.

This blog was started in 2008 when we did IVF for the first time to build our family after 5 1/2 years of infertility. We now have 7 and 1 year old boys (thanks to modern medicine) and we are enjoying our blessed life as parents ♥ In the summer of 2016 we took another huge step and moved across the country from Oklahoma to New York! This blog is about life and everything in between



Monday, December 30, 2013

A Call to Action!


Have you ever had a moment that was a wake up call for you? Where something happened or you noticed something that truly opened your eyes and made you realize "Man, I need to change something"? As a nurse I am a little more tuned in to signs and symptoms of diseases. I have seen over and over again how it can escalate into a full blown illness and miserable life. I have seen people in their 20s getting toes amputated from diabetes, people in their 30s and 40s having fatal heart attacks and strokes, or going into liver failure from drinking.

I am a staunch advocate of taking CONTROL of your own health and being responsible for how it affects your body. So many diseases these days are reversible and yet doctors continue to prescribe pills to "fix" the problem. Unfortunately more often than not, the root of the problem is in our mind and we have to overcome it our self to truly be healthy. I'm sure if a doctor wrote a prescription for "diet and exercise" instead of drugs there would be a lot of angry people out there who either sued or ignored the order. But they have pills for this!! Why do I have to completely change my life??





This day came for my husband on December 22. We had lost power during the night and it was very cold in the house. I had to go to work for a couple of hours and had him and my son go with me to get warm. After I was done with my patient, me and another nurse were messing around and taking our blood pressures. Nick came over there and we took his----and were floored. His first BP was 175/112. We took three readings and all over them had a diastolic (bottom number) over 100. He just got the wake up call!

For almost a decade up to this point his diet had been very poor and his lifestyle was very sedentary. Of course as a nurse and wife I nagged him about it but in the end I knew that he would have to WANT to change for himself, not for me. As much as it bothered me, I could not control it so I waited for that day to come.

In the last 8 days he has truly made a huge turn around in his lifestyle. No sugar (even on Christmas!), no caffeine, no fast food, no soda, and exercising at least 30 minutes each day. The progress is already evident! His latest BP reading is around 145/96 and he has lost 3lb!

We will be keeping a log of his progress because I feel that will be the biggest motivator. Everyone likes seeing proof! He went today for blood work to see what his baseline numbers are. We should have the results tomorrow and I don't expect them to be very pretty. After 6 months or so we will get some more done to really see how he has improved not only on the outside, but also at the cellular level.

Baseline bloodwork: CBC, CMP, Hemoglobin A1C, Urine Albumin, and Lipid Panel (in layman's terms--blood count, electrolytes, liver function, kidney function, diabetes check, and cholesterol levels)

Beginning stats:
BP: 175/112
Pulse: 90
Weight: 217lb
BMI: 32 (obese)

1 Week stats:
BP: 145/96
Pulse: 85
Weight: 214lb
BMI: 31.6 (obese)


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Thursday, December 26, 2013

4 1/2 Years Old

 

It's that time again! My little one is 4 1/2 years old and has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 6 months. This will be his last 6 month post! I will do once a year updates starting with age 5.

Weight: 35 lb
Height: 41 1/2"

At 4 1/2 years old you:
  • go to bed around 8:30p and get up around 8am
  • come downstairs on your own each morning to sit and watch cartoons until mommy and daddy get up
  • take a nap each day from around 4-6
  • are a great eater and know that you only get treats if you finish your veggies
  • LOVE being in school (half day preK)
  • can count to 50, and count to 100 by tens
  • know the sounds each letter makes
  • can write your name and every letter/number and several shapes
  • are DONE with pullups (but we try to get you up to pee once more late at night)
  • know your days of the week
  • still fit size 3T and 4T clothes
  • wear a size 9 shoe
  • got a bike with training wheels for Christmas and were a pro the same day!
  • have good manners and are *usually* polite
 
Since he started school this year I have started an album for his "School Years" to keep track of how he changes and grows. I will put each year's school picture in it with a paper that he answers questions about his favorite things at that time (book, cartoon, food, etc.).


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Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Favorite Potato Soup

I have made this recipe several times already this season and it is so delicious each and every time!!! It is very forgiving if you forget an ingredient, or need to substitute something different. You can easily adjust cook time for the crockpot or stove. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!! There are rarely leftovers.

3-5 strips bacon
1 stalk celery (chopped)
1c baby carrots (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
3c broth (or 1 carton)
1c milk (or cream)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 of smoked sausage chopped
3 large potatoes chopped (or 5 red potatoes)
1c corn (or 1 can)
1 can cream corn
1c shredded cheddar

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon strips till crispy. Remove and save for later. Saute celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in bacon grease for 10 min, then add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT for milk. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours stirring occasionally. 15 min before serving, add milk and cheese, stir to mix. Serve with bacon crumbled on top!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Enjoying our Winter

These pics are a couple of weeks old but I figured I would clump them all together for one post! The first weekend of December I took Brad downtown to the Devon Tower to meet some friends for Christmas fun! We wanted to see Santa but he was very important and his line was about 3 hours long....










In our latest winter "storm" we got about 5 inches of snow so Brad was out of school on 3 snow days. We did our own lessons at home! Here he is working on writing his name...


Later of course he wanted to bundle up and play in the snow! He had a fun time and drank some hot cocoa when he came inside.
 




Everyone I sent cards to has gotten them by now, so I will share our Christmas collage I made from family pics we had done by Allison Revas in November!
 
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Frugal Living: Vehicles


Everybody needs a car, right? Unless you live in downtown NYC or something, you probably need a car to do anything. If you don't--kudos to you! I work 30 miles away from where I live so I am definitely one that needs a reliable car. Today I will talk about how to be frugal with your car!

I have seen over and over young adults who turn 18 and immediately go out and finance a new (or < 5 year old) car. I'm sure they are so excited about being a grown up and having the responsibility of a car payment, plus being able to brag to their friends. But in the end, you will be a slave to that car payment and that full coverage insurance until it is paid off!

To parents who want to pay entirely for your kids car/insurance--don't do that either. It in no way teaches them responsibility, ownership, or what reality is like. A car is a luxury that you should earn and take care of.

  1. Cash--When I was a teenager my parents agreed to pay for half of my car. I saved up my money and they matched it. As you get older it is still very wise to save up a significant amount of money (if not the entire amount) toward the car that you want. Be realistic about the kind of car that you can afford. If you are eating Ramen noodles and counting pennies, you should not be shopping for a Lexus. There are good deals to be had in used cars. If you can have a trusted mechanic or knowledgeable friend check it over then you can easily find a reliable one for a good price. Monthly savings = NO interest charges!
  2. Pay Off Early--If you do have to finance a car then you should immediately start planning to pay it off early. My first financed car was a 5 year old Suzuki and I had a 3 year loan on it. I paid it off in 1 1/2 years! My payment was  $179/month and I paid over each month, plus extra when I could.
  3. Insurance--Every car needs insurance. The best idea is to shop around and stick with one carrier for all of your insurance needs (home, auto, life). That way you are familiar with the company and get discounts for multiple policies. If you live in the middle of a busy city, your insurance is going to be much higher than someone who lives in the suburbs or country. Check into discounts for autopay as well as paying 6 months at a time instead of monthly. If you have a financed car then you will have to carry full coverage until it is paid off. Full coverage can easily cost twice as much as basic liablity so keep that in mind! Monthly savings = from $80/mo full coverage down to $40/mo liability.
  4. Maintenance--If it ain't broke don't fix it..........that doesn't apply here! To keep your car from breaking down you have to keep it serviced! The cheapest route is of course to learn how to change oil/spark plugs/rotate tires etc. yourself (or someone you know). Otherwise you should find a mechanic you can TRUST to do this things regularly for you. It truly helps prevent major problems down the road, plus you can catch issues early on instead of when you are stranded on the highway. It is also a good idea to keep a small notebook in your glovebox to keep track of when you do your maintenance.
  5. Gasoline--You can't drive without it! If you drive just a few blocks you will see a huge difference in gas prices. Ethanol, no ethanol, super unleaded, premium... The average car that is < 10 years old will run on ethanol just fine. Do some research on gasbuddy.com and figure out where the cheaper gas stations are. Stick to those, and plan on filling up when you are close to E! Don't back yourself into a corner and end up in the boonies with your gas light on. You will be forced to buy gas that is 50 cents higher than your usual place! There are about 5 gas stations within a mile from me and they regularly have at least a quarter difference in price of the SAME gas. And yes, they pretty much all get their gas from the same place. It adds up! Average savings for 10 gallon tank of gas at 25 cents cheaper = $2.50 or almost a whole gallon 

I hope this helps a little, thank you for reading! Please check out the other posts in my Frugal Living Series here!!


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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Homemade Sandwich Bread in the Oven from Machine Dough

I have a bread machine and I love making homemade bread. Who doesn't? It's cheap, tastes delicious, is cheap, and you know exactly what is in it. The downside to bread machine bread is that it can only be the shape of the machine insert. Mine is slightly rectangle but the bread turns out very tall because of the rising. I finally decided I wanted to try out making the dough in the machine, then baking it in the oven.

The manual that came with my machine does not talk about this process at all, and the only "dough" recipe in it is for rolls. I have made them before and they are good, but I imagine that simple sandwich bread should taste a bit different. I did some searching on the internet for techniques of baking bread machine dough in the oven and saw that they were all generally the same. So I pieced a few things together and came out with a winner!


Sandwich Bread Dough:
1c warm water
1 1/2 tbs soft butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbs powdered milk
3 tbs sugar
3c flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 tsp fast-acting yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine in the order listed with yeast being last. Start machine on "dough" cycle (mine is 1 1/2hrs). When it is done, remove dough with floured hands and knead for a few minutes. Place in large greased loaf pan and cover. Place in warm spot to rise for 1hr. It should about double in size. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool in pan for 10-15 minutes, then gently remove from pan and cool completely before slicing/storing.
 

Mine turned out perfectly and tastes so good! I was able to get about 18 nice thin slices from mine and they held together very well. This is the perfect shape I was looking for!
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Friday, November 29, 2013

*Almost* Christmas Time!

Just one more day until December! We are putting our lights up outside this weekend, then getting our fresh tree next week. We all just love the holiday feel in the air and the anticipation of waiting for the next snowfall!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I was very happy to be off work that day and was able to get most of my prep work done the day before. My mom had her big dinner at noon on Thursday and I took sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and deviled eggs (that Nick made). Both of my brothers and their families were there, and we had fun talking and eating the delicious food my mom cooked. We headed home around 2 and I got right to work in the kitchen on my meal!

My dinner was in the evening and I wasn't quite sure who all was going to make it--I ended up feeding 11 people! I cooked every single thing from scratch and it all turned out so delicious. It is feels so satisfying to work hard on a meal then hear that everyone enjoyed it! After we had Brad, I insist on making our own dinner each year for the holidays. It's fun to travel and see other family but I want us to have our own private family time at our house, on our schedule, with my homemade food. I love to cook and I feel the holidays are my time to shine and share my skill with my loved ones! As a nurse, I never really know which holidays I will be able to spend at home so our schedule also has to remain flexible.

I keep my menu pretty traditional and tend to make the same dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I would like to try some new holiday dishes but my family (ahem, husband) is pretty picky and I don't think it would be greeted with open arms. This year I made turkey, sweet potato casserole, dressing, whole cranberry sauce, roasted carrots, mashed potatoes/gravy, deviled eggs, yeast rolls, and pumpkin pie. I hardly have any leftovers!

I didn't do any black Friday shopping--unless you count a new winter coat I bought online! I've done it a couple of times and to me it is just not worth the headache. I shop throughout the year and by this time I usually have 80% of my gifts bought. The chaos and lines do not seem appealing to me! I would rather relax at home with my boys and be thankful for the things that we already have.

Tomorrow is me and my mom's second annual Christmas card date! She is coming to my house and we are working on all of our cards together so we can mail them out next week. I already have adorable stamps to use, and our new family photo for the card came in the mail a few days ago. I'm taking a few people off of my list this year that I'm not in contact with (or should I say they're not in contact with me....) so if you get one then you made the cut!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frugal Living: Food

Today on this category of my Frugal Living Series I am going to cover the subject of food! We all need it, we all spend money on it. Some like to cook, some don't know how to cook, some hate cooking and eat out for almost every meal. Some are food snobs and only buy name brand, some don't care and buy whatever will get them out of the store the fastest.

To give you some background and how my food selections have evolved into where I'm at today, I will give you a little look into the past. In 2003 when Nick and I got married, we were very young, very poor, but very in love! I had never had an interest in cooking before that, but with saying "I do" that made me want to learn to be the best cook I could be. Those first few years were filled with a LOT of hamburger helper, casseroles, mac and cheese, and spaghetti.

After I finished college and began my career as a nurse, we got more settled in life and I became more experienced in the kitchen. I continued to be limited by our income and mostly purchased generic brands but made the most out of what I could afford.

  1. Couponing--In March 2010 I attended a free coupon class that taught the basic principles of how to stack coupons and get the best deals on food and hygiene items. Since then I have built up a great stockpile of pantry items and baking goods--mostly name brand--as well as occasional deals on bread, dairy products, and meat. I am by no means an extreme couponer. I get the inserts from my mom and I stick to 2 stores for coupon deals. I go to the grocery store once per week, and the drug store 1-2 times per month. I used to go to Walmart for everything, but now that I coupon I only go there about every other month for just a few things. I have definitely reduced my monthly grocery/toiletry budget and I pay less now per month for 3 people (name brand items!) than I was before for 2 people (generic items). Total monthly grocery savings = $400/month down to $175/month.
  2. Brands--They are important to some people, and sometimes they taste better than generic. But ALL of the time you are paying for the fancy labeling, commercials, and advertisements that the companies use to draw your interest. So much goes into attracting a customer to a brand that we don't think about. I agree there are a few instances where a generic brand may be inferior, but mostly not. If you are not interested in couponing but want to reduce your monthly grocery budget, you should definitely consider buying generic! I am a huge fan of the grocery store Aldi. They have amazing deals on food as well as fresh produce. They have their own store brand that is quite good. I get probably 50-70% of my ingredients here. Estimated savings from brand name to generic = 25% off your total.
  3. Homemade--This is obviously the more involved option to cutting costs, yet it is almost always the cheapest, healthiest, and educational. I say educational because you really learn how much hard work goes into making a nice meal! There are a lot of things I try to make from scratch at least once, just to see how much it costs and how much I like it. Sometimes I hate it and won't do it ever again--but I'm glad that I did it at least once for the experience. Sometimes it costs more for homemade and I only do it for special occasions. Examples of homemade items include bread, butter, cakes, chicken stock, mashed potatoes and beans. For dried beans you can spend a couple dollars on a bag and end up with a huge amount of cooked beans that you can freeze for future use, versus a dollar on one can of beans.
  4. Eating out--It gets expensive! It should NOT be an everyday thing unless of course you are made of money and don't have a kitchen. Eating out is and should be an occasional treat realistically once a week or so. At a sit-down restaurant the average meal for 2 people is about $30. If you need to feed more than that or want to get an appetizer the price only goes up! Fast food restaurants are cheaper, but you pay the price with your health and waistline. Keep some easy frozen food or quick dinners on hand for those evenings when you are too worn out to cook, and save a night out for something special. I do  however keep the local restaurant coupons from the mail so that when we do decide to go out, I have a nice variety of free meals/appetizers to choose from! Totals savings for 2 people eating out = $120/week (for 4 nights / week) down to $30/week (for 1 night / week).
Thank you for reading! Feel free to comment with any questions or comments, and check back soon for another post.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Kitchen Remodel Phase III: Complete! New Countertops

We are almost done with our kitchen facelift!! The countertops are officially complete and we are pausing the final phase until after Thanksgiving. Here is the before/after picture.....



The old laminate had seams along the sink here, and now there are NONE.


You may or may not recall the ancient stainless cooktop that was here before? When it was removed and the cabinets were cut out to make room for the new range, it left about a 2" gap on each side of the new range. We fitted on some custom wood pieces and once we painted and relaminated them, you can't even tell!! It is seamless now.


The old laminate also had a large seam on this countertop, which now it does not!



Yay! All of the tools are out of my kitchen, all appliances are back in their homes, and *most* of the dust is cleaned up. I am so beyond happy to see those white counters gone! I love the black, I love the contrast with the cream cabinets, and it really does go well with the black appliances and bronze hardware.

Phase IV will be tiling the backsplash, and we expect to start on that in the beginning of December. Phase V is the fun one where I get to decorate! New hand towels, washcloths, curtains, and dishes! Check back soon!
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Kitchen Remodel Phase III: Halfway There

There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Just when I thought life was getting back to normal, we had to bite the bullet and get started on our countertops so that they would be done by Thanksgiving (which is NEXT WEEK btw). Initially we had decided to paint them with a simulated marble texturing, but after much research we could not find a topcoat that we were happy with. They all had some weakness, be it heat, yellowing, or scratching. Plus you would have to wait a week to put anything on top of it.

We admitted defeat and changed our path toward relaminating the existing countertops. This gives us the look that we want and the durability we want, all at a very affordable price. We called back our hired helper (Mark) who has done this before and would know all the tricks. He took measurements and we headed to Lowes!

They had a million samples to choose from and I was able to pick one that looked beautiful. Luckily it came in just the size sheets that we needed to do all of the countertops with NO seams! There are seams on the old countertops where water has gotten thru to the particle board underneath and caused some water damage around the sink. Our order was delivered in just a couple of days and we were ready to go!

Milano Rosso


Here, the counters are bare and they are about to remove the sink....


They spent most of the day taking out rotted particle board and replacing it with a straight piece of wood around the sink. All joints will be covered underneath the laminate and you'll never know they are there!
 

The rest of the day was spent sanding the old laminate to rough up the surface so it would bond with the contact cement. They used an electric hand sander for part of the counter and that made a ridiculously HUGE mess in the entire downstairs. DUST everywhere. I will be cleaning it up for a year...... They thankfully used sandpaper on the rest of the counters and it was much less dirty.
 

For day 2, they were able to actually start measuring and cutting the laminate to fit onto parts of the counter! This first piece was the hardest because of the uneven surface around the sink and the corner angle. Here they are slowly adhering the new laminate to the old surface and making everything fit just right!


And here is where we are the end of day 2. The most difficult piece is on, and they weighted it down to ensure a good seal. They will cut the hole for the sink out tomorrow and HOPEFULLY I will have my kitchen sink again!!
 


My bathroom is the new kitchen..... coffee anyone?

Stay tuned! They will be back at it tomorrow and more than likely will have it done by the end of the day. I had to be difficult and request a small addition to the countertops....I want a 5 inch extension of the laminate up on the backsplash. When all of the countertops are done then he will work on that if there is enough leftover.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Backyard Chickens!

Yes friends, I now have chickens in my backyard! I have been wanting to get some for quite awhile and did not pursue it this year because I thought we would be moving.....obviously that did not happen! I got tired of waiting so I took matter into my own hands and bought 3 hens from a local farmer!

I have reviewed the laws in my town for restrictions and was happy to find that just a couple of years ago they passed a more relaxed ordinance pertaining to "urban farming". I can not have a rooster, no more than 4 hens, and they have to be at least 25 feet from the closest house. Check!

Our backyard is terraced with a lower area at the back that we really don't use. It doesn't have much grass because of a constant cover of leaves and pine needles. It is pretty sheltered by the trees and our backyard is very secure with 8ft fence all around. The only critters I have seen back there are rabbits and an occasional possum.

They will be free range chickens so I got some chicken wire and fenced up a large area for them to forage around in. It can be easily moved around and relocated for a change of scenery.


I saw the idea for their nesting box online and thought it was pretty ingenious! It is a large Rubbermaid tote with a hole cut into it. I can easily open the top to get eggs or check on the hens, it is tough enough to protect them from the weather/rain, easy to clean out, and cheap! I lined it with straw and they slept all night in it.



When I got up this morning to feed them and check on how they were adjusting, I saw all 3 out in the yard enjoying their new home! They were eating goodies in the grass and seemed happy! I don't think I will leave their feeder out over night just in case it attracts nocturnal critters that want to eat their food.
 

The farmer I got them from said they are a few months old and may not lay for awhile due to the stress of a new location, and because of their young age. The red hen is larger than the white ones, and seems just a bit more skittish. The white hens don't like her too much, but maybe they are just adjusting to each other. The red one will lay larger brown eggs, and the white ones will lay smaller cream colored eggs. I can't wait to have homegrown eggs from my backyard!

I have done a lot of reading online about caring for backyard chickens and how to store the eggs. Fresh eggs have a natural coating (called the "bloom") that prevent bacteria from getting inside. If you don't wash them off, they can be stored at room temperature for several weeks! If you wash them off, you need to store them in the fridge. Eggs from the store have been washed and scrubbed so that is why they are refrigerated. Also since mine are free range, the eggs are supposed to taste better due to the improved diet and natural foraging. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

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