Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jonah's Journey

I have wanted to share this for a while, and am just now getting to it.  This is a photo journey I made for Jonah when he was around 3 months old.  He is now 9 months old.  I will always cherish this!  Please don't let the words distract you!  I wrote the "story" in a hurry, and am probably going to re-write it later.  :)  Enjoy!

Jonah's Journey - slideshows

Felt Food Part One (No Sew)

Making felt food or things for our felt board has become a great outlet for me.  It's really soothing to sit down, and let my creativity have a chance to run wild all while making something that my boys will (hopefully) like.  I haven't yet made anything with felt that requires sewing.  I hope to enter that arena when I get the courage!  Why do needles, thread, and sewing machines intimidate me so much?  I'll hopefully get over it eventually.

So, here are a couple no-sew felt food ideas for you: pizza, salad, and spaghetti and meatballs .  They are ridiculously easy, and lots of fun for the kids (They never notice the lack of sewing.), because they can also unleash their creativity (which comes pretty naturally!) by mixing and matching foods.

These are really fun to use at children's parties, because they can all make their own foods however they want.  The pizza is probably the best for that, because of all the toppings.  I think throwing the spaghetti in the air is my toddler's favorite thing to do.  There are so many ways you could expand on these ideas as well.

I'm sure we will come up with some more fun foods.  Do you have any that you like to make?

We just made a felt Mr. Potato Head, so I'll have to share that soon, too.

How-To Below

You will need these items:

Felt colors for the pizza:
tan, red, dark red (for pepperonis), white, green, and yellow

Felt colors for the salad:
two or three different greens, white, red, orange

Felt colors for the spaghetti:
red and brown

You will use tan or cream colored yarn cut into strands for the spaghetti.

Cut a round, tan circle for the crust, and a red, smaller circle for the sauce.  Then, cut small, white pieces to look like cheese.  You can add yellow peppers or pineapples, green peppers, and red pepperonis.

Cut jagged pieces for green lettuce, a white "blob" of ranch dressing, and then add your red tomatoes and orange carrots.

Cut the yarn into small strands.  Next, add the red "blob" of sauce on top of that with a few brown meatballs.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bathroom Remodel

Hey everyone!  You may remember my post titled, "Our 60's Charmer".  We have finally reached a point where I'm not mentally exhausting myself and husband with what needs to happen next to fix this place up.  There is still more to do here (what house couldn't use a power washing or a little paint here or there?), but it looks great for now.  Now (until Spring arrives) we plan to rest for a while.

I want to share our bathroom remodel today.  It was my least favorite room before, and now it looks much better and actually stylistically fits into this decade.

BEFORE pictures below

I can't believe I only got a handful of "before" pictures!  It was bad in there.  Trust me.  Do you see in the picture below that if someone was on that toilet, their legs would pretty much touch the vanity to the left?  "A little cramped" is an understatement.

Like those sea shells?  They adorned much of the wall under the mirror above the sink.

This picture is just to give you an idea of how the Formica looked up close.  I was doing a project in there, hence the saran wrap all over the walls.

AFTER pictures below

You may notice these changes:
new wall color
new vinyl floor
added baseboards (They were plastic before.)
new towel hook, curtain rod, shower curtain (...which took me a decade to pick out.  Who knew curtain shopping was such serious business?), toilet paper holder, shelf above toilet, vanity lighting, medicine cabinet mirror above sink, vanity, faucet, linen towers, doors and knobs, tub and shower faucets (not pictured), and various decorations

 Am I a dork?  Yes.

 I see now that corner needs a plant where the pumpkin is.  I think my toddler might spill the dirt everywhere, so scratch that.  The candle on the shelf way up there is actually my husband and my unity candle from our wedding.  We try to remember to light it each year on our anniversary.  I think we have remembered two out of five times.  :/

So, although our one bathroom house has this tiny, little bathroom, we now have ample storage thanks to all of our cabinet additions.  I am grateful for the updates in this room.  It makes up for the fact that we constantly have small toddler toilets and toys scattered about.  

I will keep posting our home updates room by room.  The kitchen needs a few small adjustments, then it'll be ready.  It's a big change.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homemade Poptarts

I've never been a huge fan of store bought poptarts, and especially not lately since they have lots of icky ingredients in them unless you buy the organic versions.  So, when I found out that you can make your own poptarts at home, I had to try it.


-First, I started with a basic pie dough recipe from Betty Crocker:  Betty Crocker Pie Dough Recipe (I like to use eco-harvested organic palm shortening in these.)

-Then, I cut the dough into small rectangles, ensuring that each was the same size in order to stack them.

-The fun part is picking out your fillings!  I chose these combinations: chocolate hazelnut butter and strawberry jam, peanut butter and chocolate chips, and strawberry jam and chocolate chips.  I loved each pastry, but the peanut butter chocolate was my favorite by far.  Choose anything you like!  Try to put a small amount of filling into each pastry, so they don't explode.  Leave room on the edges for crimping.

-Use an egg wash to attach the top and bottom rectangles to seal in the filling like you would with ravioli.  You can then use a toothpick to crimp the edges.  *It's really cute when you use a small cookie cutter, and cut out a shape in the top pastry before setting it on the bottom one.

-Bake at 350ยบ until golden brown on the edges.

-Remove and allow to cool before serving.  You can also add toppings to the pastries, like:
royal icing, thickened buttercream icing (colored with natural India Tree food colors), chocolate ganache, drizzled chocolate, sprinkles, etc...

You can use this recipe for unrefined homemade powdered sugar.

You can make mini poptarts and stick Popsicle sticks into the bottom of them.  They are adorable for parties.

Enjoy!  I'd love to hear some of your filling ideas.

Below are some pictures of the poptart making process :)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pocketful of Acorns

My two year old son's tiny khaki pants were sitting on top of the pile of dirty clothes, and just before I threw them in the washer, I remembered to check his pockets.  His preschool teacher told me that he was picking up acorns, and might have stashed some.  This was the first time I'd ever thought to clean out his pockets.

I discovered a couple of whole acorns and some acorn pieces.

Now, I know it might be silly, but I was so moved by those little acorns that he had decided were special enough to keep safe in his pocket.  Throughout the coming years, I will surely remove things like worms, leaves, candy, love notes, money, and keys, but today...  Today, I got to hold in my hand these precious acorns that even I as a child thought were treasures.

It reminds me of how innocent and wondrous he is, and how big the world is to him.  He values acorns.  He values clouds and crickets.  He loves God's creations.  He takes the time to admire them, which makes me admire him even more.  

I will forever remember his first pocketful.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Four Seasons Old Window Painting

Here is an idea to put old, decorative windows to good use.  You may have already seen my post about painting on old windows.  This is really just an update with a different design you might want to try.

The best part about this four seasons design is that the window will fit in any time of the year!

You can use acrylic paint, and a razor blade as an eraser to scrape away mistakes once the paint is dry.  It's a really worth-while, simple project.  You don't have to be an amazing artist to pull one of these off!  I can vouch for that.  I'm no Picasso, so having the option to erase mistakes is really awesome.  They look great hanging on the wall inside or would even be a nice touch added to an outdoor patio.  My mom put one on their patio, and I love it the way it looks on the brick wall.

You could start working on one now to give as a Christmas gift.  I would love it if someone took the time to create a beautiful window painting for me.

-If you are wondering where to find old windows for various projects, I recommend starting your search at local thrift stores.  One near my house sells them, but I actually found mine at an unfinished furniture store.  You might check antique stores as well.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Freezer Meals Part 1

When I was pregnant with my second son, I wizened up a bit, and tried to make a few meals to freeze ahead of time.  This is the single most helpful thing I could have done to prepare for his arrival.  I was a wreck (as most of us are) after my first son, and would have loved to have been able to grab meals out of the freezer for quick dinners rather than scrambling for last minute dinner ideas.  

Here are a few of my favorite recipes that I found all from one site: pregnant.livejournal.com.  Thanks to Rachael for the recipes.  I made some very minor changes to a couple of the them.  I'm not sure if she is the original recipe creator or if these came from a different source.  Either way, they are great recipes that I wanted to share.  I plan to post a couple more freezer meal entries here.  I hope you enjoy these recipes if you try them! 

It was semi-time consuming, but I rounded up all organic ingredients for all of this.  One way to cut corners cost-wise, if you want to try to use organic products, is to buy local produce or to even buy frozen, organic produce.  It is frozen promptly after harvest, so the nutrients are typically equivalent to that of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.  Joining a CSA is a great help, too, because you can freeze your CSA produce that you don't use right away, to use in future recipes like these.

Chicken & Black Bean Chili (made 4 - 4C bags)
4 chicken breasts - boiled & shredded
56oz tomato sauce
30oz black beans
30oz corn
2 onions - diced
4 stalks of celery
2 packets chili/taco seasoning
4 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper

Chop everything up, throw it in a pot/crock pot and let it simmer for an hour or two.

*This recipe is extremely easy and well worth it.  We like to eat it with sour cream and tortilla chips. 

Baked Ziti (2 - 8x8 casseroles)
1lb cottage cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3oz + 1-1/2C Parmesan cheese
1/2C onion, chopped
28oz tomato sauce
1lb ziti
8oz mozzarella
20oz Italian sausage/ground beef
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1T olive oil
15oz diced tomatoes
1/2C + 2T basil
1C whole milk
1tsp oregano
1tsp sugar
3/4tsp cornstarch
salt & pepper

Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, & 1C Parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil, cook pasta until it begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7m. Drain the pasta.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook meat until nearly browned. Add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and meat is completely browned. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10m. Off the heat, stir in 1/2C basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and milk. Transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1-1/2C of the tomato sauce and 3/4C mozzarella. Stir to combine. Add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.

Split the pasta into 2 foil-lined 8x8 baking dishes and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the tops. Sprinkle the remaining cheeses over the tops.

Reheating- Thaw. Remove from foil & transfer back to an 8x8 baking dish. Cover with foil, bake at 350 for 30m. Remove foil & bake for an additional 30m.

*I went crazy and quadrupled this recipe.  It makes a LOOOT of baked ziti.  I think my family is going to be sick of it before it's even gone, but seriously, this is a delicious recipe!

Meatloaf -Gluten-Free Option (4 loaf pans)
3lb ground beef
3lb group turkey
12oz stuffing
~3/4C bread crumbs
~3/4C Quinoa flakes (for a gluten-free version)
6 eggs
1C BBQ sauce
5T onion powder
6T Worcestershire sauce
4T garlic salt
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients and form into loaf pans lined with foil. Cover with foil, bake at 350 for ~45 minutes. Uncover, coat with ketchup and let cook another 15 minutes. Let them cool, then pull out the foil "packages" and wrap in more foil.

Reheating - Thaw loaf. Remove foil, put back in loaf pan, cover in ketchup & cook at 350 for 20-30 minutes, until warmed through.

*This is one of the easiest and tastiest meatloaf recipes I've come across.  That's not a very awesome picture below, but it's the only one I have of the meatloaf.  Trust me, it's good.  You can also turn it into mini meatloaf muffins, which are great for toddlers.

Pulled Pork Starter (4 bags)
6-8lb pork shoulder
1/4C water
2T pepper
2T cumin
4T paprika
1tsp cayenne
2T brown sugar
2T salt
2T chili powder
1T oregano
1T sugar
2T mustard powder

Mix spices together & massage into the meat. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge overnight - 2 days. Cook in the crock pot on low for 8-10 hours. Add 2C BBQ sauce for the last hour.

*This is hands-down the best homemade pulled pork I've ever had in my life.

Chicken Spaghetti (2 - 8x8 casseroles)
4 chicken breasts - boiled & shredded
2 cans organic or homemade cream of mushroom soup
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
4oz jar of pimentos, diced
3C thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces
2C shredded cheese
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
salt & pepper to taste

Boil chicken, keep 2C of broth. Cook spaghetti in the remaining broth. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Mix in the saved chicken broth gradually. You want the mixture to be creamy, slightly soupy, but not drippy. Press into pans and top with more cheese. Wrap in foil.

Reheating - Thaw casserole. Remove foil & place back in baking dish. Cook at 350 for 45m.

*The picture below was taken before adding cheese. 

Stay tuned for part 2!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Too Shall Pass

Today, I was thinking about loss and grief.  Some people in my family have either recently struggled with or are battling cancer.  I loathe the word: cancer.  You hear the word so frequently these days, but you don't know how much you can actually despise it until someone you know and love, someone who was so full of strength and life yesterday, is gone before you could even absorb the news. 

We as a family, as a people, face the fact that at any time, any of our friends or family members could come to us with the heart-sinking news that they, too, have fallen victim to cancer.  It's something that I've recently come to accept with less fear than before, because I'm placing it into God's hands.  The Serenity Prayer comes in handy here. 

I was driving this morning, and I (admittedly) texted my mom at a stoplight to see how her appointment went today: "R U at your appt?  Will u find anything out today? Will u call after pls?"  These words, or semi-words reminded me of my Grandpa who passed away this year.  I will always think of him when I see someone WRITE IN ALL CAPS or type out R U... or U2...etc.  That was just him.  His wife (my step-Grandma), Norma, passed away about a month after him due to cancer.  Yes, they were a true testament to true love.  I began thinking of how permanent our grief feels when we are struck with it.  Although I am completely annoyed with the clock most of the time, time is is a beautiful thing.  Time has the power to renew our hearts.  There will always be a tear ready to be shed when I think of the people (and pets!) that have left my side on this earth even five hundred years from now, but IT GETS EASIER with time.  I can hardly remember the lyrics to those songs I set on repeat in my bedroom as a just-lost-the-love-of-my-life-again teenager.  Some of those songs played about a billion times, really.  My parents probably still cringe if they hear them come on the radio.  The point is, we are being carried along the ceaseless waves of time, WITH the Lord by our sides, and some dark, very, very dark moments that feel like they will last forever, won't.  This too shall pass.

So, cancer, I can be angry and afraid of your probable arrival again in my circle of loved ones, but you cannot defeat us.  We will survive grief.  We will survive loss.  We may even survive you.  We are armed with God and time.  There will always be a parachute of people here to catch us when we fall, even when we have lost the loves of our lives.  Someone will always be here to lift us up. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Robot Birthday Party

We had a "Robot Party", and it was awesome!

There's this DVD collection called "Baby Genius".  Have you heard of it?  Well, Levi loves the DVD "Favorite Counting Songs", because the song about number three has robots in it.  "Robots are dancing, what a super treat!!"  It really is cool.  Trust me.  So, we had to have a robot party, or two really.  We celebrated in two different cities with friends and family.  Levi had a ball!

Here are some of the things we did to celebrate my little guy turning the BIG 2!!  Hopefully this will give you some ideas if you are having a robot party, too.  :)