Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!

For our non-Jewish readers, it’s the holiday also known as the “Festival of Lights,” when we remember the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s victory over Antiochus. According to the story, victorious Maccabees could only find a small jug of oil that had remained uncontaminated, and although it only contained enough oil to sustain light for one day, it miraculously lasted for eight days, by which time further oil could be obtained. This miracle is commemorated by lighting a special nine-branched candle-holder, called a menorah. One candle is lit anew during each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, until finally, on the eighth night, all the candles are lit. Children receive one gift each night, blessings are recited, games are played, and special foods are eaten. Though the celebration bears some resemblance to the celebration of Christmas and occurs during the same time of year, it is not a Jewish version of Christmas!

Speaking of Christmas- last week, I was in a large national chain store looking for Hanukkah candles. I had searched high and low, all over the store: the “Holiday” (Christmas) section, housewares, greeting cards, and toys….finally I gave up and asked an employee. He led me to a small endcap sandwiched in between the paperbacks and the giftwrap. I did find my candles, but that was about it! Aside from a small felt wall-hanging with Velcro candles and flames (it is going to be so much fun for my toddler to use!), some random menorahs, a few packages of paper napkins, and plates with dreidels on them, there wasn’t much to choose from. Seeing Hanukkah shoved aside like that, while the rest of the store was decked out in so much red and green it could have been the workshop of Mr. Claus himself, would have been almost comical if it hadn’t been so sad!

As a celebrator of both holidays, I want to encourage those who don’t know much about Hanukkah to do some research. There are lots of fun activities and great recipes to try with your kids that can help teach them about the holiday. Help your children build an understanding of people who are different than they are, and make them more culturally aware as future members of society. Latkes, anyone? In fact, make ‘em healthy: I found a recipe for apple latkes at smittenkitchen.com the other day! I’ll share it below.


Apple Latkes

Makes 12 2 to 3-inch latkes

1 pound tart, firm apples such as Granny Smiths (2 large or 3 medium)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 large eggs

Butter (about 2 tablespoons)

Rich plain yogurt, sour cream or crème fraîche for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet inside. Peel and core apples and then grate them, either on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor, on the shredding blade. Transfer to a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth sling and wring out as much juice as you can into a small bowl. Set it aside if you wish to make a dessert sauce with it later.

Transfer grated apple to a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a small dish, whisk flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder and toss with the apples, coating them evenly. Whisk eggs in this small dish until lightly beaten and stir into apple-lemon-flour mixture.

Heat a large skillet to medium with one tablespoon butter. Once it has coated the pan, drop tablespoons full of apple batter in little piles, gently pressing them a bit flatter with a spatula. Fry until they are nicely brown underneath, about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and continue to cook until they are browned and crisp. Drain briefly on paper towels and transfer to preheated oven to keep warm. Add a pat of the remaining butter for each new batch in the pan, and repeat with remaining batter.

 


About the Blogger:

Hi, I’m Carlee! I teach public school in Middle-of-Nowhere, Virginia. My hubby and I have been married for four years and have a daughter who is  two years old. I also give private music lessons and enjoy the arts, animals, and children- but spending time with my beautiful family is my favorite pastime!

Living On Limited Income

My family of four has been living with a limited income for over three years (ever since I had kids) and I would like to think I’ve become a bit of a pro at it. On our single income we have managed to pay off all my medical bill debt, buy a new house, a new car, and take the family on a nice vacation each year. It was hard work, but these days it seems so simple. Prior to becoming a one income family my boyfriend and I were both working full time and had no debt whatsoever.  Daytrips to Seattle and Portland were normal, and buying new clothes for myself with each paycheck was a must.

The hardest thing for us was building a savings account for emergencies.  We are still adding to that fund, but we have a full mortgage payment, and car payment saved up. Most importantly we need some extra money for medical bills. We are not married, so I am not covered on his insurance. Thankfully I’ve only had to go to the doctor once, but for strep throat it was $120, plus another $40 for the prescription!

 I started out couponing when my son was first born. I was completely overwhelmed with all the coupons, and had no clue what I was doing. It took me a year before I mastered it. I’m no “extreme” couponer, but most things I buy are on coupons. I found it easiest to find a few blogs that follow coupon deals and every few days check in on them to see if there are new deals posted. I’ve managed to cut our grocery bill in half this way. We started shopping at the bread outlets, and buy a few loaves at a time and stick them in the freezer. I buy meat when it’s reduced for quick sale and package it up for the freezer when we get home.

One thing that took me a long time to understand was just because it’s a really good deal, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Do my kids need every single little people play set just because I can get them for $5 at a consignment store? No.  I am just now getting rid of all the unnecessary toys in my house. It’s hard! I have made lists of what the kids will need, and how many presents they will get for Christmas, and I stick to it. I shop the Target toy clearance, usually in August, and in late January/early Feb.  I buy clothes a season ahead of time when stores are starting to clear out merchandise for the next season.

Since we have become a one income family my priorities have really changed a lot. No more fancy coffees for me.  If I don’t need new clothes I don’t buy them.  We cut down our cable bill by getting rid of the extra add on package we don’t need.  We switched to a pay as you go cell phone, since we don’t really use it on a regular basis. This has allowed me to use the extra cash on more important things such as: Preschool for my son, Tee Ball, and our family vacations.

Living on a limited income has been a challenge, but I’ve managed to control my spending, and budget the important things in with a little work.  Anyone can do it, it’s hard to get started but I think it’s important.
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About the Blogger:

I’m Renea P. I’m a stay at home mommy to a one year old girl and three year old boy. I love spending time with my family, couponing, crafting, and doing fun activities with my kids.

Breastfeeding — How hard can it be?

That is what I thought after an expectant friend said she was worried about breastfeeding. “It’s how we were designed, what’s to worry about,” I thought. With that (vastly incorrect) outlook, I entered motherhood without considering breastfeeding except that it was “best,” “natural,” and I would do it. Oh, what I have learned!

  • Babies do not always “latch on” and eat – in fact, some, like my son, refuse to latch on but instead scream or, when they finally do latch on, fall asleep.
  • Babies don’t always wake to eat. After my son did not wake to eat his first night at home and into the morning, I called the nurse, who advised bringing him in. Not only had he developed jaundice in the 17 hours since we left the hospital, he had not eaten. Thus, based on the advice of the lactation consultant, I pumped milk, supplemented with formula, and worked on nursing will also finger-feeding him (use a thin tube attached to a feeding syringe filled with formula or breast milk and tape that tube to the finger, which the baby then sucks on to remove milk from the syringe).
  • Finger-feeding to avoid nipple confusion is not a guaranteed success. For the first few weeks, we woke our son every two hours to eat, requiring that we finger-feed him because he would not nurse or wake to eat and we were told giving him a bottle would cause nipple confusion. We now joke that instead of nipple confusion, he got “finger confusion.” For the first couple months, he wanted to suck on someone’s finger instead of a pacifier or bottle – fingers were more comforting/familiar to him.
  • Pumping milk for a baby who won’t nurse is not always possible because the pump does not always stimulate enough milk production.
  • Working with a lactation consultant is helpful and can work, but doesn’t always. The lactation consult gave us great advice, but it just did not work for our son.
  • Sometimes breastfeeding does not work, not for lack of trying or desire – some babies just will not breastfeed and some moms are just unable to do so and that is OKAY.
  • Not nursing when you so badly want to is a tough decision and can cause guilt. I was disappointed, felt guilty for giving up and being unprepared, and often wished I had tried longer. But, after a few weeks of waking my son every two hours, spending twenty minutes unsuccessfully trying to get him to nurse, then finger feeding him, then pumping what (very little) milk I could get so that I could feed him that, with formula, at the next feeding, then starting all over again thirty-forty minutes later plus fitting in trips to the lactation consultant and doctor, I reached my breaking point and, sobbingly, told my husband I could not do this anymore and wanted to just formula feed. He was supportive and we still had to wake our son regularly to eat for a short time, but he had a bottle and life was easier for all of us.
  • Just because one baby won’t nurse, does not mean others won’t. I talked to other moms who had a child who would not nurse and then had other children who nursed just fine. So, when I was pregnant with Baby #2, I decided I wanted to try nursing again after. I prepared myself better this time, but didn’t need to – she latched on twenty minutes after birth, nursed great, and is still nursing twice a day at twenty months. I was also able to return to work and pump three times a day while away from her until she was one, providing her with plenty of milk despite having been unable to pump more than a ½ ounce at a time with my son. Friends, colleagues and even family eye me suspiciously when I say she is still nursing or ask, “When are you going to wean her?” But, I am in no hurry to wean her yet. She seems to nurse less and less each day though and will, I think, wean herself before long.
  • Overall, breastfeeding is a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone who wants to do so and can to breastfeed – but, it is not always easy and it does not always work and that is okay.

On a side note: our son, who would not wake to eat and when awake, often refused to eat, is now five and still does not like to eat – never has. Meals are always a battle and he would choose to go all day without eating if we let him. He is healthy and in the 75th percentile on the charts, he just does not like food (except fruit snacks and suckers). I maintain that this was the problem from day one – it wasn’t that he couldn’t nurse – he just didn’t like to eat.

 

Shawna’s beautiful daughter and son!

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About the Blogger:

Hi! I’m Shawna. I am a married, working mom of two — one boy, one girl, who I love more than I could have every imagined. Parenting has not always been easy for me and my children throw plenty of unexpected surprises, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Fall is for Fashionistas

In the old days… yes, I’m referring to the days before I had children… I spent most of July scouring fashion magazines and prepping for what my fall wardrobe would look like.  Not that I ever once realistically thought that I could pull off the outfit that the twig-like waif modeled there on page 72.  Nor would I dare to show up anywhere with that feather sticking so far up and so high over my head.  They were just examples… photographers and stylists taking creative license.   That was the fun of fall, right?  After months of blazing heat, no make-up, and barely-there clothing, autumnal temperatures gave us a great excuse to pile on the clothes, the accessories, and the make-up.

I worked retail for ten years in my former life, and I loved when the new season’s treasures started shipping in to the store.  There was intense excitement that came in those boxes… the promise of a new season with new adventures.  I was giddy!  The new season first showed up in magazines and on newsstands.  Trickling in a page at a time, and I took it all in, examined every detail.  What could I replicate on a meager retail budget?  What could I use that I already had in my closet and still be on-trend? Now that I have kids, and my life-focus has shifted to them.

So I won’t lie.  When I see a good deal on clothes for my daughter, I can’t pass it up.  A dollar for a skirt, two bucks for a sweater, three bucks for a dress??  I am so there.

Fall 2011 Fashion Inspiration:

  • Stripes/Polka Dots/Argyles/Plaid (and combinations of patterns and colors mixed together)
  • Ruffles/Ribbons/Fabric Flowers/Tulle/Fur
  • Rich Jewel Tones with Neutrals: Eggplant, Teal, Hot Pink, Emerald, Lime, Sapphire, with Grays, Black, Oatmeal, Cream

Sweater dresses in solid colors like cream, brown, lime and eggplant pair perfectly with the Folklife Babylegs collection.  Plaid skirts with a tulle underlay, and ruffle- and ribbon-embellished tees under cardigan sweaters look fabulous with a knee high sock and boot or tights with ballets flats.

Rosette and fabric flower embellishments are making a huge statement this autumn.  Look on almost any craft blog and search for “fabric flower” if you’d like to try to make some yourself.  They are made with scraps of leftover fabric or felt and attached to alligator clips or pins.  Some are made with a few simple stitches, and others are made with a hot glue gun.  They are relatively easy, are fun to make, and look super sweet when made as hair clips and pins or attached to headbands.

In the realm of dresses, the types that you will be seeing a lot of in the coming months are sweater dresses (with and without belts), ballet dresses, denim shirtdresses, and drop-waist knit dresses.  All of these would look great with a pair of BabyLegs!  My daughter will wear her dresses and short skirts throughout the cold weather months with solid-colored tights or leggings and BabyLegs legwarmers layered on top.  You can use the legwarmers stretched completely out (it covers my daughter’s whole leg), or scrunch them up over her calf.  Stretched, they look great with boots, and scrunched, they look great with ballet flats for a dressy look or low canvas sneakers for a sportier look.

Other great top options include faux fur vests, longer-length toggle sweater coats, and cardigans.  Cardigans are fabulous layering options, and come in sweater heft or in a lighter knit.  The longer-length, lighter knit (think tee shirt material) compliments outfit combinations made with skirts and long pants.  My favorite way to combine the knit cardigan is with a ruffle-collar tee shirt underneath with a tutu-skirt over plain leggings.  Keeping the colors solid and prints to a minimum helps the BabyLegs legwarmers to stand out when layered over the leggings!

Another great trend for girls is denim leggings.  They can be paired up with longer length tunic tops, long sweaters or plaid button-front shirts.  They tuck easily into a pair of tall boots, and are light enough to wear under her favorite pair of BabyLegs legwarmers.  Speaking of trends in bottoms, if you’d like her to be really fashion forward, try cuffed twill shorts with a pair of tights!

Some of the top trends in footwear this fall include items like ballet flats (look for plain, shiny, metallic and flower-embellished), Mary Janes, motorcycle boots, Ugg®-style leather boots, and sweater boots.  Try out a pair of BabyLegs socks with Mary Janes, or combine knee-high BabyLegs socks with any boot for a totally adorable and on-trend look!

The other, often overlooked, trend for girls is in accessories.  Add a charm necklace or bracelet as jewelry.  Don’t forget a newsboy hat or crochet hat to top off her look.  Winter hats that will be seen all around this season and into winter are animal-inspired fleece hats.  Dress her up in a owl or cat hat, and get the mittens that match!

One thing that you might want to consider for your budding fashionista is a “signature accessory”.  My daughter LOVES jewelry, and will stop complete strangers to look at their bracelets, necklaces or watch.  Every day, and with every outfit, she wears a strand of pearls.  Not real pearls… these were a one dollar strand that I found around Easter in the Dollar Section.  But to her, they are the real thing.  She can rock those penny pearls like nobody’s business, and is forever getting compliments on how pretty they look on her or how they complete her outfit.  Maybe your daughter’s signature accessory could be a charm necklace or bracelet, a sparkly cap, or maybe her extensive wardrobe of BabyLegs!

 

Listen up, frugal fashionistas!  You will love this tip!

We spent the summer in dresses and skirts.  Most of May was pretty dreary here where we live, so we relied on BabyLegs leg warmers to keep her legs warm.  Once the weather warmed up, we had strappy dresses that were perfect for the blazing heat of summer, and we’d like to keep wearing them and transition them into fall.  One of my best-kept fashion secrets for my daughter is plain tee shirts.  Short sleeve AND long sleeve ones.  One of retail’s best kept secrets is that almost all tee shirts for girls will have a print on the front, or an embellished sleeve or neckline.  When you find a PLAIN tee shirt–no print, no embellishment, no special sleeve– you need to grab it!  And in multiple colors!  We layer the plain tees under dresses, under cardigans, and layer them together!  Put a short sleeve tee over a long sleeve tee, and pair that combination up with a short skirt, some BabyLegs and ballet flats.  Dress up a plain tee by layering under a cardigan, and choose the sleeve length you want based on the weather.  Think it might get hot? Grab the short sleeve.  Looks like rain? Opt for the long sleeve.

BabyLegs Folklife Collection

The best part about dressing your little girl this coming season is that almost anything goes!  You can feel free to mix up stripes with polka dots, or combine lots of bright, bold colors.  Dressing this fall should be about what makes her feel good, what gives her confidence, and what makes her feel cute.  Want her to look even prettier than the models in magazines?  Need a signature accessory that doesn’t cost a thing?  It’s that beautiful smile from your gorgeous little girl!  A smile will mix and match with any combination of tops and bottoms, and will complete every outfit perfectly- no black eyeshadow required!

Grab a sweater and be on the lookout for plain tees!   And smile!  Fall is here and it’s for your little fashionista!

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About the blogger:

Hi everyone!  My name is Jen, and I have a passion for fashion!  I live in super-sunny/super-cloudy Ohio, and have a son AND a daughter, which creates the perfect storm for Babylegs addiction.  I hope that you find the perfect pair of Babylegs to complement your little one’s fashions this season, and that you FALL in love with Babylegs like we have.  :)

From the Teacher’s Desk

It’s Back-to-School time! Who’s excited??

Here in our house, where both parents are also school system employees, Back-to-School is exciting….and stressful, too! Teachers in our county must return two weeks before the start of term, to attend professional development activities and meetings as well as prepare their classrooms for the school year. There’s a lot of prep work that goes into readying for a new year- and usually, we end up taking home more than we’d like to over the long weekend, in order to finish before the first day.

Then when the kids come, we remember why. We remember the feelings. The joy of new clothes. Breaking in those bright white shoes. The smell of new crayons and pencils. Finding your desk and cubby (or locker!). Getting used to the haircut you got just days earlier. Getting lost on your way to class. Seeing friends again. So exhilarating! In fact, the first day of school is one of the myriad reasons why some of us teachers chose our profession. It is a great reminder of childhood wonder.

There are also lots of stressors for families at Back-to-School time. However, here are a few things you can do to help ease the transition.

  • Take your child to Open House. It is so helpful for kids and their teachers to meet each other before the first day. By attending, you help your child become familiar with this new path he or she must walk every morning to get to class, while also letting him or her become acquainted with the surroundings in their new environment. Also, by attending Open House, you facilitate a cordial relationship with the people at your child’s school. Your child sees that you are friendly to one another, which puts him or her at ease and sets a good example. In addition, if you ever need to write a note or make a phone call, the teacher has met you and knows you are a parent who cares about their child’s performance in school.
  • Prepare your child by talking about school. It goes without saying that children transition easier from one activity to the next when they are prepared for it ahead of time. The same is true for life changes. One of the best things you can do with your child is to talk about school before it begins. Ask them if they can remember the name of their teachers, which school supply they like best, which friends they’re most excited to see, etc. Pick out a first-day outfit together. The more your child feels ready and eager for school to start, the easier it will be to transition back into that routine.
  • Plan, plan, plan. I am a teacher, which also makes me a full-time working mom. I have to plan my lessons and my schedule- it’s part of my job. Up until recently, it has been a different story at home! A few weeks ago I decided to start planning breakfasts and dinners for the entire week, every Sunday. I have also started planning my outfits, and my daughter’s, for the week. I just put them all in a hanging canvas closet divider and mornings are a snap. At least one night a week I use my Crock Pot to cook something while I’m not home. I adore Crock Pot night. Coming home to food that’s already cooked is magical! It does make for a little more work on the weekends: you have to get all the laundry done that you will need for the week, plus the planning takes some time, but I find I can get most of it done during my daughter’s nap on Sunday afternoon.

 

So there you have it! Get those book bags all packed, get those outfits picked out, and get those BabyLegs ready! A new school year is about to begin!

 


About the blogger:

Hi, I’m Carlee! I teach public school in Middle-of-Nowhere, Virginia. My hubby and I have been married for four years and have a daughter who is almost two (already!). I also give private music lessons and enjoy the arts, animals, and children- but spending time with my beautiful family is my favorite pastime!