Archive | November, 2010

Sew a Coloring Case For Your Little Artist

30 Nov

She loved it!

Are you looking for a simple creative gift to make this Holiday season?  Sew up a coloring case for the little artist in your life.  I recently made one for my five year old cousin and it was quite a hit!  I actually had something similar growing up that I remember enjoying a lot.  It was great having my crayons together with my coloring book so I didn’t have to go find crayons when I wanted to color. You will need 1/2 yard of fabric , thread, and matching double fold bias tape.  Either choose a sturdy fabric like I did or you may want to line the bag and use batting for added support.  Upholstery fabric scraps would also work great for this project.

Cut a piece of fabric 12.5" X 38". Also cut 2 strips of fabric 12.5" X 3"

Sew bias tape to the short ends of your rectangle. I like to use double fold bias tape as it seems the easiest to work with.

Fold down the right side 8" and pin in place. Fold the left side down 12" and pin in place. Sew along the top and bottom.

To make the crayon holders fold down 4" on the left side and sew along the top and bottom. Then sew a straight line every 1" a little bit shorter than the length of your crayon as shown. (You could also use colored pencils or markers). This only holds 11 crayons but no one ever uses white anyway. If you would like for it to hold 12 increase the dimensions to 14X38.

With right sides together sew each tube using a tiny seam allowance (1/4"). Turn right side out and sew across ends. Press handles.

Attach handles to bag.

Insert crayons and a new coloring book and you are finished!

Notes: You could also easily sew a pocket on the opposite side from the crayons.  I am looking forward to making one for Eli whenever he learns to color.  Right now he just eats crayons. 🙂  I think this would be a great thing to take along on car rides to Grandmas.

Apple French Toast Strata

29 Nov

A Wonderful Breakfast Treat Perfect for the Holidays

Are you looking for a special breakfast dish for the upcoming holidays?  Try this simple and delicious recipe for caramel apple french toast strata.  It is delicious and great for company.  We recently had it when my sisters were visiting.  It is also a great way to use up stale bread.  I made it with bread that Brandon thought tasted too healthy. 🙂 

Cube 5 slices of bread and place in the bottom of a 7X9 pan or double the recipe and use a 9X13. Then cube 4 oz. cream cheese and place on top. Slice 2 apples and lay on top of the bread cubes and cream cheese.

Add 1/2 cup of sliced almonds if you like.

 

Combine 4 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 T cinnamon. Beat well and pour over bread mixture.

In a small saucepan combine 6 T. butter, and 6 T. brown sugar. (You can also use 1 T corn syrup to make a thicker syrup). Bring to a boil and then pour over the mixture. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Before serving dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

Eli playing while I cooked

Thanksgiving Celebrations Part 1

26 Nov

Eli all ready to head to Mamaw and Papaw's house to spend the night.

Eli loves spending time with Mamaw

Anna and Kate

Papaw and Eli

Interesting table decorations. I think my grandparents won them maybe?

Aunt Christy working hard. I love eating on china.

Eli-I think I like turkey and green beans

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

23 Nov

Yummy pumpkin spice latte perfect for Thanksgiving week

I happen to be one of those gals who loves fancy coffee drinks.  What I don’t love is their price tag.  If you haven’t visited a coffee shop lately you might be shocked to learn that most drinks cost around $4.  One of my favorite drinks in the fall happens to be a Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I do visit coffee shops on occasion but they are a rare treat for me.  Instead I am often coming up with my own version at home.  It’s fairly simple but I’ll warn you.  Once you make one and see how easy it is it will be hard for you to plop down $4 at Starbucks. 🙂  

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. milk-any will do but skim milk actually gets the most frothy
  • 2 T. pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
  • 2 T. sugar I used sucanat
  • 1 T. vanilla-yes a whole tablespoon!
  • 1 t. pumpkin pie spice.  If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice then I would substitute: 1/4 t. nutmeg, 3/4 t. cinnamon, 1/4 t. ginger.
  • 1/2 c. hot strong coffee-you could also use 1/4 c. espresso but I don’t have an espresso machine. 

Heat milk on medium heat. Skim milk works really well as it gets nice and frothy.

Add pumpkin puree and sugar (I used sucanat which is why it is a brown color)

When it is steaming remove from heat and stir in pumpkin pie spice (or the substitution) and vanilla.

Pour in strong coffee or espresso and enjoy!

It is best topped with whipped cream and enjoyed with a friend.

Review: Pro Hair Care: Salon Secrets of the Professionals

22 Nov

Pro Hair Care: Salon Secrets of the Professionals

I recently picked up the book Pro Hair Care: Salon Secrets of the Professionals from our library.  It is probably the first book on hair care that I have ever picked up and I found it very helpful.  It covers everything from hair anatomy, dietary guidelines to step by step instructions on how to use various styling tools.  I really enjoyed how the book went through different styling products.  The color photos which illustrate how to achieve different looks were wonderful.  I think I will be trying a new style in the morning.  Probably the only thing I didn’t care for about the book was that it included a couple of examples on how to style guy hair (not a priority at all of mine-I don’t like guys who spend more time on their hair than I do). 🙂  Overall a fun book.  It would be great to use and have a friend over and experiment on each other!  Now if I only had a little more time to spend on my hair every morning. 🙂

How to make homemade pumpkin puree

22 Nov

Last week I decided that I was feeling adventurous I guess you could say. I decided it was time for us to eat our porch decoration. Random I know! 🙂

Last week I decided I was not paying the exorbitant price for a can of pumpkin and decided to make my own using our front porch decoration.  It really wasn’t that difficult at all and I now have about 15 bags of pumpkin puree in my freezer all ready for muffins, bread, pies, baby food, and anything else I come up with in the next month or so.  It does take a couple of hours from start to finish but is definitely worth it. 

Rinse and dry your pumpkin.

Remove the top portion by using a very sharp knife. It's easier to remove if you don't pull the top off like I did. 🙂

Remove the stem/top portion and discard. Keep the pumpkin seeds if you plan on roasting and eating them later.

Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out all of the gunk (saving seeds if desired).

Place half of pumpkin inside side down. Add about 1 cup of water to the pan. Since my pumpkin was very large I used a disposable turkey pan.

Remove the outer skin on the pumpkin. Allow pumpkin to cool for a while. Cut the pumpkin into pieces and either place in a food processor/blender or I placed them all in a very large pot and used an immersion blender to puree.

Elijah enjoying homemade pumpkin puree for the first time

Yummy! He likes pumpkin a lot. Especially mixed with a little homemade applesauce Mamaw made. 🙂

Notes: I paid only 2.49 for my pumpkin about a month ago.  Although it was a little bit of work I estimate that we saved about $20 by making our own pumpkin puree.  We have really enjoyed having it serve as a fun fall decoration on our porch and now we are enjoying it now in a variety of dishes.  So far we have made: pumpkin waffles, muffins, bread, polenta, and a pumpkin pie latte.

Sesame Garlic Italian Bread

18 Nov

Serve this alongside some homemade lasagna or spaghetti and your husband will think you hung the moon.

Are you looking for a new way to jazz up a simple Italian meal?  Try this delicious Italian bread.  It is beautiful but not difficult at all.  Don’t be intimidated by how it looks! 

In a mixer fitted with dough hooks (or a bread machine set on the knead cycle) combine:

  • 1 1/2 c. warm water
  • 3 T. powdered milk
  • 2 c. bread flour-you could also use whole wheat bread flour (I think this is what I used I can’t remember)
  • 2 T. yeast
  • Mix all of this briefly.  Then add:
  • 1/4 c. sugar-granulated regular sugar or raw.
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 T. minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 t. salt 
  • 1/2 c. oil-I like canola. 
  • Mix together and then add flour 1 cup at a time.  I ended up using about 4 1/2 c. at this step.  Knead on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  Remove dough from mixer and place on a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 2 parts. 

Take each dough portion and roll it into a rectangle roughly 14X10. Spread with butter (softened) and sprinkle lightly with parsley flakes, parmesan cheese, and garlic salt.

Roll up tight like a jelly roll: start from the long side and roll to the other long side.

Slice rolled dough in half down the middle. Then twist together loosely. Make sure to pinch the ends together.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, parley flakes, and sesame seeds. Let rise about 30-40 minutes. bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes.

Note: This recipe does make 2 loaves.  You could easily half the recipe.  I usually do make 2 loaves and wrap one very tightly and place in the freezer.  The bread easily stays fresh for days.  (I do keep mine wrapped tightly with plastic wrap).  This bread is also wonderful alongside soup.  A perfect way to round out a meal.  Try some today!

How to Clean a House: The Natural Way

15 Nov

My favorite cleaning tools: Dr Bronner's Sal Suds, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, Norwex Enviro Cloth, and Norwex Window Cloth. I also use a spray bottle full of water, mop bucket, mop, and toilet scrubber.

Clean the bathroom, sweep the floors, vacuum, mop, dishes, laundry, the list goes on and on.  Are you looking for a simpler way to stay on top of your cleaning?  This past weekend I was blessed to host the youth girls from our church.  Not just a couple of them either we had 17 of them in our house!   🙂  As I suspected they slept in every square inch of our house except the kitchen floor!    As I began preparing our home for them last week I was so thankful that we have developed a cleaning schedule that has greatly simplified keeping our house clean.  For me the secret has been to stretch out my cleaning over a couple of days.  I also have switched to a more natural approach. 

Elijah helping me clean the other day by playing happily for a few minutes. Most of the time that I am cleaning I actually wear Elijah on my back in the Ergo.

For years I have had trouble with commercial household cleaners.  I wasn’t too keen on cleaning with vinegar and we have purchased some “natural cleaners” in the past but they were a little pricey.  Since then we have come across Norwex Cleaning Products.  We purchased a set which included a window cloth, regular enviro cloth, and a dust mit from The Urban Homemaker.  The price might seem a little pricey at first but it is worth it not to have a migraine after cleaning!  They also come with a two-year guarantee.  Along with the Norwex cloths I use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap.  That is it!  My cleaning bucket has shrunk considerably and cleaning is simplified! 

  • Mondays: I clean downstairs: Living Room, Entry, Hall, Kitchen, Library, and Bathroom. 
  • Tuesdays: I clean upstairs: For the bedrooms: change sheets weekly, dust with Norwex dust mit, straighten up, vacuum.  To clean the bathroom: 1) Squirt a little Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap into the toilet. 2) Spray down mirror and sink with plain water.  Yeap that’s right just water.  Wipe with a Norwex Enviro Cloth, then wipe mirror with Window Cloth.  3) Spray down shower and wipe with Enviro Cloth. 4) Scrub toilet with toilet brush.  Wipe down toilet. 5) Wipe down floor with enviro cloth.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to clean a bathroom now that the smell from the chemicals no longer make me sick.  Amazingly the bathroom really does get clean with just water and a Norwex Enviro cloth.  (I was quite a skeptic about these at first but they are awesome!) 
  • Wednesdays: Light downstairs cleaning.  I might mop again.  If I wasn’t able to finish Monday or Tuesdays cleaning on the day it is assigned I do it on Wednesday.  For example this week I wrote a paper most of the day on Tuesday so I finished Tuesday’s cleaning jobs this morning.  This assures that by the middle of the week all the major cleaning is done for the week. 
  • Thursdays: I try not to do heavy cleaning since this is Brandon’s day off.  I do cook, wash dishes, pick up the living room, and maybe run the vacuum or sweep since Elijah is crawling. 
  • Fridays: Clean out refrigerator.  Laundry.  In the summer/fall I do laundry everyday and hang it to dry in the morning.  In the afternoon I bring it in, fold it, and put it away.  Once winter hits I like to do the majority of the laundry on one day (except diapers-I wash every couple of days).  Prepare for the weekend. 

Sometimes I don’t get absolutely everything in the house cleaned every single week but that’s okay.  Elijah might have been having a needy week or I might have had 2 papers to write and a test that week.  Cleaning your house doesn’t have to be complicated just find out what works best in your home.  Before I had a baby it worked great for me to clean just one day per week.  Now in my current season of life I find that it works better for my family if I spread my cleaning out over a couple of days.  Remember the goal of cleaning a house is to make it an inviting place for your family and to welcome others into your home. 

 To check out Norwex cleaning cloths visit: http://urbanhomemaker.com/productcart/pc/viewCategories.asp?idCategory=376

Disciple Now 2010

14 Nov

Sweet girls

This past weekend we were blessed to be involved with the youth Disciple Now at our church.  I have such fond memories of a number of retreats and Disciple Nows that I have been blessed to be a part of as both a youth, leader, and speaker.  I had a great time and am pretty sure that everyone else did too!

Not one bit sleepy 🙂

Our fun weekend started at 6:00 with a pizza party at church Friday night.  Then we played some fun games and listened to Bro. Mark talk about our relationship to God.  The theme for the weekend was Best Friends Forever.  We also broke up into small groups to talk further about how we can have a relationship with God and also how we can deepen our relationship with Him. 

Elijah did not know what to think having so many ladies in his house! I think they wore him out.

She's going to kill me for posting this but how sweet is this? By the way she was the hardest girl to wake up!

Then all of the girls headed to our house where they spent the night.  It was so much fun!  When we were looking for a house we specifically looked for one that would lend itself well to having people over.  We talked a lot, sang at the piano, and played some flash light tag. 

It was great fun for me to get to stay up late talking with a bunch of giggly girls.  I’m so glad we were able to open up our home to them.  I even got to introduce about 7 of them to the wonders of hot herbal tea.  Yummy!  The next morning  we all got up and had breakfast (bagels and doughnuts) and headed to church.  The students enjoyed a few more general sessions, some break out sessions, and a service project.  I ended up having to leave a couple of hours early to head to a wedding.  (It was quite a crazy day for me!)

Wondering what this is? It's a basket full of cell phones. 🙂 They were all collected at 2am and charged in our bathroom.

A special thanks to all everyone who helped out with DNOW by donations, cooking food, helping serve meals, chaperoning, clean up, etc.  These kids ate an insane amount of food.  We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.

Eli enjoying his lunch with everybody else. Yummy diced carrots. 🙂

My current centerpiece. I had paint/markers to let the girls decorate a pumpkin and then forgot all about it! The tablerunner I made last year.

Stretch Your Food Budget: Cook a Whole Chicken and Make Simple Homemade Chicken Broth

12 Nov

Yum

Are you looking for a frugal yet healthy way to stretch your food budget this week?  Rather than purchasing chicken breasts this week buy a whole chicken.  That’s right a whole chicken that even has bones. 😮  Don’t be scared it’s really not as hard as it sounds.  Once you taste chicken cooked on the bone you will have a hard time going back to plain boneless skinless chicken breast.  I’m not sure how but cooking meat on the bone always seems to make it taste better.

Thaw your chicken (if it was frozen to start with). Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

I like to rinse the inside of the cavity and pat it dry.

Then I like to add a chicken rub or personal blend of spices. Currently we enjoy a type of chicken rub you would use if you were grilling. You could also just use some poultry seasoning and maybe stuff a lemon in the cavity.

Gently lift up the skin and rub spices on the chicken breasts. An easy way to do this is to loosen the skin and then pour some of the spices on. This is a great way to season the chicken. We just started adding spices a couple months ago and it tastes so much better. We do not eat the skin and this locks in all of the seasoning.

Lastly drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the skin. Rub it in kind of if like you rub in sunscreen.

Bake at 375 for about 1 hour until the juices run clear or a meat thermometer reads at least 165. (insert in the meatiest part of the bird) Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

After enjoying your delicious chicken for dinner let the chicken cool.  Then I pick up all of the meat off of the bone.  I like to chop it into small pieces, place in a container, and refrigerate.  (If you are pressed for time you can also place the entire chicken in the refrigerator and pick it off the next day.)  If I know that I will not be cooking it all within the next couple of days then I freeze the chicken in 1 cup servings in a labeled bag.  We usually make three more meals out of the remaining chicken.  The possibilities are endless.  Not only does this save you a bundle of money but it is delicious!  To stretch the budget even farther make your own chicken broth.

How to Make Homemade Chicken Broth

Place all of the bones and carcass in the largest crock pot you have.

Then add: 1 chopped onion, 1-2 carrots, celery stalk, a potato, and any other vegetable scraps you might have.  I just happened to have a lot of mushrooms that needed to be used up so they made it into the stock too.  I like to keep a container in the fridge/freezer for vegetable scraps.  This is both frugal and saves time too.  Then when it is time to make broth I can use them up. 

Add your favorite seasonings: I like garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, etc. Fill the crockpot with filtered water all the way up. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. This allows the nutrients from the bones to be released into the broth.

Turn on low for 16-24 hours.  I usually make a chicken for dinner and then turn off the crock pot somewhere the next afternoon.  Let the broth cool slightly and then strain.  I put a large bowl in my sink with a colander on top.  This makes it easy to remove the bones/vegetables.  Refrigerate the broth and use to make excellent soups or rice.  Stay tuned for more simple healthy recipes that use chopped chicken. 🙂