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I’m usually not one for reviewing, much less promoting apps, but when I find one that actually does make life easier (instead of just helping me to waste more time), I’d like to let others know about it. In this case, the app I’m about to review hasn’t just made life easier, but helped me to parent more effectively. It has helped my kids learn healthy habits and be accountable. All that for a mere $2.99? Larry and I normally never buy any apps, but I think this one was a $3 well spent.

For awhile I’ve tried to get my kids, especially my older son, to regularly do their chores. We’ve tried all kinds of ways – physical chore charts with stickers, rewards, penny jars. Those things would work for a week or so, but eventually the novelty would wear off, and I have to confess I wasn’t that good at consistently adhering to whatever system I had started. So in the end the system would go out the window and I would go back to nagging them everyday and they would go back to ignoring me.

Well, a few months ago, Larry, believing that there’s an app for everything, did some research and downloaded some chore chart apps. There are so many out there, but the one he eventually decided on was Chore Pad. It’s relatively easy to use and you can customize chores for each child. There’s a simple reward system of checks and stars and you can decide what rewards they get. My kids love it. We’ve been using it for a few months and the novelty still hasn’t worn off. They have been consistently making their beds, folding their pajamas, cleaning their room, etc. with much less nagging from me. And I don’t have to worry about printing out anything or getting any stickers or pennies, all I have to do is whip out my ipad and have them check off their chores themselves. It has become part of our nightly ritual and both boys will often remind me if I forget to do their chore chart before going to bed.

I’ll walk you through it real quick –

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Each child gets his own page that he can customize. My boys decided to go with the snowflake theme for the winter.

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Then you assign chores for each child and how often they must be done. This is CC’s and…

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…this is Turner’s.

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You can also decide how many stars each chore is worth. The kids use their stars for payouts. So far the reward that has worked to motivate them are minutes for playing video games. CC also has the option of converting his stars to money, which Larry keeps track of in a different piggy bank app.

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As they accumulate checks, they also earn trophies for their virtual trophy shelf. There’s also the option to give them a bonus on each check, if they did a really exceptional job, or a minus, if they did their chore but not such a good job.

We also included a box for daily behavior which we check off at the end of the day if they behaved well. Many times if they’re misbehaving, all we have to do is threaten not give them their behavior check and they’ll change their tune right away.

Anyways, this app has worked well for us so far. It’s so easy even 3-year olds and non-tech savvy mamas like me can figure it out.

What apps have you found useful for parenting? Please share!

 

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I know I would normally be writing my Truth Tuesday post today, but in all honesty, I got nothing. For this week the profoundest truth I can share with you all is that sometimes what gets me through the day is calling on the Lord and lots of chocolate. I should probably do more of the former and eat less of the latter. Anyhoo, check back next Tuesday and maybe I’ll have something deeper to offer you.

But I still wanted to post today…so I thought I’d start with something I’d been wanting to add to this blog for awhile now – recipes! I know, I know, it’s not like there aren’t enough recipes out there on the web already and I’m definitely not a gourmet cook by any standard – but I thought it would be fun anyway. If anything it gives me a place to store and archive all the different things I’ve made.

When it comes to cooking, my philosophy is simple – easy, convenient, and kid-friendly. I like recipes that don’t involve running all over the place for hard to find ingredients, is easy to follow when you have two little kids underfoot in the kitchen, and good enough to elicit a “Mommy, this is yummy” from a toddler. So I’m excited to share some of the recipes I’ve developed over the years that have passed this test.

Every Monday for about a year now, I’ve participated in a dinner co-op with two of my neighbors. We do a three week rotation where each week one mom makes dinner for all three families. At about 6pm, we report with our empty pyrexes to the designated cook’s house, take our portion and bring it home to our waiting hungry families. Brilliant idea, isn’t it? I wish I could do this for every night of the week.

Last night was my night to cook for the co-op and usually I plan ahead so that I have everything I need by Sunday night. That didn’t happen this week and I was panicking Monday morning when I realized that I probably wouldn’t have time to run to the store since CC was off from school and I had offered to babysit his friend for the morning. So I tried Instacart for the first time. Instacart is a basically personal grocery shopping service. It took me about 15 minutes to download the app, create an account, make a shopping list and schedule a time for delivery. So while I was at the park with the kids, some nice lady was buying my groceries at Costco and delivered them to my door while the boys were napping. Pretty sweet, I tell you. I don’t think I would use it for my regular shopping, but the service is definitely nice to have on those days when you just can’t make it out to the store. It’s worth checking out if Instacart is available in your area.

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My Instacart delivery

Oh yeah, so on to the recipe…last night I decided to make my Tried and True Turkey Meat loaf. Doesn’t sound that exciting, but to me meat loaf is comfort food and my kids love it. I’ve tried it with ground beef and mixtures of ground beef and pork, but I still prefer ground turkey because the meat loaf doesn’t come out as greasy.

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CC always insists on “helping” in the kitchen. Here he is mixing and taste testing the glaze.

Tried and True Turkey Meat Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or oatmeal (I use 1/4 cup of each)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbs worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbs brown sugar

Cooking instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Shape into a loaf and place in baking pan.
  4. Put into oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Mix all ingredients for glaze in a small bowl.
  6. After 30 minutes, take out meat loaf, drain any excess liquid, and brush the glaze generously over the top.
  7. Place back in oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until done.

For our three families, I doubled this recipe and shaped them into three loaves. It was super easy and delicious, especially served with a side of rosemary roasted potatoes and steamed baby carrots. Bon Apetit!

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About a month ago I went through a little bit of a wardrobe crisis and put out an impassioned plea for help. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends. Some offered to take me shopping or babysit so I could go shopping, some gave me their hand-me-downs (which I have no problems taking), and one friend went out and actually bought me a pair of pants. Anyways, I am quite touched to say the least that you all care so much about making sure I don’t feel and look frumpy.

All your support has motivated me to purge my closet. It felt so good to finally get rid of clothes I’ve been hanging on to for years, but never wear. It has also encouraged me to do something I’ve always wanted to try – Stitch Fix. In case you don’t know what Stitch Fix is, it’s basically like having your own fashion consultant and it’s awesome and so much fun! Almost every mommy blog I read has a review of Stitch Fix. How exactly does it work? After you create an account and fill out a fashion profile, you can schedule to have a stylist pick out five random articles of clothing which gets mailed to you. You have three days to try out the clothes, decide what you want to keep, and mail the rest back in a postage paid bag which they provide. Each time you schedule a “fix,” you pay a $20 “styling fee” which gets deducted from the price of any clothes you end up keeping. Shopping can’t get any easier.

So why haven’t I done it before? It’s because I have a strange habit of buying only clothes that are on sale. When I go to a store, I ignore all the nice displays in the front and head straight to the back where the clearance racks are. For me to feel justified about buying anything, it has to be marked down not once, but twice. And let’s just say, Stitch Fix clothes are not sale prices. But I finally decided it was time to go against every frugal fiber in my body and just give it a try…because it’s really not fun anymore to comb through bargain racks with two kids in tow.

So last week I received my first Stitch Fix box in the mail and this is what I got:

20131123-155521.jpgStriped long sleeve shirt. I wasn’t too crazy about this one. A little too boxy and stripy so it went back.

20131123-155306.jpgBlouse with studs. I liked the style and color…but the studs, not so much. Plus, it needs to be hand washed, so it went back too.

20131123-154949.jpgCharcoal skinny jeans. I’m a latecomer to the whole skinny jeans bandwagon because they remind me of junior high (because the last time I wore them was in junior high). When I first saw these jeans, my first thought was way too tight and way too long. But after trying them on, I actually really liked them. They were super comfortable and scrunched up nicely. But hubby thought they were too tight (ok, I did have to peel them off) and it was a little pricier than I’m used to paying for jeans…so they went back.

20131123-155745.jpgGrey blazer. Loved this! I tried this on with a whole bunch of different outfits and it matched with everything. I like how I can wear it casually or dressed up. It’s actually cotton/spandex material so it’s machine washable! This one was a keeper!

20131123-154531.jpgCharm necklace. I’m normally not big on jewelry, but I can totally see myself wearing this necklace. Not too overstated, but just enough bling to jazz up an outfit. Decided to keep this one too!

So overall, it was a fun experience but I can probably afford to do it only once in a while. The pieces also come with suggestions on what you can wear it with, so at least now I kind of know what to look for when I’m shopping. If you need a fun refresh for your wardrobe, I think Stitch Fix is worth trying at least once. And…oh…if you do decide you want to try it…can you please use my referral link? Shameless plug, I know, but the $25 credit from the referral would definitely contribute to the “Help Sophia look less frumpy fund.” Thanks!

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My method for picking books at the library is very random. Sometimes if I get a good recommendation, I’ll reserve the book online on the library website and the nice librarians will email me when it’s ready for pick-up. What a great service – so much easier than having to look up the call number and getting it yourself. But I can only do that if I have a specific book in mind, and usually I don’t. Like most people I see at the library, I get books by browsing the shelves. The problem is, it’s kind of hard to browse library shelves when you have a 2 year-old with you.

The minute we get to the library, CC wants to make a beeline for the elevator so that we can go to the childrens’ library which is on the 4th floor. Most of the time he’ll graciously let me make a detour to the hold shelf so that I can pick up any books on hold. But if I try to linger anywhere else, he’ll start to get impatient. Fortunately for me, those nice librarians were smart enough to put the shelves of all the new books right next to the elevator. Ingenius! So my method of book selection is basically to pull off whatever I can from the new books shelf in the 2 minutes I have while waiting for the elevator. And I love that those wonderful nice librarians also feature different new books by putting them in book holders on the side of the shelves so that I can see the cover without having to pull the book out. Love those librarians! Now, if only they could put a coffee bar next to the elevator too.

Last week I brought home my latest book – My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space/ The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman, by Lisa Scottoline (and her daughter Francesca). The title piqued my interest – you don’t often see the words “ordinary woman” and “amazing adventures” in the same sentence. Turns out, the book’s a compilation of short random vignettes written by this middle aged woman and her daughter. And when I say random, I mean random. My favorite chapter was her telling the story of how a moth once flew into her ear. I laughed so hard, I cried. I don’t remember the last time when a book actually made me laugh out loud.

I also really liked her writing style. She writes in short paragraphs with punctuated sentences.

Like this.

Sometimes they’re not even sentences.

Anyways, that somehow makes me feel like she’s telling me the story over coffee rather than me just reading it.

I finished the book in three sittings, then I went to the library website and reserved three more books written by Lisa Scottoline. I found out that she actually writes mysteries, legal thrillers to be more exact. I don’t typically read mysteries, but if her thrillers are about ordinary women and will make me laugh out loud, I’ll give them a shot. Guess I won’t need to pull random books off the shelf for a while.

 

 

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