Friday, July 11, 2014

My Favorite Double Stroller (and it doesn't cost hundreds of dollars!)

I finally found a double stroller that I like!  We've tried a couple different ones and I've read lots of reviews, looking for just the right thing.

First we had an older Graco DuoGlider that I found at a garage sale for $25 when I was expecting Julia.  It served its purpose and saw plenty of use, but I grew to hate it.  It was kind of a beast to push - it felt long and hard to steer.  Also, the worst problem was that whenever a child wanted to get in or out, I had to yank with all my might to get the snack tray off, and then kick it to get it to snap back into place.  To get a child into the back I would lift them up and then kind of slip their legs under the tray, but that wasn't easy either.  I did use this stroller up until I was pregnant with our fifth and decided that it was worth finding something better.

Graco DuoGlider

I loved my Graco Quattro Tour single stroller, and went back to using it whenever I could.  Usually though, I ended up with two kids wanting to ride.  I would be cranky because I really preferred to push the single stroller, but the kids wanted the double along.  The Quattro Tour single pushed so smoothly, and had a nice little latch that opened up the snack tray easily to let kids in and out.  I decided to look for a double stroller with some features like this.

Looking at double strollers gave me sticker shock.  I'm sure there are some great options out there, but I needed to stick to a smaller budget than most of what I saw.  Eventually I realized that there was a Graco Quattro Tour Duo.  I was drawn to the easy in and out trays, the handles looked nice for ease of pushing, and it was a Quattro Tour just like the single that I loved!

Graco Quattro Tour Duo

I found one on Craigslist for $100 and decided to go for it.  At first we liked it, but unfortunately there were still some problems.  The stroller was okay to push, but still pretty heavy and big.  The child in the back could hardly see, and the basket kept falling down.

Graco RoomFor2 Stand and Ride

After reading more reviews, I decided to try one more - the Graco RoomFor2 Stand and Ride Stroller.  I looked at the Joovy Caboose and several others and eventually decided on this one. had a sale and I snagged it for $103.  (And yes, when it arrived, my husband said, "How many strollers do we have now?")  With one caveat, we absolutely love this stroller!  It solved some problems that I didn't even know I had.

folds up pretty small 

The Graco RoomFor2 is easy to push - it compares much more in size to the single stroller than to the doubles.  It folds up small, and is easy to lift in and out of the van.  The front snack tray has the handy release button, and the best part: the back is so easy to climb in and out of!  I realized that I liked having my youngest in the front seat so he could see, but that meant that I was constantly LIFTING the older ones in and out of the back seat when they wanted to ride.  Duh!  The sit and stand concept is perfect, the older ones can climb in and out on their own.

We have a Graco infant seat that I haven't tried yet, but is supposed to fit with this stroller.  Note: I did look at the Graco Ready2Grow, but there seemed to be some things I wouldn't like about it.  Reviews say it is big and bulky and people talked about kicking the stroller when they tried to push it.  Also, I wasn't super concerned about the infant seat and using it with the stroller.  Tiny babies get worn in a baby carrier on me anyway.  :)

 see that latch?  magic!

The only negative to the stroller is the tiny basket that is hard to access.  I bought a mommy hook at the mall and that really helps for when I need to carry extra shopping bags.  I just leave the hook on the stroller at all times.  To access the basket, I pull down the elastic on the side and stuff my diaper bag in.  Its not easy, but it works.

My diaper bag does not fit through that opening between the seats.

I can pull down the elastic side and stuff things in this way, diaper bag included.

I sold the Graco DuoGlider on Craigslist for $25 and the Graco Quattro Tour Duo for $100 (exactly what I had paid for each one!).  Now the only amount I had spent on strollers was the $103 that the RoomFor2 cost, not bad at all.  I don't know why I had never considered a Sit N Stand type stroller before, but I'm very happy with this one.

This is not a sponsored product review in any way.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Snacks On the Go

My kids are always hungry!  Because we are gluten and dairy free, I need to be prepared and bring snacks wherever we go.  It is nearly impossible to just stop and grab something for them to eat.

I can usually find some packaged snacks at Costco that work for us.  (applesauce pouches, Annie's fruit snacks, freeze dried fruit, nuts, craisins, Lara bars, veggie straws)  I have a snack bin in the pantry that I keep stocked so that we can grab things on our way out the door.  The Bumkins snack bags tucked in there are to fill with nuts or craisins.

I recently bought a box of small Dixie cups to use in the car.  They were only a few dollars and have adorable little owls on them that the kids love.  Even the Costco individually packaged snacks can get expensive when there are so many of us, so to save more money I just bring along a large bag of something.  (gf pretzels, popcorn, veggie straws, snap pea crisps, etc)  I grab one of the Dixie cups from the box and fill it up for each child.  The cups stay in the car so that they are always available when I need them.  In the past we kinda fumbled around with handing each kid a handful of snack or using a napkin or something, but that usually ended up making a mess.  I tried washable cups at one point, but they ended up getting left in the van and staying dirty.  Disposable cups are not much more waste in comparison to the individual packaging on the snacks that we would have been buying otherwise.  They were inexpensive and work nicely for this purpose.  We do try to use the cups a few times before throwing them away.

My kids and I each have a water bottle that we fill up and bring along when we know that we will be out and about for more than just a quick trip.  If I am planning to run errands, I will fill up their water bottles in the morning and they use that cup for the whole day so that it is ready to grab and go whenever we leave.  These are Contigo brand and have worked well for us.  I've seen them at both Meijer and Costco.

What tips do you have for feeding hungry kids on the go?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Construction Birthday Party

Isaac turned two in March!  I think I've had this cake in my Pinterest ever since he was born, just waiting for the right time.  :)  It was so easy to do and turned out wonderfully.

The cake was gluten and dairy free - I used this mix: Pamela's Products Luscious Chocolate Cake Mix and the frosting recipe from The Healthy Gluten-Free Life: 200 Delicious Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free and Egg-Free Recipes!.  The chocolate chip "rocks" are Enjoy Life brand.  I used these Toystate Caterpillar Construction Mini Machine 5-Pack as the cake topper.  They also served as table decorations and party favors too.  The napkins and plates we found at Hobby Lobby.  Some yellow streamers along with these fun 7" Traffic Signs made easy decor.

We served lemonade, cake, veggies and dip, and fruit salad for a simple afternoon party.

Some of his favorite gifts were these:

Toystate Caterpillar Construction Take-A-Part Trucks: Wheel Loader

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

Postal Service Kid's Toy Truck

In fact, this is how we had to do diaper changes for a while, drill in hand!  :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Birth Stories

So you've read Story Number One where I became a mama,

     Story Number Two where my traumatic birth was redeemed, even down to the details,

Story Number Three where Esther arrived before the midwife even did...

     and Story Number Four where our precious baby boy was born two years ago now!

Each story is unique and magical and I am honored to have been blessed with each of these little ones to love and care for.  I realize its been slow on the blog - I'm still here.... just working on Story Number Five, to come in October!  :)  I enjoy writing, and am balancing my online time with homeschooling my kiddos and spending time loving on them.  I'll squeeze in a quick post whenever I have time, and of course stay tuned for Story Number Five in October!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Elk Antlers!

There are many different things for a puppy to chew on: shoes, the rug, the kids toys...

In researching what to buy for Poca to chew, I came across this article, and purchased a few Wholesome Hide rawhides.  She chewed through the chips too quickly, but one of the larger rolls lasted her quite some time.  On further searching, I saw "bully sticks" recommended.  Oh. my. goodness.  I could not even believe what those are made of.  Lets just say its much worse than a pig ear, which is nasty as well....

Finally I saw elk antlers recommended as a great choice for dogs to chew on.  I read about antlers on a few forums and then saw them in the local pet stores as well.  Antlers, phew, I can handle that.  Evidently elk antlers are the premium choice - deer antlers can splinter, but elk are just right.  Antlers are the perfect chew toy because they are naturally shed by elk and readily available.  There are no preservatives or crazy ingredients in them either.

I found Mountain Dog Chews and was really impressed with their website and philosophy.  They agreed to send some Elk antlers for us to try out - Poca could hardly wait for us to get them out of the package for her!

She has had these antlers for almost four months now (she is definitely not this tiny anymore!), and they have held up amazingly well.  She LOVES them and chews on them quite often.  Antlers are one of the only things that I am comfortable leaving in her crate with her because I know that she is not going to ingest too much or break them.

Mountain Dog Chews staff was very helpful with figuring out what type and size of antler to get Poca.  We  got some that were split down the center, allowing her to get to the yummy middle part without too much work.  This is one of her well loved antlers:

You can see that she is in no danger of swallowing or breaking it; its simply worn down all over.  Antlers can be pricey, but considering how long they have lasted her, they are well worth it.  I highly recommend picking some up for your dog, and highly recommend the quality and good service we received from Mountain Dog Chews.  Has your dog tried antlers?  They even come in some enormous sizes for those power chewer dogs!

Disclosure: We received a package of elk antlers in exchange for our honest review.  Poca gives them two paws up!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Safe Paw Ice Melt

Although winter is nearing an end, we are still getting snow here in Michigan!  It has been a winter full of snow, ice, and more snow and ice.  With Poca needing to go outside multiple times a day, I went searching for a safe ice melt for our back steps.  

 (see the lamp post?  totally buried!)

Poca is funny - she's scared of steps.  It took her the longest time to actually walk down the couple of stairs we have in the back.  At first she was so tiny that we carried her to where we wanted her to go potty, but we eventually had to coax her down the steps.  She still won't go down the back stairs into our basement without lots of encouragement.  As you can see, I really didn't want the steps to get icy and traumatize her further!

I looked up many different kids of ice melt and settled on Safe Paw.  Salt is actually not a good option for ice melting - it damages the environment and causes pain and irritation to pet paws.  Some companies take rock salt and simply smooth off the jagged edges, which doesn't really solve anything.  Others market chemicals mixed with salt or products that still contain hefty warnings on them.

I am not a scientist by any means, but in all my searching, Safe Paw came up as a winner each time.  It is guaranteed safe for children, the environment, pets, and your property.  It is also safe to use on my wooden steps.  I still used it sparingly because I didn't like Poca tracking it in - Isaac thought it was candy and would try to pick up the little pieces.  However, when I really needed it, Safe Paw seemed to provide just enough traction and melt that Poca could safely get down the steps.  I used it on our front sidewalk a few times also when it got too icy.  I'm happy we've found a safe brand to use!

Safe Paw sent us a jug of their ice melt to review.  Check out their FAQ for more information.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Crock Pot Lasagna (gluten and dairy free!)

I adapted this recipe from one I found somewhere on this blog.  I ended up changing the amounts quite a bit, but am ever grateful for the general idea.  This tastes like lasagna!

1 lb ground turkey, cooked with onion flakes and garlic salt
     (you could also use sausage and some Italian seasoning)
10 oz gluten free lasagna noodles
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup almond milk
2 - 24oz spaghetti sauce jars

In Vitamix, blend 1/2 cup cashews and 1/2 cup milk.  After this is blended, add another 1/4 cup of cashews to thicken it up.  This is your "cashew cheese".  You could throw in some Daiya shredded cheese if you wanted to.

Spray crockpot with canola oil.  Layer meat and sauce, uncooked lasagna noodles, and cashew cheese.  Repeat several times.  Be sure the top is coated with enough sauce that the noodles are covered.

Cook on low 3-4 hours.

Isaac was a big fan!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dinosaur Hoodie

$4.50 hoodie on clearance at Target
+ a little bit of green felt
= one happy dinosaur boy

I used this post as my inspiration.

This is the trick: sew the diamonds on and then sew them closed.  Super easy!

Apparently dinosaurs wear sunglasses.

Friday, February 28, 2014


This was a fun meal that we did with the kids on New Year's Eve.  Years ago, while visiting friends in Germany over New Year's, we had fondue.  That tends to be the time of year now that I think about having it.  I love fondue but thought it might be difficult with all the little ones.  It turns out it was a blast and they did great!

On our table we had:

fondue pot with chicken broth in it

an extra carton of broth as it does evaporate

raw chicken cut into chunks



lil smokies links

sauces and spices - butter, garlic salt, BBQ sauce, ketchup, seasonings

a pot of cooked wild rice

The kids had so much fun "cooking their own food".  The lil smokies were a great addition to the table because they were already cooked and just had to be warmed a little and could be eaten quickly. The best part is seriously the broccoli - it turns out so tasty cooked in the chicken broth!  Julia thought so too because she kept eating tons of broccoli and cauliflower.  We all enjoyed the slow pace of this fun meal and are looking forward to trying it again sometime.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: Go Dairy Free

A friend let me borrow her copy of this book shortly after we went dairy free.  It was very helpful!  So helpful that we now own it.  :)  Go Dairy Free by Alisa Marie Fleming is packed full of information - everything you would ever need to know about being dairy free.  This guide and cookbook offers chapters on ordering at a restaurant, navigating the grocery store, equipping your kitchen, and then goes on to provide recipes as well.  It even mentions camel milk - now that's more information than I needed, but still...

I love that there are recipes in the book, but there are also those really valuable non-recipes like "shake some nutritional yeast on popcorn" and about putting olive oil in your freezer to make a spread.  This is definitely a good resource to have on hand and to look through over and over again. is the website run by this author and is another hugely helpful resource for anyone going dairy free.  There are recipes, product reviews, helpful hints and much more worth checking out.

Another fun cookbook is My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Kaminsky.  This one contains some gorgeous photos and a wide variety of anything sweet that you might want.  We are gluten free and I haven't played around with replacing the flours in her recipes yet.  They look delicious though and a fun choice for anyone who is vegan.  :)  There is a version of this book for Kindle too!

Disclaimer: I received these books for review.  Opinions are my own of course.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Pure Kitchen (book review)

As a family who eats gluten and dairy free, it can be a challenge to find recipes!  I have young children, so the food has to appeal to them, not be too strange or exotic, and be gluten and dairy free.  Pinterest is often helpful, but finding a whole cookbook full of recipes that work for us is pure gold!

The Pure Kitchen by Hallie Klecker is a great resource.  The book contains lots of information and tips about cleaning up your diet and eating pure, wholesome natural foods.  I'm a big fan of pictures in recipe books - this one doesn't have any to speak of, but the recipes all look simple and good.  Everything in the cookbook is free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar.  There is a full range of recipes in every category; the book is really packed full.  If you're going gluten free, there are many different ways to go about it, some not so healthy.  This cookbook really highlights using whole food healthy options and walks you through it.

I'm off to bake the Apple Snack Cakes with Oatmeal Topping for lunch... :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Valentine's Day - lots of links!

My little ones are fighting off colds and fevers right now.  On Tuesday, my mother-in-law was here and let me make a quick run to the fabric store.  I got sidetracked by all the fun heart prints right by the door and decided that if my kids are going to be sick, new Valentine's Day pillowcases might cheer them up.  :)  I stayed up late last night finishing these and left them on the girls' beds for them to find in the morning.

Today I managed to finish Isaac's pillowcase too.

The girls and I made a new canvas this week too.  We painted the background pink and while the paint was still wet, we added hearts that we had punched from various papers.  We left one corner blank and after it all dried, I added "love" to it.  It is fun to have this hanging on our wall and know that we all worked together one it!  :)

Other Valentine's Day posts you might like: