Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flavored yogurt

I have been concerned by the ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup) and amounts of sugar in flavored yogurts, but my kids love them and the probiotics in yogurt are so good for us.  I decided to try mixing yogurt with some naturally sweet jam, but the kind I was using left some small chunks of strawberries in the yogurt- a texture my kids didn't care for.  Yesterday I got the idea to use the food processor to make the mixture smooth.  Why didn't I think of that before?
This time I got what Costco had, the lowfat plain yogurt.  If I'm at Trader Joe's (my other favorite place to shop) I usually buy one quart of organic lowfat plain and a quart of organic whole milk yogurt, and mix those together.  I used the jam I had on hand, some grape and some strawberry.  This combination was very yummy, and no HFCS!  I should try and calculate the savings someday and see what it comes out to.
Enjoy trying this at home~

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Activities for Kids

Hopefully the day after Christmas has your kids occupied with their new gifts and not yet bouncing off the walls.  My son's winter break started Thursday, which was actually kind of nice to have just a couple days before Christmas instead of a whole week to anticipate it and get bored.  He has a shorter break than other schools in the greater area, strangely, but at least he won't go as stir-crazy (I hope).  However, it's only a matter of time before the kids are bouncing off the walls with no snow outside to play in!
I have compiled a whole bunch of ideas we have used in past winters to keep the kids occupied when going outside isn't going to work well.  I hope something helps you through the long days indoors!

1. Get 'em cleaning!
There's something about using the real cleaning items that actually will motivate kids to "help" and keep them busy.  I have given my son a spray bottle of water (dollar store, cosmetics area at Target or a pharmacy will have empty spray bottles) and had him "wash" the inside of the dishwasher door.  He has to be old enough to not want to climb on top though!  I've let them wash windows before with a vinegar and water mixture or Shaklee's Basic H (safe for kids) but sometimes too much water will get onto the floor- throw some towels down in front though and it's no big deal.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cookies 2011

Every year for the past few years I've enjoyed baking different kinds of cookies to give to family and some friends.  I am scaling it back a little, only giving to out-of-town family and bringing them to Christmas gatherings.  I said this year that I would simplify Christmas, including the cookies.  You know what that plan ended up producing?   Seven different kinds of cookies.  This was supposed to be a scale-down year but I found myself making a batch every day or two starting Dec. 1st, and storing them in the freezer.  So now I have seven different kinds of cookie to bring with us tomorrow.  Oh, whoops, that doesn't even include the 3-minute fudge I made to satiate my mint chocolate craving this week and the Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip bars I just had to try (they contain garbanzo beans, butternut squash and my kids loved them!).
Here are how some of my recipes turned out:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Decor around my house

Would you like a Christmas tour?  It might even be better to take online rather than in person because you won't be tripping over stuff.

Sometime this past year (or maybe last year?  It all blurs), I took the big doors off of our main upper kitchen cabinets to create open shelving.  A few months after that I put the damask black-and-white wallpaper up in the back, which I love.  And I love that I can change out some of the items to decorate for the season.

Our everyday dishes are on the right, and more decorative stuff is on the left, which are the harder-to-reach shelves. 
The basket on the bottom left is full of kids' bowls, which they can reach from a chair on the other side of the counter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Tree Over the Years

Christmas is just a week away and I thought I'd do a week of Christmas posts.
Today's is all about our Christmas tree and it's "evolution" over the years.  It's honestly not that much different from year to year until this year, where we can see a marked difference in ornament placement!
 This was Christmas 2006- our tree had few ornaments toward the bottom with a 1-year old in the house.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Outdoor Winter Containers

A few weeks ago I saw a demonstration at MOPs on how to create winter containers with the planter pots you have outside from summer. They are supposed to last all winter long and add some beauty to the bare winter landscape. The other ladies in my group agreed that they were cool, but none of us really expected to do these on our own. This is where I got the idea that it was a really good excuse for a party! These would cost between $50 and $130 ready-made at the nursery I shopped at, so for around $20 a pop by doing it together and buying supplies in bulk, it was great! We even made a few as gifts. I invited the other ladies to my garage for an evening of creating. I picked up supplies at local nursery and craft stores (one of us called around first to find the best prices on greens). I picked up the greens (spruce tops, evergreen and other green accents) which ended up costing us about $15 per pot since we bought in bulk. The guests brought any extras they would like to make their pot prettier (ribbon, metal plaques, wooden reindeer, and lighted branches). I also picked up some additional colorful and sparkly things like plastic berries, curly twigs and fake glittery branches to dress up the pots. Fake glitter snowflake ornaments were also a popular addition.

Here is how we set it up:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guest Post: Kids' Pickup Routine

Tonight I am welcoming my first guest post from someone who likes to be known as "Cookie Monster." It's actually not going to be a huge secret once you start reading: someone with 3 kids, who thinks very logically (notice the many numbered lists below) and amazingly has the same toy organization bin system that was posted about here.
Ok, no use hiding it- it's my husband!  We thought it would be fun to share his perspective on the madness of getting the kids to pickup their toys.  I will admit the toy clutter was out of control and I couldn't get a handle on it, so I called in the forces of an engineering major (thankfully I happened to be married to one) to put his project management skills to work at home.  Thankfully he helped me out of this mess because this place would be even more chaotic (like scary chaotic) without his leadership here.
Without further ado...

Involving the 3 kids in a pickup routine
by "Cookie Monster" (Sally's hubby)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Green Smoothies

Green smoothies are one of the ways I get some super-healthy greens into our diet.
How else can a person eat a whole handful or two of super-tough kale or collard greens?  I know I can't easily do that!  I've tried making them into salads, but this is the best way to break the fibrous leaves down without destroying vitamins and minerals by heating them.

This might be the GREENEST smoothie I've ever made (Jan 2010).  And my kids liked it!  It helped that we called it the "Green Monster" or "Hulk" smoothie.

They don't always turn out green (you'll see what I mean below), but they're in there!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls like Cinnabon's

This time of year, it's difficult to stay on a healthy eating plan with no treats.  At least, it is for me.  Thanksgiving is so full of yumminess and lots of desserts, how can one resist?  Plus, we have TWO Thanksgivings (one with each side of the family) and both are extremely delicious.
The day after Thanksgiving I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and couldn't resist trying it out.  The hubby was at work Friday so I had the kids all home, with no intention of braving the mobs on Black Friday (although I went out that night and it was a normal shopping night, almost empty, even, at the craft store I went to.)  Anyway, since this recipe uses a breadmaker for most of the rising stages, I figured it was worth a try.
It was very easy to do, but it took about 3 hours from start to finish.  Not sitting with it, of course, but it's not a make-it-now-for-breakfast type recipe, unless you get up super early and your kids want to eat way later than mine (they beg for food by 7am, and usually help themselves to cereal before then!)

Clone of a Cinnabon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Transporting Kids in Winter

Last Winter was kind of rough for me; transporting three kids 5 and under anywhere was such an ordeal!  Since I had all of them every morning (my 5-year old had afternoon Kindergarten), I found myself shopping with all of them, all the time.  It was so tiring!
A friend shared with me her idea of moving the seats in such a way that they could all get in from one side- the driver's side.  This was GENIUS.  I wish I remember which friend told me about it first; I know of two who used this for at least a little while!  Since all three still needed help to buckle themselves into carseats, having any one of them in the back meant a lot of stretching and reaching for me.  In the cold Chicago winters, this was not fun.  So, without further ado, here is the amazing setup:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Real Life While Crafting

You can probably imagine hours of crafting (and thus neglecting the house) would create quite the chaotic mess.  If I didn't share what really went on while I was spending time crafting with three young kids in the house, it wouldn't really be fair to you.   It's easy to assume, based on pretty pictures on a blog, that everything else in my life is as "perfect" as the wreath-making looked!  As if I have endless free time...
The photos of wreath-making steps were taken spread out all through a few days.  First was the painting and then a week or so later two days of actual wreath-making.  One of those days was Thanksgiving, so my hubby was home to help out!  There were also plenty of interruptions.
Make sure before you start a project that you have a space to work in- I just started on the floor where my computer is (this is our dining room, but since our table is in the kitchen/family room area, we made this into sort of an office for now where the family computer lives).  It was like a ribbon, fabric and glittery decoration explosion.  Not to mention a couple of dangerous objects like wire cutters, scissors, and a hot glue gun thrown into the mix.  Thankfully my kids weren't very interested in the danger this time.
Don't go in, you might not come out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Wreaths

I have been on a wreath kick the last couple of years.   When our front door isn't decorated, the house looks naked to me!  It started with buying wreaths.  I bought one or two.  They are SO expensive!!  So then I decided to make one, but the ready-made supplies for that weren't much cheaper.  The first one I made was just a plain evergreen wreath that I stuck store-bought pinecones-and-berries-on-sticks into.  Later, I made another one for indoors that I added lights to.  They are nice, but nothing spectacular.
Last year I made this one with the TONS of pinecones my kids had gathered from outside.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Toy Organization

Christmas is approaching, and with it always comes new toys and things that cause our house to become more cluttered.  I read a good idea online that a friend asked for only books, puzzles, and clothing for her twins' first birthdays.  I thought it was a smart and a great way to give "guidelines" for gift-givers.  I hate to put limits and restrictions on my family and those who want to bless my kids with a gift, but the categories of appreciated gifts seemed to be a good way to go about controlling the clutter.  As kids grow older, they do need different stimulation and things for learning.  However, I'm so tired of the kitschy, trendy materialistic toys that become junk in our house when the kids tire of them within a very short time.  The "junk toys" are the toys that just don't require any imagination from children.  The toys that have stood the test of time in our house are things that can be taken apart and rebuilt easily, (Legos, marble set), the play kitchen and play food (this even goes in spurts of unuse though), dress-up clothes (just starting to become an interest of my 2- and 4-year olds), art supplies, dolls, and household items like pillows, old paper towel rolls, and miscellaneous containers that they like to fill with their trinkets and carry around.  The cardboard box has seriously been a more exciting "toy" than the big fancy thing that came inside of it most of the time!  Even better are "experience" gifts such as tickets to shows, children's museums, or even movies or a day out with family members, and time together like making cookies with their cousins (an idea we plan to try with in-town family, allowing the kids to decorate cookies for each other).
This DVD/VHS collection was reduced by about 1/3

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Project: Repainting a Dresser and Nightstand

This project was a doozy!  I haven't done anything this major since February of 2010 when my hubby took all three kids to grandma's for the whole day so I could paint the entire downstairs living room and kitchen.  So I guess I was about due for an overwhelming project.  At least this one didn't involve removal of wallpaper.  But it involved sanding, so maybe it isn't that far behind....

I found this dresser and nightstand set at a garage sale and managed to get both for $20.  They clearly needed refinishing but were solid wood and had nice simple clean lines.  They were yelling for handles to be added too!

Toddler Activity: Pom Pom bucket

I read about this activity on Money Saving Mom.  She has activities for little ones called Busy Bags, and one activity in this category was called "Pom Pom stuff-it-in" or something like that.  I thought it looked like a fun activity to do for my 2-year old, so I made one.
Super easy steps:
Stuffin' it in

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

School Homework Spot

About a month into the school year I realized my oldest son didn't have a regular spot to keep his homework.  We have a stack of file shelves on my desk where I keep school papers, but things get buried pretty quickly there.  If they need attention they have to go in my mail "pocket" in the kitchen, or it floats around the counter.  I realized that I was having to keep track of all his stuff all the time, and especially the long-term assignments (which are about 4 days long for a first grader!).  Enter another cause for a stressed-out mommy.  So, I took an old bulletin board, wrapped it in leftover fabric from covering old chairs (which are now long gone and taken for free by someone in the neighborhood), and hung it near the table where he does his homework.  Now he keeps his weekly spelling list and homework in the same spot, pinned to the bulletin board, and is great about keeping track of it!

Homemade Mint Chip Ice Cream

I was walking around our yard a couple of weeks ago and noticed my tiny mint plant was going CRAZY (wow I'm noticing a theme here in my life).  It must have been 10 times its original size.  So, I thought, "what can I make with all this mint?" and my mind went through a couple ideas- mint mojitos (except I don't drink very often, and don't have the stuff around the house- it's so expensive!).  So instead my mind went to mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is probably my favorite (but I won't really say no to any ice cream!).  Although it isn't the healthiest recipe, it was made with a little less fat than is possible.  I love the fresh mint flavor this has.  It's definitely different from the typical mint chip ice cream you'd buy.

My stack of recipes on my Crate & Barrel recipe book holder.  I don't know how I lived without this thing before I received it as a gift a few years ago.

Here is the recipe I found online (can't remember the source, though- will post if I find it):

Fall Decorations

Fall is always such a cozy time of year for me.  The cooler weather keeps us indoors more and I get to pull out my fall candles and decor!  I haven't had much decor beyond candles but this year I found some great deals 80% off at Hobby Lobby.  I happened to hit the sale (by no planning of my own) the day or two after it started.  I have added a couple of things since this photo but here is what I decorated around the house this year.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy November!

The leaves are falling and almost gone.. winter is almost upon us.  At least that's what the Christmas music on the radio (which I've been strangely enjoying) is telling me.  But I'm not ready for Fall, my favorite season, to be over quite yet!  We have been trying to enjoy the last of the mild warmer weather we have been having here in Chicagoland. 
I hope for this blog to be a fun place for you to get some new ideas on fun activities for the kids, yummy and healthy things to make in the kitchen (with some treats thrown in too), or home organization (or toy organization a.k.a. the monster that takes over the house if not kept in check).  With Christmas upon us, it's time to purge the old to make way for the new!  Please Lord don't let us receive sets of toys with thousands more tiny parts!

Stay crazy--

Welcome to Plum Crazy!

I started this blog as an outlet to express all of my ideas and efforts to make our house a truly comfortable home.  Everyone needs a place of peace and joy, and my hope is to somehow make that out of the chaos that is family life with kids.  I often feel as though I'm not accomplishing enough, and as women and mothers I think that feeling is probably more common than we realize.  I needed to do this so I stop the negative self-talk about what I'm not accomplishing, and instead write about the things I am able to do by the Grace of God!  He has given us so much, and the many things I am able to do come directly as a blessing and outpouring from God.  Without Him, I am nothing.  "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26)  May you find some grace and peace today.  And maybe a new good idea to use in your own home!