Announcing a Few Giveaway Winners

Just wanted to published the results of my last two giveaways:

Dry Bunz Diaper Cover: Winner was Rachel S.

Incredibella Pocket Diaper: Winner was Kristen J.

Congrats ladies and enjoy your prizes! Please check my current giveaways page to find more chances to win!

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Groceries for a Family of 7

Although our current grocery budget is low for a family of 7 compared to the national average, I’d still like to find ways of spending less than $480 per month. I know what we spend because we’re on a budget that’s written down each month.

Yep, you may have guessed that my husband and I are working the Dave Ramsey plan, which is outlined in the Total Money Makeover book. That means all extra money gets piled onto debt until it is obliterated. In fact, we’re both proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past 22 months:

1. Kept an emergency fund of $1,000 in place

2. Created a written budget every month and paid cash for most everyday expenses

3. Paid off over $30,000 in debt (whew, that feels good!!)

4. And we are in constant communication about the family’s finances

And now back to the groceries!

I think families are all over the place as far as food spending goes. I personally know of a mother with 10 in her family who spends less than we do and we’re feeding 7. And I know families that are much smaller than mine that may spend twice what we do. How does my figure of $480 stack up to the numbers from the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion? According to their website, the average figure for a “thrifty” meal plan for a family of seven is $786.00. It’s a rough average, but is useful for giving me some perspective on the $480 we currently spend. We’re doing good, but I think we could do a bit better.

Here are some of the ways I’ve kept our costs down:

Minimize the Meat: I make our meat go further by using only 1/2 of what’s called for in a recipe when I think it won’t make much difference in the final result. One example would be chili. Adding extras like tomatoes, beans and corn will make up for a smaller quantity of meat. In a chicken pot pie I’ll use a small amount of chicken with a large bag of frozen mixed veggies. If bulk sausage is on sale (sometimes the rolls are half the cost of beef) I will use it to fully or partially replace ground beef in my menus. For example, I will use 1/2 sausage and 1/2 ground beef in my meatloaf. Or I’ll make my famous (heh heh) John Wayne casserole using sausage and beef, or sometimes just with sausage.

We also have two meatless nights per week. One, of course, is Friday since we are Catholics. The other is usually Wednesday and I’ll make up for the lack of meat by making the meal fun or extra special. Last week we did homemade waffles, eggs made to order and fruit salad from a can.

Plan Meals Using the Sale Flyer: If Dillon’s puts pork on sale then guess what’s for dinner? This might shock a lot of you thrifty mothers out there, but I use coupons very rarely. Two reasons for this. First of all, I don’t store hop. I shop for food twice a month and my time is short. I just don’t have the energy or the patience or the gasoline to go to a lot of different stores so I can cash in on their specials. Baby Susanna, who is nursed, must be toted everywhere I go, and sometimes I’ve got 1 or 2 of the others as well. Last month, ALL 5 were tagging along. So…..I just look over the store flyers, pick where I’m going to shop and plan my menus around that.

Secondly, I get good deals on generic brands and that’s good enough for me. Plus, I find myself less likely to buy something “just because I have a coupon.” I know a lot of you ladies are coupon mavens and I give you high praise for that! But it’s just not my thing.

Check the Pantry and Fridge Before Making a List: Too many times I’ve discovered while unloading groceries that I’ve bought a few things we already had. Palm to the forehead! Make this mistake often and it could add up to a lot of unnecessary spending. One time, while going through my pantry and fridge before heading to the grocery, I found the ingredients for 2 complete meals! That’s sort of like stumbling on a 20 dollar bill in the parking lot!

Plan your Meals: This is really a no-brainer, but for the longest time I didn’t do this. Writing down what you are going to cook for the next week, 2 weeks or month helps you to buy only what you need, and nothing more (besides snacks, toiletries, etc.). I used to do a little chart in Microsoft Word. That was nice, and I hung it on the fridge like tomorrow’s headline news. But then I found it was even easier to just type the menus and my grocery list up in the same document. It saves a piece of paper. And it also means I have the menus with me for easy reference while I’m shopping, just in case there’s a last-minute change needed (like when I can’t find an ingredient at the store).

Big Breakfast, Small Supper: The foods we eat at dinnertime tend to be slightly more expensive than the ones we consume at breakfast. A pound of meat costs a lot more than 1 dozen eggs. Dinner rolls are pricier than toast and bagels. And the number of ingredients needed tends to be higher. Think about your typical casserole that calls for meat, a can of soup, some sour cream, a package of noodles and cheese for the top. Now compare that to a simple 2-egg omelet and a 2 pieces of toast. Around here, we try to make breakfast the biggest meal of the day, when food is cheaper and metabolisms are faster!

Quite often we will leave out bread and starch at dinner time. It’s not just cheaper, but also healthier. If I am enjoying a really delicious pork chop and some steamed asparagus I don’t feel cheated because there’s not a big pile of mashed potatoes on the plate.

So, do you have money-saving grocery tips to share with me so I can shave my budget even more?

Any questions for me?

 

 

 

 

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What do you think of my new blog?

Notice anything different?

The Zephyr Hill Blog just got a face lift today, thanks to the Simply Chic Blog Boutique. New background, new graphics, new buttons, oh my! I chose this cozy theme because we live in a rural area with lots of wildlife and cute critters all about.

So what do you think of the new look? :-)

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Focus on Safety: First Aid Kit Giveaway

Whether it’s learning CPR, knowing the right numbers to call or how to deal with injuries, safety tips are the focus my post today. Read on to find out how to get your FREE stickers and enter for a chance to win one of two First Aid kits!

After 10 years of marriage and six children so far, I’ve experienced firsthand how important the “big three” can be.

CPR and First Aid for Choking: In the military my husband learned CPR and passed on the knowledge to me. We keep a reference poster taped to the side of the fridge. His know-how sure came in handy one day when Benjamin, who was 2 at the time, choked on a small piece of bread, stopped breathing and went limp. That was one of the scariest moments of my life and I was shaken for days afterwards! But my husband pulled him through it and was able to dislodge the piece of food in his airway. Benjamin has no memory of the incident, but I know full well how important it is for parents to learn these life-saving techniques, and reinforce them regularly.

Poison Control: I’ve used this free service twice and fortunately neither was an emergency. Our oldest got a small amount of glass cleaner in one eye and we were able to handle it at home with the help of Poison Control. And when Samuel was a baby he grabbed the powder out of my hand during a diaper change and dumped a small amount near his mouth and nose. Worried that he had inhaled or ingested some, I called Poison Control and they reassured me that very small amounts of talc would not be harmful to my son. The Poison Control hotline (800-222-1222) is an easy number to remember and should be posted near every phone, and can be easily stored in your cell phone contacts list.

First Aid: We’ve had our fair share of bumps and bruises, but thankfully nothing serious yet. After we moved into our first house, my husband asked if I would buy and keep stocked a First Aid kit. It’s just one of those things, like a smoke detector or fire extinguisher, that every family ought to have. And they don’t cost much at all. For example, there’s a great one on Amazon for just over $10.00. It includes all the basics like bandages, gauze, cold packs, ointments and prep pads, plus some nice extras like gloves, string-relief pads, a printed first aid guide and even a small pair of scissors.

GIVEAWAY TIME!

To help promote safety in the home, I will be giving away a compact 33-piece first aid kit from Genuine First Aid to TWO LUCKY READERS!

And if you don’t win, you can still get something free. Email me and I will mail you 2 Poison Control stickers to put on your phones for quick reference. Just send me your name, mailing address and put “stickers” in the subject line of your email.

MANDATORY ENTRY

1.  Subscribe to my blog via email (right sidebar) and leave a comment saying you did this. Current subscribes, just comment saying you do already.

OPTIONAL ENTRIES

2. Leave a comment here telling me what you’d like to see me write about on the blog (here are some ideas: we have 5 children, home school, cloth diaper, published a cook book, have a family garden and lots of animals – dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, donkey, etc, etc!)

3. Follow Zephyr Hill on Twitter and leave me your handle in a comment

4. Add Zephyr Hill to your Google + circle (right sidebar) and leave a comment saying you did this.

So that’s 4 possible entries, and each requires a comment on the blog. Good luck!

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents. Ends on March 1, 2012 at 11 pm CST. Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced on my Facebook fan page, and also here at the blog. Winner has 48 hours to respond to email.

Disclosure: Opinions posted here at Zephyr Hill are my own and I only recommend quality companies and products that I have personal positive experience with.

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Incredibella Pocket Diaper Review and Giveaway

I love diapers sewn by hand and was very blessed this week to get to try an Incredibella from Faith at Bella Bottoms. Faith’s diapers are beautiful, functional and well-made.

We were given a very charming owl-print Incredibella with a unique rise setting that is actually folded down and adjusted at the waist with 3 rows of snaps. Plus, there are 9 more sets of snaps along the waistband so it will fit any size baby, from tiny to chunky, right up to 35 pounds. The snaps are carefully hidden so nothing touches baby’s skin and Faith uses “Lastin” elastic in her diapers which is very durable and designed to withstand years of laundering.

With the diaper came two snowy white and very soft organic bamboo/cotton knit terry inserts. They are two different sizes and can be folded in two, or in thirds. Besides stuffing them in diapers, I can envision using these as a little “prefold” for a younger baby, and maybe much later, at the end of its life, a soft and absorbent burp cloth. I love diaper products that have multiple uses. The inserts cost just $3.25 for the small and $5.25 for the larger one that folds in thirds.


I tried my new Incredibella on Susanna right away and loved the fit. She’s a smaller 6 month old at 15 pounds and the diaper was just right on the smallest rise setting and almost to the middle of the waist snaps. I felt under the waistband and sure enough, no snaps rubbing on her skin, just the soft butter suede.


There are openings in the front and the back of diaper, which make it easy to stuff. And if you forget to pull out the insert, no problem; it will agitate out in the wash. When I took the inserts out of the dryer, they were still quite soft to the touch.

A comfortable, great-fitting diaper means a happy baby. And what makes a mother happy is a beautiful handmade pocket diaper and insert for $15.00 ($12.00 if you want the shell only) that’s made in the USA and backed by personal service from another diapering mom.

Bella Bottoms also sells side-snapping PUL covers for $7.00, one-size hemp diapers, adorable little “Bitty Bellas” for preemies and newborns, bamboo fitted diapers AND a variety of wipes, inserts and doublers made from cotton, bamboo and hemp, my favorite natural fabrics.

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED ***

I’ve been so pleased with my Incredibella that I want to buy one of my readers a diaper from the Bella Bottoms website. Winner may choose either an Incredibella pocket diaper with insert, or a One-Size Hemp diaper with snap-in doubler!

2 MANDATORY ENTRIES

-  Subscribe to my blog via email (right sidebar) and leave a comment saying you did this. Current subscribes, just comment saying you do already.

- Like Bella Bottoms on Facebook and thank her for the giveaway at Zephyr Hill (tag me if you can) – leave a comment here on my blog saying you did this.

3 OPTIONAL ENTRIES

- Add Zephyr Hill to your Google + circle (right sidebar) and leave a comment saying you did this.

- Vote for me at Top Baby Blogs and Picket Fence (right sidebar) and leave just 1 comment here simply saying “I voted”

- Like Zephyr Hill Blog on Facebook and leave a comment here saying you did this.

So that’s 5 possible entries, and each requires a comment on the blog. Good luck!

Giveaway is open to U.S. residents. Ends on Feb. 26, 2012 at 11 pm CST. Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced on my Facebook fan page, and also here at the blog. Winner has 48 hours to respond to email.

* Giveaway Closed: No Longer Accepting Entries *

 

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Dry Bunz Diaper Cover Review and Giveaway

A picture is worth a thousand words. In this photo, Susanna is wearing one of the cutest and softest diaper covers we’ve ever owned. About a month ago I was searching on Etsy for some affordable PUL diaper covers and stumbled upon “Dry Bunz” diaper covers made by JudysLilQuiltFix on Etsy. They are heavenly and come in the loveliest assortment of prints, including charming vintage florals which I love for little girls.

Judy offers two basic types of covers. There is the basic Dry Bunz cover which is lined with PUL inside and decorated with a cute cotton print on the outside. And then the “pocket” style Dry Bunz which has two microfleece flaps or pockets inside to tuck in your insert. The flap is lined on the inside with extra PUL to prevent leaks from tummy sleepers.

My favorite things about these covers: The elastic binding at the waist and legs is very soft and comfortable. No red marks on Susanna! The super stretchy waist tabs with hook & loop hug my little one very comfortably and make changes very fast. I’ve found the covers have washed up very well, and they’ve been through the laundry several times now. To wash, I simply fasten the tabs at the waist and turn the cover inside out.

Judy also makes an ingenious insert made of microfleece and zorb which can be folded up to make 7 thirsty layers of fabric. They are sewn to fit perfectly in her covers and are only $2.50 each. You pick your size, and Judy goes to work for you.

I have one of each of the covers and can’t really decide which one I like better. The microfleece against Susanna’s skin is very nice on the pocket cover, but the basic Dry Bunz offers a slightly trimmer fit. Here’s a picture of the basic cover I bought in a cute frog print.

I’m going to be buying a few more of these soon because I am so pleased with the quality and cuteness! And they are only $8.50 to $10.00 each, depending on the size and style (yes, she has tiny little newborn covers!). What a great price for such a well made and unique diaper! You won’t find a selection of prints like this from the big manufacturers.

As a side note, out of the goodness of her heart, Judy also makes pillowcases for local pediatric units. Right now, she’s looking for grants to keep her “Olivia and Alayna Pillowcase Project” alive, so any of my readers who can help out are welcome to contact her through Etsy.

Judy is offering a special promotion right now in her Etsy store – buy 5 diaper covers and get 1 free! Now I know I’ve been posting a lot of girl prints here so if you have a little baby boy, take a look at this cute cover:

As a thank you to her, please complete the mandatory entry below – and any of the other optional entries that you wish!

MANDATORY ENTRY

1. Add one of Judy’s Dry Bunz diaper covers as a “favorite” on Etsy and leave a comment here telling me which print it was.

OPTIONAL ENTRIES

2. Grab my button (right sidebar) and add to your blog or website and leave the link in a comment here.
3. Vote for me at Top Baby Blogs and Picket Fence (right sidebar) and leave just 1 comment here simply saying “I voted”

Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents. Ends on Feb. 24, 2012 at 11 pm CST. Winner will be chosen by random.org and announced on my Facebook fan page, and also here at the blog. Winner has 48 hours to respond to email.

* Giveaway Closed: No Longer Accepting Entries *

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Saint Valentine in History and Legend

You probably already know that Valentine’s Day is named for a real person. But you might be surprised to learn that there were actually three different Valentines mentioned in early Christian martyrologies. Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest and Saint Valentine of Terni a bishop; both were put to death for their faith during the Roman persecutions of the 3rd century and both are buried on the famous Via Flamenia, an ancient Roman road. Even less is known about the third Saint Valentine except that he was martyred in Africa with several companions.

It was Pope Gelasius I that we can thank for the establishment of Saint Valentine’s Day. He designated February 14th as the feast day most likely because this was the date one of the martyrs was buried on the Via Flamenia. But the lack of more historical details led the Pope to speak of those three saintly Valentines as men “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.”

So how did Saint Valentine’s Day become associated with love and courtship? There is no mention of romance in early medieval biographies of the Roman priest and bishop. But there are traditional (but not historically verified) legends which recount that Saint Valentine celebrated marriages in secret in defiance of the pagan Roman emperor. For this he was thrown in prison, and after his death was remembered as the special patron of those in love.

The priest Valentine ministers to his fellow prisoners

We see romantic elements beginning to creep in around the 1400′s. In 1482, the famous Geoffrey Chaucer penned a romantic verse to honor the King’s engagement. It reads “For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.” And on Valentine’s Day in 1400, a “High Court of Love” was established in Paris to deal with love contracts, betrayals and violence towards women. The earliest surviving Valentine dates to the 15th century from the Duke of Orleans.

Since those days of courtly love and romance, Valentine’s Day has broadened its horizons even more. In my family we’ve always given Valentines to all those we love – not just our sweethearts and spouses. And our expressions of love aren’t always sappy and sweet; some of the best are pretty darn funny!

And I think the three Saint Valentines would have approved of setting aside one day in the year to remember how important love is. After all, they gave their lives for the One whom they loved.

What are some of your family’s Valentine traditions?

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Announcing 2 of our Giveaway Winners

If you’re like me, you like to see giveaway results published and so I always try to post here on the blog, as well as on the Facebook page. This week I had two lucky ladies claim their prizes:

1. Winner of the Tiny Tuchus All Natural Products Gift Basket:  Ashley E.

2. Winner of the Ones & Twos AIO Diaper: Lindsay P.

Oh, and tomorrow is the last day to enter the GenerationMe Eco Friendly Detergent Giveaway!

Have fun,

Anne

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Cloth Diapers: The Good, The Bad and The Funny

I’m talking about the good stuff first. That way, I won’t scare any mothers away.

- Cloth diapering is getting to play “dress up the doll” 6 or more times a day! Every girl’s dream, right?

- Cloth diapering is an addiction you can feel good about because it saves money, cuts down on waste and makes you sort of feel like your great-grandmother (but without the wrinkles).

- Cloth diapering takes baby photography up a few notches. Your child is still a star, but the diapers take center stage.

- Cloth diapering has inspired many mothers to take up sewing. We have zero desire to duplicate plastic diapers, but just stand back and watch us whip up some pockets and doublers.

- Cloth diapering expands your intellect. This is a little known but very useful benefit. For instance, do you think the woman-on-the-street could define what a “double gusset” is and why it has changed Western Civilization for the better? And could she explain what do to about “wing droop?”

- Your social circle will grow exponentially. Birds of a feather flock together. So do cloth diapering junkies. They share stories. They try new products and troubleshoot together. Heck, they even swap diapers.

- Good diaper + good fit = TOUCHDOWN! You will likely see less blowouts, less leaking and less rash than you would with disposables.

Now let’s be fair and talk about the bad. And there is some.

- Because cloth diapering can be addictive, it can lead to impulsive behaviors like binge spending on Black Friday and then frantically trying to sell some of the stuff back on Diaper Swappers.

- Underneath all that cuteness is a reality check with human waste. And it can be unpleasant at times, like when they are sick….or on an antibiotic…or trying out the wonderful world of fruits and vegetables for the first time. And you are too cheap to buy a diaper sprayer. Yes, that’s me.

- Your laundry load will increase. But most mothers are so intoxicated with cloth diapers that they suffer no ill effects from being a slave to the Maytag. They gladly bring their offerings to the great and powerful washing machine, sometimes every day.

And as for the funny business…

- Cloth diapering may get you some weird looks. My husband still shakes his head when I rush to change the baby even though she’s barely wet. But I know all of you need no explanation for this seemingly illogical behavior.

- At the drop of a hat you might suddenly strip your baby down to the diaper when a friend comes over, because you can’t help showing off their cute britches.

- Cloth diapering may cause you say something in public like “so the Monkey Butts are really working for Dana and she is really loving the Hiney Honey.” But you won’t be embarrassed at all.

How’s that for an ice-breaker?

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Baby Oz Clothing

Pop Out Cars

Dan and Ronda Osuldsen are a husband and wife team on Etsy and together they make some of the cutest things for babies and children that I’ve seen! Their store is called Baby Oz Clothing and includes beautifully crafted wooden toys, tote bags, cloth diapers and training pants, sleep sacks and more.

Just a few days ago Ronda posted her new pull-up trainers and they sell for just $5.00 – what a bargain!

A few weeks ago, I tried some of the diaper covers which are lined with waterproof PUL and decorated on the outside with cute cotton prints. We’ve used these overnight with no leaks so I’m really impressed, especially since they are only $10.50 for the regular sizes. Newborn covers are only $8.50!

Here is a picture of little Susanna in her Baby Oz diaper cover. Dan and Ronda were nice enough to send a free pastel pink insert that was dyed to match the cover.

Right now Baby Oz Clothing is extending this offer of one free insert with every diaper cover purchase!

There are so many cute items in this store that I can’t post all the pictures here, but I just wanted to include this tote bag at the end because I added it as a “favorite” item on Etsy and hope to be able to buy it soon. I think it would be perfect to hold my children’s crayons and coloring books when we’re on the go.

Have a favorite shop on Etsy? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Anne

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