Friday, February 26, 2010

Sewing and Baking and Napping... oh my!

Those of you who are on facebook probably know what I have been up to, but since this blog has been around longer than facebook, I will just do my usual thing and sorry if you feel you're getting spammed, you know that you don't HAVE to read. LOL. For those of you who are my facebook friends, you may not be aware that when you see this as a "note" on facebook, it's simply being imported from my blog, Adventures in Everyday Life, and posted on facebook as a "note" because that's how facebook imports blogs. My blog address is and you can certainly feel free to visit there and see everything. I have been blogging since December 3rd, 2004- so over 5 years and about 1500 posts. I did very well writing on a daily basis, up until about the point I had kids. Then all hell broke loose.

So, what have we been up to lately? I could write all night. Let's see if I can hit a few high points and make some progress. Forgive me if I repeat myself.

I recently decided to grow my own sprouts. A recent article in Mary Jane's Farm magazine reminded me of the days when we used to grow sprouts at home, in mason jars with rubber bands and cheese cloth as strainers. I have always loved sprouts, especially on sandwiches and salads, and then there was the whole "sprout scare" that wasn't nearly as much of a "scare" as it was made out to be. I still bought sprouts, but they are so expensive, and really you can most trust freshness and quality when you grow them at home. I had kinda forgotten about it, and then this article talked about how Mary Jane recycles plastic vegetable cartons (think berries and strawberries from the store) to make portable and giftable sprouting trays. I just happened to have a stack of them around, and so I was intrigued. She recommended for organic and wonderful quality seeds and supplies, and I thought I would start some online research. When I stopped by, I was absolutely blown away by their selection, and their up front honesty and information about various mixes and supplies. I ordered a kid's sprouting kit, which was inexpensive and came with a really cute magnifying glass and a nice starter assortments of seeds, as well as a cool sprouter with two clear stackable trays, so you could really SEE the sprouts' progress. I decided that after my first batch, I would try to involve Ardyn and eventually Marek in the process. Ardyn is really starting to be a salad fan, and I know from experience that she is more likely to eat something that she has helped grow and/or prepare. After helping me chop veggies, she really did start eating them more frequently.

I also bought a Mother's Mix of seeds that includes delicious favorites that are high in folic acid and other nutrients, and also has fenugreek to support a healthy milk supply. (yay! how cool is THAT?!) And for good measure (and since they were inexpensive and I was already paying for shipping) I bought the assortment of stainless steel mesh lids for mason jars, so I could sprout the old fashioned way if I wanted to. They say that mason jars require more work to rinse, and I don't think the air circulation is as great in the jars, but at the same time, they are easier to shake and dance with for draining and straining than my trays. I don't like how once the sprouts start to "sprout" they start to clump and it's hard to get them separated in the trays. The directions for the sample bean mix told me to put the entire bag of beans into one of the clear trays. that seemed a little excessive to me, and I thought I would probably do better making half of them at a time (they would last me a long time) and I wasn't sure HOW they were possibly going to sprout being so cramped. So I divided the bag in half and put half in each tray. That worked better, but as they sprouted they still took up the whole tray. I think if it were up to me, for better air circulation and drainage, I would put even fewer in the tray at a time. But I was very pleased with the information that was sent with the kit, the directions, educational information on seeds and sprouting, and some really cool recipes and ways to prepare and enjoy each type of mix that I bought. I am so excited to try them. Here are some pics of the kit and my order, and then a pic of the first crop of sprouts from the Beanies Awesome Mix, which I tried first, mostly because they intrigued me (I have a new thing about beans, just ask me sometime!) and the recipe for eating it fried on top of rice or noodles, or making Beanies Awesome Sprouted Bean Burgers has me all excited!

Last week I went on a baking spree. The house was clean on Monday, and I mean SPOTLESS and by the end of the week it was trashed. LOL. I made bread (honey wheat bread is our staple around here, I make our bread from scratch. It's delicious) and then I made cinnamon rolls from scratch for the first time ever. Unfortunately, they didn't go over well. This was mostly because I think the recipe that I got from wasn't all that. There HAS to be a better recipe. They weren't bad, but they weren't awesome, and I strive for AWESOME. So, if any of you have a great homemade cinnamon roll recipe to share, I am ALL ears and would be eternally grateful! They did LOOK good though!

I long for the day when I can cook, bake, and do canning and prep work in a real kitchen. It doesn't have to be huge, but seriously, I am really really struggling here. The counter space I have is pretty much ZERO and there is no table or place to cool pies, cakes, cookies, or breads, not to mention to actually roll out cookies or anything like that. I have to go out to the dining room to do that, which means that the table has to be clear, remain clear, and that I have to keep the kids off it, as well as then having the issue of where to FEED them when I am working on the table. We don't have enough cupboard space, let alone SPACE period, and my oven was $25 at an auction 10 years ago... and I bought it from a little old lady going to a nursing home... who KNOWS how long she had it. I have recently noticed that burners aren't as hot as they used to be, and the oven itself isn't wonderful. I can only imagine what I could do with a new oven and some counterspace. Here is an example of what my kitchen looks like after I bake bread and cinnamon rolls. It was spotless, and then, in less than 2 hours, it looks like this....

That little "L" of counter space is all I have, and half of that is the sink and the dish drainer.Add two kids clinging to your legs, laying on the floor, and or "helping" and it gets pretty hairy at times. I am very glad that when we got married I used money I received from my bridal showers to buy my hutch and pantry for the kitchen. Without them, I would be a crazy woman.

After I got the baking out of my system, I moved on to laundry and sewing. Actually I was doing laundry the week before too. It never ends. But this week I can't even begin to tell you how many loads of laundry I have done. TODAY alone I have folded 2 loads of diapers and a load of whites from earlier in the week, AND washed six loads, two of which have already been folded. the dryer isn't having an easy time keeping up with the washer (you know how THAT goes) so I have a two loads waiting for the dryer and one drying right now. Oh wait, I actually did seven loads, because I washed more FABRIC (yeah!) I started the sewing bug by cleaning the porch. It badly needed it. I reorganized the kids' play area and once that was done, I set in to find my sewing table again. Here are a few pics of the kids' area of the porch, all cleaned up. We had gotten a new play mat that has roads and such all over it, and so I put that down and they loved driving the people all over it in their cars, and putting the animals in the zoo, etc. I put the tree play tent away for a while.

After I got the porch cleaned, and my sewing table found, Marek found a new love for Ardyn's trampoline. It is like his new "throne." Tuesday afternoon he took his nap on the trampoline, and he also spent every waking moment he could either sitting on it, laying on it, or investigating it.

Wednesday he took TWO naps on it (yes seriously, both naps on the trampoline) and he LOVED sitting on it. He took his sippy cup, his blankie, and his pacifier up on it, and just hung out there. He only moved to eat and get his diaper changed. Really. Today he again hung out on the trampoline, and took his telephone up there with him. He has recently started saying "hi" and also putting phones up to his ears. He says Mamma much more frequently and *usually* on demand, and yesterday he took his first unassisted steps, hands free, towards Daddy. Exciting!

In fact, yesterday BOTH kids slept on the porch for their later naps, while I sewed. It was sweet and peaceful.

Tuesday I made lots of baby legs, which are great because BOTH kids still fit the homemade ones. In fact today Ardyn had a mismatched pair on her arms. LOL. She's just a little fashionista.

Then I moved on to Pajama Dresses. Ardyn is ADDICTED to pajama dresses. She had one last summer and she asked to wear it EVERY Night. It was a horrible dramatic situation whenever it was dirty. I found a winter one with fleece and long sleeves at a resale shop, and bought that for the winter. She had only one all winter, and would sometimes get so upset when it was dirty that she would remind me during the day to wash it so she could wear it that night. Sometimes she refused to take it off all day, hoping to keep it in sight so she could sleep in it again. I bought a pattern that was pretty inexpensive through an online mamma co-op and had plans to make some myself. I finally got around to it! I had already traced the pattern onto tracing paper and cut the pattern out, and the fabric was prepped... I made her a Scooby Doo pair and then a Dora pair, and she is so thrilled with them she wore both of them all day the past two days and at night too. I made them shorter and sleeveless, like tank top dresses, so that they would last all summer. She was so happy that I went out and got more fleece at 50% off at Joann's last night so I can now make her 4 more pair. I shouldn't have to buy her any summer jammies, and making my own is SO much less expensive. It costs me less to make my own than it does to buy them at the resale shop! If I get the fabric at 50% off, it's like $3 a yard, and it doesn't even take a full yard to make a pair. Of course most people would say that the fabric isn't flame resistant and therefore isn't approved for children's sleepwear, but I HATE that flame resistant fabric. I hate how fast it wears and gets pilly and then it sticks to itself in the dryer, and honestly, I am not keen on the idea of putting chemical laden flame retardant fabrics on my little ones. Lots of people don't even have their kids WEAR pajamas to bed... and used pajamas have likely been washed enough to loose their retardant status. At least homemade and used ones make me feel more comfortable. Here's a little reading if you want to be a little freaked out.

The pattern calls for lace at the neck and arms, so I robbed a bit of green lace from an old chemise-style pajama that I had in my "recycle" bin. It was nice and soft from years of use and washing and I thought it might be tolerable around the neckline. It also makes me happy to reuse pretty things :)

Just to help me keep my sanity, I altered the pattern to use a polyacetal snap instead of a buttoned up back, and added a size tag so that in the future (more daughters?) I am not racking my brain to determine what size this or that actually is :)

And then since the kids were sleeping peacefully on the porch while I sewed, I went ahead and made myself a skirt from a Lila Tueller pattern I had bought (I even had the fabric and charm packs all ready to dive into) and it turned out ADORABLE although it was alot of piecing and a LOT of gathering. Thank god for my Serger!

Okay, I will end this post here! Stay tuned to the next post, which if I remember, whill include info on the great toy organization of 2010, and also some pics of what I am up to sewing next! OOOH and the dresser project! I have pics of that too! Just wait till you see what we're up to!

XOXO, Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Photo Tutorial- Homemade Bird Suet- a Great Project for Kids!

For the Love of Birds :)

Well, since we all kinda have those February Blah's, we decided to do a fun project that was a little bit different (Ardyn doesn't get to cook much, except in her play kitchen) and I have to say that per usual, she is over the moon about being in the kitchen with mom. She really enjoys it, but I have a hard time finding too many things that are safe for a 2 year old... The best part about this is that the measuring doesn't have to be accurate at all for birds to find it delicious... the ingredients are simple and inexpensive, and we have them all on hand... and the cooking is minimal and the heat on Low. Plus, Ardyn has had bird feeders right outside (and ON) her bedroom windows since she was not even a year old, so she loves to feed the birds and watch them. Suet cakes aren't really expensive, but every little bit of homemade can help!

So to start, we donned our aprons, and got our recipe and our supplies/ingredients all set out. Ardyn helps me cook on a stepstool/chair that our friend Nancy Anderson bought for us loooooong before we even moved in to the house, at Michael Jon's grandma Michlig's sale. It was cheap and she said that everyone needed a chair/stool like that (and we REALLY do because we have some cupboards that are so high you can only reach them if you stand on the stool.) It's great for Ardyn to help, and puts her at counter height, plus it has two steps for easy up and down!

Here's Ardyn ready to go with the recipe. She LOVES recipes. Grandma Deb gave her a "recipe box" for her play kitchen this Valentine's Day and she hasn't let it go since yesterday when she got it! Her favorite Strawberry Shortcake episode is "cookin up fun" and she really loves recipes.

First, measure out 1 cup of shortening. We use the cheap stuff from Aldi's and measure it in our mini-measure-all cup. Ardyn held the cup and I used a mini-spatula to scoop and fill the cup while she held it. We added it to the saucepan, I held the cup and she pushed the plunger and squealed with delight when the shortening "plopped" into the pan.

Measure out 1 cup of peanut butter (this time she insisted that she needed a few bites herself.) A little stickyness adds to the fun.

Melt the shortening and peanut butter over low heat. We stirred it with our Pampered Chef Mix n scraper, which is heat safe, and helped to get the sides and bottom of the pan well scraped. Ardyn did help stir. I explained that the stove was hot and that she needed to be very careful and she did well. Stirring put the BIGGEST big girl smile on her face!

Add 1 cup of flour and 3 cups of cornmeal. To make this part more fun and make it educational, I use a half cup scoop and that basically doubles the amount she gets to measure, and we count together how many scoops of each we are adding. This also really helps with what she can handle, as the cup is a little heavier and more awkward for small hands than a 1/2 cup. She held the scoop over the pan, and I poured from our Tupperware Modular mates Ovals and Super Ovals that we store our baking ingredients in. It was nice because the measurements don't have to be so exact, so if she moves the scoop or we spill, it's no issue!

Stir to combine.... it will be a thicker consistency obviously, and a little grainy looking. Think Cream of Wheat or Malt O Meal :)

This is MY favorite part. This is where you start dumping in the good stuff. Bird Seed and Seed Mixes, Nuts, Berries, Rolled Oats, whatever you desire. Since I am cheap, I use an inexpensive bird seed mix, and I think Next batch we might add rolled oats. We will see what the birds love to eat! We just add and stir, add and stir, until we feel we have a putty like consistency that will still pour or at least plop out of the pan. Ardyn is pretty excited that it really looks like bird feed now!

There are LOTS of ways to form your suet. If you save those little plastic trays that some store bought suets come in, you can add the suet to those to make perfect little squares. Another alternative is an 8x8 disposable baking pan, or even a silicone pan so you can twist and release. We happened to have an aluminum one on hand from a previous project, so I lined it with wax paper (so it would release easily and so we could use it for future batches/projects... you know how we are about reducing and reusing around here) and then we poured the suet mix inside and spread it evenly with our spatula. Once it cools, we can slice it into four perfect squares, which will be the 4x4 suet cake size of most store bought suet cages (which we already own... so it's perfect!) We also plan on using plastic party cups (think keg cups) in a future attempt, which will much mimic the bell type of suet cake... just add ribbon, string, or twine in a loop, which you can embed into the cake via the open top of the cup before the suet dries.

Since I didn't feel like contacting Wyanet Locker looking for real suet, and then bringing it into my house and letting Ardyn smear her hands in it, we used the lard/peanut butter alternative that birds seem to love just as well. Once it cools, we will be in business for bird watching!

Printable Directions:

Homemade Bird Suet
•Melt 1 cup shortening (or lard) in a saucepan on very low heat.
•Add 1 cup peanut butter and stir until melted.
•To this add 1 cup plain flour and 3 cups plain cornmeal. Mix thoroughly.
•Add whole rolled oats, seeds, raisins or bread crumbs if you have any. The final consistency will be putty-like.
•Pour into a disposable 8 inch by 8 inch aluminum pan and allow to cool.
•Slice into quarters; each one should fit nicely into a suet cage, available at most garden centers.
•Store remaining squares in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Tonight's MOPS meeting was a much needed (and I do mean MUCH needed) dose of awesomeness. January was a long month. I see a light at the end of the tunnel (no thanks to Punxsutawney Phil) but still, being cooped up inside with two little kids for what seems like AGES (okay, 3.5 months) is starting to take it's toll on ALL of us. It seems like just about the time that the MOPS meeting comes around I start to get a weeeee bit cranky. Thank GOD for MOPS. (and I mean that quite literally. Pun intended.)

Tonight we had an awesome meal. SOMEONE (and no I don't know who but I would really like to) made some seriously delicious salads. I had one that was Blueberries and toasted almond slivers with lettuce and some type of (poppy seed?) vinigrette dressing... and it was to DIE for and I must have the recipe. MUST. The soups were great and the bread and spaghetti and DESSERTS! Wow. We did relaxation techniques and got mini-facials, then I got my eyebrows waxed (professionally!!! Whoot!) and then we made patchouli and lavender bath salts (my two VERY favorite bath scents that I use all the time from my essential oils) and then I gave myself a pedicure complete with topcoat (that never happens at home. Never. In fact I still had toenail polish on from Christmas- although there was barely any left.) we did hand scrubs and moisturizer from Beauty Control, and some of the ladies clipped coupons and cleaned their jewelry, although I didn't get to that. Not to mention that we had a bunch of good mamma girly time, had new moms attend, AND learned new songs and things to teach our little ones. Fun was had by all.

I was so happy to be recharged. I am super excited to be attending the Hearts at Home Conference this year, and we have decided to make it a nice weekend and Evan and Ardyn will meet me there and stay in the hotel with me, and the next day we will take Ardyn to the Children's Discovery Museum. I can't wait for that. It will be so much fun! We have wanted to take her to a Children's museum for a long time, and this is something we are looking forward to. I can't wait to hear back which conference sessions I am going to be attending. I sent in my list of top 10 and wonder what they will pick for me?!

I had to run to Walmart after the meeting tonight, I had a few things to return and exchange. I am hosting a St Patrick's Playdate and was previously planning on hosting a V-day one, so I took back the V-day stuff in exchange for green plates and napkins, and exchanged my broken laminator for a new booster seat (high chair) for Marek. When I was pregnant with Ardyn, I registered for the Fisher Price Space Saver high chair. My reasoning was that I didn't want a free-standing high chair when we already had a TON of dining room chairs butt not much extra space. Well, then I discovered that (poor design!) the arms of the chair wouldn't allow you to push it under the table, but didn't worry much about that. Well, After owning it for a while, I also discovered that not only did the dishwasher safe tray BARELY fit into a dishwasher (it took up an entire rack and had to be put in horizontally, so it held about 6 cups of water in it after the wash cycle and kept the whole dishwasher from drying properly) but it was really a pain to clean with all the folds in the plastic covered cushioned seat, and the arms were just one more thing for sticky fingers to touch. It was nice that the back came off for when Ardyn became older, but by then I wanted her eating at the table and not with the tray, and the darn thing wouldn't push up to the table, so GRRR. So we just dropped like $12 on a cheap simple booster seat for Ardyn and Marek came right along and took over the high chair. Now that he's almost 1, the tray thing and the arm thing are REALLY bugging me, and my mom got the Fisher Price Deluxe Booster Seat and it is AWESOME. So, $26 and a broken laminator exchange later.... the high chair is headed for the attic and the booster seat is here to stay! I was debating between that one and the Fisher Price Precious Planet Booster Seat, because it had a play tray included... but it was also $35, and the seat didn't adjust up and down (which is a huge issue for Ardyn already because her knees barely fit under the table, and she is always getting banged and scraped.) and the tray didn't come with a removeable insert OR with a cover, which is nice for traveling... so I opted for the one that I KNEW I liked and that I had used and approved of. Now I plan on calling Fisher Price and seeing if I can get an extra insert for the tray.... because the high chair has to be used for three meals a day, and if you put it in the dishwasher, it's not likely that you are going to run the dishwasher three times a day, and so I would at least like to have a spare. If I could do it over again, I would buy two of them, one for each kid, and use the spare tray for the "big kid's" seat for the baby. Duh. Oh well. It takes a few tries to learn these things!

So. When I come home, I am all relaxed and happy from the spa night, and then I just see all these THINGS that should be done, so I forced myself to take a Tylenol PM and then just get into bed to blog. I made myself a note of things to do tomorrow. I pulled bread dough out of the freezer to defrost as we only have two pieces of homemade bread left. Luckily the last time I made dough, I decided to double the recipe and freeze 3 of the 4 loaves before the second rise. I have decided that this is the way to go. Only problem is that the kitchen aid mixer doesn't have the capacity to hold that much dough, and now I have a bunch of dough crusted all over it. I need to get myself a second mixing bowl so I can measure and mix up two batches at a time, but in two different bowls, and then let them rise and freeze them. I always wanted a second bowl, but assumed that they wouldn't be cheap. This is now something that I will consider a necessity. I figure if I make all our bread, I am bound to be saving enough money that I can justify a second mixing bowl. But oh, where will I store it? I guess I should check Amazon because I have enough swagbucks to probably get one for free right now. Or maybe to get a second booster seat for free? Whoooot!

HOLY CRAP. Those bowls are like $40! What a rip-off! Grrr. Time to search eBay. Maybe I will have to ask for one for Mother's Day.
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