Cold Hard Cash for Natural Kid Product Reviews

March 20, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Happy first day of Spring :)

I have a favor to ask you. Would you be willing to write a review of one of your favorite (or not favorite!) natural kid products in exchange for $5 cash in your Paypal account?

Go here: Submit natural product reviews501498_money_stack.jpg

I’ve paid out dozens of moms for their honest thoughts on all kinds of products including:

* Homeschool supplies
* Natural health products
* Toys
* Cookbooks
* Skin care and baby care

and a lot more. Right now I’m really looking for reviews for products for your kids. All you have to do is fill out the form here: submit natural product reviews for cash

Do take a moment to read the terms. I’m not looking for you to write a thesis or anything, but many of the reviews are rejected because they were either copied from another website
(not nice!) or way too short.

Thanks so much!

Quick Homemade Pudding Recipe

March 19, 2008 | 1 Comment

My oldest loves to cook. Being a kid, his favorite things to cook are typically desserts. ;)

The other day he made homemade donuts (not the kind that comes from canned biscuits either), the kind Caroline Ingalls might have made. They were the best tasting donuts I had ever eaten! (Yes, I sneaked one bite despite my wheat intolerance!)wholefoodsforwholefamily.jpg

Today he made homemade pudding and I thought I would share the recipe. I’ve been using this one for years, and it’s a slight variation of the recipe found in Whole Foods for the Whole Family. Which is an excellent cookbook by the way, it’s one of my all time favorites.

This recipe has about a million variations. You can make it gluten free, egg free, dairy free and corn free (just substitute arrowroot for the cornstarch and cook for a shorter time) in case of food allergy. You can make it plain old vanilla, carob, chocolate, coconut, fruit, lemon, rice, butterscotch, etc. And of course it’s wonderful as-is.

It’s delicious and VERY inexpensive to make. And honestly, it takes about the same amount of time to make as instant, especially if you put a kid on the job. ;)

It has far less sugar and more actual food and nutritional value in it than instant pudding you can buy on the grocery store shelves. As a point of reference let’s take a peek at what’s inside one major name brand instant pudding:

Sugar, Modified Food Starch, Coconut, Contains Less than 2% of Artificial Flavor, Disodium Phosphate and Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate (for Thickening), Mono- and Diglycerides (Prevent Foaming), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Artificial Color, Sodium Metabisulfite (Retains Coconut Whiteness), BHA (Preservative).

Yum! A chemical conglomeration passed off as food! Conveniently packed in plastic disposable servings!

Try this instead:

Quick Homemade Pudding

  • 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup milk (this makes more sense to me than saying “2 cups milk, divided”)
  • 4 Tablespoons sweetener (I use honey or Rapadura)
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla (use 1 teaspoon if you’re making chocolate)

1) Place sweetener and 1 1/2 cup milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat on low. While you’re waiting for it to reach a simmer, mix the 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch or arrowroot. Get the eggs ready in a small bowl too.

2) When the milk is bubbling a bit, add the cornstarch/milk mixture, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

3) Mix about 1/2 cup of the pudding mixture into the bowl with your beaten eggs and stir well, then add to the saucepan. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly.

4) Remove from heat and add vanilla and other ingredients.

homemade quick chocolate puddingI think it’s tastiest cooled but you may not want to wait that long!

To make chocolate pudding, mix a scant 1/4 cup cocoa powder with a little hot water then stir in. (Remember to decrease the vanilla to one teaspoon. You can also use carob.)

For coconut, add 1//2 to 1 cup coconut flakes.

For rice pudding increase the milk by 1/4 cup and add 1 cup cooked rice to finished pudding, sprinkle nutmeg on top and add raisins if you like.

For butterscotch, add 2 Tablespoons molasses to the sweetener and stir in 2 Tablespoons butter after removing from heat.

For lemon, substitute lemon juice for vanilla and add 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind.

Add fruit like sliced bananas if you wish to the basic vanilla recipe.

Leave out the eggs if you’re allergic. Use soy milk instead of dairy if you’re allergic to that. If corn is an issue, replace the cornstarch with arrowroot and decrease cooking times. You can also use 6 Tablespoons flour instead of cornstarch.

 

Tuesday Tidbits: Cloth pads for African girls, Beef recall

February 19, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Tuesday Tidbits is where I publish little bits of news and info that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else. If you want to play along, grab the code for the graphic (I host it and all cause I’m cool like that) on the right sidebar.

1- Barbara of Mom2Mom Lounge interviewed me asking questions about working from home and enjoying passive income while raising your kidlets. There’s some valuable advice in there so go check it out.

2- Have you talked to your kids about the choking game?

3- Have you seen those Proctor and Gamble ads encouraging you to buy their tampons so that African girls can get free tampons? Don’t do it. Crunchy chicken has a MUCH better idea. Tampons, waste incinerators and voodoo=bad. Washable absorbent cloth pads=good. Ok?

She’ll be featured on the show in a few weeks so stay tuned, but in the meantime see what awesome nonprofitness she is doing for these girls who often miss school during their monthlies. Rock on sista.902652_cows_in_field.jpg

4- The U.S. has announced the largest beef recall in history. This is so sad, considering the meat was earmarked for use in public schools. I’m thankful that sitting in my freezer are organic grass fed beef, pork and chicken from a small Tennessee farm who does monthly deliveries to Atlanta. I feel much safer knowing the people who handle my meat.

Ahem. Seriously folks, organic meat is worth the added expense. If you haven’t found a source of safe meat yet, try EatWild or LocalHarvest.

 

 

Mothering Monday: Top Ten Things About Being a Mom

February 18, 2008 | 3 Comments

Even though parenting can be frustrating and tiring at times, most of us wouldn’t trade the joys for anything. Here are some of my favorite things about being a mom. 

1. You have someone who is always ready and willing to cuddle.

2. If you can bake cookies, you’re a genius - a master chef!

3. You get to put playdates and lunches out on your agenda.

4. Hearing your child say for the first time, “I love you mommy.” 

5. You get to be in charge, sort of;)

6. Watching your kids sleep peacefully.  Ahhh. Enjoy the silence.

7. Being able to see ordinary things through a child’s eyes.

8. Learning to slow down and enjoy the moment.

9. Unconditional love. Your baby doesn’t care if you sing out of key or even forgot to brush your teeth.

10. Being able to see your hard work played out in their lives. 

11. Baby toes, soft cheeks, pudgy feet and bellies that poke out and just beg to be tickled.

12. Getting to re-read all your favorite books you loved as a kid.

13. When your 9 year old knows how to operate the Senseo. And serves you coffee.

Oops. That was thirteen. :)

What are some of your favorite things about being a Mom?

p.s. If you want to participate in this meme, grab the graphic code on the right sidebar.

What Will Parenting My Teen Be Like?

February 14, 2008 | 2 Comments

When I grow up and my kids are teenagers, I hope I’m as cool as Aurelia Williams. Aurelia’s show is all about parenting teenagers. I listened to this week’s show and thought about the fantasy I’ve always had with my younger kids.

I imagine myself sitting in front of a coffee shop sipping latte with my oldest son Caleb. He has blonde hair that’s really light at the tips and his big blue eyes are shining. (Yes, he is my child. Very blonde and very blue eyed. When he was born I was like, “Did that just come out of me?” So much for dominant genes!) He’s tall and skinny and wearing baggy skater pants. He’s well read and a great conversationalist - this isn’t much of a stretch, he’s both those things now.

I imagine us having conversation. I am laughing at his jokes and generally enjoying listening to his point of view on things. Sometimes he scares me a little bit, but mostly I’m so proud of him I could bust open and spill out all over the sidewalk.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m really looking forward to my teenagers. Despite our stressful moments, we have great communication. Even though I’ve overreacted to things and overdisciplined many times, for the most part I know when to slow down and just listen. Reading books like How To Talk So Kids Will Listen has taught me how to acknowledge and mirror feelings. I’ve also learned how to talk through problems instead of automatically punishing or consequencing. I also know about myself that I won’t take adolescence personally. It’s not about me, it’s about them needing to push/pull to become an adult.

Thanks Aurelia for providing such great information and being so positive about the parent - teen relationship!

Moms Talk Radio

Books About Household Management

February 14, 2008 | Leave a Comment

I listened to The Household Helper episode in which Cara mentioned two of her favorite household management books. The two she mentioned were two of my personal favorites too!

People are talking lately about Martha Stewart’s book on home keeping, but years before her, Cheryl Mendelsohn wrote Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. Just saying the title makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Home Comforts sounds so much nicer than “house cleaning”. I learned some interesting tidbits about cleaning in this book, including the fact that Italians and Brits have different ideas about making beds. In England, making beds is considered essential for good housekeeping. But in Italy, it’s considered gross not to “air the sheets” for several hours in the morning.

No wonder I’ve always resisted making beds. I belong in Italy!

I also discovered FlyLady soon after I became a Mom. Back in those days I was challenged trying to simply a) keep the baby alive and b) get dinner on the table. FlyLady’s routines and a baby sling were my saving grace.

I confess I don’t do everything she recommends, but the “keep your sink clean” and the wearing shoes bit has stuck. I cannot stand to have a dirty kitchen sink! And my feet hurt when I don’t wear shoes - not to mention my kids seem magnetically attracted to standing on my toes. Ouch!

The concept of the morning and evening routine has also become a part of my subconscious. With 4 kids it’s necessary to my sanity to be organized.

Now cleaning the shower… not so good. ;)

Moms Talk Radio

 

Frugal Friday: .25 Day at the Thrift Store

January 12, 2008 | 21 Comments

This post is actually about what I did *last* Friday, but I’m just now getting around to publishing this. My digital camera has decided to officially freak out and DIE, and I really wanted to post pictures of all the goodies I got, but alas, it’s not meant to be right now. Maybe later I’ll be able to update this post. :-) frugal friday thrift store shopping tips

What do you get when you cross $36 with $0.25 Day at the Thrift Store?

5 HUGE, kitchen trash bag size bags FULL of kid’s and mama clothes, books, a child’s desk and a gorgeous loveseat, and One very happy Frugal Mama. ;)

Note: If you are new to thrift store shopping, read more of my tips below after I describe my finds. If you’re a seasoned thrift store shopper, beware. Uncontrollable jealousy may ensue after reading this post!

Let me start by telling you why I love thrift stores. Firstly, I am cheap and I love the savings they offer (repeat after me: stick it to da man).

Secondly, I like buying secondhand stuff that somebody decided to go to the trouble of donating instead of chucking it into a landfill.

And third, (and this is a little known truth about buying kid’s clothes secondhand) I actually get better quality stuff at the thrift store. Before I lose some of you let me explain what I mean.

Have you ever bought a clothing item for your kids at a discount or department store, only to have it tear up in the wash the first time your kid wore it? I have too. The thing is, if the item in question has made it through one kid and many washes and still looks good when you pick it up at the T-store, it’s a quality garment that isn’t going to fall apart on you.

So there are my reasons. Here’s a brief summary of my thrift store history.

My Mom has always been a big thrift store shopper. When I was a kid, thrift stores were NOT the “in” thing to do. Mom was always ahead of her time, and she tried to sell her friends on the concept, but they just weren’t hip to it. When people would complement my mother on something she had on, she would say “Oh, I got it at a little boutique.” LOL!

When I was a kid she would drag me to the thrift store but I wasn’t that keen on the experience. I always had to pee the moment I walked in the door, no matter how recently I had just gone to the bathroom. Now I know that was due to a cat allergy, but at the time, it drove my mom a bit nuts. I did LOVE books however, and would immediately head to the book section, only to be dragged out an hour later by my mother.

When I was a teenager, thrift stores had become Cool. All the punk/mod/skater kids shopped at thrift stores in East Atlanta so they could find Ben Shermans, Fred Perry tennis shirts, old Doc Marten boots, trench coats, etc. All the rich suburbanite North Atlanta kids shopped at thrift stores so noone knew they were rich suburbanite kids. LOL! By that time I was old hat at thrift store shopping thanks to my mother, so my girlfriend and I would head to the thrift stores intown to seek out old vintage Nikes, those cute girly cut 70’s style t-shirts, and vintage dresses and coats. Back when I was a size 2/4 and didn’t have mom boobs and could actually fit into vintage dresses and coats. LOL!

Then when I became a mom, I shopped at thrift stores so I could find those snazzy cloth diapers that cost $10 or more a pop on eBay. Now with 4 kids, thrift store shopping is a bit of a necessity. I simply cannot imagine why anyone would NOT shop at thrift stores occasionally.

So. Here’s what I got last week when a nearby thrift store had $.25 day. Ready?

For 2 year old Sadie:

  • 2 summer dresses
  • 1 summer skirt
  • 6 short sleeved casual shirts

For 4 year old Ilana:

  • 2 summer dresses
  • 9 skorts
  • 11 short sleeved casual shirts
  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 1 cardigan sweater
  • 1 dressy wool overcoat for next winter with dry cleaning tags still in it

For 6 year old Julien:

  • 4 short sleeved shirts (Polo style, ringer tees)
  • 1 long sleeved t shirt
  • 4 pairs of pants

For 9 year old Caleb:

  • 4 short sleeved shirts (Polo, ringer tees)
  • 1 long sleeved dress shirt
  • 1 pair of jeans

For 32 year old Mama:

  • 1 black leather Liz Claiborne bag in like new condition
  • 1 black leather handbag also looks like new
  • 8 short sleeved shirts, some casual, some dressy for Summer
  • 1 long sleeved dressy sweater
  • 1 pair of blue corduroy jeans that fit like a glove

I also got 18 books (some of them for homeschooling: Science, planets, weather, a few fiction works like Sounder, a couple rare Dr. Seuss books, a nice DK book about Space Travel, a book about the Amish, etc.), an Art set with paint that hardens so you can make sculptures with it which J and I immediately dug into, a kid size white antique writing desk for Ilana for her to sit and do art at, an the piece de resistance, a gorgeous loveseat that complements the other one I have that sits opposite in the living room. It was $10 and in perfect condition, not a spot anywhere on it.

Can you believe I got all this stuff for $36? If you haven’t figured it out already, every item of clothing was .25 each. (The desk and loveseat were half off regular price.) Almost everything I bought for the kids was Gap, Old Navy and The Children’s Place. Some of the items I got looked like they had been worn once, washed and tossed aside. It just amazes me that people will spend top dollar for new kid’s clothing then discard it before it has a chance to get a stain on it! Everything I got was spotless with no missing zippers, buttons, or flaws.

Ok, so now that I’ve regaled you with my finds, here are my tips for navigating the thrift store shopping scene.

Thrift Store Shopping Tips

1) Get to know your local T stores

If you don’t know what thrift stores are in your area, just look in the phone book or Google it. A lot of T stores have websites these days, and those are great to visit because they often have coupons you can print out.

For example, here in Atlanta we have Last Chance and America’s Thrift. We also have several Goodwill and Salvation Army and other smaller, independent stores. There are advantages to both. The larger stores are cleaner and more organized, but the smaller stores often have lower prices and better deals. The scenario I described above happened at a small Thrift store a few miles away from me that gives its profits to a local children’s home. I like supporting it because it’s for a good cause too. Keep in mind that some of the thrift stores may be donating to causes that don’t jive with your personal beliefs, so it’s good to check them out first.

Goodwill stores are among the cleanest and most organized. The clothing in the store is laid out by color which is nice if you’re looking for something in particular, but their prices are higher so you pay for that convenience.

thrift store shopping tips2) Finding Great Deals

As I mentioned, you can search for websites where you can print coupons to use inside the store. Also, most thrift stores have discount days. Call them up and ask what the schedule is like. Last Chance has Half Price Mondays where… you guessed it, everything in the store is half price. They open at 8:30 am here and if I get there at 8:15, a line has started at the door, rain or shine, even in the dead of winter. They even print up T shirts that say “I Survived Half Price Day at Last Chance”!

Some of them have loyalty cards, where you get a hole punch when you spend a certain amount, then when the card is full you get a few bucks off. Other stores have a color coded system where the color of the tag indicates the price reduction. So some days you’ll walk in and all pink and yellow tags, for instance, are half off.

Keep in mind that just because you’re at a thrift store doesn’t mean you’re getting the best price! Especially a few years ago when a lot of people got hip to thrift, they started raising prices like crazy. It wasn’t unusual to go in and see a pair of Gap jeans marked over $10. Get real! I can get jeans brand new at Old Navy right now for $8, why would I spend more for used? But $0.25? Oh, yeah. That’s definitely my style. :)

3) Be Organized

Thrift stores can be a little overwhelming. Or maybe it’s the dust that goes to your head, I don’t know. ;) But if I walk in with no idea of what my kids need I get totally lost. I find it helpful to write down what I’m looking for before I go in. So I’ll have a list that says:

Sz 6 Boy - Pants
Sz 4 Girl - Shirts
Sz 2 Boy - Dressy shoes
Me - Black skirt

… or something like that so I can be focused. Oh, and leave the kids at home! I don’t like mine pawing all over dirty toys.

Another thing to keep in mind that unlike a regular retail store, you’re not going to walk in and find clothing in the season you need, always. Often you will, but those items get picked up first. So I find that I do best when I try to think ahead and buy what the kids need for the next season. That makes that little list I mentioned even more important.

Just give it a shot! You can find some incredible deals. My kid’s homeschool curriculum has been almost entirely designed from stuff I’ve gotten at thrift stores. For example, two weeks ago I bought 4 BRAND NEW, untouched Abeka books. One on cursive handwriting, one math and two vocabulary/language arts. I have gotten clothing with the store tags still hanging on the item, and dress clothes with dry cleaning tags still inside. I’ve found brand new shoes and other really nice stuff. You never know what you’re going to find, you just have to be willing to do a little digging.

So there you have it!

Got any awesome thrift store deals or tips to share? Post them in the comments below.

When The Kids Are Away The Mom Will

January 10, 2008 | 1 Comment

… be bored?

My oldest kiddos are visiting relatives two states away, and it’s just me and the youngest for 5 whole days. I had big plans of work, cleaning, organizing and fun with “only” one kid to care for.

The first day (yesterday) was pretty good. I got lots of work done while she took TWO naps (that hasn’t happened in a year!). I even dropped her off with a friend for an hour so I could get to a business appointment. She had a blast playing with her little friend. And I have been getting some extra housework and organizing done.

The house is really clean. And all the dishes and laundry are done. I got all my 2006 bookkeeping/tax stuff taken care of.

But today, the house is too quiet. I feel a little bored. There are no fights to help mediate, no schoolwork to help oversee, no chores to delegate, no potty talk or jokes at the table. Sadie tries to do Knock Knock jokes, but she doesn’t quite get it. It goes something like this:

Sadie: “Knock Knock.”

Mommy: “Who’s there?”

Sadie: “Sadie.”

Mommy: “Sadie who?”

Sadie: (silence)

And I didn’t realize how much the other kids entertain this little girl. :) I’ve forgotten how hard it is to have a little person who looks to you for all their stimulation, all day long! Yesterday she decided it was fun to hit mommy with her pajama bottoms. Ordinarily, she would torture her sibs like that. I’ve always said that having one child is as hard as having 4, in some ways.

I guess I’ll have to leave the house today to help pass the time. What’s storytime at the library like with only one kid in tow?

 

MM: She’s Growing Up

December 31, 2007 | Leave a Comment

  I had to share a moment rom my house earlier today. Amost 2 1/2 year old Sadie is standing in a chair at the table painting with her sister. She accidentally knocks over her 9 year old brother’s favorite mug. Uh-Oh.

Big bro runs out of the room to do his deep breathing (LOL!) so as not to yell at the baby. When she realizes what happened, Sadie runs up to me with her big round eyes and her finger up in the air as if to say, “By George I’ve got it!”.

She says to me: “I say sorry”.

So she runs off her in little fuzzy Dora slippers to the next room to apologize to her big brother, her arms up in the air to get/give a big hug.

Sniff. Sniff. She’s a baby no more.

Quiet

December 5, 2007 | 3 Comments

I won’t be blogging much for a couple of days. The baby’s getting over what was either Rubella or Roseola. (The rash came after a high fever like roseola but began on the face so I’m not sure.) The 4 year old has an earache and cough and cold and the boys have coughs and colds.

4 sick kids - mama no work

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