Saturday, July 30, 2011

Amazed by Life #1

It never ceases to amaze me how I can have a recipe box full of recipes and the entire internet at my fingertips, yet I can't come up with a single recipe that all 7 people in my house want to eat and are able to eat at the same time.

 It never ceases to amaze me how much food tiny little people can consume.  

It never ceases to amaze me how my Blendtec can work so hard every day and look just as pretty as when I first bought it.

It never ceases to amaze me how my Blendtec can chop all those hard veggies and fruits into something smooth and yummy without a sharp blade.

It never ceases to amaze me how my three-year-old can gulp down an 8-oz glass of green smoothie without stopping to take a single breath.

It never ceases to amaze me how many dishes 7 people can dirty in one day.

What in life amazes you?
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fun Hair Stuff

Ok, so here are the hair clips and headband I made the other night.  I didn't make as many as I thought I was going to, but I admit I was somewhat distracted by the movie "Letters to Juliet."  =)

First, I had these flowers I had gotten off of some cupcakes:

Some of them I hot-glued to a headband.  I first covered the headband with a purple satin ribbon.

The remaining flowers I used for clips.  First I glued a ring of feather boa to ribbon-lined clips, then I glued the flowers on top.

Remember these cute little fishies?

I cut them some "water" out of felt and glued them down on top.  I don't know why I love these so much, but I do!  My girls do, too!

I also made these because I had some really cute polka-dot ribbon that I hadn't done anything with yet.  I LOVE how they turned out!  I think these are my favorites of this batch!

Hope to make some more soon, but that's it for the other night.  Maybe next time I should focus more on what I'm doing and less on the movies.  I bet you I'd get less burns that way, too...  =)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


For those of you eager to see the new hair clips I made, that's soon to come.  Some of them are really cute, and some are really pretty, and they're all really fun!  But for right now, I'm going to deviate a bit into some random weirdness...

I love my grandma.  She's 86 years old, though she's sure there's no way that's possible.  She also thinks my grandpa (who died in 1984) is still alive, and she sometimes has no idea who I am, even though she lived with us for 15+ years as I grew up.  Unfortunately, she has Alzheimer's.

(This is Grandma and I this past Easter.)

Alzheimer's is one of those diseases where some days you laugh and some days you cry.  Oh, you could cry every day, but what kind of way is that to live?  And some things are just plain funny.  Like when Grandma recently lost her teeth and offered my aunt some candy, and her teeth were in the candy bowl! The thing about my grandma is that she was always entertaining--just not always when she was trying to be...

Grandma was a saver.  Nothing was ever thrown out.  Not even food.  She would literally pull food out of the trash when my mama threw it away so that she could "rejuvenate" it.  That was her word for it.  You had to be careful eating anything she made.  It's like, once you cook something, it has a limited life after that, right?  Before it goes bad and you throw it away, I mean.  Well, I guess that she figured if you cook it again, that just resets the clock.  For example, she might make a HUGE batch of mashed potatoes on Sunday.  On Tuesday, you may have potato cakes.  On Thursday, you'd have refried potatoes.  Come the following Sunday, you could be eating some soup that has some weird "dumpling" in it that you think might have once resembled a potato.  And that was just food.  Everything was repurposed in her house.

Some of Grandma's things are now in my house.  No, I'm not still cooking the umpteenth generation of her rejuvenated potatoes.  But she's in an Alzheimer's facility now and couldn't take all of her things with her, so I was blessed enough to have inherited some of her belongings.  I got this awesome (and heavy) cast iron pot.  

I also got this gorgeous enamel-over-cast-iron dutch oven.  This thing is so pretty I seriously leave it sitting out on my stove all the time, and I love cooking food in it (though our family is quickly outgrowing it).

I also got a sewing box with a bunch of random sewing things in it.  One of those things was a sewing tape measure that I guess I've never used before.  So I grabbed it the other night to measure ribbons for some of the hair clips I was making.  It was wound up so nicely with a twisty-tie holding it so it wouldn't unroll.  

Nice and thrifty use of a twisty-tie, right?  I mean, what do you usually find twisty-ties on?  Garbage bags?  Food bags?  Then I looked at the twisty-tie and saw this:

Yup.  You read that right.  From Children.  Not By Children, mind you, but From Children.  I have to admit that the first thing that popped into my mind was how my parents always called dried apricots "baby ears" when I was growing up.  Ok, maybe it's just me, but my mind is weird like that.  And don't get me started on the possibilities for any garbage bags that might have come with.

My hubby immediately thought of some foreign sweat shop with children slaving away on whatever product it may have been, so the company could proudly proclaim their labor practices on their handy twisty-ties.

So, what do you think?  What on earth do you think was the original product this twisty-tie was on?  What craziness pops into your head when you see an old twisty-tie that says "From Children"?

Edited to add:  Ok, folks!  The mystery has been solved, though it's not nearly as fun and creative as my imagination!  Thanks to Nikki for her super-sleuthing skills in finding the following link!  

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Project ideas--beads and more

The other day I showed some fabric I have set aside for a specific project.  I also have lots of things hanging around with no specific project in mind yet.  Some things have been allocated to a general idea, however.  It's just a matter of making the time to have fun with them.

Then, today I got a call from my midwife's office.  I have a severe UTI.  NO FUN!!  The weird thing is that I have no typical symptoms.  I'm feeling overall drained and blah, but I figured that was from our crazy week last week with Vacation Bible School.  I guess there's more to it than that.  So that means that I should probably relax and take it easy the next couple of days, right?  Don't you think that's a good excuse?  =)

So I've been eyeing my hair clip stuff today...

A couple of weeks ago, someone was giving away a bunch of beads on Freecycle!  You know I jumped on that one, and amazingly enough, I got them!  There are a lot of them, and they're gorgeous!  I'm planning some jewelry and such, but some of them will go to hair clips.  Here's what I got:

These will be for necklaces, but aren't they to die for?

This baggy has a bunch of random glass beads.

Some of these beads will make their way into hair clips for sure! 

 I also love making hair clips out of other random things.  They turn out so cute!  

Can't you picture these little fish nestled into the center of bows?

Or these flowers (which were originally cupcake toppers) glued down across a headband?

I also have out my felt...

my ribbons...

my hair clips...

my headband blanks...

and, of course, my trusty glue gun.

Looks like it's going to be a great night (minus the UTI, of course).  Tomorrow I'll try to get some pictures posted of fun things that get made today.  Anybody wanna come play?

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Anybody wanna clean my house for me?

So, we just had a full week of Vacation Bible School at our church.  Our church is an hour away from here, so an hour there in the car, 2 hours of songs, lessons, crafts, and snacks, an hour back home, plus any errands that needed to be run.  All done with 5 kids 8-and-under and me still in my first trimester of my current pregnancy.  Needless to say, I'm exhausted!!  (But I got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time on Thursday!  What a glorious sound!!)

And my house is a wreck.  I didn't get much housework done this week.  The dishes are clean, because we need something to eat off of.  But I'm behind on laundry (though that only takes a day or two to get behind, so I'm rarely fully caught up), though I did cheat and use disposable diapers all week.  I know, I know, but I went for the convenience.  I have dog hair tumbleweeds blowing around, laundry that needs to be washed, bedrooms that need to be straightened up.  And no, I won't post pictures!

To top it all off, I'm out of white vinegar, my main cleaning product.

Vinegar is like a magic potion.  It has so many uses!!  It's antimicrobial, deodorizing, and has good scrubbing power.  I use it to scrub my counters, table tops, and sinks.  I use it to wipe down the toilet.  Mixed with some baking soda it does great at cleaning burnt-on messes on the stove and clearing out clogged drains.  Did you know it also works as a fabric softener?  My kids are allergic to fabric softeners, and even a dryer sheet thrown in with their clothes leaves enough residue to give them horrible rashes.  So I use a Downy ball, but I put white vinegar in it, instead.  Again, it helps clean and deodorize the clothes (it also helps rinse out residue from detergents), but it also helps soften and cut down on static when the clothes are dried.  My kids aren't allergic to it so I can use it anywhere, and you don't have to wear gloves while cleaning with it because it's not poisoning you to be on your skin.  It's gentle on the environment (unlike my disposable diapers this week!).  To top it all off, it's yummy in a salad!  You can't say that about Soft Scrub!  =)  

So, my house really needs a good cleaning.  On the other hand, I have some beautiful fabrics like these just waiting to be put to good use...

These are all jerseys, and I have a wonderful dress/leggings combo planned for them that will hopefully appear here soon.  Aren't they gorgeous?!?!?  I'm going to do a long-sleeved dress to add a splash of color to this fall and winter!

I've got several more projects just waiting to be completed, too, but the housework keeps beckoning.  So, do you want to come clean my house for me so I can do something fun?

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tiered Patchwork Skirts

So I was at the fabric store one day and came across some fabulous M'Liss fabrics, 50% off!!  They were like $3-and-change a yard!  I had no idea what I was going to do with them, but I couldn't pass them up.  The peach and yellow had to-die-for borders (flowers and a gardening scene).

The more I stared at them wondering what to do with them, the more I realized that I couldn't split them up--part of their beauty was all of them together.  So I decided to make my girls tiered, patchwork skirts.

Sorry I didn't take pictures along the way for a tutorial, but I can tell you what I did.  I took their waist measurements and added 4 or 5 inches for the first tier (funny how my 4yo's waist was only 1 inch smaller than her 8yo sister's waist!).  I let the older two girls pick which fabric they wanted for the top tier--I didn't want the bulk of patches on top, so I left the top solid.  I cut that strip 7" wide for the elastic casing.  The squares are all cut 5".  Each tier is approximately 1.5 times the circumference of the tier above.  I sewed the squares in random order into strips, then sewed the ends together to make the complete loop.  I then gathered the top and sewed it to the tier above.  

Once I had as many tiers as I wanted for that skirt, I then hemmed the bottom and encased 1" latex-free elastic in the waist.  I buy my latex-free elastic by the yard from Decent Exposures.  It's not listed on their site, but if you e-mail them, you can buy it at great prices with no other purchase necessary.  Their customer service is great and the prices for latex-free elastic can't be beat!  They have it in many widths and their shipping is super speedy!

For the shirts, I bought simple white shirts with a pocket for the older two, a white onesie for the baby.  I made fabric bows to pin onto each girl's pocket and more fabric bows for their hair.  I made each girl's bows out of the same fabric I used for their first tier on the skirt.

If any of that doesn't make sense, please let me know so I can clarify.  Again, I'm sorry I have no pictures to help demonstrate step-by-step.  I'll try to remember to do that from now on!

Here they are wearing their skirts and looking cute!

I still have a good amount of each fabric leftover, especially the stripes (I bought more of it than of the others).  I'm not sure what I want to do with the remaining fabric.  Any ideas? Pin It

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Allergic Reactions

I've been asked what my kids allergic reactions look like.  Well, it really varies based on what they're exposed to.  Some rashes are super-obvious.  Some you can barely see, but it makes their skin feel like sandpaper.  Some you know what causes them, others could become a gameshow called "Name that Bump."

My oldest daughter's first rashes were so long ago that I don't have any good pictures of them--we didn't have a good camera then.  But here she is with hives after taking amoxicillin (which I am also allergic to).

Her entire body looked like this, including the soles of her feet and her face.  And they itched horribly.

This is a rash my Little Love #4 had recently.  We're pretty sure it came from clothes--you can see it follows the waistband line of his pants and then his shirt.  What I think caused it was this:  My sister-in-law had given me a big bag of hand-me-downs.  She uses Tide detergent, which is the absolute worst about leaving chemical residue in clothes.  I washed those twice in Charlie's Soap (which is, in my opinion, some of the best stuff on the market.  I don't use anything else in my house or for my family).  Charlie's actually pulls chemical residue out of clothes, but it takes several washes--especially for Tide.  Anyway, my theory is that there was enough Tide residue in my washing machine that when I washed a load of clothes with my son's clothes in it next, some of the Tide got into his clothes.  When he wore the clothes, this is what happened:

If you go to the tab about latex allergy, you can see pictures of the hives my youngest gets from latex, as well as the rash left on her face from certain foods.  She also can get hives if we eat certain foods, even if she's never eaten them before.  Mangoes are no longer allowed in our house.  She's never eaten them, but if anybody else in the house eats them--even if we follow up with vigorous handwashing and toothbrushing--she gets hives.

These are just a few of the examples we've seen over time.  The reactions are getting fewer and farther between as we learn what the triggers are and how to avoid them.  Sometimes it takes a lot of detective work, and sometimes we never figure out what caused a reaction at all.  Each episode is a learning process.

Have any of you learned tricks and methods to deal with allergies in your house?  Do you substitute certain foods in recipes?  Is there an everyday product you make rather than buy?  Please share!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Buckwheat Pancakes

We have several food allergies and intolerances in our family.  Two of our children are gluten-intolerant, and one is allergic to dairy and tapioca, among other things.  This means that some people can eat whole wheat bread, and some can eat gluten-free bread but our youngest can't eat either (anybody have any gluten-free bread recipes that don't use tapioca in them?).

I found a buckwheat pancake recipe and with a few substitutions made them safe for the whole family.  They're delicious!!  We typically quadruple the following recipe and freeze some of the pancakes to make peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches later on.

Buckwheat flour can be a bit pricey sometimes.  We buy organic hulled buckwheat groats in bulk once a year from a local co-op and grind them ourselves.  Here are what buckwheat groats look like.

This year we bought 50 pounds.  I'm thinking that next year we may have to do 100.

We just use a simple hand mill, purchased for around $60 online.  It works great for us, has stainless steel parts, and comes completely apart for cleaning.  It's so easy to use, even my kids can help grind (and they love to do it!).  It takes longer than electric mills, but the price was right!

Here's the original recipe and our substitutions:

2 cups buckwheat flour
2 t baking powder (gluten-free is necessary for us)
4 T sugar (we use turbinado--yum!)
1 t salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 c milk (I typically do 1 cup almond or rice milk and 1 cup water)
4 T melted butter (We do just under 4 T of applesauce instead)
splash of vanilla


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making Ultra-Cute Kids' Underwear

Kids are gross.  Seriously, think about it.  If your dog did some of the stuff your kids do, it would be kicked out the door to never set another paw in the house.  We expect more out of our dogs than out of our kids.  Thankfully, my dog, Darby, is a good, clean, even prissy boy who doesn't even get his paws muddy when it rains.  I LOVE my sweet boy!

Which brings me to potty training.  Little Love #5 does NOT like a dirty diaper.  As soon as she's messed it, she'll come up to you patting her bottom to let you know that she's a mess and needs to be changed.  If you don't jump up and change her immediately, she'll further press her point by reaching into her diaper and pulling out a handful to show you.  Sometimes it has corn in it.  Or raisins.

The other day she decided to forego the dirty diaper feeling completely.  She was in a disposable (I typically use cloth), so she just took it off and pooped on the floor.

So I've been thinking about potty training a LOT.  I've potty-trained all of my kids at 2 years old.  How many months after two has varied with each of them, and some have been easy-breezy, and my last one was horrible.  But even so, two years old has always worked for us.

#5 will be 2 in November.  I'll probably try to potty train her right away after that, which brings us to underwear.

Latex-free underwear is hard to come by.  And at $15+ a pop, it's simply not practical for a 2-year-old potty-trainer.  So I started looking around online for a pattern or tutorial to make underwear for her.  I then happened upon Little Fishies Undies by Fishsticks Designs.  I had never seen anything cuter than these!  So I purchased the pattern.

I'm not typically a pattern person.  I usually prefer to have a general idea of what I want to do--or a good tutorial--and then I just go with it.  But this is one of the simplest patterns ever, and the instructions are excellent.  It literally takes mere minutes to sew them up once everything is cut out and ready to go.  And I don't have a fancy serger or anything (though I really, really want one!).  I just used a zig zag stitch on my very basic machine.  I love how they turned out.

I tried them on her this morning, and they're great!  She looks adorable, and she had fun wearing them.  She keeps bringing them back to me, wanting me to put them back on her (and throwing a fit when I don't), so they must be comfy, too!

I plan to get a bunch more cut out today and then sew them up as I get the opportunity (nap times, bed time...).  They're thick enough to be great for potty training, thin enough to be great for everyday wear.  They feel nice and durable.  I used 100% cotton interlock.

And the best part is the pattern comes with sizes 2-12, so we're set for a long time!  Thank you Fishsticks Designs!!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


I only make unscented soap for my family.  And I only make unscented soap in my house.  Remember my Little Love #5 with all the latex and food allergy issues?  She also has asthma.  Except it's not actually diagnosed as asthma, because she's too young for that diagnosis.  The pediatrician once told me, "Well, let's try daily pulmicort for her asthma.  Not that I'm officially calling it asthma."  Later he said, "Well, I don't want to call her a sickly child, but she is sick a lot with a lot of issues."  So I have an asthmatic, non-sickly child who has asthma and is sickly.  =)  We're praying she outgrows it.  This summer has been GREAT--I haven't given her a breathing treatment for the last 2+ months!  Last fall, winter, and spring, she was on breathing treatments every day and was hospitalized twice with bronchiolitis.  I must say, she looks pretty cute with her Bubbles the Fish mask on.

Anyway, back to soap.  Last time I made scented soap in my house, I sent my daughter into an asthma attack.  So no more scented soap here.  It's actually not a bad thing, though.  You see, I have a friend and neighbor, Amanda, who also makes soap.  And we LOVE hanging out together.  So today I got to go to her house during naptime (my hubby was home with the kids) and make soap!  It simply doesn't get much better than that, hanging out with a friend for a couple of hours while doing something fun!

I make soap using hot process.  That means I actually cook the soap (I use my crock pot), forcing it to saponify (change into soap) in about an hour, rather than waiting weeks for it to slowly make the change.  It's great because I can wait until we're down to the last, tiny sliver of soap in our house--which is often accidentally washed down the drain by one of the kids--before I ever get around to making more, and still have soap ready by that same night.  Not that I'd ever wait until the last minute like that or anything...

When I first started, I checked out this book from the library.  It since went out of print and is crazy-expensive new on Amazon, so if you can find it cheaper somewhere, it's way worth it!  Or just check it out from your library.

This is by far the best book you could ever use to get started making hot process soap.  And the author even has a Yahoo group on hot soap making, and she's soooo nice and helpful with any questions you may have.

Things you need are distilled water, the oils you need for your recipe, lye, and whatever essential oils/fragrance oils you plan to use to scent it.  You can also add flower petals, clays, various spices, etc.  The possibilities are virtually endless.

All ingredients must be weighed.  Kitchen measuring tools are not precise enough.  So if you want to make your own soap, get a good, digital scale that weighs to the tenth of an ounce.

As a side note here the above picture is a picture of me weighing out the lye.  Websites and books that talk about using lye in soapmaking always crack me up.  They show people basically wearing hazmat suits.

If you are a soapmaker and wear all the protective gear while making soap, I mean no offense.  I was a chemistry minor in college, and lye is just not a big deal to me, I guess.  Just don't get it on you if it's wet or you're wet.  And if you do get it on you, spray some soapy vinegar water on it and rinse it off.  If you're as clumsy as I am maybe you're wise to wear all the stuff, and I'm just crazy.  But I won't ask anyone who knows me to comment on that.

Anyway, here it is cooking.

While it was cooking, Amanda and I had a blast!  We're both pregnant, so we ate some marinated mozarella cheese balls.  Can you say YUM?!?!?  

Why is it if you're eating plain, healthy string cheese (or, as my kids say, stick cheese) you get so full after one?  But if you marinate the cheese in some oil and add a few spices like above, you can easily eat the equivalent of at least a couple of sticks of string cheese?  Or, if you coat it in breading and deep fry it and dip it in marinara sauce (I LOVE Applebee's mozarella sticks), to where it no longer even slightly resembles its healthy origins but is now a delicious stick of fatty naughtiness, all of a sudden you can eat like 10 of them without batting an eye?  It's just wrong!  

Anyway, after about an hour, the soap gets transparent-looking, and you know it's done.  Then you mix in your fragrance and scoop it into your mold.

I never bother to smooth it out much.  I like the rustic, old-fashioned look.  Once it's all cool and solidified, it's ready to cut and use.  (Ok, this batch below wasn't quite finished.  See how it's not totally opaque yet?)

Once cut, here's your finished product.

Luxurious, moisturizing, and smells great!!  If you have a friend to make it with, even better!  If you're kids are napping, and your friend's kids are napping, and you have some marinated cheese balls, it's a great afternoon!

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