Breakfast Pizza

So yesterday I shared that we were going to make homemade pizza for dinner using the recipe for crust from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. We made sausage, pepperoni and bacon pizza and I swear it was the best pizza I’ve ever had! The crust was so easy to make that from start to finish it took 30 minutes or less, I kid you not! Jonah was so excited he said he could eat pizza for every meal and suggested we have pizza for breakfast. Well, Steven embraced that idea so this morning we whipped up another batch of pizza dough and started brainstorming. In the end we came up with this:
It was so amazing we knew that we had to immediately share it with you! It’s basically our favorite breakfast casserole on a pizza crust! What’s not to like?!?! 
Ingredients:
pizza dough
1 package of country gravy
6 eggs
1- 1 1/2 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes
1 Cup of sausage browned
1/3 Cup bacon bits
2 Cups of shredded cheese (we like to use mild cheddar and mozzarella)
1. Make your dough. I really do love the recipe from Crystal. So easy and so yummy! I don’t think I will ever use another recipe. Spread dough out on greased pizza pan and place in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes to pre-bake so the crust doesn’t get all soggy after the toppings are added.
2. Brown sausage and drain on paper towel to soak up extra grease. Or if you made pizza the night before for dinner like we did just use the extra sausage! πŸ˜‰ If you are browning a whole sleeve of sausage you will end up with more than a cup. Put the extras in the fridge for an awesome pizza on Friday night!
3. Soft scramble 6 eggs. We added a dash of onion and garlic powder and some fresh ground salt and pepper. When I say soft scramble I mean cook them until they are starting to form but are still pretty runny. If you cook too long when you put them in the oven they will turn rubbery.
4. Mix up a packet of country gravy according to package directions. 
5. Microwave 1- 1 1/2 cups of frozen hashbrown potatoes for about 3 minutes. Basically you are just trying to warm them up and evaporate some of the extra water so it doesn’t make your crust soggy. (I think next time we might use the potatoes O’Brian with the peppers and onions. That would add another dimension that would be awesome!!)
6. Once the pizza dough is pre-baked and the country gravy, eggs, sausage and potatoes are ready start assembling your pizza. We put the gravy down first (1 Cup of gravy, or 1 packet was perfect to cover the pizza crust). Then spread out the potatoes. On top of the potatoes layer your bacon bits and sausage. Pour the eggs over top and spread across the top. Add the cheese. 
7. Bake on 450 for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melty and the crust is golden brown. 
8. Let it cool for a few minutes before you try to cut into it or you will loose all your toppings. Plus, you’ll burn the roof of your mouth and tongue and then nothing will taste good for at least a week!
So there you have it! Our new favorite breakfast pizza! So easy, so yummy! So perfect for your next brunch. I think it would be great served with some fresh fruit. I hope you enjoy!
Oh, and if you decide you want to make pizza for dinner tonight I highly recommend this sauce from Smashed Peas and Carrots. It was delicious!

Weekly Wrap Up- Friday Phone Dump Edition

Another busy week has come and gone in the Fischer home! Steven spent Monday and Tuesday at home, sick with an ear infection and sinus infection. I’ve been busy trying to finish up some organizing projects that got started but never 100% completed (like the playroom! It’s almost finished and then I’ll share it with you!). I’ve also been doing lots of laundry and dishes. We are winding down the school year- the kids get out on May 22nd, which means that we have 26 days left of til summer vacation, and 24 until Jonah’s Kindergarten graduation! Being out before Memorial Day is kind of nice, but it also means that I have 5 weeks from the time they get out of school until we leave on our big road trip to Yellowstone! There is so much to plan, pack and figure out still. I’ll be doing some count down to vacation posts soon and show you how we camp (and keep our sanity doing it!) with 4 kids!
I’m doing lots of reading still about the new “diet” we are trying to implement in our house. I found a great website the other day on Pinterest called the The Gracious Pantry. It looks like she has some awesome recipes, and I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from her already. I can’t wait to start following her! Today I’m hoping to experiment with making my own pizza dough so we can do homemade pizza tonight! I’ve never made my own pizza dough before but I’m going to be trying the crust from Crystal at Money Saving Mom. I’ll let you know what we think! 
On tap for this weekend: nothing tomorrow. I’m sure Steven will be studying for his series 7 test that is coming up. I’d like to work on painting the bathroom. We’ll see! Then Sunday we have PSR and church and then a birthday party for Steven’s stepsister, Kayla. That’s always a fun group to be with! No, really! They are really fun! I wasn’t being sarcastic! lol
Now for photos from the phone from this week:
Spring is popping up everywhere! My Dogwood tree decided to show off this week!
We love Fisher-Price Little People! Micah created a world with daddy’s help on Monday. A little later they created a circus which I forgot to take a picture of before it got destroyed!
Getting out invites for a cousins’ baby shower. I can’t wait til next Saturday!
This one is perfecting the art of the temper tantrum! The funniest is when he throws his head back and “cries” while he rocks himself back and forth. But there are no tears to be seen. He’s watching and learning very well!
First batch of homemade taco seasoning. I really liked it, except that I felt like it dried out. I’m going to try to tweak it more to our liking and then I’ll share it with you!
So that’s our week in a nutshell. How was yours? I hope you have a great weekend! It’s FRIDAY!!!

Crop for CareNet

It has been FOREVER since I have shared any scrapbook pages with you all! I have been scrapbooking for 13 years now, and while I still love it I have less and less time to do it these days. So I get very excited when I can get my butt off to a crop and get some work done. Anyone with more than 1 kid will tell you that you will never get caught up, but it sure is fun to try!
A local church here hosted a 12 hour crop this past Saturday with the proceeds benefiting CareNet of Northern Kentucky. My scrapbooking buddy Jannene and I thought “Why not? We like babies!” Plus, it had been almost a year since we had done our last crop together so we were due. 12+ hour crops are my favorite! (We used to go to a 24 hour Crop for the Cure years ago…I miss those!) I get so much when done when I have nothing to focus on besides scrapping. Well, in between the eating, and talking, and eating, and talking, and talking…you get the picture! I was very excited with what I was able to get accomplished at the crop! All in all I finished 12 layouts-some 2 page spreads and some 1 page. Some were multiphoto layouts and some were single photo. Most of them were for Eli, who only had 1 stinkin’ page done at 8 months (so sad!!) and a few for Bri and Jonah with school pictures from this year and last year. But enough talking! Here are some of my favorites that I got finished!

As you can see I still use the traditional method of scrapbooking, good ‘ol paper, cutters and pens. I know a lot of people are moving to digital scrapping or Project Life, but I enjoy the whole process of the “old” way too much to ever give it up. Plus, I’ve invested too money in it at this point to change now! I scrap mainly in 12 X 12 now and I love it! 
I just found a program last night that will allow me to scan layouts and then stitch them together so that I can digitally back up my layouts and share them with you! I am super excited! It’s a little time consuming because I have to scan each layout in 4 sections to make sure I’ve got everything on it but it’s worth it now that I’ve gotten it down to a science! 
So that’s it! Hopefully I will be able to share more layouts with you in the future!
Do you scrapbook? What are your secrets to keeping up with it?

DIY Laundry Detergent

On our quest to save money this year and to give me an outlet to be more crafty (and feel like a Martha Stewart DIY-er) I decided I wanted to try making some of our cleaning products. Two of the biggest expenses for us in the cleaning department are laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. I easily do 3 loads of laundry a day, 5 days a week. I don’t usually do laundry on the weekends unless there is something that is specifically needed by someone. I try to save in energy by using only cold or cool water (I tend to use more cool than cold these days, probably because I don’t trust cold to get out the stubborn baby messes!) I would love to have a clothes line but I think they are banned by our HOA (pain in the butt I tell ya! Pain in the butt!!!) I might get a retractable one anyway and tell the HOA to shove it! lol I’m sure that would save some money too in the spring and fall (I don’t think I could use it in the summer, it’s too humid here in the river valley, and in the winter I’m sure our clothes would freeze!)
Laundry detergent is expensive! Even with coupons. I love Tide as much as the next person but when a large bottle costs $28.00 and I can use all of it in a month it’s too much! The powder is usually cheaper but I found that using it cold water didn’t work for me because it never dissolved all the way and I ended up with chalky residue on our clothes. Not cool!
I saw around that the “in” thing right now was to make your own laundry detergent. I was skeptical at first but as I started to read comments and reviews by others I thought it was worth giving it a try. Some said it worked really well for their kids who suffered from eczema. Since 3 of our 4 have eczema I thought, “Why not?!” The initial investment in all the ingredients seems like a lot but knowing that you will get multiple batches out of the same boxes makes it easier to swallow. There is also some time involved but I promise it’s easy!
 I have found a formula that I am in love with and I wanted to share it with you. I shared it with my aunt over Easter. They have 5 kids and she does about as much laundry as I do so I knew this could save her money too. She messaged me on Facebook the other day and said she had been using the detergent and she loved it! She couldn’t believe the results, especially because you don’t have to use very much. It’s my favorite thing so far this year! πŸ™‚
What you need: Purex Crystals (any scent-I love the blue one!), Borax, Arm & Hammer WASHING soda (some people will use both washing soda and baking soda. I have found this unnecessary, but the washing soda IS necessary!), Zote Soap (I like the pink!), and OxiClean (you could use a store brand too if you prefer.)

To make the soap you will need a cheese grater, a big mixing bowl and a blender or food processor (not shown). You will also need a 1 Cup measuring cup to measure the ingredients and a spoon to mix (I use a plastic spatula.)
You need a container to put it in. I used to just use old Purex Crystal bottles but I found the detergent clumped up in them. I found this great glass container at Wal-Mart and fell in love with it. I also love the little measuring cup.
Here’s a close up although the quality isn’t great. This is a little glass measuring cup from Anchor. It looks like a shot glass. It’s probably meant as a liquid measuring cup but I use it for my detergent and it’s worked out just fine. You can find one here at Amazon for $5.50. I think I paid around $5 for mine.
The first thing you will do is grate the soap. I use the medium shred side. This can take a few minutes and gives your arms quite a work out. But stick to it. My kids love to help with this part so I put them to work! lol
Use a measuring cup to add 1 Cup of Borax to the blender or food processor.
Add half of the soap flakes and then top with 1 Cup of washing soda and 1 Cup of OxiClean. Pulse the mixture until the soap has been blended in with the other dry ingredients.
It should look fine and powdery. Put into large mixing bowl. Do another batch in the blender. Add to mixing bowl.
Add in your Purex Crystals. I use anywhere from 2-3 Cups of these, depending on how strong I want the scent to be on my clothes. Mix it all up.
Pour in your cool container. Voila! Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy your handiwork!
Isn’t it pretty?!?
So, don’t worry if you didn’t get the recipe by reading that! Here it is in it’s entirety!
2 C Borax
2 C Arm & Hammer WASHING soda
2 C OxiClean
1 bar of Zote soap
2-3 C Purex Crystals (depending on your preference)
1. Grate soap.
2. Add dry ingredients (EXCEPT for Purex Crystals) to the blender or food processor in layers and small batches. I like to do two batches and put in a layer of dry ingredients, then soap flakes, then more dry. This keeps the soap flakes from sticking to the blades of the appliance (believe me…this just makes a mess!!) Pulse until everything is combined and powdery.
3. Put in large mixing bowl. Add Crystals in the amount you choose. Mix well.
4. Put detergent in container of your choice. 
5. Use 1 Tablespoon for a regular size load. Use 2 Tablespoons for a large or heavily soiled load.
A few notes:
1.When I first started making my own detergent I used Fels Naptha soap (made by Purex) because that’s what I found first. Those bars are smaller so if you can only find Fels Naptha you will need 2 bars of soap instead of 1. I like the smell of the Zote better, but some prefer the smell of the Fels Naptha, it’s just a fresh, clean smell.
2. Purex Crystals are NOT fabric softeners. I always thought they were but they are scent enhancers, just like the Downy Unstoppables or the Gain Fireworks. You can choose to use Unstoppables or Fireworks if you would like. I used the Unstoppables in the second batch that I made but they started to discolor and turn brown after a while. I don’t know if this was from extra exposure to oxygen (maybe from the OxiClean) but it didn’t look very pretty and it bothered me. The Purex Crystals haven’t done this. And I like the pretty look better πŸ™‚
3. Because the crystals are not a fabric softener I still use distilled white vinegar as a softener. I just add it directly to the softener distributor in my washer. I know others who put it in a dispenser in the machine like the Downy Ball. 
4. If you want to try this out without making so much start with half a bar of Zote soap (or 1 bar of Fels Naptha), 1 C of each of the dry ingredients, and 1 C of the crystals. A formulation like this lasted me about 6 weeks. That was enough time for me to determine if I wanted to make changes or not. For example, when I first started I didn’t use OxiClean or scent enhancers. The 2nd batch I added those things but used the Unstoppables, which I mentioned I wasn’t thrilled with. The third batch I switched to Zote soap (because that’s what I could find, I wasn’t intending to do this!) and I switched to the Purex Crystals. This is my favorite formula so far!! 
5. How long will this last me?? Well, that depends on how much laundry you do. Like I said I do at least 3 loads a day most of the time, 5 days a week. If you only do a 3 or 4 loads for the whole week, halving the recipe could last you 3-4 months. I expect this doubled recipe will last me 3-4 months, but it could last you 6-7 months. It’s all relative to how much laundry you do. I do all super sized loads, so I almost always use 2 Tablespoons at a time. I made this last batch the week before Easter…I’ve barely put a dent in it so far! 
6. How much will this cost? That’s a hard one too because it depends on where you get all of your ingredients at. According to Amazon all of the ingredients right now would run you about $42.87. But again, except for the soap you will get at least 3-4 batches of soap out of each box of the Borax, Washing Soda, about 2- 2 1/2 batches out of the OxiClean, and about 1 1/2 batches out of the Crystals. I figured I am probably making this and spending about $0.20- $0.25 a load. With Tide I’d be spending about $0.38 a load so that is a definite savings. And it lasts me a whole lot longer than a bottle of Tide would. So that’s awesome. Plus, I’m LOVING the way it smells!
7. Can I use this in my front loader? Yes, yes you can! The Zote Soap and Fels Naptha are low sudsing soaps, which is exactly what you need to use in a front loader. I have read some people saying this gums up their detergent dispenser so they just started adding it directly to the drum and then added their clothes and it works fine. I still have a top loader so I can’t give you much more information about that but I’ve read people have used it in front loaders with no problems. 
8) I use the blender, cheese grater, etc. that I use to cook with. Some people might freak out about that but I figure I use a lot of the same ingredients in my dishwasher detergent recipe so they come in contact with our utensils anyway. All the ingredients rinse off really clean and I see no residue after I clean them that concerns me. If it concerns you you can invest in appliances just to make cleaning products but I find that very expensive and not necessary! 
So there it is! My laundry detergent recipe. We love it! It gets everything out (even stubborn baby explosions!!) when I am diligent about pretreating stains like I should and it smells wonderful. I don’t know that I will ever go back to commercial laundry detergent ever again!!
I’m still tweaking my dishwasher detergent. I loved it at first, but I’m not loving it as much right now. Once I get that perfected I will share it with you too! Happy cleaning!!

Family Field Trip…to Whole Foods

You knew it was coming! This past weekend we took our first family trip to Whole Foods Market. We have two in our area, a smaller one that is 18 miles away and a larger one that is 28 miles away. We chose to go to the smaller one and just browse around and check things out. This trip was very informative for us and I wanted to share some of the things that we learned. 
#1- Saturdays at Whole Foods are very busy! I think this is true for any store but it seems like on Saturdays Whole Foods pulls out all the stops. There were samples everywhere!! It was great because we got to try a few products that we ended up buying (or will be buying in the near future-but more on that in a moment!) We also learned that buying any premade products from the deli (like tuna salad) are going to cost you big! (A small container of tuna salad-the half pound size was $8! Yikes! But admittedly- it was the most amazing tuna salad I’ve ever had! lol) So that leads us to rule #2.
#2- If you want to save money at Whole Foods stay away from the premade items. Don’t journey over to the salad bar unless you want to drop some major dough! The soups and various salads taste fabulous but they will seriously drive up the end cost. 
#3- Not everything in Whole Foods is organic! I didn’t know that! But everything in the store has to follow the list of banned ingredients so things there are considerably healthier than their counterparts that I might pick up at Kroger or Walmart. 
#4- The store brand 365 Everyday is very good. We got several items just to try them out and we have been very pleasantly surprised. We got their ruffled potato chips seasoned with sea salt. They were yummy. But we also learned that there quite a few brands of chips that would be considered “acceptable”. For example, Kettle brand and Tarro. And these are often on sale at my local Kroger. Now, having said that chips are still junk food so buying them is for treats only and are not something we will suddenly keep in the house all the time just because they aren’t full of artificial colors. 
#5- According to Steven “Eating healthy is expensive!” (I told him to shut up and stop being counterproductive! lol) And it definitely can be. But I learned that at Whole Foods just like other stores you want to shop the perimeter of the store and stay away from the inner aisles which house all of your prepackaged foods. That’s where you are going to drop the money and get into the idea that “Well, it’s from Whole Foods. It must be OK.” Well, chips are still chips and boxed Mac and Cheese is still boxed Mac and Cheese. You don’t want those things to make up the majority of your diet. But, I will be buying them occasionally because the break from cooking from scratch every meal, every day is one that I will be welcome I’m sure! 
So what did we buy? Well, let’s take a look at a few things we were especially excited about, especially after we tasted them. 
We bought a couple different pasta sauces. One was this roasted vegetable. I guess it would be comparable to Ragu Chunky Garden Veggie. As soon as I got Steven to open the lid (Yup! I’m a wimp sometimes!!) I knew this sauce was going to be amazing! It smelled incredible in the jar. As we were eating dinner we just kept commenting on how it was so good. Steven couldn’t believe I hadn’t added anything to doctor it up. It didn’t need it! It was just that good!

And take a look at the ingredient list. We were able to pronounce everything on it! Score!

Tomato Puree, Diced Tomatoes, Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted onions, Roasted Red and Green Bell Peppers, White Wine Vinegar, Roasted Minced Garlic, Salt, Expeller Pressed Soybean Oil, Cane Sugar, Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Savory, Thyme, Parsley. 

 It truly was amazingly good. We have a roasted garlic sauce in the pantry that I can’t wait to use. And at $1.89 a jar you better believe I will be stocking up on that stuff!

Next up was a cereal. It’s made by a company called Three Sisters. This is their version of Lucky Charms. The marshmellows are colored with blueberry, pumpkin and other such natural colors derived from fruits and veggies. And the taste? Well, let’s just say my kids will not miss Lucky Charms that’s for sure! They love this cereal! And I will be going back for more of it, and others in the line. And the price- well, it was definitely comparable to other bagged cereals. One other thing I loved- they use 100% wind energy to create their product. How freakin’ cool is that?!?!

What kid doesn’t love Mac and Cheese- especially the kind that comes out of that blue box with neon orange cheese sauce?!? Well, I’m a little ticked off at the maker of that product right now so we are looking for an alternative. Yes, I know that making mac and cheese from scratch is super easy and much tastier (I make it, I know. It’s awesome!) but sometimes you want an enjoyable shortcut. We haven’t tried these yet, but I can’t wait to see how they compare.

We wanted to try some of the body products so we snatched up the 365 Everyday Citrus Grapefruit body wash. It is yummy! It’s made with essential oils, no artificial fragrances, no parabens and no sulfates. Win! Win! And this bottle was only $2.00! Not too shabby!

We also snatched up a big bottle of both the shampoo and conditioner. Again, no artificial colors, or fragrances. No parabens or sulfates. And it’s is so scrumptious! And this big bottle of shampoo was only $3.89. Score again!!

As for toothpaste we are saying adios to Crest and Colgate and their neon blue messes! Our choice for right now is Tom’s of Maine, which is a very reputable company. The good thing about Tom’s is I can find it at any grocery or drug store around me so it’s a good choice. The kids so far like the strawberry flavor, although I think the greyish tinge take a while to get used to when you’re used to neon blue with sparkles! I’m already not missing the crusty blue mess left behind in the sink! lol

As an alternative to Goldfish crackers Whole Foods offers quack’n bites. Cute name. These little cheesy crackers are organic. And they are pretty tasty. They aren’t as cheesy as Goldfish but since we don’t buy them often I think these will be a good choice!

We got to try these awesome corn chips from Shagbark Seed and Mill at the store. The company is local-just outside of Columbus, OH. They are non-GMO certified (yippy!!) and in the next few years will be USDA certified organic as well. These chips were super crunchy. They will hold up to any salsa or cheese sauce out there. And I can pretty much assume that you could lather these things with some chili and they would not loose their crunch. The kids begged for a bag, and daddy was happy to appease! πŸ™‚ These are going to taste awesome with my favorite local salsa from Remke!

Probably our favorite thing we tried was milk and butter from Snowville Creamery. They are a local creamery about 2 hours from us. Their cows are grass fed, they don’t use growth hormones or antibiotics. Their milk is sourced, pasteurized, packaged and delivered to the store within 2 days! How fresh is your milk?  That’s probably the freshest milk I’ve ever had! It was also the tastiest milk I’ve ever had. The kids went absolutely crazy over it, especially the chocolate, which tasted like a milkshake. It was amazing! It’s as close to raw milk as we can get here since raw milk is illegal. And it is expensive- a half gallon was around $4! But we’re discussing it because we think it would be worth it for good, quality milk. I wish they did home delivery in glass bottles. I’d totally be sold! lol I really want to try some of the recipes on their website. Wow! The custard style ice cream totally had me salivating!

So there you have it! Our first trip to Whole Foods and some of the things we learned and tried. I’m feeling very excited about this journey and can’t wait to share more of it with you!

The ADHD Debate and Whole Foods

I’ve mentioned on here before that we are pretty sure that Jonah has ADHD. We’ve discussed it with his pediatrician who agreed that it sounds like he has all the symptoms (is always moving, jumping, skipping, fidgeting, etc, he has almost 0 impulse control, he has no idea of personal boundaries or space, he is easily distractable, he has a hard time focusing on one thing for very long, and the list goes on.) He did say that if we became very concerned about it and it seemed to be giving him serious problems at school we could look at getting an official diagnosis. My only thing though is that I would like to keep him off of medications for as long as possible. I don’t exactly like the idea of having my 6 year old on psychotropic drugs. Disclaimer here to say that I have no problems with people who choose to do things differently. My brother was on ADHD medications for years and did great with them. It’s just that as I’ve researched I have found other things that I would like to try first. I don’t want anyone to think I’m looking down on them if they choose to go with the drugs first. They work and if you’re life has become insane dealing with a child with ADHD and you feel like all your time is spent yelling and redirecting and critiquing then yes, the drugs may be your best option. We aren’t there yet so I feel we have time to try other things. OK, moving on!
One of the things that I have found as I’ve done some research is that there are a lot of things in our food these days that are less than good. And some of these things have been proven to cause behavioral problems in kids. These problems can be found in the form of hyperactivity and attention issues. So I think it goes to say that if you can cut out as many of these things as possible you stand a good chance at correcting some of these issues. Some of the culprits include artificial colors (did you know these are made from petroleum? Yup, the same stuff that is used to make the gas for your cars!?! YUCK!!!), artificial flavors (including our little friend MSG), artificial sweeteners (think aspartame and it’s friends and the biggest culprit of all HFCS), and artificial preservatives (nitrates and nitrites, often found in lunch meats and BHT and BHA). There are also links to pesticides that are used on our foods as they are grown, which also have been linked to cancer and other diseases. 
As you can see, that’s a lot to keep track of. I have gotten things that I thought were perfectly safe and then later on have found out that they had yellow #5 in them (like Heinz sweet pickle relish! Why? Why does pickle relish need yellow #5 in it?!?!) Did you know that there is only 1 ketchup on the market that does not use HFCS and that is Hunt’s. I’ve learned to like it but I have to admit I miss my Heinz ketchup sometimes. Actually, Heinz does make a ketchup without HFCS, it’s called Simply Heinz but I can’t find it in my market anymore, so Hunt’s is my only option. 
I got so frustrated the other night. I had made a really yummy chicken and rice casserole with the chicken my mom had gotten me for my birthday (I know it sounds funny but I was super excited for my case of chicken! lol) I seasoned the chicken with this:

I thought it was harmless, although to me honest it’s been in our pantry for ages so I’ve never really investigated it that deeply. I mean, the front says it’s 60% less sodium than salt. That can’t be all that bad right?!! Then I turn it around to see the ingredients: 
If you can’t read that very well it says Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). Really!?!? We’re trying to cut out MSG and I basically have pure MSG sitting in my pantry! I was so frustrated! After I went downstairs to vent to my mom I went up and threw it in the trash can. I’m pretty sure that is something we don’t need in our kitchen!
But that’s what I mean! It’s hard to make these changes. These little buggers hide in EVERYTHING!! I think I understand why more people don’t do it! As I’ve continued to do research into what we can and cannot eat the obvious solution has been to make more from scratch and use less prepackaged processed foods. And that’s great. But what about the things like pickle relish that don’t need yellow #5 but the manufacturer’s put them in there anyway!?!
Enter Whole Foods Market. I’ve been to Whole Foods a few times and I love it! I love the look of the store. I love that things are organic. I love that a lot of the products are non-GMO certified (and in 2014 everything sold in their stores will have to be non-GMO certified!!) And I discovered their list of all the ingredients that aren’t allowed in their products if they want to be sold at Whole Foods. You can find the entire list of unacceptable ingredients here but in case you’re wondering some of the things on the list: artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, BHT, BHA, HFCS, MSG, nitrates and nitrites, Yup. Everything on our list, and then some. They also have high standards for body care products. You can see that list here. Their body care products also do not have artificial colors. Why is that important? Well, artificial colors can be absorbed through the skin. So for a child (or adult) with ADHD, washing your body or brushing your teeth with a product that contains artificial colors is just as bad as ingesting it orally. And it’s almost impossible to find toothpaste or body wash or shampoo for kids that isn’t artificially colored.
So, now I know that almost everything that I could buy at Whole Foods would be safe for Jonah to eat. Even snacks. Even ice cream. You wouldn’t believe how disappointed I was to buy vanilla ice cream one day (Velvet brand if you’re curious) only to turn it around and see that it had yellow #5. Vanilla ice cream is white (or should be!). Why is yellow #5 necessary?!?! GRRRR!!!! 
The only question now is: Is it possible to shop for our family of 6 at Whole Foods and not kill our budget?? I know that a lot of people joke about Whole Foods and call it Whole Paycheck. Yes, it is expensive but food costs are rising everywhere. Wouldn’t it make more sense to buy organic, safe foods if we’re going to spend more money on food to begin with? I think so.
 I know there are ways I can keep the costs down. Whole Foods accepts manufacturers coupons. They also put out their own store coupons. Some Whole Foods will let you stack a MFC with a SC so you can save even more. I would continue to make our own baked goods, especially our bread. I would continue to make our own laundry detergent (post on that coming soon.) We have cut back on sodas since we got our Soda Stream for Christmas but I think we might cut back even more buy using 100% fruit juice with carbonated water to make “soda” (like Switch brand. If you’ve never had it, it’s amazing!!) and making fruit infused waters. We don’t drink Kool-Aid or Country Time anymore since they both contain artificial colors so we buy the Simply line. Making lemonades from scratch would save money too. 
Meats are going to be considerably more expensive at Whole Foods, but I think I can continue to shop meats by watching for Manager markdowns or buying in bulk from Zaycon (Just to give you an example, the chicken my mom got me for my birthday ended up being about $1.78 a pound for boneless, skinless chicken breasts that actually tastes like chicken. That’s a great price! And the pieces are so huge I literally used 1 chicken breast for my chicken and rice casserole the other night. 1 chicken breast that I pounded and diced fed all 6 eaters in this family with leftovers. Not too shabby! That 40 pound box is gonna last a while!!) If you take a look at Zaycon and decide you want to give them a try let me know. I’d be happy to email you a referral!
 And apparently the Whole Foods store brand, Brand 365 is very affordable (a 16 oz bottle of shampoo is $1.99. I can’t get Pantene for that and it’s probably full of all kinds of crap!!) so buying store brand will help save some money.
I also don’t feel like I have to get everything at Whole Foods. There may be weeks that the Natural Foods section at Kroger or the organic produce at Remke might be cheaper. So continuing to shop around is going to be key. I just feel like Whole Foods would make my life a whole lot easier. It’s going to take the guess work out of the equation for me. And I don’t have time for guess work!  Plus, once I shop there and figure out what brands are acceptable, watching for sales of the same brands at Kroger or Remke (or even Walmart-some Walmarts are jumping on the organic train too!) will be easier!
So that’s where my brain is at the moment. Trying to figure out how I can feed my family the healthiest diet possible without breaking the bank. Do you shop at Whole Foods? Any advice that you could give me? I could really use it. I want to find a way to make this work! Because it’s all about giving our son the best advantage possible to help him through his ADHD. And I think he’s worth it!

Thoughts on 31 (the age, not the company!)

Saturday I turned 31. It wasn’t nearly as hard as turning 30! I guess once you hit that milestone every year after that is just gravy! And I am totally starting to believe that old adage “You’re only as old as you feel!” Although on days that the arthritis is really bad I feel 80! But in all honesty, I was talking to a friend from high school the other day and we were commenting on how it doesn’t feel like we’ve been out of high school for 13 years. It just doesn’t! I don’t feel that far removed from high school (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing! ha!) but then I look around and realize I have 4 kids, I’ve been married for 10 years this October and I realize yup…I’m a full fledged grown up now. And I’m OK with it! 
Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day! The weather is finally shifting to spring here and I’m loving it! The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing. It was 75 degrees. I wore sandals to show off the pedicure that I treated myself to on Friday afternoon. Steven made breakfast (pancakes and bacon…yum!)
We went to lunch at my dad’s new cafe and ate in the yard next door (it’s a carryout only cafe but he has some seating next door and will be getting even more this spring. And there is a park across the street and a promenade too! So lots of options!) The food was so good. He follows the local food movement so everything he uses is from local companies and suppliers. And because he uses whats available his menu changes often which people really like. All the meat is grass fed, cage free, hormone and antibiotic free. He doesn’t add unnecessary salt or sugar. The sodas he serves are made with 100% cane sugar and no HFCS and no artificial colors or flavors. I had the grilled cheese sandwich. It was delicious. Steven had the burger. Dad only uses Angus beef and Steven said it was awesome. Mom and the kids had the hotdogs. He only uses 100% beef hotdogs, so no pork fillers and things you’d never want to eat. The rat tail fries (named as such because they are skinny like rat tails!) are very tasty and he makes the ketchup and mustard from scratch. Try the Switch soda if you’ve never had it before. It’s made from 100% fruit juice and carbonated water. It’s incredible! And I highly recommend the Goetta Guinness Chili. Yes, as the name implies it is made with Guinness and it is genius! Especially on a hotdog!! He’s going to start serving ice cream at the end of this week and it’s actually going to be dairy free because he’s had so many requests for it. And he says you’ll never know that it’s dairy free (except that I just told you!!! lol) So if you live in the NKY/ Greater Cincinnati area and want a great dining experience check out Piper’s Cafe in Mainstrasse Village. It’s located in Hamelin Square across from the clock tower, next to the Magic Shop and Wertheim’s. OK, plug for Piper’s is finished! lol. I am super proud of my dad though! He’s wanted to own his own restaurant for a long time and I’m so happy that he’s finally realizing his dream!
After we ate lunch we went over to the park and the kids got to play for a while. It was so fun to watch them run and slide and swing. Eli got to go to the park for the first time and swing like a big boy!
Getcha!
After the park everyone went home and laid down for a while (Micah was especially super whinny!!) Then around 6:30 we left the house to go out to Chuy’s for dinner. If you have a Chuy’s near you I recommend them. It was super yummy! I had chile rellanos and an enchilada. And a strawberry margarita. Oh how I love me some Mexican food πŸ™‚ 
And of course I was spoiled to death by my family. Like I said I got a mani and a pedi on Friday. Steven got off work early and took the boys and I got several hours to myself. I needed a pedi so badly (especially since I was going to be wearing sandals and flip flops with the weather warming up!) I ended my afternoon alone with a double chocolate chip frappacino from Starbucks. Yum-O!! Then Friday night the kids were dying for me to open my present. So I obliged. Boy was I surprised!
I got a Kindle Fire last year so I definitely wasn’t expecting a new Kindle Fire HD!! But I LOVE it!!! And the kids have inherited the old one to play games on so they’ll leave this one alone! lol
I also received a new food processor and an electric wine opener from my mom. She also got me a case of chicken from Zaycon. That might sound weird to some but it is the best, freshest chicken I’ve ever had and will probably last us all summer (it was 40 pounds!!!) I love gifts like that!! My MIL and FIL got me a new purse and some body spray from Bath and Body Works. And my dad and Charles sent me these beauties:
And they came with a box of chocolates from the Sweet Tooth, which is a local candy store.
My brother Michael came over on Sunday and brought me some Sunflowers (my favorites!) and a cheesecake! Oh how that boy knows his sister! lol. My brother Chris (who lives in DC) got me a years subscription to Pandora 1. Totally awesome for this music lover! 
I also received several cards in the mail from grandparents (all of whom live out of town, with the exception of Steven’s grandma.) that were lovely! I love getting a card in the mail don’t you? It just makes you feel so special and loved!

Oh and I forgot to mention that Eli decided to end my birthday weekend by crawling! Yup, that’s right! Nothing is safe anymore!!

Let me know if the video doesn’t work. I’m trying to upload it with a link from FB but I’m not sure if you guys will be able to see it or not!!

So yes, it was a wonderful birthday! I felt super spoiled by the end, but that’s what birthdays are for right??! Now to start planning the next celebrations around here: a baby shower for Steven’s cousin Kristi the first weekend in May, Brianna’s 1st Communion the next weekend and then Steven’s sister’s graduation party June 15th. Luckily, a week and a half after that we leave for vacation. I’m gonna need it after all this partying!!

Ultimate Blog Party 2013

It’s time again for the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom. I did a post several years ago for the UBP and it was great! I “met” a lot of bloggers whose blogs I still read to this day and consider them to be great “bloggy friends”! So here I am again hoping to meet some more like minded moms (and dads! We forget there are a lot of blogging dads too!) I’m hoping to find some more great blogs to follow and maybe get a few new followers myself! πŸ™‚
So, to all of you who are new here a big welcome! My name is Kari and this is my little corner of the world wide web. I am a child of the a ’80s, a teenager of the’90s and a lover of life. I met my amazing husband Steven when I was 17. We married when I was 21. This year we celebrate 10 years as husband and wife, and 14 years as a couple. If you’re good at math you can calculate my age from that! (If not, I’ll just tell you that I turn 31 tomorrow, April 6th!) 
The first happiest day of our lives: October 18, 2003.
10 years later
 I have a degree in Middle Grades Education, with an emphasis in math and science but I’ve never used it. After graduating from Northern Kentucky University in 2008 (my mom, husband, and brother are also alums!) I already had 2 children and I was pregnant with my 3rd. We calculated how much daycare, gas, food, a professional wardrobe and money that would inevitably be spent on my classroom (since teachers get zip to use in their classrooms in most school districts!) and discovered there would be nothing left! So instead of choosing to work outside the home for bupkiss I decided to be a stay at home mom for the same salary! πŸ˜‰  Well, not exactly the same salary…I get paid with all the hugs, kisses and snuggles I can handle! I’ll take that over hormonal teenagers any day! In 2012 (after loosing a baby in 2011) we welcomed our 4th and final child Eli into our world. He has brought more to our lives than we could imagine. Our family of 6 is complete!
Our blessings: Jonah (6), Micah (3), Brianna (8) and Elijah (who was 4 months when we took these pictures.)
When I’m not chasing around boys, fighting off temper tantrums and diva moments from our daughter, changing diapers, doing laundry, washing dishes, cooking another meal, cleaning up another mess, breastfeeding, changing a diaper, cleaning up another mess (wait! I repeated some of that!) I like to scrapbook (although I rarely have time to do that these days), surf Pinterest (you can follow me by clicking on the button on the sidebar.), watch old TV shows on Netflix (currently watching Brothers and Sisters again. Remember that show?!?! Love it!!), go on fun dates with my hubby and work towards creating an inviting and organized home.
We share our home with my mom, 3 generation living under 1 roof. You will hear about that here too, the struggles and joys of being a multigenerational home. It has been one of the biggest blessings of our lives. I come from a thoroughly modern family. My parents divorced when I was 14. My father is a gay man. He has been with his partner, Charles for 18 years. Both of my younger brothers are also gay. I feel very blessed to have all of them in my life. I know that the relationships with gay individuals and their families are not always easy. We try to be a picture of what tolerance and acceptance can look like if we can move beyond ourselves and learn to love each other unconditionally. We aren’t perfect, there is always room for improvement, but we try to be the best we can be!
Our modern family, my mom and dad are in the middle. My dad’s partner Charles is in the back next to Steven.
We are also a Catholic family. You will from time to time hear about our faith here. It is a big part of our lives, and we are very active in our parish. We love being Catholic (even if from time to time I tend to lean a little left in a few areas that the Church teaches…I’m sure you can guess which ones! lol) and we love to share what we are doing for holidays, Holy Days and regular days to incorporate our faith into our lives.
So there you have it! An introduction to us and our blog! I hope that you’ll stay and browse around for a while! And hopefully you’ll come back to visit again soon!
And if you are one of my regular readers (Hi guys!!) be sure to stop by 5 Minutes for Mom and check out some of the other blogs joining in on the Ultimate Blog Party 2013.

31 Day Organization Challenge- Closet

 
This is the 3rd and final post for Org Junkie’s 31 Day Organization Challenge. For this post I will be focusing on the walk in closet of our Master Suite. You may remember in my original post about this challenge how I couldn’t even comment about the closet. It upset me way too much! It was beyond out of control and so it was what I spent the longest amount of time trying to fix. I think you will be blown away by the results! On to Laura’s questions!
1. What space did you decide to organize and why?
I organized my Master Suite (bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet). This post focuses on the closet. I chose this space because it was in desperate need! I dreaded walking into the closet each morning to find clothes. Trying to spend any amount of time in there was enough to bring on a migraine. You couldn’t go in without tripping over something or stepping on something. I kept the blinds closed all the time, even though we are on the 2nd floor, because I didn’t want to think that anyone might have the slightest chance to see inside. It was depressing and overwhelming!

2. What steps did you take to ensure you completed the space within the 31 day timeline?
I chose to dedicate the last 2 weeks of the challenge to this space. It needed the most work and I knew it would take the most time. I worked on one section at a time for however long that took before I moved on. I used Eli’s naptime to work on it most days because I knew that would give me a 2 hour window to dedicate. Micah usually played in his room during this time or he might watch a movie.

3. What was the hardest part of the challenge for you and how did you overcome it?
The challenge was the amount of stuff! There was an overwhelming amount of stuff! I had boxes and baskets filled to the brim with papers and things that needed to be sorted through. I spent a good chunk of time sitting in the closet sorting things into piles (garbage, recycle, shred, donate, relocate). When I emptied a box I would get all the piles taken care of and then I would be done for that time period, or if Eli was still sleeping I’d press on.

4. What did you do with the β€œstuff” you were able to purge out of your newly organized space?
The garbage can got a huge lawn bag full of garbage, the recycle can got another, the shredder saw a lot of paper. Goodwill got a drop off of two bags, a book donation box got a visit also. A container is ready to go to Dress for Success in downtown Cincinnati, and another box is getting prepared for the Urban League downtown (Steven is still going through clothes). Some things got moved to other places (sleeping bag in the camping trailer,  books to bookshelves)

5. Tell me one of your proudest moments during this challenge?
When Steven walked into the closet as we were entering the 2nd week and said “Where did everything do?” He was pretty pleased to say the least! He told everyone that he talked to about what I was doing. That made me feel great and made all the work feel very worthwhile!

6. Explain any organizing β€œtools” you used to help you create additional space and to establish some limits and boundaries?
I used the file cabinet in there to it’s fullest. In the beginning the filing cabinet wasn’t being utilized, it was just there taking up space. We used banker boxes, hanging file folders, and some new bins we bought at Ikea. We also have shelf extenders that help give us more space and Steven also has a tie organizer. We both have shoe racks to hold shoes (all but my boots, which don’t fit and my tennis shoes). I told Steven when he runs out of room on the tie organizer, no more ties unless he gets rid of some. We got rid of a few and he now has room for 8 new ties. πŸ™‚ No new shoes for me until I get rid of some because there is no room on my rack. πŸ™‚

7. What is ONE piece of organizing advice you’ve learned on this journey that you could encourage someone else with?
If you don’t have room, don’t get anything new. And if you want something new you need to get rid of something to make room for it. Shoving things in a space where there is no room to contain will quickly result in chaos!

And now, on to the pictures!! None of you have seen any of the after pictures yet so I’m super excited to show them to you!

Before: the bane of my existence!
After: sorry it’s so dark! That window makes it hard to photograph into! But you can see it’s a drastic difference!!
My side of the closet right inside the door. Piles of shoes, weights (not even mine!!) and a box of light fixtures we’ve had for years and never installed and a box with Steven’s shot glass collection.
My side after. Piles gone! Moved the laundry basket into the laundry room to get it out of view.
By the shoe rack before.
Shoe rack after.
See…no more room! No more shoes 😦  Or just buy another rack! lol
My boots and tennis shoes (minus the ones I was wearing when I took the pictures!) Love me some boots!
Top shelf on my side before. That Luvs box had every journal I’ve ever written in since I was 11. The box on top is my daughter’s Baptism dress. The pink box is my wedding dress. In front is my purse, shoes and the guest book from our wedding.
This bankers box has held memorabilia of mine for probably 20 years! It’s been through I can’t remember how many moves. I did go through it and try to thin it out to the lid would at least close! You can see my purses next to it.
Same shot after: The big black bin on top holds my purses. Bankers box is gone. The smaller black boxes hold scarves and belts.
On the other side of the bin holding my purses is my sweaters.
My jewelry box. I realized it didn’t show up in any of the before pictures but not too much happened here! I removed a tray on top that had jewelry I was no longer wearing. My mom went through it. Then we are going to give it to my mother in law to sell on Ebay if she so desires. The bag next to the box is full of PSR stuff that my husband needs to go through. He’s the CRE of our program (coordinator) so he needs to make the call about this stuff, not me!
Top of the filing cabinet before. It was two layers deep up there!
A better look at the top with a look at Steven’s shelf on that side.
The top of the filing cabinet after, with view of the shelf. Steven and I each have a bankers box filled with memorabilia we wanted to keep from our childhoods, etc. In front of each box are our degrees from NKU. Gotta show them off somewhere! πŸ˜‰
On the shelf next to the wall, Steven’s baseball cards. Anyone who has a husband who collects (or collected) baseball cards knows you don’t touch them. You don’t even suggest getting rid of them. You just make it work! lol In the container is memorabilia from trips that haven’t made it into scrapbooks yet or wouldn’t fit in scrapbooks (like Steven’s plate from Maine with lighthouses.)
In the clear drawer is real estate paperwork. This a drawer that I need to go through with both my mom and Steven. I don’t feel like I can get rid of stuff without us all going through it together. The brown box is Steven’s shot glass collection. I’m hoping this can be displayed again somewhere soon. He has some really cool ones! The Banker box on top holds cards. Yes, cards. I have almost every card I’ve ever been given in my (almost) 31 years! I also keep all my children’s cards and Steven has a lot of his. I’m having trouble getting rid of them, but I know I don’t need to keep them. If anyone has any great ideas I’d really appreciate it!!
Floor in front of the filing cabinet before: boxes, bins, baskets full of crap!
The top drawer of the filing cabinet after. Before this held hanging file folders that weren’t being used. Now each member of the family has a file to hold pertinent information (birth certificates, etc.) In the back are files for taxes, manuals, warranties, etc.
Left side 2nd drawer after: music books and sheet music (in the blue binder)
Right side 2nd drawer after: every journal and scrapbook I’ve kept since I was a tween. The journals were in the Luvs box in the before picture. I can’t get rid of them. They’re too funny!
3rd drawer after: photo albums and photos in frames. Also a few canvas portraits.
4th drawer after: more photos.
Next the filing cabinet on Steven’s side before.
Next to the filing cabinet after. The box of binders is genealogy stuff. I don’t have a better place for it right now.

View of the floor on Steven’s side before.
A close up of a pile of crap!! Can I tell you how many clothes I found in there that I was wondering where they had gone to?? Annoying!!
Floor on Steven’s side after! Much, much better!!!
Steven’s shelf before.
Another view of the shelf before.
Shelf after view 1.
Shelf after view 2.
The mess of ties before.
Ties after with belts on a hanger next to them.

So that’s it! I am LOVING my closet right now. I’ll be anxious to see how long we can keep it looking this good. Hopefully it will last! Once again, thanks to Laura at Org Junkie for hosting such a great challenge. Apparently all I needed was a little was some motivation to light my fire! I’m already making a list of what to tackle next!!