Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Welcome to French Braids & Freezer Meals!  To start things off, this month's theme is FAVORITES.  These are the tricks you come back to over and over again that always seem to save the day.  Here are some of our readers favorite tricks:

Ashlee's Stand for Healthy Food
Whit keeps crafting simple
Aubrey - consistency and whole foods
Alysa's 5 Musical Tips

A big thank you to everyone who has participated so far!  I am amazed by the beautifully simple responses I read every day, and am even more amazed by the beautiful women who wrote them.

This blog cannot survive without input from our readers.  So please take a moment to write a comment, think of your favorite tricks, and send them my way (emilythesavage@gmail.com).  Don't forget to click the "Join this site" button on the right to stay updated.

When writing your list of tricks, remember to follow these guidelines:

(1)things that reduce/avoid stress.   We have to run a pretty tight ship as moms, and things can get stressful really fast.  For me, stress means I'm not as patient and playful as I want to be. Then I feel like a bad mom, and then I get even more stressed.  This is a bad cycle!  Since we don't always have the luxury to walk away and read a book or go for a jog when things get stressful, we need some tricks to help us get through the day in one piece.

(2) things that are easy.   We don't need more sewing projects.  We don't need lifestyle overhauls. We don't need more things to add to our to-do lists, especially if they take up a lot of time and take us away from our kids.  Our ultimate goal is to spend more quality time with our family, not get bogged down on the latest "time saving" pinterest trending craft.

Next month's theme is VACATIONS WITH KIDS.  

Monday, 30 July 2012

From the Editor

Hi friends!  You already know what my top two favorite tricks are (take a look at the title of the blog) but I have a few more up my sleeve.  Here it goes!

entertaining toddlers:
- Rescue Pack -- Before my second daughter was born, I made a "rescue pack" of fun activities for my toddler to play with to give me some time to focus on my new baby.  It has bubbles, playdough, markers, craft sticks, paints, stickers and paper.  It has been very helpful, especially when other kids come over.
- Sing & Dance movies and educational movies --  I know what experts say... no TV under the age of 2 and only half an hour a week after (or something like that).  But I have a hard time saying no to a movie if it helps my daughter learn the alphabet or if she's singing and dancing the whole time the TV is on.  Obviously she isn't just vegging in front of the TV.  She's learning something, and I'm getting something done, so it's worth it to me.  Our favorites are The Wiggles and Brainy Baby.  Now we have several songs and dances we like to do together!
- Cheap works-almost-every-time outdoor toys -- sand/water table with bubbles.  Spray bottle.  Pink broom/dust bin.  Sidewalk chalk.  Watering pail.  My mom used to tell me to go "paint the sidewalk" and it always did the trick!
- When (before) all else fails, play with your toddler! -- I have found that when I play with Eva for awhile, she loves it, then she gets tired of me, and then she wants to play by herself.  Cooking and cleaning can usually wait for awhile, and it's worth it when she finally decides to play by herself.  Plus, I always feel better about myself and my relationships when I spend some quality one-on-one time with my little girls, even if I'm in the middle of making dinner.

new baby:
-  portable bouncer -- best $12 we ever spent!  It's so nice to be able to put the baby down in a safe, comfortable seat at a moment's notice, especially when there is another baby running around the house who often needs immediate attention.  We use the bouncer all the time.  Ours has a vibrating option and some hanging toys that the baby loves.  Sometimes it's the only place I can put her down where she will actually stay asleep.
-  find a pacifier that works -- if at first you don't succeed, try try again.

mommy rejuvination:
-  If you can, make one room in the house completely off limits --  It's so nice to have a place that you don't have to worry about child proofing. Use a child proof door knob and a baby gate if necessary.  I use both.  My bedroom is my sanctuary because it actually stays as clean or as messy as I want it.
-  Give yourself some time at the start of the day -- Even if it's just 5 minutes.  I like to make the bed, put on clothes, brush my hair, and wash my face before I go get the kids out of bed.  I'm less likely to be impatient with my kids because I'm not preoccupied with getting away to take care of myself.

- French braids :)
- Knit tops that don't require an under shirt + a flowy, knee-length skirt -- It's always a cute combination!  This makes it easy to stay cool on a hot summer day, and that by itself makes me a nicer mom.  It's also easy to pick an outfit, nurse a baby, and change clothes in case of a mess.
- Long skirts for church --  Thankfully, they're back in style!  Long skirts means you don't have to shave your legs or wear pantyhose. Hallelujah!

what to do when you're at the end of you're rope:
- As a very wise person once told me (or rather, my very wise mother often tells me), "learn to fuzz your brain".  I think it's her way of saying be OK with letting go of control and stress for awhile.  Just ignore it. Honestly, I didn't understand "fuzz your brain" when she first told me many years ago.  But now that I'm a mom, it is some of the best advice she has ever given me.
- Remember that someday the kids will grow up, and you will look back on these days with fondness.  Here is what Thomas S. Monson has to say on this topic:

"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.
Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” 3 We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us."  - Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey, October 2008 General Conference 

battling the blues:
- take a long bath
- eat a hamburger and a big side of vegetables (red meat has iron and veggies are great anti-inflamatory foods  --  great for an energy boost and feeling good about yourself) or a big green smoothie with spinach, orange juice and your favorite frozen fruits.
- take a nap in the sun, or go for a walk (alone) and sit on a sunny bench for awhile.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Alysa's 5 Musical Tips

My friend Alysa is pretty darn cool.  She is the mother of 2 sweet boys.  She's well read and blogs about her favorite books at everead.blogspot.com.  She hosts an interactive music class for kids every week called Kindermusik (and the kids love it!)  And she's the kind of person you love to hang out with on girl's night because brings out your silly side while holding a real conversation.  One of my favorite moments with Alysa was when we were in a playroom together watching our kids go crazy.  When her younger son started fussing, she took him on an elaborate and exciting tour of the tiny room (a 10'x10' square).  I was intrigued by it!  She was making everything up on the fly (her description of the slide was an old mansion built in the 1920's for wealthy cowboys... or something like that) and I loved how she took something so ordinary and made it exciting everyone, herself included.  I could definitely use some help making ordinary days a bit more exciting.  

I was trilled when I read her tips on making music a part of everyday family life.  Speaking from personal experience with music, I would LOVE it if my children learned to appreciate music from the hearth at a young age.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  

Five Tips for Using Music to Make Life Easier
Hello, all! Emily asked me to post about how to get your little kids involved in music. Of course the first thing I thought of was that they could take a music class from me, but that is hardly practical advice for everyone who will see this. So, no matter where you live, here are my five tips (with bonus Pro tip and music recommendations)!

1. Signal Songs
In our house, we pray as a family at least four times a day. When we had only one child, we could just snatch him up and help him still his hands for the prayer. With two mobile now, we've resorted to a song for our signal. 
When you use a song as a signal, it gives your kids time to do what you're asking of them.  Instead of repeating, "Come to the table. Sit down. Fold your arms," we sing our song and it means all of those things. We don't have to repeat ourselves because we're saying all of that the whole time we sing. For the first few weeks, Jacob would invite someone to say the prayer immediately after our song ended, regardless of where the kids were. This showed them we were serious and the prayer was going to happen right after the song. Now, they're almost always ready by the time the song is done.
Another signal song I use (though not as frequently) is a folk song "Come, Follow" that I learned by teaching Kindermusik. It gets us out the door or all walking on our way somewhere. At a family reunion a few years ago I learned a signal song my great-grandmother had used for getting up in the morning. You could have a signal song for climbing into bed, buckling your seat belt, clearing your plate, or whatever you need. The possibilities are endless.

2. Extender Songs
There are times when my toddler has asked for a drink of water and as I stand to go get the cup, find the lid, make sure the water's not boiling out of the faucet and so forth, he is repeating at an increasing speed and pitch, "Drinkwater! DRINKwater!" It can be annoying, to say the least. 
This is when I sing The Patience Song. Jacob brought this song to our parenting from his own childhood experience. It tells my son "even though I'm turning my back, I still remember when you asked me to do. I'm going right now to do it. When I'm done singing, you will have your drink." I don't have to keep up a constant stream of chatter, or hear "drinkwater" incessantly. 
I also sing a song while changing diapers. When you're halfway through and you just need a few more seconds to finish up, it can be tempting to take a harsh tone. But everyone is so much happier when the shocking thing you do to make the baby look is not yelling but singing. We made up a diaper song with our older son and it has been great fun. It always starts the same way, but on the last line we just say whatever comes to mind. This makes it easy to make it just one second longer if need be. 
Pro tip: When you use a song as an extender, time your beginning so that when the song ends unpleasantness also ends. If your song is done and they are still waiting, the song will lose its power.  

3. Scaffolding with music
When kids are just learning all the noises they can make, sometimes they pick the most annoying ones to repeat. Over and over and over. Yes, a fire truck says wee-oh-wee-oh-wee-oh but it usually drives away as it does. Not the case for a toddler who wants to play in the same room as mom. I've found to say, "change that" is better than saying "stop that."
I like to find the musical principles in what the child is doing (such as high or low voice, loud or soft voice, steady beat and repetition) then ask him to change just slightly. "Ooh, fire trucks also honk now and then! Try that! Wee-oh-wee-oh baah baah!" or "You're making your voice is so high! Now can you say the same thing with your voice down lowwww?" It changes things just enough that my brain isn't about to explode anymore and it has the added bonus of teaching kids more about music. 
Teaching kids in this way -- stepping in briefly to suggest a small modification -- is called scaffolding and it is fantastic. 

4. Improving literacy with music 
I don't know about you, but I make up songs all the time. Especially when I'm tired. My brain just switches into song-mode. I've been known to sing entire conversations. It's like my brain is kaput and in order to do anything it has to have music to help it along. You've probably already heard that music is great for our brains.
Songs stand out and help us remember things. Try making up a song to teach your little one a new word, or to answer your child when he asks a question that he has asked before. 
Songs help us divide words into chunks. Typical songs have one note per syllable, and the ability to divide words into syllables is an indicator of reading readiness. Rhyming (common in song) is also helpful when learning to read and write. 

5. Mood enhancement through music 
Often, Jacob will come home from work and turn on music. It is like magic: we will all get a second wind and have energy to make dinner and clean up. (And why didn't I think of this earlier? I will say to myself.)  At night, we calm down with music, singing songs to the boys once they're tucked in -- and we've had to cap it at three otherwise we're in there all night. These nighttime songs are almost signal songs, since they tell the boys to settle in for the night, but they change nightly.
When my son started preschool, we carpooled with an adorable little boy. About halfway through our first ride he asked me to turn on some "kids' music." I love listening to music while I drive; and in our car the driver gets to choose the music. "This is kid music," I said. In my opinion, any wholesome music is kids music, and there is no bad language or thematically inappropriate content in any music I listen to. Ergo, my kids listen to what I like. I'm sure as they grow they'll introduce me to new things, but for now, we listen to the music mom and dad love. I don't buy low-quality, oversimplified, annoying "kids' music" that I don't want to listen to. 
That said, here are three albums marketed as kids albums that Jacob and I love: 
  • Laura Viers' Tumblebee
  • Medeski Martin & Wood's Let's Go Everywhere
  • The Barenaked Ladies' Snacktime

What do you think? Is there a tip you would add to this list? Which of these are you most likely to try? And seriously, if you're looking for a music class for a babe age 0-5, email me at alysastewart@gmail.com 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Aubrey -- consistency and whole foods

Meet my friend, Aubrey.  This is a person I admired from afar long before we became close friends, at which time I began to admire her even more.  She is a true feminist in the best and most beautiful sense of the word, because she embraces and exemplifies the true virtues of womanhood!  She is a stay-at-home mom who cleans and cooks (very well) with a cheerful heart.  She is smart, she is lovely, and sings with such grace and beauty as to warm your soul to the very center.  Her example makes me want to be more gracious, kind, and forgiving.  I bet she could make a movie star jealous of her job as a homemaker!  

Last summer I visited their family in Texas.  When we gathered to eat breakfast, I was surprised to see her 1-year-old son drink an ENTIRE sippy cup of green smoothie!  Then he happily ate a full plate of quinoa and black beans for dinner.  My Eva, who eats unusually healthily for a toddler, didn't come close in comparison.  As I read her tips for healthy eating, I wasn't at all surprised to find that consistency is a major factor.  I think we could apply these tricks to many other aspects of parenting as well.  Here's what Aubrey has to say:

I realize as I write this that there are many women much more qualified to talk about tips and tricks of being a mother – in large part because they have more children!  I’m expecting my second right now, so while I am my son’s major playmate, which can be frustrating, (try having a day-long conversation with a 2 year old) we also have a lot of easy mobility for outings and other things which keep us from getting on each other’s nerves too much.  :^)

I know that getting your kids to eat well is a major problem for every mom though, and as we’ve gone through some big diet changes in the past few years, I can share some of my tips that go along with getting a toddler to say yes to green smoothies, and be disinterested in cupcakes.  We became about 95% vegetarian over a year ago, and also drink no cow’s milk, and (try to) limit our cheese intake. Here are a few of my tricks to get my toddler to eat the whole foods that I put in front of him.

 *Say no to snacks!  I’m not saying that you should never give your kid a snack.  But think about what snacks tend to be – prepackaged, non-living food.  I notice that on the days that I give into a lot of snacking (and I’m guilty of giving the graham crackers just like everyone else) that my son is much less inclined to eat the veggies and lentils that I put on his plate at lunch or dinner.  

*Serve what you want them to eat the most first.  If I give my son a bowl of watermelon as his appetizer, and then try to get him to eat the bean and rice stew after that, my likelihood of getting him to chow down is minimal.  When you’re hungry, everything tastes good, so save the fruit/sweet/most desirable part of the meal for last!

*Never do “two more bites, and then you can have a brownie for dessert”!  Children need to learn to try new foods because we as parents are doing our best to help them understand that good food is important.  Offering an unhealthy food as a treat afterwards is giving the wrong message.  The rule at our house (for now) is that you have to try one bite of everything.  If you don’t want more than that, you don’t have to eat it, but you also don’t get seconds of the more favored food unless you eat more of the less favored food.  While this rule has produced more tantrums that I care to count, the funny thing is that more than half the time, he’ll try the food, and then want the whole bowl after all!  When we have older children, the rule will be that you have to have a small serving of every food that is offered without complaint.  I feel that this also teaches the child respect for the person who made the food, and the person who provided the money for the food.    ***If you feel the need to add an inducement to get a few more bites of veggies down, start using fresh fruit as your dessert! 

*Unhealthy desserts (basically anything with white flour and white sugar) should be held off for special occasions – they don’t need to be a weekly, or even a month occurrence!  For example, we celebrated my son’s second birthday last week.  Because we were on vacation, I decided to use a cake box mix (an almost unheard of item in our house) to make cupcakes to share with the cousins.  We gave it to Tommy, and we watched as he took a few licks of frosting, a few bites of cake, and then pushed it away.  I wanted to cheer!  (This of course, didn’t stop me from eating the rest of his cupcake, as well as a few of my own. J)  He is so used the wonderful taste of ripe fresh fruit that the sickly sweet taste of the cupcake was unappealing to him.  I don’t feel that he is living a deprived life because that was the first time he’s ever tasted a cupcake! 

*Your reaction is very important.  If you never eat your own salad or veggies, how can you expect your kid to want to?  Do as I say and not as I do?  Not so much.  YOU need to love the good foods too!  Be animated and excited as you eat your salad.  We have gotten Tommy to eat so many good foods by showing him that we eat them too.   Then we all say ‘mmmmm’ together. J

One of the major ways that we influence our childrens’ lives and health is by what we feed them. I know you all have felt like I do – all I ever do is feed the kid, clean up after him, and start working on the next meal.  The food that we put into our bodies is so important, and even more so for a child who is growing so quickly and whose brain is developing so rapidly.  Heavenly Father gave us a wonderful variety of food on this earth, and in this day of food blogging, you can find a healthy recipe for just about anything!  So try it!  Stick a few new veggies in your cart this week!
I struggle with consistency in these things, but the more I do them, the easier they become.  The tantrums will be there along the way, but we are here to help our kids learn and grow, not keep them blissfully happy by giving them everything they ever want.  Along the way you’ll discover some fun things too – like the fact that my son loves beets.  Who knew?  I sure didn’t until I gave them to him for the first time this week.  I sure wish now that I had gotten over my fear of cooking them about a year ago, ah well.  

Monday, 9 July 2012

Whit keeps crafting simple

This is Whitney.  She's smart and awesome.  Maybe I'm biased because she is getting a PhD in German, which is one of the coolest languages around, but I think you'll agree with me when you read her crafting tricks.  She recently moved to DC with her husband and baby girl Penelope, and she's expecting her second baby (boy) any day now!  I love how she makes crafting a stress-relieving activity rather than another item on the to-do list.  That's the way it should be!  If it doesn't make you happier, then why waste the time and money?  Here's what she has to say:

My Approach to Being Crafty

I grew up with a very typical "Mormon" mom.  She cooks, sews, crochets, quilts, sings well, raised 8 righteous kids, and is still at it with almost 16 grandkids!  It was great to have so many resources at my disposal as I was growing up.  As a teenager, I picked and chose what kind of "homemaking" skills I wanted to learn, and now that I'm a mom of a  15 month old "boddler" (baby + toddler) who is still learning to walk and LOVES to spend time with me, I'm adjusting my priorities and slowly finding what works for me, just like I did growing up.  Good thing I spent the last 7 years in grad school with a busy schedule!  I had to learn to do only the important things, because as a crazy grad student I didn't have time for much other than studying, yet I needed to keep my sanity!  So I found simple crafts and sewing projects that kept me sane in grad school,  but didn't distract too much from my coursework.  I still use the same approach as a new mom.  I do enough so that I feel like myself, and that I have my own identity, but I don't do too much to where I am ignoring little Miss P (who will be joined any day now by a little brother).

I wanted to share my approach/philosophy of crafting, and then share with you a few crafts I have done recently: 
·       Know yourself and know what you like to do.  If you hate crafts, don't feel like you have to do them!  I learned after scrapbooking my whole mission (it took 3 months straight), I hate scrapbooking.  Haven't touched it since!  I can also only crochet one stitch, so I avoid crocheting, for now!  I like to embroider, sew and make simple cards; these are things I've been doing for a while, so I can do them fairly quickly.  Do what you know you can handle and are comfortable tackling, and be OK with it if you can't.  Just find something else that you do like!
·       Know how much time you have.  I used to voraciously sew for 2-3 days straight, but can't do that anymore (not since before grad school and parenthood, anyway). I sat in my basement for the first three months home from my mission and did nothing but scrapbook, watch movies and go to Institute.  I can't do anything like that now!  Now I know I have to choose something simple, or something that can be broken down into manageable chunks.  I also choose not to work on projects once my husband is home from work or late into the night, because I like to spend time with my husband, and I like my sleep!
·       Use your resources!  I regularly outsource portions of my projects to my sisters or mom or dad who have supplies or skills I need. 
·       Stick to what you have on hand. I stick with projects that I already have most of the supplies for, and only every once in a while start something totally new.  That helps keep the craft budget (yes, that's a category in our monthly budget) in check.  I also live in a tiny apartment with no space for a craft room, or even a craft closet!  My supplies have to remain minimal.
·       Only make what you really need.  I don't just craft/sew for the sake of crafting--unless I really need some stress relief.  I don't have a pinterest account, and I don't really troll blogs for new projects.  I usually am crafting/sewing because of some sort of need, be it gifts, clothes for my daughter, new baby supplies, Halloween costumes or holiday decorations.  Yes, you need holiday decorations.  Or, at least I do.  They make me happy.
·       Don't be afraid to buy something instead.  Sometimes I want to make something so badly, but in the end it's cheaper just to buy it, or I find a good substitute on sale.  I'm OK if everything isn't homemade, and honestly, it's not always cheaper to make it myself.  Not like when my mom made EVERYTHING for us!

Here are a few projects that I've done recently.  If you want to know how I did them,  I can do some detailed tutorials.

I have found that simple embroidery is a quick and easy project.   I have a bunch of embroidery patterns that I've accumulated from Mormon Handicraft and craft stores.  I've embroidered quotes and scriptures for new convert baptism gifts.   I have holiday embroidery patterns.  I make up patterns sometimes.  I tend to stick the finished product  in picture frames.  When I was invited to a baby shower last year, our budget was tight, and I couldn't afford to buy a typical gift.  So, I found an extra picture frame, and embroidered a stick-person family to give to my friend.  I sketched out the family to look like each of the family members, including the new baby, mom with long brown hair and green eyes, and dad, who is a big BYU fan, and finished it in a few hours.  I don't have a picture of the finished product, but this is the pattern I sketched:

Wall Art:
When my daughter, Miss P, was born, I wanted to put "I am a Child of God" signs in her room in multiple foreign languages.  I'm getting a PhD in German, so I'm a bit of a language dork.  This craft was a perfect example of using my resources.  I was in Nebraska visiting my family, so I went to the hardware store with my dad, bought a bunch of  1x4s and asked him to use his tools (which I don't have at all!) to cut down the boards and route the edges (is that the verb, since my dad used his router to round the edge!?!).  Then, I used my mom's stash of acrylic paints to paint the boards the colors I wanted.  I brought my painted boards back to Illinois with me, and when my sister came to visit me after Miss P was born, I asked her to bring her Cricut so we could make vinyl stickers.  In an afternoon we had all the vinyl cut and adhered.  Then, I used Command picture hanging strips to stick them on the wall.  The command strips were so much easier than trying to adhere some sort of picture hanging hardware to the back of the boards and then nailing a level and perfectly spaced configuration to the wall!  Here is the finished project on the wall above P's crib:  http://whitneylovesgerman.blogspot.com/2011/11/flat-stanley-and-penelopes-room.html

Birthday Wreath:
I have a stash of wreaths to put on my door for every month.  I wanted one for birthdays.  I really do want to sew a "Happy Birthday" banner at some point, but this was not that time.   Like I said, I don't have a pinterest account, but that doesn't mean I don't see what other people pin there thanks to Facebook.  One of my friends pinned a simple wreath idea from Our Best Bites, and, after reading the instructions on the blog, I thought I could handle it.  It was cheap enough to fit in my craft budget that month, and I could finish it during my daughter's nap.  DONE and DONE!! I found my supplies at Michael's (always using a coupon) and bought the balloons at Target.  Here is a link to the tutorial:

This is my finished product, albeit in need of some fluffing.  Every time we walk past the wreath I let Penelope touch it, so it's a little disheveled by now :


I love Kellie.  She has two lovely sons, a busy accountant husband, a new nursing degree (woohoo!! congrats!) and a beautiful countenance.  She's the kind of person that makes you smile just by thinking about her.  That's the kind of person I want to be!  In fact, we like their family so much that we decided to swap children if they end up having another boy and we end up having another girl.  Perfect perfect!  (just kidding... kind of.  Her boys are really cute!!)  I literally laughed out loud at some of her tricks, because they are exactly the kinds of things I need to "let go" a bit.  I especially like her french braid trick at the end ;)  Enjoy!

-As much as I look up to your sister, Jane, for getting up early in the morning to exercise--I just prefer my sleep!  I'm a much better mama after getting a good night's sleep--and I'm not the type to go to bed early either!  So tip #1--get a restful night of sleep!  Your kiddos will thank you!  Confession: My boys are often up before I finally drag myself outta bed--we've taught them to read quietly or watch a show until mama is ready to get up!

-Speaking of exercise, I need it.  Bad!  Not only does it release those fantastic endorphins that can salvage a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day--it offers me a few hours of precious "me" time without feeling guilty because I know the boys are having a swell time in the child care center.  If you don't have a gym membership or a place that offers child care, I highly recommend it!  It has saved my sanity!  Plus the "You have two children?!" comments, that totally boost my self-confidence, are an added bonus!

-Secret stash.  Something for you and something for the kids.  "Boys it's nap/quiet time" is code for "mama needs to eat some cookies that you boys will never know existed." (See my reason for needing exercise?!) A fun little stash for the boys is always a huge hit.  It's not necessarily something sweet all the time, but something that they think is just for them.

-One of my biggest secrets I can't claim, because it was my awesome husb who started it.  Anyway, from the time they were old enough to sass me, instead of him saying, "Don't talk to your mother like that" he says, "don't talk to my wife like that."  Not too long ago, Ethan talked back to me and I overheard Teigan say, "Ethan, that is daddy's wife!  He will be upset if mom tells him!"  Haha!  I especially think this is important to teach your sons, but obviously daughters need to hear this, too!

-M&M's.  I don't discriminate which kind.  Any and all.  They make me nice.

- Because my boys are older, I keep cut up fruit, yogurt, cheese sticks and nuts in the fridge conveniently located at their height.  They love the indepence of being able to grab themselves a quick snack, and it saves me the time of having to do it "right this minute."

-Never underestimate the power of movie time and popcorn with your littles!  When I can tell it's just gonna be one of those days, I pop up some popcorn, lay out a blanket in the living room, let the boys pick a movie and life is suddenly back on track :)

-Like other moms have said, WEAR YOUR CHILDREN OUT during the day!  Makes bedtime a breeze!

-Let your kids DO things!  There have been so many times it would be easier/faster to do myself--but seeing the look on E's face after cracking an egg (even if I have to pick out eggshells from the batter!) is priceless.  And hey, they have to learn those things at some point anyway.  Plus, then they learn how to work.  My boys have been cleaning toilets and dust busting since they were 2 and they love to help me "clean."  This is one of my FAVORITE tips!

-For a cute look in ZERO time, french braid your hair while wet the night before.  Take it out in the morning for fabulous waves! (make sure hair is mostly dry before undoing).

-One more awesome tip: my boys take turns each night cleaning their bathroom. It just so happens one was born on an odd day and the other an even day so if it's an even day it's Teig's turn and Ethan gets odd days (bummer for Ethan on those 31st to 1st months :)) anyway, I keep Clorox wipes and mr clean mirror wipes under their sink and every night before bed they have to clean their own bathroom. I can't even remember the last time I cleaned their bathroom and it always looks spotless! And one less bathroom to clean is sure a time saver!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Janey Pie

Jane is a busy mother of two living and working as a freelance photographer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  She calls her business JaneyPie Photography.  With 2 kids under three and a thriving business to manage, you can bet she's one busy woman!  And she is good at what she does.  One of my favorite things about Jane is that she stays cool when life is chaos.  She's good at saying "It's no big deal" -- a phrase I need to use more often, especially in parenting.

Here are some of her favorite tricks:

  1. Creating simple Photoshop Actions to make blogging faster and easier.
  2. Running in the morning before the day starts
  3. Only planning 1-2 activities per day for me & the kids so that I have more free time for them. So that when Halle says, "Will you read this book?" I can drop everything and say "YES!"
  4. Having art/crafty projects at the ready to entertain my two-year-old during down time. 
  5. Instead of letting myself get mad when Halle is whiny/tired/irritable, I try to take a deep breath and just redirect her attention. Usually if she's upset or getting into trouble, it's because she's bored, not because she's trying to be a bad girl.
  6. Using the same bedtime routine every night to help my toddler recognize it's time to calm down and go to bed. For example:  Making up stories at bedtime that always end with, "And then she got soooo tired and her mommy tucked her into bed and said, 'goodnight - I love you'. " which my two-year-old can relate to. It helps her realize she's tired and that it's bedtime.
  7. Bedtime is always easier if I wear out my toddler during the day. That means LESS TV and more PLAY TIME. So I try to go outside with her every day. Hopefully we make it to the park or to the swimming pool. Sometimes it's just chalk on the driveway and watering the garden.
  8. When we're out on a walk, I let my toddler run next to me until she gets tired. Then she's more willing to sit in the stroller to relax. 
  9. Having certain foods on hand for quick easy dinners. For example: I like to always have chicken, black beans, enchilada sauce, and green chiles on hand so that we can have easy soft tacos in a jiffy. Other quick and easy meals include Pancakes & Eggs, Spaghetti & Meat Sauce, Baked BBQ Chicken with instant mashed potatoes, Roast & Vegetables in the crockpot, and Bagel & Egg sandwiches.
  10. Purchasing several of the same girly gift items at once for future birthday gifts at the ready. 
  11. Making sure that everything in my house has a "place" so that when it's time for cleanup, we can avoid collecting clutter! (Still working on this one)
  12. Photographing the 'non-smile' moments that communicate kid's personality instead of waiting for the smile.  


Crystal is a mother of four living in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Her husband just finished medical school, so you can imagine how crazy the past 7 years have been for their family!  But somehow she still manages to serve others and keep smiling.  I love reading her blog because she has a good way of keeping things in perspective.  When I asked her to share her tricks, she knew exactly the thing that makes her life less stressful:  food substitutions!  Here is what she has to say:

I'm the substitution girl.  It seems like I always forget to buy something but running to the store with four kids when you are in the middle of making dinner is just not an option.  Thanks to my handy friend the internet I can easily find a substitution.  Here are my favorite substitutions:

  • I never have buttermilk on hand. 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1 tablespoon vinegar works added to one cup of milk works in a pinch. (used this morning in a banana bread recipe).
  • Ran out of cream of tartar.  Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar.  (used this one this weekend while making an angle food cake).
  • Forgot to buy heavy cream.  3/4 milk plus 1/3 butter.
  • Can't use eggs in a cake because my vegan sister is going to be there.  1 tablespoon powdered flax seed.  I buy the seeds whole and grind them in my blender but you can buy a giant bag of the ground stuff at Costco of Sam's club.  We like to add it to our cereal in the morning, yogurt, or baked goods to keep everything moving nicely :)
  • Don't have enough sour cream, Greek yogurt works in a pinch.   I make my own almost every week in the crock pot.  We love this stuff.  It has a nice clean, creamy taste and is really easy. Tutorial here.

I found this list of common ingredient substitutions and I printed it off and put it on my refrigerator.  (allrecipes.com)




Allspice1 teaspoon1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves
Arrowroot starch1 teaspoon1 tablespoon flour, OR 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Baking mix1 cup1 cup pancake mix OR 1 cup Easy Biscuit Mixture
Baking powder1 teaspoon1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup)
Beer1 cup1 cup nonalcoholic beer OR 1 cup chicken broth
Brandy1/4 cup1 teaspoon imitation brandy extract plus enough water to make 1/4 cup
Bread crumbs1 cup1 cup cracker crumbs OR 1 cup matzo meal OR 1 cup ground oats
Broth: beef or chicken1 cup1 bouillon cube plus 1 cup boiling water OR1 tablespoon soy sauce plus enough water to make 1 cup OR 1 cup vegetable broth
Brown sugar1 cup, packed1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses and decrease the liquid in recipe by 1/4 cupOR 1 cup white sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
Butter (salted)1 cup1 cup margarine OR 1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
Butter (unsalted)1 cup1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil OR 7/8 cup lard
Buttermilk1 cup1 cup yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup
Cheddar cheese1 cup shredded1 cup shredded Colby cheddar OR 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Chervil1 tablespoon chopped fresh1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Chicken base1 tablespoon1 cup canned or homemade chicken broth or stock. Reduce liquid in recipe by 1 cup
Chocolate(semisweet)1 ounce1 (1-ounce) square of unsweetened chocolate plus 4 teaspoons sugar OR 1 ounce semisweet chocolate chips plus 1 teaspoon shortening
Chocolate (unsweetened)1 ounce3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa plus 1 tablespoon shortening or vegetable oil
Cocoa1/4 cup1 (1-ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
Condensed cream of mushroom soup1 (10.75-ounce) can1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed cream of celery, cream of chicken, OR golden mushroom soup
Corn syrup1 cup1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup waterOR 1 cup honey OR 1 cup light treacle syrup
Cottage cheese1 cup1 cup farmer's cheese OR 1 cup ricotta cheese
Cracker crumbs1 cup
1 cup bread crumbs OR 1 cup matzo meal OR 1 cup ground oats
Cream (half and half)1 cup7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter
Cream (heavy)1 cup1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter
Cream (light)1 cup1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tablespoons butter
Cream (whipped)1 cup1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
Cream cheese1 cup1 cup pureed cottage cheese OR 1 cup plain yogurt, strained overnight in a cheesecloth
Cream of tartar1 teaspoon2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
Crème fraiche1 cupCombine 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Let stand for 6 hours at room temperature
Egg1 whole (3 tablespoons or 1.7 oz)2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered egg substitute plus 2 1/2 tablespoons water OR1/4 cup liquid egg substitute OR 1/4 cup silken tofu pureed OR 3 tablespoons mayonnaise OR half a banana mashed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder OR 1 tablespoon powdered flax seed soaked in 3 tablespoons water
Evaporated milk1 cup1 cup light cream
Farmer's cheese8 ounces8 ounces dry cottage cheese OR 8 ounces creamed cottage cheese, drained
Fats for baking1 cup1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree
Flour--Bread1 cup1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten (available at health food stores & some supermarkets)
Flour--Cake1 cup1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons
Flour--Self-Rising1 cup7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Garlic1 clove1/8 teaspoon garlic powder OR 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt--reduce salt in recipe
Gelatin1 tablespoon, granulated2 teaspoons agar agar
Ginger--dry1 teaspoon2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
Ginger--fresh1 teaspoon, minced1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger
Green onion1/2 cup , chopped1/2 cup chopped onion, OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped shallots
Hazelnuts1 cup whole1 cup macadamia nuts OR 1 cup almonds
Herbs--fresh1 tablespoon chopped fresh1 teaspoon (chopped or whole leaf) dried herbs
Herring8 ounces8 ounces of sardines
Honey1 cup1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup waterOR 1 cup corn syrup OR 1 cup light treacle syrup
Hot pepper sauce1 teaspoon3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus 1 teaspoon vinegar
Ketchup1 cup1 cup tomato sauce plus 1 teaspoon vinegar plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Lard1 cup1 cup shortening OR 7/8 cup vegetable oilOR 1 cup butter
Lemon grass2 fresh stalks1 tablespoon lemon zest
Lemon juice1 teaspoon1/2 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lime juice
Lemon zest1 teaspoon1/2 teaspoon lemon extract OR 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Lime juice1 teaspoon1 teaspoon vinegar OR 1 teaspoon white wine OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Lime zest1 teaspoon1 teaspoon lemon zest
Macadamia nuts1 cup1 cup almonds OR 1 cup hazelnuts
Mace1 teaspoon1 teaspoon nutmeg
Margarine1 cup1 cup shortening plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR1 cup butter OR 7/8 cup vegetable oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt OR 7/8 cup lard plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mayonnaise1 cup1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt
Milk--whole1 cup1 cup soy milk OR 1 cup rice milk OR 1 cup water or juice OR 1/4 cup dry milk powder plus 1 cup water OR 2/3 cup evaporated milk plus 1/3 cup water
Mint--fresh1/4 cup chopped1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
Molasses1 cupMix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Mustard--prepared1 tablespoonMix together 1 tablespoon dried mustard, 1 teaspoon water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar
Onion1 cup, chopped1 cup chopped green onions OR 1 cup chopped shallots OR 1 cup chopped leeksOR 1/4 cup dried minced onion OR 1/4 cup onion powder
Orange juice1 tablespoon1 tablespoon other citrus juice
Orange zest1 tablespoon1/2 teaspoon orange extract OR 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Parmesan cheese1/2 cup, grated1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese OR 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Parsley1 tablespoon chopped fresh1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil OR 1 teaspoon dried parsley
Pepperoni1 ounce1 ounce salami
Raisin1 cup1 cup dried currants OR 1 cup dried cranberries OR 1 cup chopped pitted prunes
Rice--white1 cup, cooked1 cup cooked barley OR 1 cup cooked bulgur OR 1 cup cooked brown or wild rice
Ricotta1 cup1 cup dry cottage cheese OR 1 cup silken tofu
Rum1 tablespoon1/2 teaspoon rum extract, plus enough water to make 1 tablespoon
Saffron1/4 teaspoon1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salami1 ounce1 ounce pepperoni
Semisweet chocolate chips1 cup1 cup chocolate candies OR 1 cup peanut butter or other flavored chips OR 1 cup chopped nuts OR 1 cup chopped dried fruit
Shallots, chopped1/2 cup1/2 cup chopped onion, OR 1/2 cup chopped leek OR 1/2 cup chopped green onion
Shortening1 cup1 cup butter OR 1 cup margarine minus 1/2 teaspoon salt from recipe
Sour cream1 cup1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup OR 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter
Sour milk1 cup1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup: Let stand 5 minutes to thicken
Soy sauce1/2 cup4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Stock--beef or chicken1 cup1 cube beef or chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 cup water
Sweetened condensed milk1 (14-ounce) can3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk: Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes
Vegetable oil--for baking1 cup1 cup applesauce OR 1 cup fruit puree
Vegetable oil--for frying1 cup1 cup lard OR 1 cup vegetable shortening
Vinegar1 teaspoon1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice OR 2 teaspoons white wine
White sugar1 cup1 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar OR 3/4 cup honey OR3/4 cup corn syrup
Wine1 cup1 cup chicken or beef broth OR 1 cup fruit juice mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar OR 1 cup water
Yeast-active dry1 (.25-ounce) package1 cake compressed yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast OR 2 1/2 teaspoonsrapid rise yeast
Yogurt1 cup1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 cup sour milk