Friday, February 28, 2014

I ate better when I was pregnant

I've been eating horribly lately. Dinners are usually healthy and breakfasts aren't too bad, but lunches have been terrible. It's either fast food or Ramen (it sounded good a couple of weeks ago and now I want it all the time). My snacks have been on a downward spiral, too. Gone are the days of baby carrots and guacamole. Instead, I'm scrounging around for chocolate or cookies. Oh and I tried not buying that stuff, but I'm too resourceful for my own good (exhibit A: an open bag of chocolate chips in the fridge that I eat from at random).

I was thinking about it and I ate waaaaay better when I was pregnant. Sure, there was a period where I would eat anything I could keep down (hello, morning sickness) and that resulted in Chef Boyardee every day for at least a month (haven't touched a can since), but once I got through the vomit stage, I was a champ. At one point, I was drinking Ensure every day (to put back on the weight I lost in the first trimester) and I was making healthy choices for most meals (not going to lie, I loved me some Popeye's). I made myself drink at least 64 oz of water every day and I always took my prenatal and calcium supplements. I didn't go on an all-out binge because I was really trying to make sure E would be healthy. If you saw me in my last trimester, you probably thought I was eating everything I could get my hands on, but I was really diligent about my eating habits. Even so, I gained between 45 and 50 pounds. The picture below was taken two days before I gave birth.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Response to Where is my Army wife pay?


This morning I was looking for new websites that cater to military spouses. I typed Army spouse into Google and the number one hit was for a Ms. Vicki letter called, Where is my Army wife pay?. This isn't the first time I've read the letter as it made the viral rounds several months ago, but this is the first time I've responded to it.

I read some of the comments and previously talked to some spouses and the overall consensus was that surely this was a joke. This woman can't possibly be serious, can she? Did you click on the link? No? Here's her question in full -


Dear Ms. Vicki,
My husband graduated from West Point two years ago, and I am basically living below an acceptable standard. I was never raised like this. My poor grandmother has been sending me money for the past year just so I can have the things I am accustomed to.
Ms. Vicki, I was told that Army wives are paid a monthly stipend just for being a wife at a minimum of $800. The amount is supposed to increase based on rank. Mine should at least be $1,000. Could you please let me know who to talk to so I can discuss this issue? I have not seen any of this money, and it’s been two years now.
I’m used to nice expensive things, and my husband promised my father that he would take care of me just like he did when I was living at home. I’m so jealous of my little sisters because they are still living at home with my parents.
When I go home to visit, the first thing my mother does is take me to the hairdresser because I’m a mess and I can’t afford to get it done. I feel so sad and angry every day.
I’m mad at my husband for choosing to be in the Army, and I’m mad that I am living in such an awful place. I don’t think this will get better for me.
I’m so homesick, and the other wives act like this is the best life they have ever had. They are not like me. We are not the same, so I don’t have any friends. Everyone keeps pushing the Family Readiness Group -- the FRG this and the FRG that, but the women are like Stepford Wives who live, eat and breathe the Army. They are ridiculous!
I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma in education, but I can’t get a teaching job because Texas makes it so hard for someone like me to get certified.
I just don’t know what to do anymore, and my husband is stressing out because he knows I’m not happy because he doesn’t make enough money. I’m trying to understand how to adapt to this situation, but I don’t think I can because I can’t live like this.
My parents spent thousands of dollars for my wedding, and I feel like they did everything for nothing.
Missing Oklahoma

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Got frozen bananas? Make banana bread!


This is a total slacker post. E is sick (another ear infection, poor little guy) but rather than skip another day of blogging I thought I'd share a recipe worthy of the site (which isn't saying much because I eat sprinkles right out of the plastic shaker). 

Last week, Nate has a breakfast fundraiser at work and asked me to make banana bread. I'd never made banana bread before, but I had my Memaw's recipe so I figured I would give it a shot. The best part about it is that I finally used the black bananas that were sitting in our freezer. I'm terrible about throwing stuff away. Rather than get rid of bananas that are going bad, I throw them in the freezer to "use later." It's just, until last week, "later" never arrived. 

I was crazy busy the day I made the bread so I don't even have any before pictures (I warned you this was a slacker post). The only thing that threw me off was that the dough had a really strange texture most of the time. It was kind of like cookie dough and if you've ever made bread, you know it's more like a liquid (unless you're using yeast - totally different story). But fear not! Once you add the bananas, it has the right consistency. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why joining a sorority was right for me

My all-time favorite sisterhood retreat 
This weekend, my sorority is holding a conference in Dallas. All of the collegiate chapters in the region will be there as well as many of the alumnae who can make the trip. It wasn't possible for me to attend this year and it's with a jealous eye I read their Facebook status updates.  I remember region weekend trips fondly, much like the rest of my sorority experience.

There was an article in the Huffington Post last month about why one of their producers chose not to join a sorority. I think she's a bit wishy-washy in her article, like she's trying too hard to make her point, but also not offend anyone. Like saying, I hate peaches, but what do I know? I've never eaten a peach. Yeah, OK. I say pick a side and back it up. Why would you discredit yourself like that?

All the same, it got me to thinking about the people who think the Greek system is a waste of time (there are plenty of them) and how for me, it was exactly what I needed. It's true; the Greek system is not for everyone. But I also think it's a lot more diverse than people give it credit for. If you met me today, you'd never guess I was in a sorority in college. But I was a full-blown Greek with lots of positions and even president of our chapter one year. And I definitely don't consider myself to be the stereotypical sorority girl. Not even close.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Making cloth diapers work for us

Choosing to use cloth diapers instead of disposables is a big deal. When I told my friends and family we were going to use cloth, they thought I had completely lost my mind. They slowly started to come around as I showed off my cute fluff, but I think they all made a secret bet about when I'd quit. I don't even hold it against them. I was a cloth diaper baby (not much of a choice back then) and I think most of the skeptics had visions of a burp cloth safety-pinned to E with a pair of rubber pants to boot. You know, old school styles.

Fortunately for me, cloth diapers have come a long way (I wouldn't have used the old version). Since no one in my family or friend circle chose to go that route (well, not in the past couple of decades anyway) I had to do a lot of research online. Have I mentioned how much I loathe research? I got to a point where I was doing it out of sheer determination. I had something to prove.

There are all types of diapers and wet bags and cool accessories, but I'm not going to highlight all of them. There are plenty of sites that have already conquered those lists. Instead, I'm going to give you a list of the things that worked for us. And trust me, this is a solid list. We've had our fair share of problems (leaking, rashes, nighttime issues), but we made our way to the other side and now we've got a good routine going. It should be noted that if I hadn't been so determined to prove I could use cloth diapers, I probably would've given up several times. If you choose to do cloth, make sure you are fully committed before you spend the cash to build your stash.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why you should go to a consignment sale at least once

One of the moms in my local group is a huge consignment shopper. I had previously written them off because I thought it would be a bunch of junk (I know, I know. I shouldn't judge), but she changed my mind because she always finds the cutest stuff. Last week, I went to a local consignment store because they were having a dollar sale. I was not impressed. There didn't seem to be much product in the store and later I realized that the owner did the math wrong on my transaction. Not a great start, but I decided to hold out for a big sale before making any final decisions on consignment shopping.

I'd actually planned on going to a big consignment sale next week (some of them fill expo centers), but decided to check one out in Austin today with some of the other moms. It took an hour and a half to get there (luckily E slept most of the way) and I got there right as it opened (whew). It was in a large room at a church and they had a ton of stuff. There were puzzles, books, baby gear, wraps, outdoor play equipment, clothes, shoes - lots and lots of stuff. They handed us Ikea bags when we walked in. I should've known then that I was in over my head.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The easiest chicken tacos you'll ever make (and they're healthy!)

If you aren't using your slow cooker on a regular basis, you're missing out. Several years ago, I bought a slow cooker cookbook and while some of the recipes have been big misses, there have also been some pretty good hits. One of our favorites is for chicken tacos. Get ready to have your mind blown.

Step 1: Place your frozen (yes, you can use frozen chicken!) or thawed chicken into the slow cooker.


Step 2: Mix diced tomatoes, green chilies and taco seasoning together (corn is optional).



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"We put the FUN in funeral" - Are you kidding me?

Last night, I read an article about a Wisconsin National Guard soldier who posted an inappropriate photo on her social media account. What? Someone posted something inappropriate online? That's not newsworthy. Oh, but it is.

This photo showed 14 soldiers from various National Guard units posing around an empty, flag-draped casket with the caption, "we put the FUN in funeral -- your fearless honor guard from various states."

While you let that sink in, let me add another tidbit to the mix. The same soldier posted a photo of herself in a car with the caption, "It's so damn cold out... WHY have a funeral outside!? Somebody's getting a jacked up flag."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Couponing to Disney World

Several months ago I decided I was going to coupon my way to Disney World. Unfortunately, my commitment has been less than stellar. Sigh.

It all started because Nate said we couldn't take a trip to Disney World until E is at least 5 years old. What the what. Five years is a looooong time to wait...for me. I begrudgingly agreed to his terms and decided that if we're going to wait five years for this trip, it's going to be one hell of a Disney experience.

Enter coupons.

I've been actively using coupons for about three years now. I got caught up in the deals when we were living in Arizona and I've tried to keep using them here in Texas (much more difficult with the stores here). For those that are hesitant to use coupons, I get it. First, it can be complicated depending on what types of coupons you're using and where you're shopping. And second, you have to check your ego at the door. Using coupons seems to have a negative stigma attached to it and you really have to accept it or overlook it. The thing about coupons is that it's not a discount, it's a form of currency. You use coupons to pay for items (discounts happen before your total, coupons happen after your total). Get it? If you can get past these two things, you're golden. Trust me, using coupons is well worth the effort it takes to clip them, print them, sort them, and so on.

I've saved loads of money using coupons the past few years and normally the savings stay in our bank account, but no more. I decided that every time I saved money at the store, I'd take that much cash out and put it in my Disney fund. If I can save $20 a month for the next 5 years that's $1,200. And $20 is conservative. I bet I could save at least $2,400 if not more.

The problem I've run into - and maybe this is why Nate agreed to my little scheme - is that I never have cash on me. And I never pull cash out of the ATM unless it's a special occasion (my hairstylist only takes cash, for example). So even though I'm saving lots of money, it's not making its way into the Disney jar.

I need to recommit myself to putting cash in there and doing it regularly. I started keeping a tab, but when you have to pull $100 out at one time it hurts more than pulling out $20 here and there. I need to focus!

Does anyone else use coupons to save for bigger purchases? Or am I the only one?

Cheers,
Jen

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homemade Thin Mint cookies in less than 5 minutes

I wasn't feeling it today. I wanted to write about the Olympics, but couldn't find the right words. You'd think with a topic like Johnny Weir and Tara L. that there'd be plenty to say. Did you know that Johnny is married to a man of Russian descent? And that Tara is actually older than him? Like I said, you think it'd be easy. But it wasn't.

So there I was looking at my coupon blog to see what deals I might be missing out on and I ran across a recipe for homemade Thin Mints. What's more, I had all of the ingredients in my pantry (sort of). Clearly, I had to make these cookies. 

The original recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate because I already had an open bag in the fridge), Ritz crackers (I used the whole wheat ones), mint extract (I had peppermint extract) and coconut oil (nailed it). I added sprinkles. Who doesn't like sprinkles? Spoiler alert: my husband.

Basically, you mix all of the ingredients together except for the crackers. You melt the chocolate mixture in the microwave until it's smooth and then you dip the crackers into the chocolate. Place the crackers on parchment paper, add sprinkles and then let the cookies cool (I put mine in the fridge). Ta da! You have homemade Thin Mints (but better because you added sprinkles). 


I got tired of dipping the crackers. This was much easier.

And now you love me. Or hate me. Because these are addictive and rather than eating them once a year, you'll probably have the ingredients in your pantry year-round. And did I mention it only takes five minutes from start to finish?  I'm in so much trouble. Why do I have to love food so much?

If you're interested in the original recipe, check it out here. Totally stole it from my coupon blog so I want to give credit where credit is due.

Cheers,
Jen

Homemade Thin Mint Cookies w/Jen's modifications
1 sleeve of Ritz whole wheat crackers
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 tsp. coconut oil 
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
Sprinkles (optional, but you know you want them)

Put the chocolate chips, coconut oil and peppermint extract in a microwavable bowl. Heat for 30 seconds and then stir. Repeat until smooth. Dip Ritz crackers into the melted chocolate. Place on parchment paper and add sprinkles. Stick in the fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tips for surviving time away from your spouse

All of a sudden many of my friends are faced with long periods of time away from their spouses. Some are going through deployments that will stretch on for months while others are dealing with training that will last three weeks or more.

Nate and I have done our fair share of time apart and it's usually right around the time you really need to be together (thanks, Army). Let's see, we spent two months apart leading up to our wedding, spent about two months together and then he left for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan - that was fun. And last year he went to California for training for a month while I was pregnant - also stressful. And there are the extra days apart here and there when he goes to the field or pulls staff duty and the list goes on and on. 

One thing I've come to realize is that it takes a special person to be married to the military. This job definitely weeds out the ones that aren't suited for this lifestyle (and you wonder why we have a high divorce rate), but the ones that are left are truly special. These are strong, capable, resilient, patient, caring men and women that keep the fires burning at home while our spouses "do what has to be done." But even the strongest of individuals has a bad day (I love a good ugly cry) so here are a few tips that helped me maintain my sanity (mostly) when my husband was gone.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

You're a woman in college? Your primary goal is to find a husband


Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut/freedigitalphotos.net

The frack.
Yesterday, I ran across this little gem of an article (I'll admit the link was on Facebook - sigh) and it made me all kinds of mad. Like, I can feel the rage boiling under my skin mad. Rather than give you the link (this woman doesn't need the hits), I've copied and pasted the article below. Take a minute to read this and I'll meet you on the other side. 
------
Susan Patton: A Little Valentine's Day Straight Talk
Young women in college need to smarten up and start husband-hunting.
Another Valentine's Day. Another night spent ordering in sushi for one and mooning over "Downton Abbey" reruns. Smarten up, ladies. Despite all of the focus on professional advancement, for most of you the cornerstone of your future happiness will be the man you marry. But chances are that you haven't been investing nearly as much energy in planning for your personal happiness as you are planning for your next promotion at work. What are you waiting for? You're not getting any younger, but the competition for the men you'd be interested in marrying most definitely is. Think about it: If you spend the first 10 years out of college focused entirely on building your career, when you finally get around to looking for a husband you'll be in your 30s, competing with women in their 20s. That's not a competition in which you're likely to fare well. If you want to have children, your biological clock will be ticking loud enough to ward off any potential suitors. Don't let it get to that point. You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think. This is especially the case if you are a woman with exceptionally good academic credentials, aiming for corporate stardom.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! We actually celebrated last night (and by celebrated, I mean ate a lot of chocolate) because Nate picked flowers up on his way home from work (so naturally, he wanted his chocolate at the same time). He told me the line was insane at the florist, but he took the time to make his own bouquet instead of buying a ready-made one (plus, those were like $80 - crazy!). He did an excellent job.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Has the media screwed up our perception of beauty?

A friend of mine is writing a paper for school and the topic is about how the media has changed women's perception of beauty. She was asking if we thought the standards of beauty were unrealistic. After typing out a wordy response, it occurred to me that this topic deserves its own post.

One of the reasons I'm thrilled that we're starting our family out with a baby boy is that the self-esteem issues that plague teen girls seem so damn complicated and scary (plus, they put up shrines to Justin Bieber and that makes me throw up in my mouth a little. Sure, we had Justin Timberlake and he's kind of a tool, but I thought 'NSync wasn't too bad overall. I mean, one of them had dreads. C'mon). 

And I say teen girls, but I think women feel the effects of the "beauty standard" at any age. The teen girls worry about their thigh gap and if it's big enough (this must be an age-related concern because at 30, it doesn't bother me that my thigh gap is non-existent), women closer to my age are starting to realize they can't eat like they used to (it sucks) and older women are looking into surgical procedures to reverse the hands of time (although, I've heard this is happening more and more in the early 20's). So yes, we all feel the effects, we just feel it differently.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Response to I am not my spouse's rank

I finally had a chance to sit down and read an article called, I am not my spouse's rank. It was written last September, but I didn't see it until someone posted a link on Facebook (oh Facebook, our love/hate relationship continues). The author is the spouse of a lieutenant colonel and she explains that she's been discriminated against because of her husband's rank to the point where it interfered with the care of her child.

What I appreciate about the article is that she's willing to go there so to speak. The rank divide amongst military wives seems like a taboo subject and I think it's healthy that she's sharing her experience. My own experience is one I would describe as a mixed bag at best.

My husband is in the military and what I can tell you is that it's usually tough regardless of your spouse's rank.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Baked Ziti - a winner every time


Baked ziti is one of my favorite dishes so it makes its way into our dinner rotation frequently. It's easy to make and it freezes relatively well. I also like making this dish when someone is sick or has a family member in the hospital - basically, a mini-crisis - because most people like pasta and they can heat it up at their own convenience.

Here we go!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Baby shower etiquette

This spring, I'm hosting a baby shower for one of my good friends. I've thrown myself into planning because a) I'm trying not to get behind and b) I love a good party.

When I was pregnant, baby showers were always a hot topic on the birth boards. It seems everyone has an opinion on who deserves one, where it should be, who should pay for it and on and on. So I've put together a few etiquette tips. Agree or disagree, this is what I feel is appropriate.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lazy Chicken & Dumplings


I love chicken and dumplings. I mean LOVE them. But I don't like the prep time. Boil a whole chicken? That's way too much work. So I've taken my Memaw's recipe and tweaked it into a lazy version. It's perfect.

First off, instead of making the recipe from scratch turn it into a leftover dish. The next time you buy a rotisserie chicken (I buy one almost every time I'm at Sam's) save the leftovers. If you want to save yourself even more time, break the chicken into bite-size pieces before you freeze it. Congratulations, you've just nixed the "boil the whole chicken" step!

Friday, February 7, 2014

5 Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

If you're reading this, you're probably in the same boat as me. You know, the one up a creek sans paddle. Valentine's Day has never been a huge holiday for my husband and me, but who doesn't want a gift? After looking around at some options, I've put together five last-minute gift ideas that may save my behind and help you, too!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

936 Weekends - that's it?

I'm not sure how I ended up there, but the other night I found myself going through E's baby photos. I know, I know he's not even a year old. Aren't the photos I take today still considered baby photos? No. Not really. Not anymore.

Somewhere in the past nine months he's developed a personality, started moving on his own and learned how to interact with us and others. He's my little guy, but he's not a baby anymore. So there I was looking through photos and getting weepy. I never realized how helpless he was when he was younger. I looked at the pictures of him laying on his blankets, unable to lift his head and it seemed like a lifetime ago. Did I even appreciate how dependent he was on me? On us? Or was I too tired to notice what a big part of his life I was? Did I take time to consider how special it was to be a parent? How lucky and blessed I was to have that experience? Or was I too busy trying to keep my head above water?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

OK, so maybe I'm more half-granola than crunchy

So apparently I've chosen to play fast and loose with a couple of words. I thought Party Girl to Crunchy Mama had a nice flow to it so I slapped that name on my blog and called it a day. What I didn't stop to consider was that I never really fell into a typical party girl lifestyle (I associate this with rich socialites) and as it turns out, I'm not especially crunchy either. I'm more like half-granola. I think I can come up with enough events to justify the party girl persona (stories for another time), but Party Girl to Half-Granola Mama doesn't sound right, does it? Can I cheat and still say I'm crunchy even if I'm only sorta crunchy?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frosting Wars: There can be only one


The other day Nate was cleaning out the pantry (awesome, right?) and he found some heart-shaped cookie cutters I bought last year at a clearance sale. Since they were brand new and in the original packaging he asked if he could throw them out. Wait, what? Obviously, they were hidden and subsequently forgotten about in the pantry for a reason.

And I've decided their purpose in life is to facilitate frosting wars.

Monday, February 3, 2014

5 tips for staying sane while caring for a sick child


Our family has been sick for more than a week now. It started off about 10 days ago when Ethan showed signs of a cold. A few days later, I got sick and a few days after that my husband got sick. I don't know what virus this is, but it's taking a toll on us. The doctor said it could last up to two weeks. Two weeks with a sick child? Just shoot me already.

I'm already half-crazy, but maybe these tips will help you when your little one gets sick. I interviewed a pediatrician once for an article and she told me kids are sick about 25% of the year. Brace yourselves - illness is coming.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Superbowl Snacks: Shredded Deer Sandwiches


Nate was looking for recipes online the other day (I swear it's not indicative of my cooking) and came across a recipe for shredded elk sandwiches on Allrecipes.com. Being the awesome wife that I am, I picked up the ingredients we needed so we could try it out. I actually had to buy quite a few things, including liquid smoke. I guess that's not much of a household staple?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Response to Don't Date a Girl Who Travels


This morning, I saw an article on the Huffington Post website titled Don't Date a Girl Who Travels. Thinking it would be something funny, I decided to read it. I was sorely disappointed. Not only is the author - a woman, no less - completely genuine in her claims, she's also terribly close-minded. I know lots of women who travel in their free time, myself included, and these claims don't seem to apply to any of us. I can't help but think the author is trying to make herself sound like an elusive butterfly that we can all but dream to catch. Maybe all of that sun has gone to her head and made her delusional. 
Let's break it down, shall we?