Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book review: My Storytime Bible

What it is: A children's Bible targeted at pre-schoolers and early primary grade kids written by Renita Boyle and illustrated by Melanie Florian

First Impression: I was immediately impression by the colorful illustrations and thought they did a good job of making the stories appropriate lengths for little people with short attention spans!

Overall Impression: For the most part, we really liked this book. But as my husband and I read the book, he eventually noticed a major error in the text-the book states in the Adam & Eve story allegedly based on Genesis 3:1-7 that "the fruit from the Tree of Life tasted lovely and lush. They never ate from the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad" (pg 10).
The Bible we have at home, the New American Bible (school and church version), says later in Genesis 3 that

"God said...Therefore he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever." The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden... (Genesis 3:22-23)

Clearly Adam and Eve never ate from the Tree of Life.

We haven't noticed any other discrepancies between this children's Bible and our adult Bible, but we aren't really biblical scholars either.

The Bottom Line: The book seems well-written and beautifully illustrated, but contains at least one worrisome error that indicates their editorial process may have been lacking. To me, it's just not worth potentially confusing kids by reading them Bible stories containing errors. I don't recommend this book.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on My Storytime Bible. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Looking for something delicious to do with leftover candy canes? These rich chocolatey cookies full of crushed candy cane pieces and dark chocolate chips are sure to be a hit with your friends and family this New Year's!

What You Need:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup crushed candy cane or peppermint bits
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips

What You Do:
  • Mix the wet ingredients
  • Mix the dry ingredients
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix
  • Add the candy and mix (I had to mix it by hand, even with a Kitchenaid mixer, which I usually don't have to do even when suggested in recipes. I recommend it if you want the candy cane pieces mixed in evenly!)
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes.


Helpful Tips:
  • Using a pie server with serrated edge may make it easier to remove the cookies from the cookie sheet
  • The cookies maintain their round shape better if you let them rest a minute or two on the cookie sheet before transfering them to a cooling rack or festive plate
  • Makes almost exactly 5 dozen cookies when I use my cookie dough scoop (I don't know the capacity but the cookies end up about 3-4 in in diameter after baking)
  • To crush candy canes, try putting them in a large ziplock bag with pretty much all the air squished out or in between two layers of plastic wrap and them smush them with a rolling pin.

I modified this recipe from the German Chocolate Fudgy cookies on the Crisco website.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Reflections & 2012 Predictions for Sewing!

Sew, Mama Sew! asked bloggers to post about their favorite trends of 2011 and their predictions and plans for 2012, and I thought it'd be fun to play along. So here are my thoughts:

Sewing Trends I loved in 2011:
  • Mug rugs.
  • Contests where you win prizes for sewing stuff, like Prudent Baby's embroidery and knit stocking contests, Sew Mama Sew's doll quilt contest, and Stitched in Color's fall colors contest.
  • Hedgehogs.
  • Cute but-not-boring boy-friendly fabrics like Zoology and I Heart Cute-bots
My Favorite Project of 2011:
The felt "fruits of the spirit" in my header were all hand-sewn and embroidered by me as a Christmas present for my niece who's almost 1. I think they turned out really adorable and I definitely grew as a seamstress by doing them-I learned several new stitches just to make them, plus gained a lot of experience with soft toy construction in the process (I modified a few patterns from other people and made some of them out of my own patterns!)

Trend I'm SO Over:

Toadstools. They're moderately cute, but the drug connotations make them something I don't feel like I can really put on kid stuff, and seems like they were everywhere in 2012.


What I Predict for 2012:

I saw Amanda Carestio predicted on Sew Mama Sew that we'll see more dinosaurs in 2011 & I really hope she's right. I think we might see lots of fun patriotic projects this year as it is both an Olympic year and presidential election year. I also think we'll see lots of juxtaposition of neutrals like gray with bright neon colors and deep colors like tangerine tango.

I don't think the natural parenting movement is going anywhere, so I think patterns that crafty moms can use to make toys and clothes for their own kids-or with their own kids-are going to continue to be hot, and so are sustainable supplies to make them with like organic cotton and locally-sourced wool. Oh and animal hats for kids are hot on the playgrounds near me-I hope we see lots of fun tutorials for variations on that theme!

My crafting hopes & dreams for 2012:

I'd really love to make my first quilt in 2012. I'm also hoping to learn to sew with knits better so I can make my own clothes and do simple alterations to my existing wardrobe.

I'll definitely be making fun soft toys for my toddler son and my toddler niece too.

  
My thoughts on social media in 2011:

I love social media. Sure, some people are jerks, but I think the information sharing and friendships it enables are worth encountering a few trolls. For example, the other day I tweeted Bari Ackerman of Bari J and We Love French Knots a question about what needle to use with weaver's cloth...and she actually replied! Pre-twitter a fabric designer and sewing book author who lives across the country from me & who I've never met would have been totally inaccessible to me. Instead I was able to gain knowledge from her and find out how super nice she is. And that is pretty awesome in my book! I would love to see the craft community catch up to the mommy blog community in terms of twitter parties (with fun prizes!) though!

What crafty trends did you like in 2011? What do you want to see more of in 2012?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas full of family, food, and fun!
Merry Christmas!!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Easy Meals for Busy Weeks

I don't know about you, but for me it's tempting to turn to an alternating schedule of $1 oven pizzas and fast food so that I don't have to cook when I'm already busy with last-minute holiday cleaning, cooking, present aquisition/creation, and other preparations. But I know that my toddler (and me too!) is going to eat waaaay to much chocolate/cookies/junk this weekend, and he's already starting to get unsettled from all the excitement and not eating as well as he sometimes does. So my new strategy is to attempt to serve healthyish-but-quick/easy, kid-friendly meals this week. I try to include some meat, some grains, and some red/green/orange veggies each meal. Some of my best ideas so far include:

Baked Chicken Strips+Veggies
Simply cut 2 inch by 3 inch (approximately...I didn't actually measure. I just chopped) out of fresh boneless skinless chicken breast, place in a glass baking dish with a little oil in the bottom, season with a little black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, or whatever other seasonings your family likes,and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes (until juice run clear, the meat is white instead of clearish pinkish and the outsides are a little goldeny brownish).
We also baked french fries and steamed some peas and carrots when we recently made this, but you could add any veggies you like.

Pork Roast One Crock Pot Meal

Put a small pork roast in a crock pot (I think the ones we get are usually around 2-3 pounds, but I could be wrong...pick one the right size for your family for each adult to have close to a half pound (8 oz) of meat, and less than that per kid depending on their size). Add a 1/4 cup of apple juice if you have any, and season the top with garlic, onion powder, chili powder (a lot) and black pepper. Drizzle a fair amount of honey across the top. Turn the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. When there are about 2 hours left of cooking time, add 1-2 carrots (peeled and chopped into half or thirds) and 1-2 red potatoes (chopped in half) per person.
Take it all out and eat it!

*We usually cook two days worth of meat when doing this and make pork tacos or pulled pork sandwiches the next day with the leftovers

Spaghetti
This one is obvious, but brown some meat (or bake some chicken), boil some noodles, add a jar of sauce or make your own from tomato paste and fresh garlic (surprisingly easy to do, actually), and voila! a great meal toddlers like with minimal effort!

Whole Wheat Pancakes
picture by "Jerry" via Flickr Creative Commons.
I love how he used grape stems for the arms!
I love to use the Better Homes & Gardens buttermilk pancake recipe (I make my own "sour milk" by leaving a couple of tablespoons of vinegar in a measuring cup with some lactose free milk for about 5 minutes, as recommended in their cookbook and it seems to work pretty well) and use either half whole-wheat flour or all whole-wheat flour. (If you're into soaking your grains, you could easily make the batter a day or more ahead of time.) And to tempt a toddler even more, try making the pancakes into a fun shape. Even without a fancy pancake mold, you can make a snowman by simply making three circles and using blueberries, chocolate chips, or anything else you want to make eyes, smile, and buttons. My toddler gobbles them down!

What meals do you make on busy weeks?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why We Don't Do Santa Pictures

We've decided to forgo the ubiquitous pictures-with-Santa, and the reasons why boil down to:

1) Some kids hate it
2) Long lines
3) Expensive pictures
4) Kids expect what they ask for
5) Not really the reason for the season
picture by Kevin Dooley via Flickr Creative Commons

Some people consider them an essential part of Christmas-even if it upsets their child. Parenting magazine has even put a "Scared of Santa" slideshow on their website and asked parents to share pictures of their kids "Scared of Santa" on the Parenting Facebook wall. I think it's sad that there are parents who find their children's discomfort funny and want to make the unpleasant moment public. And I think it's disgusting that Parenting magazine is trying to capitalize on people who don't respect their child's desire to not be sitting in some stranger's lap.
For our own family, we basically decided it's not worth our time and money to wait in a long line so our toddler can either scream or ask for an expensive toy we aren't really getting him but which he will then expect from Santa and then have a mediocre, overpriced picture of our kid and a stranger who represents the secularization and commercialization of Christmas.

I don't necessarily think it's bad in all cases for parents to do Santa pics, especially with older kids who've expressed interest in doing so. (If I remember right, I'm happy and smiling in all the pictures my parents had my brothers and I take with mall Santas), but I think that parents who ignore their children's discomfort at being handed over to a stranger, especially parents who then laugh about it, are being disrespectful of their children.

And I know it's not the right choice for our family.

Do you do Santa pictures? Why or why not?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Preparations

The bad news is that I haven't posted in like a week due to an annoying cold.
The good news is that I caught my husband's Grandmas head-cold-that-zaps-every-ounce-of-energy and NOT his colleague's flu that apparently causes you to spend at least a day or two unable to keep anything down.
Cross your fingers and knock on wood I don't catch the other!
Anyway, I have been up to all sorts of Christmasy fun and will try to post some of it soon. I'm almost done with coasters for my Grandma & I may even get an upcycled Christmas stocking made from my old sweater and Hubby's old button-up shirt done in time to enter the Prudent Baby serger contest tomorrow night. I'm also going to post on how to make the easiest felt finger puppets ever (if my idea works).

To celebrate feeling better, my toddler and I baked gingerbread cookies. I apparently baked too much pumpkin bread (mostly muffins) this fall though because he keeps talking about his "pumpkinbread boys!" He was surprisingly good at cutting out shapes and had a blast decorating with sprinkles. And we sang Christmas carols while doing it.
It feels like Christmas!!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Cheap Natural Deodorant that Actually Works for Me!!


ARM & HAMMER Essentials® Solid Deodorant, Fresh

I've mentioned before my search for a natural deodorant that doesn't cost a million dollars (or $18 like the Lavanila stuff I love from Sephora) and actually keeps me smelling nice. Well, I have good news! This:
Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant. I bought it at Wal-Mart for just under $2 and it works perfectly...even on the second day after a shower (because let's be honest here...moms don't always shower everyday and need a deodorant that works the second day too!) It is aluminum and paraben free so hurray for that! I feel much better about having that all over my skin than the 99 cent Suave I was using before. My only complaint is the scent-it is fairly manly. I'd love for them to sell the same product in a more feminine scnet. Anyway, if you are looking for a good natural deodorant too, I encourage you to check out Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant, and hopefully it will work as well for you as it does for me!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wisdom from my FB friends

I saw this today on Facebook & loved it:



I don't know the original source so if you do, please let me know so I can link to it!

P.S. Despite liking this sentiment, it is really bothering me that they used "are" instead of "is."
I guess schools are good for something after all! ;)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday Giveaways on Melissa & Doug Facebook Page

Have you been entering the cyberMonday giveaways on the Melissa & Doug Facebook page? Every hour today they are giving away awesome toys like a train table, so head on over, "like" them, and enter away!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I'm a couple days late but just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who actually reads this! I hope you're having a weekend full of family, fun, and good food to eat. I'm so thankful to have a wonderful family, a beautiful house, and plenty to eat and drink. I am truly blessed this Thanksgiving and always!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nutter Butter Bite Acorn Cookies!

When I saw these super cute acorn cookies on Pinterest, I knew I wanted to make them. It turned out the link didn't end up being to a tutorial, just a picture though, so I had to make up my own technique for reaching that end result, and wanted to share it with you:

Ingredients:
  • Nutter Butter Bites
  • Hershey's Kisses
  • Mini chocolate chips (any brand)

How-to:

  • Twist apart each Nutter Butter bite and set the sides with the filling still on them filling-side-up on a plate. These will be your acorn caps and the filling is your glue for this stage.
  • Unwrap Hershey's kisses. These are your acorn bodies.
  • Gently press a Hershey's kiss onto each filling-covered Nutter Butter bite half (I recommend letting little helpers eat the rejected halves of the Nutter Butter Bites).
  • I found it easiest to dip the mini chips in the spoon!
  • Melt some of the mini chocolate chips plus a teaspoon of milk per quarter cupish of chocolate chips. I used a Pyrex measuring cup and the microwave; a double boiler system would produce slightly smoother chocolate but you'll be using such a small quantity that I think the difference wouldn't even be noticeable.
  • Dip unmelted mini chocolate chips one at a time into the molten chocolate so just their base gets some of the molten chocolate on them (this is your glue).
  • Press the mini chocolate chip with the molten chocolate on its base onto the top of each Nutter Butter bite half to make a little stem.
  • Allow to cool/dry, arrange cutely, and attempt not to eat them all prior to Thanksgiving!

My version of Nutter Butter Bites/Hershey's Kiss acorns!

Congrats Lesli for Winning the Miniclasix Giveaway!

Congrats to "Lesli" who was comment #72 and won the baby boy outfit from Miniclasix. It's adorable, and I know some little guy in Lesli's life is going to be super cute in it this winter!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scents from Nature I Love

Have you heard about the fun sweepstakes 7th Generation is running? They are giving away a trip to an exotic and lovely scented place of your choice, like France, Italy, or Vermont. To spread the word, they wanted to know what natural scents moms love and where they take us. Here are a few of mine:


Salty Sea Breeze

The air at the beach always smells…unique. And while some people might not like the combination of seaweed and salt, to me it will always make me think of warm summer days spent on the beach playing with my brothers when I was a kid in California. I loved making sandcastles, searching for seashells, and even playing Frisbee (even though I was terrible at it). Somehow I even have fond memories of peanut butter sandwiches that were slightly crunchy from actual sand. It sounds gross now, but back then it was just another part of the beach experience!

Real Christmas Trees

For the past several years we lived in apartment buildings where we were sadly not allowed to have real Christmas trees, but growing up it was a family tradition for both my family and my husband’s family. When I smell that fresh piney smell, I’m taken to past Christmases full of candlelight and cocoa, of matching jammies and bow-covered presents piled high under the tree.

Apples

I love the scent of fresh apples…and apples baking! When we lived in California, we used to drive up to a little town in the mountains at least once each fall and stock up on fresh apples, (plus the rest of the time had them on stock from the grocery store!), and when we lived in the Midwest continued to find fresh apples from local orchards each fall for a special treat. My favorite kind is golden delicious, but I've always loved Granny Smiths and Braeburns too. The scent of apples takes me to that little mountain town and to my mom’s kitchen where the pies were the best I’ve ever had!

Lilacs

My Grandad was an avid gardener, and one of the showpieces of his garden was a giant lilac bush. Every spring it would bloom with sparkling white flowers and fill the entire yard with a beautiful scent. Even now that he’s gone, I remember him whenever I smell lilacs and hope I’ve inherited his green thumb. I remember at least twice growing up begging for a pair of overalls because that’s what Grandad wore to garden-which he seemed to spend most of his spare time doing-and I wanted to match him. Lilacs make me think of his overalls and his love!

What scents from nature do you love?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Seventh Generation blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Miniclasix Baby Outfits Review & Giveaway (Ends 11/18)

Do you know what your little guy will be wearing this year for your holiday celebrations? If not, I have the perfect giveaway for you! Miniclasix sent an adorable outfit for my niece plus is giving one of my readers this dapper outfit for a little boy in size 3months. (Perfect shower present for a winter baby!) Miniclasix baby apparel is available for purchase at stores like Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, in baby boutiques around the country and on Amazon and mainly features classic styling and colors, which I love.
The dress for my niece arrived quickly and was in perfect condition. The fabric felt nice and the stitching seemed sturdy. My sister-in-law and I both liked the classic styling. It’s like a mini sugar plum fairy dress! My niece was sooooo cute in it!

For your chance to win the navy blue and gray outfit in size 3monhs for a little boy in your life, please leave a comment by Friday November 18th at midnight US Central time saying which of these Miniclasix outfits is your favorite:

 
For extra entries, do any of the following and leave an extra comment for each extra entry telling me what you did:
  • Follow Crunchy Con Mommy on Google Friend Connect
  • Follow @CrunchyConMom on Twitter
  • Tweet or RT the following: “Win a baby boy outfit from @CrunchyConMom by entering here by 11/18 at midnight (Central): http://tiny.cc/5fxvs #miniclasix #giveaway” (1 entry per day)
  • Leave a comment on another Crunchy Con Mommy blog post and tell me which post you commented on (1 entry per day)
  • Find your favorite Miniclasix outfit on Amazon and “Like” it and tell me which outfit you liked in your comment. (1 entry per day)

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org on 11/19 and contact them by e-mail or Twitter. If I can’t find a way to get a hold of them or don’t hear back within 48 hours, I’ll pick a new winner.

  
I received a free outfit for review purposes (I’ll never recommend a product I haven’t tried and liked myself!) but received no other compensation for this post. The Amazon link is not an Amazon affiliate link.

This giveaway was listed at OnlineSweepstakes.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

I love Melissa & Doug toys so I was pretty excited to hear about this fun program: Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting! Our favorite Melissa & Doug toys are their puzzles-they seem to have the perfect puzzle for every age and stage!

If I did this right, I get a $25 off coupon to use on Melissa & Doug toys on their website!

Wise Words

Inspired by the Happiest Mom, each week I try to post a quote that recently made me think, laugh, smile, or all three.

"Always underpromise and overperform"

-Jeff Probst, host of Survivor, on life lessons he's learned from the reality TV series (spotted by my mom, who follows him on Twitter. Good work mom!)

Monday, November 7, 2011

How I Label Hard-Boiled Egg

We love hard-boiled eggs around here, but it's easy to get them mixed up with the raw eggs if I'm not careful. So here are some of the ways I like handle hard-boiled eggs:

1.) Save an old egg carton and mark it as specifically for hard-boiled eggs. You could even have your kids decorate it with paint/glitter/stickers/etc

2.) Write on your eggs with pencil. My dad used to do this when I was growing up. Two of the best strategies I've found are either write a "B" on the top of each or write "Boiled" and then draw a squiggly line all the way around the egg so that no one could miss it. If you have kids in school, you could write silly things on eggs like quotes, jokes, or even simple greetings to be enjoyed when they open their lunch boxes. Since you don't eat the shells, I personally am not worried about a little graphite from the pencil being on the outside of the shell for a couple days.

And voila! your eggs are ready to be eaten straight out of the shell, deviled (my favorite) or as part of egg or potato salad!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Monster Pants from Torn Jeans

I saw this adorable idea for revamping a pair of jeans with a hole in the knee on the American Felt & Craft blog this summer and liked it so much I bought a pair of jeans with a hole in them at a garage sale for a quarter, and today I finally monstered them up:



Basically, after cutting away the fringey threads, I cut an oval of red felt bigger than the hole plus a line of white teeth and then backstitched around the circle to create a monster mouth reverse appliqué. Then I cut two white circles for eyes and embroidered an X on one and a woven spider wheel on the other.

I thought it was pretty cute and my toddler was really happy about his "scary monster" pants.
I think you could easily do some other cute reverse appliqués out of felt on torn jeans, like a sunflower on a pair of girls jeans.

I used acrylic felt and have washed(cold, delicate) and dried(low) the jeans with no noticeable damage to the monster.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Homegrown Faith: Book Review

What it is
A devotional book for moms with a short story and corresponding reflective questions for each week for each week of the year.

Who wrote it
Heidi Bratton, a mom of 6 and well-known Catholic author of over 20 books

My thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. I loved that the chapters are 1.) short and 2.) designed to be read each week rather than daily, because I think that makes it totally practical for pretty much any mom to actually be able to have time to read this book (as opposed to a daily devotional that might become overwhelming...am I the only one who tends to give up once I get a few days behind?) I think her stories are engaging and mostly hit on really universal themes that any mom could relate too. I did think a few of the chapters seemed sort of arbitrarily thrown in there-namely the ones about a mission trip she took to South America. They didn't feel like they flowed with the rest of the book very well, even though they were well-written, relatable, and made me think just as much as the other chapters. I can see this book being especially great for something like a playgroup/book group where the moms want to read a book together and chat about it but don't want something so overly complicated that they can't also watch their kids while doing it! A few of her suggestions were too cheesy for my tastes, like talking about what scents make you want to be virtuous, or drawing a picture of an activity your family likes doing together. I would certainly not want to actually have to do all of her suggested activities!

Pros
  • Short chapters for busy moms
  • Enjoyable and relatable

Cons
  • Some pretty cheesy suggestions for reflection activities
  • Some chapters don't quite fit in

The Bottom Line
This book is definitely worth buying to read by yourself or as part of a group. I'd also recommend it as a gift for a Catholic mom in your life. The book can be started at any time, but the first chapter corresponds with the first week of Advent, so now would be an especially perfect time to start reading it!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Homegrown Faith. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

Technorati Claim Code

This is my claim code to start tracking this blog on Technorati :)

S7WQ2G9CHH2H

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wise Words

Inspired by The Happiest Mom, I'm trying to post a quotation (almost) every week that made me laugh, smile, and/or think. Hope you like them too!

You got to have a dream,
'cause if you don't have a dream,

How you gonna have a dream come true?

-Bloody Mary in the song "Happy Talk" from Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific



Monday, October 24, 2011

Celebrate Color: Fall Leaf Dishtowel

When I saw Mollie from Wild Olive's post about the Celebrate Color contest and the adorable patterns she created to go with it, I couldn't resist stitching up a tea towel with these cool fall leaves.

To customize it, I first found a fall color in my house to work from. We just painted the walls of our new house a beautiful goldeny color that I thought would be perfect for the yellowy leaves, and I had a thread color that is pretty similar (our kitchen isn't actually that color-just the living room and dining room-but if it was, I probably would've picked a thread color a shade or two darker or lighter to avoid being too matchy matchy). I then picked shades of red, brown, orange, and green that made me think of fall and went well with my goldeny yellow. I ended up using DMC brand thread in colors 937, 815, 921, 422, and 975. One of the most fun things was that my mom recently sent me her thread organizer and the green, red, and orange I used were from her old stash. Based on the labels, I know they were bought at Target, which means they must have been bought a long time ago!

I traced the pattern using the easiest laziest method I could think of-I loaded Mollie's PDF on my laptop, draped the towel over the screen, and traced the pattern with a water-and-air-soluble marker. No ink got on the screen (I traced lightly and then went back over it afterwards) and I didn't have to print the pattern out or use any interfacing.

I used a simple stem stitch on the whole thing and left off the cute little faces so it would suit my husband's tastes too and not just mine (I have to admit, I find the little faces Mollie puts on everything totally adorable).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thoughts on Wood Floor Refinishing

We are in the middle of getting our wood floors refinished in our living room, entryway, and dining room, and I'm pretty happy about the results so far. It's been a steep learning curve though, and here's what I wish I would've known a week ago:

Do your homework

Know the process. There've been a couple times when the procedure followed was a little different than what they did with my mother-in-law's floors, but because we hadn't read online and/or asked our flooring guy at the beginning, we weren't sure at what points the procedure was supposed to be different and what points they flooring guys may have missed a spot in their haste (and there was a little of each occurring). Researching ahead of time prevents you from getting taken advantage of while also reducing the amount of time you have to spend checking in on the people refinishing your floors. Also, check out other blogs and websites to see how other people handle renovations. For example, The Happiest Mom is having her kitchen renovated and reading about her kitchen renovation has been helpful to me during my floor refinishing!

Be flexible

Because of sounds and smells, our normal schedule wouldn't work at all (and obviously we couldn't use certain rooms at all!) We found the only way naptime for the toddler could possibly work was to either nap during the floor guys' lunch break or to drive around until the toddler fell asleep in the car and sew in the driveway while he slept. Also, you may need to make alternate arrangements for sleeping, cooking and/or laundry depending on what areas of your house become inaccessible, so get creative. Use futons, air matresses, crock-pots, microwaves, and the hospitality of friends and family to be as comfortable as you can during the time your house is being worked on.

Get out...but not too far out

Again because of smells and sounds, it might be a good time to plan outdoors activities for you and your kids, but the catch is that someone probably needs to be available to get home quickly in case questions arise. So it's a great time to play outside in the yard, visit a friend or relative or park just a few blocks away, or go to a store that's just a couple of miles away. Make sure to give your cell phone number to your flooring guys, and ask how things are going before you leave in case they already have a question but were waiting to get to a natural break time to ask you about it.

and above all...

Relax

Stuff will be different than what you're used to. Stuff will go wrong.
It will be noisy and stinky and disruptive to your kids.

And it will be over in a couple of days.

And your floors will be beautiful.

And you'll be fine.

If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go shop somewhere not very far away from home...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wise Words Wednesday

Inspired by The Happiest Mom on Wednesdays I'll try to post quotes that made me smile, laugh, think, or all three!

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

-Margaret Thatcher


Monday, October 10, 2011

Rainy Day Fall Fun

I definitely need to get some great rainboots for my son and I, but until then, a rainy fall morning means inside fun. So what are we up to?

Counting Pumpkins
I bought some small pumpkins for decorative purposes, but decided to place them in a basket in the playroom until I was ready to do my crafty things with them (ideally, putting the smallest 2-3 in the nook of a wreath for my front window). My son loves them. He counts them. He stacks them. He requests I sing "5 Little Pumpkins" approximately 10,000,000,000 times per day. He drives them around in a Little People schoolbus. I'm not sure I'll have the heart to take them away when I'm ready for wreath-building!

Homemade Play Dough
I use my mom's recipe of:
3 cups flour
3 cups water
1 1/2 cup salt
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cream of tartar.

Mix it all together in a saucepan over medium/low heat until it gets thick and starts pulling away from the sides. Add food coloring and/or glitter as desired. Watch for plastic cookie cutters, toy rolling pins, and even Playdough brand toys at garage sales to enhance the doughy fun without spending a bunch!

Going Visiting
On a blustery day, visiting someone's house (like Grandma's house!) can be an easy way to ward off cabin fever. Plus, it's fun to have someone else to chat with! If you don't have relatives nearby, ask a friend to bring her kids over, then maybe next stormy day it'll be her turn to host!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Settling In

We've been in our house for almost a month, and I'm beginning to get tired of not feeling *really* moved in yet. We still have boxes to unpack (just a few) and things that haven't been assigned a permanent home yet (quite a few). But I feel like I can only get ahead a teensy bit at a time, and even then only at the expense of regular household maintenance like laundry and dishes. It's tempting at times to wear the same outfit all next week and eat off paper plates just to see how much progress I could make on other projects!

The best advice I've seen so far was from "The Fly Lady", who said something along the lines of "you didn't pack in a day so don't expect to unpack in a day either". Even so, I wish I could make my progress just a little bit faster!

How do you get ahead on laundry and dishes? Or do you feel like you're always playing catch-up too?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Our Flu Season Game Plan

Last winter we got slammed by several colds (including once when the toddler and I both spent most of a day lying on the couch and floor vomiting-yuck!) and I’m hoping to avoid the same fate this year. To avoid getting sick as much this year, here’s my game-plan:

 
  • Eat healthy: Eating healthy foods like lots of fresh fruits and veggies will boost our immune systems. Plus, they taste good! We’ll especially try to include foods with lots of Vitamin C like citrus fruits.
  • Take our vitamins: Even though I believe it’s best to get your vitamins from a varied diet, I realize that our diet may not quite be cutting it just yet. We’ll definitely keep taking our daily multivitamins to fill in the gaps our diet may be leaving.
  • Wash hands often: We play outside a lot, and I think it’s good for my son to get to dig in sand and dirt and carry sticks and rocks around and other such outdoorsy fun. But once we’re done, I plan to be vigilant about washing hands to ensure we aren’t bringing in unnecessary gunk.
  • Take off shoes inside: This is one of the biggest things I’ve heard from families who try to keep their families germ free without the use of lots of chemical-take your shoes off everytime you come inside. We’re lucky enough to have a really nice laundry room that can double as a mud room when we come in from the back. I plan to place some kind of bench along with a little rug that people can put dirty shoes and boots on so we don’t have to sit on the floor to do it.
  • Wash laundry –especially linens-often: As we go places throughout the week like the library and grocery store and work for my husband, we’ll naturally pick up all sorts of germs. To help keep them at bay, we should probably wash our linens more often during flu season-maybe changing bedding once a week instead of every other week, and changing hand towels every couple of days.
  • Sanitize key places: I’m not a big fan of using chemicals all over the house, but I do think they can be useful when used strategically. Specifically, during flu season I may use Lysol wipes or something like that regularly on my doorknobs, phone, and on shopping carts because those three places are such germ magnets. I think if I use the harsher chemicals on those places, I can get away with using something milder like vinegar/water/essential oil blend most other places without putting my family at risk of catching too many nasty flu germs.

 
We’ll probably get sick at some point this winter, because that’s just how winter goes for me usually. But hopefully these strategies will prevent at the minimum a major illness, and if all goes really well, maybe we won’t even get sick at all! Either way, I think we’ll be healthier if we take these steps this flu season.

  

 
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Lysol blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My To 10 Tips for De-Cluttering your Playroom

Our playroom pre-organization
When we moved into our new house, we were excited to have a room to designate as our play room/family room and promptly moved all of our toys in there. Unfortunately, this resulted in the room looking like a hurricane hit, scattering toys far and wide across the floor until our nice new rug was hardly visible. So while we still have a few more improvements to make before we can call our play room totally clean and organized, here are the top 10 tips I’ve picked up so far for de-cluttering kids’ toys:



1. Group like things together. This makes it easier to find things, which minimizes the phenomenon of dumping the entire toy box out to find the dinosaur that fell to the bottom…that happens to people other than me too, right?

2. Invest in good bins and baskets. Obviously you need something to put your toy groupings in, and I think it’s worth it to get nice ones if you can. Diaper boxes will work in a pinch, but coordinating baskets or nice shelving units are much cuter and allow for easier stacking in most cases.

3. Put stuffed animals in a pop-up hamper. Pop-up hampers are cheap and allow air flow to your soft toys, keeping them from getting musty. They also keep the toys visible so your kids don’t get worried about where their favorite teddy bear disappeared to.

4. Sturdy bookshelves are key. If you decide to store books on a bookshelf as opposed to baskets, make sure it is one that your kids can’t knock over (especially if you have toddlers) and consider anchoring it to the wall to make extra sure.

5. Rotate toys. If you have more toys than you have space for, store some of them away in a closet, and rotate which ones are out. It’ll seem to your kids almost like they have new toys every couple of weeks while reducing clutter for everyone!

6. Say good-bye to baby toys. When your kids have clearly outgrown toys, it’s time to get them out of the toy room. If you aren’t done having kids yet, stick them in a plastic tub, either a clear one or one labeled with the age of toys so you can find it easily next time you need it. If you don’t want/need to keep them yourselves, donate them to a friend, a family at church, or your local Goodwill shop!

7. Keep mommy clutter to a minimum too! I can’t be the only mom who’s found action figures UNDER the pile of unfolded laundry after searching all day everywhere else in the toy room! If I had just folded my laundry right away, or left it in a basket until I was ready to fold, I wouldn’t have had that problem! Also, it sets a good example to your kids if you keep your messes cleaned up just like you ask them to.

8. Limit food and drink. If you choose to allow food and drink in your play room, set clear rules for appropriate use and make sure empty bowls, cups, etc are never left laying on the floor to rot.

9. Take care of coats and shoes. For us, this mostly means taking coats and shoes off somewhere else, but also means being vigilant about hanging up coats and throwing shoes in the closet promptly if they do make it into the playroom.

10. Enlist the aid of your little helpers. Kids will probably need to be asked to help clean up their toys. Make it more fun by singing a clean-up song, and clean along with them to set a good example.
Awesome new toy organizer. Will post more about it soon!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Hot Wheels® blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Natural Deodorants: My Quest to Avoid Both Hazardous Chemicals & B.O.

Early in my nursing journey, I noticed that if I put deodorant on without putting a bra and/or shirt on first, I'd end up with deodorant smushed onto my breast. Too close to where my son was eating for my comfort. So for a while, I just made sure to always put clothes on before the deodorant instead of doing things in the other order. But then I realized: there's gotta be a better option. I've tried several "natural" deodorants since then, and here are my experiences so far:

Tom's of Maine's Natural Deodorant:
I broke out into a rash immediately upon using this. The company was super nice about it and not only sent me a refund check but also a coupon for a free Tom's of Maine's product, so I go some toothpaste out of the deal, my rash went away, and all was happy in my armpit world again. Except that I really really wanted it to work. Their deodorant is readily available in stores I shop at regularly and reasonably priced. Anyway, awesome customer service despite the weird allergic reaction. I couldn't find the one I bought last time on their website and saw they have several new varieties, so maybe I'll try again (and keep some Benadryl on hand just in case...)

Trader Joe's
I really really wanted this deodorant to work too, but it just didn't. It was inexpensive and easy to get if you live near a TJ's, but it just didn't stand up to my odor on summer days filled with toddler chasing and walks to the park. I smelled bad enough I couldn't actually have comfortably gone anywhere I would have seen anyone I knew without showering and putting on deodorant that actually worked first. Sad.

Crystal deodorant
I bought the cheapest rock crystal deodorant from Walmart and it pretty much did nothing for either wetness or odor. Total bummer. I know some people swear by this stuff, so maybe it'd be worth trying a more expensive brand sometime (I already threw it away, but never noticed a brand on it in the first place...I just remember it was the cheapest one!).

Secret Natural Mineral
I got a free sample of this deodorant through Facebook and was kinda shocked to discover all they did was add some natural ingredients along with the artifically concoted one, to create one greenwashed, ineffective, Frankendeodorant with a long long ingredient list.

LaVanila-undoubtedly the best if you can afford it!
LaVanila deodorant from Sephora $18
I bought this with a giftcard and it worked awesomely. I love this deodorant and if I were a millionaire, I'd use it every day. But as an ordinary gal with an ordinary bank account, this stuff is just too overpriced to justify. It kept me sweet-smelling and reasonably dry all day long even on busy outdoorsy days, and I really wish Lavanila would try to develop a deodorant line closer to the $5 price point. I can justify buying deodorant that is $5 instead of the 99 cent Suave stuff I've been using, but $18 is just exorbitant.

the bottom line: For now, I'm going to keep looking. I've heard  there are several other natural brands available in stores, and I've even heard the suggestion of just using baking soda, but given how stinky I was even with most of these deodorants, I really think I probably need more than that. Where I live, it is simply not socially acceptable to have noticeable BO, and I'm not willing to be a pioneer in that area. Hopefully I'll find something reasonably priced and effective one of these days!!

What do you use to fight underarm odor and wetness?

*I bought all of these deodorants with my own money/birthday giftcards with the exception of the Facebook freebie Secret brand sent which was available to all Facebook users and not a special freebie for bloggers or anything. I was not asked to review any of these products; I just thought it could be helpful information for others investigating healthier deodorant options too!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Felt Halloween Coasters Tutorial: Jack O'Lantern & Candy Corn

Upon moving into our new house, we discovered that we no longer own any coasters, and to rectify matters and add some seasonal flair to our house, I decided to whip up some Halloween inspired felt coasters. They're super easy to make and add cheerful fall colors to your table. Want to make some of your own? Here's how I did it:

Materials:


  •  Felt (any type will work, but the higher the wool concentration, the more absorbent it will probably be) in orange for either, black and brown for the pumpkin, and yellow and white for the candy corn. Scraps should be plenty for one or a pair; you’ll probably need sheets or yardage to make large quantities.
  • Matching embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle

 
Candy Corn:

  • First, cut a triangle out of orange felt to be your base. I made the widest part of my triangle wider than the base of the cup I want it to be for and made the triangle slightly longer than it is wide.
  • Trim your corners so they're rounded. Real candy corn isn't sharp, so neither should the points of your coaster be!
  • Cut strips of orange, white, and yellow felt to be the top of your candy corn. I started with rectangles. After eating an entire Brach's candy corn researching for accuracy I determined that orange should be the middle color with yellow on top and white for the tip.
  • Pin or hold in place your strips and trim the sides to be even with the sides of the base. You should also trim the top of the white and bottom of the yellow pieces now. I left the orange piece a litle bit big so there was about 1/4 inch of overlap under each of the other two colors. Mine ended up pretty straight, but don't stress it if they aren't. My uh "research" found that many pieces of candy corn have slightly diagonal lines rather than strictly horizontal lines between colors.
  • Place the yellow piece and orange top piece on top of your orange base and stitch down using a decorative stitch of your choice. I used scroll stitch (which is actually super easy) but I think a simple running stitch would work just as well if you aren't in the mood for learning a new stitch. I used orange floss for this. Next, place the white on top of the orange and stitch it down too, using the same stitch or a different one for variety.
  • Now trim all of your pieces so they match the base.
  • Blanket stitch all the way around

Jack O'Lantern:

  • First, use the biggest cup you like to drink from regularly and cut a circle a little bit bigger than the cup’s base out of orange felt. Basically any roundish shape will work, but I tend to like fairly round pumpkins that are slightly wider than they are tall. If you’re making a lot, try making lots of different shapes for extra charm!
  • Next, cut a black circle just barely smaller than the orange circle (so it doesn’t stick out the edges)
  • Draw or trace a face or design you like on the orange circle. Cut it out using small scissors or an Xacto knife.
  • Cut a small rectangular piece of brown felt to be your stem (make it slightly longer than you actually want it to be since part of it will be hidden).
  • Place the orange circle on the black circle and tuck the stem in between the two layers at the top.
  • Stitch as desired. I used a simple running stitch around the edge about ¼ in from the edge and I think it is cute and sturdy!

 For extra fun, let your kids draw the pumpkin faces for you on paper circles the right size and you'll have cute coasters to remember their art by! (I drew this myself, but my drawing skills are about the same as a first grader. Luckily I'm better at crafts than art! On further reflection, I probably would stick to candy corn coasters if you're as awesomely bad as me at drawing)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coming Soon on Crunchy Con Mommy

We're slowly but surely unpacking all our stuff into our new house, which I'm in love with despite it's flaws (any century-old house is bound to have them). Once I have my kitchen put away and locate the rubbermaid tub containing all my pants (it was shorts weather when I packed...thank goodness for the one pair of skinny jeans I kept handy!!) I'll be able to start doing fun things like craft projects I can post about. Here are a few things I have up my sleeves you should check back for soon:

  • Felt Jack O'Lantern Coasters

  • Appliquéd pillowcases for a kid's room

  • Me raving about the sewing machine I get as a birthday present

  • Kitchen valances and hopefully coordinating cloth napkins using the leftover fabric

  • Embroidered hankies for my husband

  • Adventures or misadventures in removing and/or painting faux-wood panelling




Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Finds

I've been crazy-busy lately, but wanted to share some things I've recently found & loved!

Bison Booties

How adorable are these handmade baby booties??? I totally want to buy one in every color for my niece.

Crappy Pictures

If you haven't already heard of the Crappy Pictures blog, you're missing out. Check it out for humorous parenting thoughts illustrated in self-proclaimed "crappy pictures" that look like they're done in Microsoft Paint.

The Celebrity Stork

Candy Kirby of the Laughing Stork insanely launched several new blogs just after having her second baby. Please visit her site and click on some ads, 'cause I'm sure she downs a hefty amount of caffeine to keep it all together. (Oh, and did I mention she's hilarious?)


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wise Words Wednesday 8/31/11

Last week Meagan at the Happiest Mom had a great idea-"Wise Words Wednesday". I think I'm going to start doing it every week along with her! (And I'm starting off awesomely but posting when it's actually Thursday.) Anyway, without anymore ado, here's a quote I liked this week:

We do not serve people because they are Catholic; we serve people because we are Catholic.

from Christopher Haley in Creating a Catholic Ghetto published on First Things earlier this week (discussing the potential negative impact of the healthcare bill and it's weak religious exemption on Catholic institutions like hospitals and charities).

How about you-what have you read that has inspired you, made you laugh, or made you think this week?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old House Revival Priorities

We bought a beautiful house that's nearly a century old and has much work that needs to be done. In reviving* our new house, in fact, there's so much to be done that it can't all be done at once, so we're having to really decide what should be done in which order. And since this is my first house, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm trying to ask advice of more experienced relatives and do as much research as I can on design blogs and the This Old House website and books from the library. So right now what I'm thinking is:

Safe and Clean
Obviously making sure everything is safe and clean so the toddler can have free license to explore the new digs is the number one priority.

"Public Spaces"
My next goal is to (as much as possible anyway) make the main floor of my house pretty because that is the part of the house company will see when they come over. I also count the exterior in that, but probably won't do much with that beyond trimming back weeds etc. until spring due to weather.

Most Used Spaces
Once that's taken care of, I'll move on to spaces that are more private, but used often, like our bedroom and bathroom. We'll make sure they're safe and clean right away, but then eventually will work on making them awesome and decorated to suit our tastes.

Other Spaces
We won't really need to use our attic or basement right away, but it would be nice to eventually finish them nicely and decorate them and stuff once the other areas are taken care of.

How do you decide which household projects to tackle first?

*I checked out a book called Reviving Old Houses the other day from my local library and loved the term the author coined and his explanation of why-I agree totally that the goal should be to show off the things that are beautiful about your features, but update the things that are not beautiful or no longer functional. It's not a museum after all, but a home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weightless Book Review

I've been a fan of Kate Wicker's blog for a while now--ever since I stumbled upon it during a natural parenting blog carnival we were both participating. So I was thrilled to have a chance to review her new book, Weightless through the Catholic Company's reviewer program.

What it is:
In Weightless, Wicker discusses how her Catholic faith has helped her overcome her body image issues including eating disorders and offers tools for women to use to help embrace their own bodies--just the way God made them. In her own words,
Weightless is not only for women like me who have faced an eating disorder, but for any woman who is trying to spackle God-shaped holes with thinness, physical beauty, youth, or food.


Favorite Quote:

Imagine God appearing to you at this very moment and handing you a beautiful, tangible gift-let's say a lovely crystal vase. Would you not do everything you could to keep it clean, untarnished, and sparkling? Would you not add sprigs of greenery and blossoms to make it even more magnificent? You'd surely place it in a prominent place, and every time you saw it, you would be struck by its beauty and be reminded that it was a gift from your heavenly Father.
We should treat our bodies with the same care and admiration.


Pros:
  • Uplifting
  • Well-written
  • Great combination of personal anecdotes, statistics, Bible verses and quotes from spritual leaders like saints and Popes

Cons:
  • Narrow focus may make some portions uninteresting or uninspiring to readers who can't relate (i.e. readers who aren't moms or who aren't Catholic)
  • Short length...I want more Kate Wicker!!

The Bottom Line:

Weightless is a great book that I highly recommend for any Catholic woman who is struggling with body images and/or self-esteem. While it's no replacement for professional treatment in the case of serious eating disorders, it is like having a friend you can turn to anytime, who knows what you've gone through and wants to remind you how much God loves you. I think Weightless would be a great book choice for any Catholic women's book groups comprised of women college-aged or above, and especially for a mother's group.


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Weightless - Making peace with your body. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible. I received a free copy of this book from The Catholic Company for review purposes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moving

We're moving soon so I've been busy lately with preparations from that. I'm not too worried about packing and setting up utilities and all that (although we are working on it!) My biggest concern is the huge adjustment for my 2 year old son. He's a pretty smart, sensitive little guy and I know it'll be a big deal for him. So far, some ideas I've come up with to ease the transition are:

Pic by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr
Create Routine

We've recently gotten him into a somewhat elaborate bedtime routine of toothhbrushing, jammies (after toothbrushing since he sometimes gets a bit damp from the brushing!), bedtime story, prayers, then sleep. I'm hoping that by having a fairly set routine, we can then do the same routine in the new place and that will help him feel at ease

Favorite Things

When we move, I'm going to grab his favorite things-his favorite stuffed animal, favorite bedtime story, etc and make sure they're in a specially designated bag that comes into the house first thing. We're also going to put a wooden cross that we currently keep above our bed in that bag and my husband will hang it over our bed before we go to sleep the first night.

Don't Push Other Changes

We are getting to the point that we anticipate breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and diapering all coming to an end soon, but we aren't really pushing it right now because I think the stress of all those changes plus moving at once would be too much for him to handle gracefully. So while we're not trying to get him to nurse more and we are still leaving the potty seat out available for his use, we aren't actively trying to get him to change his current behaviors on any of those issues yet.

New Fun

Besides new space to explore, we also have some fun surprises like a sandbox (courtesy of Grandma) planned for the new house to help shift the balance in favor of being different-but-good instead of different-therefore-bad.

What are your best tips for helping toddlers get used to moving to and living in a new house?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Felt Crinkle Fries Tutorial

This tutorial was originally posted in May 2011. So far, the fries are holding up well to vigorous toddler play :)



As a newbie to felt food making, I've been trying to start with foods my son loves. And as much as I'd love to pretend that's quinoa with eggplant & brussel sprouts, he wouldn't recognize any of those things even if I managed to make the awesomest felt food versions of them known to man. So instead I've got some fruit, a sandwich, an egg (not too terrible nutritionally so far, right?) and now...crinkle fries. We don't have them all that often, but when we do, my son gobbles them up. But all the fry patterns/tutorials I found were kind of lame 2D renditions (maybe they're supposed to be smushed McDonald's fries?), so I had to come up with my own. And when I showed him the first felt fry I finished, he was super excited and clearly recognized it. So if your kid is a fellow french fry lover, give this a go!

Materials:
Yellow felt (one sheet of felt should easily make 8-10 fries)
Matching embroidery floss.
Stuffing of your choice

How-To Make It:
1.) Cut out 4 rectangles of yellow felt for each fry you'd like to make. They all need to be the same length (mine were about 3 inches long), but I think it looks cute to have the two side pieces narrower than the top & bottom of the fry. The important thing is that the top & bottom are identical and the two sides are identical.

2.) Use blanket stitch* (or whipstitch if you'd prefer non-crinkle fries) to attach the four pieces together to make a rectangular felt tunnel.

3.) Cut two small squares of felt to fit the ends of your fry (I just stood the fry-tunnel up on the felt to figure it out. If you prefer measuring, the end pieces should have two sides the same width as the long top of the fry & two sizes the width of the long side pieces.)

4.) Attach one end piece, then stuff the fry with poly-fil, wool stuffing, felt scraps, or whatever else you'd like. A pencil or stick might be helpful for shoving the stuffing way down in.

5.) Sew on the other end piece. If you want non-crinkle fries, you can stop here!

6.) This is the slightly tricky part. Thread yellow embroidery floss on to your needle and loop it around the fry, going underneath the thread at each seam but not into the felt.

7.) When your loop is back where it started, pull it really tight and quickly secure it (I used a small knot incorporating the seam I started from.) This is your first crinkle! Repeat this process 3-4 more times until you're happy with the number of crinkles.




8.) If you're making these fries for someone who still chews toys (or whose younger sibling does), I'd recommend sewing several fries together in little clumps to reduce the choking hazard. (I think we've all had fries stick together like this for real, so I don't think it ruins the realisticness at all.)




Voila! French fries.
Bon Appetit!

*I linked to a fabulous video from Bari J of We Love French Knots in case you don't know how to do blanket stitch yet

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Deal with a Diaper-Change Houdini

Ahh my little squirmonster. As a rookie mom, I never saw the diaper change escapism coming. But oh, it came. When my son could roll over, he tried to roll over mid-diaper change. When he learned to crawl, he'd crawl away as I turned to open the diaper cream. And now? Well we've mostly got him trained to lay down on command, but there are still days you can find my toddler squealing while running bare-bunned across the room.
Here's what I'll do differently next time:

pic by Spigoo via Flickr Creative Commons
Nip it in the Bud

Not expecting it (don't babies want to get that poop and moisture off of them?!?), I didn't react firmly to my son's initial attempts to Houdini his way out of a diaper change. I think I probably giggled the first couple of times it happened. Next baby, I'll be sure to respond more firmly and make it clear mommy doesn't think that's funny.

Distract

I'll also make more of an effort next time to make sure the baby has a toy or something to entertain themself with while I do the dirty work. I once saw a mom with a slightly younger squirmonster attempting to escape his diaper change at the end of a LaLecheLeague monster and promptly pulled out one of my son's toys and let the other baby play with it. He was entranced and the mom relieved. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's so nice!

Prep Well

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I'd need both hands to open the diaper cream, leaving my son unencumbered in his escape attempts. Now I know better. I open the diaper cream before laying him down to change him. I also pull out a handful of wipes if there's poo in the diaper, and I unfold the diaper so it's ready to go. Doing all that stuff ahead of time doesn't take any longer, but it sure makes the amount of time I need the baby to lay still on the floor/bed/changing table a lot shorter!

Speed it Up

This is one that's tough for me. I didn't have much baby experience before having my son and I'm a sort of slow diaper changer. But I know I have to make a conscious effort to go fast so that it doesn't take longer than the time he's willing to lay there (obviously this doesn't always work if it's a big messy diaper, but for standard pee-only ones this is my strategy) Another way to speed things up is to use smart tools, like new Huggies Slip-On diapers. I haven't had a chance to try them yet, but we have used Huggies Pull-Ups and it's amazing how much faster you can change somene small and squirmy when you don't have to mess with those annoying tabs (which I always seem to rip when I used any brand other than Huggies and then have to start all over with a new diaper! Ugh!)

So that's my game plan for smoother diaper changes next time I have a new baby. What are your best strategies for dealing with a squirmy baby during diaper changes?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Huggies blogging program, for a gift card worth $35. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Decorating a New House!

We're getting ready to move and here's what I'm thinking as a color scheme for my new house:


"Billiard Table" and "Fresco Cream" actually match existing tile in the house and I don't plan on painting anything those colors.

For my son's room I'm thinking "Garland" along with this fabric, Zoology in the bright colorway. I actually won a yard of fabric from Sew, Mama Sew! a few weeks ago and this was my pick. I'm thinking a dark red sheet paired will a pillow or two made from the zoology fabric plus the green walls will be really cool (I hope!)


And I'm considering this fabric from Jo-Ann's for some window valances in the laundry room (Yay main-floor laundry!!) or playroom/family room. It matched the paint colors (I brought my paint chips, lol) in the fabric store much better than on the screen. I'll do sheer curtains most of the rest of the house.

What do you think?? Know of any other great fabrics that would go well with these colors?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

These are the days of summer when I start wishing summer was over. As the weeks drag on of weather so blisteringly hot I don't feel safe taking my toddler out during most of the daylight hours, I just get tired of it. But I'm trying to still make summer fun for my son, so here are some of the best ideas I've come up with on my own or gleaned from more experienced moms for making the best of the dog days of summer:

Eat Out
Eating lunch (or breakfast...or dinner...or a snack!) outside is an exciting idea to most kids, yet has a clear ending time (when you're done eating of course!) so you don't then feel obliged to stay outside all day long on days it may really be too warm to do so. Find a shady tree and spread out a blanket and some simple foods and you're all set. For added fun, make it a teddy bear picnic (or just stuffed animals in general) and/or invite friends over to join in your picnicking adventure. Don't forget drinks-hydration is key when the mercury is high!

Get Wet
While swimming in the pool is the most obvious wet summer fun option, most pools are not well shaded and on the worst heat days, can be too sunny to be safe for kids for more than a couple minutes. Instead, try playing with some combination of sprinklers, hoses, water guns, water balloons, baby pools, and slip & slides placed in some shady grass. That way you get all the wet fun without the bummer burn.

Exercise Early
Taking a long walk with your strollers, trikes, bikes, and rollerblades can still be an option on triple digit days, but you have to think smart about when is the best time to go, and that may mean waking up early. Wake your kids up early to go do something fun and outdoorsy, and let them nap in the warmth of midday to make up for it if they are the type who will (if they're the type who'll refuse the makeup nap and be grumpy all day, forget I said anything).

Window Shop
Another walk option is to go somewhere indoors other than your house. Walk around the mall or a big store like Wal-Mart or Costco. During the summer, I've been intentionally shopping in bits and pieces instead of buying everything all at once because it makes such a huge difference in my son's mood if we get out and walk somewhere for an hour or two on days too warm to be outside and I personally feel bad not purchasing anything (although I don't think there are rules that you must purchase things in order to walk around most stores). You can also combine this with the "walking early" idea, like the morning we walked to the grocery store and bought two donuts, then ate them as we walked home!

Indoor Surprises
It can also make too-hot days more pleasant to intentionally make indoors more fun by having special surprises. Try making homemade playdough, teaching your kids a new craft, building forts from cardboard boxes, make sock puppets, or do something else silly that they don't get to do everyday.

How do you keep your kids entertained and cool on days when it's too hot outside? How hot is too hot for your family?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Natural Family Planning

This week is "Natural Family Planning Awareness Week" according to the US Catholic Bishops, so I wanted to take a few minutes and share some of my thoughts on NFP!

My husband and I proudly practice Natural Family Planning. We believe the Catholic Church's teachings that contraception is at odds with God's plan for marriage and sexuality, and are grateful that God created women's bodies in such a way that it's possible to determine fertility and abstain during fertile periods if there's a serious reason to do so. When we feel we have a sufficiently serious reason to avoid pregnancy, we use the sympto-thermal method of NFP, which involves taking my temperature every morning and checking for cervical mucus when I use the restroom. I used to chart it by hand, but I'm lazy/making smart use of available tools and use a free app on my iPod Touch to chart now*, which also does a lot of the interpretation and makes that aspect easier too! We chose this method because the cross-checking of different fertility signs seems to most fool-proof to us, but there are also several other highly reliable methods like Billings, Creighton, and NaPro that other couples we know have chosen and had great success with, both in spacing children when necessary and achieving pregnancy even when struggling with low fertility.

As I've been reading other posts for NFP awareness week, one thing I've been struck by is the prevalence of comments essentially saying that NFP is way too hard. And for us that hasn't been the case at all, so it makes me sad that so many people seem to struggle so much with it. Reading those comments made me resolve two things:

1.) I'm going to try to seek out NFP messageboards like Fertility Flower** or discussions of NFP on Catholic messageboards and offer encouragement and support to women who are struggling with NFP. I think we need to build up a sense of community, and more experienced women can share tips on how they've made it through any patches where NFP seemed a heavy burden.

2.) I'm going to look into how to become a NFP teacher. It appears that there may be some free online courses to become an NFP teacher, so if that's really the case, I might try to take one or more and become an NFP teacher for my diocese so I really have the knowledge to support other women who want to succeed at NFP but feel like they can't for some reason.

Anyway, if you have never really read about Natural Family Planning, I encourage you to do so, and if you already do NFP, I'd love for you to leave your best tip for successfully practicing NFP in the comment section!

*In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I did help the app designers with some of their translations on a volunteer basis (they're based in Switzerland). I received no compensation then and do not receive any compensation if you download the free app other than warm fuzzy feelings

**I'm friends with the woman who runs Fertility Flower on Twitter and she is soooo nice! Seriously, if you're at all interested in NFP chat her up!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bunny Finger Puppets Take 2

My niece recently needed a get-well present, so I stitched up a couple of bunny finger puppets using the pattern I created for my son's Easter basket this spring, but using super bright girly colors, and here's how they turned out:
The only things I'd consider changing before making them again is to use a different color or embroidery floss for the eyes, but I wanted to make one brown like my sister-in-law and niece's eyes and one blue like my brother's eyes, so I ended up using thread colors that maybe didn't show up the best. I think she'll like them exactly how they are though!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hospitality for Pregnant Guests (repost)

This post was originally posted in June of 2010. I now have a beautiful niece who is on the verge of crawling!

My brother and his pregnant wife visited last weekend, and I put a lot of thought into making them (mainly her) comfortable, partially by trying to remember what made me most comfortable during my own pregnancy, so I thought I'd share my philosophy on making your home welcoming to a pregnant friend or relative!

Keep her hydrated!

It's easy to get dehydrated anytime you're pregnant, but especially on the road, and some people are shy about asking for drinks before their host offers them. So offer early and offer often! To drink, we had available:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Raspberry Lemonade (Simply Lemonade brand with nothing artificial in it-I LOVE it!)
  • Root beer (caffeine free!)


Feed her well!

She may be nauseous and not eat much (so get stuff you like too so you're willing to eat the leftovers!), or she may be pretty hungry and constantly eating. Either way I think it's important to have lots of yummy things available for her. Because of cravings and aversions, I tried to come up with a wider variety of options of snacks than I would for a "normal" guest.
I like to have at least one snack from each of these categories available:

  • Sweet: I baked brownies plus we had ice cream to go with it!
  • Salty/bread: My SIL loves peanut butter sandwich crackers so we got those. Pretzels and wheat thins could be great options too!
  • Protein: Besides the PB crackers, we also had hard-boiled eggs available.
  • Fruit: I picked bananas, but sweet apples could be good too, like Fuji or Galas, or grapes, but I'd avoid really acidic fruits like pineapple or granny smith apples!
For meals, also offering a variety of choices can help ensure there's something she'll like even if some of the options aren't appealling to her. For example, we made bacon, eggs, and potatoes for breakfast, plus had pancake stuff ready in case the smell of bacon made her feel sick or anything like that, and we asked ahead of time if that meal sounded good to her (it did and was sooooo yummy!!)

Gift her!

Okay, you don't have to give her a present everytime you see her if it's someone who visits often, but if it's a relative or close friend, giving them a gift like maternity clothes (including hand-me-downs) or a great book like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding can help her feel welcome and let them know you're excited about the pregnancy.

Give her privacy!

If like us, you're lucky enough to have more than one bathroom, set one aside as exclusively hers, even if you don't normally for guests (her hubby can share it too). There's nothing worse than feeling like you have to hurry up and puke because someone's waiting on the bathroom! We cleaned the guest bathroom and filled it with fresh towels, a new bar of soap, and new bottles of shampoo (Suave-they're like 99 cents/bottle) and body wash (coconut scent from Bath & Body Works). We'll use what's left of the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, but because they were new, the guests could tell they were intended for their use and weren't just our junk we forgot to put away! Alternatively, you could get small "travel-size" bottles and then let your guests take them with them or throw them away. I figure most people bring their own stuff, but it's good to have it out in case they forgot something!

Don't expect too much

She may be very tired and not feel up to doing much. Or she might be just as energetic as ever! It's perfectly fine to offer all sorts of fun, like going for walks, to a movie, out to eat, etc. but be sure she feels like she can set the schedule based on her needs and be ready to just relax at home if that's all she feels up to.

What are your tips for hosting pregnant friends and relatives at your house? What have others done while you were pregnant that made you feel comfortable?