Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What We've Been Up To...

It has been a busy two weeks around here...
and in this case busy does = FUN!
We had our annual Valentine Block Party!
The kids had a blast with our Hot Chocolate Bar,
mustaches and photo props,
cookie decorating, and Valentine exchange!

Molly just loves being with the "big kids".
 
After Mike's school Valentine party,
we headed to coast to visit my parents!
The kids (especially Molly)
once again paid no attention to
the cold weather and went right in!

If this is the smile we get from a cold day at the beach,
I can't wait to see her this summer when its warm!
Speaking of cold, although we are here in Texas,
and I feel guilty of complaining when
the rest of the country is covered in snow...
the weather here has been cold, wet,
 and down right ugly!
And despite our allergies, and cabin fever,
we have had some fun!

I am sooo looking forward to spring,
but I am also very grateful for my time with these sweet girls.
Being a stay at home mom is not always easy or even fun,
but it is always, always a blessing!!
 
How do you battle cabin fever?
Who is ready for Spring?
 
 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What We're Reading


 

 

 
 
We Love to read around here!!
One of my favorite sites is GoodReads,
I really like seeing what my friends are reading
and of course when I find a great book,
 I can't help but tell you about it!
 
So here are a few of my recent favorite books...
http://www.amazon.com/Praying-Circles-around-Your-Children/dp/0310325501/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423163498&sr=8-1&keywords=praying+circles+around+your+children
If you have every been worried about your children,
then you need to read this one!!

http://www.amazon.com/Making-Faces-Amy-Harmon-ebook/dp/B00F0XL3B2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423164313&sr=8-2&keywords=making+faces
My "Reading Divas" have introduced me to a new author...
 

http://www.amazon.com/Law-Moses-Amy-Harmon/dp/1502830825/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423165535&sr=8-1&keywords=law+of+moses
 
She writes page turners for sure!
I really like how she runs a Christian thread through all her books.
Her characters are strong and deep,
and she will bring then to their knees,
only to show you that they can rise up and conquer anything!
 
 
 What has the husband been reading...
http://www.amazon.com/NYPD-Red-James-Patterson/dp/145552154X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423165499&sr=8-2&keywords=ny+red++james+patterson
He is back into the consistently good, James Patterson!
His books are addicting...
 
 My son Mike is in the 2nd grade and
 is really starting to have strong preferences
 in his story selections...
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=febuary%20friends
This series is really cute and keeps
even the most ADD reader engaged!
 
Adelyn is 5 and will start Kindergarten next fall...
http://www.amazon.com/Disney-Princess/dp/B00HMTU6PQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423165385&sr=8-1&keywords=princess+magazine
I got a great deal on this subscription from Zulily awhile back.
It is not cheap, if you pay full price.
BUT, she LOVES it and reads it from
 cover to cover,
over and over...
until the new one comes!
 
 Miss Molly is 15 months
and is the first one to grab a book every night!
http://www.amazon.com/First-100-Words-Roger-Priddy/dp/0312510780/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1423165262&sr=8-3&keywords=100+first
This big board book series is her favorite right now!
It has photos of "real" things.
She likes to point to a picture
and hear you read the word.

http://www.amazon.com/First-100-Animals-Roger-Priddy/dp/0312510799/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1423165262&sr=8-11&keywords=100+first
She already has a pretty extensive vocabulary for her age
and I think these books have encouraged that!
These would be very nice gifts...
and are very affordable!
 
What are you reading?
We wanna know!
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

5 Life Hacks for Sick Kids


 
This month we experienced our first family strep epidemic!
Yup, three cases of strep and one virus...
plus mommy had a sinus infection!

Whew, aside from the shocking co-pays
and the fact that our local urgent care
no longer takes our insurance,
I learned a few other things...
helpful things!

 Tip #1: Write it down and post it!

Three kids, at three different weights,
 means three different doses.
Let me add, that our antibiotics were all the same,
 but Mike had a few extra meds,
Molly was teething and needed Tylenol and Motrin,
plus we did have to use Benadryl...
Yes, that is lots of meds being passed out.
To keep us straight, I made this chart
(10 days) and posted it on the kitchen cabinets.
This way no matter who gave out the meds,
we never skipped or doubled up on them!
 

 Tip #2: Out of site; Out of Mind.

and by this I mean "out of your mind" or "loose your mind".
My second tip is to move all meds and
sicky stuff to a central location.
Nothing is worse than scrabbling around looking for Vicks
or cough drops in the middle of the night...
or after two days of dealing with sickness.
it also helps when your "co-nurse"
needs to find stuff.
***All meds are out of reach of small children***
but no one needs to go digging through cabinets
or running to other rooms in search of
 a medicine dropper, thermometer, or tissues!

 Tip #3:  Boogie Wipes

Maybe you have seen these
or maybe you have bought the name brand...
my 3rd tip is yes, get them, but go generic!
These wipes have saline in them
and they do not irritate the skin.
We went through a ton and I was thrilled
to find the generic brand at WalMart.
Plus they smell good.
I did find a pocket sized bag at The Dollar Tree!!
Cheap and handy.

Tip #4:  "Magic" Tea

Oh my!!  Have you tried this?
This throat coat tea is amazing,
because it works!!
It does have a bit of licorice taste,
but it is nothing a bit of honey or
sugar can't cover up for the kiddos.
I can't wait to put a box of this in
my next care package to a sick a friend.
 

 

Tip #5: Best Invention EVER!

I bought this a while ago at a locally owned pharmacy,
but just now got to really put it to use.
It is called the NoseFrida...
aka The Snot Sucker.
Hands down it is the best money we have spent in a long time!
Now, I will admit, the first use can be a little intimating,
but I assure you there is no way you will taste any boogies!
And it is SO easy to clean!
Here is the link to it on amazon.
These are my new standard Baby Shower Gift.

 
So those are the tips that got me through our first ever
sickness with all three kids!
Aside from some cabin fever,
we are all feeling better and ready for Spring!!
 
PLEASE, share your sickness hacks with me!
What works in your house?
What products do you swear by?
 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Super Easy Meal Planning


I just love it when a system falls into place...
especially after years of trial and error.
Such has been the case with my meal planning!
Before, you take a look...
you should know that we eat almost
7 meals a week here at home.
We also refrain (as much as possible) from processed dinners.
I always have a frozen pizza in my freezer,
but mostly we cook... well, I cook... they eat!
This can be overwhelming for some,
but with meal planning of any kind...
I promise you can do it!
It will not only save you money and calories,
but there is nothing more valuable than time spent
 as a family at the dinner table!

For years I used the 30 Meals method...
Here is a link to that post.
Currently I have taken that a step further and
it has made my life so much easier.

I have a binder that holds everything!
I use it to plan weekly and it goes for 4 weeks.
Then after four weeks, we just repeat it.
With this system, you can easily plan and
 shop for two weeks at a time.
(I prefer it two weeks at a time, but right now we shop weekly)

In each section for the weekly meal plans,
 I have typed up the plan and a master grocery list.
Also, in plastic sleeves are the recipes
 I need for those dinners...
nothing extra!
Even if I do not need the recipe,
I still have them here for my husband or
 anyone who might be helping us out.
Like when I had my babies or my gall bladder surgery.

This is a master list of everything I need for the dinners,
divided up by the sections of my local grocery store.
I keep several copies in the plastic sleeve,
so I do not have to print them each time.
To this list, I just add all the other stuff we need.
I also, cross off anything we already have.
I usually keep the list for the next week on the fridge or
 in my planner for the following week.
This way anyone can add to the list.
I will also, cross of an entire meal if I need to.
This happens when either we make dinner plans
 or have left overs to eat.

 I also have a section for my sides.
It helps to limit the number of recipes in this section
and to switch it out seasonally.
I do have lots of recipes in
another binder and on Pinterest, but
it helps simplify the system to
only store the specific recipes in the meal planning binder.
The next section for my lunches (salads and stuff)
snacks and sweets...
Here I keep our favorite deserts and such.
Again, I only keep our current favorites or
the seasonal treats we want to make.
In the back I do have a few "other" recipes.
Ones that we might use as a substitute...
right now I have a chili and a soup recipe back there.
These we can trade out with our grilling recipes,
in case it rains or if we are sick and are craving soup!

https://www.pinterest.com/kristyfey/tried-and-true-family-faves/
 
I have many favorite recipes here on my blog
and I have a "Tried and True" recipe board on Pinterest.
You should really check it out,
these are the yummy, family friendly,
and affordable meals
we use most often!
 
So what do you think?
Do you meal plan?
I would love to see your favorite meal Pinterest board...
Please share your link in the comments!
 
I am parting right here this week!
http://www.bloglovin.com/frame?post=4171006074&group=0&frame_type=a&context=&context_ids=&blog=3028708&frame=1&click=0&user=0
 


Sunday, February 1, 2015

It's a LOVEly Give Away!

Happy February!
I am hosting a
 Facebook Give Away
 to share some LOVE!
 
I am very excited to add these adorable
ruffled tea towels to my Etsy shop.
My plan is to have a few "Ready To Ship" items.
Perfect for teacher and seasonal gifts!
 
This design was so cute I am making
 Molly a Valentine shirt to match!
 
You can find my Facebook page right HERE!
I have all the LOVEly details on how to enter!
 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Next-To-Heaven/276482002438738
 
 
 
 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Easy Muffin Mix


 
Today I thought I would share a little mommy hack for you.
I do cook breakfast 5 days a week.
(Daddy picks it up on the weekends)
Impressive right? No, not really!
This is what I do on Muffin Mondays...
 
 
 I keep a jar of homemade muffin mix in the pantry.
I got the recipe from Taste of Home!
 
FOR THE MIX:
 8 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup baking powder

1 tablespoon salt
cup shortening

Combine all the above ingredients in a big bowel.
Use a large fork or pastry cutter to mix in the shortening.
It will be kind of chunky, but it should be!
This mix lasts us about four weeks or four batches.
*Feel free to store this mix in the freezer if you will not be using right away.
*This mix can also be halved!
 
TO BAKE:
 2 1/2 cups of mix
1 egg
1 cup of milk

Any of the following:
blueberries, lemon juice, cinnamon,
apple sauce, diced apples, chocolate chips,
cinnamon chips, nuts,
 bananas, froze fruit, raisins,
or something you like.
 
Combine all the above ingredients in a big bowel.
Add to lined or greased (Pam) muffin tin.
Bake for 15 to 20 min at 4/25'.

 
 
As you can see I add streusel topping to mine...
This is also made ahead and stored in a small jar.
STREUSEL TOPPING:
3/4 sugar
3/4 flour
1 1/2 T cinnamon (optional)
OR
1 T brown sugar (optional)
 
This is the mixture I store ahead...
just sprinkle on top of muffins with a tad of butter...
 before you bake them.

 This is a life changer girls!
Let me know in the comments your
 favorite muffin flavor so we can try it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

6 Frugal Name Brand Shopping Tips

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We just love Gymboree (and Crazy 8) around here.
I will not lie, with my first daughter
I enjoyed buying customs and boutique style clothes for her,
but now with three very active and busy kids who
prefer being comfy and playing for hours outside,
I do not have the time (to shop or launder) or the funds
for the frilly looks. ..
especially the double outfits for the sister look!
 (I will keep buying those  until they just flat out refuse to wear them.)
Plus, my tastes have changed or
maybe it is just their personalities!

At any rate, we love our Gymbo clothes and
 I get asked all the time "where did you get that?"
Which is quickly followed by,
"but their stuff is so pricey!"
We are a proud debt free, single income family...
so, I have learned a few tricks for
dressing my kiddos in their crazy, cute Gymboree
 and other name brand attire.

 
So here are my best tips for shopping frugal
 for name brand clothes...
Keep in mind these tips will also work for
 Gap, H & M, Carter's
 and other name brands as well.
 #1: Know Your Store
It pays (literally) to know the ends and outs
 of your favorite store.
For example, I live 15 minutes
 from a Gymboree outlet store.
The outlet may or may not have the same sale
 you see on line or in a regular retail store. 
Gymboree outlets, also offer completely
 different lines than the retail store.
  I even discovered that if you see six orange dots on a tag...
 it is from the outlet, not the retail store! 
Also, brush up on their sales.
I started doing this by just receiving their emails,
and pretty soon I started tracking them.
For example...Crazy 8 has had a blue jean sale
 near back to school time for $8.88.
 (photo credit ameblo.jp)
Also, know their "rewards program" 
 Gymboree has both a reward card,
but even better you can earn GYMBUCKS!
I almost always only shop retail (or outlet)
 when I can either earn or spend GYMBUCKS!
This is my most recent purchase with GYMBUCKS.
My MIL bought the kids a each an outfit
before Christmas and earned 50 GYMBUCKS,
which she kindly shared with me.
I spent $100 at the outlet, but with my GYMBUCKS
I only paid $50.  Can you believe that got us...
two dresses, 6 shirts, 3 shorts, a skirt,
a pair of shorts, and a gumball bracelet!
 (Gap also has a similar program, as well as Carter's!)
 
#2: EBay
Now, I know this is not a news flash,
but if you have not been on EBay for
 name brand children's clothes lately,
 you have to take a look!
 
Every year we go to a strawberry farm,
and I just love taking pretty photos of the kids
picking the berries and playing on the farm.
This outfit above was an EBay purchase
for Molly to wear this spring when we go.
 
Here is what I did to find this...
First, I searched Gymbohaven.com
for their strawberry lines.
 Then I searched the specific line and size on Ebay.
I also, refine my search to "auction" and
 "time ending soonest".
I will then add items that are in
 EUC (excellent Used Condition) to my watch list. 
I am also, careful to look at the posted shipping cost.
For the strawberry outfit (that looks brand new)
I paid $3.00 and about the same to ship.
 
 
You may not realize that there are hundreds of listings
for brand new with tags (NWT) items on Ebay.
The above picture is Addy's birthday outfit.
It is from an old Gymboree line.
The socks and hat were "new with tags",
and the skirt and top were "excellent used condition".
 
I never could have found such an adorable outfit
 with all those pieces, for the price I paid on EBay...
much less something as adorable and
appropriate for her Art Party!!

 
If you have tried to find nice, good quality clothes
 for big boys (Mike is a 7/8) then you know even Target
doesn't cut it.  This handsome Gymboree sweater was
one in a lot of four Gymboree sweaters. 
I paid $22 for the lot... that included shipping!
#3 Garage Sale Sites
My third tip is to search out some garage sale sites.
My particular favorite is VarageSale.com
This site works for me because the mommies
 in my town created a page on it.
We have well over 2,000 members.
There are also many other garage sale pages on Facebook...
do a search or ask some local friends to
 add you to the pages they are on.
I was thrilled to get these two Gymboree tops
on my local VarageSale page.
They came with four pair of target shorts
 and some MUDD sandals.
All for $12!!

 
The condition said VGUC...
but I would add another VERY
in front... what a steal!
 
#4 Flash Sales
Eeek... this is my favorite way to shop!
I can't believe I did not know these
Face Book groups existed a year ago.
 
So here is how a flash sale site works... basically.
Members, can simply host a quick sale of there "stock"
by posting an opening photo.  Usually it is of a pile of clothes
or a photo of their own child wearing an adorable out fit.
 
They will often let you know
when the sale will begin, what sizes, the seasons,
and maybe the lines of the clothes that will be included.
Most also including how they will handle the shipping cost.
At this point, you can choose to follow the sale by
 adding a comment or
selecting "get notifications" at the top of the post.
 
When the sale begins, the seller will simply
add photos to the comments.
Each photo will include a number and
a listing of condition, size, and cost.
If you see something you like, you add a comment saying
 the number and "SOLD" with your email address.
At the end of the sale, the seller will email you
 an invoice from PayPal.
Then faster than retail shipping,
 you will get your clothes in the mail!

 
It really is as fun as it sounds
and I have made some pretty great scores.
The last two photos are of my latest flash sale purchases.
A few of the groups I am in are
 Gymboree Flash Sales, Vintage Gymboree,
 Vintage Gymboree 2, Gymbo Addicts...
They have these for Carters, Gap, and H & M as well.
There are even a few that do general brand sales!
Just search for the brand and "flash sale". 
Once you get into one group you will find out about more!
Another plus to these Face Book pages,
is that you can also search "In Search Of" posts. (ISO)
This precious sweater on Molly was one I found this way.
Adelyn had the same one, but I gave it away thinking we were done having babies.
As soon as I found out we were having another girl,
 I started re-buying favorite pieces.

(This outfit is from The Gap not Gymboree)
 
#5 Just ASK
Another great way to get name brand clothes for free
 or more affordably is to just ask for hand-me-downs.
We are so blessed to get passed lots of cute clothes this way.
I have also traded and bought Gymboree outfits from friends.

(photo credit Gymboree.com)
 
We all have a friend or two whose children
 are often seen in Face Book photos
 or in real life wearing the style of clothes we love.
Several times, I have just private messaged 
my friends offering to purchase an outfit or two
 when they are done with them.
Some just laugh me off, but some are more than willing
 to box up a few out fits and mail them to me for a small price.
Personally, I like doing this with my favorite pieces because
I get so much joy in seeing a friends baby wearing some
 old favorites that my girls wore!
 
#6 Burlington Coat Factory
I am not sure how they do it, but Burlington Coat Factory
 will have some Gymboree in stock.
Yup, new with tags Gymbo at great prices!
I have also found several Carter's brand
 clothes at TJMaxx and Marshall's.
It is like a treasure hunt!

 
So there they are, my tips for buying Gymboree or
 other name brand clothes for great prices.
I just love these two fall sweaters
 I bought second hand for my girls.
Retail they would have cost $50 or $60 for both...
and really Addy's sweater couldn't be bought retail
 because it was from an old line....
Molly's dress was $8 and Addy's sweater was $10,
add in shipping and I paid less than $25 for these sweaters!
Best of all I will save Addy's for Molly some day,
and sell Molly's to recoup some money back!
 
WIN! WIN!
I would love to add to my treasure chest of tips...
Let me know in the comments if you shop in a similar fashion
 or have another tip I can use!

Let's go make something,

Kristy

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