Sunday, June 30, 2013

Home Update #2

I've occasionally written about our current living situation. Here's a quick recap:

In Sept 2012, my husband and I sold our home that we dubbed "The T-ton Tear Down" / "TTD." We bought this house in 2010 and in one weekend had a group of our friends and family help us tear out all the flooring and kitchen out so that we started with a blank canvas for our renovation. Perhaps not the best plan of attack, but hey - it was a learning process!

That month we put an offer on New Home #1, which was a foreclosure and vacant so we rented it from the bank during the purchasing process. We ended up moving out after 3 months and abandoning our offer due to a few things coming to light about the house that weren't caught during the inspection. Like a failing septic system.

We moved out and moved into a temporary rental through our friend and are now in the process of our offer on a house that we have very high hopes for. Just like our last house, it has good bones but is in need of some major repairs. We like to capitalize on these kinds of houses because the typical homebuyer shies away from them. New paint, flooring, kitchens, etc don't scare us. My husband and I have learned that there are many aspects of renovations that are completely doable, given the right skill set. Like understanding basic construction, being comfortable with power tools, being friendly with your local hardware store, and able to watch YouTube videos. Not kidding on that one. Oh, and maintain a Pinterest account ;) Of course, even we have our limitations - we had our TTD kitchen's electrical work professionally installed and the granite counter tops were installed by a fabricator as well. But that's pretty much the extent of it.

Last Thursday we had the inspection on the prospective home. Luckily, there wasn't anything we learned that we hadn't known. It's going to need a new roof, likely new siding (which we will wait to do next summer). It needs new flooring and paint inside - immediately. The current family (parents, 4 teens, 2 dogs and I can detect the presence of rodents or ferrets in the past) has lived in this house hard. Although it's been made tidy for our walk throughs and the inspection, it very clearly hasn't had a deep cleaning in years. Mold and mildew on all the windows, clogged drains, nasty growths in caulking around the toilets and sinks. Nothing we can't handle.

It's been fun walking through this house and dreaming up what we'd do to it to not only fix current issues but to make it better. We've been given a tentative closing date of August 4th, which if course can change quickly, but we're hopeful. We'd love to move in before the end of the summer to take advantage of the good weather and tidy up the outside of the house before the rain sets in.

All of the potential in this house has got us so excited. The ability to test our chops on another renovation, a great sized shop in the backyard (that doesn't overshadow the space at all), being in a family friendly neighborhood with 2 parks within a couple blocks and a large park with a lake, shelters and skate park within a mile walking distance away, and a shorter commute to work for Adam.

So send up a little prayer for us, cross your fingers and toes, and keep an eye for more updates. Also, you can follow my I Have a PhD in Renovating Pinterest board to see some of the inspiration we've got in store for this new house!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

15 months

Dear little Penny-pot,

These monthly updates are starting to slow down as our life gets busier during the summer, so I'll be trying to keep up whenever I can.

In the last month or so you've started to give hugs and kisses.. which melt my and your daddy's heart every time. You squeeze our necks (or legs) so tight and give the sweetest of kisses. I especially love when I get a big hug and kiss after nursing...this really tells me just how much you love it! I love our special bonding time too.

In the last couple weeks you've come up with some spectacular shenanagins that have us rearranging the house. You've mastered climbing up onto chairs, the couches and as of yesterday you think climbing up onto the toilet is hilarious! Mama does not entirely approve. You've also started using forks and spoons and this has sparked your interest in sitting at the table. You will sit happily in your highchair for breakfast and lunch, but for dinner you will take two bites and then want to sit with your beloved dada. That's ok, he likes to share his dinner with you.

You've also gotten really good at hide and seek. In the begining you'd give yourself away very quickly with your excited squeals when you'd know I was close to finding you, but now you are able to keep quiet for upwards of 5 minutes! But your hiding skills need a little work..

You also had me rolling with laughter when I was hanging the diapers out to dry this week when you crawled under your empty kiddie pool and 'turtle crawled' across the deck. Where do these ideas come from?!

As a very independent girl, you've also made it very clear that you want to walk everywhere we go and you want to do it by yourself.  I'm so proud of your tenacity and complete willingness to try all things new.

Your favorite foods are currently:
Cream of Wheat with fresh strawberries, bananas or cheerios mixed in
Freckled Avocado Smoothies
goldfish crackers & Earth's Best organic ABC (Cookie Monster?) cookies
vanilla yogurt
quinoa with feta

Your vocabulary is progressing, sometimes you will say words that we haven't really taught you ("girl"), but for the most part these are the standards:
"meow" for kitty with the variation of "meo" for Romeo
"ffff" for woof
"shoo" for shoe
"CK" for cousin Jack
"pr-ty" for pretty / flower
"di-puuurr" for diaper
unfortunately "no" has snuck it's way in there, but we're working on turning it into "no thank you" with signing "thank you."

We love you so much, darling girl, and can't wait to see what surprises you have in store for us next :)

Mama & Dada

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Epic Playdates at the Woodland Park Zoo

This summer we've been hitting the zoo almost every two weeks. My annual pass gets myself and two adults in, and kids under age 2 free! We've taken advantage of this deal several times with friends and family who have kids of similar age to Penny.

Why is the zoo an epic playdate for toddlers and little kids?

In Seattle, with the likelihood of rain so high (as a torrential downpour occurs outside), the Woodland Park Zoo is set up to be a great playdate idea even if it's drizzly. Many of the exhibits feature indoor structures that give you a closer peek into the exhibit.
Zoos are getting better about being accommodating to patrons of all sizes and abilities, especially toddlers. Our zoo features windows and activities at eye level for toddlers.
For older kids, many zoos offer day camps and themed days (such as treasure hunts) that get them involved with animal and habitat activism.

One of the greatest benefits of zoos (and you know I'm a mom when I say this) is that the variety of animals, excitement of climbing over different structures, and general running around is that kids are tired by the end of the day! That makes this mama feel good when a day of play with Penny's friends is both a highly physical and educational experience.

As Penny gets older, our playdates will evolve to her abilities (though will always include trips to the zoo!). As a pretty outdoorsy family, we've talked about taking the "all American family road trip"for several years and have been holding off until our kids will be old enough to appreciate it. Gosh, I feel so old saying that. When we do get there, I'm keeping Dooce's trip to Moab in mind because A) geology is awesome and B)...geology is awesome! It's funny seeing the family walk around these normally very hot parks in their winter gear, because this Washington girl pulls out the shorts and a t-shirt when it hits 55 degrees.

What is your epic playdate plan for this summer? Will you be taking trips to the zoo, fun camping trips, signing the kids up for cooking classes, or zip lining in Costa Rica? Ps, if you are, please don't let me know, because I'll start whining about how I wanna go zip lining in Costa Rica!!)

See what zoos The Pierogie Mama has written about

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. Follow along on Facebook and Twitter with #EpicPlaydate #CGC hashtags.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Store Summer Strawberries

Last week, Penelope and I visited a local farm that grows all organic berries. Oh my.

In about 2 1/2 hours, I was able to pick 13.5 lbs of strawberries. How does one accomplish this with a toddler? (Many moms have asked me!). Well, I started out wearing her on my back in the Ergo. She wasn't happy about this, but tolerated this for about half an hour. It was pretty tiresome to bend over or kneel while wearing her on my back, and I knew she wasn't too comfortable either.

Once she started squirming in true discomfort, I let her out and run. She's pretty good about sticking close while she figures out the situation when we're in new environments, so she ran around within 5 feet of me for another 15 minutes. She also took advantage of foraging berries from my basket or off the bush - which I was sure to let the proprietress know about! As it goes with toddlers, her courage grew quickly and pretty soon she was off running in different rows or checking out the tractors close by. Sometimes she'd sneak up behind me and I'd find her in my strawberries...When we got home, we prepared the strawberries for freezing. I like to use frozen strawberries in our smoothies instead of ice, so I froze almost all of it! 

This is how I prepare berries for freezing (this is perfect for organically grown, though I would probably take greater care in cleaning them if they aren't organic).

You will need:
A big bowl of water
Distilled white vinegar
Berries of choice
Cookie Sheets
Cleared out space in your freezer
Freezer Bags

You will do:
1. Fill a bowl with a mixture of 2/3 cold water to 1/3 white vinegar.
2. Place berries into the bowl, allowing them to soak for about 5 minutes. Agitate with your fingers and rub off any dirt.
3. Place on a cookie sheet. I prefer mine not to touch each other, though if you don't care it doesn't make a difference.
4. Freeze for several hours. I just left mine overnight.
5. Once frozen solid, transfer into freezer bags.

I did reserve some for delicious strawberry shortcakes.. Which I made 2 nights in a row ;)

Blogger Opp: Bear's First Birthday Bash


Bear's First Birthday Bash! #bearsbdaybash

In celebration of her daughter's upcoming 1st birthday, Ashley over at Spit Up is the New Black is throwing a birthday event with one HUGE giveaway centered around products great for 1-year-old kiddos from the following awesome companies:

Kids Gourmet



Petite Lemon

Oh So Pretty Designs


Pacific Baby

And more coming soon!

Current Prize Value: $350+

One free link (Facebook OR Twitter) with announcement post

Requirements to join

Post the giveaway announcement – HTML can be found here

Agree to schedule the giveaway HTML for August 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM ET

Promote at least 3x a week during giveaway period

Sign ups open to the first 25 bloggers

Moms Who Inspire Me: Ashley

Welcome to the second part of my three part series on Moms Who Inspire Me (Gretchen was Part I). Today I want to introduce my dear friend, Ashley. I was introduced to Ashley and her hubs through my boyfriend-at-the-time (who now happens to be my husband!). They all went to high school together and have stayed close friends since. Ashley has been a model to whom I look up to as a wife, mother and friend. Seriously, she is the sweetest and most loyal friend a girl can have. She always knows the right things to say (especially when a certain mama calls her in tears a few days after her baby was born, completely bawling because she inadvertently allowed her daughter to develop her first diaper rash!). Ashley's gentle mothering, courage as a police officer's wife and solid faith have quietly guided me through many of my own insecure moments. She is mama to Santiago and Amilia, two kids whom I hold close to me like my very own nephew and niece.

At what age did you become a mama? 
How was that in relation to when you thought you'd become a mama?
   I was Blessed to become a Mommie at age 25. Growing up I was never the kind of girl to plan/dream about my wedding, house, kids, or live on a timeline.  But 25 seemed like a great age, I made it past my mom's age of 22 with her first child. She always told me how young she was.

Growing up, what was the part about becoming a parent the most exciting for you? 
Has it changed?
Kinda silly to say but I was really excited to dress them (much be the beautician in me). But on a serious note, I feel growing up I was most excited about the toddler and early childhood years. The years when kids can actually tell you what they need. Now that I no longer have a child in baby years I wish I could go back and enjoy it more!

What has surprised you the most about being a mother?
The biggest surprise was that to be a Mommie/Parent is a learning and a confidence building process. When I brought my (now 4 year old)  colicky son home I felt like I had no I had no idea how to soothe him, making our bonding a bumpy road. This instantly made me wish I would have grown up with younger sibling or had babysat more. For some reason I thought once you had a child you instantly knew how to raise them with confidence.  Maybe it is because of all the technology and easy information I have learned there are SO many ways to raise a healthy loved child.  I just have to be confident in my Love for them and they will grow with big hearts and Faith. I will 100% admit it took me a few years to 'come in-to' my role and realization that my Husband and I have complete power in how our babies view this world. The best Gift ever!

Who was your biggest help? How did they help you?
My BIGGEST help has been and continues to be my wonderful Husband. He is great a cook and doesn't mind cleaning, but the best way he helps me is emotionally. He is always  there for a hug or as easy wise wisdom when I overstress. He has been my best friend since high school and has grown into a great playful Father! I really don't know how I could parent without him!

What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood (easy question, right?) 
and how have you tried to overcome it?
My biggest challenge of Motherhood so far has been the struggle in my mind if I am doing everything the best I can.  I struggle with owning two small businesses, being a wive of a police officer, and trying to be the best Mommie I can; making sure I give attention to each avenue.  I try to keep my priorities clear and I am constantly reminded how fast these babies grow (especially when Santiago gets dressed and his pants are all a sudden too short).  Disciplining is a huge challenge for me....sometimes I just cry right along with them, even though I know I am teaching them limits and rules. Oh..and one last one...Santi went though the stubborn eating phase! NOT FUN! but we had to be strong and not give into his refusal.  If he is hungry he will eat!

Name your top soothing tip
Definitely the "Ssshhhhhhing" loudly and swaddling tightly as a baby. Now with a toddler and 4 year old child I find giant hugs and goofy kisses help! (cuz most the time they are over-exaggerating their problem) Both my babes have their favorite blankies as well :)

What is your kids' favorite meal that you cook?
Amilia (2 years) will eat pretty much anything especially the sweet stuff! Santiago (4 years) favorite food changes with the wind.  Some days its breaded chicken, some days pizza, and some days carrots! Pancakes seem to be everyone's favorite!

Did you become your mother, take a completely new road or find a clever mix in between?
I think so far I have become my mother.  I remember her being crafty, attentive, and loving.  I think I am more adventurous than she was taking the kids to new places, but I think that is just a change in times. Someday as a mother of teens I hope I take a different road than she did.

Did you have a parenting style that was different from the rest of your family (such as sleep solutions, babywearing, potty training timing) and how did you respond to family who approached you about it?
I do not have a large family, our children are the only grand-babies.  So any input I get is generally very delicately given from my M.I.L or my Mom.  My M.I.L's constantly reminding me to just relax, kids will be kids. My Mom speaks of her memories, like letting me sleep under the kitchen table or my sassiness as a kid. I kinda wish I had some more free advice, suppose I could ask.
Isn't her family gorgeous?  She is also the creative mama behind Santi Mae Designs, where she makes beautiful comforting blankies and stuffed birds that focus on the sensory experience. Penny proudly snuggles with her blankie for naptimes and has a Buho and Lovebird to match. Check out her work!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Win Buttons Cloth Diapers #SummerCloth

This review and giveaway was initially published as a part of the 
Summer Cloth Diaper Giveaway Hop.

I am excited to share a fabulous cloth diaper that is very affordable, family owned and is frequently featured on Penny's fluffy bum.

Buttons Diapers is a family owned business by Amy and her husband. A few months ago I wrote my first review on their awesome cloth diapers and recently I had the pleasure of representing the brand with Amy at The Mommie Mixer, a Seattle event for moms to network with local companies. Getting to know Amy has been such a pleasure, and I love sharing about her cloth diapers!

Buttons Diapers are the "all in two" / AI2 style of cloth diapers, meaning they feature a diaper cover with removable inserts that you can snap in. When you change the diaper, as long as the cover isn't soiled, you can just snap in a new insert and go along your merry way. This feature makes this system very affordable because you only have to purchase a few covers and maximize on buying more inserts, which are less expensive.  I recommend 5 covers, 2 dozen day time inserts and 3 night time inserts for a standard AI2 system. For a toddler this will get you washing your diapers once every 3 days or so, if they aren't a heavy wetter. For newborns and heavy wetters you'll want closer to 7-8 covers and 30 or so inserts, since you'll be changing the diaper much more often. But don't worry, the cost savings rack up quickly!

There's a few features that makes Buttons stand out above the crowd - here's some of my favorites:
  • Buttons inserts are suuuuuuper soft and feature a contour stitch (very much like a mama-pad, which I feel helps keep messes a little more contained)
  • the inserts come in two sizes and thickness - small (for 9-20 lbs) and large (20-35 lbs), day time and night time thickness. The night time inserts feature snaps on both sides so you can layer up if your child wets a lot at night.
  • the covers feature double gussets at the legs and extra elastic at the belly button and small of the back. I feel like this goes a long way in making the cover (which is made to grow with your baby from 9 - 35 lbs) fit your baby well as they grow.

The best feature is the affordability. The covers are $11, $3.50 per day time insert and $5 for the thicker night time inserts. So lets assume you purchased 5 covers, 24 day time inserts and 3 night time inserts - from birth to potty training you're looking at spending $154.00!!!  
I *really* wanted to do a cute pink photo shoot, but Miss Penny had other plans.
So instead, here's how Buttons diapers can move and stay leak free with an active toddler ;)
This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this post. Thank you Buttons Diapers for sponsoring this giveaway!

Giveaway rules:  This giveaway is in no way associated or sponsored by Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Open to US residents only, aged 18 and over. Winners will be contacted within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway via email. They have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. The Pierogie Mama is not responsible for prize fulfillment, though I will advocate to make sure you receive it! Mama's Baby Cupcakes, Mommy's Favorite Things and the Summer Cloth participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Kia, My Life Stage: Go forth and propagate mode

Let's face it: I'm in "go big or go home" mode.

As a family of five - two parents, one child and two large-ish dogs, we've got a hefty list of requirements when it comes to the family hauler. Our current family car gets us where we need to be on the daily (and most weekends), but...spoiler alert: we plan to have more kids (no, I'm not pregnant currently). We need room to grow!

I suppose you can say that our tipping point are the dogs and cargo space, because most cars and cross overs can easily fit parents plus two kids. Our current ride works for our daily requirements, like play dates or trips to the grocery store because I don't bring both of our dogs with us everywhere. But the truth is that we are a family on the move all the time.  We spend less than 25% of our weekends at home. We're very close with both sides of our family and do love our fair share of road tripping and camping. So when we upgrade to our next car, it's going to have to accommodate additional kids and the ability to pack us all up for our trips (of all kinds). That's a little bit of a tall order, isn't it?

When looking at the options available to us, minivans have come up. Sure, you won't see me mudding it though off road trails, but oh the ease of access! Sliding doors, captain seating, features built in with busy moms in mind. How can one not take a look at "the dark side"?

Out of the major minivan competitors, the Kia Sedona comes at the most affordable base price. It features seating for 7 with removable seating for when the hubs decides to take it to the hardware store. 
Kia's website
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moms Who Inspire Me: Gretchen

Welcome to the start of a 3 part series where I host an interview with 3 mamas in my life who have greatly influenced me.  Today I'm sharing my interview with Gretchen, from That Mama Gretchen.

Gretchen and I met back in high school, where we were baristas at the local coffee shop. We parted ways for college but stayed in touch through Facebook and were guests at each other's weddings. Eventually I moved down to the Portland area where she lived after graduating college with her hubby. I began to follow her blog as she documented her journey with her first daughter, Jemma. I can easily say that I call Gretchen my "Fairy Blogmother," as she's always written thought provoking posts and been a great resource in my journey of natural and attachment parenting. Over the years we've hooked up for coffee dates and now we have play dates - as her eldest, Jemma (2 1/2), Penny (almost 1 1/2) and her son Max (will be 1 in August- oh my!) get along great. Read on and you'll see why I can call on this mama for advice of all kinds.

At what age did you become a mama? 
How was that in relation to when you thought you'd become a mama? 
My first, Jemma, was born just 3 days before my 24th birthday. I always wanted to be a "young" mama - 24 fit the bill nicely. Especially since the hubs and I had finished school and been married for 3 years.

Growing up, what was the part about becoming a parent the most exciting for you? 
Has it changed?  
Honestly, I was obsessed with playing school with my two sisters when I was young (I'm the oldest). I imagined being a mom would be very similar - a never ending day of crafts, field trips and fun projects. Real motherhood hasn't turned out quite like that. There's a lot more laundry, cooking, diapers and managing sibling squabbles. At least now. I think we'll get into the field trip phase here in the next few years :) It has definitely changed from what I imagined, but I wouldn't change it. I keep hearing the phrase, "The days are long, but the years are short." and I couldn't agree more. I'm savoring my nursing relationship with Max and learning how to best help Jemma explore the world of "I do it!". I can't get enough of Max's rolls and belly laughs and Jemma, my little chatter box, has been saying some of the greatest things lately - her imagination is going wild. When I tuck them in at night I can't wait for another day (well, after I clock in my few hours of work and rest). These days are so fun and so exhausting! I want them to slow down so I can enjoy them more while speeding up so we can do new and different adventures.

What has surprised you the most about being a mother? 
 How difficult it is. Being a mom is the hardest job out there. It's super rewarding too - I mean, Max doesn't look at anyone else the way he looks at me and when Jemma says, "I love you, Mommy" I turn into a complete puddle of feel good emotions. Same when she asks me to "swuggin" (snuggle) her. But it is hard. There's no getting around that. Every day it's two against one. It's not easy to balance making them my priority while keeping the house up. It is also hard to shower when the curtain keeps flying open by the hand of one child or the other. I'm also kind of tired of sharing my fork during every meal :)

On a sentimental note, I'm constantly amazed that someone so precious and beautiful and so their own person could have come from inside of me. That leaves me completely dumbfounded and in awe of what God creates through us. I mean ... WOW!

Who was your biggest help? How did they help you?  
My mom and my two sisters are definitely my Mama Tribe. Without them I would be much less sane and my kiddos would definitely have less fun.

What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood (easy question, right?) 
and how have you tried to overcome it?

My biggest and current challenge has been how to stay my own person. I spend so many hours with my little ones that sometimes I don't remember or have energy to invest in myself - reading, long baths and the like. My midwife always reminded me that it's super important for mamas to take care of themselves because a well-cared for mama allows her to better care for her family. It's such a balancing act and something I'm working to improve upon.
Name your top soothing tip.
Nothing soothes Max better than a nursing snuggle. When Jemma needs to be soothed we face each other and hold hands while I calming talk to her and ask her to breathe deep with me. Then we hug and kiss and everything looks brighter.

What is your kids' favorite meal that you cook?  
Max loves all veggies, so anything steamed or roasted makes him happy. He currently loves risotto or quinoa tossed with rotisserie chicken, veggies, Parmesan and this seasoning from Wildtree. It's one of my favorites too so I'm happy to share! Jemma, the sweet girl, has become much harder to please. She consistently loves buttermilk pancakes and our homemade breakfast sandwiches as well as anything served with a side of ketchup. Two year olds are sure nifty!

Did you become your mother, take a completely new road or find a clever mix in between?  
I'm very much like my mom ... at least it is my goal to be. In my mind, she is the ultimate mom ... inspiring me in so many ways as a woman, wife and mom. We do a few things differently, but I always chat with her about my decisions. She is a fabulous sounding board and always brings a dose of wisdom to our conversations.

Did you have a parenting style that was different from the rest of your family (such as baby led weaning, babywearing, potty training timing) and how did you respond to family who approached you about it?

My parents embraced elements of attachment/natural parenting when I was growing up - before having a specific "parenting style" was something you claimed. My mom remembers sewing her own carrier back in the 80s - we've been searching for a photo! I actually feel like my parents were/are great examples of free-range parenting ... something I know I struggle with. Some extended family members have explored other methods of parenting. We're all pretty open in our decisions/discussions and I think we've learned a lot from one another. In the end we're all parenting as best we can with the information we have at present. Even if we don't do things exactly like each other I definitely feel supported. Especially when my brother-in-law jokes about eating the meals I prepare. You know, just in case I blend in some placenta for extra nutrients :) See? We have lots of fun chatting about our parenting styles.

See what I mean? Gretchen just tells it how it is, with grace and humility to boot :) Besides being a great parenting resource, this girl knows how to cook. I've been dreaming about that quinoa recipe! Thanks for sharing your heart, Gretchen, and for being a supportive friend!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Save green (the cash and Earthy kind) with textbook rentals

As a college graduate, the cost of textbooks is very real to me. My freshman year I went the "easy" route and bought all of the recommended readings from our campus bookstore. As a sociology major, I paid between $200-500 per quarter for a combination of books for my degree's focus courses and general university requirements (GURs). Very quickly I started to notice that my pockets had these gaping holes in them from which my money flew from, and this poor girl went without her coffee fix for a quarter or two. A travesty, I tell you!

The following years I got into the groove of purchasing used books from students or online and was able to save a ton of cash there. I even sold them again, usually with minimal losses. At the time, that was the best one could hope for.

What's really cool is that Campus Book Rentals has taken it one step further. You can now rent textbooks online and not have to deal with the hassle of trying to sell them at the end of the quarter, like I did. And lets face it - most of the books we are required to read for college courses aren't ones we fall in love with and proudly display on our bookcases for years to come. Most we just read them because we're required to. So by renting these textbooks and sending them off for the next student to use, you're doing your part in reducing the demand on paper. And saving yourself the additional load of moving those unwanted books when you move ;) Lord knows I have several boxes of those!

At Campus Book Rentals you: 
  • have flexible renting periods. Each rental comes with a 15 day grace period and options for further extension.
  • can feel free to highlight in the textbooks like you would your own
  • don't have to pay to ship the textbook back, which saves you even more hassle once you're done
  • make a difference in the world because Campus Book Rentals has partnered with Operation Smile to donate a portion of the rental profit towards helping heal cleft lip, palate and other facial deformities around the world.
Another awesome option? RentBack is new initiative that allows students to rent their own textbooks to other students and make cash. What?! I would have totally been on that in college too!  

On average, how much do you (or did you) spend per quarter on textbooks? 
So what are you waiting for? Check out Campus Book Rentals or RentBack. 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by 
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed were my own.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Monthly Its: Six - Two Thirteen

 Want to know what's been on my screen lately? 
My "Monthly Its" list will show you exactly that!

Firstly I'm really excited to introduce my sponsors for the month! Lisu from LeLa Studios makes lunch bags, totes, binder pouches and kids' messenger bags for school. Her prints are fun, unique and stylish. Our whole family has been using this lunch tote - Adam carrying his lunch to work and it's been a great place to keep Penny's snacks cool while we visited the zoo.

Hello my name is Lisu, the creator of LeLa Studio, an art lover, designer and crafter.  After graduating from Art Center College of Designs  I worked as a photographer at  major advertising agency for six years then got married and now am a stay at home mom of three.  With our busy family schedule I need something for myself to take me away from the daily family routine.  I am thrilled to see LeLa Studio is flourishing after being on Etsy for one year. It has been a fantastic experience for me.  I love what I do and best of all is being able to share my vision and creativity with a lot of people from different parts of the world.  At home, I have three lovely kids and a 200% supportive husband.  My workshop is full of fabrics. As a kid, I loved to go fabric store with my mom, it was like a candy store for me. Now it has become  an addiction but I am happy that I can use the fabrics I buy for my shop.  I enjoy it very much!!  

Wow, 3 children and she runs a successful business! Go Lisu! 

For you cloth diapering mamas be sure to check out Buttons Cloth Diapers ASAP! Amy, who is only weeks away from welcoming her second baby (a little boy!), is the sweet mama who is behind these super affordable cloth diapers. Be sure to come back here because 6/21 I'll be giving away a set of two covers and inserts here!

What else can I share with you?
  • I really wish Planet Wise was around in the 1980's - check out my giveaway for a set of awesome wet/dry bags to accompany you on your summer travels! Perfect for cloth diapering families but sooo many other uses, like the pool or camping. This will be live from 6/11 - 6/25, check back daily because I've got tons of opportunities to increase your changes of winning.
  • 8 tips for maintaining sanity when your partner is away.
I hope you found a few things worth checking out here! Please keep an eye out for those upcoming giveaways and be sure to check out LeLa Studios and Buttons Cloth Diapers over on the right hand side.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Toddler Friendly Smoothies Using Avocado

I recently discovered how amazing it is to add an avocado to smoothies. My household has a certain love affair with avocados, so I decided to give this a shot after a friend recommended it to me. Not going to lie, this was an amazing discovery. I think avocado needs to find its way into every corner of my cooking. Into my cereal, into my coffee.. yea, that part I was kidding about.

Avocados are considered the perfect food by many, it's been said that an avocado contains many of the nutrients we need to survive. It's a great first food for babies as well - Penny was chowing down on slices by the fistful when we introduced her to foods via baby-led weaning. Hanna from Endless Simmer hilariously recants the etymology behind the word: "...avocado is a derivative of ahuacatl, which happens to be the Aztec word for testicle.  The avocado grows in pairs, dangling from the tree so suggestively that even the Aztecs noticed, pausing long enough from their daily blood sacrifice to chuckle to themselves and bestow the avocado with its legacy."  Will you ever look at avocados the same again? ;)

But isn't the hardest part first selecting the perfect avocado? Avocado Central has a great interactive widget to help you determine the stage of your avocado's ripeness.

The Freckled Avocado
mmm, our favorite!
  • 1 ripe avocado 
  • 5 medium to large frozen organic strawberries 
  • 1 cup of plain or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt 
  • 2 Tablespoons of local honey
The Tropical Avocado
  • 1 ripe avocado 
  • 1 peeled and frozen banana 
  • 1 cup of plain or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt 
  • 1 cup of fresh orange juice 
  • 2 tablespoons of local honey
The Chocolate Avocado
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup of plain or vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
The Red Avocado
  • 1 ripe avocado 
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice 
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
A few that we'd like to try:
Beet- Avocado: from We are Not Martha
  • 2 small beets
  • 1 C vanilla soy milk (I used Silk Light)
  • 3/4 C frozen berries
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 C baby spinach
  • 1 scoop (10 grams) chia seeds
Avocado Apple: from Cooking Classy
  • 1 medium ripe California avocado
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chilled, cored and sliced
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and frozen
  • 1 Navel orange, chilled and peeled
  • 2 cups packed spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk, chilled
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp agave nectar or honey, or to taste (optional)
  • 8 ice cubes (about 1 1/3 cups)
    Avocado Mango: from Reboot with Joe
    • 1 cup mango (fresh or frozen) 
    • 3 handfuls spinach
    • 1/4 avocado 
    • 1 cup almond milk- add a little water if you like your smoothie thinner 
    Do you like to add avocado to your smoothies? What is your favorite combination? 

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    If only Planet Wise wet/dry bags had been around in the 80's...

    This post was originally published as a part of the Keep Cool in the Sun giveaway hop.
    When I was about a year old, my parents took me to the Calgary zoo. We were viewing the hippo pond, which at the time was a pit with a 15 ft wall around it and you could view the hippos below. That afternoon, most of them were lounging and sleeping - being boring old hippos. After a few minutes, excitement ran through the crowd as one got up and started pacing around. "Look the hippo is moving! Do you see the hippo?" parents would ask their children, who were delighted to see this mixture of a short elephant-cow thing walking around. 

    My mother recounts that this hippo proceeded to back himself up against the wall, which was seen as pretty hilarious to the families watching. Unfortunately this particular hippo must have had an upset tummy, which is probably what instigated him to get up and move around a little bit. Within a few seconds, the squeals of glee quickly turned into screams of shock and disgust as black matter shot up the wall and up onto the crowd. You can probably guess what this mysterious black matter was. This story has been told many times, and each time my mother gets this forlorn look as she remembers the beautiful white dress I was in. My dad, with a sh*t-eating grin (ok, bad choice of words, but so fitting), explains how when he took his glasses off, his eyes had been protected and he had a line of poo where the glasses had been. My dress had to be thrown away, as no one was going to carry around a poopy dress for the rest of the zoo trip. And I'm not quite sure what my parents did with their clothes, but I'm assuming it was much more acceptable for a toddler to run around in her diaper and the adults just had to deal.

    The kicker to the story is that after we got cleaned up, we passed by the hippo pond again (this time staying a safe distance away) - and it looks like the hippo was going for round 2.

    In 2013, I'm sure it would have been a viral video sensation (or at least one of my parents would have snapped a shot with their phone, I know I would!). But this was the 1980's and film was to be reserved for good pictures. So sadly, no photographic evidence exists.

    This was on my mind when we visited the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle last week. Had this been something that happened to Adam and I with Penny, the least I would have been able to do was save that pretty little white dress - because Planet Wise graciously gave me the opportunity to try out their Travel Wet/Dry bag and the Sport bag.

    Planet Wise is well known for their incredibly well made wet bags that don't allow any leaks or stink to escape. After all, they're primarily used by cloth diapering families to store dirty diapers between washes.  Something tells me that hippo poop has a much stronger stench than baby poop, but at least it would have been something!Who wants to read about a collaboration between the zoo and Planet Wise to see just how stink locked the bags are? I just might be half serious...

    We took the sport bag with us on our trip to the zoo last week (thankfully the hippos were not out that day!) and it was a really easy way to keep Penny's clean and used cloth diapers separated from the rest of the diaper bag.

    Like all Planet Wise bags, the protection goes both ways - these bags aren't just for keeping your wet stuff away from your dry stuff.  They're also great for keeping things dry! The PUL liner maintains a protective barrier from both sides of the material.  So this is a perfect bag to keep on your back when at the water park and you want to keep a small towel or a change of clothes dry.

    The small travel wet/dry bag also has great uses. My favorite use is having it be a safe place to carry my expensive face lotion while traveling. How many of you have had a bottle of lotion burst from pressure change while in your stowed luggage during flight and gotten all over your make up and hair brush? It's happened way too many times to me!  For mama-cloth users, you can use it as a way to carry your new and soiled pads as well.

    Planet Wise has a ton of different products that will fit your needs - from wet bags, diaper covers, changing pads, pail liners, nursing covers and cloth wipes! They probably several hundred prints between all of their fabulous products.

    To add to their awesomeness, Planet Wise has graciously offered one of my readers a set of their Travel Wet/Dry and Sport Bag in the print of their choice!

    See what zoos The Pierogie Mama has written about!

    This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
    Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

    Disclosure: Thank you, Planet Wise for providing me with products to accurately facilitate this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for this post. 

    Thursday, June 6, 2013

    Melissa and Doug Giveaway

    Summer weather is here! Melissa & Doug has all kinds of great toys for you to help keep the kids entertained for the summer. You can get toys for all ages including classic toys, tents, sand toys, puzzles, art & craft, plus more!

    Penny and I love Melissa and Doug toys because they are wooden and inspire her to use her imagination without relying on bright lights and music. 

    Not only do you have the opportunity to win this giveaway but you can also head on over to the Melissa & Doug on Facebook fan page and then click on the Play to 250k Sweepstakes tab to enter the Play to 250,000 Fans Sweepstakes.

    Each time their fan base grows by 1,000 fans, a fan will win a selection of Melissa & Doug toys. Plus, when the Facebook page reaches 250,000 fans, all fans will receive a special gift. WOW!!

    If you are curious about what real moms thinks about Melissa and Doug toys, you can read these reviews:

    One lucky winner will receive a $200.00 eGift Code to Melissa & Doug!

    {The Pierogie Mama} readers: This is HUGE giveaway with well over 150 bloggers participating. I'm working out the kinks to see if entering these sort of opportunities is worth it or not. I love to share great giveaways, but not at the cost ingenuity of the blog. If you have the time, please email me and let me know what you think and if this is a direction you like/dislike the blog going to. After all, you're my readers and I want to post content that you are interested in! With that being said, my twitter handle is posted on Twitter page #15. Liking all of the twitter handles on that page will gain you extra points on the giveaway. You'll also see that there are a ton of other ways to gain entry points without following blogs/twitter accounts that you don't find relevant. Thanks for your input!

    Giveaway ends June  27, 2013 at 11:59pm, open to US only, ages 18+. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

    Disclosure: By entering this giveaway you agree to receive email communications from Melissa & Doug. I received  no compensation for this publication. My opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. The Pierogie Mama is not responsible for prize shipment.

    This event was organized by MomPoweredMedia please contact with questions or to see your business or blog featured on the next big event!

    Being Green with Lunch: Review and Giveaway

    Bianca factoid: I'm the daughter of an environmental engineer. 
    And then I married a plastics engineer. Read on to see how these tidbits relate to each other.

    Post factoid: Are you ready to learn something new? I hope you are! I did my best to research each point included in this post, but if you find something lacking / incorrect / want clarification, please let me know. Also, are you ready for a TRIPLE giveaway??!!!

    I'm pretty sure that most people will agree with me on this one - plastic has over run our world.

    Ok, so that was a pretty broad statement. But have you noticed that (in the US) everything comes in plastic packaging? Sure, it's cheaper. Most of it claims to be recyclable, but that is a little misleading.  Most consumers don't know is that food grade plastic actually gets "downcycled," meaning it cannot be recycled into the same plastic product.  So your recycled milk jug won't become another jug. It might become plastic decking or a Green Toy.

    When my husband and I were on our babymoon to Europe in 2010, we noticed that so many things were packaged in glass containers. Even personal sized yogurts came in adorable glass containers.

    Starting when we moved in together, one way that I helped stretch our dollars was to pack lunches for us every day. Even though we saved a lot of money by not going out to eat every day (and ate healthier too), I quickly realized just how disposable our lunch world is. Each item was typically put into it's own Ziploc or plastic container. Sandwich baggies were used one time, even though they were perfectly fine for another use. But doing so seemed so...hippy. And isn't it a little ridiculous that you buy these one time use items just to throw away a few hours later? I began to research more "green" and sustainable options.

    A lot of us are already greening our lunches by having a reusable bag or lunch box that we use to carry our food in. This is a much better option over a plastic grocery bag, or even the brown lunch bag, as it is friendlier on the environment and saves money in the long run.  Lisu, from LeLa Studio shared one of her super stylish lunch bags with me and I am so in love with it. It's a very well made bag with a nice metal zipper and is insulated to keep my lunch cold. I also can stuff quite a bit in there! These bags come in a variety of pretty patterns.  It's also gone to work with Adam many times and works part time as Penny's snack carrier when we're out and about.

    This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
    Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

    Sandwich bags
    Sandwich baggies are another one of those silly one-time-use items that in reality can be used multiple times but so few of us care to clean and dry them after their use. The good news is that sandwich baggies are recyclable (recycle them along with your plastic grocery bags at your local supermarket) and Ziploc recently partnered with Recycle Bank to encourage consumers to recycle their bags by offering rewards points.

    But that doesn't really solve the problem, does it? So here are my two choices for ridding my house of sandwich baggies.
    • For wet, messy lunch items (like cottage cheese and canned fruit.. yum!) I like to use high quality plastic containers or glass.
    • For everything else - from sandwiches, cut up fruits or veggies to chips - I've been loving these awesome zippered reusable sandwich baggies from Baby's Growing Up Green
    These reusable bags come in two sizes - handy sandwich and a bigger quart size. They're double layered with a cute print on the outside and food safe vinyl on the inside - so even if you put a bunch of freshly washed grapes inside, it won't leak and get your sandwich wet in another bag! I love the zipper feature for two reasons - it's easier to keep clean than velcro (half of our cloth diaper stash is velcro and picking lint out of the teeth is a biiiiig pet peeve of mine!) and offers a more securely closed container than velcro does. I've even been able to fill it with chips the night before and store my husband's lunch in the fridge overnight and they were still perfectly crunchy the next day.

    This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
    Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

    Drink Containers
    Nowadays there are a ton of options for carrying your drinks. Sometimes it seems like the cheapest and easiest way is just to buy a pack of bottled water from your local grocery and pack it daily. Again, we feel good about ourselves because the plastic or glass bottle is listed as recyclable but is it really necessary to have these be one time use?

    As a breastfeeding mother, drinking water is absolutely essential but honestly is really difficult for me - I get so bored with it quickly! When I was pregnant, I asked my midwife is drinking tea counts as hydrating - to which she smiled at me and said no. Drink water, she said. Well drinking water is reaaaaaally hard for me! I even started trying to trick myself by heating plain water and just dunking a slice of lemon in it, to make myself feel like I was drinking tea. It worked for a while, but drinking a hot liquid is not a preferred option year round ;)

    So when I came across the ZingAnything Citrus Zinger, I knew my hydration problem had been solved!

    This unique water bottle features a "zinger" in the bottom of the bottle that allows you to infuse your water with a variety of citrus fruits like lemons, limes or clementines. The fruit is contained in a compartment that allows the water and some pulp to circulate, but you don't have to worry about slices of lemon slapping you in the face when you go for a drink.  Mix it up! You can use sparkling water, iced tea, add herbs such as ginger or mint, or a handful of berries too.

    This giveaway is over - thanks to all for entering! 
    Keep an eye out for more Pierogie Mama Giveaways.

    Aren't these some great prizes? I hope you enjoyed reading about the topic and that you'll find these prizes interesting - I was pretty excited to share them with you! There are tons of daily entries so be sure to come back often and gain more points by extra tweets, pins and comments!

    One final thought about packing a "green" lunch: start a little bit at a time. It's easier to make small changes over time than completely change course in one day. Be more mindful about single use items and see where you can make changes that work for you. Eventually it will add up and make a big difference!

    I received products from each of the above sponsors to accurately facilitate this review. No other compensation was provided.

    Giveaway rules:  This giveaway is in no way associated or sponsored by Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Open to US residents only, aged 18 and over. Winners will be contacted within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway via email. They have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. The Pierogie Mama is not responsible for prize fulfillment, though I will advocate to make sure you receive it!

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    A Nursing Mom's BFF: The Nursing Pillow

    This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Comfort and Harmony. All opinions are 100% mine.

    High five to myself and Penny for making it to the 15 month  mark of our nursing relationship!

    It wasn't always easy; early on we battled positioning issues and a difficult latch. But our triumphs outweigh our hardships! We successfully ditched the shield after 3 weeks and even maintained a sense of humor while learning how to nurse in public while traveling. Nowadays, this seasoned mama can scope out a comfortable spot *like that* and settle in with her nursling. Like in the back of our suburban on our recent camping trip.

    One of my biggest aids has been our nursing pillow. It's kept Penny up to the right level, gave my arms a rest and even freed my fingers for a quick email or text here and there. A lot of moms use their nursing pillows for other uses - like positioning the baby to help encourage sitting up on their own or for tummy time. Penny didn't start to enjoy using the nursing pillow for other uses until toddlerhood - now she loves sitting in the comfortable U-shape while watching her daily allowance of Elmo (and I get a bit of house work done while I have the chance!).

    The Comfort & Harmony mombo nursing pillow has 2 really cool features that my standard pillow does not:
    • Its two sides differ in firmness. The nursing side is supportive to help Mom get her baby close and secure for a comfortable nursing session. The other side is softer, which helps the baby with tummy time.
    • It has a "vibe inside," to offer a soft vibration to help soothe the baby. Gosh, I wish I had that for the early days!

    The mombo nursing pillow is available at Toys 'R Us and Babies 'R Us, along with a variety of other Comfort and Harmony products - ranging from bouncers, swings and shopping cart covers.

    Follow Comfort & Harmony on Facebook and Comfort & Harmony on Twitter so that you can be in the know for deals!

    Visit Sponsor's Site


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