Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why We Are Waiting

No, I am not talking about waiting until we got married to have sex (which we did do and I believe is the right thing to do), I am talking about why we are waiting to find out the sex of our baby until the birth. Here is my slightly sarcastic and light hearted opinion (mind you, I am at 37 weeks of pregnancy) of why we waited.

When we first started telling people we are going to wait until the birth to find out the gender of our child, it was almost like I had told them that we grilled snake for breakfast. Utter surprise and astonishment filled their faces. I had been forewarned by a few friends who chose to wait that I would get odd responses from people when we told them.

They were right. 

1) “What about a gender reveal party?”
2) “How are you going to plan?”
3) “What colors will you paint the baby room?”
4) “How will you know what to use – pink or blue?”
5) “Don’t you want to find out?”
6) “You know you have to pick two names, right?”
7) “There is no way you’re going to wait.”
8) “You won’t last that long.”
9) “You’re going to break down and find out.”


This is only a snapshot of the weird responses we received.   

Here are my responses 
1)    We will have the best reveal party on his/her birthday. I don’t need an excuse to cut into a cupcake with pink icing or drink blue lemonade. I’ll do that to celebrate the baby’s birth… and I will since I have totally cut out sugar until after I give birth!
2)    To be honest, I have no idea how to take care of a newborn – boy or girl. If I knew the sex, that wouldn’t help me in advance on knowing how to care for a newborn.
3)    Lime green with touches of lavender. Seriously though, painting the nursery a gender specific color wasn’t on my top priority list when it came for preparing for a baby. We chose to do a pale gray and a cream and then decorate accordingly. I don’t want to paint a big pink mural for our baby girl only to have a boy a year later and have to change everything else. I watch too many HGTV shows not to worry about resale value.
4)    I know everything is made with a gender specific slant these days: blue car seats, pink baby baths, blue this, pink that. However, I love gray, yellow, pale neutrals, and simple patterns. Again, let’s say I knew I was having a boy this time around and bought everything blue and dark green then the second time around, I had a girl. What would I do? Keep all my boy colored stuff to reuse for baby girl or buy all new girl colored stuff? I am way too cheap for all that. This way, I can reuse what I have over and over again.
5)    Yes, I definitely want to find out. Just not right now.
6)    Yes, we have them picked out. No, I will not name my child after you.
7)    Ok, thanks.
8)    Yes, we will.
9)    We are not.

Reasons we waited
1)    There are very few surprises we get in life. The only other surprise I can think of is when you get proposed to and that just (mainly) effects the bride. Let me preface by saying a contradictory statement, I HATE surprises. I am very Type A. I live by my day planner and make lists of my to do lists. But for some reason, I just think this is the most glorious surprise God can give us.
2)    The anticipation is great. It’s absolutely thrilling not knowing. The anticipation is not only great for us but for others as well. It’s also fun having people guess what they think the gender will be.
3)    Looking back, I can say without a doubt that I know we saved a ton of money from buying baby clothes that the baby would outgrow right away. I know Troy and I would have been suckered into buying every little bathing suit and shoe that we would never need all because “baby girl has to have it!” Now, if you have money for that, then go for it! We don’t so it’s been great for us to be able to resist and spend money on necessities.

Have I ever wanted to just know? 
Yes, definitely. There were two times during my pregnancy that I wanted to find out. One was right around the time of my 20 week anatomy ultrasound where we could find out for the first time. I debated for awhile but quickly became confident in my original decision. Then there was a time where I was about 34 weeks and my husband and I went to Target to roam and we both saw the smallest and cutest little bathing suits – some for boys and some for girls. We both just looked at each other and wanted to buy them both at that very moment. However, we just couldn’t justify buying one of each. 

Closing Thoughts
To me, if you can wait 20 weeks until the traditional anatomy ultrasound to find out, you can wait 20 more weeks. I have no problem if people want to find out. Go ahead! If you will be less stressed and more prepared then go for it. I am not mad at the way people responded or from the looks of disgust on some of their faces. Everyone has a preference on it! We may find out some day too (if we have multiples or through adoption). The few people that are pro waiting tell us that they support our decision louder and more often than the many people who have no clue why we chose to wait. The baby’s gender is out of my control anyway. I love this baby whether they are male or female. I can’t wait to see the plans God has in store for our little one and for our little family. The miracle isn’t whether our baby is a boy or girl – the miracle is the baby itself. If we would know the sex, we wouldn’t pray more for our baby in the womb. We pray every day for a healthy baby and a safe (and quick!) delivery.


***I plan on doing a follow up post after Baby Sowden is born.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Daniel Fast Approved Restaurants

Whether you are doing the Daniel Fast by yourself or with your church, it can be hard constantly prepping meals. Sometimes it's easier to just go and pay someone else to make something for you. I have a list, albeit a short list, of some restaurants that have some Daniel Fast approved menu items.

Cosmic Coconut - Memphis Area
I've been here multiple times and they have delicious juices and smoothies that they make to order. Some people don't allow anything but water on the fast but others allow juice and smoothies. Cosmic Coconut's juices and smoothies are so delicious and fresh. They even have a hummus and veggies plate to snack on.

Swankys Taco Shop - Memphis Area
There isn't much to choose from unless you want a mixed vegetable salad. Swankys uses such fresh ingredients that you will forget you are eating healthy.

Chipotle - National Chain
Chipotle is known for food with integrity. They use basic ingredients that create amazing, healthy food. Get a salad with guacamole, salsa, pinto beans, black beans, tomatoes, and other veggies.

Whole Foods - National Chain
This is not only an amazing grocery store, it also has a great buffet filled with hot and cold vegetables and fruits. It will not disappoint!

McAlister's - Located in mostly the Southeast US
McAlister's is known for it's huge baked potatoes called spuds. Luckily, they have a plain spud and a veggie spud (make sure to ask without cheese) and one called . They also have a garden salad (sans cheese) and fruit cup that are good too.

Bangkok Alley - Memphis area
This place is so tasty! There are several options to choose from. You can get edamame for an appetizer and chef's fried rice, basil fried rice and veggie fried rice (just make sure to substitute brown rice instead of white). You can also get tofu with your fried rice. If you're not in the Memphis area, most Thai and Asian restaurants should have similar entrees.

Ruby Tuesday - National Chain
You can get the salad bar and stuff your face for hours for under $10.

Ok, so I have worked at the last 2 restaurants and I am biased... they are both so good and can really satisfy your cravings! Please post any other Daniel Fast approved restaurants in the comments if you think of any.

Want more info on the Daniel Fast? Click here to download a PDF. And click here for more DF recipes you can make in the comfort of your own home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chip Blondies

Blondies, blondies, blondies. My first consumption of a blondie was at my first serving job at Ruby Tuesday. On occasion, a server would mess up an order ("accidentally," of course) and the food would be considered "dead" and that meant that all the servers could secretly pull the dead food item aside and share with other co-workers. As servers, we would scarf that food down like vultures. It wouldn't happen often but when it did, it was glorious. It was in one of these moments, that I tasted my first blondie.

I found this great recipe from Annie's Eats (another culinary genius). I made the recipe my own but the great thing is you can add any candy and special treat to equal your mood.

What is a blondie exactly? According to wiki (don't tell my college professors), it is a brown sugar based dessert resembling it's bff, the chocolate brownie. In my simple terms, it is like a thicker cookie made in a cake form. And it's oh so delicious.


In fact, the first time I made these, I placed them in the oven, set an alarm on my phone and of course, someone called me. Since I was on the phone and my alarm didn't go off until I got off the phone, the blondies were in the oven a full 16 minutes over the time I was supposed to take them out. To my surprise, they were amazing! You can't go wrong with them. Here's a simple recipe (you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry now!).

Ingredients:
1/8 cup of butter (or margarine)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I just found a recipe to make my own! So excited!)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 cup of chocolate chips
1/4 cup of peanut butter chips (yum!)
PAM

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Use PAM to grease an 8x8 inch pan or 9x12 glass pan. I used a 9x12 pan (the blondies will be thicker in an 8x8 inch pan... either way is tasty).
2. Heat butter in a mug (mug = easier handling) for about 30-45 seconds and allow to cool off for a few minutes.
3. Mix butter and brown sugar with a mixer in a medium bowl and beat until smooth.
4. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.
5. Add in the flour, salt and baking powder and blend until smooth. Then add in your chocolate & peanut butter chips (you could add in M&M's, toffee chips, Reese's peanut butter cups, nuts, anything really) and mix by hand until evenly distributed.
6. Pour delicious batter in the greased pan and spread around. Cook for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Take out and let cool for a few minutes then cut into squares. These babies are so good and since they are so easy, you'll want to make them over and over again. You've been warned.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Easy Pizza Crust

Oh, pizza. I think it's safe to save that pizza is one of my favorite foods. I could eat it every day... and sometimes that just may be the case. I'll take frozen, delivery, take out, cheap or expensive. It's all delish to me. So why not venture into the world of making my own pizza crust? That is the most tasty part of a pizza if I do say so myself.

I've been researching the easiest pizza crust recipe alive. One that doesn't involve fancy equipment or long hours to create and rise.

I stumbled upon this recipe from one of my favorite money saving websites ironically named moneysavingmom.com. She is a super mom and I aspire to be like her. I don't know how she does it all.  I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit to make it my own. You can find the original recipe here.

Not to brag or anything, but this was my first pizza crust recipe and well, it turned out perfect to me. It was so simple. The ingredients are all things I had on hand and the best part is that you don't have to let the yeast rise. I couldn't have asked for something easier.

You ready? Let's go.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon dry yeast (this will be more than one packet of yeast)
1 cup warm water (needs to be warm enough to feed to a baby, about 105° to 115° F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for flouring a surface
cornmeal

Directions:
1. Preaheat oven to 450° F.
2. Dissolve the yeast into the warm water (about 5-10 minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix for about a minute.
3. Pour mixture onto clean, floured surface. Make sure your hands are covered with flour so that the dough doesn't stick to you.
4. Knead by hand into a smooth ball for about 5-10 minutes. Don't know how to knead? I didn't either until this handy youtube video. It should look something like this:


If you press your finger into the ball, the dough should have enough elasticity to bounce back after you puncture it. Continue to add extra flour into the dough to take most of the moisture out.
5. Sprinkle some cornmeal onto a greased baking sheet or pizza stone (this gives it some texture). I've also read that turning a pan upside down and putting the pizza on top it will act just like a pizza stone but I haven't tried it out yet.
6. Add toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.
7. Sit back, enjoy, and be very, very impressed.

The toppings we used were 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 3/4 to 1 cup of mozzarella, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, about 25 pepperonis, one sausage link browned, home grown basil, garlic, garlic salt, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasoning. Oh, man. It was so good. I'm dreaming about it right now.

You can put it in a freezer bag right after you knead the dough into a ball and stick it in your freezer. Just put it in the fridge for about 6 hours before you want to use it.

I have one in the freezer right now just waiting to be devoured but I just got my wisdom teeth out yesterday (yep, all 4) and am eating only soft, baby foods right now.

Getting sick = fantastic reason to blog.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend. Let me know if anyone has any favorite pizza combinations that they want to share other than the usual pepperoni & cheese.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Homemade Glass Cleaner

 

Recently, I went to a physician and she suggested that my allergies could be due to particular cleaning products used in our house. She said I should switch to natural cleaning products so this was the perfect excuse to make my own. This glass cleaner is a tried and true. It's SUPER simple to make and works just as good as an expensive window cleaner.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon dishwashing soap
spray bottle

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in the spray bottle.
2. Shake up before using.

The soap helps the solution not to streak up on windows. I've been trying to be more green so I've been trying to use more towels instead of paper towels. And of course, this saves money too which I am all for!  

I'm pretty excited to learn how to create other natural cleaners. I'm learning that baking soda and white vinegar fix anything!

Does anyone have any cleaning concoction that they've made?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

bread and butter pickles


Oh, pickles. People have a love/hate relationship with them and I, for one, am in love with them. Troy and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house in MS this past year and my family from PA drove down to be with us. We planned quite the spread and I decided to make my very own pickles. It has definitely been one of my crowning culinary achievements. I found the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, BakedBree.com. She's a genius in my eyes!

Making pickles was a lot more simple than I had thought and the result is way better than any store bought pickle. You won't want to go back, promise.

Let's get started.

Ingredients:
3 pounds Kirby or pickling cucumbers
3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced*
3/4 cup Diamond Kosher salt or pickling salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric (it's an orange spice that's pretty easy to find)
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seed

*This is the original recipe but I DESPISE onions so I used some extra cukes to make up for the lack of onions.

Directions:

1. Cut up the cucumbers into sizes that you would like. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I make some big and others smaller. The result was the same. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Mix well so that the salt is evenly distributed.
2. Cover with ice and let sit at room temperature for two hours.
3. In a large pot, bring the sugar, vinegar, and all spices to a boil. This is when the magic begins.
4. Drain the cucumber mixture and add to the vinegar mixture and bring almost a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Go ahead, taste one.
5. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Aren't they beautiful? Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Free Samples 101

Who doesn't love free things? I know I sure do. Over the past 9 months or so, I have become more than obsessed with finding free samples online. The peek of my free sampling days thus far was when I received SEVEN free samples in the mail in one day... organic coffee, Crest White Strips 3D, a pack of Stride gum, Aveda hair samples, Tide laundry detergent & Tide washing machine cleaner (I had to be one of the first 5000 to get that one!) and some others.

Oh man, what a rush. Some of my favorite free samples have been Purina cat food and a Diamond Dazzle stick which cleans my rings and makes the diamonds shine like crazy! I have also received some coupons for a free bottle of Advil, Exderin, Suave hair care products, chips, Zyrtec, Philadelphia Cooking Creme, and many others.

To call me obsessed is an understatement... it would be more appropriate to call it a way of life. I look forward to visiting the mail box each and every day. Is that strange? On my way home from work, I ask my husband if he got the mail.... every day.





Where to go: 
There are a ton of websites that offer free samples. Many retail stores like walmart.com, target.com, kroger.com offer free samples. Check your local grocery store chain's website to see if they have a free sample section on their site. And then there are many, many awesome coupon/free sample/savings sites like dealseekingmom.com, ilovefreethings.com, moneysavingmom.com, freesamples2fillupyourmailbox.com, hunt4freebies.com, thefrugalgirls.com and thekrazycouponlady.com. There are a ton more but my life has changed since I found dealseekingmom. Most of the blogs will have a specific link dedicated to free samples.

Before you start:
I don't just sign up for everything. I make sure it's a secure link and that it's linked directly to the store or company's website. I don't use a fake email address but I use an email address that is specifically for junk mail. I never give out too personal of information either. It's just not worth it.

Free samples are great for many reasons:
1. My little sister is a lowly intern and makes $0/year but has to raise support. Troy and I can't support her financially but I support her by sending her free samples of shampoo or snacks. I also sign my mom up for things as well.
2. They make great stocking stuffers.
3. They are great to add to a little basket for a guest room. That way a guest won't feel like they are inconveniencing you if they need a tooth brush or laundry detergent.
4. They are a great back up if you are out of something. If we ran out of cat food, we know that we have a stash of 3 cat food samples just waiting for us. Plus, we have at least 8 laundry detergent samples. We're never running out.
5. You can try new products! There have been many products that I have sampled that I have started using now. Most of the time manufacturers will usually add a valuable coupon with their sample too. Double bonus!
6. They are great to travel with! You don't have to worry about size or weight restrictions when you have small samples going along for the ride!

I mean, who doesn't love to receive a little package in the mail? It's like Christmas/your birthday every day!

Do you know of any sites that you use for saving money, clipping coupons or finding great samples? Share them here.