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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Matthew's Teddy Bear Birthday Party

This past Sunday we had Matthew's 1st birthday party. We had a few people cancel, so it ended up being a small enough group that we could host in our apartment. Here is the table all set up, except for the fresh fruits and veggies, which were in the fridge until just beforehand:

I set out some free printable bear coloring pages for the kiddos (which ended up just being for Jonah, but he loved them).

This was my first attempt at Mod Podging something: I put pretty scrapbook paper on a formula can for the forks. It turned out pretty well, although it was a bit bubbly, so next time I'll have to make sure to really smooth things out.

I made a banner of pictures. Each month we have done a size comparison of Matthew and his stuffed frog, so I put them all in order and hung them with a few balloons. They were fun for everyone to look at!

The cake was a teddy bear, which you can read about here, and we also had gummy bears and teddy grahams to go along with the theme. Matthew got a stuffed bear as one of his presents, and along with the frog from his pictures, it was a simple but pretty table.

Happy first birthday to my little man! He definitely enjoyed his piece of cake!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Menu Plan Monday and Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Rice Bake Recipe

Dinners for this week:

Monday: Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Rice Bake (recipe below)
Tuesday: Homemade Crunchwraps
Wednesday: Church Dinner
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon (I'm helping cook the Easter feast!)
Friday: Pumpkin Soup, Cinnamon Rolls in the Breadmaker
Saturday: Mexi-Beans and Rice
Sunday: Veggie Stir Fry

I also want to make these Reese's Bars this week, and maybe even some Easter cupcakes (I already have the Robin's Eggs to do them), although those might get pushed to next week, because we've already got plenty of sugary things to enjoy this week.

Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Rice Bake

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 cups rice
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen broccoli, cooked
  • 1 container Philadelphia Cooking Creme, Italian flavor
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rice as directed (if you are not doing instant rice, don't preheat the oven until your rice is cooked). Cook broccoli. Cook and shred chicken. Mix all ingredients together in casserole dish. Cover and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Enjoy!

I threw this recipe together out of items I had already. All of my boys cleaned their plates, so I think this one's a keeper!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What I'm Reading...

Six Tips for Creating Awesome Care Packages for Children Away From Home. I loved getting care packages when I was in high school and college. (Offbeat Mama)

How to Get What You Want From Freecycle: Etiquette and Getting Started. I have used Freecycle more for giving things away than for finding things, but the thing I appreciate most is when people actually show up on time to pick things up. (Offbeat Home)

Choosing to MAKE Time. This is something I constantly fail at. (Simple Organized Living)

Unbirthdays, Cereal Vacations, and More Non-Holiday Traditions We're Creating
. I love the idea of making kids pay for a movie, unless they had read the book first. (Offbeat Mama)

Money-Saving Menu Planning
. Shopping from your pantry is always smart. (Money Saving Mom)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Teddy Bear Cake

Tomorrow afternoon we will be having Matthew's first birthday party. Since I constantly call him my Chusa Bear (pronounced "chew-za" - Matthew turned into Machusa turned into Chusa), it seemed only fitting that I make him a teddy bear cake. I decided to do a bear's face with a bow tie underneath.

For the bow tie, I used half of a cake mix in a loaf pan (the other half of the cake mix went to cupcakes). I drew a rough stencil on a piece of scrap paper and cut it out. I held it over the cake while sprinkling powdered sugar on top. It's not exact, but it gave me enough of a guideline to evenly cut out the shape that I wanted, which I would not have been able to do freehand.

Here's a picture of all of my supplies before putting everything together. (I ended up using coloring gel for the bow tie frosting, instead of the sprinkles in the picture). In case you didn't know, you can keep a cake moist overnight by putting a slice of bread on top.

I used these Pull 'n' Peel Twizzlers for the bear's mouth, and to outline the bow tie. The colors actually matched up really well, which was nice.

The finished product! I'm really happy with how it turned out. I used one cupcake for each ear, jelly beans for the eyes and mouth, and I made a mini cake pop with some leftover cake from the bow tie scraps, and leftover blue frosting. Tomorrow, Matthew will get one of the cupcake ears as his smash cake. I can't wait!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Organization Projects I've Been Doing Lately...

I have not been posting much lately, but I have been busy doing some organizing projects around the house. It's not as pretty as craft projects, but it is refreshing to clear some extras out of the house, and to bring some things out that we can use that were stored away.

I bought this black photo album at Walmart for $6.00. It's one with the full empty pages with protectors. I wish I could remember where I first saw this idea, because it's a good one, and I'd like to give credit to whoever thought of it.

I don't know about you, but I get a lot of awesome photo cards at Christmas, school pictures from family members, and invitations to events. I like to keep them, but I had just been throwing them all in an empty baby wipes container. So now I'm putting them in here. Here's a sample page (from 2010):

I left a page open for the numerals of each year in between each year, starting with 2007 (the first year I could find in my stack of cards), and once I get the chance I'll come up with a simple but pretty design for the numbers. From now on I can just add things as I get them. It's simple and quick, and a lot easier to enjoy than an empty wipes container stacked full of cards.

So then I moved on to the boys' room. You can see our tubs full of smaller sized clothes that we save to hand down to future babies. On top the basket is full because I went through and pulled out most of the winter clothes to store, and I haven't gotten to putting them away yet. Usually the basket is reserved for clothes that they have outgrown, and then when it gets full, I'll pull the tubs out to put them away.

Before I pulled out the winter clothes, I took an inventory of everything in the tubs. I pulled out a few more things to sell (if neither kid has worn it so far, we probably won't miss it), and I wrote down numbers of shirts and onesies and whatnot in each size, so I won't have to guess what we'll need next time around. No, I am not pregnant, but I have noticed each time Matthew's about to outgrow a size that I have no idea what we have in the next size. For instance, I discovered that we have no summer pajamas in his current size, so he spent a few nights sleeping in his clothes. Oops!

I also pulled out all of the "nice" clothes and snowsuits, because those were 2 categories that I was always wondering what we had and could never remember because it was packed away with the rest. They are organized by size, and it's very easy to see what we have. In between is the family baptismal gown, which I'll have to remember to take to my sister's this summer!

I also went through the bookshelves and pulled out all of the books that I could get for free on the Kindle. There were a lot. So many that we now have a free shelf for storing our bins of toy cars and trains, and our bucket of blocks. I haven't decided if this is a good or bad thing yet - the cars and trains are getting played with more, but they also get dumped out a lot more. Apparently that's the fun thing to do.

And finally, I went through our "memorabilia" storage. I had a large teal trunk full of things, and we also had a Rubbermaid partially full. I threw some things out, pulled some things out to scan or photograph and then get rid of, and grabbed some things out for the boys.

Jonah fell in love with my stuffed Mr. Popples, which he now sleeps with every night. I also found some foam dice, some Mardi Gras beads, and some Tinker Toys for the kiddos to play with (saving the Tinker Toys for when they're a bit older). Now our "memorabilia" only takes up the Rubbermaid tub, and I was able to sell the teal trunk for $10!

I still have a ways to go, but our apartment is slowly getting less cluttered, and of everything I've sold, given away, or donated, I haven't missed a thing, and I've made almost $100! I've been trying to use that money to bring things into our house that are both useful and pretty, like the photo album above, and a new flour canister, because the lid on my old one broke when we moved here almost 3 years ago, and I've just been covering it with a plate since then. We've also been able to supplement our grocery budget and stock up on both diapers and wipes, which is nice.

Up next in the organizing realm: finding new storage for our small dvd and cd collection, clearing off the dining room table, and keeping the kitchen counters from getting cluttered again. Anyone else doing some good organizing projects lately?

Menu Plan Monday

If you remember from last week, I planned 3 weeks at a time and did a big shopping trip. Here is week 2. We did pretty well last week, although we ended up switching a couple of the dinners around since we spent so much time outside on the nicest days. 78 degrees in March in Minnesota? I'll take that.

Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Crockpot Bean & Sausage Stew, Homemade Bread in my new breadmaker!
Wednesday: Church Dinner
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday: Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza
Saturday: Leftover Mashed Potato Soup
Sunday: Veggie Stir Fry - We are having Matthew's birthday party Sunday afternoon, so if family sticks around, we'll probably order pizza, but if everyone goes home right away, stir fry is quick and easy to make.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What I'm Reading...

Why Grocery Shopping Once a Month Saves Money. I've thought about trying this. We usually do big shopping twice a month, with fill-in trips in between. (Money Saving Mom)
Encourage Art Skills With the End Roll of a Newspaper
. I didn't know there was such a thing, but it looks like it would be awesome to have around. (The Simple Dollar)

Extend the Life and Value of Crayons
. I remember doing this when we were younger, and I thought the big shaped crayons were so cool. (The Simple Dollar)

Lower Your Grocery Bill By Growing Your Own Food
. One day, when we are finally settled somewhere, we're going to have a garden. (Money Saving Mom)

Two Picky Eaters, One Dinner Strategy
. I definitely do the "cook in stages" idea. (Simple Bites)

The Benefits of Working With REAL People. I loved her list of going through a typical day without actually talking to anyone, because it's so easy to fall into that. (Simple Organized Living)

How to Save With a No. 10 Can
. I learned 2 things from this post. A) What a no. 10 can is, and B) How much money you could save by using these. (Money Saving Mom)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Over the past few days, I've been jotting down dinner ideas on our marker board in the kitchen. When I went to make the meal plan, I had written down enough for the rest of the month, give or take a few, but that was easy enough to finish. So, we just went shopping for the next 3 weeks' worth of food. There will be smaller shopping trips as we run out of milk, or if we use up all the cheese, but for the most part, we are set for the rest of March. How nice!

Since I was planning 3 weeks at a time, I just wrote down enough lunch ideas to cover all of the days, plus a few extras so we're not stuck with four days of PB&Js at the end or something. (And really, we have the same things most weeks.) That checklist is on the fridge, and I'll just cross things off as we do them.

Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Black Bean Taco Salads
Wednesday: Church Dinner
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday: Fish Tenders and Homemade Fries
Saturday: Loaded Baked Potatoes
Sunday: Waffles, Bacon, and Hashbrowns

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What I'm Reading...

101 More Uses for Vinegar. Who knew there were so many? (Simple Organized Living)

When Savers Meet Spenders: How to Deal. In one word, compromise. This is pretty much Jesse and me to a T, and it's something we occasionally struggle with. (Northern Cheapskate)

I Am a Mother. But First, I Was Just Me
. My problem is I don't fully know who "just me" is yet. (The Happiest Mom)

Organizing Solutions for Renters. I actually really love the idea of putting a bookshelf in a closet to create shelving where none exists. (Unclutterer)

How to Get Great Deals When You're Short on Time. I still don't shop online much, but I have greatly scaled back how much time I devote to deal shopping. (Simple Organized Living)

Making Coffee With Butter and Eggs: An Old-World Way to Spice Up Caffeine Consumption
. I am intrigued. But I did just stock up on creamer. (Offbeat Home)

How to Tell Target Coupons From Manufacturer's Coupons. Good to know. (Penny Pinchin' Mom)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Lunches:
  • PB&J x 3
  • Quesadillas x2
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Muffin Tin Lunch
Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Easy Slow Cooker Jambalaya (minus the shrimp)
Wednesday: Church Lenten Dinner
Thursday: Pumpkin Soup with Cinnamon Toast
Friday: Beans & Mexi-Rice
Saturday/Sunday: Chicken, Broccoli, & Mushroom Alfredo, and maybe Homemade Garlic Cheese Bread

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What I'm Reading...

How to Be Content With Less. I like #1, and it's something I need to work on. (Money Saving Mom)

Tips to Stock and Organize Your Pantry
. I do most of these, although my stockpile is smaller because we don't have that much extra space. (Simple Organized Living)

How to Buy a Car Using Data. There are a lot of really good ideas in this post. (Offbeat Home)

Parenting Capital. Another one that made me laugh. "If anyone wants to write a parenting book called, 'I love you more than anything in the world, now go away for 10 minutes,' I’d eagerly endorse it." (Jason Good)

If anyone likes organizing before & afters like I do, there are lots linked up to this post, the end of Organizing Junkie's 29 Day Challenge.