December Day 20: Play

December 20: I am thankful that both Hannah and Violet are very good at playing by themselves. Hannah can now create elaborate stories with dolls or Little People, and Violet loves scooting around the playroom from one activity to the next.
I’m not sure what the storyline was here, but I found this set up.

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I’m excited to see what will happen when Violet is more mobile and verbal and they can play together more. Right now, Hannah enjoys cooking pretend meals for Violet and always emphasizes that every item is gluten free.
Most other playtime interaction consists of taking each other’s toys and getting mad about it. I made up the phrase, “Girls who take away don’t get to play.” as a warning before timeout for toy stealing. Grrrr. Maybe they’ll grow out of selfishness when I do. ;)

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December Day 19: Words

December 19: With two little girls, there are a lot of words in our house.
Violet, at 14 months, says several words: Daddy, Hannah, kitty, dog, snack, ball, please, juice, jacket, socks, hi, baby, cookie, cheers. Of course, these are not necessarily traditionally pronounced, but they are consistent and recognizable.
Hannah talks a lot and is starting to think about the sounds in words. Today, we were sitting in the Chickfila drive-thru line, and I was explaining why we wouldn’t eat inside the restaurant.

Me: There are a lot of barf germs in Austin right now, so we don’t want to catch any barf germs from some kids at Chickfila.
Hannah: Are there a lot of germs in Germany?
Me: Um, probably some… Why?
Hannah: Because it’s called GERMany.

Harharhar. Put that girl to work for Laffy Taffy.

December Day 18: Beef and veggie soup

December 18: For a long time, Hannah wouldn’t eat soup. Recently, she has decided it is okay. This is the recipe that turned her around, and she requests it! Violet loves it as well, so I’ve been making it about every other week lately. Love a meal that’s healthy, easy and a hit with everyone!
This is adapted from a recipe I got from my mom. I simplified the ingredient list, and I think it tastes just the same as the original.

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Beef and vegetable soup

1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (12-16 oz)
1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 onion, diced
1 carton beef stock (32 oz)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
4 Tbs. butter
1/4 c. flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Put first six ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. An hour before serving, make a roux with the butter and flour and stir into soup. Then cook on high for another hour to thicken.

Conventional ingredients: around $8, $1/serving
With “upgraded” ingredients: around $12 (natural beef, organic veggies, organic beef stock), $1.50/serving

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(I made this without the roux to be gluten-free)

December Day 17: Grocery day

December 17: Off to HEB, the best grocery store ever. I’m a firm believer in menu planning and shopping with a list, and I think this is even more important with kids! Some things end up in our cart that aren’t on the list, like when we walked in and they had pineapples on sale for 98 cents!
Here’s what we ended up with. In two pictures because I left out a few things in the first one.

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On the menu soon:
– beef and veggie soup (the girls’ very favorite meal)
– chicken nuggets (homemade) with spaghetti squash and roasted potatoes
– pizza bread
– spaghetti and meatballs
– shredded pork tacos with black beans
– crustless quiche with hash browns
– broccoli cheese soup
And I want to make puppy chow at some point for a fun treat; I can’t remember the last time I had puppy chow! Many ingredients for those meals are already in my pantry or freezer.
I do buy organic versions of many products. In this trip, I calculated that I spent an extra $7 on organic and hormone-free products over the conventional versions. I also usually buy cage-free eggs, but they were out. That much extra per week does add up over a year, but broken down per serving we feel it is worth it.
The average family spends $70 a month on cable TV. We don’t have cable, we’d rather spend extra money on food upgrades. I also found an interesting chart with average weekly grocery expenditures in the US. For our family, the thrifty plan has us at $124.20. Our average, including when we have local grass-fed beef, is under $100. Today’s trip was well below that.
I’m glad to have a family of pretty easy eaters. Hannah goes through random picky phases, and there was the whole non-dairy and now gluten-free thing, but, for the most part, cooking and eating in this house is an enjoyable experience.

December Day 16: Mommy gets out

December 16: Tonight was the MOPS steering team Christmas party. Pajama party with white elephant gift exchange – so fun! I am so thankful for the awesome ladies on this team. I have never been part of a group where everyone is so capable, responsible, creative, hard-working and fun to be around. There is no weak link.
When I put on my pajamas to leave the house, Hannah was quite confused. Then she got really excited at the idea of a pajama party. I tried to drive really carefully, because I did not want to get in an accident or be pulled over while wearing my pajamas!
My fabulous white elephant prize…

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Redneck stemware! And a bonus bellybutton lint brush. Score! And some fuzzy socks from our sweet mentor mom.
Brett got his magic neck shot at the doctor today, so he should be feeling much better. Since he took care of the monkeys while I was out partying tonight, I’ll let him drink out of my new fancy cup if he wants. ;)

December Day 15: Still recuperating

December 15: We stayed home from church today, so I didn’t try my pre-selected outfit plan. No one was back to 100%, and the stomach flu is going around. So we opted to take an extra recuperation day and try not to catch the barf bug. Though Hannah will be back to preschool, aka germland, tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes.
I got a gluten-free cookie mix at HEB, and we whipped that up this afternoon. We’ve been eating cookies in secret because we feel bad that Violet can’t have them. I really don’t want to buy all the different flours and stuff needed for gluten-free baking, so my strategy has been to get mixes and make a bunch then freeze them to pull out single servings when needed. I’ve done this for pancakes, mini muffins and now cookies.

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You can see Violet was soooo tired, but she was chowing down that cookie! It made her incredibly happy to have a “tootay.” Now there’s a whole bag-ful in the freezer for whenever. :)

December Day 14: Books and bacon

December 14: Violet likes to look at books. And pull them all off the shelf. A favorite baby game.

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We had some bacon today, and I thought I’d share my bacon strategy. If I cook bacon as part of a meal, like with eggs, we usually use half the package. For the rest of the package, I take off 2-3 strips at a time and fold them over together then lay them flat in a freezer bag.

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Then I freeze them flat, and they’re super convenient anytime I need a little bacon. You can get a lot of flavor from two strips of bacon; I use them for potato soup, quiche, sandwiches, spinach and beans. So this works well for me – lots of bacon flavor on hand, convenient portioning and efficient storage.