Posts Tagged parenting

The “Big Cook” is a Mommy Lifesaver

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We have all been there before.  Whether you’re eight months pregnant or have your hands full with extracurricular activities and busy kids at home, we can all benefit from a “Big Cook!”  Not only is a Big Cook a great excuse to get friends together, but by the end of the day you have a fully stocked freezer of ready to pop in the oven meals.  Personally, I know there are several days where I get busy during the day and realize around 3 o’clock that I forgot to pull something out of the freezer for dinner.  Then I’m stuck quickly de-frosting something in the microwave or calling my husband and suggesting it’s a good night to eat out.

I had the opportunity to join some girlfriends yesterday for  a Big Cook.  It was my first experience doing one, but some of the girls were well seasoned in this area.  One of the girls emailed us a grocery list a couple of weeks in advance and we were all assigned items to bring the day of the Big Cook.  We met at 10a.m. and had successfully prepared 80 meals by 4p.m.!  BBQ Pork, Tricolor Chicken and Pasta, Taco Toss, and Zippy Pork Chops were just a few among our menu.  Our day began by organizing all of our ingredients into one area.  Then we came up with a game plan as to what we were each going to be doing.  I browned 15 pounds of hamburger, while some were mixing the sauces for the burger meals and others labeling the bags the meals were being placed into with the meal title and cooking instructions.  We continued this system through the pork and chicken dishes as well.  Throughout the day, we took turns washing dishes and dividing the meals among everyone.  At the end of the day, we each had 10 different dishes and 20 meals for four people (two of each dish)!  When it was all complete and clean up was over, we sat down with our receipts and added all the expenses together and divided by how many people were taking food home.  The average cost came out to about $9 per meal.  Not too bad when you consider the fact that each meal is for four people.  That’s about $2.25 per person per meal!

The idea for The Big Cook came from three busy mom’s named Joanne Smith, Lorelei Thomas and Deanna Siemens.  They decided one day to get together and cook in mass in order to prepare meals to freeze for future evenings.  They developed fast and healthy meals that could easily be frozen for future use.  The idea took off and in 1997 they published the cookbook titled The Big Cook.  This is one of those products I saw and said to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that!?”  It’s such a great idea and there is an enormous market of mothers and fathers that would benefit from this style of cooking.

My husband and I are pretty adventurous with cooking and I wouldn’t go as far to say that we will rely on this method completely, but for those days you really just don’t feel like cooking or don’t know WHAT to cook, it’s great to know you have meals ready to go in the freezer!  Another great thing about this style of cooking is it allows us to focus more time and energy on the side dishes that surround the entrée.  For me, I usually spend most of my time preparing the entrée and then add simple vegis and rice or potato with it.  With The Big Cook in my life now, I can focus more on some new side dishes.

Overall, The Big Cook is a great concept for any family.  I am already looking forward to the next event and I hope that you adopt the idea among your friends and family and give it a try.  So fun and so easy!  Happy cooking!

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Nursery to ‘Big Girl’ Room

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Our daughter Kelly is fast approaching her two-year birthday and still wakes up every morning in our bed.  This is not something we are proud of however, we certainly don’t take for grant it the mornings we are woken with that sweet little voice and a warm hug and kiss to follow.  We were those first time parents that would go to put her to bed and had to rock, feed, or walk around with her until she was sleeping and then gently lay her in the crib, as to not disturb her or we’d be back to square one again.  After three months of maternity leave, I went back to work full-time while my husband was also working full-time, so getting up for feedings throughout the night became painful.  It was just easier, for the both of us, to bring her to bed and let her nurse in bed as opposed to sitting in the nursery during the wee hours of night.  This went on for months.  Then when we moved to Canada I was blessed with the privilege to become a stay-at-home mom.  Once we were settled, we began trying different methods of getting her to sleep through the night and in HER crib.  We tried everything, but it seemed like every time we would make some progress, she would get a bad cold that would wake her through the night or we had a vacation coming up where she was going to be co-sleeping for the duration of the trip.  For a while there it also seemed like she was terrified of the crib.  We even had family stay with us who also commented on the severity of her screams when she would wake at night.  So around the age of 15 months we put the crib away and set up a toddler bed for her (I know some will say this is extremely young, but we felt it was the right thing to do at the time).  She LOVED the bed and was super excited to sleep in it.  But to this day, she still wakes in the night wanting to come to mommy and daddy’s bed.  It’s a constant battle.

So our most recent attempt at accomplishing this transition from co-sleeping to her toddler bed consisted of converting her nursery into a “Big Girl Room.”  It took me about a week to finish and only about $100 and most importantly, Kelly LOVES it.  I made sure to include her in as many decisions as possible while putting the room together.  And as you will see, there are butterflies and flowers all over the walls because she was a big part of that task.  It’s been a couple of weeks and every time she goes to bed she comments on how ‘pretty’ the room is and points out all the butterflies and flowers to me.  We even put a Dora nightlight at the head of her bed and every night, as part of her routine, after story time she says “goodnight” to Dora and Boots.  However, she still wants us to lay with her until she’s sleeping and she still wakes up through the night wanting to come to our bed.  So on one hand, it’s been a great start to a new chapter, but on the other hand, we’re exhausted and anxious to get through this chapter.  Kelly loves her new bedroom and that’s the most important thing about this transition.  It’s a start and there IS a light at the end of the tunnel (that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂 ).

I made a canopy for her bed with some tulle from the sale rack at the fabric store, two curtain rods I got at the dollar store, and some ribbon.  Since it’s spring time, I didn’t have any trouble finding little butterflies to decorate the canopy.  We also found some wall stickers at the dollar store that were a cheap and temporary decor that was fun for her to help put up.  We found a couple of new pillows and a bean bag that she picked out to create a little reading corner.  And to add a few personal touches, I added a couple of canvas prints to her wall (DIY mod podge canvas prints); one with a picture of her and our dog, her best friend, Lilly and the other of some flowers I photographed in Europe this spring.

I changed her bedding by incorporating a butterfly themed quilt a family member made for her when she was born.  It matched perfectly, so there was no need to go out and buy something new and Kelly was excited to get to use the quilt on her bed.  Overall, the room came together really nice and it was highly affordable.  Now we just need to continue our work on getting Kelly to enjoy it ALL NIGHT LONG.

 

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Beach Picnics on the Mind

Is it too early to pull out the picnic basket?  I think not.

I find it so refreshing to go to the stores in our area this time of year and be able to shop for sand toys, picnic supplies, swimwear, etc.  Even though it’s -10F outside and feels like we’re never going to see the grass peek through the frozen ground, it IS just around the corner!  Why not lift those winter blues and go buy yourself something for summer?  I did.

A quick visit to Walmart for milk today turned into a shopping cart of sand toys, bubbles, and summer sandals for our daughter.  We plan to make several trips down to Sylvan Lake this summer and enjoy picnics on the beach, so it was hard not to take advantage of the clearance racks.  Many retailers offer clearance sales on summer products at this time leftover from the year prior.  Along with many other great deals, we came home with three pairs of summer shoes for her, all for less than $20!

Last year our little girl was barely walking, whereas this year she will be turning two in July and running!  Needless to say, appropriate footwear is a must this summer.  And since we mostly picnic at the lake, we picked up a pair of water shoes for her that will be great for this occasion.  Family picnics can be a blast if you are well prepared and a disaster waiting to happen if you’re not.  From proper apparel to ‘picnic friendly’ food, there is a lot for a parent to consider.  Here are some picnic ideas to think about now, while there are great deals at your local stores:

1. Apparel for your toddler – If you plan to picnic near water and expect your kids to want to play on the beach, there are a few apparel options to consider.  Water shoes are perfect for your active toddler.  There’s no telling what they’ll be stepping on under the sand and these shoes will protect their little feet from any sharp objects.  In addition, these shoes are great to have for traction while swimming at the local pool.  SPF Swimwear is another great piece of apparel to consider investing in for this summer.  Not only do these suits provide extra protection from harmful UV rays, they also help to keep your child warm after jumping in the water.  Headwear is another must.  If your child will allow you to put a hat on them, it’s great to keep their heads covered.  Sunburn on the scalp is not a fun consequence to deal with.  If they refuse to keep a hat on, lather their little heads with sunblock of course.

2. Supplies – You’ll need the obvious necessities such as plates, utensils (consider paper and plastic as not to lose any of your valuable kitchenware from home), and napkins for your picnic.  One thing that I couldn’t live without when picnicking, is a good thermal tote or soft cooler.  I have a couple, but the one I really enjoy for picnicking and even grocery shopping or carrying a dish to a potluck, is from Rachael Ray.  You can find her products all over the internet and I believe mine came from QVC.com, but check out all the food totes she has available on her website www.rachaelraystore.com.  One last important supply you DON’T want to forget is a blanket to sit on.

3. Activities and Toys – You will also want to consider activities for the kiddos.  Think about the area that you will be picnicking; will there be a playground?  Will there be a beach? If you’ll be near water, Buckets and Sand Toys are great and super cheap!  You can find great deals in Sylvan Lake at the Dollarama and Walmart, just to name a few.  Water Toys and Floats are fun for the beach too.  You may consider some arm floats or a suit with floats built in for your child, should you plan on swimming.

4. Food of course! So many options here.  If you have a busy toddler like myself, you’ll want to consider foods that can be mobile while being consumed.  Without being in the comfort of their home, buckled into a booster seat at the table, they may be anxious to get back to playing in the sand or maybe they just want to stand next to the blanket and snack.  Either way, you want finger foods that they can eat on the go.  You don’t want to be cleaning noodles from a pasta dish off the grass and blanket for example.  Here are a few kid-friendly foods that are great for picnics:

– Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (use a cookie cutter and make them a fun shape for the fun occasion!)

– Hot Dogs (with or without the bun)

– Lunch meat sandwich

– Pizza (super easy to pre-make at home and always popular with kids — use a hoagie roll cut in half, a sliced pita bread or english muffin for the base)

– Grapes, sliced apples, pineapple, banana slices

– Yogurt

– String cheese or sliced cheese

– Muffins, cookies, or granola bar for dessert

5. And last, but not least…Always remember SUNBLOCK!

Well if you’re like me, you’ll read this and start craving sunshine immediately!  When there’s no sun, it’s nice to know you can at least go to a warm store or mall somewhere now and find summer products to give you some hope and reassurance that Spring is just around the corner.  Why wait?  Start planning for your spring picnic now.

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Milestones

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged…

Kelly is now almost 5 months old!  She weighed in a week ago at 16 lbs and 10 oz; once again topping the charts.  It has been a joy spending each day with her and watching her grow.  This blog highlights some of Kelly’s recent milestones:

First Plane Ride – Kelly and I flew to Fairbanks at the end of September for Traci’s birthday.  She flew so well!  Didn’t cry once and entertained the flight attendants, of course.  I tried nursing her both during take-off and landing both ways and since it’s only a 45 minute flight she tends to only want to eat going up or down, but not both.  So, the pacifier worked great too!  Wehoo!

First giggle – Jeremy was entertaining Kelly in Hawaii with her giraffe stuffed animal while I was in the room next door getting ready for the day (this was in Hawaii) and all of a sudden….she giggled!  First I heard Kelly giggle and then I heard Jeremy, “TINA!  COME HERE!”  It was precious!  Of course it was days before we heard it again, but still so neat to hear it for the first time.  She giggles a lot now and more easily when she’s tickled or in a super good mood and everythings funny to her.  Lilly barking tends to get her going sometimes…it’s a good thing her barking makes someone laugh, cause we’re often trying to avoid the barking.  Her giggles are music to my ears!

First roll – Kelly rolled from her belly to her back twice in one day for the first time ever.  She was laying on our bed while I was putting clothes away and I turned my back and turned around and she had rolled over!  So what did I do, rolled her back to her belly to see her do it again…and she did!  Such a big girl.

First taste of solid food – she was sitting on my lap at work a couple weeks ago and I was eating cantaloupe.  I noticed that with each bite I’d take, Kelly would mimic me with a wide open mouth and big eye balls!  Sooooo, I let her take a lick of cantaloupe and next thing I know she latched on and was sucking it dry!  She loved it.  That was her last taste of solids for a while.

First TOOTH!  About a week ago she cut her first tooth!  I remember I felt her gums that morning and at about 3p.m. I felt them again and there was a tooth!!!  It was so cool!  I was SO excited for her 😉  Her bottom left (my left) tooth came in first.  The one right next to it is on its way any day now. 

Sitting on her own – she’s almost mastered this skill.  She can sit on her own pretty good, but has to be monitored at all times.  She’s getting there…

I could go on and on, but these are some of her exciting milestones from the past couple months.  We’re getting ready to head to Fairbanks this next weekend for Christmas and I can’t wait!  Kelly is going to be a well traveled girl by the time she’s one years old.

xoxo 

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