Subscribe to updates via email (it's FREE!)

New posts sent directly to you! Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Once the closet is cleaned out, the #shopping must commence... but where do I get cute, appropriate, modest clothes for my 8yr old? Come inside and I'll tell you! #kids #parenting #motherhood #backtoschool #thirdgrade

Here we are, just a few weeks before the first day of third grade and we are in the midst of final preparations, including updating my daughter's wardrobe.


Here's one of the dresses with pockets I scored at Crazy 8 for only $11.00!

We spent a great deal of time last week trying on all her clothes, shoes, coats and even socks to see what fits and what doesn't, which you can read about in THIS post.

What I thought was going to be another easy year of ordering clothes online in the next size up turned out to be a huge lesson in little girls clothing.

Emily is nearly 8 years old and on the slender side. She's only 4ft 2in tall and weighs 54lbs. According to all the sizing charts, this means she needs a size small, which is about a size 6-7yrs. I had no idea this meant she was no longer in the "little girls 2T-5T" section of stores. Being a size 6 means we have moved into what's called the "girls" sizes 6 thru 12 section.

As I browsed this section in stores and online, I found myself feeling melancholy and a bit disappointed. The problem with this size range is that retailers have to appeal to little girls, like mine, as well as those TWEENS who want more creative freedom with their clothing. It's been difficult for me to find clothes that are great quality, in an appropriate fit - everything appears to be tight-fitting and sheer, in an appropriate length - all the skirts and shorts are way too short, and without obnoxious sayings all over them - I've found a whole lot of: "Go, Girl", "Like, for real", "Call me, Maybe".

I'm definitely a parent who wants her daughter dressing modestly and we follow all the school's rules about dress code including but not limited to:

No inappropriate gestures, designs, words
No spaghetti straps
Clothing must extend past your fingertips when hands are at your sides
Close-toed shoes strongly suggested

Don't misunderstand, retailers DO exist that create gorgeous clothing with exceptional quality including:
Hanna Andersson
Gap
Mini Boden
Crew Cuts by J Crew
Lands End
Garnet Hill
Gymboree
Children's Place
Crazy 8
Nordstrom/Macy's

It seems my main problem is not having thousands of dollars to pay for it all.

{sigh}

So, what's a mom to do?

Take the time to wait for sales. All the cute summer items were on Clearance, up to 75% off, in June, which is right when I start thinking about summer clothes. :) Fall/Winter items are already being advertised 20-30% off and I'm betting they will be on Clearance by October.

Here are photos of the some of the amazing things I recently purchased:

Tunics and dresses and skirts (without shorts built -in) plus leggings to go with them from Mini Boden.


Blouses and elastic-wasit capri jeans from Mini Boden.


And the cutest t-shirts plus a pair of ankle-skimmers in purple with silver stars from Mini Boden!


By far the most practical items Emily will wear the most are the "Scooters", which are skirts with shorts built-in from Hanna Andersson, $12 each. She gets hot at school and likes to run and play tag at recess so having the freedom to move easily in clothes is really important to her. I particularly LOVE the length of these skirts as they are more than one layer longer than those I loved and religiously purchased annually from Old Navy (they don't offer them in "Girls" sizes, shame). I laid out all the shirts we had purchased to ensure I chose colors that would go with everything.


See Kai Run has line for kids size 8toddler - 3youth and I scored this pair of glittery hightops for only $22.90. I let Emily choose and am happy she chose silver because it's a true neutral that will match everything! I also took advantage of the Mini Boden clearance and got these canvas slip-ons for only $12 each! They are softer and require less time and blisters to break-in than Tom's and for 1/2 the price. If they had other colors in her size, I absolutely would've bought additional pairs. These go great without socks, paired with capris or leggings and transition seamlessly with footed tights under dresses for the colder months.


Do you shop Zulily.com? If not, you are missing out because Sketchers had their new line of Mary Jane Runners on a 50% sale and I got this ubber cute pair for only $18!


Thankfully her Stride Rite tennis shoes still fit from last year and should take us through third grade. She wears them only on Mondays and Tuesdays when she has P.E.

New underwear and socks were also required this year, which I found for the best price at Target. I made sure to purchase the pack of underwear that had nude and white selections - you wouldn't believe how much shows through clothes!


Lastly, and most exciting for Emily this year is her new backpack. Gram purchased this rolling Peacock bag from Pottery Barn Kids and shipped it as a surprise for Emily. Her old backpack from Garnet Hill (that she carried K thru 2nd grade!) was still in great shape but she has outgrown the pony print. I'm so happy that backpack lasted three years! Apparently, "all the kids" have rolling backpacks this year so, I allowed the purchase and must admit how happy I am with this bag because it's not as heavy as I expected.


I've recently discovered Crazy 8, they are under the Gymboree Coporate Umbrella, and are a fantastic, modest, innocent, yet super appealing to the 6-10yr crowd. The cherry on-top: a store recently opened near me so I got to examine the clothes myself and was so impressed I purchased a dozen t-shirts just before our summer vacation to Texas plus a few dresses (see the first pic in this post!). They often have a "everything $5.99 and under" sale so I plan to shop them again come October/November when they will start clearing out their Fall/Winter line to pick up long-sleeve t-shirts and a coat as Emily needs both for this year.

I also have my eye on the new Autumn collection at Mini Boden and plan to purchase the bright green birdie raincoat and matching boots as soon as they go on sale!

How's your back to school shopping going?
Anything fit from last year?
Did you child have a crazy growth spurt that necessitated a whole new wardrobe?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Summer #Vacation to #Texas - A BBQ at Pawpaw's house! #kids #family

My dad lives out in Smithville and is my kids only grandfather so he has a big role to fill for them.


Every year we visit Austin, he spends all night smoking meats and cooking all our favorite foods, cleaning the house, and wrapping gifts for Emily and Nolan. And we bake his favorite cake, German chocolate, because his birthday and Father's Day fall within days of each other during our trip.

Emily especially loves driving out to PawPaw's house in Smithville because it's in the country.

Pawpaw's house is where we catch frogs in the yard, chase crickets, and play with all the cats.




Nolan got a big kick out of trying on my dad's harness gear (he works construction now)!


My dad got them the best gifts this year: a basket full of stuffed Ty beanie babies for Emily plus the 50 state coin collection and a race car and autographed baseball for Nolan.







Because he lives so far out and Nolan is still young, it's hard to spend more than half a day with him and it always goes by way too fast.

Until next time, Pawpaw, we love you!

Monday, August 11, 2014

8/9 thru 8/15 #mealplanning Stretching ingredients over many meals = lower grocery bill! #cooking #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning and want to get started?

Start by reading all about how I go about Meal Planning each week in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find the eight steps to meal planning - a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week so these weekly posts focus more on how I chose my menu (do we have a busy week? what's in-season and inexpensive? is it too hot to boil noodles and run the oven?) and why I purchased what I did.


This week's news:
Safeway and their Just4U app had the lowest prices this week but I had to stop in Trader Joe's for a few of our favorite things that Safeway doesn't carry. I stocked up on some personal hygiene products and freezer staples but, like every week, fresh produce was 80% of my haul. It's really important that we eat as raw as possible and it's rare to have processed foods like crackers for snacks in my home.

The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.
We did eat everything we planned for so, here's my updated inventory list below less what we ate last week:

Inventory

4 portions ground sirloin
2 portions ground turkey
1 portion NY Strip steaks
3 portions stew meat
1 portions wings & drumsticks
6 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
2 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
1 portions Italian sausage
1 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes

I looked through my pantry, freezer and fridge for inspiration, noting ingredients I had on hand to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List.
Simultaneously, I read the weekly ads and looked through the coupons via the iPhone apps to see what was on sale that might complement and/or substitute what I came up with. I also always try to stretch ingredients on my grocery list over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. For example, I needed limes and cilantro for my fajita marinade but would have leftover so I added guacamole as a side dish to one meal and added a meal that would use up the remaining guacamole this week to use it all up.

Here's this week's menu and why I chose these meals:

Weekly Meal Plan

Spaghetti and home-made sauce with Italian sausage 
While looking through the pantry for some meal inspiration I came across puree tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and marjoram which meant I had most everything I needed to make home-made tomato basil sauce. I needed to purchase an onion ($0.69/lb), bulb of garlic ($0.25), Italian sausage ($2.99 for a roll) and dried linguine pasta ($1.19). My recipe makes more than enough for dinner, leftovers for dinner and a few lunches throughout the week, which is music to my ears!

New York Strip Steaks, baked potatoes & wedge salad with home-made blue cheese dressing
I pinned a recipe for the perfect wedge salad, which is a weakness of mine and thought this would be the perfect meal for a warm, Sunday night dinner. Grass-fed NY Strip steaks were on sale $8.99/lb, Russett potatoes were only $0.99/lb, green onion ($0.33) and blue cheese ($2.19 from Trader Joe's) were also needed for the salad dressing. I like chives on my baked potato and on my wedge salad but they were $1.99 so I substituted green onion. I also purchased tomatoes on the vine ($0.99/lb) for the wedge salad and for lunches this week. 

Asian honey chicken over brown rice
Another recipe I found on Pinterest yet this one I had all the ingredients for so it was an easy add!

Leftovers

Red wine braised beef over cheesy polenta
Comfort food to the max right here! This meal is the star of the show this week and I only needed to purchase celery ($1.19) and a portabello mushroom cap ($1.99/lb). I'll use up the onion and garlic leftover from the spaghetti. 

BRINNER - pumpkin waffles, scrambled eggs & bacon, hashbrowns 
A can of pumpkin puree ($0.89) and a quart of buttermilk ($0.99) was all I needed to make breakfast for dinner this week.  

Enchiladas and chips with guacamole 
I didn't use up all the avocados, cilantro or limes last week so early this week (to ensure they don't go bad!), I'll pull the enchiladas from our freezer and whip up some guacamole to serve with it.

What did I purchase this week?

I spent $38.11 at Trader Joe's on:
  • Chicken tamales - Emily's favorite dinner
  • Frozen pinapple chunks - great for smoothies
  • Danish pancakes and frozen blue berry waffles
  • Fresh basil
  • Blue cheese
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • 24 eggs 
I spent $120.04 at Safeway on:
  • Frozen tator tots 80oz $3.99 plus $1.00 off
  • Yoplait yogurt 8ct $4.49
  • 4 - Totino's pizzas, $1.25 each plus $1.00 off
  • Deli ham, $4.99/lb Just4U special
  • 4 - canned tuna $0.59/ea - I love tuna salad for lunch
  • Vlasic pickles, $1.67
  • Simple facial cleansers, Buy 2 Get 1 Free PLUS $2.00 any two
  • Scope mouthwash, $2.99 plus $1.00 off
  • Crest toothpaste 25% off
  • Dove clinical strength deoderant, $8.99, $2.00 off Just4U plus MFC $2.00 off
  • Gilette fusion shaving gel, $1.67 Just4U
  • Min chocolate chips - making oatmeal cookies later this week
  • 9-grain sandwich bread, $1.99
  • Golden delicious apples, $1.49/lb
  • Peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, $1.88/lb
  • Iceburg lettuce, $1.50
  • All berries, Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Seedless grapes, $1.99/lb

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Cleaning out the closet to prepare for #school - My 7yr has outgrown almost all of her clothes #parenting #motherhood #kids

School starts back on the 25th of this month and, if you ask me, it's way too soon!

I always started school after the Labor Day holiday...

That's neither here nor there, what's important in this post in this week of our lives is that we have to start getting prepared for third grade and that starts with trying on clothes from last year to see what fits and what doesn't.

Below is a sampling of what I cleaned out of her closet to sell and some of it sold before I took photos for this post.

Her (and my!) favorite items from last year that no longer fit include her famous jersey knit jeggings (from Carter's) and this 2-in-1 pink polka dot jacket. I loved that the jeggings weren't sheer because they were jersey instead of cotton, were ankle-length so I never worried if they were too long nor too short, and the "jeans" detailing that enabled her to get away with a regular t-shirt instead of focusing on covering her butt.


Also being sold are these adorable dresses that are so short now, even a pair of leggings can't save them by turning them into tunics. Shame. They are all from Carter's. Tunics as well as regular-length and capri-length leggings are being sold as well because they are too tight and too short and the leggings don't cover her butt any longer. Emily's body is becoming more shapely and thus, we've moved up a size.



These skirts with shorts built-in ("scorts") from Old Navy that we have loved and worn for 2 years are now way too short as are the capri-length pants from Carter's that we've had for over 2 years. The pants hit her above her knee now! All her t-shirts (from Carter's and Old Navy) show her mid-drift when she raises her arms or even when removing a jacket so they have to go, too.


This adorable outfit has to go because the shorts are too short by school rules now. All bottoms have to come down past your fingertips when you hands are at your sides.


So, did anything still fit?

Yes! Her two favorite cardigans, all the dresses (5) we bought during Gymboree's winter clearance in a size 7, the 5 pairs of size 7 leggings we got from The Gap Outlet during our Christmas shopping, and her size 1youth Stride Rite tennis shoes.

We still need to purchase some new socks as she complains that the rubbery pads and store brand name glued to the bottom that helps kids not slip hurt while wearing shoes. Go figure, kids actually grow out of that! I'm off to Target to see what they have this week.

As far as replacing 75% of her wardrobe, I did that in the last two weeks by shopping some amazing clearance sales on Hanna Andersson, Gymboree, Crazy 8, and Mini Boden, which I will post about later this week.

Do your kids outgrow their clothes every year still?
Anything that lasted longer than one year?
Where do you shop if you have kids in a size 6 or larger?

Monday, August 04, 2014

8/2 thru 8/8 #mealplanning How to find the lowest prices? Check the ads! A little work goes a long way #cooking #motherhood

Brand new to Meal Planning and want to get started?

Start by reading all about how I go about Meal Planning each week in order to familiarize yourself with the steps! There, you will find the eight steps to meal planning - a detailed "how to" in a Step-By-Step format as well as a link to an example from start to finish of my own weekly meal planning where I walk you through it. I perform the same steps every week so these weekly posts focus more on how I chose my menu (do we have a busy week? what's in-season and inexpensive? is it too hot to boil noodles and run the oven?) and why I purchased what I did.


This week's news:
Lucky's is again the lowest price on fresh produce this week, which is 80% of my bill each week, so I shopped them first again this week. I wish they offered more variety and better quality beef, poultry and fish so I could just shop at one store each week. {Sigh} Oh well, Safeway is on my way home so, I swung by there to pick up the remaining items on my list before heading home. Do you get the weekly ad delivered in your newspaper or in a separate circular, like I do each week? Mine comes on Tuesdays as the ads all start on Wednesdays and it's nice to lay them all out (I get 4 each week) side-by-side and circle each item I plan to purchase that is the cheapest. Then, it's really easy to hold up the ads and get a good visual of which store has the most items circled.

The first thing I do each week is look back over the week to see if we did indeed eat everything on my meal plan (I write down each night's meal on our family calendar) and adjust my inventory, reducing it by what we ate and increasing it by anything I purchased and/or made-ahead. 99% of the time if a meal that was planned for wasn't eaten it's automatically added to the next week's plan to avoid wasting those ingredients.
We did eat everything we planned for so, here's my updated inventory list below less what we ate last week:

Inventory

4 portions ground sirloin
4 portions ground turkey
3 portions stew meat
1 portions wings & drumsticks
8 portions boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 portions pre-formed turkey patties for burgers
2 portions pre-formed chicken patties for burgers
3 portions frozen breaded chicken breast pieces
2 portions made-ahead brisket chili
2 portions made-ahead meatballs
1 portions Italian sausage
1 portions made-ahead enchiladas Verdes

I looked through my pantry, freezer and fridge for inspiration, noting ingredients I had on hand to come up with some meals off our Master Meal List.
Simultaneously, I read the weekly ads and looked through the coupons via the iPhone apps to see what was on sale that might complement and/or substitute what I came up with. I also always try to stretch ingredients on my grocery list over enough meals to use them up to prevent waste. For example, I needed limes and cilantro for my fajita marinade but would have leftover so I added guacamole as a side dish to one meal and added a meal that would use up the remaining guacamole this week to use it all up.

Here's this week's menu and why I chose these meals:

Weekly Meal Plan

Chicken Parmesan sandwiches with oven-fries
David loves this decadent meal and asks for it regularly so, with fresh mozzarella and jarred marinara in the fridge, all I needed to purchase was a loaf of french bread ($0.99). I'll serve oven-fries with it that I have in my freezer. 

Girl's Night Out - it's Friendship Day!

Crispy turkey tacos with chips & guacamole
I have ground turkey in my freezer but only need half of it for tacos so, I immediately came up with chili as the meal to use the rest of it. I bought an onion ($0.69/lb), bulb of garlic ($0.33), napa cabbage ($0.99) - I shred it and use it instead of lettuce on tacos some times, tomatoes ($0.99/lb), avocados ($0.59/ea), and limes (5@$1). I also bought 4 bags of chips because they were 2@$6 plus when you spent $12 you got $3 off through Just4U at Safeway. 

BBQ Chicken Pizza
This is another meal we eat often because it uses up leftover grilled chicken David smokes every weekend, green onions ($0.39), leftover cilantro and lime from the guacamole, bacon (we always have in the freezer), and shredded cheese we always have in the fridge. I bought 1lb of fresh dough ($0.99) and have BBQ sauce in the pantry. 

Leftovers

Breakfast for Dinner
I love hashbrowns and think of them often... it's a wonder we don't have breakfast for dinner more often! ha ;) I bought the Alexia brand at Safeway today because it was on a Just4U special for only $1.50 a bag! Eggs were already on my list (18ct for $2.99) and I have bacon so we're set.

Turkey chili with cornbread
I found a packet of mild chili mix in the pantry and immediately added this meal as I needed to use up the other half of the ground turkey package. I will brown all the turkey in onion and garlic and just save half of it for this meal the night I make the tacos. That way, on this night, all I have to do is warm it up in a pan with canned organic tomato sauce (have on hand) and the mix and let it simmer for 15 minutes. I have everything I need to make cornbread muffins from scratch.
 
What did I purchase this week?
 
I spent $61.89 at Lucky and another $111.05 at Safeway on all you see above.

I find my bills during the summer are always higher because of the bountiful summer fruits my family loves. Is it the same for you?

This week I purchased:
  • Strawberries, blueberries Buy 1 Get 1 Free
  • Grapes, $1.49/lb
  • Nectarines/peaches/plums $1.88/lb
  • Watermelon, $0.59/lb
  • Pears $0.99/lb
  • Corn, 6@$1 - we roast it and eat it with lunch, in tacos, and in salads during the week
  • Cauliflower $0.99 - I roast this and eat it instead of fries with my chicken parmesan
  • Annie's organic mac 'n cheese 10@$10
  • Deli ham $6.99/lb
  • Pork sausage $1.99 - for breakfast tacos
  • French toast bread $0.99 - for breakfast
We were out of milk, orange juice, half & half, pickles, chili paste, parmesan cheese, and Balsamic vinegar so I purchase those as well.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Summer #Vacation to #Texas - @thinkeryATX is an awesome children's museum!! #kids #parenting #motherhood

If you don't know, I'm a planner.

A researcher.

I keep a calendar!

So, it should come as no surprise that my family and I had a list of activities for us to take advantage of while we were in Austin, TX.

At the top of that list was a visit to the new children's museum, The Thinkery.


My friend Lorey takes her daughter there and raves about it, which is enough for me to want to take my kids, but, an offer to visit for FREE (donations gratefully accepted) made it a must-do. Who doesn't like to sample something before spending money on it?!?

The Thinkery hosts what they call Community Nights on Wednesdays from 5-8pm where they open their doors to anyone and everyone for a small, what-you-can-afford donation. Our party of 4 gave $20 and boy, was it worth it!

First off, there is a plethora of parking once you arrive, including a parking garage that's FREE!

Second, there is a super fun, fenced-in, delightfully shaded, clean playground that sits against a lake across the street! With bathrooms that are as fancy as anything you'd find in an upscale hotel. Also, a water fountain.





We were in-love before we ever stepped inside!

What I loved most about The Thinkery is the variety of exhibits that appealed to both my 3 year old and 8 year old. At times, we visit places that are "too old" for the 3 year old or are "boring" to my 8 year old. What a great surprise to observe both kids rush to and from the exhibits with eager eyes and joyful smiles.


 It was easy to move across the first floor from the entry way where the kids played with the train table and used the restrooms - twice - to the gears & gadgets room, where they could build, tinker, use magnets, paint on a wall, learn about and create circuits.

 

The Light room was simply amazing. The kids loved moving all the pegs around, playing with Magnatiles over a lit table, making shadow puppets and touching the color-changing wall.


The Water room was the most fun for them because music is incorporated into the exhibit. Water drips down on copper bowls, plastic domes, and drums. You can play this neat, water piano, too! Water fills up buckets that get full and tip over, splashing everyone. You can turn cranks that make the water flow at varying speeds that will turn the huge wheel. They have bibs for all the kids as well as Crocs to keep them mostly dry. Oh! And there are dryers to dry yourself off as you exit. Super cool!


Upstairs, there is a play Cafe with tons of play food and kitchen areas as well as a chicken coop! Nolan loved filling a basket with eggs, walking around to the coop, climbing into it, and dumping the eggs back into the nest.


There's also what I call a tumble room with mats and soft climbing shapes where you take your shoes off and just jump around!


There's a huge outdoor playground and little play stream you can "fish" in but we had had our fill of being hot so we skipped it. We didn't visit the cafe nor the "under 3yrs" play area (it's amazing!!!) and I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of amazingly awesome features (including the little store we didn't visit!) but this place is huge and so fun, it's hard to cover it all. Even in two visits.

We can't wait to visit next year!