Homemade Granola

I’ve recently been eating a lot of yogurt. Someday soon I hope to try making my own yogurt, but until then I decided to try out making some granola to top my store-bought yogurt.

I used this recipe from my favorite slow-cooking blog. I actually used the cookbook based on the blog, but for the sake of ease, I’ll give you the link to the original post. :-)

The smell of the granola cooking in the crockpot was just lovely. Our whole house was filled with the smell of sweet toasting oats. I was even more excited because I got to put in lots of nutritious seeds and sweetened it with all natural honey. It just feels so good to know exactly what you are eating.

Except for one little problem.

I didn’t like it. This really bums me out. No matter how good it smelled or how pretty it was, it just tasted off. Maybe it was the sunflower seeds? Not sure. Or maybe the dried blueberries? I’m sure many people would love this recipe, but I didn’t. It felt like something was missing. (Although, I think the method of using the slow cooker is genius. From what I hear, it is really easy to burn granola if you are cooking it in the oven.)

So, I’m relying on all of you to help me find a better recipe. Any takers?

Share

Porch Progress

We’ve made some significant progress on our front porch project. Yay! I have to say, it is a pleasure to work on just one room at a time rather than a whole house renovation. And it is so much more enjoyable to paint and go up and down ladders while not being pregnant. Oh yes. It’s the little things!

I am still waiting on a special order of fabric for the window treatments, but other than that everything is nearing completion.

We’ve been really pleasantly surprised with the carpet tiles. If you are needing to re-carpet a small space and want to do it yourself, carpet tiles are the way to go. Super easy and they look great! Here they are going in:

More progress and pictures to come soon!

Share
IMG_9655-800x600

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

These are so stinkin’ good. And coming from this coconut-hating-gal that’s saying something. I made these on a whim because I had purchased coconut flakes for some homemade granola (coming to an upcoming post near you!), and had quite a bit leftover. I remembered this great recipe that my mom has and decided to give it a whirl.

Did I mention these are delicious? Even if you are a coconut hater (like myself), these may be worth a try. Go ahead. You might like it!

Ingredients
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat and it came out great)
3 1/2 c. coconut flakes
1 c. dark chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Beat egg whites (by hand or with handheld mixer) until frothy. This step is important! Don’t whip for too long, you don’t want peaks, but it should be nice and frothy.

Add vanilla, sugar, and flour to the frothy egg whites. Mix together. Stir in coconut flakes until everything is moistened. Spoon the mixture onto greased cookie sheets and cook until golden brown (about 17-20 min). Let stand until cool.

Melt chocolate in microwave or using a double boiler. Take care not to burn the chocolate. Dip each macaroon in the chocolate so that the bottom is coated. Let stand on parchment paper until the chocolate has solidified. Enjoy!

Share
IMG_9651-800x600

Zippered Pillow Tutorial

Hello, my name is Monica and I have an addiction to pillows. Just thought I’d throw it out there. I seriously love pillows. I don’t throw them away. Ever. I just keep recycling them with new covers to fit their new surroundings. It combines three of my favorite things: (1) fabric, (2) cheap projects, and (3) decorating. Oooh, I just love pillows!

So, of course, I’m going to share my addiction with you. If it benefits someone else, it isn’t really a problem, right? Oh, and since I hate handwork, these are zippered pillows. Yes, I’m crazy and would rather deal with a zipper than a little handwork.

Supplies
Pillow (preferably one you already have that needs a face-lift)
Fabric (the amount depends entirely on the size of your pillow, sorry I can’t be more specific!)
Zipper
Normal sewing supplies (thread, pins, iron, cutting utensils, sewing machine, etc.)


 

Instructions
Measure your pillow to determine the amount of fabric you will need. You will want to squish the pillow as flat as you can, then add 1 inch extra to each side. Using these dimensions, cut out 2 pieces of fabric. When you lay your pillow on the fabric, the edges should look something like this.

Now, place the two pieces right sides together. Place your zipper in the middle of one of the sides, parallel to the pillow. If your fabric is directional, you will want to make sure you are placing the zipper on the side that will be the bottom of the pillow. Pin the side of the pillow and place 2 pins at the top and bottom of the zipper.

Sew along this side with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Take care during this step, because it will save you some extra work later. You will want to use a small stitch length (i.e. 2.5) for the places above and below the zipper (this is why you marked it using the pins). In between the double pins, you will use a larger stitch length (i.e. 4) because you will be ripping this out later. At the double pins, make sure to go back and forth a few times. When you stuff the pillow in the cover, this is the place that is most likely to rip, so make sure it is secure. Now, open up the seam and iron flat.

Place the zipper face down onto the seam, carefully placing it in between the enforced stitches. Make sure the zipper is pulled all the way up and pin in place.

If you have a zipper foot, go ahead and put it on at this time. If you don’t (or are just lazy like me), move the needle to the far left position and that will be sufficient. Carefully sew the zipper in place, using the notch on your sewing foot as a guide.

Once you get to the end of the first side, pivot and stitch along the bottom. Make sure to re-enforce the bottom by going back and forth a few times. Before you sew up the second side, unzip the zipper all the way to the bottom. This will make it much easier to rip out the seam at the next step. You can pin the unzipped side to secure it, or just hold it in place like I did (again, because I’m lazy).

After you’ve finished sewing up the second side of the zipper, re-enforce the top edge. Now you are going to rip out the stitches where the zipper will be. Place your pillow case right side up on your lap and use a stitch ripper (or your thread scissors, did I mention I’m lazy?) to remove the stitches from the top to the bottom of the zipper.

Now you are going to finish sewing the pillow. Fold the pillow on the zipper seam and pin around the remaining three edges.

Make sure your zipper is still unzipped and sew the pinned edges using a 1/2″ seam allowance, pivoting at each corner. You’re almost there! If you want to have pointy corners to your pillow, you’ll need to trim off the excess fabric in the seam allowance around the corners. (Sidenote: If you want to have more boxed corners, cut off a small triangle from each corner, then sew up the raw edges).

Turn the pillow case inside out. You may need to push the corners out using a capped pen to make sure that they are nice and pointy. Now cross your fingers and stuff that old pillow into it’s new case.

Stand back and admire your handy work! (By the way, these two are going on the front porch swing. Our little front porch project is almost finished and I’ll be showing some pictures of the final product soon!)

Share

A Little Reading

One really great thing about being a stay-at-home mama is the amount of reading I get to do. I’ve always been a big reader, but it was hard to fit it into my full-time work hours. Now that I’m home and often forced to sit down (a little hungry man will do that, you know!), I get a lot of reading done. 

I usually stick to the non-fiction section, but recently have enjoyed taking some fictional journeys through made-up worlds or far away lands. There is something so refreshing about getting to dive into a new book as you begin to familiarize yourself with the new characters and places. 

Oh, and the smell of a new (or old!) book. That’s just as good! 

Recent Reads and Currently Reading 

Product Details

A few weeks ago I decided to finally read the Harry Potter series. I know it became popular about 10 years ago, but I’ve never been one to jump on bandwagons so I’m a little late. I thoroughly enjoyed these books. Which actually surprised me. They certainly do live up to the hype and are even better than the movies.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes)

After seeing and loving the new Sherlock Holmes movie last Christmas, I decided it was time to read one of the books that inspired it. I finished The Hound of the Baskervilles in less than 24 hours. It was hard to put down! I love mysteries (Agatha Christie is one of my favorites) and am a little shocked it took me this long to read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I guess I’ll need to pick up some more of these soon!

The Count of Monte Cristo (Barnes & Noble Classics)

I just started the classic The Count of Monte Cristo today. Already I can tell this is going to be a favorite. I’ve seen the more recent of the films based on this book, but I’m sure there is much of this 1,243 read that they couldn’t quite fit in. :-)

Oh, and I’m not the only one doing some reading these days. . .

What have you been reading lately?  

Share

Natural Baby Remedies

Although I’ve only been a parent for 7 months (really? Tomorrow is 7 months already??), I’ve already had some experience with needing remedies for common baby problems. Parker has been blessed with fairly good health, but even the healthiest babies can sometimes use a little help now and again.

If you know me in real life, you know that I tend to shy away from purely medical solutions to most problems. I firmly believe that there is a time and place for surgical and medicinal interventions. But I also believe that those methods are often overused and that there are potential side effects to relying solely on them.

So, yes, I am a bit of a Western medicine skeptic.

Which also makes me seem like a bit of a heeby-jeeby-witch-doctor type of gal. I’m OK with that. Because, honestly, it works.

But, my personal experience with natural (and, shall we say, Eastern?) medicine is not the point of this post. Clearly, that will come another day! Today, I’d like to share some of the products I’ve used on my kiddo that are super effective, super safe, and very natural.

Diaper Rash
I was shocked when my baby came down with a diaper rash. I thought all babies that were cloth diapered were immune to such things. Well, I was wrong. Even though I was using cloth, using the right non-irritating natural detergent, and changing his diapers every hour–the rash persisted. I even tried *gasp* Desitin. Guess what? It didn’t work! I finally found Angel Baby Bottom Balm and immediately the rash was gone. And it hasn’t come back. I love, love, love this stuff. And, a major plus, it is safe to use with cloth diapers! Yay!

Cold/Sinus Problems
Obviously, breastfeeding is the best thing you can do while your baby is sick. You are exposed to the same germs that baby is, but your body is a lot more experienced at developing antibodies. You then pass on those antibodies to your baby through breastmilk, along with all the other nutrients and vitamins that come with it.

But, sometimes you just need a little something more to help you baby fend off those nasty bugs. Or, perhaps for some reason you aren’t able to breastfeed (or are finished breastfeeding) and want to make sure baby is still protected. Well, check out Hyland’s products. These are all homeopathic remedies that really work. The C-Plus Cold Tablets are wonderful. They dissolve right in baby’s mouth and work well.

Colic/Tummy Problems
This one I haven’t had to experience first hand, but I do have some friends who have. They have all said that going to a Chiropractor was the best remedy they tried. I know it sounds totally unrelated, but Chiropractors do have some techniques that help ease tummy pain. (This I do know from first hand experience!)

Hyland’s also has some Colic Tablets that are supposed to help relieve some of the tummy or gas pain that is associated with colic. Taking probiotics can also benefit digestion in little ones. I’ve used one from Klaire Labs called Ther-Biotic Infant Formula.

Teething Pain
Truly the best relief for teething pain is letting baby chew on something cold. At least for Parker, chewing on anything and everything has been a huge comfort. But, sometimes that just isn’t enough. Hyland’s has another product that I highly recommend for teething: Teething Tablets. They just work!

Skin Problems
From the beginning I’ve tried to stay away from most lotions (which is recommended even from mainstream pediatricians), because they’ve got a ton of junk in them. Sensitive skin just doesn’t need irritants like scented lotions. We have used Pau D’Arco lotion, which is free of skin irritants and also supports a healthy immune system. Pure coconut oil is another great option for moisturizing dry baby skin.

For more serious skin problems, we are still experimenting a bit. We just found out last week that Parker has a mild case of eczema. We have started using Hyland’s Calendula Ointment, so we’ll see if that does the trick. This can also work on Cradle Cap, burns, dry skin, and scrapes. I’ll let you all know how it’s working!

What products have you used on your kids (or for yourself) that you’d recommend to others?

Share

My New Gadget

As I have mentioned before, I’m sort of a budget nazi when it comes to making purchases for myself. I love to buy presents, have no problem when we buy stuff for the family, or when there is something we need to get. But, spend money on myself? Now that’s a little harder for me to swallow.

I’ve even been known to use birthday money on groceries.

So, it’s been a little while since I’ve made a major addition to my kitchen gadgets. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever bought myself an appliance. We have many appliances that were wedding presents. A few that I’ve gotten from generous family members for birthdays or Christmas. Anyway, that all changed this week!

Our bank has a great rewards program for using our debit card when making purchases. Like most credit cards I’ve seen, they allow you accrue points that can be used to redeem for various items. Well, we decided on some Amazon.com gift cards and used that free money to make an out-of-the-ordinary kitchen purchase.

Have I made you curious enough yet?

I’m getting my very own food processor. {Insert happy dance here. You think I’m kidding? I really am dancing.}

Sometime this afternoon new Cuisinart 14-cup Food Processor will be arriving on our (in-process of being renovated) porch and into my eager arms (you can be sure I’ll be spending most of my day refreshing the tracking info on the package, waiting for Mr. UPS man).

I can’t wait to give it a whirl. I’d love to know if any of you have any great recipes to try in my new little beauty. Even though I’m new to the world of having a food processor, I have a feeling I’m going to like it!

Share

Custom Onesie

I’ve been sewing since I was in third grade (as best as I can remember!). I can still fondly recall some of the first things I ever made (or helped with): a stuffed animal pig, a cat skirt, a garden dress, etc. But I didn’t really get into sewing until my mom started quilting when I was in eighth grade. That’s when the crafting bug really bit me.

Since then I’ve made probably a dozen quilts, many blankets, bags, curtains, and a random assortment of things. But I’ve always been a little skeptical about making clothes. I’m not really sure why but they really intimidate me.

But I’ve finally decided to take the plunge into the world of making clothes. Still being a little skeptical of my skills, I’ve started the process slowly. With simple projects, like customizing a onesie.

A few months ago, I made a couple custom onesies for my little niece, Zoe. I just made it up as I went, but if you’d like to try something similar, my incredibly talented crafty (and bloggy) friend just wrote up a Tutorial for this process.

Zoe was born a week or so before Christmas, so for one of her gifts I decided to make a Christmas themed onesie. I created a little Christmas present using a rectangular piece of fabric and red ribbon, then added it to a white onesie. I also wanted to make her something that was a less seasonal, so I made a monogrammed onesie for her. Since her daddy is a Marine, only one type of fabric made sense. The result was a camo letter “Z” with pink zigzag stitching to outline.

Here it is being modeled by the adorable Zoe.

Pretty stinkin’ cute, no? And the onesie isn’t too bad either! :-)
Maybe I should think about whipping one of these up for my little guy!

Share

Turkey Sausage Pasta

I’ve been getting the Cooking Light magazine for the past few years. Every month I get re-inspired to try new recipes and challenge my cooking abilities. I just love it! I also love how many of their recipes use mostly fresh ingredients.

Like this great Turkey Sausage Pasta I made for dinner last night. Fresh slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh torn basil, and pasta sauce made from scratch using tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, turkey sausage, and red pepper flakes.

Let’s just say the hubster was one happy camper.

I don’t think they’ve posted the recipe on CookingLight.com yet, or at least I can’t find it. But, when they do, I’d highly recommend giving it a try! Yum-O!

Share

The Need for Z’s . . .

. . . or, a new mama’s thoughts on sleep.

For me, sleep deprivation was by far the hardest part about becoming a parent. As much as I knew baby’s didn’t sleep a whole lot, I was no where near prepared enough to deal with the physical and emotional agony of not getting enough sleep night after night.

Those of you who are parents can understand what I mean. But those of you who aren’t yet, please don’t think I’m trying to be Debby-downer and frighten you. I have found that most parents like to warn you (or scare you really) about what is to come, but very few offer helpful advice in dealing with the hard parts of being a parent. So, here is my attempt to help. :-)

When everyone tells you to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” do it. No, really. Go take a nap. I don’t care what the kitchen looks like, how much is in your laundry pile, or how long it has been since you washed your hair. Being sane is more important. And you need sleep to be sane. For real.

I think I may have gone a little insane for a portion of those first months of motherhood. I was so tired, I couldn’t even make decisions or think straight about baby care. It got to the point where I just wanted to give up and sleep. The best thing you can do for yourself (other than take a nap–go now if your baby is sleeping!) is to write up a list of your priorities. Maybe it is because I am a list girl, but thinking through this really helped me put the sleep thing into perspective.

For me, breastfeeding was non-negotiable. It was something I was committed to. That meant that I was solely responsible for getting up in the night and feeding my little snacker. That also meant I was never completely off-duty. Even if Brian took Parker in the afternoon so I could get a nap, I was on-call if the little man got hungry (for the 3rd time in an hour period!). One night when I was so tired I literally started crying, Brian said something to me that snapped me right out of it: “I will go to the store and buy formula if that will help you get some sleep.” That reminder of why I was going through sleep deprivation helped me push on.

After you’ve started taking naps and have thought through your priorities in parenting, I would suggest calling someone who is just a little further along in the parenting journey than you. For some reason (it must be all the insane pregnancy/nursing hormones), new moms think they should know how to do everything. They think that if they ask for help that they are somehow failing and must be bad mothers.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Not only are you going through one of the most overwhelming and life-changing transitions you will ever go through, you have also suddenly become more isolated than you have ever been in your life. You need people. And you need people who have been through the same things you are going through.

Talking with people who have been there will help put things in perspective. The sleep deprivation part of parenthood is short-lived (praise God!). Things will change and they will get better. When your bleary eyes can’t even see your own feet, you need someone else to help remind you of the steps that are ahead of you. While no two babies are alike, they all eventually grow up and they will all eventually sleep through the night. My baby is over 6 months now and there are already things that I miss about infancy. Soak in every moment and don’t lose this time in your life because you are too frustrated, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Just rest. It will get better. I promise!

Everything else can wait. Right now you are mothering an infant who needs you like he/she needs air. Whether you are motivated by love or just sheer willpower, keep going and very soon you will see the fruit of your labor. And seriously, please go take a nap!

Share