Monday, December 5, 2011

Cranberries, cinnamon, twigs, and the table

This year, I've decided to make the holidays simple. That means lots of homemade presents, a small spread of gifts under the tree, holiday outings like going to the local Christmas parade, and a table setting that also says "simple" but elegant.

I've always wanted to try putting small bits of things in glass and placing them on a table. This is my version of the idea on a green table runner. I may add a tablecloth but haven't found the right one so I may use an antique crocheted one I have.

The glasses are holding cinnamon sticks, crranberries, and twigs with yellow berries. On the table are a few pine cones and clear ornaments.

Even with how busy my day is, this was easy to do.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fa la la la la

I made a wreath! Thanks to an incredible Black Friday weekend sale at Michael's, I bought all my supplies for under $10.

I couldn't believe the sales they were having or that by Sunday night the store wasn't very picked over. And since two things make me very happy-- a great deal and a craft project that turns out-- it made my holiday and made up for the long lines at the mall the day before.

The ribbon is glued, but the rest is able to be taken out if i decide to decorate differently next year.

Here's the rough break down:

Wreath: $4
Berries (cut from one stem): $1
White twirly sticks: $1 for a bag
Ribbon: $2 for this piece
Gold ball bunch: $0.89

Tomorrow? Off to spend my JC Penny coupon for $10 off a purchase of $10 or more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waste not, my friends

I hate waste. This includes wasted food (when you order too much and don't bother to take it home or buy more food than you can eat before it spoils), wasted time, and wasted resources.

Right now I'm talking just about the waste that pollutes our planet and gets hauled out to the curb where we want to think it "magically" disappears. This is the wasteful society we've adapted to living in. It's a mind set where people feel entitled to doing things the way they want to and using the products they want to when a simple alternative would be less harsh on the environment. America is in love with her bad habits.

I've lived in a few environmentally-aware communities over the years and have developed habits that now come naturally to me. So natural that when I see other alternate practices I've since turned from, it makes me cringe. Sometimes, it makes me angry.

Here are a few examples.

To me, it just makes sense not to use paper products. I keep drawers of towels and rags on hand for different purposes. When my family wipes our hands, we use a towel. When you make a spill, you grab a rag. When I clean, I use an old t-shirt. Paper towels don't exist in my world. Because they aren't necessary.

I know it's a big step for most moms, but I've transitioned to mostly using cloth diapers and using washable wipes on the baby. I feel better about the decision and don't feel it's any more work, and saves us a lot of money every month. Besides, I never run out!

I don't take shopping bags. One of my good friends gifted me with a purse-size bag full of re-usable shopping bags. The product is genius and always on hand so I don't forget at the check-out line. What I find exceptionally irritating though is when I hand one over to a chashier and she proceeds to THROW AWAY the bag I'd be saving. There are items like meat products that I bag in plastic, or times a plastic bag will make it home with me. These are used as garbage liners, pet waste recepticles, and for dirty diapers on the go.

While I applaud the efforts of so many people who recycle religiously, or not so frequently, recycling just isn't the "end all." It's time to take a closer look at the waste in our lives. Recycling is just a small attempt to solve our waste issue. What we need to evaluate are those tricky little habits of convenience that wreak havoc on our planet and continue to be dumped into our landfills.

That's not to assume I see myself as in any way superior. I certainly still have a lot of things I could do differently.

I love my car just as much as the next person. I don't think twice about hopping behind the wheel for the slightest reason and zipping around town. I'm not ready to give up my daily drives or my SUV that's far from low emissions.

Unlike the neighbors, our house doesn't have solar panels. We don't raise our own chickens. Right now we don't even have a garden. (Yes, these neighbors do have a no emissions vehicle parked out front.)

Despite my non-use of plastic bags and paper towels, there are plenty of other products I toss in the trash.

But I value the thoughtfulness and desire to understand the issue. Being aware of environmental impact is a step forward and allows me to make a conscious decision to cut down on what I can.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Make washable baby wipes-- an easy tutorial

I was recently shopping in a cloth diaper store and came accross some washable baby wipes. They were made from various materials and said you could use them with wipe solution or just spritz with a spray bottle.

They seemed easy enough to make myself so I set out to sew a few to try at home. (I believe retail was around $15 for four?)

Here are the instructions for making the ones above.

What you will need:
A sewing machine
Material (I used old burp cloths. It needs to be soft but absorbant.)

I found a small square box and traced around it as my pattern. Then, after trying a few techniques, I stitched two squares together in a zig zag setting on the sewing machine. (May I mention that this was done on probably the coolest antique sewing machine I've ever seen? Our neighbor invited us over to use it-- they're in their 80's-- and found it in Germany. They travelled with it all over Europe by train and brought it back to the states many years ago.)

We tried two ways to stitch the pieces together, one was starting inside out and then finishing it with the seams on the inside, like a pillow. This made it not lay flat though so we simply stitched along the top of the two pieces paired up.

After the first washing, my initial wipes began to fray so we solved this by cutting along the edge of the next set of wipes with pinking shears. It left the edges finished enough that they no longer frayed.

I've tried them on my not-yet-potty-trained two-year old and on my newborn. I like them on my older son for less messy diapers, but I LOVE using them on the newborn. He goes through a lot of diapers during the day and the washable wipes seem less irritating to his skin. They also aren't cold so don't make him cry during changings. We just toss them in a washable bag that hangs by the changing table and put them in with a load of washable diapers.

What do you do with rhubarb? Make one fantastic cake!

A woman in my mom's Bible study class gave us a bag of rhubarb from her garden. We were planning to make a blueberry/rhubarb crisp but ended up buying Concord grapes instead of blueberries by accident.

Well our mistake turned out for the best because I went searching and found a recipe for Country Rhubarb Cake that was amazzzzzing!

If you look at the reviews, there are some great tips for making this doughy dessert. I would definitely add extra rhubarb and probably reduce the sugar. We didn't bother making the Whiskey Cream topping but served it with ice cream. One reviewer added shavings of fresh ginger to the rhubarb which is something I'd like to try next time.

In a house of "non-dessert eaters" (so they claim), this dish lasted less than 24 hours.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hello big world

I decided to take a few minutes this weekend for an impromptu photo shoot. Trevor is getting bigger and stronger every day and has a hardy appetite. He's a momma's boy, but that's just fine with me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

And then there were 4...

7 lbs 10 oz
Born on Tuesday, October 18th at 4:06pm

"I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach." Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Off to pick a pumpkin!

Thanks to the Mom's Group for sharing a link to the pumpkin farm! The original plan was to join everyone for a day of hay rides and picking out a pumpkin with the little ones, but with my due date just days away, we decided to go on our own this weekend just in case we couldn't make it to their outing.

The day was filled with tractors, chickens, goats, tractors, hay rides, slides of all sizes, tractors, and... did I mention TRACTORS?? Maddox was more than thrilled.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Veggie-packed Quiche

Quiche is a wonderful comfort food, but most recipes are packed with fat and calories. Each fork full typically offers a minimal amount of veggies.

Here's a great recipe for a veggie-packed quiche that tastes fantastic.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
pinch salt
fresh ground pepper
5 Tbs cold water

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, adding 1 Tbs at a time until it's moist and forms a ball.

Roll out very thin and place in pie plate. Cut off extra edges and crimp. Prick center with a fork and place in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

1/2 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach or small package frozen, thawed
1/2 cup broccolli, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small zuchinni, sliced into thin quarters
1/2 cup almond milk or skim
2 eggs or egg replacer
1 Tbs thyme
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbs basil
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup mozerella or 2 oz goat cheese

Combine all the ingredients by stirring. Spread in pie crust and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the top is slightly browned and the middle is firm.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A day for "Slowcooker Chicken Soup"

After a long, rainy week I began looking for a comfort food that was both easy to make and would keep well for leftovers. That's when I saw a post by Nourished Kitchen for a Slowcooker Chicken Soup recipe. Even the pictures look comforting!

I changed the ingredients slightly to use what I could find, but even so it's filling the house with a tasty aroma.

First, I seasoned two large, organic chicken thighs with sea salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and dried bay leaves (I preferred whole but did not have any). I then covered the chicken with water and cooked it on low in a pot for a few hours. I then added chopped celery, carrots, and a yellow onion. I continued cooking for a few more hours on low until dinner. Towards the end, I will sprinkle in chopped parsley.

I'm planning on serving this tonight with a crusty loaf of french bread from the organic grocery store.

Bon apetit!

Monday, September 5, 2011

End of Summer at the new house

Maddox has adjusted quickly to the new house. It took a few days to get organized and I wish I had my camera to snap some photos, like when Maddox found a step ladder to pull into the kitchen and eat his breakfast cereal.

I'm sure it helps that we have been resurrecting his old toys to his delight, the ones that have been boxed up for half the week that he sadly watched disappear at the old house. And with more room to play and new places to explore, he's quite happy.

Yesterday we went outside for an impromptu photo shoot. Here is Maddox posing (yes, definitely POSING and saying "cheese") around the yard.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baby room preview: Before and after makeover

We finished the baby room!

Here's a before and after of the new room for our little one. I love how it turned out, especially since I got everything to put it together before we moved in so it was the first time to see how it would look.

Here's the room before...
And here is what it looks like now...

I made the mobile, quilt, and rug which I think gives it a more personal touch.

It's good to be settling in and making the house our own.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Moving in and 35 weeks

We finally made the big move. At the last possible moment housing came through and I joined the hubby in Knoxville.

He happened to have inventory (a once a year event) that weekend so I managed the house during the movers coming and delivery our boxes. Lots of cleaning, little sleep, and two long days later the pets, Maddox, and I arrived. By Monday, we were moving in and painting.

It's been a whirlwind of unpacking, prepping, and preparing for baby #2. I finally hit my point of exhaustion yesterday but picked back up by this afternoon to work on refinishing our entry way wood floor and unpacking most of the garage.

I hate boxes. I hate disorganization. I hate not having the house set up. I want to focus on decorating and not unwrapping individual packed items.

By now, the little one has dropped and is sitting comfortably on my bladder and pelvis-- not so comfortably for me. It's coming down to the wire and seeing the crib all set up made it all very real, more real than it's been so far.

Is there really going to be a baby sleeping in that room? Are we really doing this again? It seems so long ago that we were at that point with Maddox.

That's all for now, but I also wanted to share this shot of Maddox getting curious while I was trying to photograph "the bump." Big brother is already trying to steal the show!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happiness is a bargain and laundry detergent making 101

This morning on our way to run errands, I stopped at a few garage sales. At one moving sale I found my latest project-- a mirror from the 50's with a funky frame and shelves. I'd never seen anything like it before and bought it for just $10!

After a little ivory spray paint to cover the original flaking gold coat ($3.25 at Walmart), this is what it turned out like.

For a total of $13.25, I now have another fun piece for the baby's room.

My next project for the day was to try making my own laundry detergent. I'd been reading different recipes for detergent and decided the three ingredient ones were the easiest.

I mixed 2 bars of Fels Naptha soap (in the laundry aisle) by grating it with a cheese grater, 2 cups of Washing Soda, and 2 cups of Borax. I stirred it all together and stored it in a tupperware container with a small scoop.

You will have extra Borax and Washing Soda left over for the next batch and it only takes 1 Tablespoon to wash one load of laundry! In all, I believe the total was around $5 (including the generous amounts of the two ingredients left over).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Stencil rug = Success!

After a few failures, I'm proud to show off my new personalized rug!

Giving an old rug a facelift proved to be easier than I expected-- once I found a good dying technique. The hardest part of the project was finding a way to dye the rug so it would keep it's color. I purchased two cotton rugs last weekend from a garage sale to try this, but I think this one may have had a stain guard that kept the dye from taking easily.

To make my rug, I first soaked it in a 50/50 water and bleach solution. It didn't take long since the rug was originally an off-white. I then put it through the washer and left it slightly damp to help take the dye better.

I decided to put the dye in a plastic tub I purchased specifically for this project. It was on clearance and would save our bath tub from any unsightly staining. I then soaked the rug for about 10 minutes in one packet of gray RIT dye. After it was the color I liked, I rinsed it in the sink and put it through the wash without any soap. Unfortunately, the rug quickly went back to it's original color.

Attempt #2. I had already thrown out the RIT dye, so I decided to try a homemade dye. I looked up natural dying techniques but getting a true gray was going to be very difficult. I didn't want a red rug (using wine, grape juice, or food coloring), so I opted for a shade of brown. I brewed a strong pot of coffee, added some vinegar, and let it soak for about an hour. That didn't quite get it dark enough.

Attempt #3. So I brewed another pot of coffee, added more vinegar this time, and left it soaking overnight. In the morning, I let it dry before sending it through the rinse cycle of the washer. After it was rinsed, I hung it outdoors to dry again.

Success! I came out with the perfect shade. Once the rug had dried, I took a stencil and white fabric paint and made my design.

I love my new rug and even have the second rug (my backup since this was my first attempt) to make another.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Babies wear suspenders

I recently came across this idea for personalizing a baby onsie by adding suspenders! The idea came from HERE and inspired me to try my hand at some of my own.

This one has my version of a bow tie.

For security, I used fabric glue and then double stitched everything. You can never be too careful with wearables that also endure multiple washes.

I'd love to try applique techniques, but need to find more information to guide my first attempt. What I like about these are that they seem more sturdy than personalized onesies with iron-on designs. Those seem to come loose fairly quickly.

If you have other ideas for making your own onsie, feel free to pass it along.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Discipline: The dirty little word

I can still remember when caring for my son meant simply meeting his day-to-day needs. But somewhere along the way he developed something called a WILL and OPINION about every aspect of life.

Suddenly, my cherbic offspring went from following direction and being easy to passify to an entirely different little human. This child tells me where to sit, what he wants to eat, says 'no' and then changes his mind in a fit of tears, tests my direction (such as "come here", "don't touch", and "be nice to the dogs"), and sometimes decides that our errands for the day are not part of HIS agenda. Some days, the slightest bump in the road will send him spiraling into a meltdown. And yesterday for the first time, he ran in the opposite direction when I tried to steer him to the car. Fortunately, he was not in danger but could have been if we were not in Pat's yard.

And with this new trial and test of my limits comes a new descent into discipline. At home, of course, it's easier. I have two time-out spots, safety, and shelter from the prying eye of the public. And if the situation calls for it, a spatula to use for a swat.

But now that tantrums and outright disobedience is trickling into our public outings, the issue is more complicated. It's not always easy to remove my son from a public place to discipline in private, and sometimes he's crying too hard to talk to. In those times, all I can do is leave where we are and deal with it when we get to the car-- if that's an option.

I do understand that sometimes a meltdown is the result of badly needing a nap. It's every parent's challenge to find their balance between when a tired child's crankiness should be overlooked or faced head-on. I hate being that parent/child in a store that's causing a scene. But I also don't believe in giving into a bad attitude by offering candy or impulsively buying a new toy to try and quiet my unhappy little one.

I know that this is just a time we're going through, and some days I feel more or less capable of handling what he throws my way. But at least I understand that being two means coming to terms with new emotions he's experiencing and trying to find the words to express his thoughts and feelings. I know it's frustrating and I know he understands that no matter what, I love him. And at the end of the day, he's still my best buddy who says goodnight with not one but TWO hugs and a kiss.

And I know that everything will be allright.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Make-it-yourself baby mobile

So last week I gave a little teaser by sharing the fabrics I was using for a new project. After a few test runs, I finally made a mobile for the baby's room. Here's where I got the idea.

The fun patterns certainly caught Maddox's eye and he wants to play with it!

I'm not very skilled with glue, so I sewed the hanging strands around the rim of the mobile by hand. I also added buttons on the bottom circles to help weigh it down and add a little extra cuteness. I toyed with the idea of also putting buttons around the rim of the mobile but decided it would be too much going on.
I plan to hang it up with more brown ribbon, a little chain, and a hook.