Our Favorite Board Games

Do you love board games?  Well, I do!  I am known to keep Bananagrams in my purse and whip it out appropriate inappropriate times during coffee dates or when waiting for a meal at a restaurant.  Mr. Bird and I also sometimes relax after Little Bird goes to bed with a quick game.  And I love hosting game nights!  If you are looking for some good board games, here is a list of some of our favorites!

Bananagrams! Similar to scrabble, but speed and flexibility are key to mastering this word game.  Great for 2 players, but you can play with up to 4.

Dixit  A family game for kids ages 8+.  A low-key story picture guessing game.  For 3-6 players.This is a favorite of ours, and we have yet to find friends or family who doesn’t enjoy it.

Forbidden Island  A collaborative everybody wins together or loses together game. Another low key game, however, this one involves thinking and strategy planning.  For ages 10+ and 2-4 players.

Ticket to Ride A game similar to Monopoly in which there can be multiple strategies to succeed.   Using cards/tickets you will build your train from destination to destination. A great game for 2-5 players and my guess is age 10+

Anomia  I have friends who LOVE this game, and friends that hate this game!  It is a fast-paced, word/symbol association game.  I think its one of those games that if you think a certain way you enjoy it, and if you don’t, you hate it.  I for one, LOVE IT!  For 3-6 players.

Sushi Go A quick, fun and quirky card game where you try to combine cards to create sushi combinations for points.  It’s a quick play.  Ages 8+ for 2-5 players.

Last Word!  This is a super fun party game!  It is recommended for ages 14+ and 2-8 players (although you can play with ANY number of players if you have coins or tokens to use as score pieces).  This is similar to a hot potato word game.  Fun, easy and great for a crowd!


What are your favorite games?

 

What I spent and What we Ate


 

hugs-were-inventedto-let-people-know-youlove-them-withouthaving-to-say-anything

goal budget is $125/week or $500/month – Monthly Running total currently: $121.12

Fresh Direct : 58.76
Produce Club : 2.00
Aldi : 60.36
weekly total:  $121.12
Underbudget (barely).  I was a little surprised by this: I didn’t buy a ton of food or do a ton of stocking up. I think the culprit is FreshDirect.  FreshDirect is super convenient (hello online grocery shopping and delivery to my door!), but I definitely pay a premium for it.  

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I snapped this photo of our cart!  Pretty basic shopping trip.  I picked up some jars of tomato sauce for a quick pasta night if needed, as well as stocking up on some chicken broth (I used up all of my homemade broth).  I try not to eat a ton of bread/carbs, but I have been eyeing the organic breads that our Aldi recently started carrying, so I bought a loaf and might have toast this week for breakfast.  You might also spy in the cart a tub of frozen eclairs.  We go to a small group every Sunday and there are always snacks, and we have never brought anything, so for $5 an easy treat to share with our friends.  I also bought pack of Kerrygold butter.  Total impulse buy, but I keep seeing ads for it on Top Chef, so I wanted to try it for myself.  I’ll let you know if my butter and toast is exceptional!
Saturday 2/25
Dinner |homemade white broccoli and sausage pizza
Sunday 2/26
Dinner | chicken won ton soup and salad
Monday 2/27
Dinner | chicken teriyaki
Tuesday 2/28
Dinner | turkey meatloaves and potatoes
Wednesday 3/1
Dinner | leftover turkey meatloaves
Thursday 3/2
Dinner | takeout pizza
Friday 3/3
Dinner | planning on making salmon and rice
**I am extremely pleased that we only did 1 night of takeout.  It was unplanned, but definitely nice and needed!  My work hours were longer than I expected this week, which made coming home to cook dinner more challenging.  I had actually made the turkey meatloaves Monday night and all we had to do was reheat them. So really I wasn’t able to cook dinner any day but Monday.  I am thinking this is going to need to be a normal thing going forward.
Any suggestions for recipes that reheat well?
What did you eat this week?

DIY Magnesium Lotion Stick (with essential oils)

DIY essential oil magnesium lotion stick
Ok, so why magnesium in a lotion stick.  I started using a magnesium spray supplement to help regulate my sleep better.  I had read that it helps to promote a more restful sleep.  I ordered this spray from Amazon initially, but then realized I could make my own spray and save money with magnesium flakes.
I was looking for a “gentler” way to give LittleBird magnesium.  Magnesium spray can sometimes sting when you are first getting started with it.  I had seen recipes for magnesium lotion, but sometimes I don’t like to get my hands messy, and I have been really loving my lotion sticks, so I decided to come up with a magnesium lotion stick!
Oh, and one more benefit of magnesium!  There is a growing body of research that suggests that morning sickness is a result of magnesium deficiency.  As someone who was throwing up for 30+ weeks, I will try ANYthing, ANYTHING to prevent this from happening in any future pregnancies.
WellnessMama has a ton of information on Magnesium as does Dr Axe.  Check them out if you want more information about magnesium.  I tend to take all information from their sites with a grain of salt and balance it with my own research and knowledge.  
Magnesium Lotion Stick Recipe
ingredients:
1/8 cup magnesium flakes (i use these)
2 1/2 teaspoons boiling filtered water
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup beeswax
2 tablespoons mango butter
5 drops of vitamin E oil
20-30 drops of essential oils (I used YL gentle baby blend, but any relaxing blend will work)
2- 2 oz tubes (like these from amazon)
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Measure out the magnesium flakes in a small container.  Add the boiling water and stir until magnesium flakes start to dissolve.  Additional heat may be needed to fully dissolve the magnesium (i put mine in the microwave for 15 seconds).  Add the beeswax to a glass jar submerged in a pot of water.  Or place in a double boiler.  Add the magnesium mixture and heat until the beeswax is melted.  Measure out and add the coconut oil to the magnesium mixture.  Then add your vitamin E and essential oils.  Pour into your tubes and cool to set.
Below are some pictures of my process!
Dissolving the magnesiums
Dissolving the magnesium
melting in my "double boiler"
melting in my “double boiler”
The finished product-cooling
The finished product-cooling

 

Mission to Minimalize | update #2

Mission to minimalize

So actually ended up starting my new full time job this week!  I found out pretty last minute my  date was moving up 2 weeks.  Oh boy was it a scramble to get myself ready.  I had some shopping for work attire that I needed to do, and wanted to stock up on some household essentials as well as finishing my decluttering goals!  There is still a lot left, which I guess I will squeeze into evenings and weekends.  But here is our progress so far

Here is the progress so far:

Downstairs  

Living Room

Dining Room

Foyer

Kitchen

half bathroom 

Upstairs

Master Bedroom | Let me start out by saying our “master” bedroom is tiny!  It has room for 1 queen bed, 2 very  small nightstands and 1 mid-sized dresser.  And that’s it.  So this room constantly feels “cluttered” in my opinion, but I think its just too small for a “master”.  The largest bedroom in the house has outdated drop ceilings and old carpeting. Our goal is to re-do that room this year and turn it into a master.  I do think I did a great job of cleaning out and organizing our clothes.  I got rid of almost 2 trash bags full of unworn and old clothes.  I kon-marie’d our dresser and folded the clothes sideways instead of in stacks.   At first I didn’t like it, but I think it has been easier for me to see what is in my dresser.  It also has made it more obvious to me what clothes I am not wearing.

Bathroom | I guess I need to call this more of a declutter than a true cleanout/minimalizing.  But I did get a lot of crap stuff back in it’s place and organized the medicine cabinets and shelves.

Little Bird’s Room | This was not super time consuming and but definitely emotionally draining.  It’s so clear when I shift out his wardrobe that he is growing up so fast.  I love the toddler he has become, but I miss that squishy baby.

Since the season are about to change, I was able to pack up some of the winter stuff that he had outgrown and switch in some spring clothes (mostly hand-me downs and gifts from my in-laws).  I also organized his bookshelf and packed up some of the books either he is not interested in, or that my husband and I are sick of reading.

Little Bird loves to bring some of his favorite toys to bed with him, so I sorted through a bunch of trucks, care and trains and returned them to their proper home.  I also sorted through his cloth diapers and straightened that area up, packed up a few things we don’t use anymore to make room for pull ups and underwear!

Guest Room

PlayRoom/office/misc

3rd Floor

Living Room | I went through and packed up some of the toys that Little Bird no longer plays with.  I sorted them to save and packed some up to give away.  We have a large entertainment unit/storage that is mostly empty!  I want to figure out the best way to store some toys in there so we can lessen the toys that are out in the open.
Office 

 

Do you have any minimizing/organizing goals?  Have you made any progress?

 

See my other mission to minimalize posts
Mission to Minimalize
Mission to Minimalize | update!

5 frugal things

5-frugal-things

 

Here is a quick list of the 5 frugal things I’ve done in the past few weeks

  1. Made homemade laundry detergent from soap nuts.  I made a batch of laundry soap this week.  I make enough to last about 2 weeks, so we should be good for a while.  See my post about soap nuts here.  I spend about $10-15 dollars on a pound of soap nuts and this will last me at least 6 months!
  2. Making my own breadcrumbs.  I have always used store-bought Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, which although cheap, making homemade breadcrumbs from leftover/stale bread is even better!  I don’t know why I never thought of doing this before, or even why I am so surprised they work!  I just take old bread odds and ends and either toast them in my oven or the toaster and then pulse them a few times in my food processor.  I store them in the freezer.
  3. No paper towels or paper napkins!  This isn’t specifically something that I have done in the past few weeks.  In fact, we have been paper-free in our kitchen for 5 years now!  I was reminded how frugal this is when I was picking up some bulk items at BJs and saw the prices of paper towels and napkins.  Thankful for our large stash of cloth dish towels, dish cloths and cloth napkins.
  4. Double checking a coupon at the dept store.  OK, so not super frugal because I used the coupon on an expensive pair of shoes.  But when I doubled checked my coupon and details, I was able to get an additional 20% off that the cashier missed.
  5.  Pantry eating.  We were able to make quite a few meals this past week from items in our pantry.  I am always happy to use of ingredients we have stored in the pantry and save some money on our grocery bill.

What frugal things have you done this week?

My Favorite Lasagna

I have been making lasagnas for almost 20 years!  It has always been one of my favorite foods.  And as an elementary schooler, I would make lasagnas and give them as gifts to my extended family for Christmas gifts.  So needless to say, I have eaten a lot, and made a lot of lasagnas over the years.  One thing that I have learned is that I like a “lighter” cheese filling in my lasagna.  Some lasagnas call for an egg/cheese/ricotta mixture but I find this too heavy and I have discovered a better way!

My favorite lasagna recipe calls for homemade béchamel instead of ricotta and a homemade bolognese sauce.  Ooh, so good, but so time-consuming.  I find that mixing a little milk with the ricotta makes a thinner and creamier filling, somewhat resembling the bechamel (i say that very loosely though).  This is a quick simple recipe that I can whip together in under 30 minutes of prep time.  It refrigerates well and is always great for leftovers.
 
Ingredients
2 jars tomato and basil tomato sauce/ marinara sauce**
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup whole milk
2-3 gloves minced garlic
1 lb cooked ground Italian sausage (i use sweet Italian, but if you like spice- hot Italian sausage is delicious!)
1 package “oven ready” lasagna noodles (you can use traditional noodles, but let’s be real, these oven-ready noodles are fast and easy)
salt and pepper
**use a sauce that you know and love.  A cheap, poor flavored sauce can ruin this dish.
Instructions:
Combine the ricotta cheese, milk, parmesan cheese and garlic (you can also throw in some italian seasoning if you want).  Combine 1 jar of the tomato sauce with the cooked ground sausage.
Grease a 9×13 pan.  Pour about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the “plain” tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Add 1 layer of noodles.  3 noodles fit with room to spare (they expand as they bake).  Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture and then top with 1/3 of the sausage and sauce mixture then top with another layer of noodles.  Repeat the layering until you run out.  You should end with a top layer of noodles.  Next dump the remaining jar of sauce on top of the top noodles.  Spread over- you don’t want any exposed noodles.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes add the shredded cheese and continue cooking another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and then let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Do you guys have any tried and true recipes?

What I spent and What we Ate


 

hugs-were-inventedto-let-people-know-youlove-them-withouthaving-to-say-anything

goal budget is $125/week or $500/month – Monthly Running total currently: $436.39

Produce Club $2.00
Aldi $52.43
vacation Stop and Shop: $65
total= $119.43
Underbudget (barely).  I debated whether or not to take the stop and shop groceries out of our grocery budget or our vacation budget.  But since we have been doing so well on groceries this month, I decided to just lump it in with groceries.  We did a lot of pantry and leftover eating this week.  No new exciting dishes, just some old favorites.

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(I just snapped this quick picture of my groceries on the conveyer belt.  We have been enjoying the $1.99 bagged salads as quick lunches when we don’t have leftovers.  Aldi also had pancetta for $2.49, which is a steal compared to what I pay elsewhere so I stocked up and bought 4 packages.  They last about 3-4 months in the fridge, and much longer in the freezer.  Little Bird has been loving those danimals yogurt smoothies, and although I don’t love the $ or the sugar content, it is a nice bribe to get him to eat his dinner (and hey, there are worse things to bribe with than a yogurt smoothie right?!).

Saturday 2/18
Dinner | vacation  (homemade lasagna, broccoli and garlic bread)
Sunday 2/19
Dinner | fried rice and teriyaki chicken (freezer/pantry)
Monday 2/20
Dinner | fish cakes (freezer) and root vegetable casserole
Tuesday 2/221 
Dinner | frozen pizza
Wednesday 2/22
Dinner | risotto
Thursday 2/23
Dinner | leftovers and bagels (totally random, but better than take out!)
Friday 2/24
Dinner | homemade white pizza

Mission to Minimalize | update!

Mission to minimalize

So this last week came with a huge job update for me.  I have been in a holding pattern for the past few months waiting to start my new full time job.  I just found out a hopefully official start date of mid-march.  The race is on to get decrease our posessions, clutter and stress in just 2-3 weeks.

Here is the progress so far:

Downstairs
Living Room
Dining Room
Foyer
Kitchen
half bathroom | although probably the smallest room in our house, and possibly the easiest.  I am glad this one is done.  I went through the medicine cabinet and threw out old expired medications.  I sorted through my cosmetics and threw away and gave away some of the items I don’t use.  I also went through some of the lotions and soaps and decided what to keep downstairs and moved some to the upstairs bathroom so we can remember to use it up.

Upstairs
Master Bedroom
Little Bird’s Room
Guest Room
PlayRoom/office/misc

3rd Floor
Living Room
Office This was tackled by Mr. Bird!  Woohoo.  We have been working on painting and rearranging the 3rd floor.  He took it upon himself to organize and consolidate the office area up there.  Glad this one is done.  I hate organizing office stuff.

 

Do you have any minimizing/organizing goals?  Have you made any progress?

A weekend get away

weekend getaway

We decided to take advantage of the President’s Day holiday and meet my in-laws for a 2 night trip in Hudson Valley NY.  We chose this location because it is halfway between Philly (where we live) and Boston (where they are).  The 6+ hour drive between Philly and Boston is long and exhausting for us with ToddlerBird. I splurged and got us an Airbnb rental half way for us!  We decided to take Friday off, and arrive Friday morning, stay 2 nights and head home Sunday morning.

Lodging:
I was able to find us a great 2 bedroom apartment right on the Hudson River with beautiful views for $150 a night.  I wanted to make sure we had a nice place to stay so that if the weather was bad, we were all still comfortable.  $150 is definitely at the top of what I normally pay for an Airbnb (but we typically only need a 1 bedroom).  This rental was definitely a risk, because we were the first people to book it, so there were no reviews.  But I e-mailed back and forth with the host a few times, and felt confident enough to give it a try.
I also knew that I wanted to try to cook some meals at the rental so we wouldn’t have to eat out as much.  This is for 2 reasons: eating out with a toddler is stressful and not fun for us, and eating in saves money!  Win- win!
Entertainment
I was hoping that the rental would be nice enough that we wouldn’t have to look for ways to get out.  I was right!  The view of the Hudson river was great entertainment.  Lots of trains passing by, boats and barges floating along and not to mention the view itself!  Our hosts also had a bird feeder out, and there were tons of birds for us to watch while relaxing in the living room.My mother in law is a jewelry maker/beader.  I had been wanting to make essential oil bracelets with lava beads.  I bought some beads in advance and asked her to bring some additional supplies.  **I will post more about these DIY bracelets soon!  We also had fun playing some board games (Bananagrams and Forbidden Island)
For my in-laws, seeing ToddlerBird is the highlight of any trip, they love to read, play and joke around with him.  Because of this, we didn’t need much entertainment.  And Mr. Bird and I certainly enjoyed some down time with extra hands for Toddler Bird.

I had researched a few outing options for us on TripAdvisor, in case we were looking for something to do.  We decided to visit George Washington’s Headquarters.  It ended up being free because they had a large George Washington’s Birthday Celebration.  There were reenactors, music and craft activities.

Food
I didn’t do a full menu planning because I wanted us to be able to be flexible, and I also knew that my in-laws would be more than happy to provide takeout!  Mr. Bird and  I knew that we wanted to capitalize on some free babysitting so we planned to eat 1 or 2 meals out on our own.  I decided to bring some food from home to limit what we would have to buy.  I brought some coffee, produce, milk, half and half, freezer zucchini bread and a box of mac and cheese.  I also had a hunch I wanted to make a lasagna, so I brought a 9×13 pan.

 I could have gone shopping at Aldi at home and brought all my food with us, which would have definitely saved money, but since I wasn’t totally sure of the kitchen situation in the rental I decided against it.  In the end, even a more expensive grocery store was cheaper, healthier and more delicious than a restaurant!
Here is our weekend meal recap:
 
Friday Morning: Panera Breakfast on the road : $15
Friday Lunch: $40 (date!)
Friday Dinner: Chinese take out (in-law’s treat)
Saturday Breakfast: at home (fruit, zucchini bread and coffee)
Saturday Lunch: Coldcut sandwiches and chips
Saturday Coffee date: $15 
Saturday Dinner: Lasagna, broccoli and garlic bread
Sunday Breakfast: Breakfast out at a Diner (in-law’s treat)
What ways do you save money when you go on vacation?
Interested in booking your next vacation with airbnb, use this link and you will get a $40 credit (I will get a $20 credit if you book)

DIY Essential Oil Lotion Stick

essential-oil-lotion-stick
INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 2 tablespoons mango butter
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 30-40 drops of essential oils
  • 2 ounce plastic tubes (i purchased mine from plant therapy)
img_2409
Melt coconut oil and beeswax. I melt in a glass container in the microwave or you can use a double boiler method.  If using the microwave heat for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat.  Be cautious, though, I have heard that beeswax can be explosive in the microwave.   Add mango butter and almond oil.  Remelt if needed.  Next add you essential oils.  Pour into your tubes and cool to set.
This is my favorite way to make essential oil lotion for my tiny!  Young Living oils are by far my favorite.  Their scents and therapeutic benefits are unmatched.  However, there is a lot of discussion about the safety of oils and kids.  Plant Therapy has taken a great stance on this and created a “Kids Safe” line.  Honestly, because of this, I only use their oils for little bird, with the exception of YoungLiving’s Gentle Baby Blend.  [*young living recently released a 3 set of “kids safe” essential oils.]
I make this recipe with Plant Therapy’s  “Sniffle Stopper” blend to help with cold and allergies symptoms.  The whole family uses this one.  It’s like Vicks in a stick and all natural!  It has even helped Mr. Bird to stop snoring.
One of my other favorite blends is to use a lavender or gentle baby blend for a sleepy time lotion.  Or you could add a floral scent to have it act as a perfume.  This recipe is adaptable and can be modified to suit any needs!
Want more essential oil recipes?  Head over here.