Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Allergen-Free School Supplies and Toys

If you're able to buy your kids whatever crayons, paints, toys, etc you want to, I am soooooooo happy for you!  For many of us, it can be a nightmare.  Having to call or email companies to find out if a certain type of tape has latex, if their putty has gluten or wheat, if their crayons have been handled by someone wearing latex gloves, etc.

For instance, you're at home, wrapping a present for your daughter's birthday--your daughter who is deathly allergic to latex.  Then you run out of tape.  You need to go to the store anyway, so you head out  to get some.  Once at the store in front of the tape, you realize that you forgot to write down the brand you bought last time--the one brand that you already found out was latex-free.  So you call your hubby at home and ask him what brand it was.  Only, he already threw away the empty dispenser you so rudely left in the middle of the floor, took it outside, and the garbage truck has already come.  You call the 1-800 numbers listed on several tape packages, and they all say they'll speak with their "whatever-it-is" department and get back with you, may they please have your name and number, they'll call you back in 5-7 business days.

So you write down several brand names and head back home tapeless, but on a mission.  Once home, you get online and write e-mails to all the companies, asking if their tape is latex-free.  You try to be civil, even though you feel like telling them how idiotic it is to use such a highly allergic material in anything anyway.  They all write back a week later, asking for specific product names, numbers, colors, manufacturing date, and all of the other information you didn't write down from all of those packages.  So you go back to the store, write down everything, head back home, and e-mail all the information in.  They then write back a month later, just to tell you that all of their tapes contain latex, and they hope your pleased with their products, and they hope they can be of more service to you in the future.

Meanwhile, your daughter's birthday passed two weeks previous, and you eventually just threw the half-wrapped gift into a gift bag.

I recently heard about an awesome website, Discount School Supply.  On their site, you can actually look only at products that are free of specific allergens!  You can search based on gluten, dairy/casein, peanuts/treenuts, eggs, soy, and yes, latex.  They even have latex-free, regulation-sized footballs, basketballs, etc.  And the prices are great!!

No, they didn't ask me to advertise for them--they don't know who I am or that I'm even blogging about them.  I was just excited that someone actually took the time to make it easy to find safe products without jumping through hoops.  I thought this might help some of you out, too! Pin It

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spaghetti -- Gluten-Free

My family loves spaghetti.  I used to make two different kinds of noodles each time:  whole wheat and gluten-free.  I'll admit it was a big pain.  I had to be careful not to contaminate the gluten-free noodles or sauce with whole wheat.  I had to keep track of what was in what colander when.  I had to time things to be done at the right times.  Etc.  And if you accidentally stick the fork you were using to stir the whole wheat noodles into the pan with the gluten-free noodles, that whole pan is now contaminated and no longer gluten-free (been there, done that.  Very frustrating!)

The simple solution would have been just feeding everybody gluten-free noodles.  But they're expensive!  And most of the brands have yucky ingredients in them that I didn't want to feed my family, anyway.  So I knew I had to come up with something else.

I've used brown rice as a substitute in other pasta dishes, so I figured, why not try it with spaghetti?  It turned out pretty good!  This is the kids' first choice, if they can't have noodles.

My favorite is raw zucchini.  I just wash and slice the zucchini and pour the hot sauce over it.  It's so delicious and healthy!

I've also been told that spaghetti squash is an easy substitute, as it already has the shape and texture of real noodles.  So I'm going to try that next!

I totally cheat on the spaghetti sauce.  I've made my own, but in reality, it's cheaper to just buy the twin-pack of giant bottles of Prego Traditional sauce at Costco.  (Yes, at this point in time, it's gluten-free.  Be aware that they can change their recipe at any time, however.)  Yum yum!!
Pin It

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Dutch Oven!

Remember the enameled dutch oven I got from my Grandma's stuff?  I love it, but at 3.5 quarts, it's too small for soups, etc for our 8-person family.

My wonderful hubby ran to the store the other day, and found a 6-quart one on sale, $30 off!!  Isn't it pretty?

It'll be perfect for all sorts of meals!  

I still have my orange one, too, of course.  It's being used at this moment to cooks spaghetti sauce.  Aren't they pretty together?

The yellow one also had small, matching tureens--good for eating soup or baking individual-sized portions of whatever.  Aren't they cute?

I can't wait to get all sorts of use out of these.  Thank you, Mr. Man!!!!!!

Pin It

Monday, February 20, 2012

Home Redo -- Laundry Room

Our house was owned by some very...let's say interesting people.  For those of you who haven't seen my previous redo posts, I've shown our upstairs bathroomentryway, and living room and kitchen.  The previous home owners had stickers hiding holes in the walls, contact paper instead of wall paper, and various other oddities.

One major oddity was the laundry room.  We have a finished basement, but for some reason, they didn't finish the laundry room.  I totally understand about wanting access to plumbing, electric, etc.  But you know how when you're a kid the basement can be a scary place?  You know it can be dark, dank, full of cobwebs, and who knows what else?  Yeah, our laundry room could have totally been the main feature in your basement nightmares.

That's the only picture we have of it.  Is it any wonder I didn't go all picture happy in that room?  *shudder*  But it was large, and I could see the potential.

It really, really needed some improvement.  First, we added more lighting.  It's amazing what a fluorescent light or two can do!  Then we added some drywall.  (My hubby still wanted easy access to electrical and plumbing, so we didn't finish the ceiling.)  There are no windows in there, and I wanted to bring some sunshine in, so I picked a really bright yellow for the walls (I know, they're more banana than sunshine.  Either way, it still makes me smile.)  There was a long counter on one wall in the kitchen, where we ended up building in the pantries, so we relocated that counter to the laundry room.  

We also added some shelves and hanging bars.  It's still not the most beautiful room in the house, but at least the kids aren't scared to take their dirty laundry down there.  =)

I'm thinking we need to bring the yellow down on the concrete, too.  We also need to paint the floor with some gray concrete paint.  But for now it's clean, bright, and functional.  I'm happy with it!
Pin It

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mochi -- Gluten Free

Today, while at the store looking for some dairy-free "cheese," I came across this stuff called Mochi.  It's a food made from rice, and there were several varieties.  I figured I'd try it, so I grabbed the cinnamon-raisin one.  The only ingredients are:  organic sweet brown rice, filtered water, raisins, cinnamon, and sea salt.

It comes as this big, flat, dense square.  You simply cut it into smaller squares and bake it.

When baked, it fluffs all up like a little dumpling.

These have no added sugar, but they're still delicious straight out of the oven!!  I was giving them to my kids kind of as a dessert, so I let them dip them into a little bit of pure maple syrup.  Honey would be good, too.  

I have no idea how it is that I have been in the gluten-free and allergy world for so long, yet I have never heard of mochi.  It's fairly inexpensive (this package was less than $3), so easy to make, and delicious!!  I'm going to have to try some of the other flavors soon!

Pin It

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hair bows

My friend Brooke came over last night.  We had grand plans for a craft night.  She has a friend with a new baby that she wanted to make a collection of hair clips for.  I was going to make several myself, for my girls.  Or maybe knit a hat for Brooke's daughter (which I'm making today instead).

However, my hubby had also run to the store and bought me Breaking Dawn part 1 to watch (yes, I'm Team Edward).

So, we sat down and started chatting.  I was holding Little Love #6 (who wants to be held 24-7), and she started making some hair clips for my girls.  She had some cute Hello Kitty ribbon that she had used for her daughter, and she had plenty left for bows for my girls.

Brooke made 6 hair clips for my daughters.

As she was finishing the last of these, we turned the movie on, planning to watch while we worked.

However, the movie was a bit distracting.  We got nothing else done.  Whoops!!  Oh well.  We still had a lot of fun, and my girls got 6 adorable new bows!!!
Pin It

Friday, February 10, 2012

Nut Butter Cookies -- Gluten-Free

Last month, I posted a recipe for flourless, nut butter bread.  In the comments section, my friend Vanessa posted a recipe for flourless, nut butter cookies.  I finally tried making them today, and they are to die for!!

You only need three ingredients:  1 cup of nut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and two eggs.

Mix all the ingredients together.

Drop on cookie sheet and bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes.

These were so easy (my hubby actually made them--his first time ever baking cookies)!  They are sooooooooo delicious!  Vanessa said she's mixed in chocolate chips, nuts, and coconut with great results.

Thank you for a great recipe, Vanessa!!!

Pin It

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tax Return Time!!

Tax return time is an exciting time around here.  We always get a decent-sized refund, and it's our opportunity to buy large purchases that we need.

As I type this, my wonderful Mr. Man is out looking at a 15-passenger van that's for sale.  Now that Little Love #6 is here, we no longer fit in our mini van.

My wonderful hubby also ordered me a NICE microscope!!  I've been wanting one for our classroom.  However, I used to work in a medical laboratory.  So any old microscope just wasn't going to work for me.  I needed all the bells and whistles.  I NEEDED an oil immersion lens.  He got me a wonderful one, that just arrived in the mail yesterday.  Now I need to get it all put together!

It's also the time of year I get to order my new school curriculum for next year!  By now, I know what is and isn't working for my kids.  We're pretty well settled on what works for the older two.  We'll see what works for the next ones as time goes on.  But it's so exciting to get new school books in the mail!!  They'll be coming from 3 different companies, so lots of fun boxes to open!!

My oldest has been begging me to teach her how to sew.  To be honest, I don't want her touching my Janome.  =)  I thought about ordering her a mini Janome, but I can't bring myself to spend $200 on one.  So I started looking on Amazon and found the Michley Lil' Sew & Sew LSS-505 Combo Mini Sewing Machine.  The price was right, and the reviews look good.  The main negative is that it doesn't seem to sew well through thick fabrics.  But who starts out learning on denim and canvas?  =)

Anyway, it arrived today!

Her birthday isn't for another couple of months.  But tonight I'll try it out to make sure it works well.  I'll post a product review here.  =)

It also came with a small sewing kit...

...and electric scissors.

Anyway, as long as the machine works well, I'll be thrilled!

So, lots of excitement going on around here.  Fun boxes arriving daily.  Hubby may be coming home with a new (to us) van!  And I have an awesome microscope!!!  Did I say yet how much I love tax return time?  =)

  Pin It

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bandanna Skirts and Hair Clips

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this tutorial for how to make "The Handkerchief Hem Bandana Skirt" on Designed by Dawn Nicole.  I fell in love with it immediately and knew that I had to make some for my Little Love #5.  So I ran out (well, at that time I was 9 months pregnant, so I waddled out) to the craft store and bought some bandannas.

So, these skirts really are super simple to make.  Somehow, I managed to royally mess up my math and ended up with way too large of holes in the centers of the bandannas (and, of course, I cut all 4 before opening one up to look at it), but they still managed to turn out fine.  But, as the old adage says, make sure you measure twice and cut once.  I made these with a couple-of-days-old-baby in the house, so I'll blame sleep deprivation.  =)  This one will be perfect for Valentine's Day.

I then had the circles I had cut out of the centers of the bandannas, so I used those to make matching hair clips following this tutorial on Fabric Bows and More.  I pinked the edges of the black-and-white ones and frayed the edges of the heart ones.

Anyway, this project was super cheap, super fast, and super easy.  I used latex-free elastic, and the bandannas are 100% cotton, so my daughter can wear them with no problems.  I love how it all turned out!

Pin It