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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sick.


The only thing worse than taking care of sick kids, is taking care of kids...........while sick. :( At least I can take Nyquil this time.

I'll be back in a few days.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Baby Gate Success!



(Review of the North States Superyard to come later!)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Recipe: Falafel & Cucumber Dill Sauce

I recently realized that we eat a lot of meat. Like, a lot. And we're boring about it too. Baked chicken, a starch, and a veggie. Steak, a starch, and a veggie. I don't mind the eating meat part, but we really need to expand our recipe box a little bit. I started looking up vegetarian dishes and thought I don't like a lot of the staple meat substitutes (eggplant, mushrooms, tofu, etc.) I do like beans, chickpeas, and other legumes. One recipe that I've been interested in trying is falafel.

There is a farmer's market near here and one of the stands sells the most delicious falafel ever! Sometimes we just go for that and nothing else. Why not give it a try at home? I always thought it would be difficult to make, but in reality it took no longer than one of our boring dinners. Here's the recipe. After trying the result (which was delicious, none the less), I tweaked the spice measurements a bit.


Cucumber Dill Sauce
  • 1 6 ounce container of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill for at least 30 minutes.


Falafel
  • 1 15ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  •  2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying
In a large bowl, mash chickpeas until they are thick and pasty. DO NOT use a blender - it will make them too thin and watery. I used an old school potato masher and it worked great. Now you can break out the blender. In the blender, process onion, parsley, and garlic until smooth. Stir into the mashed chickpeas. 


In a small bowl, combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture. Add olive oil to mixture. Slowly add bread crumbs until the mixture is not sticky, but will hold together. Add more or less bread crumbs as needed. I only ended up needing about 3/4 of a cup. 




Form 8 balls and flatten them into thick patties. 

Heat approximately 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until they brown on both sides. These suckers cook fast - ask me how I know this. Definitely keep an eye on them. My first batch got a tad crispy, but they were still good. 


Serve two falafels in each pita half topped with chopped tomatoes and cucumber sauce. We made our falafel on flat bread because that's what we had and made couscous as a side. Delicious, different, meat free dinner!

As a bonus, you can totally tell your kids they are chicken nuggets and they'll believe you and ask for more. You're welcome. ;-)



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wizard of Oz Birthday Project Update

One advantage of starting the party planning early, is being able to watch the sales come and go at stores like Target, Michael's, and JoAnn's. Between the dollar spot, coupons, and the new BOGO sales at Michael's, I should be able to do all of this on budget!

This week, I picked up...
  • Material and notions for Ginny's Dorothy dress and shoes ($6 @ JoAnn's)
  • Glitter paper for the birthday banner ($6.50 @ Michael's)
  • 4 wooden baskets for table decorations ($8 @ Michael's)
  • Huge box of red/white paper straws ($5 left over from Parker's 1st Birthday Party)


I decided to make the dress part of Ginny's outfit, but use a white onesie or shirt underneath it. For the shoes, I've searched high and low for "ruby slippers" and have found that most places start at "toddler" sizes, around size 5. She's a 3.5 at the moment, so I'm giving up. I found glittery red fabric and plan to make these little Mary Janes instead.



With the banner done and the other decorations coming together, I'm on track! The big projects are going to be the cake (still yet to be decided) and the dress (which shouldn't take too long......once I start it).





I downloaded a gray scale vector image of brick and tiled it across an 8 1/2 x 11 size image. Then I printed the design on the yellow paper to give it the brick effect. When I printed out the first sheet I freaked out - it was EXACTLY what I wanted it to look like. With the glitter paper and the brick pattern, its spot on Wizard of Oz.



The menu is another thing I can easily plan far ahead. We're going to be doing a lot of appetizers and snacks instead of a whole meal. I really like the idea of doing the fruit rainbow as well as some finger foods such as spinach balls, little pinwheel sandwiches, cheese platter, cauliflower buffalo bites, and of course the cake.


Birthday To Do List:
  • Dorothy dress
  • Dorothy shoes
  • Make invitations
  • Print invitations
  • Send invitations
  • Decide on menu
  • Make birthday banner
  • Collect decorations for food table
  • Find Wizard of Oz book for guest book
  • Pick things for goodie bags
  • Pick a cake design
We're well on our way! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day Activities

One additional perk to working in education is SNOW DAYS! With a huge storm sweeping through the north east today, work and daycare are closed. Well, my work was...Jeff wasn't so lucky. So it's just me and the littles today hanging out. What to do today though?! There are a few things we need to do today such as unpack from our weekend trip, clean up the kitchen, and do some laundry, but of course we also need to PLAY!

This weekend we visited our good friends Mary, Rob, and their little boy Parker (check out Mary's awesome blog here!) The boys played so, so well together and Ginny sufficiently destroyed the playroom. All in all a good weekend. While visiting, we stopped at IKEA (!!!) to walk around and pick up a few things. We picked up two expansion packs for Charlie's train set and a few packs of plush food items to restock the play kitchen. If IKEA is good for one thing - its awesome kid toys.

Coupled with the Melissa & Doug blocks he got for Christmas, Charlie has been building and rebuilding his train town for well over an hour and a half this morning while Ginny napped. I kept telling him - if he wakes up the baby she will want to play with him and knock over his castles. Amazingly, he's been perfectly quiet. ;-)


The stuffed food has been a huge hit as well. We purchased three sets of food - a fruit basket, a veggie crate, and a shopping basket full of various things. There are a lot of new types of veggies Charlie doesn't recognize, so it was fun to teach him about mushrooms, cabbage, and eggplant. He still doesn't quite understand, however, why there is a fish in with the veggies; he demands to know why its not in water. I think I have a future animal rights activist on my hands.


This really was great timing - new toys right before a snow day. Can't beat it.

Today is also a great day to break out Charlie's new arts and crafts box. I purchased a 4 compartment storage container after Christmas at a steal - all because it was red and green. Who cares? Each compartment has a different age appropriate craft for him to use. One layer has markers, crayons, and scissors, another has stamps and stamp pads, another has Play Doh, and one has paints and brushes.







This was a great solution to the multiple boxes (or lets be honest...stuff thrown everywhere in a drawer) that we had for him. One of the things preventing us from doing crafts was the set up time and clean up time. This makes it easy to bring it out, use it, and put it away.

Trains, blocks, and crafts are pretty standard, but old favorites. Check out my "Stuck Inside Activities" board on Pinterest if you'd like some ideas (or like me, want to feel completely inadequate for what your kids do while stuck inside...) May your snowy days be full of fun!

Follow Jen's board Stuck Inside Activities on Pinterest.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

January Citrus Lane Review

It's the middle of the month and it can only mean one thing! Our Citrus Lane box is here! Now that Charlie has been getting these boxes for a few months, he recognizes the package and knows its a present for him. He loves tearing the box open to see what's inside.

This month's box contained...

Fruit Cutting Set by Plan Toys
This adorable set is made from 100% recycled rubberwood. The tag says 18 months and up, but Charlie had absolutely no problem sitting and "making dinner" in his play kitchen for over an hour. With a little draw string bag for easy clean up, Charlie has been using this set since we got it yesterday.


I'd also like to point out a favorite from last month's box that I didn't get a chance to review. Charlie has been simply obsessed with his Crocodile Creek Watch and only takes it off for baths. He talks about it to everyone who will listen!


Duo Tip Washable Markers by Faber Castell
There seem to be a lot of art and craft type items in the boxes lately, but I'm guessing the motivation is that its winter and kids are inside a lot. Regardless, Charlie LOVES everything involving markers and crayons. He grabbed his paper pad from his November box and went on drawing. These markers are super washable (Charlie saw fit to test that out) and are made from food grade vegetable dyes! No worries when they inevitably get all over his hands.



Zig Zag Zebra activity book by Barefoot Young Artists
We haven't broken into the activity book just yet, but flipping through it, there seems to be a lot of activities for tracing shapes and letters.



Upset Stomach Relief by Mommy's Bliss
While this wasn't an item we could try right away, I think it will come in handy. The box contains 10 individual packets, so I can put some in the diaper bag and some in the Baby Medicine Tackle Box. It is sugar, diary, soy, and gluten free and helps with nausea, motion sickness, and general upset tummy type issues, naturally.


The Verdict...
I liked this box and so did Charlie. There have been better, but considering its the middle of winter and we're stuck inside, its a thoughtful mix of new items for him to try.


Do you get Citrus Lane? What did you think of this month's box? If you want to try Citrus Lane for your little one, you can use my link for $10 off your first order!
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All views in this review are the opinion of All Four Love. No compensation was received in return for this review. 
This post contains affiliate/referral links.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Roam Free!

Growing up, I remember my dogs always having free reign of the house whether we were home or not. With Penny, we decided to crate train her since she was a puppy, we live in an apartment, and there are a LOT of shoes and toys and kid things all over my house perfect for chewing. Like my poor Converse sneakers that were a victim of a puppy attack last summer.



She's done really well with the crate and I think she actually enjoys having her own little space, but I feel bad putting her in there when I know she just wants to sleep on our bed all day while we're at work. I'm not worried about accidents in the house; she's been very, very good about letting us know when she needs to go outside. It's just the chewing.

In a daring and completely random decision, on my lunch break today I cleaned up as much around the house as I could to avoid chewing temptation....and left her out.

NOTHING WAS EATEN! Thank the puppy gods. Day one worked out. Here's to many more. Aside from her being a happier dog with the freedom to go in her crate or not, it also keeps me more accountable to put my shoes away (bad habit that annoys the crap out of Jeff) and clean up the kids' toys before we leave for work and daycare. It is a good thing all around.

May no more shoes be chewed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Weight Watchers

This leafy green lunch is brought to you by the fact that I'm back on Weight Watchers. Well, sort of. Enough.

Pre-children I was on Weight Watchers for about 4 years and lost about 30 pounds that were generously donated to my ass by graduate school. Then I had Charlie, got a new job, moved, yadda yadda life got crazy. Well, another kid later and I'm about 20 lbs above my "happy weight" and rather...squishy. This has less to do with a New Year's resolution and more to do with the fact that I'm sick of having to do this to my jeans.

So, here I am with my spinach salad lunch. Honestly, its not too bad - especially since fruits and veggies are 0 points on the current WW plan. This whole lunch is 6 points and actually very filling.

2 cups spinach - 0 points (2 servings of veggies)
2 tbsp chopped walnuts - 3 points (but so, so worth it)
1/4 cup mandarin oranges - 1 point (they'd be 0 points if I wasn't using canned)
2 tbsp Ken's Lite raspberry vinaigrette dressing - 2 points
1 banana - 0 points
Water

I get a total of 26 points a day, so 6 points for lunch while hitting a few of the daily "health checks" isn't too bad. Granted, I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to have for dinner and could blow the remaining 10 points I have and then some, but let's hope for the best.

Over my few years of doing Weight Watchers, I've picked up a lot of different tips and tricks (and cheats). When someone asks me for WW tips, this is what I tell them...

  • Take a black sharpie and mark point values on your food packages. It makes it easier when you're going to grab a snack to see 5 pt pretzels vs. 2 pt popcorn vs. 0 pt clementines.
  • Invest in a food scale. It is much easier to measure difficult things like cereal, chips, peanut butter, and lunch meat that way. Plus, you get more by weight than by counting out 15 chips. This video, albeit a bit dramatic, gives you an idea how much more accurate weighting food is vs. measuring cups and spoons.
  • Don't immediately reach for the sugar substitutes - they can have some seriously negative effects in mass quantity (migraines, tummy issues, etc.) Cutting the sugar and learning moderation is a more important lesson than stocking up on sugar free stuff (which is often more expensive anyway).
  • In addition to the weight goal they give you, make another goal that isn't on the scale. Do you want to fit in a certain pair of jeans? Want to be able to run a mile without stopping? Shop at a certain store? Focus on that. It's easy to get wrapped up in a number and STILL be disappointed with yourself if you're a pound over it.
  • Take measurements of your upper arms, waist, and thighs. You will see big changes in these numbers over time, sometimes even when the scale isn't budging.
  • Get into a work out routine as you're adjusting your diet. It's possible to lose weight without the activity part, but it doesn't help your overall health - just the number on the scale. You can be thin and still unhealthy and out of shape. 

You know you're a beater licker. Don't lie.
  •  Keep the "BLTs" in check. That's the bites, licks, and tastes - especially when you're cooking or baking. A nibble here and there and the next thing you know, the cheese you were grating for dinner adds up to a 3 point, 1/4 cup serving.
  • CHEAT. Yes, cheat. Seriously - you're human. One "bad" meal didn't get you where you are and it won't derail you. Knowing it's cheating is the important part - it means you realize what you should be doing and that cookies, cheeseburgers, ice cream aren't the norm for you anymore. 
  • Celebrate your smallest successes! Getting healthy (notice I didn't say "losing weight?") is a long term goal. It doesn't happen over night.
  • Keep healthy snacks in the house. If you go scavenging for something, make sure you can easily find a healthy solution or you WILL find something chocolate. 
Are you on a weight loss journey? What is the hardest part for you? How do you over come it?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fitness Friday: HOLY CRAP ITS COLD.

Okay, I know, I know. Recently, I spent an entire post talking about how I'm not going to let the cold get to me. Apparently, Mother Nature felt the need to call my bluff. Holy crap, dude. I know our measly -24 was nothing compared to the -50's that the Great Lakes region was getting, but still. BRRRRRR! The only action my Under Armor saw was being worn under my work clothes. Today was the first day that was remotely warm enough to run and it was still in the 20's most of the day. In an attempt to avoid injury and frostbite, I stayed inside this week.

My next goal? (As I sit here eating Hershey Kisses....) Find a running alternative for when the weather is less than favorable. The only gym around is a Planet Fitness, but I really don't want to drive across town and pay to run in place for an hour. I may need to break out my EA Sports Active Wii game - haven't used that since pre-Charlie! For those of us who still have a Wii (is it really that old at this point??), its actually a really fun game. It tracks usage, favorite activities, weight loss, etc. Plus, you don't need that stupid balance board thing to use it. Anyone else fall on their ass while trying to use that thing? No, just me?


Anyway, I'll have to bust this bad boy out soon to keep me occupied while Mother Nature figures her life out. Anytime now, Ms. Nature.

Also, I've started a "running" board on Pinterest. Don't worry, it won't be a bunch of BS "thinspiration." It'll be stuff like this.


And this. 


And of course, this. 



Check it out here. :-)

Follow Jen's board Running on Pinterest.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Birthday Party Time!

Well, not yet, but sooner than I'd like to admit. In less than 3 months, Ginny will turn one! With how busy work is going to be over the next several weeks, I really needed to get going on planning her birthday party. After a little Pinteresting, we have a theme and I started working on her invites and some printables!

Ginny's birthday will be Wizard of Oz themed - one of my favorite stories of all time. It was between that and Alice in Wonderland, but the thought of her in a little gingham dress and ruby slippers won out big time. The big thing on my to do list will be making her dress and finding ruby slippers for her tiny feet. I have the Oz pattern from Charlie's first Halloween costume, but the trick will be making time to make it. It'll be so worth it.

Birthday to do list:

  • Make Dorothy dress
  • Find ruby slippers
  • Make invitations
  • Print and send invitations
  • Decide menu
  • Pick cake design
  • Make birthday banner
  • Pick things for goodie bags

So far, I've made the invitations, thank you cards, and tags for goodie bags. I'd really like to get moving on the dress and banner, but it'll all depend on sales at Michael's and JoAnn's. Hopefully, the next few weeks bring lots of good coupons!




Follow the party planning fun on my party Pinterest board!

Follow Jen's board Ginny's Birthday on Pinterest.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

I am a sucker for a good clearance sale!

While I love Christmas, I REALLY love after Christmas sales. One of the best places I've found to score stuff after Christmas is Target. The day after Christmas, all of Target's holiday stuff goes on 50% off clearance (food goods goes to 30% off). A week after Christmas, it goes down to 90% off. Yes, you read that right - 90% off. Food only goes down to 70%, but hey - that's not bad either.

(picture from TotallyTarget.com)

Looks like a hot mess, right? It is. This is not a sale you bring your kids to. That being said, Charlie joined me for an afternoon of Target-ing. 

There is always a bunch of obvious stuff on clearance; ornaments, wrapping paper, trees, stockings. They get picked over really quickly. Except the Justin Bieber wrapping paper. There's ALWAYS plenty of that.



What about "stocking stuffers" though? Or dish soap with snowflakes on the bottle? Or holiday print Ziploc containers? ALL considered holiday stuff! Some Target stores do a good job of gathering up everything and putting it in one section. Most, however, do not. This makes for awesome hidden treasures all over your store. 

This is my haul from two Targets this afternoon. Ta da!! All of this cost me under $20. Seriously.


Of all of this, the Santa hats, ornament hooks, stickers, green cup, ribbon, and M&Ms were actually in the clearly marked clearance section. The hair brush ($.50), Burts Bees ($.29), and eos ($.29) were all in the health and beauty section for the purpose of stocking stuffers. Yes, they're 90% off because the package has a snowflake on it. The kid dining sets ($.89) and baking pans ($.99) were in the kitchen section. The kid dining sets have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas and the baking sets have red/green labels. That's it. The pajamas ($.79) and the slippers ($.79) were in the kid section. All of this was completely not marked as on sale. 


This load of stuff was from a second trip. More pajamas ($.89) and slippers ($.79), a Steelers Minnie Mouse set ($1.99), Christmas pjs ($.89), Kid Made Modern drawing kits ($1.49), Lego luggage tags ($.29), e.l.f. make up sets ($.49), and Christmas boxer briefs ($.49). Our Targets still haven't marked down the Method soaps and detergents, but will this week from $3.49 to $.34 each.

Also, I'm not a hoarder - most of this stuff is for friend's who couldn't get to Target or their Target sucked. Thank goodness for regional flat rate boxes!

How did I know it was on sale then? Two wonderful websites called All Things Target and Totally Target. People scour the store looking for sales, how to stack coupons, and generally how to get the most bang for your buck and compile it on these two sites. It was like a scavenger hunt!

You can follow their blogs or check them out on Facebook.

There are similar, but smaller sales after all major holidays and big season changes (like when the citronella candles are swapped for ice melt and shovels). Keep an eye out and you too can get crazy Target deals!