April – 2010 – Frugal Novice
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April 2010

Candy-Themed Party

I thought today I’d share two photos from C’s baby shower that Brian’s work threw us last year (see how well I’m doing with keeping the party theme going?). Brian eats a ridiculous amount of candy (and is SKINNY, too – so unfair!) and it’s a well-known fact up at his work. Knowing this, his coworkers had the theme of our shower be candy. The invitations were made to look like giant candy bars – the invitation was the label wrapped around the bar (foam core). SO cute! They mailed just fine, too. This is an idea I want to incorporate for one of the boys’ birthdays in the future.

Instead of having a large cake, they did cupcakes on a tiered pedestal – each one looks like it has a giant M&M on top of it, only they put “C”, and then used a bowl of gumballs as a topper. So colorful and cheery!

Continue Reading…

Word World Birthday

I figured I might as well keep the birthday theme going all week long – it ties in to my mindset right now in preparing for C’s party on Saturday, and it fits perfectly with all the blog partying going on with the Ultimate Blog Party!

Last year we chose to do a Word World theme for J’s 2nd birthday. If you have small children and have never seen this show, you really ought to check your listings and find out when the next episode is so you can catch one. Brian and I tried to really limit how much TV J watched (we’re not doing so well the second time around!) but Word World was a show we felt really good about. It’s comprised of animal characters that are made out of the letters that spell their name, like this:

J has loved letters for a long time (along with songs like Twinkle Twinkle and Jesus Loves Me, we sing the ABC’s each night before he goes to bed, at his request) and we really think part of it is due to him watching Word World.

As I was saying before I got distracted, we decided to do a Word World party. I got online to see what plates and napkins were available, and found something pretty amazing: FREE Word World birthday party resources. Continue Reading…

Menu Plan Monday – Birthday Week!

Thursday is C’s birthday, and even though he’s just turning one, I want to make food I know he really likes.  We’ve also got company coming over two nights this week, so I’m pulling out some favorite meals/recipes to use. Oh, and can I say – we love those quesadillas we tried last week! It’s so much fun trying new things, especially when they turn out to be wonderful like that.

Monday: We’re having some people from my work over, and are making chicken fajitas. Brian’s going to grill the chicken – our first grilling of this year! We love to grill out and do it a TON during the spring and summer. I’ll also saute some onions and bell peppers, and we’ll have Brian’s homemade guacamole (this stuff is AMAZING. I’ll have to post the recipe sometime soon).

Tuesday: We’ll have leftovers of fajitas if there are any. If not, we’ll do a hodge-podge meal. I’ll make mac & cheese and some veggies to have with it.

Wednesday: My brother (& maybe his girlfriend, too) are coming over, and I’m going to make one of his (and our) favorites. This is not a recipe we make very often at all because it’s not the healthiest of choices, but it is a definite comfort meal for me! It’s called Crunchy Chicken Crescents. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it, too: Continue Reading…

Keeping With the Party Theme…

Today one of J’s friends had a birthday party. I went shopping for the gift with a friend of mine, and picked out a fire truck (can you really go wrong with a fire truck for a 3-year-old? I think not). I then went home and made the rookie mistake of showing it to J. This was a mistake for two reasons: 1) J, as you probably guessed, decided this truck should be HIS, or at the very least that his friend should definitely bring the truck to day care and share it; and 2) once the present was wrapped, J kept repeating, “It’s a fire truck! A fire truck!“, making me certain that we’d last about one minute at the party before the birthday boy knew what his gift was.

While we were driving to the party, J said, “You know, mommy? I love fire trucks. They’re my favorite!” Which is definitely not true – Thomas & Friends are his first love – but was pretty smart on his part. He knows how to appeal to his mom! Too bad it didn’t work this time. Poor guy.

The party was at a place filled with inflatables, perfect for toddlers to run & bounce off all their energy. Unless you’re J, and are pretty intimidated by those big bouncy structures. We’ve been to this place once before, and J spent most of his time running back and forth on some gymnastic mats (totally worth $5). Today he was a little braver, encouraged by seeing his friends playing. Don’t get me wrong – he still spent a large part of his time standing next to various bouncy houses, cheering his friends on through the little mesh net windows. He did play long enough to let me snap a photo, though:

Can I admit that for a moment I wished I was young enough to hop up there and play a little too? I would have loved a place like this when I was a child.

After playing for a while it was time for the actual party to take place. We all shuffled back to the party room and took seats along picnic tables to watch the birthday boy blow out candles and open presents. I have to say, I love being around other parents of toddlers. There’s no embarrassment when your toddler throws himself to the floor in a huff – just knowing, sympathetic looks. Not that J would ever do that. Multiple times. Along with exclaiming, “Where are my presents?!” Noooo, not my child.

Really, J did well overall. He and his friends were pretty cute to watch as they ate cake – their conversation was mostly about the cake, and about the Mickey Mouse toppers on it. They also liked to talk about what big bites of cake they were eating. Riveting stuff. :) Once it was time to open presents, J became very interested – mainly because he thought it was just a matter of time before it was his turn to open presents too, I’m certain. He stood just a few feet away, watching intently. Toward the end, he picked up one of the opened gifts, a big truck, and tried to bring it over to me. I – in my sweetest voice, mind you – told him he needed to put it back, and that’s when one of the aforementioned huffs took place.

Mostly, though, it went really well and was a fun outing. I liked getting to know some of the other moms, and I loved seeing J interact with his friends. Plus, I’m hoping it was a good trial run for him to be ready for C’s party next weekend. That’ll be his first experience with his brother getting all of the attention, and getting presents when he doesn’t. It might not be completely pleasant for him, but we want him to learn that it’s not always about him, and that it’s fun to be excited for other people’s special days. Wish us luck!

Friday Follow – Party Time!

I stumbled across a blog recently called 5 Minutes For Mom, which is based on the premise that every mom can take five minutes for themselves to relax, read relevant content, and connect with other moms out there in the blogging world. They’re hosting the Ultimate Blog Party, which starts today! All week long there are chances to win prizes, but also to get to know other blogs and bloggers. I think it sounds like a great idea, and decided to take part. I’m even hosting a giveaway over there, so be sure and look for my item!

For those of you that are stopping by for the first time as a part of UBP10, my name is Christi. I’m 28, a Christian, and am raising two boys with my (amazing) husband in west Texas. One of my sons, J, is 2 1/2, and C will be one year old NEXT WEEK! I’ve blogged for almost three years on a private blog for our families – mostly posting photos, videos, and all the details grandparents love to read about. My mom encouraged me to start another blog, and I finally decided to take the plunge. I initially started this blog with the idea of writing about my attempts at being frugal, and that’s still at the core, but I also write about things I love to do, experiences in parenting, and whatever else is important to me at the moment.

In the spirit of the Blog Party, I thought I’d share a little about plans for C’s upcoming birthday party. First, the theme: cars & trucks. That was pretty easy to decide, since they’re things C plays with all the time (and, let’s be honest, it also came down to finding a theme we hadn’t used for J’s birthdays). Next up: invitations. Here’s the final product – minus a few key details. ;)

Now, can I make a confession? We still haven’t mailed them out yet. Tomorrow… hopefully!

I’ll make the cake, and am planning to attempt a 3D car. Nothing fancy, but I’m hoping to carve a convincing shape – partially to save money and avoid buying a pan that we’ll likely use just once, but also because I think it’ll be fun. Brian and I like to work on cakes together, so it’ll be a team effort, I’m sure. Making our own cakes is a tradition in our family – here are some of the cakes we’ve done over the years:

This iPod cake is the first one we made after getting married. We kept it pretty simple – we didn’t do any carving, and I think we pressed bowls into the icing to use as a template for the wheel.

Continue Reading…

Things I Love Thursday: A Favorite Photo

So, I’m kind of cheating this week, because it’s been one of those weeks, but I didn’t want to not post something. I have something in mind that I’ll save for next week, but for today I’m choosing something a little simpler – a favorite photo of mine. This is from November 0f 2007, when J was just 3 months old. I can remember the day it was taken so clearly (amazing, since I forget everything lately). It was a Saturday morning filled with errands, and then J and I were headed off to a wedding shower. Before we left for the shower, we went with Brian to Subway to grab some lunch.

Brian and J were sitting across the booth from me and I remember being caught up in what a sweet scene it was, to see my husband with our son. Their hands rested next to each other on the table, and on a whim I pulled out my camera to snap a photo.

This photo still gets me teary-eyed on a regular basis. In part because it’s just so sweet to see that tiny hand juxtaposed against Brian’s, but now because that tiny hand isn’t quite so tiny – or chubby. J will be three this summer, which I can hardly believe. This photo takes me back to that day over two years ago, to a time when we were still new at the whole parenting thing, and had no idea what other wonderful things were in store for us.

I’ve thought about trying to get a photo of Brian’s hand with J and C, but I think another part of the original photo’s charm is the impromptu nature of it. There’s nothing posed – it was just a natural moment I happened to catch. Little moments, whether captured are not, are one of the best parts of parenting. Thousands of dirty diapers changed, sleepless nights, and temper tantrums are all made worth it by one sweet moment, don’t you think?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookie Recipe

I asked Brian what he thought I should make for a recent get-together we went to, but I really should have known in advance what his answer would be: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies. I discovered just a few months ago that these were a favorite of his growing up (still discovering things after almost 12 years together – amazing!) and have made them several times since. I thought I’d share the recipe here in case you’d like to try it too; there are a lot of variations of it around the web, but this is what I use and really love. It’s also a really convenient recipe in that you’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen at any given time. When I wanted to make these, all I needed to buy was the candy, so I only spent about $2.50.


1/2 cup butter (one stick)

• 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar

• 1/2 cup white sugar

• 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will work, but I prefer smooth)

• 1 egg

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 & 3/4 cups flour (all-purpose)

• miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups (you’ll need one for each cookie – around 30-40 depending on how you portion your dough) Continue Reading…

Menu Plan Monday: April 5-10

I’ve noticed in looking at my past few posts for Menu Plan Monday that I’m overlapping recipes – that is, I don’t end up using a recipe for the week I plan to, so I end up using it the next week. It’s a good thing, because that means we’re eating leftovers and saving money, but it does mean I need to readjust my planning a little.

Monday: Pizza.We haven’t tried Alexis’ great recipe yet, but we’re having friends over for dinner and games so this will be the perfect time to make it.

Edited 4/06 to add: We tried the pizza! It was SO good. I will say that this is not a pizza to have on a first date – I mean, it’s got onions and garlic and spinach (oh my!), plus blue cheese. Lots of strong flavors, for sure. They all work together really well. We and our company all really liked it a lot.

I also made a (turkey) pepperoni pizza as a back-up, since there were kids involved in this get together.

Tuesday: We might be going to Family Night at Chick Fil A with friends, but if not we’ll have tacos with black beans and the cilantro lime rice I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I use lean ground beef in our tacos, and we make our taco seasoning from scratch based on a recipe I found at allrecipes.com. We like this seasoning better than any mixes we’ve bought, and you could easily make a big batch of it to have on hand if you make Tex-Mex food a lot like we do.

Wednesday: Pasta with homemade sauce, green beans, and salad. I got this sauce recipe from a friend and use it all the time. It reminds me a lot of La Madeleine’s tomato basil soup, and we’ve actually added cream to it before to really replicate the taste of the soup. Here’s the recipe, if you’d like to give it a try: Continue Reading…

Happy Easter!

The boys’ favorite part of their Easter baskets? The grass inside them.

Instead of doing real baskets this year we put goodies for the boys in Bilibos, which are toys in themselves. I participated in an online co-op and was able to get them each for $15, as opposed to the usual price of around $25. So far, they’re a hit! The great thing about them is that they’re supposed to encourage creativity. They can be whatever kids want them to be. Ours have been stools, chairs to spin in, a drum, and a shell for a big bouncy ball.

We’ve had a great day as a family. I woke up feeling much better. I have to confess we were running way behind on our way to church this morning. We arrived about 20 minutes late, and walked in to find out there had been an “Easter celebration” and services were just beginning. So technically we made it on time. Riighht. We’ve really got to work on that!

J and C had fun “opening” their baskets – C’s consisted mostly of baby food and snacks, but like I mentioned he loved the grass and wouldn’t have cared if that’s all that had been in it. I made the mistake of letting J eat some candy right before nap time – talk about a rookie move! He was bouncing around, literally… but finally crashed from his sugar high enough to get some sleep.

We talked a little with J about celebrating Jesus, but of course he and (especially) C are too young to really grasp that. Next year I think J will be old enough that we can incorporate it more into our celebration like we hope to.

If you’ve posted about your Easter celebration, leave a comment and I’ll add your link to this post. I hope you have all had a wonderful day of celebrations and traditions with your families!

Easter Preparation

Man,  I should have saved “Egg-stravaganza” for this post.

What’s that you muttered under your breath?

Shouldn’t have used it at all?

You’re probably right. :)

Today we dyed Easter eggs, which was J’s first experience with the tradition. When do you dye your eggs? I thought about coloring them the weekend before Easter so we can enjoy them for the whole week. What do you think? Continue Reading…

Friday Follow – and a Giveaway

I’m sure you’ve experienced something pretty similar to a common occurrence in our house – bedtime arrives and the stalling begins. C is too young to join in (yet – it’s coming, though!) but J has already mastered the skill. He’ll ask for us to sing more songs, or will keep adding things in to thank God for in our prayer, or he’ll ask for extra hugs and kisses (man, he’s good).

Even once he’s in bed, he talks and sings to try to hold off on actually falling asleep as long as possible. Last night we heard him gabbing away a full 45 minutes after we left his room. If we didn’t have places to be the next day, it wouldn’t be a problem, but six out of seven days we’re getting up for school or church. When J doesn’t get a lot of sleep at night, that translates into a much rougher next day for all of us. Continue Reading…

Things I Love Thursday: Spice Stack

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have quite a few spice jars filling up my cabinets. Some are ones I use often, like cumin or garlic powder, and some I purchased for a specific recipe but rarely use, like cloves or fennel seeds (by the way, if you have any recipes that use those ingredients, let me know). Regardless, I’ve ended up with a vast array of spices and seasonings, and over the years I’ve tried several different ways of organizing them.

When we got married we registered for a really pretty wall-hung spice rack – it looked like a miniature wine rack, basically. It only held a few spices, and it came with pre-filled bottles, so I still ended up with a cabinet housing stray bottles we’d pick up here and there. Later I tried incorporating a lazy susan. That wasted a lot of space, because I could only have bottles around the perimeter or I wouldn’t be able to see labels to find anything. I tried using a tiered shelving system, but I had trouble seeing the bottles that were on the back shelf.

Last year I tried purchasing a car seat on Target’s website, but they had the wrong price listed and refused to honor that lower price. I wrote and complained, as apparently many people did, and Target sent out $30 gift cards as an apology. I was apparently frustrated enough at the clutter problem in my cabinets that my first thought was to go look at spice racks. I know, I’m wild like that! Continue Reading…