Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Tags... Chalkboard Effect!?!

I have been playing with all sorts of new fonts and have been toying with the idea of making some of my own Christmas tags for presents this year {because I just hate to buy something I could easily make!}. 

The tags above are designed to be printed on regular 8 1/2" X 11" paper or card stock and can easily be cut apart.  What do you think???  Do you like them?  I am thinking about making a few more with different styles/themes!

{Please feel free to download and use!!!  The link above will take you to the free PDF}

Here are a few closer up pictures :)


{P.S. Let me know if you are using- I would love some feedback!}

Click HERE to see more Christmas gift tags in magenta, peach, and teal!

And don't forget to tag Santa's present for all of your good boys and girls ;)

Monday, November 19, 2012

What simple things are you celebrating this week?

I am not a professional photographer nor will I ever be, but I love to take pictures.  I am excited to link up with Simple As That, a blog that I am currently in love with, for their Simple Things Sunday link up party which is all about photography. 

What simple things are you celebrating this week?  I am celebrating family; my two beautiful girls are the light of my life.  They are amazing.  I am celebrating that I am in a place in this world where I can have those beautiful girls play in crunching fall leaves for a bit and I can pretend that I know what I am doing while I snap their pictures.  Life is good.  I celebrate that...

What are you celebrating this week??

An Easy DIY Hat Holder

 We just completed a quick and much needed morning project.  When I say quick, I mean less than 30 minutes start to finish including the time it took for the hot glue gun to warm up.  What did we make??  A hat holder!!  And when I say we, I mean me and my two trusty side kicks, big sis and baby sis.  (As you can see, baby sis played a crucial role!)

The Problem:  Too many hats, not enough hooks!!

The Materials:

3- 12" wooden dowels (less than $2 for a bag of 5)
2 to 3 yards of thick ribbon
4 decorative buttons
1 1/2 to 2 feet of rope (I used some thick hemp I already had)
12 wooden clothespins
Hot Glue Gun

How To:

Cut your ribbon so you have two equal lengths.  Just over a yard each is what I had.  Lay out the ribbons good side down, and place one dowel at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom.  Glue the ribbon onto the dowel at the top and bottom, wrapping the ribbon around each dowel.  Glue the center dowel on with just one line of glue on the ribbon.
Next, turn it over so the good side is up.  Lay out your clothespins so they are equally spaced, 6 on one side, 6 on the other (each of mine were 2 1/2" apart).  Glue each wooden clothespin down.
Next glue on your decorative buttons at the top and bottom and tie your rope to both side of the top dowel.  Use a dab of hot glue to keep the rope knots in place.  And, ta-dah!  You are finished, that quick and easy!
To hang the hats, simply clip on with the clothespins.  Pretty much any type of hat works this way; beanies, sun hats, cowboy hats, and even baseball caps.
Gone are the days of searching for just one beanie to keep those little ears warm- they are right there on the back of the girls' door!  

Are you as over-run with hats as we are!?  Who knew girls could accumulate so many hats!!!  I am so happy to have this little project done!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Sunflower Summer and How We Made Our Own Sunflower Seeds

I have never been a huge fan of sunflowers, but last summer my husband convinced me to plant a sunflower garden next to our raised beds.  I was excited about the "good" bugs that they would bring our veggie garden, but I didn't realize just how much I would fall in love with these gorgeous flowers.  Needless to say, I am a changed woman!  Even though we only had a Nikon CoolPix point and shoot camera at the time (we have since upgraded to a DSLR), I was obsessed with trying to get the most stunning sunflower pictures!  They may not be professional grade, but to say the least, I had fun taking them and my little doll of a model just loved hiding in them.

If you have never planted sunflowers, I highly recommend doing it!  They are easy to grow and come in the most stunning shapes and sizes.  The added bonus: lots of lady bugs and bees hanging around!

So this summer when my hubby pulled out the sunflower seeds, I was fully on board.  This summer however, he had an ulterior motive; he wanted the seeds!  To be honest, I was kind of excited about this new endevour.  I love trying something new... especially if it is something I get to make that normally we would buy.  I am not a huge sunflower seed fan, but the hubby loves easting sunflower seeds and now big sis is quite the fan as well.

How we made our own sunflower seeds...

Since I had never done this before, I went on a sunflower seed how to hunt.  I found a resource that I thought couldn't sound more perfect: the National Sunflower Association, which just so happens to have a zillion facts about sunflowers AND and very simple How to Roast In Shell Sunflower Seeds.  I basically followed these very simple directions with the addition of some flavors we already had on hand for a fun little experiment!

These were HUGE sunflowers, I must start by stating!  We found our seeds just by browsing the local garden section finding Ferry Morse Organic Sunflower, Mammoth seeds.  We had a blast watching them grow all summer and as fall made it's claim, we cut down three of the heads to use for seeds... yep, you heard me right- just three of them!  Just check out how amazingly large these guys were!

To start out, using gloves, I pulled out all the seeds into a large bowl.  They fall out fairly easy... and little sis even came to help mom!

Using a salad spinner I washed these little suckers a zillion times until the water came out clean, each time picking out any little pieces of stem, leaves, or dried flower that followed my seeds into the bowl.  Patience may be a necessity here!  As per the National Sunflower Associations website, I mixed the seeds with water and salt and let soak overnight.

{I also found this cool website,  that had a trick for cracking and separating the seed from the shells- I haven't tried, but maybe next year!  Especially since I found a recipe for Pesto made with sunflower seeds... doesn't that sound amazing!?}

The next day after the long salty soak, I rinsed and dried the seeds.  I separated into three different sheets for roasting.  I decided to sprinkle one with a  BBQ seasoning we had on hand, a ranch mix, and the third portion was left plain.  We roasted the seeds about 45 minutes on 300 degrees.  The National Sunflower Association suggested 30-40 minutes at 300, but they didn't seem quite "dry" enough, so we left in a bit longer!

We pulled them out of the oven and let the cool for hours.  Once they were nice and cool, I just used zip-lock bags to store the seeds (the website suggests airtight containers).  Dad and big sis have been enjoying their custom made little snack!  The three sunflower heads made four zip-lock sandwich baggies full plus enough for me to give a nice little snack to the chickens (I think they liked our little project as well!).
Have you ever made your own sunflower seeds?  Do you have any fun tips or recipes to share?  Please share in the comments section below if you do!  I'd love to store any neat ideas for next year's sunflower garden :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Adventures from a Baby Food Making Mama ~ Stage One, First Foods

I am super excited to share this post with you!  When my first daughter was nearing six months of age, I decided that I was going to try and make her baby food.  I had several reasons: 1. I thought it would be much cheaper  2. I liked the idea of knowing exactly what was going into her food and  3.  Well, I just like making things!  Luckily one of my awesome aunties had read my mind and had sent me Annabel Karmel's book Top 100 Baby Purees.  When I first began making the baby foods, I followed her recipes e.x.a.c.t.l.y. as written but somewhere along the way my common sense chimed in and I realized there are a few key techniques I used and they could be applied to almost any food.  If you are new to baby food making, I am hoping my insights can help guide you along your baby food making adventures!!

There are three main cooking techniques I use when making baby food.

1. Roasting in the Oven- this is great for those winter squashes and various types of potatoes
2.  Steaming- It seems almost anything can be steamed!  Most vegtables and even potatoes can be steamed!
3.  Cooking in a Sauce Pan- More delicate fruits and veggies are great with a little water in a saucepan.  Things like spinach and most fruits do well with this method.
* There is also a fourth preparation style- the No-Cook foods like banana and avocado which can just be mushed up!

Stage One, First Foods

My baby girl is just hitting that 6 month mark, and even though I wish I could freeze time and make it NOT time for her to start eating, I haven't found that power yet so it IS time for her first foods.  This is my menu that I chose based on what is in season {fall} and what I could get for a good price.  When things are in season, it is easier to find organic produce for a similar price as the the non-organic produce, which I love!

My Menu & Shopping List:
apples {about 4 medium}
pears  {5-6 medium}
carrots  {one small bag of regular}
sweet potato  {4 medium}
sweet potato with broccoli  {use sweet potatoes from above + one crown of broccoli}
acorn squash {1 medium}
butternut squash {1 medium}
butternut squash with spinach  {use butternut squash from above + one large handful of raw spinach}
Other things you may need: 8 ice cube trays, a steam basket, a tiny bit of unsalted butter, gallon or half gallon sized freezer bags

Time Needed:
About 3 hours the first day; about 15 minutes to bag up the second day

Fruits of Your Labor:
About 8 pounds of baby food.  Each food above will produce about 1 pound of baby food and will be split into 16 one ounce servings that can be frozen and ready to use when needed.

Day One

Prep Work:
The two roasted squashes take the longest, so I sliced them in half, brushed them with a dab of unsalted butter, and threw them in a 350 degree oven, cut side down, covered with foil, first thing (give them about an hour... when a toothpick easily goes through the rind, they are ready to use).

Next I prepped the steamed veggies.  I chose to steam my carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  The carrots and broccoli can be washed good and cut into smaller chunks, but the sweet potato needs to be peeled prior to cubing up.  I had a special helper with me the day I did this {3 1/2 year old big sis} and she worked on getting my apples and pears peeled at the same time I was doing the sweet potato peeling.  I used a large sauce pan for steaming so all of my veggies would fit at the same time AND because you need a decent amount of water in your steaming pan to use later when making your purees!

Once my steamed veggies were set to go, I started working on peeling the rest of the apples and pears, chopped them into chunks, and cut the stems off of my spinach.  The apples, pears, and spinach all cook down fairly easily in a covered, medium sauce pan with a little bit of water.  While waiting for the roasted veggies and steamed veggies, you really do have time to finish your apples and pears and have your spinach ready to go, and that is just what I did!  The appleas took about 6 minutes simmering in a covered pan to get that "mushy" soft, the pears took about 4 minutes, and the spinach was just a few minutes.

Time to Puree!!!

{For our wedding, we received a Cuisinart Mini "chopper" that works just perfectly to puree baby food.  It holds the perfect amount to fill up one ice cube tray which is about 16 1 ounce servings.}

Once the apples cooked down, I put them straight into the chopper along with the bit of water I had cooked them in and threw the pears in the same pan and got them going.  Once the apples were a nice smooth puree, I transferred them into one of my eight ice cube trays.  I used a heaping tablespoon to fill the ice cube slots, and it seems to come out to almost a perfect 1 ounce almost every time.  By the time I filled the ice cube tray, the pears were ready to go into the chopper.  I pureed the pears and filled their tray while the spinach was cooking down.

At this point both the squashes roasting and the veggies steaming were both getting to a place of mushness (perfect for baby food making!).  The carrots took a little longer than the broccoli and sweet potatoes, so I let them continue to cook a bit longer.  Since the spinach was done, I pureed the spinach with one of my butternut squash halves, which I just scooped directly into the chopper. 

{If your puree is too thick, use the water from the steamed veggie pan to thin it out!  You will probably have to do this with almost all of your veggies.  I just grabbed a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out of the bottom of the steamer pan.}

I continued on working through pureeing all of the cooked veggies.  The carrots were by themselves while the sweet potatoes were shared, one tray by themselves and the other mixed with the broccoli crown.  Every couple of trays that got filled I made a little deposit into the freezer to get the fruits and veggies frozen as soon as possible.  I stack my trays as you can see below to get the most use out of my freezer space.  I let the purees freeze over night.

Day Two

Pull out 8 freezer bags and label each bag with the fruit or veggie and I always like to put a date on anything going into the freezer, just to help my poor memory out!  Once all your bags are laid out, pull one tray out at a time and pop out the veggie or fruit cubes into the freezer bags.  (You may need some muscles here!) Each veggie or fruit cube should be about 1 ounce, about 16 ounces total, or 1 pound total. Put the freezer bag of veggie or fruit cubes back into the freezer as soon as you are done with them!

{Why I love the 1 ounce portions!!!  The jars of baby food you buy in the store come in 2.5 ounce or larger sizes.  This can be frustrating when you are first feeding a baby who has never had food before.  Often they will not eat much at all at first and you end up throwing much of the jars away.  Once they do start eating a bit more at a time, I love that you can heat them up a variety of foods just like an adult plate; one apple, a sweet potato, and some carrots for example.}

Feeding Time!!!

When you are ready to feed baby, pull out one cube of food and place it in a microwave safe container.  Always heat the food through so that it is steaming hot to kill any possible lurking bacteria (this should be done with store bought baby food too!).  Let cool till you can touch it to your own lip safely.  I sometimes use mama's milk to cool it down a bit quicker and to add a little creamy flavor that baby recognizes.  Once you get to this point, pat yourself on the back... it really isn't that hard and it's rewarding knowing that you can save some money while at the same time feeding your little one fresh and natural foods!
These will be little sister's first foods: apple, pear, carrot, sweet potato, sweet potato broccoli (this was big sister's favorite!), acorn squash, butternut squash, and butternut squash spinach.  We also include raw and mushed bananas and avocado.  This little one LOVES her avocado.  I dice it up small and throw it on her tray.  She mushes it thoroughly then sucks it off the tray with her mouth!  So fun!  If you need other ideas for flavor combinations, just take a stroll down the baby food isle; the combinations are endless (just resist the urge to buy, lol!). 

Please feel free to share this with any moms you know that may be interested!!!  I love to be able to share with other moms that may be new to baby food making!

Do you make your own baby food??  I would love to hear some of your great combinations or stories, so please share!  And thanks for stopping in!

{I am neither a dietician nor pediatrician, just a mom sharing what I do.  Please always consult a doctor before starting your precious one on new foods!}

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Art for the Boys

My daughter has an awesome little play group that she gets to see pretty much weekly.  It is so nice to have buddies for her to grow up with... except for one little tidbit; they are all boys!  Yep, four boys and big sis!  It actually works out pretty well since she is a bit of a rough and tumble gal, and I like the idea of her having some boys to stick up for her down the road.  Well, two of these handsome little friends of hers love everything truck, construction, and dirt and they just so happen to be brothers who have birthdays just a month apart.  And they just so happened to have just moved into an amazing new home in town.  So, with the permission of mama, I decided to make them some all boy decor for their blank walls.  Here are the results!

These were simple acrylic paintings on canvas.  To prevent having to spend a fortune to frame, I found this awesome measuring tape looking ribbon to mod podge onto the sides.

I hope the boys love their new art!  I had a blast making their little masterpieces!

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