Tag Archives: Family

Quick meal #3: Pasta salad

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This is an absolute cheat of a meal because it’s made from a box with a few added ingredients, but it’s quick and the kids gobbled it up!

Now that the weather has gotten nicer, the vegetables at the grocery store are starting to be better quality and taste a lot better. My kids love fresh veggies, so a pasta salad is with added veggies is almost a treat for them, especially after a long winter of sub-par quality vegetables.

What you’ll need:

– 1-2 boxes of Suddenly Salad (Walmart has extra big “Value” boxes right now that are perfect for a family of 4-6)
– vegetable oil (olive oil would likely work here as well, but it does change the taste slightly)
– water
– vegetables of your choice
– breadcrumbs – plain or seasoned
– grated Parmesan cheese

This is about as simple as you can get in a recipe. Cook the pasta as directed on the box (boil for 12 minutes). While the pasta is cooking, mix the oil, water and seasoning packet according to the directions. Also, chop up your veggies. Last time I made this we had cucumbers and peppers, so I went with that – but I also like using cherry tomatoes and black olives in this salad as well.

Drain the pasta, and rinse with cold water. I like to get the water as cold as I can, because we will eat this right away. Make sure the pasta is well drained, then add it to the bowl you’ve mixed up the seasoning it. Dump in the chopped veggies and stir well.

Once everything seems to be coated evenly, add in the breadcrumbs and Parmesan to taste. Beware: if you add too much of the breadcrumbs, the salad will get a bit “gummy” as it sits – so add a little bit and then if you still want more, add it to individual bowls before eating.

We’ve eaten this as a meal on its own for days when we had a heavy lunch, but it can also be a side, of course. Another way to make this a bit more rounded of a meal is to add chicken. It was a bit too hot to grill chicken when I made the salad, so we just had salad, a side of fruit and cold lemonade, and everyone was happy!

Daycare and cloth diapers

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I’ve heard a lot of people say “Oh, I’d LOVE to try cloth diapers, but our daycare won’t do them.” I actually heard that a lot before I our first was born, so I was super surprised when it was our daycare center’s director who suggested we try diapers when we were struggling to find a disposable that didn’t cause chemical burns.

Obviously, my one experience with cloth diapers and daycare doesn’t make me an expert in the matter, but I do have a few tips/suggestions for anyone who might want to bring up cloth diapers with their daycare.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

1. Research the regulations. Some daycares can’t use cloth diapers due to some kind of regulation, whether it be a state health department, or even a city health inspector’s ruling. This is getting less and less common as cloth diapering is getting more popular, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are still places where you can’t. On the other hand – it’s also good to know the regulations because some daycares will just default to that as their reason for not accepting cloth diapers – it’s an easy excuse.

I found a  site that has compiled a list of states and their regulations – I don’t know how up to date it is, but it’s a good place to start.

Along the lines of regulations, see if there’s anything that is or isn’t allowed. Our daycare center was required to have a separate diaper for every diaper change, and this is a very common requirement. Seems like common sense, but if you’re set on using a hybrid system, or covers with flats/prefolds, you’re going to need to make sure you have enough covers for the number of diaper changes, because they won’t be able to swap out the flat or prefold and re-use the cover.

2. Find out what kind of cloth diapers are out there, and what’s going to be easiest for your daycare provider to use. Rows of snaps and hard-to-tuck-in inserts are going to make the diapers much more of a hassle, and your provider will dread diaper changes (even more than usual). The harder it is to get a good fit (ie, the more fiddling around you have to do when putting them on), the more likely there will be leaks.

All-in-one diapers and pocket diapers are especially good for daycares, and even better if they have velcro closures – that takes the guesswork out of the fit and makes them basically the same for putting on as a disposable. Hybrid diapers and covers aren’t the end of the world, but you’ll want to make sure you send them all set up and ready to go.

3. Be prepared for your provider to not want to deal with the poop. This may mean letting them wrap up the diaper and put it in your wet bag with all the poop still in it. Yep, it’s gross. But one of the biggest things people tend to bring up when talking about cloth diapers is dealing with the poop. As a parent who wants to cloth diaper – you signed up to deal with poop. Your daycare provider signed up to wrap it up in a diaper and throw it away (or throw it in the wet bag).

You can purchase disposable liners – thin sheets almost like tissue paper – to place in the diaper. When your baby poops, you just grab the corners of the liner, pull off and throw in the trash or the toilet (most are flushable, but not all, and sometimes septic/sewer systems can’t handle the liners).

4. Use the diapers before you bring them to daycare. There’s no other good way to find out if it’s easy to use, has a “trick” for getting a good fit, or is just a dud of a diaper. Please don’t let your daycare provider be your tester on a new diaper, especially if he/she wasn’t really enthused about the idea of cloth diapering in the first place!

5. Bring the diapers with you when you talk to your provider, and give them a demonstration. Show them how easy they are to put on and take off, and show them how to roll them up.  Many people hear the words “cloth diaper” and think birdseye prefolds (like those Gerber ones a lot of people use for burp cloths), safety pins and rubber pants. You’d be surprised – even younger providers tend to have this image in their minds, likely from descriptions their parents/grandparents gave them of cloth diapers!

Also, this might seem like common sense, but remind them that they don’t have to clean the diapers. You are doing the hard work – the washing, the rinsing, dealing with the poop, etc – all they have to do is put them on, take them off, and throw them in the wet bag instead of a garbage can!

Lastly – be prepared for them to still say no. There are no laws that state a daycare MUST allow cloth diapers. Some places you can get a “prescription” from a doctor that says your child requires them for medical reasons (rash, allergies, etc), but if you’ve been with your daycare provider for any amount of time, they’re going to know whether or not that’s true.

Good luck! If I missed any good pointers, feel free to let me know and I’ll add them!

Quick meal #2: Cheesy Quinoa

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Quinoa has become something we make just about once a week – high in protein and quick to make, it’s a great substitute for rice and even better as a side dish for those nights when you’ve forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer.

AroundTheTableRI.blogspot.com

AroundTheTableRI.blogspot.com

Recently, I came across this Cheesy Quinoa recipe on Pinterest,  and thought this might be a good recipe to try out.

While we like quinoa, the girls tend to think it’s much more fun to play with – and cleaning it off the floor is just as much of a pain as cleaning cooked rice grains off the floor! This recipe makes the grains stick together (in a very tasty way!), making it easier for the girls to eat and much less of a hassle for cleanup.

The longest parts of this recipe are cooking the quinoa and baking the final product. You can cut down on the quinoa step by having it pre-cooked – I make quite a bit when I make it so that we can use it in other things throughout the week.

However, 15 minutes isn’t a huge deal, and that time can be spent chopping up veggies, since the quinoa pretty much cooks itself.

I’ve modified the recipe from the link above a bit for our tastes, and also to reflect the veggies we had on hand. You can skip the veggies or use just about anything you have on hand. Here’s what we used:

– 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
– 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
– 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
– 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
– 1/2 medium onion, chopped
– Progresso Garlic & Herb breadcrumbs*
– 2 large eggs
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 cup milk
– 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (we used mexican blend)

While cooking the quinoa (here’s my “special method”), preheat the oven to 350 degrees and chop up the veggies. Lightly saute them – just enough to get them started softening.

Next, whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl large enough to hold everything. Add in the veggies, quinoa and cheese – mix until everything is coated with the eggs.

Transfer to a greased baking dish of your choice – I used a 9×13 casserole dish and it was perfect. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

This recipe took me about 45 minutes from start to pulling it out of the oven, which is pretty impressive for me!

* If you need gluten-free, you can eliminate the breadcrumbs.

Quick meal #1: Ham, veggies and rolls

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This quick, simple meal that has saved us from a fast-food run several times since the birth of our son.

What you’ll need:

– Ham steak
– Pillsbury crescent rolls
– Mixed veggies (butter, salt and pepper)

With only three ingredients, you can probably see why this is so quick!

I get my ham steaks in packs of three at Costco, but they’re also at Walmart (I’ve seen two-packs there). You can get them with or without bones. My mixed veggies are usually frozen, purchased from Walmart (BirdsEye brand). We go through a lot, so I prefer the big bags, especially the ones with the zip seal. As for the crescent rolls, these can obviously be any kind of dinner roll, but we love the crescents and they’re fun for the girls to help roll up before baking. The Pillsbury 2-packs are cheaper than the GreatValue brand at Walmart.

I usually start by running hot water in the sink to thaw the ham steak. If you’re better prepared than I, you can skip this step and probably save 5 minutes or so. I then move on to preheating the oven for the rolls.

My girls love to help me roll up the crescent rolls, so while the ham steak is thawing and the oven is preheating, we’re over at the table having some fun with the rolls.

The rolls take 12-15 minutes in the oven, and while they’re baking, I get the frozen veggies cooking in the microwave for about 4-5 minutes. Once they’re done, we add about a tablespoon of butter, some salt and pepper, and let that sit, covered, for the 5-7 minutes the ham steak is in the microwave.

That’s pretty much it. If you’re not having children help you with the process, you may even be able to squeak in some time to cut up some fresh fruit!

Quick meal ideas from a slow cook

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I’m not particularly fast at cooking – part of the reason I’ve probably never really enjoyed it much. There have been many times we’ve ended up eating out or picking up fast food because I don’t plan enough in advance (apparently pork chops take 2-3 days to defrost in the fridge??) or because I have a recipe in mind, and then when I start to get everything together and really read the recipe, I see that it’s going to take 2 hours (which in my world is about 4 hours).

OverworkedSupermom.com

OverworkedSupermom.com

This is still a struggle for me, but not as much as it used to be. Having kids has forced me to  learn a bit more about cooking, and through trial and error I’ve managed to come up with some tricks to shorten preparation time, or even just some go-to quick meals that I can even involve the girls in the preparation.

I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with this, so I want to share these tips and meal ideas here to hopefully help those who want to keep on a budget and cook at home more. Be forewarned though: most, if not all, of my ideas involve *some* kind of packaged food – this  isn’t all from scratch.  I am pretty careful about what kinds of packaged foods I buy, so overall the meals should be fairly healthy.

Likely you won’t find anything new, or innovative (I’ve got a ways to go before I can be that kind of cook!), and you may even see some ideas you’ve seen elsewhere. Pinterest has been a great source for me on this (with plenty of failed experiments as well!)

To make this easier in case my list gets long (it’ll be awhile), I’ll add to this post and link to the ideas as I’m able to post them.

Ham, veggies and rolls
Cheesy Quinoa
Pasta Salad w/ Veggies
– Montreal steak and veggies on the grill
– Goulash
– Mexican goulash (Taco pasta)
– Easy fried pork chops

Cloth diapers: the winner is…

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Well… if you take the money factor out of it, there’s a tie: GroVia Hybrids and TotsBots All-in-Ones!

Gro-via.com

Gro-via.com

However, since one of the major attractions of cloth diapering is to save money, GroVia is my hands-down choice for cloth diapers. In fact, since I last blogged about it, I went ahead and purchased enough to last us 2.5 days – Earth Day was last week and the sales helped me with my purchases. And with the exception of one child, one night* – we’ve been fully cloth diapering since Sunday morning. As a testament to how awesome these diapers are, we’ve had zero leaks, even at night (I was worried, but my worries have so far been unfounded).

Later I’ll briefly describe why I didn’t go with the others that I ordered, but for now I’ll give you a run-down on GroVia.

So, what did I buy? Here’s the list:

GroVia Part Time package – 6 shells and 12 organic cotton soakers
4 Kiwi Pie fitted diapers
– 2 additional stay-dry soaker sets (4 soakers total)
– 2 stay dry booster sets (4 total)
– one pack of 12 terry cloth wipes
– 2 packs of size 3 prefolds (6 total)
California Baby diaper area wash

In addition to the above, I already had one shell and two stay-dry soakers. I posted about my “stash” on BabyCenter’s Cloth Diaper forum and quickly discovered they didn’t think I had enough, so I panicked and bought 7 more stay-dry soakers, 3 organic cotton soakers, and 4 more shells off Craigslist. The stay-dry soakers were in great shape, but the shells and organic cotton soakers were not what the seller described, but we’ll still make use of them.

Anyway, what that gives me is a total of  11 shells,  28 soakers, 6 prefolds and 4 fitted diapers. I haven’t needed the prefolds (thought I’d need them for overnights), so essentially 32 diaper changes gets us through 2.5 days with the three kids (oldest only uses 2 changes, nap and nighttime). I end up using one shell/day for my oldest, 2-3 for my middle child, and 1-2 for our youngest – 6 has been our max for a day.

Wow, there are a lot of numbers above! And lots of different cloth diaper terms! I’m hoping to post later with descriptions of some of these terms, but as this blog wasn’t supposed to be a solely cloth diaper blog, I don’t want to bombard everyone with the info all at once.

* My husband was in a hurry to get the kiddos ready for bed, and when one of them had a number 2 in her freshly changed diaper, he said “forget it!” and put a disposable on her. So it had nothing to do with the cloth diapers!

Who am I?

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Recently, my “paying” job required me to learn a new skill to complete a project. I wasted no time in getting the appropriate materials and going through the training – I don’t want to become irrelevant at my job; I need to stay current with my skills!

That got me to thinking about being a parent. Some days, particularly after reading about horrible things happening around the world – school shootings, bombings, murders, rapes, etc – I am so incredibly struck by the immense responsibility that we have as parents. Yes, I know that sometimes it doesn’t matter what we do as parents – we don’t have complete (or sometimes even much) say in who our children become.

But there are plenty of studies that show how parents and those closest to children are the biggest influences on who they grow up to be. If we’re such an important influence on our children, shouldn’t it be a priority to learn as much as I can about how to be a good parent? And to practice it daily?

So why is it so much easier for me to stay current with my skills for my job as a consultant than it is to sit down and read up on parenting?

Yes, some of it has to do with money. If I don’t keep up with my skills, I may lose my job and therefore part of my family’s income. But the thought occurred to me that it could also be because I’ve never considering being a parent as a “job” or a “career.”

Maybe thinking of it that way gives being a parent more of a negative connotation – some of us may think about how we dread getting up in the morning and going to work, and we don’t want to think of dreading spending time with our children. (Let’s be honest… we all have days where we probably would rather stay in bed than deal with a tantrum-throwing toddler!)

But what about looking at parenting as being a “job” for more of growth aspects of it. I spend time learning skills to be a better web developer – why wouldn’t/shouldn’t I be spending time learning skills to be a better parent? Obviously I was never  a parent before my first was born… and I’ve never been a parent to a 3 year old until a month ago.

I feel like I had great examples with my own parents, but all kids are different and the world is a constantly changing place. In the same way that there are new technologies in my job to deal with every day – there are new  issues parents have to deal with today that my parents may not have ever even thought about when I was a child.

So then the issue for me becomes time. There’s always the war for my time between my family and my job. And you know what? Probably neither of them get the amount of attention they should be getting.

Would it be better for one of them (my family, obviously) to get all the attention, than for both of them to get less than what’s required? And really, would it be so bad if I answered someone’s question of “Who are you?” with a simple:  “I’m a mom!”?