Sunday, December 30, 2012

Recipe: Beef Vegetable Soup

I have tried so many different types and styles of beef vegetable soups. I grew up eating a version that my Mom made, and Mr. Man grew up eating a version that his Mom made him. Both of our parents made them differently. Not by much, but enough to tell a difference. Mr. Man preferred his Mom's while I preferred my Mom's. In order to find something that we both loved about the version we cooked, I had to do some testing and changes to make it "our's". Here is what it has become. 

Beef Vegetable Soup

1-1.5 beef stew meat
2 qts. water
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 onion - chopped
6 peeled potatoes - chopped
1-1/2 tsp parsley flakes
salt to taste 
1(2lbs) package frozen mixed vegetables
1 (8oz) tomato sauce

Brown stew meat in dutch oven. 
Add onion, water, bouillon cubes to the pot and simmer for 2 hours. 
Add the remaining ingredients and cook for another hour. 
Add water as needed. 

You can serve this with crackers, cornbread, bread sticks, or rice. 

Leftover soup may be heated and served again. It only gets better! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tips on Increasing Your Breast Milk Supply

Ok, so I know this is a controversial topic; however, this is something that is important to me. I nursed A until she self-weaned around 13 months. I plan to do the same with Baby E. Since we had weight gaining concerns with A, I thought I would get a jump start on writing, reading, and discussing ways to increase my breast milk supply. There are many things I learned that I definitely didn't know before she was born. Many of them helped me. There are also things that I did in the beginning (or lack of doing) that I will change. I thought a simple reminder post for when/if these moments hit would be a great support and help during that time. 

One of the things I will do differently this time is start pumping sooner and more consistently. With A, I never had to return to work and the small amount of work that I did I was able to pick and choose when I did it. So I never had to worry over it. By the time I started doing this work, A was already on solids and about 7 months old. By this time, preparing a supply of breastmilk in the freezer wasn't going to happen. Not at a fast and steady rate. She was already nursing much less, sleeping through the night, and I was enjoying the sleep. So this go around, I plan to start pumping immediately - even if I am not getting anything right away. It will help me build and maintain a schedule so when I have to return to work in November for 16 weeks full time (and baby will be 9 months), I will have a good supply and a steady pumping routine - hopefully. 

It is known that breastfeeding is hard and it takes work to have to build a supply if you need to return to work or leave your baby with someone for several hours a week. With pumping, it is not as effective as the baby actually latching on to you during skin to skin. A pump can not successfully empty your boobs like a baby can. With that said, there are some tips and advice that I have been given that can help you maintain a healthy flow of breast milk. 

Here are some natural ways to build your milk supply: 
* Many of these can also be used even if you need a boost for skin to skin nursing.

1. Water. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated while nursing is an important factor. I was advised to sit down with a glass of water every single time I nursed to guarantee that I was drinking enough. I definitely saw a difference. I thought I was drinking enough before because I always had a water bottle full with me but I guess I wasn't going through it fast enough. Rule of thumb - drink more water! 

2. Eat. Now I know this one sounds silly and it was natural for me with A. I was always hungry - actually more so than when I was pregnant. But I learned quickly that dieting and even exercising can decrease your milk supply. Make sure you are eating healthy calories and often enough. 

3. Oats. This is one that I discovered after some research when we started having the "weight gaining concerns". The lactation consultant told me to eat oatmeal every morning and see if I saw a difference. I definitely DID! Oatmeal isn't the only way, oat based granola bars would work, too. There is even a recipe for special oatmeal cookies that are called Lactation Cookies! Want the recipe? 

4. Skin to Skin. Spending extra time just cuddling your baby while topless and baby is naked is a great way to help boost your supply. It reminds your body that it has a baby to feed! 

5. Pump. Pumping has been proven to help boost milk supply even when it is unnecessary for one to pump. Try pumping for 10-15 minutes after every feed or try pumping in between feeding sessions.

6. Fenugreek. Fenugreek is a natural herb supplement that has been known to help boost a mother's milk supply. This is another one that I did and I noticed an immediate difference. I will leave you with a few links to what it is and how it helps. Check out, Medela, and Breastfeeding Online.

7. Eat plenty of these: Asparagus, Green beans, Carrots (especially carrot seeds), Yam, Watercress, Sweet potatoes, Dandelion greens, Peas, Beet and all other green leafy vegetables. Parsley, fennel, and sesame seed. Millet, barley, brown rice and all other grains and legumes. Oatmeal. Garlic, onion and ginger.

8. Nurse in bed. Lying down in bed may help you relax and allows baby to nurse for longer periods of time. 

9. Mother's Milk Tea. Try drinking mother's milk tea. It is full of natural supplements to help boost your breast milk supply. I did try this with A, and I found it absolutely gross to drink. However, I would heat apple juice instead of water and it was much, much better.

I wish I could think of a 10th one because I really hate odd numbers; however, I think I have covered most of what I have learned throughout my first journey of breastfeeding. The only other tip that I have been mentioned is ask for a prescription of Reglan, but I know nothing about it and have not tried it myself.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Today I thought I would blog about the Christmas traditions that I am starting and hoping have a big impact on our family so we can carry them on throughout the years.

A is 20 months old, so she is starting to get to the age where is understanding things a bit more.

Right now, we are just going with the flow. We brought her to see Santa, and it was a fail this year. No Santa picture. She wasn't scared of him. In fact, she was extremely curious. However, she didn't want him holding her. My thing is as long as she isn't scared of him I'm happy. She walked up to him, shook his hand, and talked to him. But just didn't want to sit on his lap. Fine by me.

We don't really thought much about Santa in this house. Probably because she is still a bit young. Mr. Man didn't grow up with Santa or even gifts, and I grew up with it all. With that said, I really didn't want her to have huge Christmas's and it be about the gifts. But I definitely didn't want her to not have anything at all because I know at some point she will start learning from other kids and seeing what they receive and so on and so forth. We decided to meet in the middle. I have a few simple rules that I follow that I started last year.

Since our families spoil her with Christmas, we DO take that into consideration. 1 -  because they are mailed to us and placed under the tree for Christmas day and 2 - I personally do not feel a child needs a new playroom every single Christmas.

This year my Mom and Grandma bought her some things as well as Mr. Man's Dad and Grandma. I'm sure others have bought as well, but none have told us anything or what they got. We just go by what we know.

With that said, my rules are simple. Each child gets an outfit or two, a movie or two, a book or two, educational toys, something they "need", and one large gift. We definitely stuck with that, but my Mom bought her about 5 or more (she lost track) of DVD's. We pulled that thought from our list and bought her something she would want. We got her a bath time baby doll.

She's definitely getting a lot of things, and most are not from us! How pathetic. As bad as I feel about it as her parents, I really can't justify doing it without getting rid of some other toys. I figured this year was our year to relax because next year we will have two and she will REALLY understand. We bought her 3-4 gifts and stocking stuffers, that's it.

One of the new traditions is a Christmas Eve gift to open. Since we aren't close to family, we have decided that we need to do our own tradition to bring in the next day. I have decided to do one large gift for the whole family. Each year it will be different. Last year, I bought a few Christmas movies and the original Christmas story book. This year that book along with one Christmas movie will be placed in the gift, along with Christmas PJ's for the whole family, and a hot cocoa set. Yes, A is probably too young for a hot cocoa set but we have been letting her have it. She takes a few sips and is done, so I don't see any harm in it. I bought her a special penguin cup for her hot cocoa and a cup for me and Mr. Man. Next year, I will probably do a game of some sort or something that the family can do together to have family time and fun on Christmas Eve. I will rotate it out so every year is different.

Another tradition I am going to start with her next year, since she should be old enough by then, is to fill a bucket with 25 gifts or envelops. Each day we will schedule a Christmas-y activity to lead up to Christmas. Maybe it will be a book or a movie, maybe a simple note that says "donate toys" or "make a snowflake ornament" and so on. I think that will be fun to do!

Mr. Man and I have always donated to a variety of angel trees and Toys for Tots. Last year, A was really too young but we still walked her around the trees and she chose the tags for us to buy for. This year I chose two tags (one around her age and one infant). I talked to her about children in need and buying/giving to others. Then I brought her to the toy section of the store and told her to pick out a toy for a girl that is similar to her. She picked out a really cute "My Little Pony" horse that is also a baby. It has a pacifier, bottle, and you can teach it to walk. Ironically, we also bought that for her to help teach her about things for Baby E and taking care of babies. Then, we told her to pick out something that she thought that "new baby" would like to give to another baby. We went to the infant section and she picked out a couple of small toys - one was a bath toy (Minnie Mouse squirters) and the other was Lamaze attachment toy. Mr. Man and I also did older children, both boys to even out the gender choices. Even though A is really to young to understand this right now, it has to start somewhere. And I believe that the more we do this with her and explain to her, the sooner she will get it and be more giving.

With that said, these are our family traditions so far. I will start baking with her this year, too, and I also let her wrap her father's present. Other than that, we keep it pretty simple.

I would love to hear other people's traditions and their thoughts on Christmas. How it is handled, when they celebrate, what they cook/bake, and so on. I really enjoy this time of year!

Hope everyone has a great day!

Oh, almost forgot. I am also linked up today at Wednesday Walkabout! Come check it out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meal Plan {December 17-30}

Here is our meal plan for the next two weeks!

Chicken Asparagus Roll Ups
Beef Vegetable Soup
Ham and Pea Pasta
Shrimp Scampi
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Parmesan
Meatball Stew
Tuna Spaghetti
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo (for Christmas day)
Baked Chicken
Chicken Florentine Lasagna
Turkey Burgers
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Smothered Chicken

I added two extra meals to this week because my weeks have been ending on Fridays so I am trying to get them through the weekends and back to Monday's. I really hate having to shop on the weekends, even though I have my husband available to watch A. So that is why there is more than 14 meals on this list.

For snacks, lunches, and breakfasts for me and A, I plan two a week. Normally we are able to eat leftovers also. For breakfast, I always have oatmeal and fruit handy, yogurt and fruit, and so on because we also eat those as snacks.

For breakfast I planned:
Blueberry Pancakes (make in large batch and freeze)
Raspberry Lemon Muffins

For snacks I planned:
Frozen yogurt with fruit
Carrot Chips

Breakfast and Snacks always roll over into the next week because I make large batches to keep in the freezer, so we always have the option of the previous week's snacks and breakfasts as well as our everyday quick snacks (like crackers and cheese, chex, cheerios, raisins, etc) and breakfasts (like fruit and oatmeal, fruit and yogurt, toast with peanut butter and banana, etc).

For lunch this week I planned:
Miniature Pizzas
Tuna with Crackers

There are some weeks that I actually don't even have to make us a lunch, so I do something I can either make and freeze (last week I made a pasta) or something that can hang out in the pantry for a bit (like this week's crackers and tuna).

As you can see, we are a family that loves tuna. It's something that was just recognized when A always asked for fish when she was hungry. Mr. Man always ate tuna fish as a snack when he got home from work, and that is how she was introduced to it. I also really enjoy tuna fish. I have been making tuna salad and leaving it in the fridge for a few days so it is already made and ready to go. I only make it when I KNOW we will eat it. Mr. Man switches between tuna and peanut butter, so I really try to watch how he is eating and take note from there.

This week is also the week that I have all the baking going on. I ended up adding one or two more to my list.

I spent $260 for this week, and I was impressed considering I planned five or six baked goods and doubled their recipes! I really thought I would spend around $300-$315.

Monday, December 17, 2012

33 Weeks Pregnant

I am 33 weeks pregnant with baby #2. Time has flown by so fast. I can't believe that we are so close to delivering our second child. It is just now starting to feel real. Real as in - "we are about to do this again!" Exciting, anxious, and so on.

Lately I have been feeling good for the most part. Some days my crotch is super sore; other days I don't notice it and am very energetic. I definitely do not remember my crotch being sore with A, but I also didn't carry her as low as I have this one. I have also heard that it is very common for that to happen the more children you have. My hips seem to be holding up very well considering she loves to ball up in my right hip. Every once in a while it will get sore or pop or something crazy like that, but overall it hasn't been bad. Again, I don't remember having any hip pain with A. Then there is the lower back pain. With A, my dull aches were in my ribs where she like to hang out, but they never slowed me down - NEVER! I wish I could say the aches with this one is the same; however, they definitely aren't. Even though I am not having rib pain, I am having lower back pain. Again, never had this with A. The back pain comes and goes as everything else, but when it hits it hurts! It will knock me to the couch for a good hour of relaxing before I can do more things.

I think a lot of the aches and pains are for a variety of reasons. 1 - I'm still carrying A around - up and down stairs, in and out of stores, and so on. 2 - This baby has been much lower throughout this whole pregnancy. Much much lower. 3 - Simply that it isn't my first. I hear the more you have, the more intense you feel things.

I haven't complained much about things, but when we have a long day out and about (like this weekend) I will get weak and sometimes nauseated. The nausea is something that just recently started. When I was pregnant with A, many people told me that they got nauseated from 33 weeks on from over exhaustion and so forth. With A, I never experienced it. With this one, it has started. Again, it's only when I really do too much which does take a lot.

The next thing I have noticed recently is the pace at which I walk. I walk slow, very slow. Compared to when I was pregnant with A anyways. Yesterday we went out shopping and I just felt like this baby was pushing down to come out and rubbing against my hip bones. It was horrible. Of course it caused me to walk extremely slow.

I had my 32 week appointment last week. The heartbeat was around 140 and baby was measuring in the 53rd percentile. She is head down and very active! As of that appointment, I have gained around 17-18 pounds this pregnancy. I had doubled that by this time with A.

That's the fun updates. Nothing overly exciting - other than it's really starting to get really close. It's real now.

I've been preparing for my maternity pictures and the newborn pictures. Her room still isn't complete, but I am slowly working on it. Other than that, things are going good and we can't wait to meet her!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Children's Place

Yesterday I noticed that The Children's Place was having an amazing sale, so I decided to stock up on some things for A! We were hoodies around the house, and she really doesn't have very many long sleeve tops. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to build her closet for the rest of the winter and into spring time.  I thought I would share this because I got some amazing steals! And today's deal is even better.

To start with, they were having a major sale. Prices I wouldn't mind paying anyway. Then they were offering an additional 25% off with a code. Most of the deals averaged to about 60-70% savings. Today they are offering an additional 30% off!! with a code. I will share below, but it is also listed on their home page.

Here is some of what I bought for A and I did snatch a couple of things for Baby E, too!

This is what I bought for A. She needed some bigger size knit pants. Right now she is still wearing 18 months and they fit her fine,  but I think she will  be growing out of them soon. Then I bought the ruffled turtleneck to go under her adorable sleeveless jumpers. I wish they would have had more colors because I would have snatched more up. The blue jeans are the next size up. I love Old Navy jeans as well as these. She has plenty of jeans in 24 months, so I snatched these up for $7 each in a 2t! Some graphic long sleeve tees. This year I didn't buy her any Christmas-y clothes. I thought why not even though she will probably have them AFTER Christmas. They will be great around the house shirts or when I know she will be in her snowsuit or a jacket. The fleece hoodies were a steal for $5 each. We wear hoodies around the house because there is no carpet. It's an Italian thing. She has one hoodie right now, so I went ahead and got her two more. They can be worn outside the house as well as inside. So that covers everything I got for A. I had just bought a bunch of Carter's PJ's and Gymboree jumpers and dresses so I think t his will complete her until the Summer. Everything I bought was a mix of 24 months and 2t.

Now for Baby E. I didn't buy much for her because I have a hard time paying $6 for a onesie, so I just looked at the bigger ticket items, like jackets and bunting suits. Here they are:

The faux fur bunting was an absolute steal. I was hoping they would have had it in 0-3 months as I need one for when she is immediately born, but they were sold out. I went ahead and got a 9-12 month for next year. Regular price was $26, on sale for $16, with the additional off I got it for $12! I thought it was totally worth it. The fleece hoodie was $4, which I thought was another steal. Even though it is more Christmas-y, I thought they colors were ok for Valentine's day and possible through the spring. We will see!

Shipping was free for orders over $75. I placed this order yesterday with all sale items and an additional 25% off. My total was $90!! I couldn't believe it.

Today they are having their sale with an additional 30% if you use the code Y3K3012!

Happy Shopping (or browsing)!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

All Natural - Homemade Items

A while back I had posted about some things that I found and my journey through discovering different things that come with making basic needs for our homes as well as some things that we use to cook with. I had gotten some nasty comments and "know-it-all"- ish remarks so I stopped it. However, I was still planning and doing them as I ran out of things and felt I could.

Recently I had some personal friends ask me about it and how it was going. I informed them on what I had learned and what I thought was nice and not worth with each of what I tried. Then I moved. When I finally got connected with the internet and started going through my emails for this page, I realized I had some viewers that were actually really interested. They still wanted updates on the cloth diapering and the other things.

With that said, I decided I would start sharing with you my journey of it all. Some things were a fail or not worth it because of where we live but others have been extremely fantastic.

This is just an introduction to start it back up. Over time I will post some recipes, pictures, and thoughts on different things from homemade spices to homemade cleaners and more.

If this is something that doesn't interest you, I kindly ask that you skip past these posts. There is no need to make rude or negative remarks.

I look forward to starting this up again!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Now that we have our house and are settled in, I started doing some small projects around the house that I knew I wanted to do for the playroom, decor for the holidays, and for the girls' rooms.

I also had several comments asking about things I will be making for the holiday parties, events, and our own traditions. I thought I would do it all in one post.  Organize my list of "to-do's" then show the finished product of each.

DIY Projects (Decor):

For the Playroom:
Stuff Animal Hammock - DONE
2 Artwork Displays (one for each child) - A's DONE, working on E's.

For the Girls' Room:
A a baby doll hammock in her play corner - DONE
Baby E stuff animal hammock
Tulle Pom Poms
Baby E bunting
Baby E picture frame
Garland - MAYBE

Christmas Decor:
Posterboard Trees x2
Initial Tree topper
Family Thumb prints

Children's Holiday Party:
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Mini Cheeseburger Pies

Airman Cookie Drive:
Peppermint Crunch Brownie Cookies
Cranberry Noels
Peanut Butter Cookies
Neiman Marcus Cookies

For SF workers on Christmas Day:
Christmas Tree Brownies
Pumpkin Bread Muffins
Cherry Chocolate Cookies

If there are any recipes that you would like me to share from these, please let me know. 

I plan to post pictures of the finished projects of the decor stuff as well. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ice Pumpkin Cookies

During the Fall and Winter months it seems that I am always baking for different events, whether they are parties, cookie drives, or other volunteer opportunities, it seems I bake a lot. Each year I like to try new things, but I also have my favorites that end up carrying over every year. The last several years I made the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread. I'm pretty sure I posted that recipe at some point because it is absolutely amazing.

This year, because we still did not have internet (recipes are shared/saved on pinterest), I started fresh. I used recipes from cookbooks in the house and magazines.

This one was a hit! I made it for the Thanksgiving Feast for Mr. Man's work.

Here's the recipe!

For the cookies:
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1.5 cups white sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tbsp of milk
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt.
Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and softened  butter.
Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract to that mixture.
Beat until creamy.
Slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
Drop on cookie sheet in 1 inch balls, flatten slightly.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Cool the cookies before adding the icing.

To make the glaze:
Combine confectioner's sugar, milk, butter and vanilla extract.
Milk may need to be added as necessary to achieve the drizzling consistency.

This recipe came from one of my Parent's magazines. This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Hope you enjoy! I know many others did! 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Meal Plan

Now that we are moved and settled I thought I could start getting back to sharing our meal plan. Since we live so far from base, I have decided that I will shop for 2 weeks at a time and utilize local markets and bakerys for things we need last minute. Today I shopped for the next two weeks so I can tell you  how much I spent exactly. The only thing is that this trip and the next couple will be filled of things for parties and such as well. That's what happens around the holidays, right? After today, I figured by doing it this way (I had been doing weekly before this week) I saved about $50-$80 if not more - easily.

Now that A eats with us, I have gone as far as to plan breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. It just seems to be the easiest and helps us save money. If any of you are interested in the breakfast, lunch, and snack planning then I would be happy to share. Just let me know!

I will list our meals this week, then next week I will share one of the recipes if there is any requests.

Our meals for the next two weeks:

Week 1:
Chicken Soft Tacos
Red Beans and Rice with Sausage
Italian Steaks
Boiled Whole Chicken
Shrimp Skewers
Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
Baked Chex Chicken

Week 2:
Beef Strganoff
Stewed Chicken with Rice
Tuna Stuffed Bell Peppers
Swedish Meatballs with Pasta
Mustard Chicken
Butter Beans with Sausage over Rice
Oven Roast

I spent $200 for this trip. I bought the basics along with this, which include our "fancy" weekend breakfasts along with planned breakfast, lunches, and snacks. This was also my first trip doing this, so I had bought in bulk to stock the pantry of things like wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and other things we use frequently in the house.

This trip also included groceries for a holiday party where I am bringing mini chicken pot pies and mini cheeseburger pies. I bought enough to make 48 of each.

Hope you enjoyed this post, and I am happy to get back to doing this. I love seeing what I spend and how we eat throughout the weeks.

Any recipes for any recipes mentioned here, please just comment and I will post!