What’s In My Diaper Bag (Cloth Edition)

What's In My Diaper Bag (Cloth Edition) - Chic and Domestic

What’s in my diaper bag, Cloth diapering on the go, and Momming like a BOSS.

Whether you’re a prospective mom, first time mom, or a mama with experience, you know that what’s in your diaper bag is the holy grail to a successful day out. Diaper bags contain everything under the sun, and anything that you could ever think to need for your littles. You would like to think that as time goes on the load gets lighter (literally speaking) but the truth is, the contents of your bag just slowly adjust.

The greatest way to mom like a boss, is to be prepared for any hiccups and mishaps your sporadic little person decides to throw your way, but you also don’t want your arms falling off from a heavy bag. Pack to be prepared, but don’t pack for the apocalypse. Diaper bags will give you a bad back or aching shoulders well before your time, and what mom wants that!?

It took me a few months to find my balance of what I needed and didn’t need, and my husband still thinks I have some searching to do. After three kids however, I would like to think I’m a pro at this diaper bag thing. I’ve decided to share with you which items are truly needed to pack the perfect diaper bag, and how to cloth diaper on the go.

Diaper Bag Needs

1. Diaper Bag
So obviously the need for a diaper bag is number one. Not necessarily an inside essential item, but for obvious reasons, you need to choose a good bag to start with. Now, any diaper bag will do, and if you simply can’t afford it there’s no need to splurge, BUT I would recommend investing in your diaper bag. I’ve always found a need for having two bags on hand at a time in case of spills, and normal mommy wear and tear, and there are numerous styles like the over the shoulder, (One of my favorites) tote style, and the backpack style diaper bag. As my kids get older, I’m starting to love the backpack style. It’s so much easier to be hands free, and not have to worry about my bag falling from my shoulders while I’m holding little hands. I love my over the shoulder bags and everything, and there are so many options now that look more purse like (Making me feel more like a woman, and not just mommy) but at times they can be a hassle to hold while wrangling the kids. I’m currently using my Carter’s Diaper Bag, but I also have backpack options as well.

2. Changing Pad and Wet bag
Most of the diaper bags today come with a matching changing pad. If not, you can always invest in one for a decent price. Changing pads are great for public changings, and containing a mess. I use the detachable changing pad that came with my Carter’s Diaper bag, and I also have a Skip Hop portable changing pad that’s incredibly useful for a quick on the go. A wet bag is essential for a cloth diaper mom on the move. A mom using disposables would just throw her diapers in the trash, or opt for disposable baggies, but because your cloth diapers have to return home with you, you need to make sure to have a spare wet bag. I like to bring two (When I remember lol) one for #1 and a bag for #2. I have some pretty cute Alva and Planet wise bags that I alternate.

3. Diapers and Inserts
Of course diapers are on the diaper bag essentials list. With cloth diapers, they take up a bit more space in the diaper bag, so I normally pack 1 or 2 prepped diapers, and a few extra inserts and covers. I normally pack at least 1 diaper for a 2 or 3 hour trip, 2 diapers just in case. I like to be prepared for blow outs.

*Mom Tip!* Depending on what bag I’m using, and how long we’ll be out, I find that rolling my covers and inserts saves me a ton of space.

4. Baby wipes, Cloth Wipes, Cloth Wipe Solution
Where there are diapers, there are wipes. I’m a cloth diaper mom, but when it comes to wipes, I like to stick to my Pampers Naturals or Water Wipes. Plenty of cloth moms, along with their diapers, also use cloth wipes however so there are a few extra things needed for that. For after use disposal they would also be coming home with you, so this is also a great reason to bring along 2 separate wet bags. Diapers and wipes together can eventually take up a lot of space. If you currently use cloth wipes, it’s possible that you already know all about cloth wipe solution. I’ve seen moms that emerge their wipes in a solution for moisture (much like disposable wipes) and others that just prefer to spray them before use. Either way, a bottle of backup solution would be great to have on hand.

5. Change of Clothes
For obvious reasons a change of clothes is ALWAYS necessary to keep handy in your diaper bag. Kids are just messy! They can’t help it. They spill things, they drool, they pee, they poop. A change of clothes quite frankly is an inevitable need for your little’s diaper bag. I normally pack neutral clothing that can be thrown together with whatever they’re already wearing when needed.

6. Rash cream, Toiletries, Medications
I always make sure to keep a plastic ziplock bag full of these items. This is where I always feel extra prepared for the unthinkable. I keep things like:
• Honest Company Diaper Rash Cream
• Vaseline for Baby or Aquaphor
• Lotion
• Gas drops
• Hand Sanitizer
• Nipple Cream (from my breastfeeding days)
• Zarbee’s Cold Medicine (Seasonal)
• Sunscreen (Seasonal)

7. Snacks, Sippies, and Bottled Water
Snacks for the littles, snacks for a breastfeeding mama, sippies, and bottled water has come in handy on several occasions. When breastfeeding, it’s important to stay hydrated, if you’re formula feeding, water could come in handy for mixing bottles, and I’ve also had bottled water come in handy for sticky clean ups while we’re out and about. Invest in a reusable water bottle to save a few long term coins. My littles are all done with bottles now, so we drag along their sippy cups for their hydrating.

8. Receiving Blankets
Receiving blankets can be used for multiple uses and I ALWAYS pack at least 2 in my diaper bag. When my children were babies, I would keep spare receiving blankets for swaddling, or covering their carseat. As they started to get older, I used them for things like play or tummy time while we were visiting family, burp cloths, or a makeshift changing pad at times. It’s a great idea to have a few on hand, and get innovative with their uses.

9. Toys
Always always always keep at least a toy or two handy for your littles. You never know when your child might need some extra entertaining. I try to bring things along like blocks (My daughter’s favorite), puzzles, and color books or loose paper, and a few crayons to color.

10. Mommy stuff
A diaper bag is obviously there to serve the needs for your baby’s essentials, but it’s such a hassle to bring along both a diaper bag and your purse at times. Don’t forget to pack little things for yourself. Your cell, keys, and wallet are hard to forget, and are normally the only things that I bring along for myself. Breast pads, lotion, or a small makeup bag could also be of use. Also, depending on where we plan to go, I always try to double check what’s already in there and adjust.

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My Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Shopping

My Top 5 Ways To Save Money On Christmas Shopping - Chic and Domestic

 

It’s holiday time again! So that means I get to share my top 5 ways to save money on Christmas shopping. Christmas time means days of holiday cheer, Christmas carols, and unfortunately a million and one ways to quickly see your money disappear. You don’t want to be that person, because nobody wants to be that person! You want to be both fabulous, and frugal for the holidays, and hold on to every penny that you can while also enjoying the season of giving.

This week I’ve teamed up with a few other ladies to discuss some Frugal Christmas topics. Karen from My Veteran Woman Life  shared her own Top Holiday Shopping Hacks. Be sure to head over and check them out.

So, here they go, My top 5 ways to save money on your Christmas Shopping.

1. Budgeting and Planning
If you know me, you know that I’m big on budgeting. It’s important to know where all of your money is going by having a plan, and budgeting for what you can afford to spend on certain things. Get an idea together of what it is you want to spend on your holiday shopping BEFORE you start. I go into a full breakdown of budgeting and planning in my previous Christmas post.

2. Limiting your gifts
Something I’ve decided to stick to for our kids is limiting the amount of gifts we buy them. This year, I also plan to implement this rule for gifting to other people. Our kids are still young now, but I also think I plan to keep up with this in the future. It’s so easy to want to buy every toy in the store, but what you end up with after gift opening is an overflowing toy box. I’ve seen a lot of people choose to buy their children 4 special gifts for the categories of something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.

3. Make your own gifts and get creative
I love Christmas gifts with sentimental value, and there’s nothing more sentimental than something you handmade yourself. This is also great time to learn a new skill, or really get creative. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas and inspiration. Maybe you can crochet a scarf or blanket, and if crafty and hands on really isn’t your thing, you can never go wrong with a framed photo. Our family members love getting framed Christmas photos of the kids for the holidays. All you need is a good camera (I’ve taken some great photos with my phone), get your photos printed (Drugstores with photo centers, Target, Walmart, and apps like Free Prints), and a fancy frame. Frugal Tip, start your search at the dollar store.

4. Rebates
A real hardcore shopping tip. Expert shoppers, DO NOT pay full price. For anything. My favorite rebate for shopping is definitely Shopkicks. It’s basically free money for shopping and spending money you would already normally spend, and they also give you the opportunity to get points for gift cards by simply walking into the store! If you use my code [MALL659750] you can get a free 250 kicks for using the app within 7 days of joining. Another great rebate tool is Ebates. If you aren’t hip to ebates, its time to get hip. It can save you so much money on your regular shopping needs. They have a ton of stores, and coupon options to not only save your money, but you also get cash back for the money you’ve saved! If that’s not Christmas savings, I don’t know what is.

5. Do your research
Last but certainly not least, the best way to find savings for Christmas is to look for savings. How do you know that it’s not possible to get a better deal without looking for a better deal? I like to check the price tag at several stores before buying gifts. It usually consists of me checking the store that would most likely carry what I’m looking for, checking amazon (I love that prime member 2 day free shipping!) and Walmart or Target. Doing my research for sales also gives me room to find good rebate options to use. For example, if a $50 video game is on my shopping list, I would probably check somewhere like Gamestop first, and then compare prices online. Being the expert shopper that I am, I would take that knowledge and buy from the store that would save or make me the most money.

I know that Christmas shopping can possibly be one big stressful headache, but by utilizing these tips, money and saving will be the least of your worries!

*DISCLAIMER. This post contains affiliate links or special codes.

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Sensory Bin 101. My Sensory Bin Experience.

Sensory Bin 101. My Sensory Bin Experience - Chic and Domestic

I’ve had so much fun creating cool sensory bin ideas for my daughter. She’s very hyperactive, and often has issues with her attention, so sometimes it’s hard to gauge the things that will be an “easy try” and things that might take a little bit more trial and error for us.

Sensory bins are made for just that, appealing to the senses through your child’s play and exploration. Sensory activities like bins and bottles create a fun way to explore and naturally learn while playing, investigating, and exploring different things.

Our first sensory bin was a simple bin of macaroni noodles. I was nervous to try something with so many small pieces, but her Occupational Therapist told me to just try it and feel it out. I am so glad I did, because she loves it!

The great part for me is, there is no right or wrong way to create a sensory bin. That’s part of the fun of it! You can literally put together a bin of fun tactile objects, sometimes even simple items that you already have in your home, and leave your child to play and explore. Sensory bins are a great opportunity to promote independent play, and for my little it’s the perfect way to decompress.

My daughter jumped right in with her curiosity, and it was amazing to watch her actually sit and focus on something for so long. I normally let her play freely, so whatever she’s feeling that day is usually okay with me. Sometimes she’ll scoop and pour, other times she likes to bury items at the bottom of her bin. The options are really endless.

Controlling The Mess!

One of my immediate concerns was clean up. I’m a bit OCD, so I wanted to make sure to find a way to make clean up easy. I don’t know about your kids, but my littles can’t seem to resist the urge to dump things out when exploring. They need to have every little part of an activity at their fingertips. We still have this problem, I must admit. It’s an uphill battle, but over time it’s gotten so much better to calm my nerves and just observe the (somewhat neat) play time. The key is being consistent in how you allow your child to play. I still allow my daughter to explore amongst herself, but I still give a watchful eye given the nature of what’s in some of her different bins.

I like to either do play at the kitchen table, making it easy to brush off and sweep up, or we play on the floor and I put a blanket down, making it easy to shake off when we’re finished. When the weather is nice, I’ve even done a few activities outside that contain messier things. Our summer for instance, was filled with tons of sensory activities that contained things like water, or shaving cream.

Learning through Play

While sensory activities are stimulating your child’s mind and senses, it’s a great way to also incorporate things like literacy, or numbers and number recognition. While I already have my daughter’s focus and attention, after a few minutes of free play I try to have her do things like counting items in her bin, or labeling her colors. I’ve noticed that she does best while already in a very focused and calm state of learning.

The possibilities with sensory bins and activities are really endless. We get to easily incorporate fine motor skills, colors, and number recognition, and for my daughter it’s a great way to incorporate words.

If you’re in need of some ideas for sensory activities, make sure to check out my Pinterest board A Sensory Sensation. It’s full of things I’ve tried personally, and a ton of other must try activities from other people.

 

What ideas have you tried for sensory activities? If you’d like to see more of the things we’ve tried. Let me know!

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What’s For Dinner!? Mushroom Chicken. In the Crockpot!

Crockpot Mushroom Chicken Recipe - Chic and Domestic

As you can tell, I’ve decided to bust out my crockpot! This Mushroom Chicken came out delicious. I mean, DELICIOUS. For all of my lazy cooking days, my crockpot has saved my life time and time again. It’s easy, it’s convenient, it doesn’t turn my kitchen into a hot box, it’s just great all around. I wanted to cook something that could be thrown into the crockpot, I also wanted to use the chicken that I already had in my freezer, but I also wanted something that we haven’t had before. This ended up being the perfect solution. I paired this meal with mashed potatoes and spinach, but this can definitely go great with anything you have on hand as an alternative. From start to finish, I think this chicken took 10 minutes to prep, and 2 ½ to 3 hours in the crockpot to cook. I also took about 8 to 10 minutes to sear my chicken on both sides before adding it to the crockpot.

INGREDIENTS

Olive Oil
3 large Chicken breasts
Mushrooms (Sliced or chopped)
½ Yellow Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic (mined)
OR Garlic Powder
1 (16oz) Cans Chicken Broth
1tsp Paprika
Salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Chop your yellow onion, and slice or chop your mushroom (Preference)
2. Add 4 teaspoons of Olive Oil to pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic.
3. Season your chicken and add to pan. Sear on both sides for 4 or 5 minutes until brown. Do not cook thoroughly.
4. Add your seared chicken to your crockpot, along with mushrooms and onions. (TIP: If you prefer a more sautéed flavor, feel free to sautéed your mushrooms and onions FIRST before covering your chicken)
5. Season your crockpot with salt and pepper.
6. Add chicken broth to your crockpot. Enough to cover the bottom.
7. Cover and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours on high heat.
8. Pair with side dishes. Enjoy!

 

For more recipes from The Chic Kitchen, check them out here!

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How to Create a Household Budget

Creating a budget that works for you, Where to start, and What it takes to make it last.

With the start of a new month, it feels like the perfect time for a fresh start with everything. It’s like a breath of fresh air. A clean slate. Maybe last month your finances weren’t quite where you wanted or needed them to be. That’s fine, no problem. That just means it’s time to create a household budget that you can stick to.

Most people think budgets suck! “Eww, what’s a budget?” “Budget? HA. We’re too rich for a budget.” WRONG. No matter how much money you have coming in, if you can’t account for every dollar you’re spending, you probably either aren’t spending it wisely, or you my friend are more than likely spending money that you don’t really have. Instead of viewing budgeting as a negative thing, view it as more as a critical tool to help you reach your financial goals.

Your finances are extremely important, but budgeting can, and more than likely will be a trial and error experience. What works for you may not work for someone else. Everyone’s pennies are different, and everyone’s expenses vary. The only things that will be the same for everyone is that everyone will have expenses. Unless of course, you’re just living off of the land, creating your own textiles, sewing your own clothes, and walking or riding a bike wherever you need to travel. And, everyone will need some sort of income to pay those expenses.
Now is the perfect time, now more than ever, to find what works for you and really start to concur your finances.

What a Budget Does

Budgets give you the tools you need to plan for how you will be spending over a period of time (usually month to month), how you can or will be saving over a period of time, and it can also be used to keep track of your spending patterns so you can start to see exactly where your money goes.

Where to Start

For most people, finances are scary, but it’s vital to keep your financial house in order. At some point, you need to think of your family finances like a business. You need to be detailed, accurate, and as thorough as possible. If you have your last 2 or 3 months of income statements, bank statements, or copies of your bills, start there. Gather this information to review so you can get a better idea of your average income, and expense numbers.

1. Record your average monthly income
Record the average monthly take home pay for your household. This is where being detailed and thorough comes in handy. If you have your last few paystubs or bank statements, this should help to give you an average number of what you’re bringing home per week, biweekly, or monthly. Use this to determine what your total monthly income number is, because this is what you’ll be using for your budgeting since you’re recording expenses on a monthly basis.

2. Create a list of household expenses
Now that you have a clear idea of what money you have coming in, create a list of household expenses. Everything that you can think of. Don’t just include household bills, (mortgage payment, car payments, auto insurance, groceries, utilities, entertainment) and then forget to include expenses like your actual household items. Cleaning supplies, sponges, rags; if you change them out monthly, toilet paper, paper towels, all of these things are also considered household expenses, because these are things that you will inevitably need in your home every month.

3. Categorize your list of household expenses
Separate your expenses into two categories: fixed and variable. Your fixed expenses will be the things that stay relatively constant each month. Things that are usually a requirement to your everyday living like, rent or mortgage, car payment, cable/ internet, credit card payments if you have them. You won’t really find these expenses sporadically changing.
Variable expenses are your expenses that may change from month to month. Items like gas, groceries, entertainment, and even your grooming (hair, nails, haircuts) budget. These expenses may or may not be essential to your everyday living, but these are normally the things that are easiest to make changes when in need of cutting back.

4. Total your monthly income and expenses
After totaling both your income and expenses, you should have an end result that shows more income than expenses. This means that you’re bringing in an adequate amount of income to cover your monthly expenses. Pat yourself on the back, that’s great! This means that you can start using your excess money to use for a designated savings of your choice, and or extra splurges and entertainment. If your results show that your expenses are higher than your income, no worries. This just means that you’ll have to do some adjusting to your budget and expenses.

5. Make adjustments to your budget
If you have accurately listed all of your expenses, the end goal should be having your income and expenses either be equal, or have an increase in your income amount. If you happen to have increase in your expense number, you should look at your list of variable expenses first to either decrease costs, or cut them all together. You currently can’t afford it. Since these expenses are typically non-essential, it should be easy to find ways to bring you closer to your income number, whether that be decreasing your grocery budget, finding a cheaper hairstylist, or decreasing how often you’re getting your nails done. Another great thing to look out for when decreasing expenses would be things gym memberships and subscription services.

6. Review your budget (Trial and Error)
Now that you’ve created your budget, here is when the trial and error comes in. It’s important to go back and review your budget, weekly to make sure that you’re staying on track with expenses and saving, but you should also look over your budget again after your first official month using it. Sit down and compare what you planned for expenses, versus what you actually spent. This will help to show you where you did well, and where you might need to make improvements. If there is a large difference between what you expected and the reality, then you might need to increase your budgeted expenses accordingly. If there is a slight difference, that’s still okay. Trial and error. Just work harder throughout the next month to stay within budget. Soon you’ll be budgeting and spending like a pro!

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