Friday, December 7, 2012

New Favorite Blog, I think...

Hey, I know it's been awhile since I posted, not for lack of content, but for lack of time.

I have even been taking pictures in hopes of getting to my blog again some day.  :-)  So, one day I'll have some time and about fifteen posts for you!

Today I was looking for a grain free teething biscuit recipe because we are still grain free with John (I was contemplating doing this until he's one, but every morning at breakfast, the oatmeal is wearing me down...)

Anyway, I stumbled on this blog, and I think it's my new favorite, just from reading some posts.  Here is one that is really good

Her 'good, better, best' approach to what foods you can make it  your goal to eat.  Start with good, and work your way to best.  One small baby step at a time!

Miss you,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ten Steps to Healthier Eating

This morning I am giving a talk about healthy eating.  First time I have ever spoken to a group of my peers, so pray for me!

Anyway, here are my notes for my talk.  I just thought I would stick them up here so you all can read through them!  Plus, I posted them for the ladies to whom I am talking, so they may reference them if they like.  (And see everything I intended to talk about, even if I didn't get to it!)

10 Steps to Healthier Eating
  1. Stop drinking all sodas and then juices, especially non-fruit juices
    1. it has sugar, food dyes, other chemicals
    2. no redeeming value.  no nutrition. 
  2. Cut out MSG. Cut out food dyes.  They are neurotoxins. 
    1. Neurotoxin: a toxin that acts directly on the tissues of the central nervous system
      1. They make you dumber!
    2. MSG can be hidden in other ingredients.  There are some that are allowed to be up to 78% MSG and the other 22% can be some other chemical or ingredient, and still be called a name other than MSG. I handed out a sheet with those names.  If you didn't get it, google it! :-P
  3. Cut out chemicals
    1. can’t pronounce it? Don’t know what it is? Cut it out!  Esp. in view of the MSG list discussed earlier. 
    2. This is my rule for cleaners too, and toothpaste, etc.
  4. Cut out partially and fully hydrogenated everything
    1. Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some of the hydrogen, which makes it more dense. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, you a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil that has a consistency like butter, only it's a lot cheaper. (
    2. Partially hydrogenated oils make you gain weight the same way that saturated fats do -- by making you consume even more fat to get the the essential fatty acids you need. Partially hydrogenated fats are even worse. Not only do they produce disease over the long term, but they interfere with the body's ability to ingest and utilize the good fats!
    3. Worse, most partially hydrogenated oil is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. That's a problem, because soybean oil depresses the thyroid--which lowers your energy levels, makes you feel less like exercising, and generally makes you fatter!
    4. Nearly all foods with p/ or f/ hydrogeny have a non-trans fat alternative
      1. ex: oreos/ newman’s own, ranch dip/ organic ranch dip, peanut butter, box mac n cheese
  5. Switch to free range, grass fed meat
    1. Other meat is pumped full of antibiotics, fed foods that are laden with GMOs, are not able to move really at all.  They are not healthy.
    2. Confined Animal Feeding Operations
  6. Add more fresh fruits and veggies
    1. 5 a day is 1 at b/fast, 2 at lunch, 2 at dinner-- try to add one more serving per meal, also replace snacks with fruits or veggies. 
    2. Do not just add fruits; they have sugar-- strive to add veggies too!
    3. Tip: blend spinach into things-- pancake batter, smoothies, spaghetti sauce, etc.
    4. Consider a CSA (community shared agriculture) share
      1. forces you to be creative with veggies you may not necessarily buy
      2. no thinking at the food store-- what should I buy this week? 
  7. Replace boxed food you eat with homemade version
    1. make mac&cheese instead of kraft, make brownies, spaghetti sauce (or consider a BPA free jar), hamburger helper
    2. find alternatives to pb&j-- this one is new for me!
      1. hummus on toast (with tomato, cucumber, etc)
      2. sardines on crackers with mustard
      3. tuna salad on cucumber slices with tomato toppers (from
      4. hard boiled eggs
    3. make large batches and freeze in smaller portions-- i do this with mac and cheese, when i make bread, hummus, muffins, baked beans
  8. Healthy Fats
    1. coconut oil, olive oil, butter, ‘expeller pressed’ oils
    2. Other oils: vegetable oils or anything not labeled ‘expeller pressed’ are chemically stripped from their sources, leaving behind chemical residues
    3. Also, some oils are GM-- safflower, corn, soybean
  9. Healthy Dairy
    1. raw milk and cheese vs. pasturized, homogenized
      1. pasturizaton kills everything in your milk. potentially good or bad, but it doesn’t take it out of the milk. bad hygiene for commercial cows results in puss in milk and other things which are not taken out by past. only killed. then when your milk goes bad, it is actally going rancid. yuck.
      2. homogenization breaks down big fats in cream that naturally rises to the top into little fats that don’t separate. also the big fats cant go in your blood, but the little ones can. They weren’t supposed to and this causes all kinds of problems. 
  10. Cut out sugar!!
    1. reduce sugar in recipes-- I almost always do half the first time I make something and go from there
    2. alternative desserts: fruit, popcorn, homemade pudding, homemade ice cream
    3. less sugar may taste a bit bland at first, but your body will adjust and get used to it. 
    4. when you have a sugar craving, eat nuts.  They have fats that are good for you and make you feel full and full for longer than if you grabbed a cookie. 
    5. After awhile making recipe with 1/2 sugar, try 1/3 sugar and see how that goes. 
    6. Sugar is metabolized the same way as alcohol in your body.  It gives you the same type of ‘high’ that alcohol does. it also puts the same strain on your liver that metabolizing alcohol does. being addicted to sugar is the same as being an alcoholic! you are doing the same thing to your body with sugar or alcohol.
  11. Dealing with Cost
    1. Lots of things in the healthier eating realm are more expensive.  
    2. Learn to offset cost of expensive things with cheap healthy ingredients:
      1. rice
      2. beans
      3. potatoes
      4. homemade chicken broth
      5. cabbage
      6. cauliflower
    3. Things with a base of the above ingredients, such as casseroles and soups, are a great way to stretch the more expensive foods
    4. Buy whole chickens and cut up. Use leftover bones to make broth
    5. Don’t buy cereal for breakfast (except for special occasions!) 
      1. make oatmeal (the kind from oats, not instant-- that stuff is expensive!)
      2. make coffee cakes or muffins the night before (make big batches and freeze) 
      3. Make pancakes-- freeze leftovers to toast for breakfast another day
      4. eggs and toast
    6. By making homemade things, save money over buying the same healthy option at the store
    7. Use money saved from cutting out soda and other unhealthy foods to buy more expensive healthy ingredients
    8. Eat out less, save money, use as above
    9. Redefine convenience foods from frozen processed foods  or eating out to things like Bob’s Red Mill Alphabet Soup Mix, tuna fish, homemade frozen foods, spaghetti
  12. Dealing with picky eaters
    1. It is hard work, it takes dedication, resolve and patience
    2. Cut sugar out of child’s diet. 
    3. Inundate them with the rejected food. Put it in everything. Serve it (in a different way) at every meal. 
    4. Require kids to eat what you serve-- don’t back down and make them something special.  If they’re not eating it, don’t push it-- they’ll get hungry enough eventually.  :-) 
      1. Some people serve the same thing over and over at each meal until the child eats it.  I haven’t done that much.  If the child is hungry any time before the next meal, the only thing he can have is the food he didn’t eat.  But I don’t usually serve dinner for breakfast, although I have friends who have with success.  
    5. Explain why you are eating these foods.  Some foods we don’t like, but we eat them anyway because they are good for us and make our bodies healthy.  
      1. Be honest with kids if you don’t like something, too.  If they see you eating spinach even though you don’t like it, they will be more inclined to also eat something they don’t like. 
  13. Final Thoughts
    1. Remember, try not to make all the changes at once-- this will be too overwhelming.  Do one step at a time. 
    2. Some steps are harder than others
    3. Do what is right for your family. Do the best you can.  Don’t compare yourself to others. 
    4. Have friends that are doing this too-- encourage each other!
    5. Don’t be so strict that you can’t go anywhere or do anything.  Be realistic.
    6. Have standards within your house and ones for when you are out. (ex. will not bring oreos into the house, but if you have 1 or 2 at a party, it’s ok.) 
    7. Educate your children about the changes you are making to your diet. They will grow up understanding, not just wanting to rebel when they leave the house. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One Pan Dinners

I have been trying to simplify my life.  (I kind of laugh as I write this, because I feel like there is no possible way to simplify my life enough, and also because as soon as I simplify one area, I usually end up complicating another area!)

One area of my life that has been complicated, time consuming and sometimes stressful is dinner. Chris takes leftovers to work for lunch most days, so I cook something different every night. I also like to have a store of leftovers to offer for lunch and possibly dinner on the weekends.  This store lightens my load a bit on the weekends and frees up some family time.  :-)

That being said, I have been trying to simplify my dinner routine, at least a few nights a week, by prepping something that is all in one pan or pot (or crock pot).  I can throw it all into the pan and walk away, letting it cook.

Tonight, I seared two chicken breasts, added two cups of rice, two cups of milk, two cups of water (I would have used chicken broth if I had any), five cut up carrots and a bag of frozen corn (we did eight dozen this year!). I salted it, peppered it, garlic powdered it, and walked away.  (Well, I turned on the stove first!)  The prep time to do all this (including cutting the chicken breasts off the whole chicken) took about fifteen minutes. Dinner will take about an hour to cook.  While I would normally spend about an hour and fifteen minutes in the kitchen, now I am only spending 15.  I can use the extra hour before dinner to clean up, finish up school for the day, play a game with my kids, fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, bathe the kids, type a blog post,... the possibilities are endless! (I don't think I could get ALL that done in one hour, but a few of those items will be attainable!)  :-P

Some other recipes I can think of that are one pan:
Vegetable Soup, or any soup really
Beans and Rice
Hog Maw Cabbage Rolls

Can you think of any good dishes like these? I am always looking for new ones!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pancake Lunch


I've been thinking of you, just haven't had time/ made time to sit down and type.

Today I made this puffy oven pancake recipe for lunch. I have been struggling with lunches recently in particular because now that it is chilly, I want something hot for lunch.  And also, there's the whole wheat conundrum about which I still haven't come to a conclusion.  Oh, and I ran out of yeast!  You read that correctly.  For awhile, I was out of yeast so I could not make bread.  Wow, was THAT a bummer!  I still haven't made bread, actually, despite having acquired yeast.

Today we had no bread and no leftovers.  We had already had oatmeal for breakfast, and I made the kids eggs yesterday for lunch.  I also didn't want to stuff them full of sugar!

This recipe was really simple, didn't have any sugar aside from what was in the asian pear that I used, had eggs and cheese in it that would provide some protein to keep those little tummies full, and it was warm, so it made my cold self happy.

I enjoyed it.  The kids, for the most part, enjoyed it too, in their own ways-- Ellie, eating each part separately; Sam, rolling his up like a taco; and Ben ate his begrudgingly, despite not liking asian pear and also voiced some dislike of the cheese with this recipe.

Anyway, if you are looking for a quick, nourishing, low/ no sugar option for lunch that doesn't involve bread, try this recipe!  It's also a good breakfast.  It came together quickly-- I made the batter before the oven was even finished preheating, and the pears were quick to cut up and about 3 min in the pan.

Have a great day!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane store list

Things we need at the store before "Frankenstorm" comes to town.  Can you tell which item is for my husband?!!?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I canned 8 quarts of applesauce today. Whew.

(Don't tell the kids it's slightly burnt.)

I fed it to them as a test after dinner tonight and nobody complained.  So I went ahead and canned it.

Also, see all the cores and peels?  I made a kind of tea out of them, and I will make it into apple jelly tomorrow. No waste! Love it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boiling Diapers and Missing You!

Dear Bloggy-blogosphere,

I have been missing you!  But alas, I have had NO TIME to post.  Unless you count the 20 minutes I was asleep on the couch this afternoon.  I don't, because I regard that time as necessary for me to function for the rest of the day.  :-)

ANYway, here are some things I have been up to tonight:

Boiling my cloth diapers!  They have really been smelling strongly of ammonia, so Chris finally did a google search about how to strip diapers of their ammonia smell.  We are boiling ours for 30 minutes.  If you do this, and have PUL in the water, you have to let the water cool before you take the PUL out because it will deform if you take it out when it's hot.

Other things he found to do to reduce the ammonia build-up in the future is add vinegar to the cold rinse cycle before washing them.  Although, this is also said to be bad, because lots of vinegar in your washing machine can wear the plastic parts inside more quickly.  I'll let you wrestle about whether or not to do that on your own.  :-)
Also here are the leftovers from dinner:

Leftover rice with leftover chicken cut up in it, homemade tortillas, grilled peppers and onions, and carrots on the side.

A quick batch of chocolate pudding for dessert.

And finally, there are TWO full bags of apples in my kitchen waiting to be made into applesauce. The guy downstairs has an orchard at his house, and he just leaves them next to our door.  That pretty much rocks.  :-)

Have a great night!  Thanks for reading my update!  :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Green Bean Casserole

We keep getting green beans from our CSA.  Green beans seem easy enough.  My small problem-- my husband doesn't like green beans.  Not steamed up with butter and salt, anyway.  Usually when I get them, I will wash, cut and freeze them for soups in the winter.  Vegetable soup is a favorite at our house, and we eat it almost every week in the winter.

Well, tonight, I had TWO bags of green beans in my fridge (from last week and this week)... my in-laws were coming for a visit, and I (1) needed to use up my green beans and (2) needed to cook more food than usual.

I really like green bean casserole, but I don't use condensed soups OR those crunchy delicious onion thingys any more.  But, I had a hankering for green bean casserole. Oh, and did I mention that it was already 5 o'clock?  The rest of dinner was slated to be done around 5:45, so I needed to come up with something quick.  Luckily, Chris rinsed and de-stemmed the beans earlier in the day, knowing that I was going to use them. :-)

A quick google search brought up "Grandma's Green Bean Casserole."  It was four or five down on the list, but it was the first one that didn't mention Campbell's. Also, it says 'Grandma' in the title, which makes me automatically trust it just a little bit more.

I adapted Grandma's Green Bean Casserole to fit my ingredients and my time frame, and this is what resulted:

Janet's Green Bean Casserole
4 cups fresh green beans
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 TBS flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt
panko bread crumbs

Wash, de-stem and cut green beans into 1-2 inch pieces.  Steam until desired doneness (about 10 minutes for nice and soft). While beans are cooking, heat a cast iron skillet (or any 8" pan with tall sides) with the olive oil in it. Chop onion. Add onion to the oil. When onions are soft, sprinkle flour in the pan and whisk until smooth. Sprinkle in the salt.  Add the cooked green beans and the yogurt.  Toss to combine evenly.  Sprinkle generously with panko bread crumbs.  Put the top on the pan, turn burner to low, and simmer until dinner is ready.

This casserole was simple, flavorful, and quick.  I like that it didn't go in the oven, taking extra time and heating the kitchen more.  Also, the kids liked it-- ate their beans with no complaints, and all the adults had seconds-- except Chris!  :-)

ps. if you noticed, the original recipe calls for shredded cheddar, which would have been pretty good, but I didn't want to do one more step!  And cheese makes a lot of things more delicious, but in my opinion, it wasn't even missed in this recipe.

pps. I recently bought my first bag of panko bread crumbs, and while they are rather processed, they are certainly much better than the crunchy onion thingys I mentioned earlier! I will definitely be using them from time to time in the future to add some extra crunch to our meals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Loaf

I made this pumpkin loaf for breakfast last weekend.  It was so good.  I just love fall and baking with fall ingredients, namely, apples and pumpkin.

I get crookneck squash from our CSA almost every week in the fall.  They are big and meaty, and I use them like I would pumpkin.

Then I was reading Laura's post over at, and this bread caught my eye stomach.  I simply had to make it.

Since I made it in the morning, and as Laura pointed out, this was a bit of an involved recipe, I poured the batter into an 8x8, hoping it would cook faster.  It cooked in about 40 minutes instead of the 55-60 for the loaf. The cake was still nice and thick and delicious.  Moist. Yum.  If you wanted to stretch this recipe into even more pieces, I bet you could put it in a 9x13.  That would cut the cooking time even more!

I made only a few (inconsequential) changes to the recipe-- I used 6 TBS butter instead of butter + apple butter (none on hand).  I also had to make up my own pumpkin pie spice, since I had none.  I just kind of threw in cinnamon and nutmeg with a little allspice and some cloves.

Finally, I just want to mention, the sweetness in this recipe is perfect.  Usually I cut the sugar in every recipe in half, right from the beginning.  This time, I put in the prescribed amount, maybe a little less (sometimes, if it calls for 1/2 cup but I have my 1/3 cup out, I'll do a heaping one and call it a day...) and it was great.

Looking forward to baking another squash and making recipe again soon!

ps. please go look at Laura's photos and excuse my ugly phone pic... :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hog Maw Cabbage Rolls

Here is the story of I came up with this meal.  One night I was laying in bed thinking about what was going to be for dinner tomorrow.  (This has been my best strategy of late.  Planning dinner in bed the night before. It has really been working for me! I have time to mull over my options, think about what we have available, toy with a few different ideas... I can get out of bed to soak beans if I have to, or plan to soak them right when I get up... I can even make a last minute run to the store the next day if I need/ want to!)

I was listing all the available ingredients on hand in my head: "I really need to use up that cabbage, what could I do with it?  I could saute it, but what would we have with it?  What else do we have?  Oh, I bought a pound of meat the other day at the store.  What can I do with cabbage and meat? Well, I could make cabbage rolls, I guess.  They weren't a big hit last time... hmm, what can I do to make them more interesting?  We have potatoes... potatoes mixed with beef sausage makes yummie hog maw... I wonder if i could stuff cabbage leaves with the same filling?  Ok, let's go for it.  I will try it tomorrow."

The next day as I was planning my approach to this meal, I called my MIL to get her hog maw stuffing recipe (which really comes from her mom...) Basically, it's onions, potatoes and beef sausage all mixed together. Okay.  But I only have ground beef.  Must find beef sausage recipe.

Online I found a page with all kinds of beef sausage recipes.  I didn't really like any of them better than the others, so I used them as a basis and came up with my own seasoning recipe.

On to the sauce.  Will I use a tomato sauce in which to cook the cabbage? Yes.  Basic spaghetti sauce recipe.  

Once I figured out all the separate components to the recipe, it was time to actually put it all together.  Here's what happened:

Hog Maw Inspired Cabbage Rolls
1 lb ground beef
2 medium white or red potatoes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1+ tsp. salt
3/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp mace (if you don't have it, just leave it out, or use 1-2 shakes nutmeg)
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp fennel seeds

24-28 oz crushed tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

cabbage leaves

Cube the potatoes (1/2 inch cubes). Dice the onion (small dice). Mix first 10 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil. Press or dice garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep tomato sauce warmed on the stove. Assemble cabbage rolls: put about 1/8- 1/4 cup of the meat/potato mixture into the cabbage leaf.  Roll it up and put it in a 9x13 pan.  Repeat until the mix is gone and the pan is full.  Spoon sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 300* for 1 1/2-2 hours.

Cabbage rolls are special because there is no way to get uniform ones!  Some of mine were really tiny and some were huge!  I just tried to fit as many in a row as possible and then when space got cramped in the pan I wedged them wherever I could.

My kids and my husband all gave this recipe rave reviews.  I will DEFINITELY be making this again!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cloth Diapering

This is just a quick pic I took after I folded my diaper laundry. I haven't posted much about cloth diapering, but it's going pretty well!  I even made some for my SIL who is going to pop at any second! :-)  I made one for John, too (had to try it on him first before I could make them to give away!) They turned out really cute-- they are all-in-one diapers.

So I just thought I would tell you about my collection, and then maybe give a few insights I've had... 

I have:

  • 6 covers
  • 18 'prefolds' (but I think they are technically called 'flats' because they don't have to be folded; they are contoured)
  • 4 mother ease all-in-ones
  • 4 kushies 10-22 lb. all-in-ones (technically may be called all-in-two?) -- not great on the cloth diaper lingo
  • 4 extra soakers to add to diapers to make them absorb more liquid
  • 2 homemade small covers
  • 1 homemade super-cute dinosaur all-in-one
  • 6 kushies 6-10 lb. all-in-ones
  • a bunch of cloth wipes of various materials and sizes
What have I spent?
I bought the covers, prefolds, mother ease and newborn kushies at a yard sale for $55.  I figured that would really be all I needed.  And reallly, it was.  My MIL bought the kushies on clearance for a total of $24.  And I would guess the dinosaur one cost about $6- $8 to make. Plus, I took a class at Jo-Ann's to learn how to make covers.  The class was $35 and the materials were $40. 

If I include the price of the class in the total, that's $162.  Without the class, $127.  I would consider the class more of a "learning to sew better" cost. 

I have abandoned the cloth wipes because I was having problems (it was just the one more thing that sent me over the edge) keeping up with making the solution to keep them wet and then having fresh ones on hand.  I do make my own disposable wipes using paper towels. I would say it takes one month to go through an entire paper towel roll in wipes.  You cut the roll in half and then it takes 2 weeks for me to use each half. I'd say the rolls we buy at Sam's Club come out to about $1.50 per roll. That's not too expensive for me!  When I am not making my own disposable wipes, I buy them from amazon at about $18 for a lot-- about 4 months worth of wipes.  That's more than making my own, but still less than five dollars a month.

Why did I choose cloth diapers?
I originally chose to cloth diaper my baby because it was going to be cheaper.  The thought of cloth diapering was confirmed to me when I came across some at a yard sale.  I could not pass up $55 for an entire cloth diaper collection.  After I bought the diapers, we started cutting out as many chemicals from our lives as possible. I already used homemade cleaners and soap nuts for laundry, but we also started to really pay attention to the additives in food that we eat.  Why would I then use diapers that are laden with chemicals and touch my sweet baby's bum all day, everyday for two years? Well, at this point I just wouldn't.

I do, however, use disposable diapers on occasion.  For instance, I used them when we went to Hershey Park for the day.  And, I also use them when I go to my MIL's house. I buy the Huggies Natural diapers or Seventh Generation diapers, but I view these breaks as necessary for me not to get all legalistic and burnt out.  I am not doing this to make my life insane, and I am not going to let it stress me out (I have enough other things in my life to stress me out!  Like my four kids).  See my above comments about using reusable wipes. 

How do I start?
Well, I started by just buying some and going from there.  I got lucky, though, with the yard sale.

Most normal people would want to do a lot of research about what kind of diaper might work best for them, and tackle all the crazy cloth diaper lingo before they just dove head first into owning them.  For all you normal people out there, I will direct you to Katie over at  She has done lots and lots of research and comparing brands in everything from how much each diaper holds, to how they do on leaking, what to do about poop, etc.

Here are her posts:
Cloth Diaper Rookie post with vocabulary
Cloth Diaper Myths Revealed
Cloth Diapers Absorb-- How Fast?
Cloth Diapers Absorb-- How Much?
Pocket Diaper Review
Wet Bags
Fitted Cloth Diapers

Katie has a bunch more posts about cloth diapering, so if you're interested, there is a wealth of knowledge to be read over there.  I could spend hours reading it myself. :-)

Final Thoughts
So far I am loving cloth diapering.  I just entered the world of 'grown-up' poop, because we started feeding John table food recently. We'll see how everything holds with that.  :-) But other than that, I guess that's it.  I am hoping for a sunny day soon, as my diapers haven't been hung out to dry in awhile, and that is SO IMPORTANT in keeping them nice and white.  Until next time, .... :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Family Bike Ride

This weekend, we went on our first family bike ride!  I am so excited that it finally worked out!

We have been trying to get everything together that we need to take our sweet kiddies on the Chester Valley Trail, which is near our house. Ben rode his mountain bike.

Sam rode a trail behind bike attached to my bike.

John and Ellie hitched a ride in our new bike trailer behind Chris. Let's have a closer look.

There they are! John, after wailing for awhile-- he's never worn a helmet before and the straps are kind of awkward in there-- finally fell asleep on Ellie's shoulder. Ellie was pretty happy, though-- sucking her thumb, hugging her baby and checking out the sights as they went by.

We had a really fun ride today, and it turned out to be easier than Chris and I thought. The trail goes about 4.2 miles and ends at a local Wegman's.  One day, we plan to bike to Wegman's for lunch and then come home!  Today, we went about half way to Wegman's before we turned around.  That's still about a 4 or 5 mile round trip.

Ben has been to the trail with Chris before, and Chris and I have made the trek to Wegman's for his birthday, but it was Sam, Ellie and John's first time. 

Sam has been SO excited to go on the trail.  He was singing almost the entire trip.  Not any song you know, just whatever popped into his head.  He can be a real cutie.

When we got back to the car, we had a snack and packed up.  We will definitely be biking the Chester Valley Trail again soon!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hummus Sandwich

I have been trying to replace peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my house.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE peanut butter and jelly, but we have really been trying to reduce the amount of sugar we eat, and one place I know we have a lot is in sandwiches. 

Also, there is a new problem which my MIL stumbled upon and had to share with me.  I don't know what I am going to do about it yet.  This video is all about wheat and how bad it is for you and how if you eat two pieces of bread it affects your blood sugar as much as 6 TEASPOONS of sugar and how if you go off wheat it will cure all your problems. Still thinking on it, and it will have to be another post, another day when I have come to a decision as to what in the world to do about it.

ANYway, back to the sandwiches.  I want to come up with new ideas. 

One day in June, my mom and I stopped at this cafe in Baltimore for a quick snack for the kids.  We didn't want to get them a cookie or a brownie, but what else? We asked the guy behind the counter what they had that was kid friendly, and he started listing off PB&J, cookies, blah, blah, hummus on toast... My mom and I looked at each other and we nearly shouted at him, YES! Hummus on toast.  I didn't get much of that sandwich (it was supposed to be for the kids), but I have been dreaming about it ever since. Until this week. :-)

I give you my newest sandwich obsession:
Homemade hummus on toast with cucumber and tomato slices. Delish.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Baked Oatmeal

I know awhile ago I posted my baked oatmeal recipe that I was using.

Recently, I have switched to this one, found at

I change it up a bit; I put 1/4 cup sugar in it this morning, and Chris and I both agreed it was a bit too sweet.  I would go with 2-3 TBS next time.

Plus, I always have different add-ins.  The recipe calls for dried cranberries. This morning I put in one cut up apple and one cut up pear, no cranberries.  I have put in apple and blueberries, just blueberries, apple and raisins or currants, or actually cranberries, as the recipe states.

We eat a lot of oatmeal in our house, and baked oatmeal is a special way I dress it up every once in awhile.  :-)

Other recipes I have posted using oatmeal:
oatmeal soother
using up leftover oatmeal
banana pudding with oatmeal

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Baby Helper!

Look at this cute baby! It was his first time"helping" me in thie kitchen.  I had to give him two things-- one for each hand-- because he kept trying to grab the knives out of the knife block and the dirty dishes out of the sink!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ben cuts a tomato

This was so cute--

Ben has been wanting to cut everything himself recently.  I have been letting him, within reason and of course, supervision!

Today we had soup for lunch, and he wanted to put a tomato in his.
"I put tomato in the soup while it was cooking"
"But I can't taste the tomato taste"
"Okay, go ahead"

And you know what?  He cut the whole tomato, put it all in his bowl, and ate every last bite.  :-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of School 2012

Our official first day of school was today!

After our trial run last week, I knew I was going to have to go for structure.  Last week everyone was talking to me and needed me and had questions all at once.  It was mostly chaos and very stressful for me.

So, I divided up our school time into fifteen minute segments and assigned something for each child to be doing, changing every 15 minutes so that no one gets bored.  Also, everyone has a bit of mommy time.

We started with scripture workbooks. I will have to post about them on another day.  :-) We all do scripture together.  We do this out in the living room, because then we can move into the dining room for 'school' and no one is too antsy yet.

We moved into the dining room and each child had his/ her own stack of books.  Earlier in the morning while the kids were playing, I wrote down in order what each child would be doing.  That way I would know easily what was next.  I like the schedule at the top to make sure no one is doubled up on something, but I can't read it very easily in the midst of school craziness.

Then I set the timer for fifteen minutes, and we went to work.
I have written before about how I am not a big fan of strict schedules.  But I have small children, and none of them can really do things with out my specific and direct instructions.  So, alas, I don't really see a way around it for school time.

This way everything gets done (or if it doesn't I know where we stopped) and there is some semblance of peace in the house.

At the end of the day today, we were all still smiling.  I'll take that as a good start!  :-)

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Sewing Project: Couch Slipcover

Okay, so, our couches are old.  I'm talking the family we got them from had moved these to their basement after they got a new couch and then got another new couch and moved their other new couch to the basement and gave us the ones from the basement. We figured out they are at least 12 years old. Those 12 years were years of heavy use by adults and also small children.

Well, the material for the cushions actually started to wear through.  Not have holes ripped in them.  I mean, get thread bare and then finally wear away until there just isn't any more material. 

Yesterday I saw that Big Lots had curtain panels for $5, buy three get one free. I thought, 'hey, if I can get a bunch of panels, I can start piecing together a new couch slipcover as I can and when I need it.' So I went to Big Lots, but alas the only curtains were bright pink that were $5, buy 3 get 1. BUT, in the same aisle were the slip covers.  I looked through them.

Now, I have never been a fan of couch slip covers because they always get all wrinkled, they don't stay in place, they LOOK like slip covers, and I have rowdy kids that are on and off and on the couch again all day. Nevertheless, I picked some that looked decent because they were by far the best price (about $60 for the pair) I was going to find on slip covers anywhere.  I have priced them for the couches before, but never got any because when it came down to it, I didn't want to spend $100+ on slip covers about which I just wasn't happy.

I came home with my slip covers, reluctantly put on the loveseat one, and purposed to give it a few days to see if I could stand it.

By the end of the night, I decided to keep the slip covers and modify them to suit me.  It will be cheaper than buying fabric at Jo-Ann's, and all the pieces are already cut to the general shapes that I need them.

We'll see how this goes!  I will have to keep you posted.

Today I washed the cover and cut up the pieces into five big parts: two arm pieces, two front of the arms pieces, and the one big one that goes in the middle.  Now, I am going to need to cut the big middle piece into three pieces: the part that goes over the back and down to the floor, the part that goes down the front to the wall, and the rest of the cover I am going to use to make covers for the cushions. Then I will connect the back part and the front part with a panel of plain fabric that I have left over from another sewing project.

That last paragraph seems a little confusing.  I will have to post some pictures. But I haven't started the pinning/ sewing part yet.

I found this blog which will hopefully help me out along the way.  It was my inspiration for taking on this crazy project.  :-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Day of Firsts...

Today, we had a lot of firsts, some insignificant, but some big ones!  here are some pics to go with (most of) them:

Ellie got a french braid crown on her head.

Ben got his Sparks book and vest for next year.

Sam rode in a booster seat for the first time!  He can now, since he's four!

Sam also got his second year Cubbies book.

And John, who learned to sit up last week, sat in grass for the first time.  He was definitely intrigued.

John also got his two bottom middle teeth last week. They are coming in fast, and they are cute! :-)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tomato sandwich.

My favorite summertime lunch. A big slab of tomato on a sandwich with a generous helping of mayo.  Yum.  Please notice that the above tomato fills my bread entirely. And look at all the wrinkles!  It is a really great heirloom variety that we got this year.  And did I mention that tomato slice FILLS MY SANDWICH?  amazing.  :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sam Turns 4!!

My "Sweet Baby Sam" turned four today!  Can you believe it? Me either.
Fall 2008

Winter 2009
Sam has always had a heart for worship (Fall 2010):

Sam turned three at the beach last year! (2011)
Just look how he's grown!

Sam wanted beef tacos for dinner and chocolate cupcakes for dessert.  I made these chocolate muffins and iced them with a very (homemade) butter-heavy (so it would be super creamy) icing. 

They were super moist and delicious! I used half the sugar, omitted the chocolate chips and subbed butter for the oil.  We made butter earlier this week from the thickest heavy cream I have ever seen!  It was basicaly butter when we started.  :-)  Thanks to Milky Way Farm for selling it and my lovely friend Monica for telling me to buy it!

We love you, Sam!  Happy birthday.  :-)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dishwasher Responsibilities!

One thing I am working to make a habit before we start school is doing chores around the house.  Right now, my kids are young, and need to be encouraged (prodded) to do what they need to. Plus, I want then to learn to do it correctly, and faithfully and diligently.  So, in the mornings before school, I have a few things around the house that I want to get done, and I have the kids help me.  Then, we are all learning to keep our house in good order, the kids see and participate in keeping our house, and they learn from a young age that it is important to keep your house well.  Now, I'm not saying I'm the housekeeping champion or anything like that.  Ask my mom what my room looked like when I was young.  This does not come naturally to me!  But, I am hoping this will help form a habit, not only for my children, but also for me-- so that soon, it will just be second nature to keep my house tidy and do the things that need to be done everyday diligently.  :-)

Today I made a dishwasher responsibility chart.  When I envisioned this, it was laminated and had magnets stuck to the back, but this simple print out with post it notes works great too, and is much cheaper! I do have to edit it a little bit--

I decided today after I printed it that these would be permanent jobs, not rotating ones.  So Ben's jobs will be silverware and mugs, Sam's jobs will be bowls and glasses, and Ellie's jobs will be plates and cutting boards.

You can see from the picture that the mugs are too high for Sam and Ellie to reach, so Ben automatically gets that job.  Ellie is not great at putting glasses away-- I am always sure she is going to smash them all, so Sam gets that job. Ben gets the silverware because he is best at sorting (when Ellie does the silverware it all gets rearranged!).  Sam is better at stacking bowls than Ellie, so he gets bowls and she gets plates-- she can carry them one at a time.  And, Ellie needed a second job so she gets cutting boards. 

And, there you have a quick outline of our dishwasher responsibilites at our house.  Hopefully, they will be age appropriate and the kids will get good at/ used to their jobs quickly. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Garden Bounty

Why I love summer:

Okay, well one of the reasons I love summer anyway.  :-)  Most of this was picked tonight from our garden.  There are a few tomatoes from our CSA thrown in there (maybe four), but other than that, it's all homegrown!

ps. see that cute, tiny potato right out in front?!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Plans for the Fall

Hey, this was originally an all-food blog, but I have desired to write about other stuff in my life too.  So, today we will take a break from talking about food and I will let you in on my plans for the fall.

I am homeschooling, and this year I have a first grader, a pre-schooler, and a little girl who 'does school' too.  :-) I was stressing about how in the world I was going to manage a household, a one room school house and an infant this fall. 

I started praying, and came to the conclusion that I am going to have to have a much more structured life than I used to.  This is going to be good for me and for our kids.  We are going to have a 'routine' that we go through every day. I don't like calling it a schedule, because that sounds so strict and rigid.  I want structure, with a little give.  I have a four month old, after all, and things are going to need some leeway. 

I think (hope!) I have left adequate 'extra time' built into our routine so that our days will go smoothly without me getting stressed out, but also so that our days will be completed.  I don't want to be discouraged at the end of every day that we didn't get through everything I wanted to. Or get to the end of the day and have a house that looks like a war zone. I want peace.  :-)

Here's my plan for the fall:

7AM-8AM-- wake/ shower/ breakfast/ get dressed/ make beds/ brush teeth/ do hair/ nurse John

8AM-9:15AM--start laundry/ fold, put away laundry that's clean/ empty,fill DW/ clean up breakfast/ daily room clean up*

9:15-9:30-- quick pick up of toys or clutter that has amassed so far

9:30-10-- scripture time with kids*

10-11:30--School with Ben, Sam and Ellie*/ Nurse John at some point

11:30-12:30-- Make lunch/ eat lunch/ clean up lunch/ continue laundry

12:30-1:15-- daily room clean up, if we didn't get to it earlier/ outside, if it's nice/ read with mom

1:15-1:30-- clean up outside/ read book with Ellie for nap/ clean up toys

1:30-Ellie's Nap (Nurse John)

1:30-2-- School with Ben and Sam (History, Science, or Art)

2-3-- Quiet Time/ Nap Time

3-4-- Outside or free play inside

4-5:30-- Make Dinner/ Clear, set table/ Nurse John

5:30-6:30-- Eat dinner/ clean up

6:30-7:15-- Play, outside or inside

7:15-8-- Clean up/ pajamas/ brush teeth/ read stories/ Chris play guitar

8-- bedtime/ nurse John

And, there you have it-- our daily (on school days at least) routine. The Starred items will require another post about how I am going to do these things more specifically.

John throws a small wrench into the whole plan because his day really depends on what time he wakes up in the morning, how loud/quiet it is for his nap, if some well meaning (or not so well meaning) sibling comes in to 'say goodnight' while he is already sleeping, if he is insatiably hungry and requires me to feed him every 2-2 1/2 hours... you get the idea.  Usually he eats every three hours, sometimes up to 3 1/2.  As he grows, he'll get more consistent.  And, being home more often in the fall will also help him fall into a good routine.  Right now, it's summer, and our life is very flexible-- we are out a lot at parks or pools or traveling to grandparents, etc. The fall will be more calm and more predictable.

Well, that concludes my plans for the fall so far.  I do have a 'daily room plan' that I will share in a future post.  But for now, I must go cut up watermelon, make pickled eggs, and shop for a cheesecake.  :-)


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homemade Barbeque Sauce

The other day I wanted to make some grilled chicken, and add some pizzazz. I usually just grill the chicken... but I felt that would be boring this particular evening.  I thought of barbeque sauce because we were also having potato wedges and Chris and the kids love to dip their fries in barbeque sauce.

Again, I 'poked around on the internet' meaning, I googled "homemade barbeque sauce" and clicked on the first one.

I modified it, mostly because I didn't have enough ketchup to make the original recipe. (And also because it has WAY too much sugar for our family.) And I don't have red wine vinegar.

Here's what I came up with:

Homemade Barbeque Sauce
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
3 TBS- 1/4 cup molasses
Generous TBS Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp ground mustard
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together. Put on whatever you want!  Yum.

We really liked this.  Chris said if I hadn't mentioned it, he would have assumed it came from the store.  :-) I will definitely be making this again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic Butter Spaghetti

This is one of our favorite summer meals.

The roasted cherry tomatoes come from our garden.  Some came from our CSA this time.  It is simple and easy to prepare, and filling for those summer nights when you have been outside all day and come in ravenous for dinner.  :-)

I roasted the tomatoes on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour at 250*. I only put salt and pepper on them, although sometimes I drizzle with olive oil and even some crushed red pepper spices it up a bit.

I cooked one pound of whole wheat spaghetti.

I melted one stick of butter and sauteed three cloves of garlic, although I would do six next time-- it hardly tasted of garlic.

I tossed it all together with 2 TBS of fresh chopped basil from my back porch and brought it to the table.

So easy, and so delicious.

Another variation of this meal is to make alfredo sauce to go with everything.  I personally love this!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Zucchini Ice Cream

Zucchini is always so abundant in the summertime!  I struggle with making it fun to eat.  And to use it in creative ways.  Recently, I have wanted to make everything into ice cream.  I think it is because I have a great, wonderful, delicious vanilla ice cream recipe that I can use as a base and safely add almost anything I want. (I'll let Chris come up with something un-appetizing to add to ice cream.  He's always good at that. :-)
Here is my zucchini all grated up and my homemade vanilla in an old frank's bottle.  and some vanilla spilled on the counter.  :-)

My vision was zucchini bread as ice cream.  I love zucchini bread and I love ice cream.  and I love eating them together.  So, this must be a perfect match!

I came up with my recipe by poking around a bit on the internet. (Actually, I googled "zucchini ice cream" and clicked on the first link that came up.) I looked at the recipe, took away what I needed to know, and came up with my very own version.

Zucchini Ice Cream
1 egg yolk
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
1 TBS arrowroot, tapioca starch or cornstarch
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup (or so) zucchini
2 TBS alcohol (I used brandy, and I quite like the pairing with the cinnamon and raisins.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients except zucchini and raisins. add in zucchini and raisins.  pour into ice cream freezer.  stand impatiently by until it is finished. (or go read something, or do the dishes, nurse the baby, etc.)

One note about the alcohol-- you don't have to use it; it is to help the ice cream stay soft in the freezer.  You know how store-bought ice cream stays all soft and homemade gets hard as a rock?  Well, they put anti-freeze in ice cream to help it stay soft!  Alcohol does the same thing. And I personally would choose it any day over anti-freeze.  :-)

Things I would do differently: grate zucchini finer, use smaller raisins.  or maybe currants.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Produce... from our garden

I grabbed some quick pictures of veggies that we picked out of our garden the other day. 

We filled a whole basket! Green peppers, tomatoes and even a habenero, a seven pot and a jalapeno.

Has anyone ever seen this happen to a pepper?  We haven't.  We think it might be lack of water?  We have been watering our tomatoes but not our peppers because the nursery where we got them said we should not water them much.

Look at this beautiful heirloom tomato we have this year!  Do you notice the evil bunny teeth right in the middle of the side.  The first time we saw the bunny in our garden, it was only palm sized.  Now it's probably twice as big. 

After we were done picking peppers and tomatoes, the boys dug our potatoes!  I think we got about 10lbs.  (but I didn't weigh them) This is a much better yeild that last year, when we only got about three too-small-to-eat potatoes.  This year, instead of buying seed potatoes from the internet, we bought real, organic potatoes from the store and planted them! 

Finally, here is some tomatillo salsa that Chris made.  It is fermenting on our counter. Remember when I talked about adding fermented food to our diet (Kombucha is fermented!)?  We are trying new ways.  I also made a fermented green pepper and zucchini relish earlier this summer.

Well, I am going to try to add posts more often; maybe just take a quick picture and post a little blurb about it.  I know the pictures I take aren't the greatest, but they are what I have to work with now.  I don't have a great phone camera, but I also would never post another picture if I had to take them with my camera and upload them to the site.  So, for now I am going with low quality pictures over none at all.  :-) 

Have a blessed day!