6 Foods That Make My Life Easier

>> Sunday, December 17, 2017

I still love Aldi, but there are several foods that I've had to shop elsewhere for recently. Eloise has been a picky eater since, well, forever. But it was especially bad in the last four months. She would literally not eat anything. In retrospect, I do think a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has 16 teeth when many of her peers have far fewer. Poor girl has probably been in pain for a long while.

That said, I have slowly found some things she loves to eat. As much as I'd like to say they're all whole foods, I have also had to rely on a few "products" if you will. But I'll get to those in a minute. Let's just jump in . . . and I'd love to hear your make-life-easier food suggestions.

I've included Amazon links so you can check out more reviews, ingredients, and just more general info. Always price-compare, as I've found that grocery of Amazon can either be good deals or AWFUL.

JUST. Mayo

There are a variety of flavors of this mayo. Stephen and I are addicted to chipotle mayos of various brands. The just. chipotle mayo is consistently the least expensive and gets high marks on taste. It's also vegan -- at least I know that several varieties of it are. Another favorite is the sriracha. We put it on veggie burgers, use it as dip for fries, and as a spread for sandwiches.

Don Pepino Pizza Sauce

Our family absolutely loves Don Pepino's pizza sauce. Stephen it biased, since it's made in NJ. It's slightly more expensive than some store brand sauces I buy, but the texture and flavor make it worth it in my opinion (especially since homemade pizza costs so much less than takeout). I know I included the Amazon link, but I highly recommend checking your bulk stores for this brand as well. I once found GIGANTIC tins of it at Sam's that I then divided into smaller portions and froze.

Mueslix, etc.

I don't necessarily endorse this brand of muesli over another (there are SO MANY). I'm just addicted to the stuff. I have a thing for cereal and I feel like this is healthier than other varieties I enjoy. I used to make my own muesli, but these days I haven't made time for it. Hoping to get back into that mode at the start of the new year, though.

Stonyfield Whole Milk Yogurt

Here's one of those foods that Eloise will eat without fail almost every day. So, we have had this issue where she doesn't want to drink milk since her first birthday. Not that she necessarily HAS to drink milk, but I think it's a good source of calcium and protein in a vegetarian diet. Anyway, we're working on the drinking milk thing. In the meantime, she's been eating this yogurt and having cheese sticks. I've made my own yogurt in the past (and love it!), but she digs this flavor.

Kodiak Cakes

And this is often Eloise's lunch. I know, I know. I mean, it's protein waffles. Sort of strange to push on a toddler. But she likes muffin texture, and I like that Kodiak Cakes has added protein and it's fast. It also comes in fun flavors -- of which we like chocolate and peanut butter best. Have you guys tried this stuff? I want to get plain buttermilk next.

Bob's Red Mill Soup Mixes

These dry soup mixes have been A LIFESAVER and have massively improved our slow cooking dinners. We got into a soup and chili rut, so I decided to branch out one day and buy a few different varieties. Anyway, this one is my favorite. The prices on these guys on Amazon aren't good, so I include the link only for reference, ingredients, and such.

You must try this recipe on the back of the bag, by the way.

And if you DO plan to try it, I recommend adding a can of coconut milk in place of two cups of water and added a heaping tablespoon of miso to the mix. I like adding the gourmet mix of mushrooms I get at Wegmans and plenty of fresh ginger.


Expanding Our Homemade Pantry
Homemade Almond Milk
Our Go-To Pizza Dough
Homemade Ciabatta Bread
Homemade Muesli
Adventures in Cereal-Making
Homemade Bagels
White + Whole Wheat No Knead Loaf
Three Seed Crackers
Homemade Flax Crackers
Homemade Pancake/Waffle Mix
Awesome Couscous Crackers
My Favorite Hummus
Stephen’s Homemade Pickles
Homemade Applesauce
Red Curry Kimchi


Last-Minute Gifts // My Real-Life Suggestions

>> Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I am not going to make any huge adult gift list this year. But I will share a few things Stephen and I are actually getting under the tree. (Not TOTALLY done shopping yet!) I headed out to browse at physical stores over the weekend and was overwhelmed with traffic, parking, etc. So, this is all stuff you can find on Amazon if you're doing things last-minute and want to avoid the crowds.

I'd rather bake and decorate cookies.


  • Cat Draft Stopper. I shared this idea a few years ago and finally took the plunge this year. It arrived yesterday, and it's AWESOME. I can't wait for the girls to see it. And for it to block that draft by the front door.
  • KOZiKICKS Slippers. I'm a sucker for a good Shark Tank product. I couldn't resist these when I actually saw them in the store. They are really comfortable and seem extremely well made.
  • Spinning Vanity Organizer. Woohoo. Exciting! No, really. My mom got one of these recently, and she said it was life-changing. LOL. I'm hoping it'll help tame the clutter.
  • New Robe. There's a theme here, I guess. Things to be cozy. I haven't decided on exactly which robe, but it has to be really warm and hopefully have sherpa on it.
  • Aromatherapy Necklace. I've wanted one of these for a while. I don't do tons of oils, but I do like the scent on me from time to time, especially lavendar or balsam fir. Yes. I like to smell like a Christmas tree.


  • Yaktrax. Stephen is a trooper and runs even when it's super slick outside. We both use our running snowshoes when the powder really accumulates. But I thought these would be helpful if it's icy, which often happens.
  • Fandango Gift Card. Since we don't have family around, Stephen and I often don't go on dates. Well, at least together. We each love going to the movies, so I got Stephen a Fandango gift card. They come in varying amounts, but I just did $25 -- enough for about three movies/matinee.
  • Carharrt Hat. You can never have too many of these hats. We steal them from one another and sometimes can't find them when we need them, so I got a backup to the two we already have. 
  • Guitar Stuff. Stephen actually picked out his own gear, and I have no idea what he chose. I know he got a distortion pedal for his electric. Anyway, gear for their favorite hobby is usually a safe bet!
  • Power Bank. He's wanted one of these external iPhone batteries for a while. Honestly, I sort of want one, too.


Here are a few things I got for the girls to fill in the gaps, so to speak. Since I did my shopping early, there have been just a few things I've wanted to get since then. Mostly, the girls have both taken to playing with the toy kitchen. Together! It's awesome. But Ada's stash of play food has dwindled over the years.

I got them:


Alright, so this one is something I saw and thought could have gone one of two ways. First, it could have been a really stupid flop. Or, alternatively, it could be AMAZING. I was unable to contain myself, so I gave our family this gift over the weekend. AND IT WAS A HUGE, MASSIVE HIT.

What is it? An Indoor Snowball Fight kit

I know, I know. Ridiculous.

But you basically get all these large white pom balls that feel like real snow compacting when you squish them. There's no secret, you just throw them at one another. We have literally played this for hours already (Ada begged to play before school today), and I've recommended it to all my friends. It's a good way to get moving indoors when it's extremely cold (it "feels like" 0 degrees F here today).

More gift lists

And if you'd like to look back at my suggestions from previous years, have at it! I stand by everything I've posted. In fact, I still use those ideas today. Like I said, I finally bought that cat draft stopper, and I couldn't be happier.

PS: Don't forget to check out my Christmas messy house tour.


Frugal Accomplishments

>> Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I popped into Walmart this weekend because I needed sugar and was traveling in that part of town. I had a couple last-minute things on my Christmas list too, so I had to trek over to the toy section. I was absolutely flabbergasted with the number of people trolling the aisles. They were basically ripping toys away from one another in the quest of getting their shopping done. I mean, I get it. We all want to be done shopping, but being rude to a stranger about a plastic doll isn't going to magically make it all better. But that's not really the point.

In this time of excess, I'm trying to keep a level head. We're still dealing with a good deal of debt and always striving to be more frugal than not. So, here's some of the things I've done lately to stay in the green, so to speak.


// Thrifted Decorations, etc.

One of the best places you can find holiday decor is at the thrift shop. Sometimes you'll luck out and find stuff that's brand new. I got a tree topper for a dollar and a package or ornaments for a couple bucks. I also found some cute beaded Santa boxes to use as wrapping/gifts. Ninety nine cents each. A steal, right?

I didn't need too much, but I found nativity scenes, outdoor decorations, garlands, faux trees, and more. It's definitely worth a look if you want to add a bit more cheer on a dime.

// Thrifting Running Apparel

Speaking of thrifting, I've been looking for a decent running coat to add to my collection. I have a bunch of old ones that don't fit well anymore. I was able to find a nice, basic fleece Columbia number for $4.99 that also happened to be 70 percent off. No holes, rips, stains, or other defects. The only catch is it's a weird shade of green. I run mostly in the evening, so that doesn't matter!

I decided to take a look around and found a new Nike running top (short sleeve -- so for treadmill time) for just $3.99. I also snagged a nice pair of yoga pants for a few bucks. Now my athletic clothing is refreshed! I wish my motivation would do the same . . . 

// Lice Spray

Last year there was this little girl in Ada's class who ended up having lice the entire year. I decided to mix up a batch of homemade lice spray . . . and, guess what?! Ada didn't get lice once. I've made it part of our morning routine now, and I have to say it's working. Ada has my type of hair -- very fine and stands straight up with static. I had lice often as a kid despite being well groomed and taken care of. 

Anyway, I'd say a spray bottle of this stuff lasts several months. I just spritz it through her hair each morning before she goes to school. Bonus is that I swear is makes combing her hair easier.

  • 10-15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10-15 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil
  • 5 drops peppermint oil
  • Fill the rest with water
Combine everything in a small spray bottle. Mine is 4 ounces -- an old lavender room spray bottle. FYI: I use all Aura Cacia essential oils that I buy either on Amazon or at Wegmans. I've used them since I was in college!

// DIY Table Runner

I wanted to mention this frugal thing I did at Thanksgiving. We don't have tons of fancy linens and such to use when we celebrate holidays. I wanted to dress up the table a bit, but also make it fun for the kids. So, I rolled a bit of paper lengthwise across the table and gave Ada a bunch of markers and crayons. She drew pictures, wrote little sayings, and it kept her occupied while we cooked. I plan to do the same thing for Christmas. 

You can use any paper (see my photo, above), but we happened to have a roll of Melissa + Doug easel paper on hand. It was perfect!

// TTC Tricks

Oh, gosh. If you've ever been deep in TTC (which I'm not yet this time around -- just saying from experience) and spent literally #allthemoney buying pregnancy tests, ovulation strips, supplements, and other stuff -- save yourself. Since I take progesterone, I have to pinpoint my ovulation day, which means either taking my basal body temperature or using ovulation strips. I choose to do both, as my temperatures are quire erratic (thanks to waking up often at night -- my own doing, Eloise sleeps great).

Anyway, I finally bought one of those sets with 50 LH strips and 20 pregnancy tests for just $20. I used to spend that much just buying a couple pregnancy tests. It seems like a silly thing, but I know many of you are trying to conceive, and month after month . . . it gets expensive. Do yourself a favor. The LH strips work really well for me -- I get clear positives (line darker than control) and the pregnancy tests are apparently as sensitive as First Response. I personally got a positive on one last time around when my HCG was like 12 coming down from my D&C.

I love sharing frugal accomplishments. What are some of your most recent wins?

Till next time! 


DIY Christmas // The Dress-Up Box

>> Wednesday, December 6, 2017

This is a re-post of a blog entry I wrote when Ada was two! I am thinking of making something similar for Eloise for Christmas. And if you need more gift ideas for kids, check out my 2017 gift guide. I share exactly what we're getting the girls this year, not just random stuff.

The highlight of Ada's birthday party was her gift, the dress-up box. Now, this isn't really a tutorial so much as it's an inexpensive gift idea for toddlers and little kids. I thought of making this box for Ada when I noticed she liked going around the upstairs + rummaging through drawers. She'd put on socks and shoes and tights and mittens and scarves. Anything and everything she could get her hands on.

The beauty of this "project" is that it can be completely free if you have things around your house to use. It can be low-cost if you want to use thrifted items or even use (or sew!) your own. And if can also be all sorts of fancy if you have the budget to make it that way.

The choice is yours.

STEP #1: Find a nice box.

You can use one you already own or buy new. I had this zippered hat box I received a gift in years ago that had been sitting in our attic. I was at the crossroads of either getting rid of it or finding a new use. And actually that's how this whole gift idea started to take shape. I like having a box that closes well -- Ada knows how to use the zipper, but I can hear her before everything gets thrown about the entire house.  

I also think it'd be cool to somehow place a mirror or reflective surface inside the box. So, keep that in mind. Ada loves dressing up, but seeing herself in her fun outfits gets even more smile points.

(Bonus points if kid can fit inside the box.)

STEP #2: Find stuff to put in the box.

You can buy brand new clothing or actual dress-up clothing + costumes at a store, if you want. I opted to hit up thrift stores for some cheaper finds. It means the clothes don't really coordinate and are of various sizes and styles -- but it's perfect for a toddler.

I ended up getting . . .
  • 5 poofy skirts
  • 2 long scarves
  • 2 bandanas
  • 2 fisherman hats
  • 1 fuzzy "leopard" poncho
  • 1 reversible vest
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 extremely ridiculous clown sweater
 = $12.50 total 

STEP #3: Maintain the box.

Though this step is one I have yet to follow myself, I've decided that I'm going to wash the clothing in the box once a month -- unless something gets really dirty, which I'm sure is bound to happen. I sort of thought everything would just stay clean, but painting + markers and then snacks + milk happened. It's just like regular clothing.

As well, I might add different items as I find things and cull through my own scarves and such. Or if I see something fun at a thrift store or online and the price is right.

  • Buy clothing at least one size larger than your child wears. They wear this stuff over their regular clothing, so it makes sense. Sizes for Ada (who is just starting to get into the 2T size) range between 3T to 6. It all goes back to thrift store tips -- sometimes clothing shrinks or just fits different needs.
  • Wash absolutely everything before putting it in the box. I've heard some thrift stores spray clothing with a chemical (could be urban legend -- but I believe it), so it's just not worth risking.
  • Pick crazy things versus just normal everyday clothing. You can this stuff to look ridiculous, but also appeal to the insane style choices of a toddler. The weirder, the better, at least in my opinion.
  • Think beyond play. This whole dress-up thing is also a chance to teach kids how to dress and undress themselves, which is a real life skill. Try to choose clothing that facilitates that development -- bigger neck openings on shirts, for example, make it easier for little hands to navigate these learning waters.
Does your toddler like playing dress-up?

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