May 2014


The Splendid Stroller

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ready for our first 5K
For Mother's Day, I asked for a jogging stroller.  When I was telling someone about this, the response was "I won't ever need a jogging stroller.  I don't jog."  This is probably the biggest misconception about jogging strollers.  They should probably be renamed or sold as exercise strollers.  If you are planning to do any type of walking, jogging or running for exercise with your baby, you are going to want a jogging stroller.

Just like with any other baby gear, there is a huge selection to find out there.  And, they start at roughly $100 and can go to nearly $500.  While doing my research, I was overwhelmed with all of the features and abundance of information.  However, the main things to remember about the difference between a jogging stroller and a traditional stroller is:
  1. The larger tires roll effortlessly and make for a nice run or walk.
  2. The air inflated tires absorb shock from faster paces and make a smoother ride.
  3. The front roller can be fixed or provide swivel features for running or walking.
  4. Some strollers provide hand brakes.  
I had picked the In Step Grand Safari when making this request.  And after doing my homework, I felt like this is a great stroller and economically priced.  It had all of the features that I wanted and works like a charm.

Adjustable handle bars
There are adjustable handles that can can be raised or lowered.  When I'm walking, I tend to keep the hand grips at a higher level.  But, for jogging, I like the handles to be lowered.

Adjustable shade
The shade is adjustable and allows King Diaper to be shaded as we go.  I can easily tilt and provide some much needed shade during walks and jogs.  However, with this model it is important to remember that the MP3 cord is fairly short and can cause the player to dangle or disconnect completely.  

Compartment underneath
There is a compartment underneath for a diaper bag, a purse or whatever might be needed.  I find that this has plenty of space for whenever we are out walking.  I don't normally feel the need to take a whole big diaper bag.  I usually take a few key items just because of the extra weight an bulk.

These are all standard features that most strollers have, but they are ones certainly that one should consider with this kind of a purchase.  I have used each of these features every time we have taken this out!

Cup holder and closed compartment
There is a cup holder and closed compartment for keys up top.  The closed compartment is a favorite.  I'm not worried that my keys are going to fall out if I hit a bump or turn a corner.  And the cup holders have a nice grip.

The seat is plushly padded.  It makes for a great ride.  It is soft and is a big bonus for the little man riding up front.  He just sinks in a takes it all in stride.

Wheels remove for easy storage and travel.  And, it folds up easily.  I can pack this into the back part of our car's trunk with plenty of left over space.  Plus, I'm able to remove the wheels and fold down in about 90 seconds.  Same for putting them back on and unfolding.  

Folded in my truck
Probably the best feature for King Diaper is the MP3 speaker.  I can plug in my iPhone or iPod and play music for his ride.  Since he loves music, this is a huge plus.  He loves just sitting back and listening to his music as we stroll along!

Even though its a great piece of gear, there are some things to consider.
  1. It is considerably heavier than regular strollers.
  2. It is large and bulky in comparison to other strollers.
  3. Doesn't work well for every day use outside of exercise.  Jogging strollers aren't for stores and shopping.  
With all of this being said, plan for using your jogging stroller each week.  Sign up for little 5K walks or runs.  Take a walk or run after work on sunny days.  Enjoy a long Saturday or Sunday stroll.  Getting outside is a wonderful way to get sun and air.  Its a change or scenery.

Being healthy is a planned activity for us at our house.  By planning to incorporate tools like this into our lives, I have what I need to make working out easy and accessible for me.  Being able to to go and work out with King Diaper and not having to juggle a sitter or my husband being at home is a winning combination that pays for itself every time we go out!

Have a happy week!

Summer Herb Garden

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Herbs are one of the easiest and most rewarding things one can grown.  Its also an economical way to enhance cooking.  Every time I have to purchase fresh herbs for weekly menus it costs $2 per pack.

Fresh basil and dill always make me glad I went for the fresh herbs.  Dishes turn out bright and full of flavor.  And it is something that dried just won't deliver.

At the farmers market, I purchased 5 containers of herbs that I use often.
Summer herb garden on my deck
  1. Dill - great for fish, dips and dressings
  2. Thyme - Poultry seasoning
  3. Sage - Poultry, squash and pumpkin
  4. Basil - Italian anything!
  5. Oregano - Mediterranean meals
If there are herbs that you use more often, then include these in your garden.  Its up to you!

Other pros to growing herbs is that they can easily grown in containers, so they work well with limited space and garden equipment.  I picked a plastic container that would work well.  Terra cotta herb pots are great, but they tend to dry out quickly.  This requires lots of watering and is not the best solution for the hot summers we have here.  Finally, these types of pots don't allow for much growth.  

The pot I chose has a large wide mouth that will allow my herbs to grown over the summer and hold a nice amount of water.  With the herbs, soil and pot, the expense was relatively low.
  • Herbs - 5 varieties @ $3 each = $15
  • Pot - $27
  • Soil - $3
The $45 price tag is well worth it.    I'll be able to use the pot for multiple years.  And, the herbs show grow for several months!

Why not use this as an opportunity to get the kids involved?  They can help with planting and watering.  In addition, you can smell and taste the herbs with your kids to involve the senses.  Even the visuals of each plant and how they are different is a chance to learn how to identify different types of plants.  Children can also take part in clipping for dinner.  

Simple pasta with herbs and goat
How can you use herbs?
  1. Add a mixture of chopped herbs to salad greens for salads.
  2. Add to dressings and dips for veggies.
  3. Season marinades for chicken with the sage and thyme.
  4. Create a simple pizza with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
  5. Simple pasta with goat cheese, heirloom tomatoes and basil is delicious.  

A few tips about successful herb gardening in pots:

  • Select pots with enough size for your plants to spread out and grow.
  • Select pots that also allow for drainage..
  • Grow herbs like mint in their own pot.  This plant is very evasive and will take over everything!
  • Be sure that you are planting in full sun.
  • Water regularly.  If you are out on your deck and have eaten dinner, pour left over water glasses into your container to give your garden a quick water!
Its not too late to get your herbs going.  Its a project that you will enjoy all summer long and well into the early fall!

Memorable Birthday Dinner

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I love birthday's celebrations or anything that involves cake and candles!  Since I love to cook, a homemade birthday cake is more like fun that work.  I have always enjoyed cooking and like to spend time on the weekend trying new recipes.  My husband has been a willing guinea pig for 16 years now!

Birthday's are a good time to keep it simple and classic.  This year's birthday celebration menu includes:
  • Catfish Allison
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • Fruit salad
  • Yellow cake with Chocolate icing
Seasonal and fresh cooking are ways to ensure that you meal is fresh and flavorful.  The farmers market is always a great place to start for these items now that the market season is in full spring.  

One idea for a fresh, fruit salad is:
  • Fresh berries that are in season - can include strawberries and blackberries
  • Peaches, oranges or other fruit for contrasting flavor or color
  • Honey
Wash and slice fruit to desired size.  Drizzle with honey and serve.  About 2 tablespoons will work for a mixture of about 3 to 4 cups of fruit.  You can also add mint if you like to this salad.  

The Catfish Allison is a recipe that I acquired from a friend several years ago and has long since been a family favorite for company.  It is simple poached catfish finished with a broiled cheese and onion sauce.  When you read the ingredients you might be slightly creeped out, but I have given in to the fact that many Southern recipes include some type of mayonnaise.  This is no exception.
  • Catfish (purchase the quantity that you will need)
  • Mayonaise
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Green Onions
Mix together roughly equal parts of mayonnaise and parmesan cheese.  I used about a half cup each for this recipe.  If you are serving a larger crowd, use about a cup each.  Stir in approximately 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce and a few dashes of tabasco.  Chop green onions .  Add the bottom portions to the mayonnaise mixture and reserve the green tops for finishing.

Poach your fish in water.  I like to add lemon slices to the poaching water.  Once the fish turns, remove from the liquid and place in a greased baking dish.  Top is mayonnaise mixture and place under the broiler until browned and bubbling.  Top with green onions that have been reserved.  

Finally, the cake is a recipe from Southern Living's Comfort Food recipe book.  This is a cookbook that is a must buy!  If you are looking for a simple cake that has hands on ingredients and turns out perfect every time the birthday cake from this book is always a winner.

This cake begins with a simple batter that is butter, shortening, sugar, egg whites, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and almond extracts.  Bake in three layers, and you are on your way.  One tip for cake baking success is cool your cake completely!!!  And I mean completely.  The slightest amount of heat will create a mudslide of frosting that is more than anyone can deal with!  Obviously, I learned this the hard way.  Therefore, I had a cake with a mountain of frosting on the exterior and think little ribbons of frosting between layers 2 and 3.  But, as my husband would say, "Does it have sugar in it?  Well, they will eat it!"  This was his response to all of the class parties I threw when I was a teacher.  And yes, this rule applies to birthday cake too!

The frosting is equally simple.  Confectioners sugar, butter, milk and cocoa powder.  There is nothing wrong with anything from that list.

Birthdays can be as simple or complicated as you like.  This meal involved a little prep time but was easy in the end.  I made the cake and prepped my salad and sauce for the fish while I was baking.  My mother cubed the potatoes, but those could have been done while baking as well.  The night of our dinner, I only had to start the potatoes early for them to roast.  At the end, I started the fish while setting the table and putting the fruit out.  Super simple and delicious!

If you are planning a special dinner follow these simple rules:
  • Make something homemade that you can prepare ahead.  
  • Don't feel that you have to make a lot of complicated dishes.  Simple fruit salad will lighten your load tremendously.
  • Roasted or grilled veggies are easy and great!
  • Prep things early that can sit in the fridge until time to finish.
  • Take you time staggering your final cooking.
  • Enjoy your guest(s) of honor and your meal!

Have a great week!

Update your wardrobe for summer

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I've finally given in to the fact that the pre baby clothes are on the back burner.  Sure.  I'll get there, but until then, I might as well make the best of it.  Wearing clothes that don't fit or flatter just make me feel worse about myself.  What's the point in that?

Old navy is a favorite for the inexpensive, practical and fun clothes that fit the bill.  You can add lots of accessories to mix and match.  I consider it my baseline for whatever else I'm doing.  So what's in my closet this summer?

Navy maxi dress  - $30 (Old Navy)
Light weight sweaters - $19.94 (Old Navy)
V neck vintage tees - $8.50 (Old Navy)
Diva, cropped jeans - $29.94 (Old Navy)
Denim jacket 
Black wedges

With these items, you can mix and match with accessories for lots of combinations.  Accessories can include items like:

  • summer weight scarves
  • long beaded necklaces with pops of color
  • fun earrings
  • bright, colorful sandals that you already have
  • fun bag or clutch that adds color or interest
Accessories are always the things that I enjoy digging through from my stash and mixing up with new things.  Also, be on the lookout for fun accessories when shopping  You will never know when you will come across something that can be a real winner in your wardrobe.  It can be the most overlooked part of your look, but it can be the most important.  Accessories can take drab to fab for certain!  

Combo one
Pointe knit sheath with denim jacket and nude shoes for a casual look.

Combo two
Pointe knit sheath with light weight cardigan and wedges and bright accessories.

Combo three
Maxi dress with cardigan for color.

Combo four
Cropped jeans with a tee and flats.

Combo five
Cropped jeans with a tee and cardigan with wedges.

I like neutrals like black, grey, nude, and navy.  Adding color to any of these works with bright green or coral.  These neutral colors also work with lots of prints and jewelry options.   The denim jacket can be paired easily with a bright dress, linen pants or white jeans.

I tend to buy things in a similar color palette that allows me to mix and match things in lots of different combinations.  Plus, classic styles, patterns and colors can always include a pop of color or style from something else.  Start with the basics and build from there.  It will always yield a great wardrobe and looks that you will love the whole season!

E Meals - Dinner success is within palm's reach!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

E-meals is a great way to have healthy meals every night!  This subscription based service allows one to choose a meal plan right for any family.  They offer plans for clean eating, vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, slow cooker and more.  We have done both the clean eating and gluten free options and love both.   Meal plans can also be customized to the size of your family.

Clockwise from top left.  1.  Chicken with balsamic pan sauce
and rice-corn salad  2.  Skirt steak with parsley sauce,
creamy mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli
3.  Brown rice primavera and romaine with olives and oranges
4.  Mediterranean pasta salad with shrimp and honey blackberry fruit salad
Each week, a new menu comes to the subscriber through email or your downloaded app.  The weekly meal plan contains:  menu complete with recipe instructions and coordinating shopping list.  The app allows you to skip meals and check off ingredient items as you shop.  Skipped meals will automatically adjust the shopping list in the app.  It doesn't get any easier than this!

Weekly, I go through the menu list and select the meals we want to prepare.  I skip ones based on preference or our schedule when we are not going to be home.  Next, I go through the shopping list and check off items that I already have to keep me from doubling up on items.  While at the store, I check off the items I need from my list.  Once at home, I'm ready to go!  Healthy eating, here we come!

This week, we had the following:
  1. Chicken cutlets with balsamic pan sauce and rice-corn salad
  2. Skirt steak with parsley garlic sauce and creamy mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli
  3. Mediterranean pasta salad with shrimp and honey blackberry fruit salad
  4. Brown rice primavera and romaine with oranges and olives
These meals are all from the gluten free plan.  I'm trying this because of my thyroid.  We loved every single meal this week.  It would be hard to choose a favorite from these four.  And each night, we had leftovers for lunch the next day.  This means we are eating healthier for lunch and dinner.  Everyone's a winner!

Besides being healthy this has been a great way to go for us for several reasons:
  • Each meal can be prepared in about 30 minutes.
  • The meal directions are easy to follow and my husband or I can prepare the meals using our phone app depending on who is on duty that night.
  • Because both of us have the meal app, we also have the same shopping lists and information.  This allows either of us to shop without having to figure out the logistics of meals each week.  Its done for us!
  • We have a variety of recipes each week that are delicious with lots of flavor.  It keeps us from being in a food rut!
  • If you don't have a smart phone, or just would rather use paper, you can print the meal plan and shopping list and hand it to dear hubby or hand on the fridge.  Anyone can do this!  It isn't just for the techie person!
If you are finding yourself driving through and picking up fast food or eating frozen meals quite a bit, this is a good plan.  And, even if you already cook, this simplifies meal times on a level that takes all the guess work out of it!  The cost is about $7 a month.  So worth it!  

The Happiest Place on Earth

Sunday, May 11, 2014

First bottle in the NICU with my mom cheering us on!
This week, I've been thinking about my mother leading up to Mother's Day.  Memories of my mother and childhood are happy memories for me.  Growing up, home really was the happiest place on earth.  You thought this was going to be about a Disney Theme Park, but I hate to disappoint.  This is not a review of Mickey ears and the Magic Kingdom.

I have fond memories of afternoon picnics in the back yard, eating homemade popsicles, and playing dress up in my mother's room.  My mother devoted her existence to my sister and I.  She cooked dinner every night and made sure we had healthy meals.  Mother read us stories, sang us songs and took us to museum exhibits that she would read about.  Yes, we even had homemade matching outfits that she made for us at times.  And there are the pictures to prove it.  I just don't feel the need to share that here.

My mother was and still is the least self indulgent person that I know.  And now as a mother myself, I get to watch it all over again as she takes care of our little boy.  She rushes out to pick up little plastic dishes that he can easily eat from himself.  She goes and picks up refrigerator magnets that he can enjoy while playing and texts me pictures of him during snack time devouring a banana!

On bed rest at home, knitting for the baby and passing time.
These aren't the things that you are going to see on the news or read about in the paper, but they are the smallest little details that I remember from my childhood that are revisited in my home daily now.  My mom celebrates life daily through her actions and general joy of her life and those around her.

While getting ready for work, I can hear her singing the "Diaper, diaper, diaper" chant as she changes the baby.  And, then says, "Thank you Grammy for changing me" in that familiar sing song voice from my childhood.  Its a happiness that comes from just being here and enjoying life as it comes, being thankful for the littlest of moments and knowing what is important.

I spent a month on best rest before having our baby at 25 weeks.  Mother would come weekly and help me around our home.  It was a scary time in my life.  There she was.  Cheering me on and being adamant that I was going to make it long enough for our baby to be healthy.  She would read me a devotional daily and send me cards in the mail even after she went home.  Never once did she have something else to do.

Three weeks into my bed rest, I was admitted to the hospital where I would stay until I delivered the next week.  She would make the hour drive over each day and help me as needed.  I would tease her some days and ask if she thought she would still be taking care of me at this age.  And happily, she would tell me it was her job.  She is my mother.

We spent six and a half months in the NICU.  My mother continued to devote her existence to us all.  While I worked, she was at the hospital waiting at our son's bed side during the months before we could hold him.  She sat reading her Bible and praying.  Then, after the long journey off the ventilator ended, she was at his bed side changing diapers, holding him and participating in every event she could.  She did these things while moving to a new home so she could help us when we returned, unpacking and maintaining a new life in a new place.

I think that sometimes I'm lost in the fact that motherhood is being able to "get" your child the things that you think he needs or wants.  But, much of motherhood is anticipating what your little one needs and doing it with them as a sheer joy.  My mother revels in our little man rushing about the house practicing his walking or eating all of his brocolli by himself and cheering during every bite.

All the while, she still finds time to mother me.  This week, we will make yet another trip 2 hours away for a doctor's appointment at the pediatric orthopedist.  She will be right there with the both of us.  She will ride in the back seat next to King Diaper and attend to his every need.  She and I will talk going and coming.  We will enjoy lunch and return home after a long day.  It is on these days that she mothers both me and the baby.  We are both tired, but there is still happiness to be had.

Zoo day with my mom!
And why you may ask is this the happiest place on earth?  Because it is the joy of living and enjoying the smallest things in life.  Much of life seems to pass most of us by while in pursuit of vacation time, new clothes or gadgets or even the next planned event in life.  But what is more important that the sweet little life that we are responsible for during that short time in our lives?

Teachers, care givers, mothers, grandparents and many others shape the lives of children daily.  And those moments of walking, laughing, talking and eating can be and should be the happiest times and places on earth.  After all, we have but one life.  Don't wait for a special occasion or moment to celebrate life.  Do it every day and in every moment.  My mother is a testament to that every day.  And that to me, is what its all about.

Have a happy mother's day.  Celebrate big as a mother, with your mother or a mother you love.  Enjoy every minute.  Happiness can be found in everything we do each day, if we only choose to find and enjoy it!

So I forgot my make up...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Forgetting my makeup was not the worst thing that happened to me all week.  A mere bump in the road.  That's what CVS and Walgreens are for.  Yes.  I could have skipped it all together but I have no desire to impose Halloween on people on a Friday.  But, I was also determined to take the least expensive road on this one too.  After all, I have great make up at home that I love!

Emergency Make Up Kit
(clockwise from top left)
Cream blush, shine control powder,
eyeshadow,BB Cream, and mascara.
My emergency back up kit that I put together did a great job!  I included the following:

1.  Nitrogena shine control powder - $10.99
2.  Garnier bb cream for combination skin $13.99
3.  Maybelline eye shadow $4.19
4.  Cream blush $6.49
5.  Mascara $8.99

$44.65 plus tax.   Not super cheap but I felt like I needed to spend more on items that I was more concerned with so that I would actually use them.  The foundation and powder were two items that were a must on my list and cost the most.  

To save a bit more I could have set a budget.  With a little more thought and time, I would say that this could easily be done for $30.  However, I was so pleased the next morning that I'll keep this as my travel make up - giving me one list group of things to pack.  

Picked up a bag to stash all my stuff in too!
I didn't add that to my total.  It was only $4.
Buxom lip pencil from Sephora that I had.
And, the finished look!
1.  The BB cream and powder were awesome and performed great all day!!  I liked them better than my normal foundation and powder!!  Both of these items were worth the investment!  BB (Beauty Balm) creams are the way to go.  They contain pretty much everything you need to get your face going in the morning and are an easy one step.  You can also find CC (Correcting Coverage) creams.  I think that both of these options are a much better route than traditional foundations and are worth the money in the end!

2.  The eye shadow kit had 4 shades that included a liner shade.  Finally I was able to use the shadow for eye brow powder.  Another bonus!  This was a cheap score only costing a little over $4.  And the colors lasted all day.  

Additionally, I didn't have to purchase any lipstick.  I at least keep that in my bag.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few money saving tips:
  • Use loyalty cards at a drugstore of choice and look for items that give a discount based on card use.
  • Dual duty products also save money.  Mineral foundation works as a powder and foundation.  This is a good 2 for 1 product.  My skin tends to break out and be oily.  So, this isn't the best options for me.  But, it is a good option for people that have less irritable skin.
  • Select an eye shadow kit that contains a liner shade. 
  • Dig through your travel back and purse to survey for anything that you have that could be used without the need to double up on items.  Lipsticks, eyeliners and powder lots of times are stashed in your purse or bag without the need to purchase.  
All said and done, I now have a make up bag stocked in my suit case that will keep me from packing my stuff from home and hopefully save me a bit of time in the end.  Even with the $40+ price tag, it was a score for me!  Have a great day!  The weekend is almost here.  

Mason Jar Madness

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cherry Jargarita
I'm obsessed with Mason jars.  Where do I start?  First, I drink out of a Mason jar 95% of the time.  They make great vases for flowers and center pieces.  I can store soup, salad dressings, and more in them.    These jars come in all sorts of sizes, so the work for just about anything.  Lids make them transportable.  I'm sure you are getting the picture here.

I have recently discovered through the help of Pinterest lots of other fun uses for Mason jars.  Crafts, food, cocktails…oh my!

Last fall, I really started to go down this path full force with our "jar-garitas" for tailgating.  This fun cocktail can be made and frozen pre-party and taken out as needed for events.  So fun!  It's a cherry based cocktail that is tart and refreshing for summer.  Try it once, and you'll be hooked!

King Diaper's
Mason Jar Lamp
Crafts are also a great use for Mason jars.  I made a little lamp for king diaper's room.  Lamp kits can be purchased from lots of online suppliers and make these projects a breeze.  I filled the jar with wooden blocks and completed the project with a plain lamp shade that I decorated with buttons and a fabric initial cut out.  So simple.  Since I already had the jar and blocks, it was a fairly cheap project too.  Depending on your shad and jar items for filling, this would easily cost less than $30.

You can fill your mason jar lamp base with:

  • Sand and/or sea shells
  • coffee beans
  • layers of different colored beans (red, lentils of different colors, black, etc)
  • small pinecones or other dried items from your yard
  • found bird nest
  • marbles
Get creative and use items you have to construct something that adds you your decor.  Add a lampshade that fits in with the filled base or create something on a plain lampshade.  The one that is featured above is not finished.  I later added some buttons around the base and top of the shade for added texture and color.  

Prepping meals for the week is my new favorite.  If you haven't tried salads in a jar, I highly suggest it.  You start by layering chunky vegetables like carrots or beans on the bottom.  Add dressing and layer items on top such as fruit or other items like quinoa.  Layer on your greens and weight with nuts or other fillers.  Its up to you.  Lots of options and can be made with tons of different combinations.

Finally, breakfast can also be an easy addition to my Mason jar sickness.  This is an easy prep for everyone in our family.

  • 1/4 cup old fashioned, rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use whole milk)
  • 1/2 chopped apple (Granny Smith is my favorite)
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal in a jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar, optional
Layer items into the jar with the oats on the bottom and apples on the top.  Can be stored in the fridge for a week.  Pour into a bowl and heat for 2 minutes in the microwave and is perfect every time.  

If you would prefer to make this with a different fruit combination, add whatever fruit you want to fill to the top of the jar.  This can include whatever fruit is in season:  blueberries, peaches, cherries or anything else that you want.  And, if you prefer, leave out the cinnamon.  This can be made into whatever you like!  But, its a great way to have a handy, healthy breakfast!

So, get out those Mason jars you have.  Save a few to use or just go buy some if you don't have any handy!  You will be so glad you did.  No matter what you do with them, you will find lots of uses.  And if nothing else, you always need a good tea or water glass!  Have a happy week!

Subscribe to The Southern Glamper

CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan