Monthly Archives

September 2018

In Blog, Mama, Mi Familia on
September 24, 2018

How to enjoy being a stay at home parent

If you aren’t a stay at home parent you might fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be the director of your days, to choose if you want to sit on the couch all day watching Netflix as your child plays quietly on the floor with their toys or to head off to the shops for a lovely afternoon. As a stay at home parent you know this is the opposite of the truth. Stay at home parenting is no joke- being woken up early, dressing someone, diapers, potty training, cooking, cleaning, feeding, holding, comforting, having someone demand almost every second of your time when they are awake, cleaning, breaking up fights, taking deep breaths when your child slaps you in the face, etc. you get it. Being a stay at home parent can feel incredibly mundane- day in and day out, the same. Some days it’s easy to want to roll back over in bed because you know exactly what to expect and you’re bored with stay at home parent life. Well, here are my 10 best tips for how to actually enjoy your days as a stay at home parent! As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Take advantage of this special time you get with your kids and make the most of it!

  1. Get out of the house at least once a day

This is the most helpful for me. I am the kind of person that cannot stay a whole day at home without feeling a little sad or wondering what the rest of the world is up to outside of my little home bubble. Also, keeping a little human occupied at home for a whole day is quite difficult. By the time naptime is over (if you are lucky enough to have one that naps) the kids have already played with every toy they own, read every book on the shelf, had snacks upon snacks, and now they are just whining out the wazoo. Ok. Let’s get out of the house! It could be as simple as a walk down your street, a trip to a store even if you don’t need anything, a park, the library, a friend’s house. The options are endless but getting out of the house even for an hour helps keep everyone sane!

  1. Get a hobby you can do at home

Having a hobby gives you something to look forward to when your littles are napping, or during those rare quiet moments when they are entertaining themselves. My main hobby is my Etsy shop. I make dried flower crowns and boutonnieres. It has become mindless work for me after 4 years of doing it but I genuinely enjoy sitting down to create whenever my little one is asleep. I also love cooking, blogging, working out, and reading. My hobbies help keep me sane and we all know mama needs to be sane to effectively raise a small human. Playing on your phone and watching TV should not be considered a hobby. Find a hobby that genuinely stirs your affections for life!

  1. Keep a clean house

Now,  I know everyone’s SAHP situation is different pending how many kids you have, if you have a spouse, if your spouse travels, if you homeschool, etc etc. BUT this tip goes out to all the people that are in a situation where they can handle this. Clean your house! Like actually keep it clean. Being a stay at home parent means you are likely at home a lot so why not keep it clean? I know for myself I feel yucky and more irritable when my house is dirty and unorganized. I have the time to keep things clean and organized and everyone is happier when it is kept well so that is what I do. Of course some days are busier than others and sometimes the dishes don’t get done or toys don’t get picked up, but as a rule of thumb, I do my best to keep a clean house and it is a positive thing for the whole family.

  1. Go on an adventure with your kids

You and your kid are forced to be together all day if you are a SAHP so why not make the most of it? Go on an adventure. Who cares that it is 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, go find an orchard and pick apples, go find a beautiful trail to hike, go on a treasure hunt, or drive to the next town to have a special treat. Find an adventure and take advantage of the fact that you have the availability to go do something fun and make memories with your child whenever you want!

  1. Build friendships with people in your same season

We were not meant to do life alone! It is wonderful to have a spouse to share in the hard realities of parenting but you need to find a friend who is in the same season as you. As an adult I know it is hard to make new friends but suck it up and put yourself out there and get to know another parent who has a child that is a similar age to yours. It is so beneficial to spend time with someone who GETS it. Drink a cup of coffee while your kiddos play and share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your days and I promise you will feel so much better knowing you are not alone.

  1. Have structure to your day

Your days will be so much easier if everyone in the house has an idea of what they can expect for the day. Wake up at a similar time each day, do certain activities at a similar time each day, get out of the house at a similar time each day, eat your meals at the same time each day, and have nap and bedtime at the same time each day. Kids thrive when they can have a good idea of what the day will look like and when your kid is thriving your day is better too. Now I am not a planner and I don’t schedule playdoh at 9 am and blocks at 9:30 am, I simply mean have some sort of structure so that everyone can have a good idea of what the day to day looks like.

  1. Take advantage of all of the free activities in your community

Did you know that there are wonderful, free activities just about anywhere? I live up in the tippy top middle of nowhere upper peninsula of Michigan and guess what!? There are still plenty of free things I can find to do with my child. Library story time, playgrounds, safety days, free nature hikes, community festivals and fairs. Sometimes it takes some researching but there is always something you can put on your calendar to take your child to.

  1. Commit to a minimum of an hour a day to play with your child

You might be thinking well that is crappy to only give your child an hour of your time each day…Well that isn’t what I mean. If you are a stay at home parent you know that most all of your time is dedicated to your child in some shape or form each day, what I mean is for at least one hour a day put your phone away, turn away any distractions, get down on the floor with them and invest in them and how they want to play. Read books, build blocks, play outside, whatever- but give your child your full attention. I know I enjoy playing with my daughter so much more when I choose to turn away any other distractions and find the joy in the moment of truly spending time with her.

  1. Playing outside is good for the soul

When your kids are whining and you feel crazy, just let everyone loose outside! Go out with them of course unless you have older kids who can keep themselves safe (or go out with the big kids too and have fun). Whether you just sit and watch your kiddo play as you take some deep breaths of fresh outdoor air or get in on the action, there is something magical about getting outside. Blow some bubbles, dig in the dirt, play in the sand, go down the slide for heaven’s sake, don’t take yourself too seriously. I know my daughter and I feel 10x better after spending even just 20 minutes outside. We are able to come back inside with fresh minds as we get on to the next thing.

  1. Playdates for the win!

Invite friends over to play! If you haven’t made good friends yet be the brave one to be the first to invite them over. The kids will hopefully entertain each other and wear each other out while you can bond with a fellow parent who is also in need of some adult conversation. Again, we are not meant to do life alone and being a stay at home parent can sure as heck be lonely. Build friendship, build community, go play at other people’s house, and be brave and invite other people to your home.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Life as a stay at home parent can be enjoyable, so make the most of it! Don’t ever undervalue the incredibly difficult job you have raising your child up to be the best person they can be. You rock!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipes, Vegetarian on
September 17, 2018

Baked Falafel Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

In junior high school I had a friend who would bring a delicious looking homemade lunch every day. I would stare longingly at her lunch as I ate my daily peanut butter and honey sandwich. My mom made a lot of homemade meals, we weren’t deprived, however I was raised in a sandwich for lunch everyday kind of family. One of the things that always caught my eye was when my friend would have pita bread with vegetables and these odd little circular patties. I remember one day I asked what they were and that is the day I learned about falafel. Now I didn’t go on to try falafel for several more years, but once I did, I knew it was something I needed in my life regularly!

Now if you are like me in my junior high days wondering what the heck is falafel, let me tell you! Falafel is a Middle Eastern staple made out of chickpeas, fresh herbs, garlic, spices, and onion. Falafel is filling, full of protein, and is absolutely delicious paired with tzatziki sauce (we will get to that later), or thrown in a pita, or on a salad. Today I am going to teach you how to prepare falafel with a salad and tzatziki dressing. Traditional falafel recipes call for uncooked chickpeas, I prefer to use cooked or canned chickpeas in my falafel because I prefer a more moist falafel.

Now about that Tzatziki dressing- first, for those who have never heard of this or maybe you’ve seen it on a menu or another recipe and you thought how in the world is tzatziki pronounced, here you go: “Tah-see-key.” Tzatziki is a tangy yogurt sauce with cucumber, lemon, and dill. It is so creamy and is typically served with Greek gyros.

My recipe today will combine a green salad with crisp veggies, my baked falafel, drizzled with my tzatziki dressing, and topped with feta. Well enough is enough, let’s get cooking!


Baked falafel salad with tzatziki dressing ingredients:

Green leaf lettuce

Cucumber slices

Grape tomatoes halved

Carrot slivers

Red onion

Falafel (recipe below)

Tzatziki dressing (recipe below)

Feta crumbles

Instructions:

Chop salad vegetables, prepare the baked falafel and tzatziki dressing. Plate everything together, drizzle with tzatziki dressing, and toss on feta if you like.


Time: 20 minutes to prepare

           30 minutes in the oven

Yield: 18 falafels

Falafel Ingredients:

3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans chickpeas drained

½ C fresh parsley leaves

½ C fresh cilantro leaves

1 small yellow onion (chopped in half)

4 small cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

¼ C flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Instructions:

1)      Preheat oven to 375 F.

2)      Combine chickpeas, parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, small yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil together. The easiest way I have found to do this is by using a magic bullet and using the largest cup option. If you do not have a magic bullet use a food processor. Everything combines easiest if you do it in 2-3 batches. If you try to stick all the ingredients in it will either not fit or it will give you a ton of trouble trying to blend it together. Just work with it, you will get everything well combined eventually. If some of the chickpeas and herbs are still a little chunky, no worries.

3)      Once you have the above ingredients combined put it in a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, flour, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper and stir together.

4)      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil it up to prevent sticking. Scoop out 1 ½ inch balls of the falafel dough and roll into a ball, set it on the baking sheet in rows (they do not expand so they can be close together), then flatten each ball slightly with your hand.

5)      Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on 375. Check to make sure they are not getting brown.

Tzatziki Dressing Ingredients:

1 C Greek yogurt

1/4 of a cucumber

Juice of ½ of a lemon

1 tbs dried dill

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1)      Combine all ingredients in magic bullet, blender, or food processor. Enjoy!

 

In Blog, Food on
September 10, 2018

How to eat well on a shoestring budget

If you couldn’t tell already, food is one of my favorite things in the world. Food connects people, food is creative and vibrant, it is comforting and exciting, and trying new foods can bring you a sense of adventure, and so on and so forth. I am a foodie through and through and one of my greatest joys in life is making sure that my little familia is well fed.

Another important thing about me is that I live on a very tight budget. My husband is working on his doctorate degree and also as a research assistant which means we are on a student income. I work part time from home which also brings in some income, but not much at the moment. So how do we eat as well as we do when we actually barely make enough money each month to cover our bases? Today I will share 8 of my best tips with you so that you too can eat well on a tiny budget!

1)      Plan out your grocery list in one week increments

Pick a day to sit down and plan out everything you are going to put into your and your family’s mouth the next week. If that sounds overwhelming to you, it might be the first and second time you do it but in the long run it will save you so much money because you took the time to plan it all out. It works best if you plan to eat the same breakfast all week long, eat the same or similar lunches each day for that week, and cook enough dinner that you can split it between two nights (less time cooking!), and plan to make or buy a few snacks everyone can munch on in between meals if necessary. You can read how I meal plan right HERE.

2)      Buy one specialty item a week

I titled this how to eat well on a shoestring budget because I want you to literally feel like you are eating an exciting variety of foods and trying new things week to week. Each week pick one special or more expensive item to incorporate into your weekly cooking/eating. For instance that could mean a fancy cheese to eat with crackers, or an organic chicken to cook for dinner that will last two nights, or perhaps you want to try an intriguing Asian dish that involves forbidden (or black) rice. These items are a little bit more of a splurge, but if you buy only one item a week like this it makes your cooking more exciting and keeps you on budget.

3)      Don’t be afraid of clearance food items or discounted produce

Just because food or produce is in the clearance or discount section that doesn’t mean it’s gone bad or it is going to make you sick. In fact stores would not knowingly mark an item down that has gone bad to sell to a customer because then they might get in legal trouble. If it’s bad, a store will toss it. I have found specialty olive oils that the store maybe just isn’t selling well marked down from $20 to $5, organic seasonal tomatoes marked down from $5 a pint to $2 because they are getting a little bit soft, and coconut milk yogurts that will have their sell by date coming up within the next couple days for 50 cents instead of $1.78 each. You can find some nice quality, normally expensive items for a great deal if you just look.

4)      Eat seasonally as much as possible

Seasonal items, most specifically produce, is cheaper because there is more of it to go around during its season, thus stores sell it for a cheaper price. For instance zucchini and squash will likely be cheaper in the summer because that is the best season for it to grow. Butternut squash and pumpkin will be cheaper in the fall because that is their growing season. Another great option is to find a local farm/orchard that has open picking hours. It is berry season right now up in the upper peninsula of Michigan and we have berry farms all around where we can go pick a pound of berries for a fourth of what they would cost in the store. It really is so fabulous!

5)      Buy staples in bulk

It is often cheaper to buy basic staples in bulk. The cost upfront will be more but over time you will save a lot of money. Many stores will have not only the price of the product but the price per ounce. For instance a 1 pound bag of rice might cost you $1.48 and a 5 pound bag will cost you $3.32 which means the 1 pound bag costs .0925 cents an ounce and the 5 pound bag costs .0415 cents an ounce. What will save you money in the long run? I buy rice, beans, nuts, honey, and dried fruit in bulk and we save money each year because of this.

6)      Look for the cheapest option and compare the ingredients to the most expensive option

Let’s say you are looking for a can of coconut milk for a recipe. You get to the store and there are four options of canned coconut milk. Is there a difference in ingredients that makes it worth it to buy the more expensive one or will the cheapest one work? Sometimes the cheaper option will include a filler or an undesirable additive, but often times the cheaper option is the exact same thing as the expensive option. Look at labels, look at ingredients, and don’t just assume the more expensive one is better.

7)      Set a budget and ACTUALLY stick to it

Sit down and analyze your income and what you can spend on your groceries each week. Pick a budget that works for you and stick to it. It is as simple as that!

8)      Try to make half of your meals plant based each week

When you eliminate the cost of dairy and meat you end up saving a lot on your grocery bill. If you are open to trying a more plant based diet try planning at least half of your meals to be meat free and dairy free. There are so many wonderful plant based recipes for every meal of the day that you can find online.  Cooking with beans, nuts, vegetables, grains, fruits, and spices is healthiest for you, the environment, and your budget!