April 1, 2014

Brother Sister Love

I love watching Joel and Millie interact. Sure Millie really doesn't do much but smile at Joel but it is adorable. Joel is really starting to show an interest in Millie and it is really fun. Here are just a few examples:

  • Yesterday we went outside to play while Millie was upstairs taking her morning nap. When we got to the door Joel yelled back inside "bye Millie".
  • Whenever I am buckling Joel in the car and Millie isn't in there he points to her seat and says "Millie?" in a sad tone.
  • He sometimes doesn't know where she is like if she is napping or in her swing and he says "Where are you Millie?"
  • He loves to hold her hand.
  • He loves to lay next to her on the couch or play mat
  • Occasionally he asks to hold her
  • He gives her kisses, or slams his forehead in to hers, however you want to interpet that loving gesture :) 
  • He shares his taggie, drinks, play food, toys with her
  • He wants her to "Come Me" with him when he leaves the room and she doesn't
Tonight was by far the cutest thing that has happaned to date. I left the two of them in his room while I went to get something for bedtime routine out of the bathroom. When I came back he had his favorite library book propped up and was reading to Millie. When I walked in he announced this to me with a HUGE grin on his face. It melted my heart! I can't wait for him to share his love of reading with Millie. I prayer for them to love  and for him to adjust to being a big brother and I think both of those prayers have been answered. I can't wait to watch them continue to develop a relationship with one another.

Here are a few pictures of the two of them together:

March 26, 2014

Mega Update

I am not going to apologize for not updating because that would imply that I ever inteded to actually keep up my blog on a regular basis which I did not because, you see, I try not to make promises I can't keep and that would be one I couldn't keep. Before Joel was born I started a journal, a letter to him. I don't know if he will ever want to read it but I write in it several times a week whenever he does something cute, funny or monumental that I want to keep track of. It serves as his baby book because even I am not organized to keep one of those up to date.

It has been 8 months since I updated this blog..and in that time a lot has changed. Our family has grown, we now have a beautiful baby girl named Millie Kate. I have officially become a stay at home mommy and will soon drive a minivan and I couldn't be more excited about it. I work very part time for a blog called KitchenStewardship.com and starting in June I will be caring for another little baby while his mommy and daddy work.

Joel is now two years old. He is an absolute blast! He is caring, funny, and pretty outgoing. He loves to sing, read books and play baseball. He adores his daddy and is starting to really adore his baby sister.

Millie Kate is now 3 months old! The time with her is just flying by. Phil and I are both trying to be more intentional about having quiet time with her. With a toddler around it can be easy to just lay her on the floor next to us while we play and not spend time interacting with her. She loves to be smiled at and talked to so we are really trying to have those moments with her. Balancing two kids is not easy but we wouldn't change it. We love watching Joel interact with her and so far he has adjusted well to his big brother role.

Phil's job has also changed and he is now the youth minister at our church working with middle and high school students and their parents. It has been different but in a good way. We absolutely love the families we work with and are enjoying coming alongside them in raising their kids to love and serve the Lord.

Here are a few pictures of our family from the last three months. Enjoy!
Introducing Millie Kate born in December 2013

Family of Four

We LOVE coloring!

Trying to get a good Christmas picture with 2 under 2....

Merry Christmas from the Travis Family!

First Smiles :)

Took Joel to the Shedd Aquarium for his 2nd birthday. He loved it!

Joel is 2 - February 2014

Brother and Sister :)

Millie Kate is 3 months old - March 2014

July 23, 2013

Baby Food 101

When the time comes for your baby to start eating pureed foods it can be overwhelming and scary. There are countless websites and products claiming that there way is the right way and many moms give up before they have even begun.

I wanted to share my "baby food plan" with the blogosphere as an encouragement that making your own baby food can be simple and cheap. The first rule of thumb is that you don't need anything fancy. If it sold for making baby food only steer clear. I dislike one use products and the baby food makers/steamers/blenders fit that category. 

First a little bit of background. My husband and I both work. I was blessed to have 3 months off with my son and then I went back to work 20 hours a week from home. My son began eating pureed foods at 5 months old mainly because our garden produce was ready and I wanted to cash in on the excellent nutrients the garden and farmers market cold provide. By the time he was 10 months old he was mostly eating table food. Because of this our pureed food stage was short and therefore very manageable for making my own foods for him to enjoy.

So here are my thoughts on what is needed and how to make baby food making work for your family.

Products Needed:
  • Access to fresh vegetables and fruits (though frozen can be used if needed)
  • vegetable Peeler
  • cutting board 
  • nice knife
  • stockpot with lid
  • stainless steel steamer
  • mini chopper, blender or food process (that you likely already own. We used the Cuisinart mini chopper that we received as a wedding gift. 
  • Something for freezing the baby food in. We used this silicone brownie mold and loved it. I actually registered for it on Amazon and got it for my baby shower!
Foods to Try:
Like I said earlier we were working out of our garden and the produce at the farmer's market so some of these vegetables might seem odd but they are packed with nutrients and my son LOVED them! We also choose to start with vegetables, again because they were in season. We did use some smashed banana but that didn't require much prep.
  • Carrots (white, red and orange)
  • Beets (white and red)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Butternut Squash
  • Peas
Steps to Take: 
For this example I will use carrots but it can be adapted for any vegetable.
  1. Purchase carrots
  2. Peel and rinse with water
  3. Chop into 1inch pieces
  4. Place 1 cup of water in the bottom of the saucepan, steamer basket, and carrots
  5. Add lid and turn the burner on high
  6. Steam for 10-12 minutes
  7. Remove lid and let cool while you enjoy supper or change babies diaper, etc.
  8. Place carrots in to mini chopper and begin pureeing. Use liquid from the saucepan to thin if needed
  9. Pour in to the silicone mold
  10. Freeze for at least 4 hours
  11. Pop out in to ziploc baggies
  12. Place 2 pods in a container with a lid to thaw overnight before use or microwave them in 15 second increments.

April 9, 2013

Inside our grocery trip

Some of you may be asking yourself, what does a 2 week grocery shopping trip look like? Well, I am back to share with you a little bit more about where we shop, what we buy and what we spend.

We live in rural Indiana so the costs of things here are a bit different than they may be in your part of the country, or world but I want to share this so you can get an idea of how this works for a real, somewhat normal, family.Our budget for groceries for one month is $250. I don't usually limit myself to a 2 week budget. As long as the total for all the trips doesn't exceed our budgeted 250 dollars I am happy!

We do our large shop at Meijer in the early evening before the store gets too crowded or early on Saturday morning, depending on what fits with our schedule. We go together as a family so that we make sure we make the most of our time and money. It is helpful to have another list checker, cart-pusher, rule follower there to support you on this trip.

Our Meijer Trip:
Red Onion - 1.12
Sweet Onion (2) - 2.36
Organic Turnips (2) - 1.38
Organic Leek - 0.95
Green Beans (3/4lb.) - 1.24
Organic Swiss Chard - 1.99
Organic Carrots - 2.69
Lemons (3lbs) - 2.79
Broccoli Slaw - 2.00
Cantaloupe - 1.67
Grape Tomatoes - 1.00
Strawberries - 1.67
Parmesan Cheese  - 2.00
Smuckers Fruit Spread - 3.39
Yogurt (3) - 1.80
Coconut Milk - 4.58
Dill Relish - 0.88
Organic Black Beans - 1.29
Chipotle Peppers in Adobe Sauce - 1.99
Chicken Broth (4cups) - 1.99
Celestial Seasons Tea (2) - 2.98 *I had a coupon for $1 off a purchase of two
Jif Natural Peanut Butter - 2.79
Fish Sauce - 2.99

Hand Soap - 4.29
Facial Tissue - 1.35
Facial Tissue - 3.34

TOTAL = $61.24
*Meijer was running a 5% off groceries sale this week, so the total reflects this discount

We usually make a filler trip/sales trip to Payless (Kroger) once during the two week period. 
Payless Trip. They have some great sales occasionally that I don't like to pass up and they are significantly closer to our house.

Our Payless Trip:
Tyson Chicken (6 breasts) - 10.87
Spinach Wraps - 3.69
Ketchup - 1.99 *bc it was on sale and we are out
Frozen Peas - 1.00
Bacon - 3.99
Organic Romaine Lettuce - 1.99
Organic Granny Smith Apple - 0.95
Kiwi(2) - 1.00
Avocado(2) - 2.00
Whole Milk (1/2 gallon) - 1.00
Almond Milk(2) - 5.00
Cream - 2.00
Half Gallon of Ice Cream - 3.99
Newmans Creamy Poppyseed Dressing - 2.50
Tortilla Chips - 2.00

TOTAL = $43.97

Below you will find my menu plan for the two weeks. I plan for 5 dinner meals a week and then we usually eat out once and have supper with friends or at church another night a week. We eat leftovers, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on homemade bread for lunch. I also stock up on Mrs. T's Perogis when they are on sale for quick meals!

Monday - BBQ Chicken, Green Beans and Roasted Potatoes
Tuesday - Bacon Macaroni and Cheese (with Ziti already in the pantry)
Wednesday - Out
Thursday - Egg Salad on Spinach Wraps with Fruit Salad
Friday - Swiss Chard and Bacon Pasta
Saturday - Almost Stuffed Peppers with Black Beans (peppers in freezer, rice from pantry)
Sunday - LIFE group
Monday - Beef Thai Cups (with ground beef from freezer)
Tuesday -  BBQ chicken pizzas with salad
Wednesday - OUT
Thursday - Pottage soup with sweet potato, carrots and Turnips
Friday - Roast with potatoes and veggies
Saturday - Mexican Sweet Potatoes
Sunday - LIFE group

As you can see my menu includes some things that I didn't buy this week. I stock up when there are sales. Take my Payless trip for example, I bought 6 chicken breasts because they were on sale but I am only using 3 of them. The other 3 were shredded in the crockpot and set aside for 3 meals later in the month and one was chopped into pieces and frozen for stir fry or chinese. This will save me from having to buy chicken until it is on sale again. I also have a Roast and ground beef in the freezer that I bought last month when they were on sale. The important part is to stock up on things you use frequently when they are on sale and buy in bulk things you use frequently, like rice, pasta, black beans, etc.

For these two weeks I spent $105 leaving me with $145 left to use on the next two weeks and some stock up items. I hope this helps give you an idea of a doable menu and shopping plan.

March 18, 2013

Our 2 week meal plan

Since having Joel and going back to work, outside the home, our family has had to make some changes. One of those was how often we do our grocery shopping. I LOVE grocery shopping. Like truly love it, so much so that I contemplated started a personal shopper business when I was in college, but it was eating in to our family time so we decided to make some changes. The purpose of our changes was to make meal planning, shopping, and cooking take less time while still keeping our $200 a month grocery budget.

  1. Create a List: We started by brainstorming our favorite meals. I then compiled a list of meals we enjoy and wouldn't mind having in a monthly rotation. We usually don't repeat meals in a month so this works out great. We have about 45 meals on this list that Phil and I each enjoy. 
  2. Stock Up: Once we had that list created I worked to make sure my pantry was full of ingredients needed in these meals. Keeping bulk items on hand such as rice, pasta, tomato sauce, chicken stock, etc. helps us out a lot. We pick a brand we like and buy the largest quantity possible. In the end we definitely save money shopping this way.
  3. Plan: We shop exclusively at Meijer for the bulk of our household and grocery needs. We plan on filler trips to Payless (because it is closer) but overall we save enough money shopping at Meijer that it makes up for the gas and time, it's a 15 minute drive one way. I plan my meals by looking at the weekly ad, what I have in my pantry/freezer already, and what go to meals we haven't eaten yet this month. I plan for 8 dinner meals, and a few lunch items for Joel and Phil. For the most part we eat leftovers for lunches. We also have cereal, oatmeal or pancakes homemade out of the freezer for breakfast. When planning our 8 meals I make sure and include at least one soup, one crock pot meal, and 2 meatless meals. I also try and include at least one double batch meal for the freezer and one muffins/cookies recipe for snacks.
  4. Shop Bi-monthly: I usually end up spending approximately $70 during a 2 week shopping trip. Obviously that number was more when we first started and were just starting our stash but luckily right after Joel was born we had a surplus of Target gift cards and a months worth of grocery money we never spent thanks to the generosity of our church family. This made it so we could stock up without dipping in to our savings. Shopping twice a month has made me more accountable to my meal plan and my budget. I always set aside $30 for dairy, fresh produce and "oops" purchases throughout the month The rest of our budgeted money goes to household and personal items.
I recognize that different things work for different families but I encourage you to try and stick to a monthly meals budget or plan. If you are looking for a way to simplify your grocery budget and shopping experience I encourage you to try bi-monthly planning and shopping! It usually takes a few months to get in to the hang of it so don't give up too quickly.

Here is our two week meal plan:
Monday - Bacon Chard Pasta
Tuesday - Brown Sugar Glaze Pork loin with mashed potatoes (doubled for freezer) and Peas
Wednesday - Kitchen Art Class (Katy), Phil (Out with coupon for bday)
Thursday - Vegetable Soup and French Bread
Friday - Out of Town (Muffins for the road and breakfasts while out)
Saturday - Out of Town
Sunday - Perogis and Peppers
Monday - Thai Cabbage Cups 
Tuesday - Oatmeal Pancakes and Bacon
Wednesday - Out
Thursday - Chicken Chili
Friday -  Homemade Pizza
Saturday - BBQ Pie with corn bread instead of bisquick on top
Sunday - Easter Meal with my parents


March 15, 2013

Our Favorite Toys

This post has been in the works for some time. I found it super helpful when I could get tips from friends, family and online bloggers about the items they found most useful for their babies. Obviously every child is different and will cling to some things over others but for the most part you can't go wrong making sure you have a few of these favorites from the Travis home.

Melissa and Doug Wooden Train: We registered for this to use as decoration in Joel's primary color themed nursery. When he was 4 months old we brought it downstairs to his toy bin and he has loved it ever sense. 

Pull Back Cars: Joel received these as a gift from my parents for Christmas this year. Mom found them on a teacher resource website and was intrigued by their plush bodies and the fact that you can wash them. Once we got them opened up though the real fun began. They are awesome! They fly across the wood floor and send Joel into a fit of giggles. These are definitely an excellent investment for any baby on the go.

Boynton Board Books: Board books in general are awesome and by far Joel's favorite "toy". From a very young age he has enjoyed sitting and turning the pages of books. We especially LOVE Sandra Boynton's books, in particular, "Birthday Monsters" and "Barnyard Dance". For car rides we love the "Philadelphia Chickens" CD which features various jazz artists singing songs that go along with her most popular books.

Oball Rattle: From a young age Joel has enjoyed this rattle. It is easy to grip and it makes noise when you shake it around. The colorful beads kept his attention and he enjoyed being able to play with it himself. Now that he is older he uses it to practice throwing and then chases it as is bounces around the living room. It comes in several colors and is a must have for any baby.

Tails by Matthew Van Fleet: This is Joel's absolute favorite book. One of our friends from church purchased it for him before he was born because of her love of animals. Judging by Joel's love of this book I think he is also going to be an animal lover (Help!). It is very interactive providing flaps to be lifted and textures to be touched. One of its best features though is it's ability to be read on his own because it lies flat when placed on the floor. Any of the Matthew Van Fleet books would be great additions to your home library.

Fisher Price Peek a Block Incrediblock: I purchased a set of alphabet peek a blocks from a garage sale 2 years before Joel was born. I had remembered them from my babysitting days and new that they would be a nice addiction to my growing toy collection. Several kids have gotten use out of them sense then and now Joel plays with them daily. My mom, sister and I found the Incrediblock at a consignment sale last year. I debated it's usefulness and ended up having to send my sister back to get it. We bought it for $20 which is to date the best 20 bucks I have spent on Joel. It is perfect for him to stand up and play with. Both of these items would be an excellent investment for your family. They are also easily washed with soapy water!

March 14, 2013

A Sock Monkey Birthday

As promised, here are the pictures from Joel's sock monkey themed first birthday party. 

The birthday boy with his parents. I found his monkey 1st birthday shirt at Gymboree and it worked great with our theme.

My sister, Krysten, helped me plan and create almost everything you see here. She is an excellent party planner and this party would not have been nearly as awesome if it was just me planning. 
This chalkboard sign displayed facts about out little monkey. It was a cute way to share some of his favorite things with our guests.

Guests were asked to leave a note for Joel in his memory box. 

This adorable pendant banner made by Krysten hung between the kitchen and living room.

 Drink station! We had punch, iced water, creme soda and root beer.

The Spred! Popcorn, Bananas, Neapolitan cupcakes, pretzel rods, 
licorice, fruit kabobs and tootsie rolls. YUM!

We were surprised but Joel genuinely enjoyed opening each of his presents. We were so blessed with several fun items for Joel to play with and wear. 

We sang happy birthday and let Joel "blow" out his candle. He opted for blueberries as his birthday treat after trying not enjoying his birthday cupcake or frosting.

 However, he did LOVE the birthday balloons and spent most of the time in his chair playing with them. Who knew fun could be so cheap! $3 for those balloons!