First Day of School

Well, here we go again! We’re on year two since I decided to become a stay at home mom, and we’re working on getting back into our school year routine. Although my husband has been working more or less throughout the summer, today was the official first day of school, bringing the typical long work hours along with it.

Things around here have felt a little weird recently because we had an unexpected “cold” front come through, and it’s been rainy and cool (for us: upper 80s, lower 90s, instead of our typical 100s) for over a week now. It almost feels like fall is on its way, although I know better than to get my hopes up.

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We’ve been trying to get out and enjoy this beautiful weather between storms and rain showers.

We’re getting back into our daily routines filled with libraries, play dates, and as much outside time as possible. However, I do need to remind myself to do every day to-dos like make my husband’s lunch and get his coffee machine all set up the night before. I’ve fallen out of the habit of doing those things over the summer.

This time of year always feels exciting to me. It’s filled with new beginning and the start of the anticipation of fall and the holidays. However, with fall comes Owen’s birthday, and I’m not quite ready for my little boy to turn 2 just yet. So I’m trying to savor these moments, crazy faces and all.

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread

 

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For a while now, we’ve suspected that Owen is sensitive to gluten. He has some of the stereotypical signs that you see whenever you Google it, and he always seems to have a better night sleep whenever he doesn’t have any gluten in his system. We were hoping he’d have grown out of it by now (I’m hoping it’s something he grows out of, anyway), since that will make life easier for him as he grows up, goes to friends’ houses, etc. However, after trying to reintroduce it to him again recently, we’ve come to the realization that his system still isn’t ready for it yet.

It’s not too difficult for me to make him gluten free meals, since he can still have things like potatoes and rice. The difficult aspects for me are remembering to check labels because they hide gluten in all sorts of weird places (luckily we don’t eat too many processed foods), and figuring out the bread situation. We’ve tried many store bought gluten free bread, and, while we found our favorite, it was also the most expensive (of course).

So, being the frugal mama that I am, I set out to find a good everyday bread recipe that I can make in our bread machine. While the ingredients were a bit pricey upfront, since I had to buy 4 things not normally stocked in my pantry, we will be saving in the long run. I’m also looking into places that I can buy my ingredients in bulk, to cut the cost even more.

My parents printed out some recipes they found online, and the first one turned out great! I may have had to put more ingredients into the bread machine than I ever have before, but it is a really good loaf of bread that can be thinly sliced for sandwiches and toast.

Everyday Gluten Free Bread

Makes a 2 pound loaf. 

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 9 ounces lukewarm water (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup potato starch flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2/3 cup non-fat dry milk
  • 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, lukewarm water, oil, and vinegar. Whisk or beat together. Pour mixture into bread machine pan.
  2. Measure and blend together all dry ingredients, except for the yeast. Place on top of the liquid ingredients.
  3. Make a shallow well in the middle of dry ingredients, and add yeast.
  4. Program machine for its gluten free setting. If you don’t have that setting on yours, set it for basic rapid or basic/specialty. Program in that it’s a two pound loaf with medium bread color.
  5. Press start.
  6. When mixing/kneeding action starts, use a scraper to help mix it and get it off the walls for a few minutes. Then, the machine can handle the thick batter itself. Just make sure it all gets into the mixture. It will not form into a dough ball like regular bread.
  7. Once the bread is done, turn the machine off, remove the bread (with the help of pot holders), and set it on a rack to cool.
  8. Enjoy your homemade gluten free bread!

Now that I have a great everyday bread recipe, I’m looking forward to trying out more gluten free recipes. This is completely new for me, and it’s kind of fun! Do you have any go-to gluten free recipes?

Fed Is Best

Fed Is Best

In case any of you guys have missed all of the posts on social media, August is National Breastfeeding Month. Whenever anyone asks me, I’m very open and frank about the fact that I am an extended breastfeeding mama (I’m letting him self wean, naturally). I think the stigma around breastfeeding recently is absurd, given that women have been breastfeeding children since the dawn of time. I mean, hello, there are even paintings and sculptures of Mary breastfeeding Jesus. It’s completely natural and, in my opinion, people need to lighten up about it a little bit – the Victorians (yes, the people who thought showing a little ankle was obscene) were more chill about it than we currently are in today’s society.

However, I also think it’s ridiculous to have a month to commemorate breastfeeding when, I’m pretty sure, there is no National Formula Feeding Month. That means that we’re  backhandedly shaming mothers that formula feed their children, and that’s completely uncalled for. You know what the best type of baby is? A fed baby.

While “breast is best” for my little family, it is not for everyone. There are moms out there who didn’t produce enough milk, had to supplement with formula, were on meds that didn’t allow them to breastfeed, had a NICU baby that was unable to have it and dried up, had a severe blockage or mastitis that stopped them in their tracks, or just chose to feed formula because it was what worked best for their family. There should be no shame, regardless of how you feed your child. Are you feeding your baby? Sweet. That’s all people should be concerned with. Other than that, they need to butt out.

I have people in my family who were breastfed as babies that are fantastic, healthy, intelligent individuals. I also have people in my family who were formula fed babies that are equally as sweet, healthy, and brilliant. These sort of commemorative dates seem to just fuel the “mommy war” even more and divide those of us that, instead, should be encouraging and helping each other. Instead of going up to a person feeding her child and critiquing what you see, instead, go up, ask the baby’s name, comment on how cute they are, and then tell that mom that they’re doing a great job.

Fed is best.

5 Ways To Stay Motivated

Stay Motivated
While a lot of people are into spring cleaning and becoming extra productive in the springtime, I tend to do it more so in the summertime. Why? Because when it’s 107* outside (this is not an exaggeration), I’d rather be inside doing things than out in that heat. Spring, fall, and winter are for outside activities, and summertime is for getting projects done. But often the heat also makes me feel sluggish. I’ve found five things that help keep me motivated, even during all of those sleepy summer days.

  1. Music. Being a former music educator, you’d think this would be common sense for me. Nope. It wasn’t until recently that I decided to check out the I Heart Radio app on my husband’s Xbox to give us some fun music in the house, and I unexpectedly found a really cool station. I went into the kids genre and checked out the acoustic channel, thinking it’d just be some fun acoustic guitar music. Man, was I wrong. It’s all fun, upbeat music that isn’t at all “kiddie.” I’ve listened to and enjoyed most of the songs before, just not all back to back. Music has an amazing ability to turn a “blah” mood around and inspire you to get moving.
  2. Have a plan. I have a type A personality. I like to have a plan, and I must have my checklists. These help keep me focused on what I need to do, and it’s extremely gratifying to check things off my list, encouraging me to keep going. A year ago, I found a brand of planners at Target that were perfect for me: they have a monthly calendar with room to write down any notes or goals to work towards, a daily timetable, a huge section of to-do lists, an inspirational quote every day, and a place for you to write down what you are thankful for every day. 
  3. Surround yourself with positive people. By surrounding myself with positive people both in real life and online, I’m able to keep inspired and dismiss any negative thoughts that may be running around in my head. You are who you surround yourself with.

  4. Eat well. I learned long ago to treat food as an energy source. If I eat good, quality food, I feel energetic and ready to take on the world. If I eat less than stellar food, I feel weighed down, sluggish, and more likely to take a nap than to tackle a project.
  5. Caffeinate. I know most moms are all about the coffee, but I’m more of a tea girl myself. It’s either a one pot or two pot kind of day, depending on how much I need to get done, what kind of day my toddler and I are having, and how much sleep I got the night before. However, I won’t say no to a flavored coffee drink as a treat.

What are some ways you keep yourself motivated while working on projects?

Eating Frugally: Creamy Parmesan Rice

Since becoming a stay at home mom, our income has literally been cut in half, so I’ve had to become extremely frugal (even more so than I already was). Other than cutting out any unnecessary charges per month (cable, satellite radio, etc) and haggling my way to the lowest price possible for bills (internet, phone, electric), I’ve really been stepping up my meal planning.

I’ve always meal planned. Part of it was to make sure I only bought what was necessary (thus, saving money) at the store, and part of it was because I’m so type A that I need some sort of plan to have peace of mind. Now, I’ve honed those meal planning skills to include extremely frugal meals that still taste decadent. Just because we’re eating cheaply doesn’t mean we can’t eat well.

And, to be clear, cheaply does not mean highly processed foods for our household. I found, long ago, that overly processed ingredients made me feel gross. I’d feel sluggish after eating them and sometimes even slightly sick. So, for almost a decade now, I’ve tried to keep our diet as close to a whole foods diet as possible. Even for comfort food recipes, there is no cream of anything, not much pre-packaged stuff (except for rare occasions), and whatever pre-packaged stuff we do use, I scan the ingredient list to make sure it’s made with quality ingredients. For instance, did you know that a ridiculous amount of pre-packaged food has soy added as a cheap filler or preservative?

Having hypothyroidism, I try to avoid soy like the plague. Too much soy slows thyroid function, which I need like a hole in the head. If I eat too many pre-packaged foods (often times with soy in them), that’s enough to mess up my already sloth-like thyroid. This doesn’t mean that I grill family and friends who invite me over to their house about every ingredient that goes into their food. That would be rude, and I would hate to be that person. But I find that, if I take care of myself when cooking for my family, even if someone else is less whole foods based (and perhaps has soy in their ingredients), it won’t affect me. Now, if I go multiple days with crazy amounts of processed foods with soy in them, then my hypothyroid symptoms come back with a vengeance. It’s all about balance.

One of my old guilty favorite foods was the boxed flavored rice. Think Rice-A-Roni or similar. I’ve always loved my carbs, and the more creamy or cheesy, the better. So, I set out to find an alternative. Rice is always a great go-to for us because it’s cheap, you can buy huge bags of it, and it’s easy to custom fit to whatever your meal may be. I found a really delicious Creamy Parmesan Rice recipe that only calls for rice, butter, garlic, water, milk, salt, parmesan cheese, and parsley. No cream of anything, no pre-packaged soy craziness, nothing. It’s super easy to make, and I’ve made it to accent many meals. Definitely check it out if you’re a sucker for those pre-packaged mixes too. This is not only healthier, but it tastes great!

21 Months

This week, Owen turned 21 months old. The thing that blows my mind about this? How close we’re getting to his second birthday…and no longer counting his age in months. How in the world is my little man almost two??? He looks more grown up to me every day, and, on one hand, I’m so very proud of all of his achievements, but, on the other hand, I wish time would just slow down a little bit.

This kid is still all about his trucks/trains/boats/etc. He even finds it funny to walk backwards while making a back up sound, like a truck. There’s not a day that goes by that isn’t mostly taken up by playing with his “trup”s.


I didn’t think it was possible, but he’s even more into reading books than before. He will walk up to me with a book and sit in my lap, ready to go. His favorites include Old MacDonald, both of the Little Blue Truck books, a retro Postman Pat counting book, Peek a Who, Yummy Yucky, Red Hat Blue Hat, and whatever new and exciting books we get from the library that week.

He’s really come a long way with his motor skills. He now successfully eats his yogurt every morning with a spoon, completely unassisted. He’s also getting better at building Duplo towers and putting puzzle pieces perfectly in their spots.

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We even managed to squeeze in Owen’s first haircut this month! I can’t wait to see what this coming month brings for my little man! I’m already starting to plan his second birthday party…

Baby’s First Haircut

It’s not very often that we get to experience a “first” with Owen anymore, now that he’s getting older. We’ve already had his first bath, first food, first words, first steps, first holidays, etc. However, today, we had his first haircut!

We definitely have waited a bit longer than most parents. I know of a lot of kids that have their first haircut around their first birthday, sometimes earlier. Owen is almost 21 months old. It was a hard decision to make even with him being this old. I absolutely love his curls, and I was afraid they’d be completely cut off, and my curly haired little boy would look completely different and end up with straight hair.

Luckily, I found a really cool kids hair salon that put me at ease, and the hair stylist loved his curls too. We decided to just clean up his hair a little, cut off any old ends, and keep the curls. In fact, getting rid of a little bit of his hair actually helped some of his curls spring up even more! I guess they were getting a little weighed down.

As soon as we entered the salon, I knew it was a good fit. Owen immediately spotted the toy trains and made a bee line for them while I checked in. Once we were called back, he insisted on bringing one of the trains and a truck with him, and he was put in a race car chair. It’s like our awesome stylist just knew what made my little guy happy. He barely made a peep the entire time, and he happily ran back to the trains while I got a small zip lock full of his hair for a keep sake and paid. The only time he cried was when I told him we had to go, and he could not bring a train with him. 

I think we’ve found our place for next time he needs a cut!

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