for organic produce but then you just have to follow the dirty dozen list and only buy organic if it falls on that list or is something that your family consumes a lot of. Also by buying produce at the farmer's market and only purchasing certain things like berries when that particular food is in season can save you a ton of money. 

In the end, I find it is all about balance. You don't have to go crazy and devote your whole life to coupons to save money. Although, I will admit couponing is addictive and this can be an easy pattern to fall into as I have been there myself. Just determine what works best for you, your family, and your budget and go from there.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eating Organically



As a child I was raised on processed, fried, and fast foods. I was never really taught much about food other than it comes in a bag, box, or from a window. Most of my cooking experiences involved a microwave, electric skillet, or toaster oven. I also learned the more the better, so pile it on! The only vegetables I ate came fried and "salad" was iceberg lettuce smothered in cheese, dressing, and toppings that came from...you guessed it!  a box or can. So, looking back at this food background it is no wonder I have weight issues.

Once I was out on my own and married my food patterns remained the same eating from boxes at every meal or eating out most every meal with a heavy dose of fast food. We started making slow changes like ditching the electric skillet, then cooking in olive oil, and finally by baking things in the oven instead of frying them but that was it. My husband who was influenced by some friends started to read a whole foods book and we watched some documentaries about food which led us to make some more small changes like eating out less and cooking at home more.

Then, that first little bouncing baby came along we began serving her organic baby food and snacks because we thought it was better but we still would often eat out of boxes and eat out for many of our meals. Somewhere in there, we started trying to buy more organic foods by looking at the dirty dozen list by the EWG. We also started removing a lot of processed foods from our diets because I needed to watch my sodium intake.

So what do we do now? 
I buy as much food as I can organic or natural, we no longer eat out, I do not buy prepared foods (other than organic snack foods), and I have as of this summer been chopping away in the kitchen by actually cooking with real fruits and vegetables! Is eating organic hard to do? Several years ago I would have said most definitely YES and what is organic?! Now I realize that making an organic meal at home from "scratch" is not only easy, but also tastes better and is making me healthier.

 Is it more expensive?
Sometimes, it can be more expensive but I will say now that I plan out my meals and am no longer buying tons of processed and prepared foods(impulse shopping) that my food bill has gone from $200.00 a week to around $100.00. I also watch the weekly sales, stockpile, and coupon.

Is it more time consuming? 
When you add up all the time we spent arguing over where to eat, finding a place to eat, waiting to be seated, waiting to be served, and waiting for our check I would say eating at home with organic food is so much faster! Also, since I plan out the meals we get to eat what I like ;)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Applecore



So I got to try out this cool new little gizmo thanks to my friends at Bzzagent called an Applecore. It is a nifty little cord holder in the shape of an apple core. It is so cute, really easy to use, and has definitely helped to clear up some of the cord clutter on our computer desk. We have so many devices with USB cables right now it just plain ridiculous! However, with the Applecore I was able to wind up the cord I use for my camera and it is now no longer in my way. Too cool! I am even thinking that I might take it and wind up my earphones and then toss it in my purse! Hello, organization...Goodbye damaged earphones!

Please note I received this product because I am a Bzzagent. My opinions are my own honest thoughts after personally using this product. If you would like to learn more about being a Bzzagent too please visit here.


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