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

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! ;)