Thursday, August 22, 2013

Eating Out – A Frugal Luxury

If there is anything I love, it’s eating out. My idea of a good vacation includes eating at some cool new restaurants and sleeping. Maybe shopping. But for someone who considers herself a “foodie” I love not cooking, not cleaning up and not having to figure out something everyone will eat and enjoy. But if there’s something I don’t love, it’s the price tag. (Or the squirmy toddler threatening to toss his food on the floor)
I have a couple of rules to eating out:

1.) If I’m going to spend the money eating out, I’m not going to eat fast food crap. I’m not going to eat at McDonalds. I want Panera or a #4 Turkey Tom with avocado from Jimmy Johns. Lance says this makes me a princess, but he agrees with the notion that we eat out infrequently enough that we shouldn’t waste our money on food that will just give us a gut-ache afterwards.
2.) Find a coupon, groupon or a deal. It’s pretty much a surefire way to get me into your eatery.
3.) Dining out is preferable without child in tow. Or if said child is in tow, eating out becomes an art. The art of arriving at the restaurant early enough to avoid a long wait, picking one with kid friendly atmosphere – i.e. one that doesn’t have fine china or cloth napkins and finding something Lucan will eat.
4.) If we are going to go some place “nice” and without Lucan, we savor the experience. We linger at the table, we don’t rush and we exhale. As adults we relish in conversation not punctuated by “Careful! Leave your bib on!” Or “Lucan – NO.”

Eating out easily costs a minimum of $20 at a cheaper place. Easily. And that’s for two adults and one toddler. Just imagine having two more kids or teenagers that are hungry. Make that amount closer to $35. I just spent $45 at the grocery store for 10 pounds of chicken breasts and the rest of our groceries for the week. Spending almost half of what I spend on groceries on a single meal isn’t cost efficient. And considering that most of the meals we have at home are better for us, eating out isn’t very cost efficient or healthy.

That being said, I still loving eating out. It’s just a frugal luxury that I’ve learned to savor the few times we do go somewhere! What are your frugal luxuries?

Monday, August 19, 2013

What to do when Your Toddler Throws a Tantrum – Humor

  1. Take a deep breath. This isn’t as bad as it seems. People aren’t staring.
  2. Take another deep breath because your child just took a deep breath in order to increase his own volume.
  3. Attempt to ignore the tantrum and pretend this isn’t happening – in a very public place.
  4. Try reasoning with your tiny tantrum thrower. Come to understand that toddler terrorists don’t negotiate.
  5. Try threatening with warnings of discipline and bodily harm. Get kicked in the shin instead.
  6. Walk away. Pretend it’s not your child and wait for someone to call DHS on you because you just abandoned your toddler in a busy building.
  7. Try bribery. Depending on the bribe, tantrum might stop. And then you can stop feeling like a decent parent because you just bribed your child with Dove chocolates and a pony.
  8. Try waiting it out. Then come to realize that your toddler is going the distance with this tantrum and that “waiting” is going to last a good half hour.
  9. And when all else fails, bodily haul your tiny terrorist off the premises and ignore all the dirty looks people are shooting in your direction. Those naysayers will have a good dose of karma coming back their way.
We were at the Iowa State Fair when Lucan threw a massive fit about not being able to play with the water in the hot tubs (we were probably only a tantrum away from him stripping down and trying to swim in the hot tubs). I tried to pretend Lucan was fine. I tried walking away. I tried bribery with a warm chocolate chip cookie (he crumbled it and threw the pieces at me) and finally we gave up and hauled him out to the car and home for a nap. Sometimes the only thing that will fix a bad mood is a nap! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Love you little one

For a Little While

Just for a little while
We are the center of your world
The people you can’t live without.
The people that make you smile the most.

Each milestone achieved is one step closer to being independent
One day closer to not needing us.

You wrap your small arms around my neck for a hug.
You wave goodbye as I drive away
And laugh with glee
Cry in anger
And flail in frustration.

Just for a little while
You are little.

I love you more than you comprehend. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodnight and Sweet Dreams Little One

When I was pregnant, I had visions of sleepy, cuddly babies and peaceful kisses. For the first month, bedtime was nothing but pure anxiety - worrying about how long Lucan would sleep whether or not we would have to get up during the night to soothe him. But we found a routine and bedtime became that peaceful vision I had imagined: sweet kisses and the most adorable toddler "nigh-night." Then Lu's second birthday happened and like everything, life changed again. More often than not, bedtime is a battleground. Because the precursor to bedtime is going to bed. Meaning: pottying, diapering, wrestling into pajamas and the much hated - teeth brushing. It's not my favorite time of the day, but I would like it to be. Lucan has become an expert at stalling - "drink! drink! blankie! sheepie! pillow! lights! birdie! song! brrr... TC cold" (this is Lucan's MN Twins baseball bear that has clothes. Lu likes to undress TC and then announce that TC is cold and needs us to dress him. AGAIN. Last night Lucan got one of TC's socks stuck on his own foot and cried hysterically until I came in to take it off.) It's a never ending parade of demands and needs. And still, Lucan fusses and often cries and cries. It's exhausting. But like all things in which we think we can't handle any more of, we just need more. More Jesus.

I've been praying this as Lucan's bedtime prayer since he was a wee babe, but last Sunday's sermon was a good reminder:

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
Make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

Lucan just needs more Jesus so he can better behaved for his tired parents. Or perhaps it's just a case of his parents needing more Jesus. :) This too will pass.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning: One Huge Batch

I have a bad habit of doubling recipes and doing the math wrong. Most of the time this happens when I'm on the phone talking to someone or I'm distracted by the little man pulling on my leg to "see, see!" Lucan routinely wants to get a glimpse of what's going on and is interested in what he might be having for supper. I had wanted to make homemade taco seasoning for quite sometime, but had been waiting until our large container had finally run out to replace it. In true Kara fashion, I only wanted to go through the hassle of dragging everything out and measuring once - so let's double the recipe! I had mathematician Lance help me out and had him convert the recipe from teaspoons to tablespoons and from tablespoons to cups. If there's anything I am worse at than converting recipes, it's keeping track of whether I did 4 tablespoons or 5 of salt. 

I am really enjoying my homemade taco seasoning for several reasons: 
1. I can control what goes into my seasoning and tailor it to my preferences. Do you like yours milder? Cut back on the chili powder. Do you want a little more burn? Add more red pepper flakes.
2. It's cheaper. A LOT cheaper. An individual packet of taco seasoning is usually around $1. A giant canister is priced around $10 at Costco. Making my own? Around $4 after I bought my spices at Aldis. 
3. It's a little bit zippy-ier than most taco seasonings, which suits me just fine.
4. Hello - no preservatives! 
5. Watching your sodium intake? Reduce the amount of salt in the recipe. 

Without further adieu, my gigantic batch of taco seasoning recipe!

Homemade Taco Seasoning
1 cup and 1/4 cup chili powder
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons cumin
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup fine ground pepper
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons paprika

Mix well to combine and store in an air tight container. My old taco seasoning canister held my giant recipe perfectly and now I won't have to make taco seasoning for a couple of years. Double win - money saved and time saved!

To use: Over medium heat, brown 1 lb. of ground beef and drain. Add 2 tablespoons of seasoning mix and ¾ cup water to the ground beef. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and coats the beef, and there is not much liquid left.

Friday, August 2, 2013

31 Things I’m Thankful for in July

More thankful than a little boy with a bag of popcorn and a balloon sword to hit his mother with repeatedly from the backseat!

  1. An awesome trip to Michigan to visit friends!
  2. Antibiotics – I have strep throat and am thankful for medicine.
  3. This baby’s improved health. He’s gotten to spend long periods of time at home with his parents and sweet sisters.
  4. Cooking club. Such a fun group of gals who love to cook and love marketing (about 65% of us work in marketing)
  5. Adoptions
  6. Brief respite from the heat!
  7. Trips to CherryBerry with the family
  8. Lucan’s first Iowa Cubs baseball game – all three innings of it (my kind of baseball game!)
  9. Hummus. Lucan loves hummus. How weird is that?
  10. Farm fresh blueberries
  11. Clean trip to the dentist – not so much for Lance who popped an old cavity out two days before his visit. Lance is averaging 1.5 emergency dental visits per year. Maybe I’m thankful for dental insurance instead? :)
  12. My anniversary iPad from hubby. I was flabbergasted by my husband’s generosity.
  13. Making budget this month so getting to spend the blow money on whatever I want!
  14. Garden vegetables: one zucchini and several cucumbers. We also have lots of baby green beans, a few peppers, a couple eggplants and green tomatoes, so fingers crossed.
  15. This book – Calling Me Home
  16. Giant inflatable bounce houses. Not so thankful for the tantrum that ensued after having to leave the inflatables.
  17. Free family fun – parades and family fun fests at churches.
  18. The continued search for a new head pastor.
  19. A great husband who takes Lu on long bike rides or short trike rides around the block
  20. Gummy vitamins. One might call it bribery, but let’s not point fingers here.
  21. Potty training? Totally not on my radar, but apparently it’s on Lucan’s!
  22. Play dates with friends at the park
  23. Reconnecting with college friends that live way too close to be seeing them as infrequently as we do
  24. Doug & Melissa markers are water soluble as Lance has caught Lucan coloring our tan couch not once, but twice in two weeks (why isn’t daddy babysitter more vigilant?)
  25.  Clean water. The other day a water main had to be replaced and so they turned off our water from 8-5 pm. Of course it was one of the days I was home sick. Bad timing.
  26. 3 for $1 roses at Hy-Vee. Because sometimes there’s no occasion like a sale to buy yourself half a dozen roses.
  27. 4-H. I can bake a mean pie and I can sew. All thanks to 8 years in 4-H! I should preface to say that 90% of my time in 4-H I hated the organization. But the life skills I walked away with (and the husband) are undeniable.
  28. A husband who has an innate ability to find hidden ingredients in my pantry and fridge.
  29. A daycare who takes Lucan on fun outings: Adventureland, the Blank Park Zoo, the Science Center of Iowa, the library, Chuck E Cheese, Jester Park and Pump It Up! I won’t lie, I’m totally jealous of his field trips. But I think I’m more jealous that I wasn’t the person to take him on these trips. I’ll get over it.
  30. The movie Despicable Me. I laughed, but not as much as Lance. He has the sense of humor of an eight-year-old.
  31. Free Chik-Fi-lay and dressing like cows – we have no shame :)