Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Our Green House: REUSE

First, I have to say THANK YOU to all the readers who sent me email feedback about my first post in this series. I love hearing from you and please remember, it is ok, and actually encouraged, to leave comments here! I don’t bite- unless you happen to be a dark chocolate covered vanilla Dove bar, then all bets are off!

Now, on to today’s main feature, part two of the Our Green House series: REUSE!

  1. I package as much as I can in Snapware or similar storage containers. I do like to freeze things like bread items and fruit/veggies in freezer bags, but I will reuse a bag numerous times before I need a new one. I have about four empty freezer bags in the freezer door waiting to be filled up. I hate spending money on plastic stuff. Remember, I’m cheap.

  1. I also pack Vincent’s lunch in reusable containers, including his water in a thermos. He knows to put it back in his lunch box when he is done eating. As an added bonus, I can see how much he ate at lunch because he doesn’t think to throw out what is left- he just wants to play. Environmental friendliness and remote helicopter mommy all wrapped in one Toy Story lunch box.

  1. I bring my own reusable grocery bags when I shop. I don’t let them put the meat or dairy in the bags because I am freaky like that, and I wash the bags after a few trips. I figure this is still better than having my groceries packed in disposables every time.

  1. As a family, we have stopped using disposable plastic water bottles. I have to admit; the paranoia about what exactly is in those water bottles has gotten to me a bit. Scientists claim that they are safe for the initial amount of water sold in the bottle, but recommend you not refill them at home. As much as it disappoints Vincent, I’m no scientist (nor do I play one on TV) but I am a little leery of the first use too, if the second one is bad enough to warrant a warning. We all have reusable water bottles. The kids still use their sippy cups as well. We filter the water in the fridge door. I use tap water for cooking so the kids get their city-sponsored fluoride. This works for us, and again, I’m not buying water at the store. Cheap.

  1. I am a big lover of hand-me-downs! I have a few friends who have given me great stuff for the children. I appreciate this so much. I get as much use out of them as I can and then pass them on to someone I know could use them, or I donate. If you are looking for a good place to make your donations try AmVets. I know they are in SoCal, and probably other places too. They are very reliable, very kind, and they are helping our veterans!

If you missed part one of this series, REDUCE, go back and check it out as some of the things we do could also be counted towards the reuse category. I love two-for-one deals, don’t you!

Next in the series is RECYCLE. I promise not to just copy and paste this post! Get it?

Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Faux Fondue

Our MTM is actually dessert from this weekend.

Now that it is Spring we are starting to eat outside as often as possible.

This weekend was perfect. After a long hot morning at the soccer field and an afternoon full of yard work, we grilled ribs and the kids had a Muffin Tin Faux Fondue.

It was a huge hit.

Here it is: Cinnamon graham crackers, homemade Chocolate Royale Sauce (my Grandmother’s recipe), sliced bananas, mini marshmallows, strawberries and angel food cake cubes.

Vinny didn’t waste any time digging in.

Frankie has this cheesy-smile-thing going for him.

And Coco is a hot mess.

Happy Spring!

Muffin Tin Monday at Muffintinmom.com


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Our Green House: Reduce

In recognition of Earth Day, which is Friday, I thought I would post some of the things we do around our house to be kinder to the earth. Believe me, I have not turned into a fruity tree hugger- not that there is anything wrong with that- I am a realist. I am never going to have a zero (much less negative) carbon footprint, but there are things I try to teach the kids that I hope will make them more responsible people in general, and help the environment a little too.

This is part one of a three part series. Can you guess what parts two and three are going to be titled?

This is not anything ground breaking people (no pun intended), but here is what we do:

  1. In an attempt to reduce the amount of paper waste we consume, we use cloth napkins at meals as well as kitchen towels for hand drying and cleaning up the counters and table. I still buy paper towels for the convenience of people who watch my children when I am not home, but in general they are only reserved for nasty messes caused by something greasy (think bacon), the dogs, or sick kids. If I use a whole roll in a month I am saddened. We also use real plates, instead of paper. For a larger family I can see the convenience of paper, but when I was growing up, paper plates were reserved for large themed parties. An added benefit of using cloth and real plates in the kitchen is that I am not spending money at the grocery store for paper products. I’m cheap like that.

  1. To further reduce our paper consumption, I pay all our bills electronically. I usually write only two checks a month- one to the preschool and one to the gardener. I had to write an additional check to the parks and recreation department this month because they charge a convenience fee to process your debit card. I thought about going into their office with my three hungry and tired children and paying them their $85 with coins to passively aggressively show my outrage, but I wrote a check instead. I have not stopped receiving paper bills- I know that is the next step, but I am so anal that I fear I will miss one if it is sent electronically, and Patrick is not a fan of cold showers.

  1. Somewhere along the line, my address must have been sold to every catalogue company known to man. I cannot tell you how many unwanted crap catalogues I get in the mail every week. Pottery Barn- I am NOT referring to you. I don’t know why this irritates me so much, but it is a total pet peeve. I have found the greatest website to reduce the number of unwanted catalogues I get: catalogchoice.org. It is totally free (but you can make a donation if you wish) and all you have to do is enter the names of the catalogue you don’t want and they send a stop request to the company on your behalf. I have the site bookmark on my desktop and when a new catalogue comes I take it strait to the computer to enter in catalogchoice. I highly recommend!

  1. We continue to work on reducing energy use and costs by turning off the lights when we leave a room, as well as turning off our electronic toys when we are done playing with them. I try to run the air and heat only when necessary. The dishwasher seems to always be full, so it is easy to run only full loads. There always seems to be laundry to do, but I try to make sure my loads are as full as possible. I would love to line dry sheets and blankets, but V and Patrick have allergies.

  1. In an attempt to reduce the amount of unnecessary chemicals in the house, I am slowly moving toward green cleaning products. I like the Clorox Green line a lot. It is all I use in the kitchen. The spray is great on the table and granite. I have even used it on the cabinets and knobs. I buy big refill bottles at the hardware store so I am not buying another spray bottle each time. Instead of using a rinse agent in the dishwasher, I pour some vinegar into the dishwasher when I start the cycle. It does a better jab than Jet Dry and it is cheaper and natural. I use vinegar and water for mirrors and Method Little Bowl Blue toilet cleaner. Most cleaning is done with washable rags and micro fiber cloths. Unfortunately, I still have a love of (maybe obsession with) Clorox wipes. I use them everyday to wipe down the bathrooms. I am sure there is something greener I could replace them with but I live with boy. Boys are nasty. I like to wipe up nasty and throw it away. I am however, open to suggestions. (Clorox has not paid me for these comments, but I would totally accept a case of their cleaning products if anyone has an in with them).

  1. We have an edible garden. You already know this because I like to blog about it, but it is also a way for us to reduce the amount of pesticide treated produce we buy. The kids love working in the garden and will eat anything they have grown themselves. Even beets. I swear.

  1. To reduce the amount of overpriced fuel we use, I strategically plan my shopping trips so that I am driving as little as possible. This often means running errands on the way to and from Vincent’s school, as that is usually the longest trip I make each week. Patrick who commutes 420 miles per week for work thwarts my efforts, but we have no way around that. This blog certainly isn’t paying the bills!

  1. In general, I try not to buy extra “stuff”. My wardrobe is totally suffering because of this, but I hate clutter. If it something we don’t need, don’t use often, or don’t love, it does not have a place in our home.

  1. I wish I could say our small cozy cottage is a reflection of environmental activism, but that is a product of the economy. Can I still claim it?

  1. Some other things you might want to consider doing to reduce are using handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex, a family cloth instead of TP, carpooling, biking, walking, thrift-shopping, and ladies- check out the Diva Cup. I have to draw the line somewhere, so I don’t use/do any of these things, but I wouldn’t think you were crazy if you choose to. OK- I would think you were crazy if you did the family cloth thing, but otherwise, you are completely normal and super environmentally conscious!

This was long. And it lacked photos of children and food. If you are still here, thanks!

Join me later in the week for parts two and three of Our Green House!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

I'm having a hot affair!

I’m having an affair. It’s hot. Red hot. My middle child shares his name. Patrick knows...and he usually joins in.

I was introduced to my new love by Audrey. I was pregnant, easily lead astray and willing to try anything. Blame the hormones.

I usually pick him up at the grocery store. He likes to watch me cook. It’s been two years and we are still going strong.

If you want to add some spice to your life, you should try him too. There is plenty to go around. Try him with pizza or eggs or homemade mac and cheese. If you really want something crazy make this.

You will not be sorry.

Audrey- If you are reading, make it for Mr. F and then tell him how much you want to spend on new kitchen cabinets. I guar-an-tee he will not be able to say no... because it is that delish... and because the roof of his mouth may be burned off. Either way, your kitchen will look great!

If you make Franky’s Crispy Chicken, serve it with mashed potatoes and drizzle the sauce on top of them. OMG, I seriously could eat this at every meal. My boys like spicy, but this sauce is too much for them, so give your kids the chicken plain...and save the sauce for yourself.

Get some Frank's, people! You will thank me!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Plastic Egg Countdown

This weekend the boys started asking me, “How many days until Easter?” They ask every day...multiple times a day. It is adorable and annoying at the same time.

I decided to start a countdown in hopes the kids will remember how many days are left without asking. We are starting today with 12. The photos are pretty horrific- it is hard to get a good shot of the shiny eggs, but you get the drift.

If you want to do this yourself, it can be put together quickly with just a few supplies. I used some plastic eggs left over from Easter last year and numbered each one from one to twelve with a number stickers (but you could write the number on the egg with a sharpie).

I put a chocolate inside each egg for each child and mixed the order up on the egg holder. If you don’t have an egg holder you could use a basket. The boys will have to find and identify each day’s number.

V is at school today so we will start at 12 when he gets home. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do you do anything to count down to Easter?


Monday, April 11, 2011

Muffin Tin FAIL

I had the CUTEST plan for our Muffin Tin Meal today.

It started off with my new mini flower cutters, continued with the Spring colored sprinkles, and was totally foiled when I went to get the other ingredients from the pantry and found them missing. Patrick ate them.

In his defense, I never told him they were off limits, but that didn't prevent me from huffing around the kitchen for a good 5 minutes.

Our salvaged, but boring meal today is cherry yogurt with the aforementioned sprinkles, baby carrots, flower shaped PB&Js, fresh oranges and yogurt star cookies (Trader Joe's).

At least you get to see my pretty new Spring place mats.

Muffin Tin Monday at Muffintinmom.com

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Car Emergencies

Here is installment number two of my preparedness overhaul.

A few weeks ago we were on our way to a birthday party and Coco puked all over herself. I promise I am not that mom who takes her sick children places so that the rest of the world can be exposed to illness; I just choose the wrong day to introduce her to Greek yogurt.

Since I knew she wasn’t sick, and we were about 45 minutes away from home, I turned to Patrick and uttered a phrase I am sure all mothers have said at least once, “find a Target!”

$30 and an adorable Spring Raincoat later, we arrived at the party.

I have always had emergency clothes in the car for the boys, as well as a bevy of other odds and ends, but now that I no longer carry a diaper bag, some of Colette’s emergency needs have been ignored.

I went through the mini-van, or as we affectionately call it, the “swagger wagon” this week and made sure I restocked and reorganized everything. Here is what we have:

Gym Bag in the trunk:

  • First aid kit
  • A change of clothes for each child. Coco has a complete change of clothes. V and F are almost the same size now, so in order to keep things streamlined and prevent my car from being over loaded, I have a pair of pants and underwear for each child and a short sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt/jacket with a hood, and a pair of sox that fit both of them. If they both need a complete change of clothes, we will have bigger problems on our hands than having to drive home with half naked kids.
  • Diapers for Colette

Small Basket at the footwell of Coco’s Seat:

  • Baby Wipes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide wipes- These come in a round canister from the drug store and are great for cleaning minor cuts and scrapes while away from home (think a tumble at the park or slipping in a parking lot...or falling down on your butt because you can’t walk in those damn heels after a couple Kir Royals...but enough about Date Night).
  • Kleenex
  • Sun Hat for Coco
  • sunscreen
  • Coco toys

Center console next to the driver's seat:

  • Small Roadside Assistance kit
  • Trash bags- I bought a travel package of bathroom size trash bags. They are perfect for throwing away trash accumulated during a road trip, and even handier to have when a wet unexpected mess arises.
  • Purell- travel size
  • Nail file
  • Mints
  • Tootsie Pops and DumDums- Sometimes I just need quiet.
  • Hair tie
  • Hand lotion
  • Small deodorant- You would thank me if I discovered I forgot to apply it at home on route to lunch with you.
  • Rewards cards and Punch cards- I keep these in a sandwich bag so that I have them on hand without cluttering my wallet. The only club cards I keep in my wallet are for Costco and the grocery store.
  • Change purse with coins for meters and $20 for those times I don’t have cash and have to pay for parking or the valet. Have you ever seen a mini-van valet parked? Me either, but it could happen.
  • Clorox wipes- travel size
  • Small folding Umbrella
  • phone charger
  • bank deposit slips
  • Napkins- Just enough to clean up a spill.
  • One DVD- The kids are only allowed to watch a DVD on long drives (anything over 2 hours). I keep one DVD in the car (Hercules) in case I need it. I never have. I don’t know what would warrant it, but it is there.
  • Pen and notebook- In the pocket on the driver side door.
  • Small Camera- This I actually keep in my purse. It is a point a shoot and I use it if I see something I like for the house, or if the kids are doing something cute. Insurance companies recommend you keep one in the car to take photos in the event of an accident. I guess a good quality cell phone would do the same thing, but my phone is a POS. Patrick wants me to get an iPhone, but I am too cheap...I mean frugal.

Glove Compartment:

  • Insurance information
  • Owner's manual

Other stuff:

  • Toys and books- just a few small and quiet ones, in a basket between the boys’ car seats.
  • A blanket for each family member- these are pretty thin and are folded up under the bench seat. On really cold mornings (and nights) we pull them out.
  • Reusable shopping bags in the trunk
  • Shopping cart cover in the trunk.
  • Ergo carrier in the trunk.

I’m sure you are thinking, “Where do these people sit?”. We sit in the seats, like everyone else. With good organization this stuff takes up very little space, and there is plenty of room to haul around groceries, strollers, etc,

Of course, you should have a spare tire and jack in your car as well, but nowadays most of those are integrated into the car’s body. Also, an OnStar or Auto Club membership is a must.

I’m sure it is tempting, but please don’t steal my swagger wagon. I know, it is equipped to make MacGyver proud, but prepare your own family vehicle. It is easy, I promise.

Before we left the house that Saturday I had a “feeling” that I might need a change of clothes for Coco. I will never ignore these feelings again. It is mother’s intuition, I guess. More on that next time.

What other junk do I need in my trunk?


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Earthquake Preparedness

The past few weeks have been crazy around our house. A number of incidences have made me think about how I prepare for unexpected emergencies. As a result, I have been overhauling and reorganizing some of the preparedness measures I have in place around the house. I thought I would write about it here and welcome any feedback and ideas you have that could make our home ready for anything.

Today’s topic is earthquake kits.

The Japan earthquake and tsunami have reminded us how important it is as Southern Californians to be prepared in the event of an earthquake. I have always been sensitive to the fact that we could have “the big one” at any time- partly because I am a type A (read: anal) and a bit of a worry wart, and because the media likes to scare the begesus out of people like me by reporting every earthquake prediction any scientist makes.

Most disaster relief organizations recommend having a 72 hour supply of food and water for each member of your household as well as a multitude of other supplies at hand. I’ll be honest- in an ideal world you would have every item on these checklists ready and waiting in the event of an emergency, but in reality, there is not enough room in the corner of the garage to hold everything you might need, and having every last thing on the list can get expensive.

Our family’s solution to this problem is as much about daily necessity as it is about preparedness. Having a family of five means we cannot fit everything we need in the kitchen cabinets. As a storage solution we have a “pantry” in the garage along the wall, near the door. We keep lots of stuff on those shelves that we will eventually use in the house, but also cover much of our needs in the event of an earthquake. Some things have been added to the pantry specifically for use in a disaster (those things are stored in the purple bin).

Here is what our pantry holds:

  • Non-perishable canned and boxed food that requires no preparation or just heating.
  • Can opener
  • Sterno burners
  • Water (I need more of this)
  • Gatorade
  • Disposable cups, plates and utensils
  • Paper towels, TP, Kleenex
  • Baby wipes
  • Diapers
  • First Aid Kit
  • Feminine supplies (because an earthquake would hit then)
  • Plastic trash bags of various sizes as well as food storage bags
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • A-B-C fire extinguisher
  • Matches
  • Bottle opener and wine opener- we have a fridge in the garage full of booze. If we have to leave the house for an extended period of time for “the big one” you better believe I am going to have a drink.
  • Radio with batteries
  • Homeowners and Earthquake insurance information including policy number and contact numbers (Did you know your normal homeowners policy DOES NOT cover Earthquake damage? You must get separate insurance through he CEA-California Earthquake Authority.)
  • Contact information for family members and doctors.
  • Pet supplies- including food, bowls, extra collars and leashes. We also have the dogs’ crates in the garage so they can be safely corralled if necessary.
  • Medications- Tylenol and ibuprofen (for the adults and children), allergy meds, contact lenses solution, Pepto, sunscreen, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap. VW recently started on an inhaler- I need to get an extra one.
  • Baby supplies (when we have an infant)- diapers wipes, formula, baby food, bottles, sippy cups
  • Entertainment items for the children
  • Cash- small bills

Items in the garage that are not in the “pantry” but are easily accessible:

  • Tarp
  • Water purification system/bleach and eyedropper
  • Ax
  • Shovels
  • Hammer/Nails
  • Wrench (for tuning off gas and water if necessary)
  • Duct and electrical tape.
  • Clorox Wipes
  • Extra clothing and shoes for all family members (The laundry area is also in the garage and as much as I would like to say my laundry is always done, it is just a revolving door. Everyone in the family also keeps a pair of shoes in the garage.)
  • Blankets

Items recommended you have on hand, but we don’t. I plan on picking up the first two when I see them on sale cheap:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Crow bar
  • Roll of plastic sheeting
  • Satellite phone
  • Rope (but we do have bungee cords- that counts, right?)
  • Compass and local road maps

For complete lists of what you should have in the event of an earthquake/emergency Google search emergency preparedness checklist.

What have I missed?


Monday, April 4, 2011

Bunny Food

If I were to serve the kids veggies for a snack they would either throw a fit, whine, or cry- it all depends on their level of tiredness. If I serve them veggies in a muffin tin and call it "bunny food" they share nicely and eat all of it without complaining.

Being a mom is similar to being a con artist.

Today's "bunny food" snack consisted of Trader Joe'sWhole Wheat Pretzel Sticks, grape tomatoes, celery sticks, baby carrots, ranch dressing, and Ritz Crackers.

The weather has been perfect today so they ate outside under the patio pergola, which explains the terrible photo.

We had two E.R visits this week (more on that another day), so this is as good as it gets for today. Have a HEALTHY week!!!

Linked up to Muffin Tin Mom.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Knock, Knock...

In honor of April Fools Day, I introduced the kids to the much loved, time-honored tradition of Ding Dong Ditch. I don’t remember doing anything for April Fools day growing up, but thought it would be a fun little activity...and mature...and responsible.

We chose two of our friends that live close by. We drove to the front door and all hopped out (except Coco, she watched from the Britax).

I snapped a quick picture.

When everyone was securely buckled back into their car seats, I rang the doorbell and we hauled ass out of the quiet residential neighborhoods.

We wanted to be nice pranksters, so we left Ding Dongs and an anonymous note.

Vincent laughed the whole trip- he thought this was the greatest thing ever. It was all very juvenile. And awesome.

I also bought two ridiculously large fake insects (a spider and a scorpion) at the Target dollar spot. I am going to hide them in the garden and see what the boys do when I ask them to water the veggies after dinner tonight. Is this mean?

If you live at one of the houses pictured above and you were not home this afternoon, go check your front door. There is a box of melted chocolate snack cakes waiting for you.

This year... Ding Dongs, next year...toilet paper.

Happy April Fools Day!