- As much as I adore my batch cooking, I’m trying to change things up a bit. My husband and I reworked our budget and I’m back to bi-weekly grocery trips. The cost hasn’t really changed, it just shifted. And I love using my pretty envelopes more.
- I feel like all I do is sew. I completed a quilt this week and will post about it tomorrow. I’m 100% proud of myself on this one.
- I also finished Sylvi’s birthday dress. And bonus: I made a matching dress for the doll she’s getting as her gift.
- Matt and I are planning a fun change to the backyard this month! I’ve been planning and organizing and we’ve landed on a local company to put up a play structure in our back yard! We are keeping gifts for the kids very modest this year and I can hardly wait to hear the squeals of joy when the kids see all those fun things to climb!
- The breakfast experiment is going well. I missed only once in the last three weeks. I was very sick all day long as a result. I’m realizing that I need more calories than I think I do, especially if I plan to continue working out towards specific fitness goals.
- My plants for this year’s garden are growing like crazy. I think I need to keep them indoors for another 6 or so weeks, but there is a distinct possibility that they will take over my kitchen counters in that time.
- I rotated toys for the kids again tonight. I hadn’t done it in a few months, but I wanted to declutter a little before Sylvi’s birthday. I’m still not convinced that the Little People toys we have were worth it, but they’re out of hiding.
- Oh. And I cleaned my desk off. I’m fairly certain angels sang.
When Matt and I got married, we moved in my furniture… a Pier 1 set I’d had since 7th grade. Matt has hated it since day one. At one point, I thought it would be a good idea to revamp the furniture, so I purchased 10 cans of spray paint and got to work turning the white wicker dressers into brown wicker. Turns out wicker is terribly difficult to spray paint and I’m fairly certain half the neighborhood was high from all the paint fumes. I made an upholstered headboard and we called it a day.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve talking about finding new furniture for our room. I wanted a simple farmhouse style bedroom set. I’ve looked at several Amish builders and in furniture stores, but I just didn’t want to pay their prices. Along the road, I discovered Ana White’s plans and Matt felt like he was up to the task.
Thanks to Pinterest, we picked out a plan we wanted and started looking for new bedding. Then, for Christmas, Matt’s parents took us to an Amish mattress builder and we picked out a fantastic pillow-top mattress… King size. Plans changed once again and I had to purchase all new bedding, but man alive is it nice to have elbow room in bed, even when both kiddos join us for the night.
The project took about 3 weeks time to complete, although once we got down to business (big shout out to the in-laws for helping keep an eye on the kiddos!) we finished all the paint and staining in about 24 hours. I made the decorator pillows, both from patterns. The flower pillow pattern can be found here. It took me almost 3 hours to make… however, very worth it!
The dresser was in the basement of this house when we moved in as part of a 3-piece set used to store my grandmother’s fabrics and sewing nick knacks. We had painted it 2 years ago when we moved in, so the only work left was to sand it roughly and wipe stain over it. All the woodwork did get 2 full coats of polyurethane to protect it.
We got the wood for the headboard from our brother-in-law’s sawmill and it is poplar wood. Both Matt and I are so pleased with how it worked out! The headboard is h-e-a-v-y! We had to ask a friend to come and help Matt carry it up from the basement and bolt it into place on the bed frame as we discovered how wimpy my upper body strength still is
So here we are… all grown up with actual furniture to prove it. I still need to come up with window treatments and paint the heat registers this spring… and eventually, I hope to figure out how to reupholster a vintage armchair in the corner of the room. The more projects we do, the more we fall in love with diy projects. When Matt and I got married, he didn’t own any tools or posses any building skills beyond putting together pre-fab bookcases. It’s been exciting to watch him learn and grow in talent and confidence in these seven years of marriage.
In the last 4 years, we haven’t really made a huge effort to celebrate our marriage on it’s birthday. So this year, we made up for it with a project that we love and are proud of. And a night away in a Castle. It is amazing what a full night’s sleep can do! The gorgeous furniture and Celtic music playing everywhere reminded us of our honeymoon and it was just the perfect way to celebrate our life together; what it has become and what is in store for the future!
You’re supposed to be reading a well thought out post about my home organization. It was going to be great and I was really excited to share how we are taming the daily beast lately. Considering today, though… I’m thinking I’ve goofed.
Sylvi is back to waking up long before my alarm goes off, so I start my day pretty early. I am feeling pretty calm and collected on a regular basis. It’s nice, you know? This morning, I had all our beds made before Matt even left for work, the kids and I were dressed and I had pancakes on the griddle. At 930, I was shocked to walk into the living room and realize I was supposed to be babysitting and the family was here. Uh huh, I tried to be cool and would have never mentioned this, but it definitely sets the tone for how under the bus I was for the rest of the day.
Morning: manageable. Then, 45 minutes after my extra charges left absolute insanity hit. Thus far, my philosophy on parenting has been to stay one step ahead of the short people. Oh and remember where I set the dirty diaper. For the most part, this goes well for me. And then, I get overconfident and try to bake a cake while the kids are eating lunch, get distracted by Lord knows what, resume the cake baking and get it in the oven only to realize that the house was silent. I went to investigate only to find my children hunkered down behind the 25 year old child-sized rockers in Sylvi’s room. The overwhelming smell of Burt’s Bees baby powder hit me in the hallway from behind the closed bedroom door. They had managed to dump out at least 50%-75% of the bottle on the floor: Liam was scooping it up to “make art” on the walls and Sylvi was scooping it up to eat it.
I called my wisest mom friend who then told me to call poison control. While on the phone with that kind lady, I herded the kids into the bathroom since they were ghost white from all the powder to prepare to bathe them. She asked for the ingredients on the bottle, so I left the room only to hear a loud crash and Sylvi try out her newest word: “oops”. In the corner of the shower/bath, we have a tension rod with baskets on it. It took two adults to install it 2 years ago. However, the two small children who climbed in the empty bathtub who decided they wanted the shark in the lowest basket managed to yank the entire thing down, which then almost took out the shower curtain.
Listen. When the lady from poison control wishes you a “less eventful” afternoon, it’s a sign you’re not a wimp and it’s ok to take a break. So I dressed both kids and informed them we were all taking a quiet time. This of course did not occur until I discovered a missing bottle of body wash in Sylvi’s room. Said bottle of body wash, has a pump on top. I have visions of the kids bouncing up and down on that pump while I wrestled with the tension rod in the bathroom. Regardless of how the soap managed to get on the floor, it got there. I just stood there and laughed. At least my floors are really clean.
I have a terrible headache, can’t stop thinking about chocolate and am counting the moments until back up arrives. But, I now know beyond a shadow of doubt, silence is certainly not golden and tension rods loosen their hold over time. The point of this quite laughable story from my day is really to myself. Had this kind of a day happened 2 or 3 years ago, I’d have called my husband sobbing and begging him to come home because I didn’t trust myself to remain calm. Today, I called him to ask if he’d mind stopping at the Y to pay our membership fee. Considering the day’s mayhem, it’s probably better if I don’t attempt to take my little hooligans out in public. Yes, today has been hard. Yes, today is not over. But today, I realized that I needed to stop and take a break. My husband won’t be coming home to a tidy house or children in matching clothes, but that cake that kept me from being attentive to my children’s mischievousness was amazing.
We are going to my in-law’s for Thanksgiving. I know there are going to be lots of amazing side dishes and a huge turkey, but I’m there for the pot roast. Unconventional, I know, but I am here to tell you that my mother-in-law’s pot roast is a revelation and I probably won’t eat a bite of turkey all day. I begged my mother-in-law for her recipe and it turns out that it just involves adding dry french onion soup to the roast.
You know how I am, I can’t just go buy a packet of onion soup, I have to make my own. I mix it up each time I make a roast, so I don’t keep it on hand since I only make one, maybe two roasts a month. My roast isn’t exactly like my mother-in-law’s, but it’s darn close. And the best roast I’ve made since I learned how to cook meat. So it keeps me held over until I can back up to Amish country and avail myself on the comfort of roast beef and mashed potatoes.
Dry French Onion Soup Mix
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
- 1 tsp. dried onion powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. dried mustard
It’s that time of year again!! The October Unprocessed Challenge officially begins today! I participated in it last year and it was the jump start I needed to get back into the habits I knew I should have kept. As a matter of fact, last year’s challenge changed a lot of things for me and I will credit it with my current quality of life… a quality of life I happen to love.
Last year, I found amazing recipes to replace foods that I had purchased in the store for years because I just hadn’t bothered to try. In preparation for the Unprocessed Challenge, I’ve put together a list of foods that you can make in your own kitchen from real ingredients. These recipes even pass the kitchen test that Andrew Wilder discussed way back in 2010, which you can find here.
- Remoulade Sauce
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Whole Wheat Pitas
- Taco Seasoning
- Whole Grain Sandwich Bread
- Basic Mustard
- Homemade Mayonaise
- Dried Peaches
- Real Chocolate Sauce
Recently, I was given the chance to review some products from Earth Mama Angel Baby. They have launched an herbal first aid kit , since not all of us have the super super green thumb we wish we could have, these products actually can serve double duty! I had no idea how this bundle would be so great to have on hand for herbal help on the go or at home! Mama’s Herbal First Aid Bundle includes every little herbal thing you need to care for life’s little mishaps, safely, naturally and effectively.
- Mama-To-Be Tea Sampler with Organic Peaceful Mama Tea, Organic Morning Wellness Tea, Organic Third Trimester Tea, and Organic Heartburn Tea for teething, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, seasonal allergies
- Organic Milkmaid Tea for gas, bloating and heartburn, indigestion
- New Mama Bottom Spray for sunburn, shaving rash and minor scrapes, facial toner
- Happy Mama Spray for upset tummies, travel tummy, or pregnancy nausea
- Natural Nipple Butter to cover and protect scrapes and abrasions, chapped lips, cuticles, chapped cheeks and minor rashes
- Angel Baby Bottom Balm for fungal rashes, itchy rashes, cuts, scrapes, new tattoos, piercing, chafing (this is my favorite petroleum-free, triple antibiotic ointment alternative!)
Last night, I had a dream that it snowed. I was really disappointed when I realized that it was already in the mid-70s at 7am. Confession: Summer is not my favorite season. I love the fresh food and the pool opportunities and all, but I really, really hate being hot. Really a LOT. I love all the summer fun, I just don’t like being hot.
However, when I pop open a jar of my jam in the dead of winter, I sure am grateful for that heat that helped the fruit grow and ripen! This recipe was inspired by the Strawberry and Lemon Preserves from Canning for a New Generation. I adjusted the flavors a bit to give the jam more what I was looking for: a sweet jam than that finishes with just a little bit of a tart zing!
Strawberry Lemonade Jam
- 3 pounds strawberries; cleaned, hulled, chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 lemons; skins washed and sliced thinly
Since you’ll probably be reading more than a few posts on canning this summer, I thought I’d go ahead and let you know my favorite resources so you can check them out of the library or add them to your own collection!
All About Canning: I have both this book and the original Joy of Cooking cookbook. Both have simple, easy to follow recipes and instructions. It should be noted though, that the Joy of Cooking does not have images that are remotely helpful in the text.
Put ‘Em Up! I was given this book for Christmas and I already have it dogeared and noted. I’m very anxious to try some new recipes from it! I’m hoping to find some good rhubarb at the farmer’s market this weekend so I can make the sparkling rhubarb jelly. I especially love the variety of recipes and the icons on each page providing a quick referral of the potential storage methods (freeze, can, dry).
Canning for a New Generation: Also a Christmas gift, this one is also showing my plans for the summer. It is packed with recipes and ideas and as a bonus for those of us who can extra specifically so we can give our goodies away, there are gift tags in the back!
Simply in Season: a stand-by of mine for the last few years, I find myself flipping through this book every time I need a new recipe for seasonal produce.
These are my favorites and I do hope that by the time my children are my age, they’ll find them stained, worn and noted. I know some people don’t write in their cook books, but I can’t control myself. I need to know what I had thought while I was cooking. I like to mark how much we enjoyed it (or didn’t!) and any changes I made. I’m always making little changes, so that last part is awfully helpful. Now that you know my favorites, do you have any you’d like to add to the list?
I really enjoy playing outside with the kids. I love when they are messy beyond belief. I especially love when they are using their hands. Liam crawled for approximately one week on all fours. Prior to that, he motored around the house dragging his body with clumsy thumps of his arms on the floor. He is very right hand dominant and his hand is considerably weaker. Since he won’t do much with his left hand if he can avoid it, I am always looking for ways to increase his strength.
We are raising our children to love color. Matt is an artist by trade and I appreciate every bit of art: the color, the style, the passion. Liam strongly prefers the color red and Sylvi is showing preference for purple and green. We color and paint and draw all the time. My back patio shows Liam’s attempts to be a muralist on our white walls with wet chalk. I don’t know any child who doesn’t like chalk. But, I do have a daughter who thinks it’s a snack, so I had to come up with another option for outdoor color that wouldn’t matter if she ate. I found several chalk type sprays on Pinterest and decided this was my answer.
I bought plastic spray bottles for $0.99 each at Target in the travel/sample size section. I then used a ratio of 2:1 for hot water and cornstarch. Mix together the water and cornstarch and simply add food coloring until you get the shade you’d like. (I used a very thin spray because the nozzles on my spray bottle seemed to clog very easily, but you honestly could use equal parts cornstarch and water.) The kids loved the spray and I wasn’t worried at all when Sylvi wound up with it all her face. As a quick note, though, if you’d like to make your sprays in advance, the color does separate but is resolved easily by shaking. I store mine with the straw removed from the nozzle so it doesn’t clog.
The color spray washed right out from the kids’ clothes and the patio. And Vito’s fur. And my hair. And our hostas. Needless to say, Liam loved playing with the squirt bottles and it’s been great to see him using his hands together. What fun outdoor art are you doing with your kids this summer?
Ok. When Liam turned 1, we threw a party at our house to celebrate. I was really, really excited about it since I felt that there was minimal waste and I had succeeded in utilizing all the local food sources. This time, I realized that while I wanted to have the same environmentally friendly celebration, there were older siblings to entertain and the yard still is not yet fenced in. We booked our party the local children’s museum and then all I had to to was figure out how to make this party happen without a lot of waste.
Paper Product Usage:
Of course, I still have my cups and plates from Liam’s first birthday and they have gotten a lot of use. While I realize they are plastic, I don’t care. Nope. Parties with children mean at some point, something will get dropped and in our case, the plates and cups just bounce. And also, at the end of the party, we literally tossed them in the tote, snapped the lid on and brought them home. We were late setting up the food stuffs at the party so I couldn’t find my biodegradable forks (found them when we got home, though) and the huge box of plastic silverware came out. Also used, paper napkins. However, I’d like to mention that they came from a package purchased for a baby shower over a year ago and have been used for several parties since then. In light of this, I think I will have to start scoping out the fabric sales in search of fabric that will work with the party stuff and just make a huge stash of napkins to go along to parties.
Once again, I stuck to the locally grown or produced foods. I made my first deli tray this weekend. It was nice and I learned that for every 30 people, they recommend 4.5 pounds of meat and 3 pounds of cheese. People at local delis are so nice. Meat and cheese produced an hour from our home. I made Remoulade sauce, brought a jar of my pickles, and some homemade jams. I had thought that the kids would like peanut butter and jelly, but not a soul wanted any. Also, fun idea for fruit: smaller bananas, clementines and grapes. Bonus: leftover fruit is perfect for afternoon snacks and Matt’s lunches!
Decorations and Gifts:
Sylvi didn’t get a giant banner because as a second-time mother I realized that it was impractical. Instead, I made her a picture that used the same fabric I used for her invitations and bib. It worked great for portability and I will be making another one for Liam. I also made little toppers for the cupcakes, but that was probably my most wasteful decision yet. Seriously. They were cute and all, but I threw every single one away. I saved all the tissue paper and cardboard in the recycling bin. Most of the gifts people brought were books, but one friend brought a plant (she was informed she rocked for knowing me so well) and another brought a handmade outfit. Matt and I bought her a shopping cart and some felt veggies from Etsy; I was really into a food theme this year as her Easter basket had books about gardening and food too. It was a great way to celebrate her first birthday!
In retrospect, I see a need for cloth napkins to permanently take residence in my party tote. Even though I did my best, there was still a lot of plastic useage, but considering that there were lots of kids and I had to haul everything from my home to the museum and then all the way to the back and up a flight of stairs (thanks to those to helped me with muscle!) I think that I’m doing the best I can for now. Maybe in the future, I’ll add glass plates and phase out the plastic, but for now, this was as low impact as I can get!
How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?