Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year!

2010 is just around the corner. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but I thought I'd try it this year.

1. Lose 20 pounds. Well, at least 15. Okay, I'll be happy with 10. Why did I look better 6 months post-partum than 19 months?

2. Get ready for my spring garden. I was a slacker last year. I want to start my seeds on time, prepare my soil, and keep weeds at bay. I like being able to walk outside and gather a salad. I don't like paying for organic veggies at the store.

3. Prepare for 1st grade. No, I'm not going back to school, but Olivia will be starting 1st grade. I'd like to get a schedule worked out and a general idea of what we'll study. I won't make detailed lesson plans for every day, but I think we both need a little structure.

4. Build a house. We've been planning to build a house for almost 7 years. I've got my fingers crossed that THIS will be the year.

5. Finish my house plans. See #4.

6. That's enough. If I can do #1-5, I'll be happy.

What's on your list?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reflections

During the holiday season, we tend to look back over the year that's ending and look forward to the one that's about to begin. We spend time with family. We count our blessings.

We're a family of four living on one income, but we pay off our credit cards every month. Our vehicles have 140K, 280K, and 320K miles on them, but they run (most of the time). Our mobile home shrinks a little more each year, but we've got a roof over our heads, hot water, air conditioning in the summer, and heat in the winter. We've got a fridge full of food and plenty of clothes in our closets. I'm relatively healthy, have a loving and faithful husband, healthy and happy children, and a caring family. I get to stay home with my kids, watch them grow, and help shape them into little people. I've even got a little extra money for hobbies (all I need is more time!).

I hope your life is even half as good as mine!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dapper Diapers













I impressed a friend of mine the other day. I was looking at some pictures of his new baby on Facebook when I spied a cloth diaper peeking out of Baby's onesie. Here are the comments that followed:

Me: Is that a bumGenius I see??
Friend: Why yes it is. I'm surprised (a) that you know what they are and (b) you can tell from that picture.

What can I say? I'm a cloth diaper junkie. I always get excited when I find out someone uses cloth diapers. My husband wasn't surprised when I bragged about them to my pregnant dental hygienist. He used to kid me about spending so much time on DiaperSwappers. Several people have asked me "Why do you use cloth diapers? Why don't you just buy disposables?" Here's why (in no particular order):

1. Cloth diapers are cheaper over the long run. When you use disposables, you're literally throwing money away.

2. Cloth diapers are better for the environnment. According to one site "It is estimated that roughly 5 million tons of untreated waste and a total of 2 billion tons of urine, feces, plastic and paper are added to landfills annually. It takes around 80,000 pounds of plastic and over 200,000 trees a year to manufacture the disposable diapers for American babies alone. Although some disposables are said to be biodegradable; in order for these diapers to decompose, they must be exposed to air (oxygen) and sun. Since this is highly unlikely, it can take several hundred years for the decomposition of disposables to take place, with some of the plastic material never decomposing." Also, "when flushing solids from a cloth diaper down the toilet and washing the diapers in a washing machine, the contaminated, dirty water from both toilet and washing machine go into the sewer systems where they are properly treated at wastewater plants. This treated wastewater is much more environmentally friendly than dumping untreated soiled disposable diapers into a landfill."

3. Cloth diapers are healthier for Baby. Possible health hazards due to disposable diapers include toxic shock syndrome, allergic reactions, male infertility, asthma, urinary tract infections in baby girls, and immune system and hormone system impairment.

4. Cloth diapers lead to earlier potty training because the child feels wet. The chemicals in disposables absorb so much moisture that the child never feels wet.

5. Cloth diapers are so darn cute!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Desperate Housewives

I've never seen the show and don't know what it's about, but I wanted to borrow the title. A lot of people think we live lives of leisure. You know - lounging on the couch with a good book, munching on bonbons, sipping champagne - that kind of thing. Well, maybe some do. But most of us are also stay-at-home moms. Our days are filled with changing diapers, kid-wrangling, cleaning, grocery shopping, refereeing, cooking, washing little hands and faces, laundry, cleaning, giving piggy-back rides, picking up toys, reading books, and cleaning. (Yes, there’s a lot of cleaning.)

Sometimes I get to escape for a little while. Once in a while I walk to the mailbox by myself. I get my teeth cleaned twice a year (20 minutes each way with nothing but the radio making noise, a few moments to look at a magazine in peace). Occasionally I ask my mother-in-law to babysit while I get groceries (no kids crawling in and out of buggies, no shoes getting kicked off in WalMart, nobody asking me to buy something on every aisle). When the kids are asleep, I might curl up with Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh (ignore the laundry, forget the dishes, no 18-month-old crying because his ball rolled under the couch, no 5-year-old asking me what M-a-d-a-g-a-s-c-a-r spells). When I’m really lucky, I get to go on a date with my husband!

Most days I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I would love to lounge on the couch with a good book, munching on bonbons, sipping champagne (actually, lounge on the couch with a good book, a bag of chocolate chips, and a glass of milk), but I’ve got laundry to cook, supper to bathe, kids to fold. You know what I mean.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Probably not at my house. We have some property out in the boonies where we hunt deer and trap wild hogs. I'm so used to eating venison and wild pork that beef tastes funny to me. (I use venison and pork for burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, spaghetti, steaks, sausage,...) Once in a while I'll buy some ribeyes if they're on sale. I also buy chicken, but I make sure it's just chicken. It's sad to have to read the ingredient list on a package of drumsticks.

By harvesting our own meat, we don't have to worry about the animals being cooped up in feed lots and/or shot up with growth hormones. The deer and hogs graze and forage on natural food, roaming wherever they want. We field dress and butcher the meat ourselves, so we know exactly how the meat was handled from start to finish. We're not buying meat that has been trucked into town from halfway across the country. And if you've ever witnessed the destruction hogs cause, you'll know we're doing landowners a favor by eliminating some of them.

While it's a lot of work to process a deer or hog, we like having quality meat for our family. An added bonus is our children learn about self-sufficiency (and anatomy!).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gobble, Gobble!

It's almost Turkey Day. I thought I'd share some of my favorite recipes with you that would be great on your Thanksgiving menu.


Cranberry Relish
(Traditional cranberry sauce is too tart for me to eat more than about a spoonful. This relish is neither too tart nor too sweet. It's good warm or cold. It's also great on toast.)
4 cups fresh cranberries, cleaned
2 cups chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped seedless golden raisins
1 tablespoon orange rind
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/2 cups orange juice
1 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients except sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes until cranberries have popped and are tender. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Cool. Store covered.


Pumpkin Cake Roll
(An alternative to pumpkin pie, this is delicious.)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned or cooked pumpkin
1 teaspooon lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
confectioners' sugar

Filling:
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Line a greased jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar; beat for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and lemon-colored. Stir in the pumpkin and lemon juice. Combine the dry ingredients; fold into the pumpkin mixture. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Gently peel off parchment paper. Roll up the cake in a towel jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Cool completely on a wire rack. In a mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients; beat until smooth. Unroll cake; spread evenly with filling to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Roll up again. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.


Herbed Cheese Ring
(If you're bored with plain ol' rolls, try this. It looks more complicated than it is.)
1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, and rosemary, crushed

Filling:
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Topping:
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, oil, honey, egg, salt, whole wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and herbs; beat until blended. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Punch dough down and turn onto a floured surface; divide in half. Roll one portion into a 15”x10” rectangle. Combine filling ingredients; sprinkle half over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. With a sharp knife, cut 1/2” slashes at 2” intervals. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush each ring with egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds and Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Better Things to Do

TV. If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they'll have with twenty-six. Open your child's imagination. Open a book. ~Author Unknown

In Beverley Hills, they don't throw their garbage away - they make it into television shows. ~Woody Allen

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home. ~David Frost

If the television craze continues with the present level of programs, we are destined to have a nation of morons. ~Daniel Marsh, 1950


It's been years since we had a tv. We didn't watch it much when we did have it. Just a movie once in a while. When our daughter was little we got rid of it. We didn't want to raise a couch potato. Watching television is mind-numbing, certainly not something children need to be subjected to for hours at a time. Everyone knows that children are sponges, soaking up everything they're exposed to. Their little brains and bodies are still developing. Kids need to be learning, exploring, exercising, using their imaginations, and spending quality time with their families. For better or worse, these little people will grow up to be mothers, fathers, teachers, doctors, librarians, bankers, dentists, and presidents. What kind will they be?

Here are a few things to think about...How can a child be healthy when he spends hour after hour parked in front of the tv? How will he learn to interact with people when his best friend is a piece of furniture? How can he make a worthwhile contribution to society when he needs a celebrity to tell him what kind of toothpaste to buy? There are other questions I could ask, but do I need to?

- Read a book. My husband and I love to read. My daughter loves to read, too, and my son is learning to appreciate books (he's only 18 months old and doesn't yet have the attention span to sit through a whole book). The library has a wealth of information to offer you.

- Go outside. Look for caterpillars, chase butterflies, dig in the dirt, swing, "poison" armadillos. Olivia makes "armadillo poison" by mixing dirt, grass, green onions, rosemary, and peppermint (I've told her she'll have to find a substitute for my green onions). Sit in the hammock with a book and soak up some Vitamin D.

- Play games. Olivia likes to play Go Fish, Old Maid, and Checkers. I can't wait for her and Jesse to learn to play 42. It's my favorite game. It'll be so nice for the four of us to huddle around a card table playing 42, sipping hot chocolate, when it's too cold to go outside.

- Plant a garden. Good exercise, good food, good education for the kids.

- Make something. Sew, knit, crochet, draw, work with wood, paint. Be creative. It's satisfying to spend time working on a project and have something to show for your effort.

- Go somewhere. Go to a library, museum, zoo, or arboretum. Take a picnic lunch.

- Learn to play an instrument. My husband and I used to play music a lot before we had kids. I hope music will be something we can enjoy as a family when the kids get bigger (we don't seem to have time for it right now). By the way, people who play music tend to be better at math.

- Cook from scratch. It'll take a little more time than opening a box, but it's worth it. This is time you can spend with your children and the food will taste better and be more nutritious. It's hard to beat a loaf of homemade bread fresh from the oven.

- Perform random acts of kindness. This is something I need to work on myself. Take a meal to a sick friend. Help an elderly person with housework or yardwork. Volunteer at the library. Let your kids see you do something good simply because it's good. Let them be involved so they'll learn about charity and unselfishness.

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

I can't believe it's been almost 5 years since my first child was born. (My daughter's birthday is Wednesday.) The last 5 years flew by faster than 2 years of graduate school. Here's Olivia soon after she was born.



Here she is when she was about a year old. She's changed so much. She's been walking for 3 months, has several teeth, and knows a lot of words (although she doesn't say many).



This is at her second birthday party. She knows some of her numbers!



For her third birthday she got a tricycle. Unfortunately, it's hard for her to pedal it on our dirt road. She now has a bicycle, too, but it's also hard for her to pedal.


At 4 years old she's such a grown-up little girl (sometimes!). She's a good mother to her babies.



Now my baby is almost 5. She's doing kindergarten work. She can read fairly well (except for having trouble with words like "gnashed" and "pterodactyl") and can count to 100 with just a little help. She has a very active imagination.


It really is amazing how fast they grow up. Watching them evolve from helpless infants into independent little people is awesome. I bet the next 5 years go even faster.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Shower Shenanigans

That's it. I'm going to quit taking showers. At least not after my husband leaves for work or before he returns. It seems every time I take a shower, disaster strikes.

To the best of my recollection, the first major ordeal was when Olivia cut her hair. I think it was about a year ago. She would have been 4 or close to it. She had NEVER had a haircut. One day while I was showering, she took her little scissors and cut bangs and shortened the hair framing her face. I was speechless. Luckily, she did a pretty good job.

Another time, Jesse played Picasso on the end of the bookcase. And on the wall. The bookcase and wall are off-white; the crayon was purple. I didn't even try to wash it off because it'll probably happen again. I figure I'll scrub it off or paint over it before we sell the house.

More recently I got out of the shower to discover Jesse had eaten half an apple. You might wonder why this made the list of "ordeals." I wouldn't have been upset if he'd just eaten half an apple. He had gnawed on 6 or 7 apples for a grand total of half an apple down the little red lane. We had apple juice that night.

Last week Olivia poured a tea kettle full of water all over Jesse (don't worry - it wasn't hot). In the living room. Jesse was drenched from head to toe. Water was all over the recliner and carpet. And Olivia had tried to tell me "Jesse had a diaper leak."

Yesterday I discovered Olivia had cut Jesse's hair. I'm not sure when it happened, but it must have happened when I was in the shower.

I don't spend a lot of time on my appearance. I don't wear makeup. My mother cuts my hair about once a year. Some days I don't even take the time to comb my hair. So I didn't think spending 5 or 10 minutes a day on the most fundamental personal hygiene was too much to ask. Apparently I was wrong.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Better to Give Than to Receive...

...especially when your house is overflowing with stuff!

I need your help. Olivia's 5th birthday is coming up and I bet her relatives are going to start asking me for gift requests/suggestions. She has a lot of "stuff" and doesn't need any more. Some of it was cheaply made and broke quickly. A lot of it she just doesn't play with or use. I'd like to avoid these kinds of gifts.

I've got a few ideas but could use more. We like to go to the zoo, so I thought a zoo pass would make a good suggestion. If we had museums around here, passes to those would be nice, too. We've got a library card. I should find out what plays and/or musicals are coming up at our college and community theaters. Maybe ask for tickets to those?

Olivia loves to get mail. She has a subscription to Ranger Rick, but I thought about suggesting subscriptions to other children's magazines. When we get through with them we can donate them to the library or give them to another child (like my niece!).

Other ideas? I can't stop my family from bringing gifts, but maybe I can give them some carefully chosen ideas so we don't amass any more junk.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Into the Mouths of Babes

If you're like me, you pay attention to what you feed your children. For those of you who'd like natural alternatives to over-the-counter teething medicines, here are some things to try.

- Soak a wash cloth in water or chamomile tea and freeze it. Let your little one chew on it. (Don't throw away the tea bag! See below.)

- After making chamomile tea, let the tea bag cool, then let your little one chew on it.

- Mix 1 drop of tea tree oil in a glass of water, then rub on gums.

- Get a Baltic amber teething necklace for your little one to wear. Although it is a teething necklace, it is NOT to be chewed on! It just needs to be next to baby's skin.

- Dilute 1 drop of clove oil in 1-2 tablespoons of a carrier oil such as almond oil (or other edible oil). My father-in-law mixed some for Jesse in grapeseed oil. Clove oil must be diluted because it is STRONG and can burn when applied full-strength.

- Let your little one gum on cold fruits or veggies. My mother-in-law gave her kids carrots to gnaw on until they had teeth that hit (because then they could bite off a chunk of carrot and choke).

- I just read about pickles for teething. Apparently the cold and the vinegar soothe the gums. I don't know what's in store-bought pickles, so you may not want to try this unless you make your own pickles. By the way, homemade pickles taste better than store-bought anyway (big surprise, right?).

- Wrap an ice cube or crushed ice in a handkerchief, wash cloth, or cheesecloth. Tie it closed or use a rubber band. If you use a rubber band, watch carefully in case it breaks.

You'll probably find that what works best for you may not be what works best for your neighbor. Jesse loves to chew on ice now (he's 17 months old) but didn't like to when he was younger. I think it was too cold for him. So wrapping an ice cube in a wash cloth didn't do much for us. Our favorite was the clove oil diluted in grapeseed oil.

These ideas should get you started. Hopefully at least one will help!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Olivia may not look much like me, but she is definitely my child. Sometimes she says things and I feel like I'm listening to myself. I've noticed we both use "otherwise" quite a bit. Olivia also breastfeeds her baby doll. The doll sleeps in Olivia's bed or in a crib nearby. She also has a sling to carry her baby.

She sees lots of candy and cereal at the store that she wants me to buy. Sometimes it's something I don't mind getting, but more often than not I have to tell her "that has lots of artificial flavors and colors in it." The other day I heard her ask my parents if their bread had articifial flavors and colors in it. I couldn't help laughing!

We had to replace our shower recently because it was leaking. My husband took the pieces of the old one outside and was wondering what to do with them. Olivia told him he should recycle them.

Like me (and her daddy), Olivia loves books. For the past couple of years we've been going to the library almost every week and checking out around 8 to 15 books. Saturday I checked out about a dozen for her. We returned close to half of them this evening because we'd already read them several times (in just 3 days!). I remember one day (a while ago) Olivia was supposed to be taking a nap. I went to check on her and she had fallen asleep in a pile of books. There were probably a dozen on her bed and on the floor. I went straight to the living room and told hubby she is definitely our child and sent him to have a look. Then I took a picture. I've got it around here somewhere...

For better or worse, kids are sponges that soak up our speech and behaviors. We would do well to remember this. I want my children to grow up thinking breastfeeding is normal. I want recycling to be second nature to them. I want them to love books and learning. I want them to be patient with and kind to others. It will be much easier to teach them these values (and others) if I practice them myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gluten-Free Gluttony

My post is a bit late this week because I had to go out of town for a funeral :(

I've seen gluten-free products on the shelf but never paid much attention to them. Recently my father-in-law started a gluten-free diet, so I've been noticing them more. He's found some cereal and bread that fit into his gluten-free diet, but was lamenting that he doesn't have any "goodies" to eat. He had bought a package of wheat-free Newman-O's but apparently they're not gluten-free. Olivia and I wanted to make him some cookies, but all my recipes call for flour. So the other day I bought some gluten-free all-purpose baking flour. I substituted it in one of my favorite cookie recipes and it worked pretty well. The cookies were a little crumbly (no gluten to hold them together!), but they tasted great! By the way, I made some gravy with the gluten-free flour since he was having dinner with us and it made excellent gravy.

There are desserts that are flourless, like custard, ice cream, and fudge. The Healthy Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe I posted earlier is gluten-free. But sometimes you just crave warm cookies and a glass of cold milk. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.


Nutmeg Meltaways
Taste of Home
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour (the original recipe calls for regular flour)
3/4 cup ground almonds (about 3 ounces), toasted
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add flour; mix well. Stir in almonds. Shape into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Combine confectioners' sugar and nutmeg. Gently roll cooled cookies in sugar mixture.
Note: If using gluten-free flour, the cookies will be VERY fragile. Handle with care!


Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
(I forgot about this recipe until today.)
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter and sugar. Add egg and soda and mix for 2 minutes. Roll into walnut-sized balls and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Create a criss-cross pattern with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's a Boy!

Or maybe a girl. I can't determine the gender of a butterfly. This is a gulf fritillary.

My husband found a chrysalis the other day. We brought it in and put it in a gallon jar, then put a coffee filter on top with a rubber band around it. He also found a caterpillar that had just started turning into a chrysalis, and one that looked like it was about to attach itself, so they went in the jar, too. We'll have 2 more butterflies this week!

Since we're homeschooling, I thought this would be a great experiment for Olivia. (Of course, any kid will enjoy watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly.) We can cover a multitude of subjects. For example, I'm going to have her draw the life cycle of a butterfly (science and art). We can read about butterflies and passion vines (library skills, reading, and botany). We can also read about harvesting passion fruit (gardening and economics).

We took the new butterfly out of the jar.











Here you can see the upper sides of its wings.







It landed on my robe for a few seconds.







This is the gulf fritillary's caterpillar. Here you'll find some other pictures of the butterfly and caterpillar, as well as a passion flower.




The passion vine (or passion plant) is the only larval food plant for the gulf fritillary. This is a young shoot. The vines send runners underground and the plant spreads like a weed.



The passion vine produces passion fruit. I read that the fruit falls off when it's ripe.

Crunchy Bunch Closeout Sale

Crunchy Bunch is having our closeout sale! Everything is on sale AT COST!

Babywearing, Organic Clothing, Organic Toys and more.

From now until it's all gone, save in time for the holidays <3

http://www.crunchybunch.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tote Bag Tutorial

Last week I mentioned some bags I made. They were so easy and quick I decided to write up a tutorial. You'll need 1 yard of 45" fabric. Your bag will be about 18"x19" when you're finished, depending on the width of your seams and how generous they cut your yard.

Cut a 4" strip from the short end (the 36" end) of your fabric. You will use this strip to make your handles.





Press the strip in half length-wise, wrong sides together.







Fold each edge in toward the crease (shown in photo), fold in half along the crease, and press.






Sew about 1/8" from each edge. Cut your strip in half and you've got 2 handles.






Fold your fabric in half along the 36" side, right sides together. (Your resulting rectangle will be about 36" by 20". Sew the 3 open edges, leaving enough space for turning your bag right side out, about 4-5". Turn your bag right side out. Stitch the opening closed. This will be the inside of your bag. Fold the "inside" down into the "outside."

Turn the top edge down 1" and press. (I turned my bag so the top edge was toward me, so I was turning it up. That's why my photo looks upside down.)




Insert handles under the edge and pin in place, leaving about 5-6" between the ends.






Stitch about 1/8" from the top edge to hold them in place.







Fold them up and pin. Stitch about 1/8" from the top edge all the way around your bag. Stitch about 3/8" from the top edge also.




This step can be omitted if you wish. Turn your bag wrong side out and stitch across each bottom corner. This will give your bag some width and help hold the lining in place. Turn your bag right side out.


Here's the bottom corner from the outside.







Here's another view of the same corner.







Ta da! You're done! You've got a new bag for yourself, or fill it with goodies for a gift.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finding a New Purpose

One of my relatives sent me some quilting goodies a few weeks ago - books, patterns, fabric, rotary cutter, cutting rulers, etc. Among these items was a bag she made. In this bag were fabric and directions for making 3 more. Last week I finally hid out in my "sewing room" and played. Now I'm on a sewing kick.

I looked through my fabric stash to see what I might find. This stash includes a bag of clothes that my post-baby body will never fit in again that I kept because I liked the fabric. I have 2 wrap skirts begging to be reincarnated as quilts or bags. I found a skirt that I transformed into a purse (I had already altered it from a jumper to a skirt). I've got enough fabric left to make another purse.

I have plans to convert a denim maternity dress and red and white checked shirt into a dress for Olivia. I browsed the internet the other day in search of a pattern to make a dress I can just slip over her head. I didn't find what I had in mind, but I came across a great tutorial for making a toddler dress from an adult button-up shirt. I swung by Goodwill today and picked up a shirt just to try this because I thought it was so cute.











Another thing I'd like to do is sew a toddler dress from a pillowcase. That is, if I had an extra pillowcase that was pretty. My extra pillowcases are just plain white. But you can use some fabric cut the size of a pillowcase as a starting point.

So many things to do, so little time!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Strange Recipes

I'm trying a new recipe tonight. When I came across it I thought "It's got WHAT in it?!" Not to be intimidated, I decided to give it a try. It brought to mind a couple of other recipes that some people may find weird, so I decided to share them with you and see what you think. As soon as I finish typing these, I'm off to try "the recipe." Are you curious yet? I'll share the recipe at the end.


This first recipe isn't all that weird unless you ask my sister-in-law. She thinks it's gross because it combines fruit and meat, but I bet most people don't share her aversion. I think it's wonderful.

Apricot-Stuffed Pork Chops
10 dried apricot halves
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons molasses, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 pork chops with a pocket cut in each
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons flour

Chop and mix first 4 ingredients, 1 tablespoon molasses, salt, and pepper. Spoon into chops. Brush with remaining molasses. Place on rack in greased broiler pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done. Remove chops. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth to pan; place over medium-high heat. Stir together cream and flour. Stir into broth and cook 3 minutes or until thickened.


This next recipe is, in my opinion, a little strange. I would have never thought of putting tomato soup in cake, but it's pretty tasty. You can't taste the tomatoes. It just tastes spicy.

Tomato Soup Cake
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 10-oz can tomato soup
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1 cup raisins
1 3/4 cup flour

Combine all ingredients in the order they are given, blending well. Bake in a 13x9-inch greased and floured pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.


Ok, here's "the recipe." As I said before, I'm about to try this one. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Healthy Flourless Chocolate Cake
http://healthyindulgences.blogspot.com/2009/05/healthy-chocolate-cake-with-secret.html
Makes a single 9" layer cake, which can be halved and stacked for the taller cake you see in the picture (follow the link).

1 15-oz can of unseasoned black beans OR 1 1/2 cup cooked beans, any color
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted organic butter OR extra virgin coconut oil
3/4 cup erythritol plus 1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract OR 1/4-1/3 cup honey plus 1 teaspoon stevia
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon water (omit if using honey)

Mint Chocolate variation:
2 teaspoons mint extract (in place of 2 teaspoons vanilla)

Spray a 9" cake pan with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray, or just grease it with a thin layer of butter. Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan, tapping to evenly distribute. Cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan, then spray the parchment lightly. Drain and rinse beans in a strainer or colander. Shake off excess water. Place beans, 3 of the eggs, vanilla, stevia (if using) and salt into blender. Blend on high until beans are completely liquefied. No lumps! Whisk together cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat butter with sweetener (erythritol or honey) until light and fluffy. Add remaining two eggs, beating for a minute after each addition. Pour bean batter into egg mixture and mix. Finally, stir in cocoa powder and water (if using), and beat the batter on high for one minute, until smooth. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top. Grip pan firmly by the edges and rap it on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done when the top is rounded and firm to the touch. After 10 minutes, turn out cake from pan, and flip over again on to a cooling rack. Let cool until cake reaches room temperature, then cover in plastic wrap or with cake dome. For BEST flavor, let cake sit over night. If you are stacking this cake, level the top with a long serrated knife, shaving off layers until it is flat and even. Frost immediately with healthy chocolate buttercream frosting before serving.

Healthy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough to thickly cover one layer, or fill and frost a halved stacked layer.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter, softened, OR 7 tablespoons nonhydrogenated shortening
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon erythritol, powdered, OR 1/4 cup xylitol, powdered
5-6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons half and half OR coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
Good-tasting pure stevia extract, to taste

Optional addition for a glossy finish: 1 fresh organic egg yolk

Cream the butter in a small bowl until fluffy. Powder erythritol or xylitol in a coffee grinder or Magic Bullet for a minute or two, until extremely fine in texture (reminiscent of powdered sugar). Let sweetener settle in grinder before opening the top. Stir powdered sweetener into butter with a spatula, then beat until smooth. Slowly blend in the cocoa powder, vanilla, and sea salt. Beat in the half and half and egg yolk, if using. Add stevia, starting with 1/16 teaspoon. You'll probably use less than 1/4 teaspoon. Just keep tasting and adjust sweetness to your liking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

3 years, 18 months and counting!

In relation to Rachel's post on Monday, (and to toot our own horn ;) ) as of yesterday Isabelle and I have been nursing for 3 full years! Beautiful Blissful Birthday, Belle! <3 And in 2 more days, it'll be 18 months of nursing for Sebastian =)

I have loved (almost!) every moment of our nursing relationship and I look forward to many more years with each of them. Tandem nursing, especially, has been one of my most enjoyable nursing experiences. I love how they look into each others eyes, hold each others hands, and, yes, bicker over whose side is whose or straying hands! :P Every moment is unique and absolutely adorable. As for the "almost" above, I'm still not a big fan of the night wakings, hehe ;) Both Belle and Sebastian get up on average once a night still for a few moments. :)

Gynosaur.com has some cute little breastfeeding achievement buttons you can display on your blog, in a forum signature, etc. I use them and think they're super cute :)

3 full years of breastfeeding!18 months of breastfeeding!

Monday, August 31, 2009

15 Months and Counting

I attended my local La Leche League meeting the other night and the topic was weaning. It occurred to me that Jesse is almost 16 months old, the age at which Olivia was weaned. I would have nursed her longer if it hadn't been for some medical issues. When she was Jesse's age, she was sleeping through the night and didn't nurse too often during the day. I think she was only nursing before her nap and bedtime, so I didn't feel too bad about weaning her. First I cut out the before-nap nursing. I held her, hugged her, and kissed her, then put her to bed while Mr. Bear (her wind-up teddy) played "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Sometimes I had to go back in the bedroom and wind him up again.

(I have to interject something here. One day trajedy struck - Mr. Bear died. I searched all over for another bear like him, but to no avail. I finally settled on a pink rabbit with a pull cord. Have they quit making them?)

After a week or two, I started working on the before-bed nursing. I enlisted my husband's help with this. He would put Olivia in bed and play his guitar. They both enjoyed it. After a couple of weeks with this routine, she would go to sleep with just the rabbit playing music.

Jesse still gets up at least twice each night to snack and loves to nurse during the day. I don't foresee weaning in our near future! If only he would sleep through the night...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Older SIGG Bottles Contain BPA

Reusable aluminum bottles are an eco-friendly alternative to wasteful plastic water bottles. My children had some from SIGG and loved them! They claimed to be not only eco-friendly, but healthier as well, assuring everyone that there was no BPA (Bisphenol A) found in their bottles, as there is in plastic.

So I was so very disappointed to hear that if you purchased a SIGG water bottle before August 2008 (we did), the liner in that bottle may actually contain BPA after all...

SIGG has posted an image and description of the new vs. old liners. If your liner looks like the OLD version, you can contact SIGG to have it replaced with a NEW version.



New SIGG EcoCare Liner

* Dull pale yellow coating

*Special powder-based co-polyester liner certified to be 100% BPA and Phthalate Free

*Utilized in the manufacturing of SIGG bottles since August 2008

Former SIGG Liner


* Shiny copper bronze finish

*Proprietary water-based epoxy liner thoroughly tested and showed absolutely no leaching of BPA

*Found in SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008



While many people are outraged over the perceived misleadings, SIGG has posted a letter from their CEO to try and explain just what they were thinking: http://www.mysigg.com/bulletin/

In the meantime, you can find some wonderful BPA FREE bottles over at Nubius Organics, such as Kleen Kanteen, EcoUsable, EarthLust, Crocodile Creek and more. (I think I might just have to get one of those gorgeous EarhtLust bottles, myself!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

To Be or Not To Be A Homeschooler...

...for me there is no question. Before my husband and I were even married we knew we would homeschool our children. Olivia is almost 5, the age at which most children start kindergarten. I had considered just starting her with 1st grade next year, but she told me "I want to start kindergarten when I'm 5." I don't want to squelch her enthusiasm, so we're about to start our homeschooling journey.

I know many people will ask me why I homeschool. Some already have. (My parents were probably the first. They were both public school teachers.) There are so many reasons. I thought I'd share some of my reasons, and some advantages of homeschooling, and then ask you to share some of yours. It's nice to have a good defense when you're attacked.

They're MY children. I have the right and responsibility to teach them. I'll have the freedom to spend as little or as much time helping them with a particular concept as they need. I'll also have the freedom to "teach" them in as structured or unstructured a manner as we find necessary. My kids will be safe, well-fed, and loved. They'll grow up with a positive self-image, confidence, and a strong sense of family.

We won't waste time driving to and from school. When my husband takes a business trip, we may be able to tag along and visit interesting places. (Olivia and I went with him to Austin a couple of years ago. While he was in meetings, we went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Children's Museum.) We won't have to keep up with the latest fashions. We won't have to worry about negative peer pressure, teasing, or bullying.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just a few things I thought about while I was sitting here. I'd love to hear your reasons for homeschooling and/or other advantages you've thought of.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dinner ( with a slight detour to the ER)

I might be the slightest bit obsessed with Julia Child. Since seeing the movie Julie and Julia I have wanted to try some recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One problem, I had dropped my Le Creuset French oven and none of my other pots were appropriate for the first recipe I wanted to try. Luckily Sur LA Table was willing to exchange my pot ( this shocked me because I did not have a reciept).
So last week my 4 year old and I went to the store to get all of the ingrediants to make Beef Bougione. I was so excited even taking pictures as I browend bacon to render the fat, browned the meat and vegitables, added the wine and stock before putting everything in the oven and starting to work on the vegitables that would be added later. I have to admit that the recipe was a bit more labor intensive than I had expected. With 45 min left to go I took the pot out of the oven to stir and tasted the sauce. It was dreamy and I had a smile from ear to ear in anticipation of the most amazing dinner ever!
Just then I heard some words that as a mother you never want to hear, "Mom, can you help me get this out of my nose?" My 4 year old had apparently shoved something up his nose. When I asked what it was he said that it was from his brother's bed. This could be anything as at any given time there are lego's and many small items in or around his brother's bed. After a short inspection I was fairly certain that the "foreign object," was a piece of foam egg crateing from his brothers bed. SO after I turned off the oven and pulled everything out, i shed a quiet tear for my meal as I scooped up my son and head to Children's Medical Center in Plano.
When we get to the Hospital we are quickly brought through triage and brought to a room. A Dr. walks in and takes a look and says she will be right back. She reneters the room and brings a paramedic with her. i am not sure if she was a new Dr. or new to the hospital but the paramedic seemed to be coaching her as to what buttons to use to turn things on and such. The first attempt to remove the "foreign object," was to use suction. Not only was this unsuccesful but my 4 year old was now screaming and would not let anyone near him. 2nd attempt was to use a tool to try to retrieve it, also not successful and now the 4 year old was really pissed off.
As the Dr. is giving me information to refer me to an ENT for emergency surgery the paramedic interrupted. He said there was one more thing that they could try, it was rather unconventional but would not hurt him and might work avoiding surgery. At this point anything was worth a try. In walk a dream team of paremedics and nurses 6 to be exact, all male except for the Dr standing in the corner and 1 female nurse. The instructed my son to keep his mouth closed tight and used a tube and a sudden burst of oxygen into the other nostrill to cause the lodged "foreign object," to become disloged and a pojectile hurdling across the room until it reached a stopping point. ME!!!! SO I have this disgustin bloody,snotty HUGE foam piece stuck to my shirt. One opf the paramedics proclaimed that it was the coolest thing he had ever seen. That he was tempted to shove something up his nose just so they could do that again. I asked him to hold his comments in front of the impessionable 4 year old that had already done so. My son was fine and was very glad to get a popsicle from the paramedics for his ordeal.
We got home and I went right back to cooking my dinner. I warned my husband that no matter how it tasted he was going to eat every bite and proclaim how it was the best meal he had ever eaten. Dinner was consumed at about 10:30 last night and was delicious. Next time I hope I can make it through without a trip to the ER>

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Love My Crock-Pot

We celebrated my father-in-law's birthday the other day. As it is also his and my mother-in-law's anniversary, I thought it would be nice to give her a day off so I volunteered to cook dinner. I decided to cook a roast in the crock-pot (orange-glazed carrots, strawberry salad, and rolls for sides). Saturday night I put the roast in the crock-pot with a cup or two of water, a generous sprinkling of seasoning salt, and three sprigs of fresh rosemary. I turned it on low and left it until the next morning. Meanwhile I made rolls and embroidered a shirt.

One thing I love about my crock-pot is that I can let it work while I'm busy with other things. While the main dish is cooking I can prepare the side dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, or go to bed. The next morning I'm ready to pack hubby's lunch. Or I can get things going in the morning and have hot supper on the table that night.

I like that it frees up my oven for other things. I have one oven and there's not enough room for a huge pan of roast and rolls or veggies, too. It's also more energy-efficient to leave the crock-pot on for 10 hours than to leave the oven on for 4. And it doesn't heat the house up as much as the oven.

The other thing I love about it is that it tenderizes the toughest piece of meat. I used a spoon to cut the roast I cooked the other day. We eat a lot of venison and wild pork - both have a tendency to be tough - but they both end up melt-in-your-mouth tender in the crock-pot. In addition to roasts, I like to cook stews in my crock-pot. I can fit a whole chicken in it. I love that machine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I was blindsided by High Frutrose Corn Syrup

Earlier this year I read a number of articles about the danger of High Frutrose Corn Syrup(HFCS). Obesity aside the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) tested products containing HFCS and discovered that 17 out of 55 had measurable amounts of mercury in them. Dr Lars Friberg, Former Chief Adviser to the World Health Organization said " there is no safe level of mercury, and no one has actually shown that there is a safe level. I would say mercury is a very toxic substance." The speculation is that since mercury is used in the production of caustic soda an ingredient used to make HFCS leaving mercury in the HFCS. The Corn Refiners Association claims that this is an out dated way to make HFCS, but there is no regulation on where the HFCS comes from. So where as that might be an outdated method of HFCS production here in the US, if the HFCS is purchased from abroad who is to say what method they are using to manufacture the HFCS.
SO even though I was scared to death of the HFCS, I figured I make most of my own items and my kids do not eat a lot of candies and we only drink all natural juice so I thought we were safe. Boy was I wrong. I was making one of my kids favorite meals, honey mustard chicken. When something caught my eye on the mustard bottle: High Frutrose Corn Syrup. In Mustard!!!! So I went through my refrigerator and pantry. I was shocked some of the items I found HFCS in were:
Salad Dressing
marinades
YOGURT ( this was the most shocking to me)
oatmeal bars
cereal bars

There were many flaws in the tests, they only did one test of each product , they can not determine 100% that the mercury levels came from HFCS ( yet it is the only ingredient all of the products had in common), and they did not differentiate what type of mercury was present. I know so many people that have chosen to avoid vaccinating their children because of the trace amounts of mercury in the vaccines, yet there is measurable amounts of mercury in the food we are feeding our kids, foods geared towards kids. I am hearing so much about BPA why am I not hearing about this from the FDA or EPA? I am not telling you to avoid these products I am however telling you to look at your food labels. I was shocked and had no idea I had been feeding this to my children. If you would like to see the list of the 17 products that contained mercury you can do so here: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20090127/mercury-in-high-fructose-corn-syrup are any of these products in your pantry?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Breast is Best

August is World Breastfeeding Month and August 1 - 7 was World Breastfeeding Week. In honor of WBW, Baby Blues compiled a selection of breastfeeding strips. If you haven't seen them, you should. They're hilarious!

I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I wanted to remind you why breastfeeding is best for mother and baby. I think most of us breastfeed because it's the natural thing to do - cradle a newborn in your arms and he'll look for a breast - but some people need a little more persuasion. If you or someone you know is straddling the fence on the breast/bottle decision, here are some things to keep in mind. Or if you're having one of those days when you're tempted to throw in the towel (baby's biting, you're tired of soggy nursing pads, etc.), remember that your baby nurses for a short time in the scope of his life. It'll be over all too soon.

Benefits for mother
  • helps the uterus contract after birth to control postpartum bleeding
  • helps mom lose weight
  • lessens postpartum depression
  • more rest than formula feeding moms because you can nurse while sleeping
  • lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer
  • save thousands of dollars a year since you don't have to buy formula
  • protects against osteoporosis and hip fracture later in life
  • reduced risk of mortality for women with rheumatoid arthritis has been associated with total time of lactation
  • breastfed babies are sick less, reducing healthcare costs in doctor office visits, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and hospitalizations
  • breastfeeding is more convenient - the milk is always available, sterile, and the right temperature
  • during times of disaster, you don't have to worry about finding formula

Benefits for baby
  • antibodies in breast milk offer protection from germs, illness, and even SIDS
  • lower risk for ear infections, stomach viruses, diarrhea, respiratory infections, asthma, diabetes, leukemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and other diseases
  • lower risk for childhood obesity
  • reduced risk of chronic constipation, colic, and other stomach upsets
  • breastfeeding promotes facial structure development, enhanced speech, and straighter teeth and reduces risk of tooth decay
  • enhanced vision
  • higher IQ's and improved brain and nervous system development
  • reduced risk of heart disease later in life
  • increased bone density
  • are hospitalized 10 times less than formula fed infants in the first year of life

Benefits for the environment and society

  • reduced cost of healthcare by promoting healthier children and mothers.
  • reduced insurance premiums for both parents and employers
  • reduced global pollution by decreasing the use of resources and energy required to produce, process, package, distribute, promote and dispose of materials created by the manufacture and use of artificial baby milk
  • reduced tax burden on communities and government to ensure children are properly fed
  • reduced absenteeism in the workplace due to children's illnesses

Find these and other benefits at the following sites. Or simply google "benefits of breastfeeding."

http://www.llli.org/FAQ/advantages.html

http://www.motheringfromtheheart.com/Benefits.htm

http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/benefits/

http://www.examiner.com/x-12080-Atlanta-StayatHome-Moms-Examiner~y2009m8d9-Info-101-Benefits-of-breastfeeding

http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/benefits.asp

http://www.promom.org/101/

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Serendipity

Serendipity... no not the movie! Have you ever wondered if some people are just meant to be in your life? This past Monday I was sitting in a lobby waiting for a focus group to begin. When in walked an old friend of mine. Now had I lived in Dallas all of my life this would not have been so strange, but I met this girl in Tokyo.
I went to high school for 2 years in Tokyo when my dad had gotten a job over there. In November of my senior year my 1st love broke my heart and a month later my parents announced they were getting divorced and my sister, mother and myself would be moving back to the states as soon as details could be worked out. Needless to say I was in a really bad . Without going into too much detail I started to spend some time with my mom's friends son. Unbeknownst to me he already had "hooked-up" with another girl. SO very quickly she and I realized he was a dog and became quick friends. We spent the next 3 weeks being the best of girlfriends. Shopping and gossiping and all that but then I moved back to the states and she went back to college and we lost touch.
Two years later my dad had moved to Hong Kong and I went to go spend New Years. AS we were getting off a bus who was getting on? My friend from Tokyo. Her parents had also moved to Hong Kong and so the next few weeks it was like no time had passed. We again went shopping and hung out and just had a great time. But when the trip was over the distance in the states we lost track of each other again.
Flash forward another 10 years. I am waiting for a focus group to start and who should walk into the lobby for the same focus group.? We screamed so loud when we saw each other that the people putting on the group had to pull us aside. They felt uncomfortable sending us both in since we knew each other so I got sent home, but not before we had exchanged information.
Three chance meetings in three different countries. Something about that makes me think that it is more than just a coincidence. This time we are not going to loose touch!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bread Making

Last week March wrote about the sad state of cooking in America. After a comment I made about her post, she asked for tips on making bread. I thought there may be some others who could use a good recipe and instructions. Many people are terrified of making yeast bread. Don't let it scare you. Homemade bread is sooo good. Like anything you make yourself, you control exactly what goes into your bread. I have several recipes I love. I chose this one because it was sitting on my counter from the last batch I made. You'll find the basic directions, then some notes/tips.

Homemade Bread
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 tablespoon warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 tablespoons oil (olive oil or coconut oil work great)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Add the warm water and milk; let the yeast and sugar dissolve and foam. Stir in the oil and salt. Stir in enough flour so the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Deflate dough and knead for a few minutes until smooth, then form into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for a few minutes. Remove to a wire rack. Store in airtight container after it has cooled. This recipe can easily be doubled to make 2 loaves.

General Info
Bread is primarily made of flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and liquid. The yeast digests the sugar, producing carbon dioxide that makes the bread rise. Salt helps control this rate of rise. Honey may be used instead of sugar (or a combination of the two). Milk and/or water are the most common liquids included. Bread made with milk has more food value and a more velvety grain. Bread made with water only has a wheaty flavor and crispy crust. Some type of fat or oil is usually included; it helps the dough stretch and improves the flavor. Eggs are sometimes included; they add flavor, richness, and food value. You can add nuts, seeds, fruits, spices, and other ingredients after you're comfortable with a basic recipe.

Notes/Tips
* You don't need a thermometer for warming the liquids. Remember your body temperature is 98.6 degrees. As you're warming the liquid, drop a little on your wrist. If it's neither cold nor hot - you can't even feel it on your wrist - it's about 99 degrees. Let it heat a little longer until it feels warm, but doesn't feel VERY hot, and it's probably around 110-115 degrees. If you think you got it too hot, let it cool a little. Err on the side of not quite warm enough. Your dough will take longer to rise, but you don't want to kill the yeast with liquid that's too hot.
* When covering the dough to rise, a damp towel keeps the dough moist. You can use a dry towel, but the exposed surface will be a little dry.
*80-85 degrees is the ideal temperature range for rising. Dough will rise at a lower temperature but will take longer. At higher temperatures you risk killing the yeast.
* I like to use white whole wheat flour (sometimes called pastry whole wheat). It's made from hard white wheat instead of hard red wheat. You get the same goodness but it's a little milder in taste and texture. You can use any combination of flour you want - 100% whole wheat, half whole wheat and half all-purpose, etc. Just be aware that the taste and texture will be different.
* The amount of flour you add will vary (on a humid day you'll need a little more) so recipes give a range of flour (like 2 1/2 to 3 cups). Stir in enough that the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl - just enough to make it kneadable. Too much flour will make your bread stiff.
* To knead dough, turn it onto a floured surface. Fold the far side up over the close side and press down with the heels of your hands. Repeat this, turning the dough clockwise (or counterclockwise) as you go. You'll develop a rhythm after some practice.
* You can mix in fresh or dried herbs when you stir in the flour.
* Before baking, after the second rise, you can brush milk, melted butter, or beaten egg white on the bread and sprinkle with seeds or Parmesan cheese.
* When you remove the bread from the pan, you can rub butter on the crust and it will stay soft. This makes it easier to cut.
* Use a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to cut bread. An electric knife works great. Just turn it on and move it straight down.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The State of Cooking in America

I love to cook! OK I got it out there. I feel like I am standing up in a meeting and this is something I should feel a little ashamed of. I do not know a lot of other people that cook. We have all gotten busier and conveniencefoods are in our grocery stores and on most corners in most cities, but I choose to take a few extra minutes to cook dinner most nights at least one big breakfast a weekend and dessert for my family each week.

My absolute favorite thing to do is gather the troops and head to our local Half Price Books, hit the kids section so all 3 have something to keep them busy and then camp out on the floor in the cookbook section going through the volumes as if I was a kid in a candy store. The place that I sit is the "Vintage Cookbook" section. I love the cookbooks from the 50's and 60's the best. They are charming and most of them from a time before everything came out of a box. I am very rarely interested in more modern cookbooks.

A few months ago I came across an article while searching for recipes on line: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/17/AR2006031701969.html?sub=AR
The article in the Washington Post describes that both food companies that provide recipes either on-line or on their boxes and cookbooks have had to "dumb down," because most Americans plainly do not know how to cook. They chalk this up to a number of reasons : the number of woman in their 20's mothers that worked outside of the home, the practical extinction of home economic classes in middle school 20 years ago, the mind set of a computer generation that want everything fast. I can go on and we can speculate about this all day.

With this in the back of my mind I talked with an editor friend of mine about one of the few modern cookbook authors that I truly enjoy. She is British and I wondered why her books are released in the States almost a full year after they are released in Europe. Surely it did not take a whole year for the conversions. He danced around it for a while before explaining to me that they had to add more steps in the American version. That basic culinary terms that can very easily be understood over seas need more explanation here. So basically they take it down a notch or two.

I know we are all busy. Some work outside the home and some juggle PTA, sports and the basic day to day of having a family and some juggle all of the above. But I am issuing you a challenge. 1 day a week get into the kitchen with your kids. Teach your kids how to break an egg or make a cake. Visit the farmer's market and make a meal together. Help our children to know what saute means or how to "cream" butter all terms that have been taken out of cookbooks because it is deemed too hard for us to grasp.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Green Period

This post is mainly for the ladies. Gentleman, please share this information with your wives, sisters, daughters, etc. Feminine hygiene products are kind of a taboo topic, but here are some things you should think about if you haven't already.

There are contradictory articles about whether disposable feminine hygiene products, even tampons made entirely from cotton, contain dioxin. There's no question that tampons and disposable pads take up a lot of room in landfills. The cost of these products adds up over time. Many women get "diaper rash" from pads. Also, tampons are associated with toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Reusable menstrual pads (aka "mama cloth") are a safe, green alternative to disposable pads. They can be made from a variety of fabrics and in different sizes and absorbencies (from liners to post-partum). Most have a snap to hold them in place, while some are "lay-in" types. Many women report that their periods are lighter and they no longer experience cramping after switching to cloth pads. If you cloth diaper and/or use family cloth, just launder your mama cloth the same way. Otherwise, you can rinse it in the sink and wash with dark towels.

For women who prefer tampons to pads, there are menstrual cups (Diva Cup, LadyCup, The Keeper, to name a few). Worn internally, menstrual cups catch your flow instead of absorbing it. You may only need to empty it 2 or 3 times a day (maybe every 2 or 3 hours) depending on how heavy your flow is. After emptying, you can rinse it or simply wipe it out, then reinsert it. Between cycles wash with hot soapy water and store it in the fabric pouch that came with it. Menstrual cups come in 2 sizes - one for women who are under 30 and have never had a child, one for women who are over 30 and/or have had a child.

Mama cloth and menstrual cups can last for years. This means far less waste for the planet and more money in your pocket. (You may be surprised at how much a pad or cup costs, but remember it will last for years. You'll pay more up front, but you'll save money over the long run.) They're also healthier for your body. You may think these products sound "gross," especially if this is the first time you've heard about them. They're no more gross than disposable products. I encourage you to seriously think about these alternatives before dismissing them.

For more information...

Green Families Search for "diva cup" and "mama cloth" for TONS of information. From fabrics to troubleshooting, these ladies discuss it all.

iHerb offers both sizes of the Diva Cup. Use the code NEM401 to save $5.

eBay offers the Diva Cup and the LadyCup.

Etsy is a great place to find mama cloth made by work-at-home moms.



Monday, July 20, 2009

Tea Time

Tomorrow my daughter and I are going to a mother/daughter tea party. One of my friends (who is taking her 3-year-old) told me about it. There's supposed to be a string orchestra, dance lesson, and cake. We're all looking forward to it.

Since this is such a treat I wanted to make something special for the girls. I decided to put together a goody bag. First I made each girl a bag embroidered with her name and some flowers. I included a tea cup and saucer (purchased at the Women's Shelter Thrift Store), peppermint tea, homemade cookies, and some homemade tub tea. I've included some tub tea recipes below.

Even if you're not going to a tea party, you might like to create a goody bag for a special person in your life. It could be for a birthday, anniversary, new baby, first day of school, or "just because." Any excuse will do! Make your gift to suit the occasion or recipient. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

For the cook: Fill a serving dish with kitchen towels, recipe cards, utensils, and apron.
For the gardener: Fill a flower pot with trowel, seeds, gloves, and sun hat.
For a new baby: Include onesies, burp cloths, diapers, bibs and use a receiving blanket to wrap it all up.

http://www.cranberrylane.com/recipes-bath-products.htm
Cranberry Lane’s Tub Tea Blend (makes 8 tub teas)
2 T lavender flowers
4 T rose petals
4 T marigold petals
6 T cleavers herb
1 T strawberry leaves

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use 2 T per bath. Place tub tea in mesh or fabric bag. Fill tub with water. Allow tub tea to gently infuse bath water while you relax.


http://www.cranberrylane.com/recipes-bath-products.htm
Chamomile and Oatmeal Tub Tea (makes 8 tub teas)
(soothes irritated skin)
6 T chamomile flowers
4 T oatmeal flakes (quick oats are best)
4 T marigold petals

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use 2 T per bath. Place tub tea in mesh or fabric bag. Fill tub with water. Allow tub tea to gently infuse bath water while you relax.

http://www.elementsbathandbody.com/recipes
Lavender Tub Tea
½ c dendritic salt or alberger salt
2 t lavender EO
Mix and set aside.

1/8 c honey powder
1 c powdered goatsmilk or powdered buttermilk
2 c whole oats
½ c Epsom salts
¾ c baking soda
3 c lavender buds
3 c sea salt

Mix all in large bowl. Combine the dendritic salt and EO blend and complete mixing. Place ¾ - 1 c per 3.5x5 muslin drawstring bag.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stand and Deliver

I suppose that since several people I know have recently had babies or soon will, I was thinking about pregnancy, labor, and childbirth while I was deciding on a topic for today. Many people are a little apprehensive about childbirth. Ok - some are terrified. I think most people are afraid of the pain. Your body has to do a lot of stretching to accommodate a baby. But labor and birth are natural functions of the female body. Women have been having babies for thousands of years and, for most of that time, without epidurals.

Don't take it lying down. One of the best ways to reduce labor pain and help baby descend is to MOVE. Stand up, walk around, rock, get on all fours. During both of my labors the pain was terrible if I was on my back. My second labor (home birth) was better than my first (hospital birth), partly because I was always moving and almost always upright. My midwife examined me once and I didn't get up before the next contraction hit. Gravity is your friend. Let it help you.

When it's time to push your baby out, you don't have to jump in bed. Your baby will be born more easily if you stand or squat. Your pelvis opens more in a squatting position than in others. And again, gravity is your friend.

Here are some more tips for easing labor pain. Your local library should have some books to help you understand what happens to your body during labor and childbirth. Knowing what to expect reduces your fear. What to Expect When You're Expecting is a popular choice, but I don't think it's nearly as good as some others out there. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is good. Go to your library and check out everything listed under "natural childbirth." If you haven't already, read Alex's post about water birth.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A fun ice cream recipe that gets the whole family involved

The weather report said it was 104 yesterday and the grim report says tomorrow is going to be 108. So I wanted to come up with some fun cool activities that I could do with the kids. I love to make ice cream. I even won the ice cream crank off 4 years ago wearing my middle son at the time. SO I have altered a fun ice cream recipe for those of you who do not do diary. This is a fun way to get everyone involved and burn off a few calories in the process:

Vanilla
2 c. soy creamer (or any non-dairy milk)
2 c. soy milk (or any non-dairy milk)
3/4 c. sugar (or Splenda/other sugar substitute)
2 T. arrowroot
2 t. vanilla extract (choose a high-quality brand; none of that imitation stuff either!)

Mix 1/4 cup of soy milk with the 2 tablespoons of arrowroot and set aside.Mix the soy creamer, soy milk, and sugar together in a saucepan. When the mixture has just started to boil, take off the heat and stir in the arrowroot slurry. This should immediately cause the liquid to thicken (not a lot, but a noticeable amount; it will be thicker when it cools).Stir in vanilla extract.Set the ice cream mixture aside to cool.

ICE CREAM IN A BAGGIE:Once cooled put in ll ingredients in a zip-loc baggie Put in a gallon-size Zip-Loc bag and zip closed: 2 T. rock salt (baking aisle in grocery) the filled and zipped sandwich bag from above ice cubes to fill bag about 3/4 full Shake and roll filled bag over and over until frozen (about 30 min.) As the ice melts it does leak a little so do outside

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Super Summer Savings Sale!

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Tomatoes

It seems like tomatoes are the home gardener's favorite crop. It's no wonder, either. Tomatoes can be expensive, especially organically grown ones. Store-bought tomatoes tend to be white inside and almost flavorless. Home-grown tomatoes are red all the way through, they're soft and juicy, and they taste better.

Tomatoes are usually easy to grow. One year my dad had over 70 tomato plants. He ate tomatoes; he gave them to us, his neighbors, and church members; he froze them; I canned them and one of his neighbors canned them. My father-in-law, who lives next door, grew some huge tomatoes one year. He and I both started our tomato plants from organic seeds. His did great - he had healthy plants that produced lots of fruit.

Mine, however, didn't fare so well. For some reason I have a hard time growing tomatoes. One year it was nematodes. This year it's a calcium deficiency induced by water stress. Yes, that means I didn't water them like I should have. (I take much better care of my kids - they're growing like weeds!) We have gotten some tomatoes from our vines this year and we have many more that will be ripening soon.

My husband found this website to help diagnose common tomato problems. Hopefully you won't need it, but if your tomatoes are anything like mine, you just might.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Join the EclipseSpa Team!

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Supermom

On more than one occasion I've been sleeping with Jesse lying right beside me (or on me) and Olivia has woken me up to tell me she wants breakfast. I'd have had to wake Jesse up to move. Meanwhile, hubby was snoozing away. When I asked her why she didn't ask Daddy to get her some breakfast, she said "He's sleeping."

Was I angry? Of course not. Why would I want to sleep a little longer? I'd had a good 5 hours of sleep. Olivia knew that Jesse gets me up several times during the night and, therefore, must have thought it would be easier to wake me up since I'm used to it. She might have even suspected that I require less sleep to function.

The other day hubby was writing a letter to include with some pictures I was sending to his aunt. Olivia was playing at the kitchen table where he was writing. I was in the bathroom, hands in the toilet, washing out a dirty diaper. Olivia walked through the bedroom and into the bathroom and asked me to turn on the computer speakers. When I asked her why she didn't ask Daddy (who was sitting right beside her!) to turn the speakers on, she said "Because he's too busy."

Was I aggravated? Of course not. All I had to do was finish spraying off the dirty diaper, wring it out, drop it in the diaper pail, flush the toilet, and wash and dry my hands. I don't even have to think about it; I just turn on autopilot. You may think all hubby would have had to do was put down his pen. Wrong. I know what an undertaking it is when he writes a letter. Olivia's request would have completely broken his concentration.

Joking aside, Olivia is much more likely to ask me for help than her daddy. When Jesse wakes up in the middle of the night, it's me he's looking for. When they get hurt, no one can comfort them like I can. There are some things mothers just do better. I've often told Olivia that no one loves her like her mama. I carried these children for 9 months, gave birth to them, nourished them, and cared for them 24 hours a day. No one can take care of them better than I can.

Faster than a streaking toddler, more powerful than a stomach virus, and able to leap tall building block towers in a single bound. I am Supermom!