Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays from our family to yours!  We have been with family the last few days and will continue to be for a few more so we hope you are enjoying what time off you may have with people you love!


We also hope Santa was good to you this year.


He was to us!






Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coupon code for Amber Teething Necklaces

Interested in buying an amber teething necklace? Now's the time to buy! For the next 4 days, this coupon code MC25 is valid for 25% off anything at Inspired by Finn's online store!  This offer expires 12/17.

Read about the benefits of amber and our experiences using it with Gabe here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guest post!

Today I have the pleasure of guest posting over at Modern Alternative Mama about hosting others in your home...not that I excel at it, as this is a big area of opportunity for me, but I'm definitely working on it!

How do you host others in your home if some of your "customs" are a bit different??  Join in on the conversation over at Modern Alternative Mama!

Want to see my other guest posts at Modern Alternative Mama? Click here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

6 simple, easy ways to save during the holidays

No matter how well you might plan from year to year, it always seems that there are surprise expenses one incurs around the holidays. Maybe it's the airline tickets you didn't know would be so expensive, or the cost of fuel, or perhaps those holiday gifts aren't just adding up to the right number like how you thought they would.  Hopefully, you take time to budget for these things, so you can feel more in control of your finances throughout the holiday season.  This month, Greg & I made a commitment to eat out less as a way to save money.  That, in turn means that we are eating in more! Funny how that works, huh?  Well, here are a few simple tips to help you curb the temptation to eat out during such a busy season.

1. Meal plan.  Meal planning is both my nemesis and my best friend. When we are at odds, it's because I lack inspiration and am tired of the same ol' same ol'. When we are best friends, it's because I feel I've found my stride, do not lack many ingredients, and perhaps I just read someone's yummy post, say over at Nourished & Nurtured.  However, when I sit down and take the time to do it, which often requires looking back at my calendar for meal plans of the past, opening up my recipe binder, and scanning my pantry & fridge, I'm usually able to come up with at least 3 meals.  Ideally 5-7 is best for me just to get me going.  Need inspiration? There are many meal plan websites out there, but I really appreciate Stephanie of Keeper of the Home's 4 week meal plan for whole food based ideas.

2. Make double batches of meals.  Let's say you can only come up with 3 meals, but you need food for 6 out of 7 nights of the week.  Double up on your 3 meals and you have food to feed you the other 3 nights!  I know that's not a totally brill idea, but it's really easy.  Just try to choose meals your family will really enjoy, so you don't get the stank eye when you place ratatouille on the table for the 2nd time in a week.  No one likes the stank eye.  (But a select few might like ratatouille.)  Making a quiche? Make 2. You can freeze the liquid quiche mixture if you need to, and then thaw it overnight for use the next day.  You can freeze the shredded cheese as well.

3.  Use your crockpot.  I tend to be more successful at getting dinner on the table if it's already been assembled for me, by me, earlier in the day. This means getting things into my crockpot at least 4-8 hours in advance (the earlier the better in most cases to let meats completely thaw and slow-roast).  There are tons of crockpot recipes out there as well as ebooks. I recently purchased Mama & Baby Love's ecookbook "From Your Freezer to Your Family" for $5 over Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend (it was only $5 and had SO many whole-foods based recipes)!  I've already made a few of the recipes and plan on making more.  The great thing is the recipes are already doubled, so you make it once for two meals (and freeze them both).  Or in my case, I was impatient, and made them right away.  There are many other ebooks like "Crock On" from Stacy Makes Cents.  Tons of other crockpot recipes exist on Pinterest.  Go Buck Wild.

4. Run errands during a non-mealtime timeslot.  I wanted to say "during a non-mealtime time," but I was afraid it'd look like I didn't know how to speak English.  Yo hablo ingles, ok??  It's very tempting, in my stage of life, to run errands during a mealtime (particularly lunch because of my kids' nap schedules), so that I can run through the drive-through at my favorite chicken place that also has amazing waffle fries and under-3 board books.  They might have the initials of C, F, and A.  You might know what I'm talking about.  And even though they send me really great coupons in the mail, I don't have to use them.  (This is a self-pep-talk here.  Megan, you don't have to use them.  You may repeat this to yourself and replace it with your name.)
Back to the story. By opting not to run errands during a mealtime, I'm less likely to get the starving, hankering feeling in my stomach that ImusteatnoworIshallperish!! and I'm more likely to avoid whining from my kids. Let's face it, kids get hungry too.  So, sometimes we eat lunches early, like, before 12o'clock (!!!). I might start pulling out the lunch food at 11:15 to get it going, so that when Gabe wakes up from his nap, his lunch is ready to be served, and Mia & I are already eating.  Then we can run errands without feeling the honing signal from you-name-it.  And save dolla bills, y'all.

5. Eat your leftovers.  The worst part of creating a meal plan, preparing your food and baking or cooking it, is when you have amazing leftovers that are not eaten because the food is deemed not as fresh, or you hear the infamous quote, "I ate that yesterday."  Well, you probably ate an apple, or cheese, or the same kind of breakfast yesterday but I don't see you throwing a fit about that repetition, so why do we get all up in arms when it comes down to leftovers for lunch or dinner? For a second, lay aside your foodie dreams and just eat the leftovers.  Prep 'em in a new way, or throw in a new side, or add some dressing, salsa or some chicken broth to liven up the old meat, yum, dinner's in YOUR TUM.  No more whining. Eat your leftovers.  (Pro tip: I like to reheat my food on the stove or in the oven. Nothing's worse than reheating leftovers in the microwave only to have it pipin' hot on one side and cold as ice on the other.  Plus, you'll retain more nutrients by old-school heating methods.  Truth.)



6. Play the "Clear-Out-The-Pantry-Game."  I have to confess, I'm not the best at this, but some situations call for dire measures, and sometimes you just gotta eat the random junk you still haven't touched in your pantry or freezer or fridge (provided it's not expired).  Crackers, cheese and grapes might not be enough to fill up the beefy men in your life, but you'd be surprised at how well it might quench the appetite of a young lady.  Just use your best judgment in choosing pantry items free of additives, MSG or other hidden toxins (hopefully they're not there in the first place)!

There are many more ideas, to be sure, but this is just a simple list to get you going.  I didn't even discuss soaking dry beans!

How do you save money during high-expense periods (like the holidays?)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sweet kids, sweet life


Same tree, new location

A year ago at this time, I was in funky haze of life with a newborn and a 2.5 year old.  I think there was a lot of Max & Ruby, several attempts at cute pictures of the two of the kids together, and many prayers for good naps (and good nights).  When I think back on that time, I somehow don't recall how exhausted I probably was, or the lack of patience I may have exuded.  I seem to only remember the warm, fuzzy times, and it makes me just a little bit more excited about this holiday season.

It just seems like this past year went by so fast!!
Gabe @ 5 weeks old

Mia is taller, more grown-up, tells us funny things, leaves the "t" out of the "th" sound (so "things" sounds like "hings"), and is much more verbally expressive and her comprehension of the world around her is increasingly widening.  She can hear you say something and repeat it back and it seems like it makes sense to her, even if she asks "why?" about it a million times (still)!

She also unintentionally makes us laugh.  The other night at dinner Greg was telling me about some things going on at work. I was processing what he said (sometimes that can take me a while), so after seconds of silence I said, "I hear you," to which Mia promptly responded: "I didn't say any'hing," very matter-of-factly. Greg & I burst out laughing.  Girl pays attention!

Our most recent family pictures -
Gabe gets clobbered by Mia.  No big deal.
Gabe is crawling, babbling, waving, buzzing his lips with his hands, chowing down on all sorts of foods, and breaking molars left and right.  His right molar just broke through and it appears the left one is working its way in, as well as a bottom tooth on the right!  I am so thankful for the amber teething necklace because it has seemingly helped us so much through this process!!

[Interested in a teething necklace? Use my coupon code MC25 at http://hyenacart.com/stores/inspiredbyfinn/ within the next 2 weeks and save 25%! These would make great gifts for anyone in your life suffering from teething or inflammation (can be used on adults too!)]

He walks great if you hold his hands. He moves his legs like he knows what he's doing, but if you let go, he does a mini-squat, and then plops down on his bottom and starts crawling like a mad man.  I guess in this case, both the flesh and the spirit are weak.  Mia did not walk until 15 months, so I am okay with this.

He makes sounds that sound like, "buh buh" (bye bye), "what's that," "mama," and "dada."  He does lots of other mumblings too, but I haven't decoded what they might stand for now.  If he is getting whiny or insistent about something, he might say, "digga digga digga" really fast and earnestly!
He is still really easy-going and plays independently really well. We can set him down in front of a bunch of toys and he'll just play, investigate and rummage through them all.

We had family pictures done the weekend before Thanksgiving and should be getting them anyday now. I can't wait to update our old family photos.  Gabe doesn't look quite the same as he does in the header on this blog!
These are my hoodlums
The rest of this month is enjoying holiday things in FL before we head out for a bit to visit our families. We can't wait to be with everyone for the holidays, but we're also enjoying our family time down here.  It's been a while since we traveled and have done an extensive road-trip so our fingers are crossed and prayers will be lifted that things are smooth-sailing.  Gabe just got an upgrade on his carseat so 2 fist pumps for the Britax deal at Target on Cyber Monday. Gotta love Target!


sleepy Gabe in church on Sunday
PS: We had a great Thanksgiving with both sides of our family!  We hosted it at our house and it went really smoothly. I was very thankful for a low-stress holiday, lots of good time, and family time!
Mia & Braden having a blast playing MarioKart (their first time)

1 set of grandkids & grandparents

and the other side (featuring new cousin McKaber!)

Hoodlums are waking up for their naps so it may be time soon for some wagon walking...

Mia; Amelia; Me & Gabe; Mo & Rory
Until next time, adios!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grain-Free Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Right now I'm trying my best to avoid dairy for our youngest.  I have a hunch he might have a sensitivity to dairy, so as sad as that is, I'm doing my best to avoid (although I might have a few indulgences at Thanksgiving).

Here is one of my favorite and super easy cookie recipes that you can easily make without butter or any grains!  Recipe is courtesy of my good friend Lindsay, although you may find very similar versions elsewhere on the internet.  Enjoy!
Image by joythebaker.com


Ingredients:

1 egg
1 C peanut butter (or other nut butter)
3/4 C sucanat or other crystalized sweetener
1 tsp baking powder

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together and put small spoonfuls on baking sheet. Do the "fork thing" that you do with peanut butter cookies.

Bake at 350°, check at 7 minutes or so.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My little man is 1 year old!

3 days old, leaving the hospital
Last Saturday, our little man took the plunge and became a 1 year old!  We had a party with friends and family that very night and had a wonderful time.  Aside from the stress I put myself through leading up to the party, we thoroughly enjoyed welcoming Gabe into his second year as a "little man."

at home with Mommo
Maybe it's because this wasn't my first rodeo, and maybe some of it is because he's been a very chill baby, but I feel like I can say I enjoyed every day of his first year.  Sure, I was definitely tired, and still am some days, but his little smiles, snuggles and his general easy-going nature have made the transition as a family of 3 to 4 that much easier.  I think that is why I'm a little sad to see these baby days go by.  They were here, and now they're gone! We're already writing up year two now for Gabe.  Oh, he's going to be a little man :)

Day 2, with his little ducky from his big sister

The theme of his party literally was "LITTLE MAN," and we had mustache props for everyone and a fake transportable photo booth.  Thanks to Greg's great idea (never discount the creativity of your husband), we bought a package off Etsy, where all I had to do was print out the materials on cardstock and cut them out.  So, a little physical labor and a trip to the craft store was required, but it made for some really cute decorations that I actually didn't want to take down.  We invited lots of Gabe's little man friends from church and our in-town family, and served up chili, guacamole, tortilla chips, hot doggies, fruit & veggies for the kids, and Gabe was presented with his first cupcake.  RESULT: Cupcake, 1; Frosting, 0.  Good thing I didn't go overboard on the frosting (just a simple buttercream), but he loved the cupcake recipe from Nourished & Nurtured.

I'd say the party was a success! Our party favors for the little ones were the ever-popular fruit pouch squeezy snacks. Flava of the day was spinach, pear and mango.
Happy 1st Birthday, Gabe!






















soooooo tired!

he's a snugglebug


You can see the rest of the pictures on my Facebook account, provided we are "friends"! ;)


We love you!
Daddy, Mommy & Mia

Santa Fe Chili - real foodified

One of our favorite chili recipes was introduced to us by our friend Jenn M. on the very day we moved into our house almost 4 years ago! It was so yummy, I immediately asked her for the recipe the next day and shared it with my mom as well.  We enjoy making this every year, but the more I have learned about food and additives, the less I have wanted to use the taco seasoning and ranch seasoning packets it calls for.  Thanks to Pinterest, google, and the interwebs, it fortunately hasn't taken me long to find easy homemade substitutes that DO NOT contain the abominable MSG or maltodextrin.  *Phew!  So now we can consume this chili guilt-free and without the neurotoxic side effect.  I sure hate getting headaches when I eat, don't you!?
photo credit: tasteofhome.com

Here's the recipe, which I found is originally from TasteofHome.com:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (grass-fed if possible)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • the equivalent of 2 - 15oz cans of kidney beans, soaked (*rinsed & drained)
  • the equivalent of 2 - 15oz cans of black beans, soaked*
  • 3 cans (7 oz each) white shoepeg corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes & green chilies (e.g., Rotel)
  • 2 servings of homemade ranch seasoning
  • 2 servings of homemade taco seasoning
  • 2 cups water (or homemade chicken stock)
  • Optional garnishes:
    • sour cream, non-GMO corn chips, shredded cheddar cheese


Brown the ground beef, drain.  Add in chopped onion and cook until the onion is soft.  Add in the beans, corn, tomatoes, chilies, seasonings, and water/stock.  Cover & cook on high for about 2 hours.  Serve in bowls with additional garnishes if desired.   

*I soaked and cooked dry kidney beans and black beans to include in this recipe.  I used 1.5 cups of soaked beans to substitute for 1 can of beans.  So therefore, I used 3 cups of each type of soaked beans. That's a lot of beans!!!

The general rule of thumb is: 
1 15-ounce can of beans equals
  • 1/2 cup dry beans, before cooking
  • 1 1/2 cups beans, after cooking 
Read more at Dried to Canned Beans conversion.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coming up on 12 months...

a sweater for my Caribou mug :)
This week is full of memories for me. It was just a year ago I was getting ready (but didn't know it'd be so soon!) to welcome Gabe into the world.  And I think fall just creates a sense of "good vibes" for everyone.  Even if the leaves don't change very much here, there is a change in the feel outside and everyone, including myself, enjoys the letdown from the constant heat in Florida.  With all the weather changes on the eastern seaboard, it seems we are cooling down over here and everyone's pulling out the sweaters and boots - my kids are no exception.

I've been on the hunt for many things over the past week - items for Gabe's birthday party, halloween costumes, my friend's baby shower, and getting prepped for the holidays to come. It's been a fun time and it's helping me get in the spirit - even if sometimes all the work gets me a tad overwhelmed.  'Tis the season!

We found this wagon at Goodwill last Friday when I was looking for Halloween costumes for Gabe. It was only $3. How could I say no? Now I'm curious about finding a bigger wagon I can pull both of them in.  It's been a hit around here.


We got some new boots for Mia. It was time for an upgrade.  Girl must know fashion because she was insistent on wearing them almost immediately.  These are from Target, available in dark brown and black. (pictured: dark brown)



My old roomies are both pregnant and would you know there are 3 babies in this picture? Yes, LP is having twins!! Both a boy and a girl. Andrea is due in March, expecting a little chica!



More babies!! My 2nd oldest brother and his wife Allison welcomed baby McKaber "Mack" last week. He is so cute, although we need to visit him again really soon.  He was only hours old in this picture.  Can't believe Gabe is just about a year older than his cousin...it won't be very long till hopefully he and Mack are palling around!

In other news, Gabe's birthday and party are this Saturday!  Once he is officially 1, I think it will feel a little strange to think of him no longer as a baby - but he is still a baby to me!  I am starting to see some toddler behavior break through though - little outbursts here or there when he doesn't get what he wants, a little back-arching, and wanting to be on the move all the time.  It used to be when we shopped, Mia was the tricky one to handle and Gabe would just lay in his carseat or calmly sat in the infant seat.  Now, he is squirming to get out and Mia is telling me what she thinks looks good or what she wants. Jr. Shopper & Jr. Mover.  That's what we have going on right now.  Shopping trips may need to be reevaluated in the future and Gabe might be riding in the babyhawk lest he finagle his way out of the straps in the cart and topple out! :-O  
Or, I just might not go shopping ever anymore.  Probably the best solution for all of us.  ;)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

9 ways to get well during cold & flu season

croupy sad baby
In my community it seems there is always something germy passing among the small kids and families.  It just seems to be a fact of life.  I'm not a germaphobe (nor am I a clean-freak, perhaps the two go hand-in-hand?) but of course, we like to stay healthy and not experience illness if at all possible.  Of course, it isn't always that easy. Just recently, we had a round of croup with the youngest one of our brood, and here is what we tried to help him get better.



Humidifier
Photo Credit
  1. Clean up the diet. It's sort of hard to "clean up" a breastfed baby's diet that much, but I tried to give him homemade chicken broth if possible, mix coconut oil into his pureed fruits or veggies, and focus on giving him foods with lots of Vitamin C.  Fermented cod liver oil, which contains Vitamins A & D, is extremely helpful, but go easy with little ones.  If you're really still struggling, remove grains & sugars from your diet, and load up on the probiotics.  
  2. Saline spray & suctioning. By far, this goes on the list as one of the LEAST favorite activities for a baby, but putting a salt water solution up their nostrils and sucking out the mucus with a nose bulb helps clear their nasal passages and allows them to breathe better.  Just be prepared for a few tears.
  3. A humidifier with a few drops of essential oils like Tea Tree or Eucalyptus.  We ran the humidifier every single day for about as strong as we could to help moisten the air and to allow nasal drainage.  
  4. Homemade vapo-rub.  I made a recipe very similar to this one last year and I have used it on the feet and chest.  
  5. Oil of Oregano can help relieve congestion, among many other benefits. Be careful to dilute it in another oil like olive as it is VERY strong.  (Thanks to JMK for this recommendation.)
  6. Colloidal Silver works for so many things. You can take it orally or even spray it in your ears for ear infections.
  7. Elderberry Syrup is an absolute necessity in your medicine cabinet for colds & flu.  It's loaded with antioxidants and tastes yummy too.  If you give it to a child under one, make sure the formula you have does not contain honey.  
  8. Homeopathy: See my post on what to stock in your medicine cabinet for specific remedies.  Our favorites around here are Aconitum, Chamomilla, Pulsatilla and Byronia Alba.  
  9. Chiropractics: Whenever we're coming down with something, a quick visit to the chiropractor often helps as there is probably something out of alignment. Chiropractors can be especially helpful with childhood ear infections.  When Gabe's ears were inflamed several months ago, we saw our chiropractor 3 times in 4 days, and Gabe improved rapidly.  
runny noses are no fun
How did these work out for us?  Well, Gabe had croup for ~6 days (the longest bout we'd ever experienced for either child), and naturally broke his own fever the last day, and then was over it.  I think the fever was the last straw, and once he got over that, the croup was finished.


There are no doubt many other things you can do try to try get over the common cold or typical fall & winter illnesses. What are your tried-and-true home remedies?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Loving the little days...

As we start to say goodbye to the month of September, I realize we're closing the gap on Gabe's first year. Come October, he'll be 11 months, and before I know it, 1 year old in November.  This has been one of the fastest years of my life.  If I'm honest with myself, I'd have to say I'm going to be kind of sad to see it go.  Babies are only babies for so long!

To quote from a poem:
by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton


Not me.

The days are long, but the years are short. If you need me, I'm gonna be with these peeps for a while...

fell asleep on me at a potluck - tired bebe

anticipating a playdate
sweet kids holding hands in the stroller