Archive for January, 2011

Sound Off: Baby Gets Her Own Room

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Hope you're having a great weekend!

Oh boy.  Today has been a hard one for me.  We moved Evelyn out of our room and into her very own.  Can you say stressed?  It seemed like just yesterday that we had her in the laundry basket, lol…  Evelyn lasted 9 weeks in her makeshift nursery tucked away into the corner of our bedroom.  Oliver was out at 7 weeks. 

Why move her out so soon?  Well, she is able to work through her gas issues on her own by grunting, groaning, and squirming and then falling back to sleep.  That is if she isn’t hovered over by a nervous mama who is constantly checking on her to make sure she’s okay.  On the flip-side, we kept waking her up with our tossing, turning, and (apparently) my snoring.  So, we decided to make the swap.  I have a feeling I’ll be spending many a night posted outside her door to make sure she is okay even though we have the nursery monitor.

By swap I mean, the office is now in our bedroom and her nursery has moved to the office/storage/tool room.  Oy vey… it’s going to be awhile before we get this mess sorted out!  On the plus side, I now have my daddy’s old reel-to-reel in my bedroom ready to hook up to our computer so I can start digitizing over 100 tapes worth of music.  Mind you – 3 albums per tape – it will take me years to finish this project with the massive amounts of free time that I have up my sleeve.  :-)  The treasure trove of music that awaits is worth it though.  Thanks Dad!

Between the consignment sale next week and sorting out the room swapping business you can guess what I’ll be busy with.  I do have an EXCELLENT roast chicken recipe that I’ll be posting and a blow-by-blow of sale madness to share with you throughout the week.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

100 Posts for 2 Pennies!

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Fourth of July fireworks in NYC

Wow – This is my one-hundredth post for 2 Pennies! I feel that I can officially call myself a blogger now.

I have been striving for this day since I started this blog last March. It always seemed so far away and suddenly, here it is! We have big plans for the blog this year and even bought a nice, big whiteboard that we are installing this weekend to keep track of our progress.

Here are some changes that you may notice:

1) Re-categorization of posts – After writing 100 posts, I’ve seen definite trends in some subjects over others. I am going to streamline my categories, then retag my posts to fit the new categories. My wish is to make it easier for you to find the info you want.

2) Scheduled topic days – Every Friday, I want to blog about food, mostly frugal recipes. I’m also going to start adding some Thai inspired meals that you can do yourself (will need my mama’s help for that). Every Saturday, I will do a “Sound Off” and just free blog about what is going on in our lives and what you may see coming up in the blog. The other days will be filled with posts about ways we are saving money as we live it, such as a series on gardening as I get my garden going, projects for children as I play with and teach our kids, or more experiments with do it yourself products as we need to use them.

3) Give-aways – Our first give away will be to celebrate our 1-year anniversary in March. After that, I will be sponsoring give-aways throughout the year where you will have an opportunity to win something nice.

4) Interviews, guest-bloggers, and blog reviews – The blogosphere is filled with people who have ideas for saving money, living frugally, and loving life. What makes blogging so special is that we feel like we belong to a community and we love sharing with others. I want to bring more of their insight to you.

5) A post every 48 hours – My personal challenge is to reach 200 posts this year, barring unusual circumstances. If I posted once every 48 hours, I would have 182 posts at the end of the year. All I need to do is squeeze another 18 posts in there somewhere. My ultimate goal would be 313, which is every day but Sundays!

6) Learn PHP and brush up on tech stuff – PHP is the scripting language that drives my blog. It is vastly different from what I used to do in my old IT days. I want to learn PHP so that I can tweak my blog, make it more user friendly, fix bugs (yes, I know there is a compatibility problem in Internet Explorer), and make it look “pretty”. There is also tons of stuff behind the scenes that I need to brush up on, as I haven’t been a true “techie” since 2001.

Let’s see how I do after the next hundred posts! That should put us at July, which coincidentally, is the same halfway point for my New Year’s resolution to lose 40lbs this year. Wish me luck!

Please give us ideas for the consignment sale

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Help!  What do 2 year olds need?   Clothes, shoes, books, and Melissa & Doug wood toys – check.  What else? 

The hard part about big consignment sales is shopping only a few times a year and trying to plan for your needs.  At next week’s sale, we will be looking for summer items for the kids.  Shoes are hard for me as I have no idea how fast toddlers grow.  I’m just going to get several pair in the next couple size up for Oliver.  Evelyn is a little easier since she won’t be walking this summer.   For clothes, I’m guessing that 2T will suffice until they are closer to 3?  There is no 2T and 1/2 equivalent to 18 months.  How big do kids get anyways?

I also have a hard time knowing what Oliver’s needs are for the next 6 months to a year developmentally wise.  Books and blocks are easy, but what about other things?  We have a bin of Lincoln Logs up in our attic waiting for that “day” that he is ready for them – which apparently will be YEARS from now!  To avoid another goof up like that I’ll have to do some research between now and then.

At last year’s summer sale we purchased a nice big slide for $10 and have kept it in the living room.  That has been one of the best investments we have made.  Oliver has learned to climb up and down and to slide on his belly and facing forward.  He would experiment with sliding different toys down and hiding them under the slide.  We used the slide for games, puppet shows, and he likes being up high – the king of the world.  Outside we have another slide and a big wagon.  He loves those too, but where do we go from here?

Any parents out there care to chime in?

Frugal Crafts: Baby Eye Openers 2

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

 

Many people believe that babies are drawn to the circular shape and the symmetry of mandalas.  They say that mandalas capture a baby’s eyes causing them to focus and intently study the patterns within.  Their breathing and heart rates slow down and their bodies begin to relax.  Mandalas have been used for centuries for meditative purposes.  Why not introduce them to your baby?

There are many places to download free mandala images for this project.  I love Coloring Pages For Kids .  Go to their homepage and type in mandala in the search engine.  They have hundreds of free images you can download to your computer.

Break out the markers, crayons, colored pencils or whatever your favorite art medium is.  This is the best part.  Not only do mandalas relax you when you study them, but they relax you when you color them in.  Infants are attracted to black, white, and red.  As their vision matures, they like contrasting bright colors.

Cut out your colored mandalas and glue them onto some heavy construction paper.  Cut out your shapes and they are ready to hang or you can protect them with clear Contact paper.

You can buy clear Contact paper in a big roll at Walmart or Target wherever they sell regular Contact paper to line shelves and drawers.  Use the handle of your scissors to burnish the mandala.  This will smooth down the Contact paper, ensure a good seal, and de-hazes the image.

Here are the remaining mandalas from the set we made for Oliver when he was 2 months old.  We kept them posted on the wall next to his changing table and on the bottom of the shelf overhead.  Every couple weeks we would change them around and he would be entranced all over again.

Evelyn was immediately drawn to these when I put them up.  Oliver even started staring at them again from the floor where he was standing.

I don’t know… do you think she looks more relaxed?  :-)  For another fun eye opener project check out my animal flashcards.

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Search the internet for free mandalas to print.  Do you remember those old spiralgraphs?  I actually have one and can create my own mandalas from scratch!  You can also trace a perfect circle using a cup or small plate and then trace some symmetrical images inside the circle.  For example, trace a square shaped object several times and turn it slightly in between traces to create a star.

Winter Consignment Sales Are Here

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The blogosphere has been buzzing lately with consignment sale news.  Most big children consignment sales have a winter and summer sale.  The winter sales are right around the corner, usually in January and February.  The biggest sale for us, Kids Exchange, is in 7 short days.  I love, love, love consignment sales and list them as the Number 1 money saver for our frugal little family. 

If you have children or know people with children- please, give consignment sales a visit.  You will not only save a pretty penny, but you will be contributing and giving back to the vast network of families that participate.  In fact, participate yourself!  Empty your closets, garages, and attics of outgrown or unused children’s clothes, toys, gear, etc…  You will be recycling your goods and making someone else very happy.

To prepare for the consignment sale season check out my top 10 tips for shopping at a consignment sale .  If you aren’t convinced of the savings, see how we fared at last year’s summer sale .  For specific advice regarding how to sell and price items check out the Consignment Sale Queen.  She has been there and done that!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Get online and search for a consignment sale near you.  Tis the season for second hand savings!  Most winter sales are gearing up right now.  Take the plunge and become a seller – you might have something that I could use, you never know…

Sound Off: Baby is 2 months old!

Saturday, January 8th, 2011
 
Evelyn is 2 months old already. It seems like just yesterday she was a helpless, little spaghetti-necked, squirmy, and screaming, albeit utterly adorable, infant. She has since grown so much and is an utterly adorable baby. She coos and smiles when she isn’t sleeping through her 18 hours of beauty rest. She is captivated by her big brother. Whenever he wanders into her field of vision, she will twist and turn to get a better view of him.
 
Oliver is warming up to his sister. Occasionally, I’ll carry Evelyn into a room and announce, “Evelyn’s here!” and he will smile. When I lay her down on the floor, he will lay down next to her and pat her head. I let him “rock” her in the baby swing and he gets the biggest kick out of it. He will rock her from side to side and then work his way around to the back of the swing to pat her head. I also chase him around the room with Evelyn and play peekaboo with them. I’ll pop her up from behind something and yell, “peek-a-boo, I see you Oliver!” He cracks up!
 
Aside from the baby time, I am trying to get our household back onto some sort of schedule. I went to Marbles for the first time last night by myself with the two kids. It was hair-raising at times to keep up with Oliver while Evelyn was screaming her little head off in the stroller, but we managed. We also started up the playdates again with my girlfriend and her son. I’ve also cut the TV time out in the afternoon. The TV has been both a dream and a nightmare for me. While taking care of Evelyn, the only thing I could do in the beginning was to sit Oliver down in front of the TV. He was turning into a TV zombie and I was feeling like the worst of mommies. After 2 months, Evelyn is finally sleeping at night after her feedings and we are managing better during the day. As you can see in the blog, I am involving Oliver with my daily activities again. He has missed being mommy’s helper these past few months.
 
We have started on the home repairs again after almost 2 years! My hubby has been up in the attic all day replacing the floor. We have to get that finished so we can empty out the junk room and turn it into a proper bedroom for Evelyn. She is almost too big for her bassinet and needs her crib. We also are getting ready for the year’s first big consignment sale in the next few weeks. I’ll be posting about that soon. Lastly, we are gearing up for our February yardwork. We have an entire month of weekends planned for outdoors from preparing my spring garden, pruning trees and shrubs, and dividing liriope. Fun, fun!
 
 

Frugal Food: Chocolate Coconut Bonbons

Friday, January 7th, 2011

 chocolate bonbons

Over the holidays, I made some simple chocolate covered coconut bonbons to give to family and friends.  This recipe is super easy and fun to make.  My chocoholic friend says that these taste just like Mounds candy bars.  One of these days I might add an almond to some of the bonbons to make my own Almond Joys!

Ingredients: Makes 30-40 1-inch bonbons.

2 7ounce bags of sweetened coconut flakes
8 oz light corn syrup
16 oz chocolate candy coating

Other:

Wax or parchment paper
Cooking Spray to grease your hands
White chocolate chips
Toddler (Optional)

Day One:  Start by emptying the coconut flakes into a bowl or ziploc plastic bag.  If you have a toddler and are very brave, let him or her squeeze 1/2 the bottle of corn syrup into the coconut flakes.  (If you have just let your toddler do this, a very warm washcloth will clean up the mess no problem.)

Mix the coconut and syrup very well and then put it in the fridge to chill and firm overnight.  I like the ziploc bag for ease of storage in our fridge, but the bowl is easier to work with when rolling the coconut balls.

mix coconut and corn syrup well

Day Two: Break out your chocolate and melt it.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for the first trial and the resulting bonbons were subpar.  The chocolate coating was too soft.  This candy coating worked great.  Another option is to use baker’s chocolate and paraffin wax at a ratio of 1 oz of paraffin to 8 oz of baker’s chocolate.

candy chocolate

The candy coating could have been melted in the microwave in it’s own tray or in a saucepan on the stove over low heat.  I prefer the double boiler method to avoid burning or overheating the chocolate.  I put the chocolate in a metal bowl and set the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water.  Stir occassionally and don’t let the bowl touch the water directly.

melt chocolate

If you didn’t make a big enough mess yesterday, let your toddler help you coat the coconut balls today.  Strip the baby down for easy cleanup later. 

cover cococonut balls

Otherwise, take out a small spoon and dig out a scoop of coconut.  Roll it into a 1 inch ball with your oil sprayed hands.  Drop a few balls into the chocolate mixture and use two spoons to coat each ball by rolling the ball from one spoon to another.  Rolling the balls from one spoon to the other helps to keep the round shape.

use two spoons

Your first few balls will probably look like the one on the right.  This is because A) the chocolate is too hot and is melting the coconut ball and B) you just need to practice rolling the ball and dropping it onto the wax paper.  With a few more practice balls, they will start looking like the one on the left.

cool chocolate

Don’t worry too much about shape and form.  The beauty of a homemade gift is the uniqueness of every bite!  You can stop now or continue on to spruce the bonbons up a bit.

dump on wax paper

For that little something extra, I melt white chocolate chips and a few shavings of paraffin wax in the microwave.  The paraffin wax helps to smooth and thin out the chocolate, in addition to setting it up when it cools.

melt white chocolate chips and wax

Microwave the chips for 1 minute at 70% power and then stir.  Add increments of 10 seconds if needed.  If you nuke the chocolate too much it will go from velvety smooth to the crud on the left in an instant.

Spread out a couple bonbons on wax paper.  You can fill a small plastic bag with chocolate and make a small snip off the corner to squeeze out white chocolate.  You can also use your spoon to drizzle chocolate from 12 inches or so above the bonbons.  If you have a toddler in the house, chances are you will have a medicine syringe too.  I like sucking the chocolate up in the syringe and then precisely dispensing it on the bonbons.  If you use the syringe you can run hot water through it to get the chocolate out and then run it through the dishwasher in the utensil basket.

Have fun with your designs! Drizzle some lines, spin some spirals, or pipe on some decorations.  Mix them with your plain bonbons for a nice surprise.

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Making your own bonbons is a low cost way to sweeten up someone’s day.  It’s even more inexpensive if you use coupons or wait until after the holidays to stock up on supplies.  Our ingredients, if left unopened, last quite a long time in the pantry.

Frugal Crafts: Baby Eye Openers 1

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Brighten up your baby’s world with easy do it yourself crafts.   I created colorful little flashcards for my baby to look at while she lies on the changing table.

I searched the internet for free downloadable prints for infant visual stimulation.  Parents.com actually has an entire directory of free stuff to download.

I printed two sets.  I left one black and white and colored the other set with markers.  This was great mommy and me time for Evelyn.  I got to doodle and she got to hear mommy’s entire repertoire of silly songs.  (Note: It is not recommended to use a bouncy seat on a table.  Use your own judgement.)

After coloring them and cutting them out, I used a glue stick and glued the images onto colorful little squares of construction paper.  One side had the colored image and the other side was black and white.  To make them last longer I adhered clear Contact paper to each side.  You can buy clear contact paper at Target or Walmart where they sell the regular Contact paper or shelf liners.

After you stick the Contact paper on, use the handle of your scissors to burnish the image.  This will smooth down the Contact paper, ensure a good seal, and de-hazes the image.

Trim your cards and you are ready to hang them up!  The following photo shows the black and white backside of the grasshopper card.

I used a little tape to stick them on the changing table.  You can also punch holes in them and tie them with string to a clothes hanger to make a mini-mobile.

Evelyn loves the pictures.  I change them out every few days for variety.  These took less than an hour to produce and cost pennies to make.  Win-win!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Search the internet for free images to print.  If you don’t have a computer or a printer, go to a store and buy an inexpensive child’s coloring book for pictures you can cut out.  You can also sketch some images freehand for your baby.  The key for the first few months is to use high-contrast images of black and white or bright colors.

Visit from a friend to kick off the New Year right

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

We have definitely sacrificed to live the frugal life.  We eat out less -much less, we rent movies in lieu of the theater, we go to shows and concerts once in a blue moon, and don’t go out to shoot pool or bowl anymore.  Sometimes it can be frustrating, but we kept one happiness – good friends.

My girlfriend from New York came down to visit this New Year’s weekend.  It was a breath of fresh air to talk and catch up with her.  We swapped frugal ideas and tips and tricks for the blog.  It was nice to have someone like-minded to bounce ideas off of.

She also shed new light on living frugally.  She talked about sustainability or the way we, as humans, need to use resources in such a way that we do not deplete them in order to maintain our well-being in the long run.  Going green or using green technologies is one of many ways to do this.  Another way is to do as we do – live frugally.  Use less, waste less, and recycle more.  We both loved the concept of consignment sales and second hand items for baby goods.  She might have even talked me into using cloth diapers rather than fill our dumps with everlasting diapers.

Above all else, she reminded us that having a good time can be as simple as having a visitor to share a meal with or someone to go with you and the kids on a play date.  Thanks for dropping by Alessandra, you are welcome anytime!

Frugal Tip of the Day: Get to know people that have similar beliefs as you.  It is much easier to live frugally when you have friends around that do it too.

Free Exercise at the Mall for Toddler

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

I wrote a post about playing in the mall’s play area for some free fun, but it never dawned on me to take advantage of the mall itself for some good old fashioned exercise.  I’m talking specifically about how the mall opens it’s doors early for the “mall walkers” before the retail stores open their doors.  Most malls will even tell you the distance one full lap around the mall so you can gauge your mileage.

Oliver had a blast!  He got to explore to his hearts content and there were very few people around to run him over. 

He even did some window shopping  He was drawn to the huge duck in this display.

He got to run to his heart’s content.  He made several laps around the mall before the stores started opening.

After the stores opened and more people arrived, he noticed that there were children in the play area downstairs.  We headed down there for another half hour of fun before he got tuckered out.  He took a long nap after we got home!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Call your local mall or check out their website to see if they have a “mall walkers” program.  Our mall opens it’s doors at 8am, 2 hours earlier than the stores.

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