Friday, September 3, 2010

How to Sew a Cupcake Costume

It's that time of year again when Fall begins to shake it's leaves and the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg begin to permeate the cool air.  I am so thankful for a glimpse of Fall after several weeks of pure sultry heat.  I may be one of the few that relish cool, cloudy and rainy days but just think of all the chores you make progress on!  With the approach of all the wondrous Fall activities, my children have already gone through several Halloween costume ideas.  So far, Katelyn has wanted to dress up as Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, a mermaid, a purple princess, a cup with straw and currently a strawberry cake with a candle headband.  Soon enough she will understand once I begin making a costume her choice will not change again!  Oh, girls!  Noah has been a bit less indecisive although he has wanted to be Buzz Lightyear, SpiderMan, Optimus Prime (Transformer), a Knight and a bat "with fluffy ears" (oh my!).  I was trying to keep all costume catalogs out of the kid's hands but alas that did not happen.  Um, have you seen the Chasing Fireflies costumes?!

So back to last year's costume choices...

After flipping through the Pottery Barn catalog, Noah wanted to dress-up as a shark and Katelyn wanted to be a cupcake.  I felt very unschooled in the ways of costume making but I thought I might as well try.  They are not perfect but they made the kids quite happy!  What is wonderful about felt costumes is that they will last through several imaginary shark attacks and cupcake tea parties. 

My method for sewing the cupcake costume was not quite precise but it did the job.  I bought bolt felt in the colors needed: light tan, dark brown, light pink and white.  For the circles, I used small sheet felt found in the crafting section of the local craft store.  I also purchased a dark brown thread and light pink thread for the two main sections. For the back of the costume, I purchased a light tan satin ribbon and sewed it to three sections (top, middle, bottom) of the cupcake and tied it in bows instead of making an over-the-head or zippered costume.

First, I measured the dark brown felt to my daughter's waist.  I cut it lengthwise from the waist to the knees and width a bit bigger than around her waist to produce more of a bubble effect.  After cutting the dark brown felt to size, I laid it flat on my cardboard cutting board and cut a piece of the tan felt twice as long and a bit shorter than the dark brown felt.  I pinned the tan felt to the dark brown at one edge then created a ripple and pinned down the ripple before making the next.  (Does that make sense?)  I worked my way across the felt, lastly pinning the opposite edge.  I used dark brown thread to machine sew the lines down each ripple and edge, leaving the top and bottom open.  I only sewed the lines vertically.  There you have the bottom half!

Second, I measured the pink felt to my daughter's chest by making a sort-of tank top to fit with a scoop neckline in the front.  Laying the pink felt flat on the cutting board, I cut it the same width as the dark brown felt and the length from shoulders to waist.  I then cut out a scoop neck U-shape (again, not quite precise but this will be covered by the white collar) and cut out arm holes large enough to fit her arms through.  The loveliness of felt is that you do not have to "finish" the edges.  Just cut and leave be!  After cutting out the top half, I cut two pieces of "topping" pieces to create the icing ripples.  I simply left the top strip straight and cut the bottom of the strip with scalloped edges.  I cut circles of different colored dots, sewed them onto the pink icing ripples with 6 strand floss, and then attached each icing piece onto the pink tank top.  After completing this, I sewed the pink top to the bottom of the cupcake.

Third, I cut a piece of white felt, a bit longer than twice that of the scoop neck, and created a "fan" by folding the felt like you would to make a paper fan.  I sewed one end to hold the fan together then sewed the fan collar onto the scoop neckline.  To finish, I sewed the satin ribbon on the back six different places - three on each side of the open back, and tied each in bows to secure.

To make the headband, I bought a thick, plastic, brown headband and made a smaller white felt fan then sewed the fan together to make a circle.  Finally, I cut out a strawberry shape in red felt, used 6 strand floss to sew knots for seeds on the strawberry, and sewed the strawberry to the floss then the entire piece to the headband.

I hope this helps and please send any questions my way!  I will try to answer them as quickly as I get them.  Good luck and happy sewing!

*As I finish typing this post, Katelyn has now decided she wants to be a candy corn...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Meal Planner's Creed

I thoroughly enjoy finding an old, used cookbook at a garage or estate sale. There is something about picking up a tattered book and wondering about the woman who used it's recipes to impress others. When I find an antique cookbook, I cannot wait to come home, smell the worn, yellowed pages and read about what was expected of homemakers way back when.  I enjoy the language used to describe homemaking situations and the wording of little phrases that have gone out of style.  In my latest antique cookbook purchase, I found a wonderful "creed" that I would love to have hanging in my kitchen.  This is taken from a quite famous cookbook, Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking first copyrighted in 1947.  This creed is a wonderful reminder that meal planning is important to the entire family and should not be done hastily.  It reminds me a bit of Proverbs 31.

The Meal Planner's Creed

The health of my family is in my care; therefore -
   I will spare no effort in planning meals containing the right kinds of food in the right amounts.

Spending the food dollar to get the most for it is my
job; therefore - 
   I will choose foods from a wide variety, variously priced to save money without sacrificing health.

My family's enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore -
   I will increase their pleasure by preparing a variety of dishes attractive in color and form and pleasing in flavor and texture.

My family's health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore -
   I will treat my job with the respect due it. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meat Frugality

Quality meat can get expensive.  Organic, grass-fed, local meat is the most delicious meat you will ever taste yet it can be a bit hard on your pocketbook.  In my opinion, buying quality meat is worth the extra effort to make your money and your meat stretch into several meals.  Being creative with leftovers can save several dollars because buying in bulk is the way to go.  "Bulk" at the Farmer's Market usually means a larger chicken, one big block of ground beef, or a large roast.  By purchasing larger cuts of meat, you will not only be saving money but saving time making dinner as well.
At our local Farmer's Market, it is cheaper to buy one 5 pound block of ground beef than to buy it packaged in single one pound blocks.  After purchasing the 5 pound block, I defrost the meat in the fridge for a few days then cook it all at once.  I cook a few pounds of simple ground beef with garlic, onion powder and a bit of chili powder.  With the other pounds, I mix in other spices and sauces for hamburgers and/or meatballs and freeze it all for later use.  This makes it much easier to make dinner as all I have to do is toss in some meat into soups or throw in a few meatballs into the spaghetti sauce.  Five pounds of beef usually lasts us a bit over a month.
Once in a while, I buy a whole free-range chicken.  When it is defrosted, I roast it in the oven for dinner on the first night.  I then refrigerate the leftovers and in the next night or two I make chicken soup (usually chicken tortilla soup).  If there is any chicken left, which there usually is, I freeze the leftovers for another soup night.  Usually leftover chicken is only tasty in soups in order to retain some moisture to the meat.  I even save the bones, put them in a big pot on the stove for 12- 24 hours and make chicken broth.  So many meals for one chicken!
When I buy a roast at the market (the last roast was buffalo and it was very good), I can usually get three meals out of it as well.  The first meal is roast with vegetables in the crock pot, the second meal is leftover meat in quesadillas and the third meal guessed it!...soup.  I save the broth from the crock pot to make the broth for the soup and it is so delicious and flavorful.  There are many other meal options for leftovers and one may get quite creative.  Casseroles, quiches, and pizzas are just a few extra ideas for leftover meat.  The more you stretch your meat into several meals, the more money you will save.
Now if only our Farmer's Market offered fish!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorites

As I look through the Anthropologie website, I tend to daydream about my future house and what special trinkets I would carefully place in each room.  I cannot stop my creativeness as I look at the beauty of Anthropologie's green leather chair or the uniqueness of their glass and metal cookie jar.  I immediately start looking around my house, finding pictures I can rearrange or putting together a new centerpiece for the kitchen table.  It even causes me to pull out my felt and fabric and sew new hair pins for my daughter and my nieces.  Now if I could only figure out how to sew a shirt or knit a sweater!

Here are some of my favorite things from the current Anthropologie website.  I thought them all too special to keep my remarks to myself.  I love to find beauty in the details as in the dancing couple on the covered bar of soap or the soft floppy ears on the cuddly donkey.  Adding a plaid bow to a group of bracelets is a simple way to give jewelry the perfect balance of casual elegance.  The buttery yellow handbag has the perfect amount of detail by adding a group of small flowers without distracting from the richness of the leather.  I suppose as I enter into my 30's I am veering towards a style of casual elegance.  It might be fun to go through my house and my wardrobe trying to find ways to create this balance.  Here's to finding your own style!

*Click on the picture below to enlarge collage.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Taking a Break

I haven't posted recently because I've been sewing for a craft fair and reorganizing pretty much the entire house.  I've been changing the kids' rooms over so that Katelyn and Noah will have their own separate rooms.  This has made the house be in such disarray that at times I've had to pause and take a deep breath to avoid a complete meltdown.  Thankfully, we received a new steam cleaner for our carpet so despite the utter ciaos, the carpet is slowly becoming spotless.  I have no idea why I have the sudden urge to clean everything in site but I welcome it with open arms and cleaning rags in my hands.  Until this odd desire disperses, I will be on a blog hiatus. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Conscientious Personal Care

I haven't posted a new blog entry lately because I have been doing exhaustive research on all things natural. I cannot read enough about natural living right now and it is consuming my free time. I am close to completing Toxic Beauty by Samuel Epstein MD and I have been learning so much about the skin-care products we use every day. In an effort to be frugal and more natural, I have been researching recipes so I can make my own deodorant, toothpaste, face wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and lip balm. Today, I made my first batch of deodorant (recipe found here: and tested it by doing my hardest exercise video. I haven't reapplied it since this morning and so far, so good! I will also make my own shampoo tonight (using my own concoction adapted from various books and websites) and I will post the recipe once I decide it is effective and complete. I want to encourage others to conduct their own research into the cosmetic and personal-care industry. It is shocking how the public are unaware of the effects the chemicals have on our bodies. Some people may choose to ignore the evidence that states these products are toxic (as the FDA does) but I hope that most will choose to be wise about what they are putting on their skin every day. This is an uncomfortable subject because it is so convenient to believe everything America produces and/or approves is safe for us.  Unfortunately, the American public is held in the dark about many things as the desire for power increases.  Please know that I do not judge those who choose to ignore the toxicity in most products but I do hope that all would at least be aware that the FDA is not doing it's job.  Cosmetics are not being regulated and that is causing many allergic and toxic reactions that are contributing to various cancers and health problems.  It is a huge task to take on when switching to all-natural products.  It is not easy but it is something I must do as I am not able to ignore information once I have researched it.  Sadly, many "natural" products on the market are far from natural and contain just as many hazardous materials.  This is why it is important to know what chemicals are toxic and dangerous.  Because there are little to no regulations on the ingredients in cosmetics, companies are able to make many claims without testing these products before they are put on the store shelves.  If you are interested in what I've been learning, here are some of the books I've checked out at the library and websites that may be of interest to you.  I'll let you decide what to do with the information.


Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health...And What You Can Do About It   by Samuel S Epstein MD

Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry   by Stacy Malkan

Reader's Digest Natural Beauty:  Making and Using Pure and Simple Beauty Products  by Gail Duff

Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self   by Stephanie Tourles

Making Aromatherapy Creams & Lotions: 101 Natural Formulas to Revitalize & Nourish Your Skin   by Donna Maria


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Balancing Act

I want to make sure that readers of this blog know that I do not have it all together nor do I intend to portray such.  I am not the most organized person and I have been battling my procrastinative state since I was old enough to make my own messes.  I don't do well with following set schedules and I value the freedom in choosing my own daily responsibilities.  I have been procrastinating a bit less as I get older although I may always be labeled a recovering procrastinator.  I believe that being at home is the perfect place to grow and learn how to overcome my unsightly tendencies.  I am truly enjoying this growing time in my life, however when I am in learning mode or creating mode sometimes other responsibilities get placed on the back-burner.  I have come to realize that this is okay!  As a homemaker, I sometimes feel like I must present the perfect home and have the most perfectly behaved children because this is my job.  I am supposed to be constantly cleaning, teaching, organizing, etc. in order to validate being at home all day, right?!  No, I have once again been taught the importance of balance.  Balancing your duties as a homemaker is vital to finding joy in your home.  This means that sometimes the dishes will pile up in the sink, sometimes all of the laundry won't get put away, sometimes the weeds will be a little overgrown in the flowerbeds, sometimes creative projects must be put on hold.  Though the reasons for such neglect must be beneficial in other areas, a homemaker must rotate her responsibilities.  For example, when I am sewing a new project, I may not have a spick and span kitchen and when I am baking a bread that takes a few hours to prepare, I may not have the cleanest mirrors on the block.  This only means that I must rotate my creative days with my cleaning days and be happy that I have the freedom to set my own schedule.  I cannot neglect either area because I must create and I must clean or I will lose my joy in homemaking.  So, if you come to my house and the table linen has bread crumbs strewn about know that I was probably sewing, reading, or playing with my children that day.  If you come to my house and it looks especially tidy know that I was enjoying my responsibilities as a homemaker and in the next few days the house may look a bit unruly as I create once again.  I am still learning the balancing act of cleaning, creating, and teaching my children but as I continue to learn in these areas I make sure that I do everything joyfully.  No matter what I am doing that day, I know that I am trying my best to make my home a contented place for my family.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

These Things I Hold Dear

Recently, I have added two new ingredients to my baking ventures and I must say I have never baked anything so delicious in all my homemaking years. Never did I think that changing to a purer milk or a better oil would make such a difference and I must share with you my newfound culinary wisdom. The first ingredient is (get ready for a long title!): All Natural Farmers' Creamery Organic 2% Reduced Fat Milk. It is non-homogenized and low-temperature pasteurized thereby producing a creamy, nutritious milk that is simply amazing in coffee, baked goods, and homemade yogurt. Originally I purchased this milk to use in my yogurt making per request of yogurt makers worldwide. Supposedly ultra-pasteurized milk is not preferred because it is basically "dead" culture wise. This milk was the only option as all the other organic milks I have come across are ultra-pasteurized. Anyway, I used this milk in my pancakes one morning and I almost passed out, the pancakes were THAT good. I've also used the milk in bread and rolls which produced a smooth and fluffy product. I highly suggest you try it, or something similar. It is only found in natural food markets and it is worth the search.

The second ingredient that has made me one happy homemaker is organic extra virgin coconut oil. I bought this in order to make some homemade toiletry concoctions as well as for baking due to its high ranking in nutritious value and flavor. According to, coconut oil has quite an array of benefits to the body including "hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.". My first attempt at using coconut oil was actually in my stove-top popcorn popper. I read this is a wonderful combination and it really does give popcorn a delicious flavor. My second attempt was to use it in place of butter or margarine in a cinnamon roll recipe. Let me just tell you, I think my husband ate four cinnamon rolls over the course of one night! I think that speaks for itself. My third attempt was last night, and my knees buckled when I tasted of its scrumptiousness. I used coconut oil in place of shortening in my tortilla recipe and it made the perfect tortilla. The dough did not stick to the parchment paper like usual, it held its shape, and the final product was soft and delicious. If you are interested in trying coconut oil in your baking or personal care, has the best price that I've found.

I am so excited about these two products and I have a feeling I will have much more to say about them in the coming months. I must warn you that if you do try them, you just might end up baking much more than you thought was capable, you just might have a house full of delectables, and you just might have one happy husband (and children!). Let me know if you try either ingredients and if there are any leftovers!

*The first picture is the milk, the second is a picture of hamburger buns made with said milk and the third picture is of my Noah with the pancakes.*

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chemical Warfare in the Home

I am discovering that living "green" requires a total makeover of your initial instincts.  Right now I am reading Easy Green Living by Renee Loux but I don't quite agree with the title.  It is not easy!   When "green" first became the new hot word of the decade,  I was very skeptical and thought it was apt to say living "green"  was mainly for those crazy environmentalists and companies wanting to make more money in a new way (which I still believe is true in some cases).  As I have been researching, I have decided that I agree that there is an urgent need for our society to live more naturally but my motives are completely different.  As environmentalists are living a more natural life in the name of Mother Earth, I am striving to live a more natural life because I believe that is what God would have us do.  As I have stated before, I believe God created the earth in a beautiful way in which we are able to live without polluting our homes, bodies, and environment with a slew of chemical formulations.  There are amazing discoveries and advances that are pure genius and are perfectly safe but there are many advances in our every-day products that are not safe for us or for the environment.  We should care about this because it is God's earth and it is our duty to take care of it.  Yes, we live in a sinful world but that does not give us an excuse to knowingly live in a way that destroys God's creation.  With that said, here is the latest issue that is causing a serious renovation in my home life.
During and after World War II, the desire to find replacements for every-day products suddenly became essential in keeping the economy afloat.  During the war, people were struggling to keep up with the dire times therefore they began turning to new ways to make old products.  People and companies were running out of natural resources due to lack of workers and money.  After the war, when money was more abundant, people began thinking that "getting it now" was a sign of prosperity and economic boom.  According to Wikipedia, "at the end of the war, the United States produced roughly half of the world's industrial output".  Due to the sudden increase in the production of goods, chemists and companies were searching for ways to create products that didn't take much time to cultivate and mass produce.  Petroleum was one of the answers because of its "high energy density, easy transportability, and relative abundance" and it basically was just plain cheap.  It started showing up in everything from laundry detergent to pharmaceuticals thereby replacing the use of the earth's natural resources like vinegar, baking soda, and the like.  Companies began putting petroleum in products to give instant power and thus taking away the need to scrub, brush, and use a little elbow grease.  People were suddenly able to squirt a little of this and a little of that, wipe it off, and voila!  You have a sparkling clean house (with quite a strong "clean" smell).
So, why is petroleum in our every-day-products such a bad thing?  Well, just visit the Attorney General's website and read the potential hazardous effects of petroleum exposure (  Another government website states, "There are reported cases of lipoid pneumonia and deaths from aspiration of lubricants, including baby oil, a spray lubricant, chain saw oil, and trumpet valve oil". (  Breathing in petroleum vapors can cause damage to your nervous system and getting petroleum on your skin can cause irritations and can be absorbed into the bloodstream.  Repeated exposure or exposure in vast quantities may cause certain types of cancer.  Other problems include reproductive and developmental toxicity/miscarriage, asthma, decreased progesterone production, damage to the immune system,  and other health troubles.  Children are even more at risk to develop problems than adults and even breathing in small amounts of petroleum can cause health problems.  You may think that perhaps a little exposure to  petroleum won't adversely affect you, but look at all of the products it is used in: motor oil, mineral oil, baby oil, furniture polish, degreasers, lighter fluid, spot removers, disinfectants, plastics, mattresses, paint, paraffin oil/wax, most mascaras (which are labeled with a highly moderate hazard), liquid foundations, body lotions/moisturizers, lipstick/lipgloss/chapstick, shoe care products, Vaseline, shampoos, conditioners, aerosols, and synthetic fragrances (traces of which have been found in breast milk, blood, and human fat;  Wow!  I'm sure I didn't list everything and that list is a little overwhelming.  I would say that is a fair amount of exposure to petroleum!
Due to the recognition of petroleum's toxic qualities, one of the government's regulation ideas is to put a child-proof lid on some of the products containing petroleum.  Wow, I'm sure that does a lot of good since my kids will still be dropping things on the floor or coffee table, putting them into their mouth, and getting the product on them anyway.  And it's really great since they will be inhaling it either way.  Some products are required to state the dangers on the back of the bottle or can but who really reads those warnings and adheres to them?  I know that I have never thought twice about spraying air freshener or using furniture polish in my home.  Most household products do not list the ingredients on the packaging, only a simple warning to keep out of the reach of children.  Gee, I feel just fine slathering on the baby oil now.

While I do not think the government should place regulations on these products (because then where would regulation practices stop?!),  I do think that the public should be vastly aware of the potential health problems in using these every-day products (the European Union has banned the use of petroleum in their products).  Sure, the government may argue that this information is available but who really has access to this?  And who even thinks to research the household products they are using?

Thankfully, there are "alternative" cleaning products some of which are cheaper, readily available, and are probably in your cabinets right now.  I encourage you to find your own natural cleaning solutions because there are many recipes for several uses as well as new natural products on the shelves of many mainstream stores .  Many websites and books have their own concoctions for every solution that you need to replace (Easy Green Living includes many recipes which work wonderfully!).  Vinegar and baking soda can clean just about anything and everything with no worrying about how it will affect you or your family.  If you do not want to make your own, there are some wonderful natural products that are not toxic or carcinogenic.  Find all-natural or organic toiletry products and be aware of what you are putting on your skin.  Many products seem to work while really your body is just putting up a barrier against the product while absorbing some of the harmful substances.  Also, petroleum is not the only harmful substance we should avoid.  Shockingly, there are many toxic chemicals in the products we use every day that are not regulated.  For this reason, it is important to read labels, warnings, and research describing the products we bring into our homes.

I know it is simply not possible to get rid of every product containing harmful substances but you cannot have an "all or nothing" approach in life.  The point is to start now, slowly start replacing your regular products with natural alternatives, and buy with wisdom.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to live a "green" life but there are more and more companies offering all-natural alternatives.  If we begin buying these products, the need will rise and it will encourage other companies to do the same.  It begins with you and me so that we may be an example to our children and those around us.  I am striving to enjoy God's creation by living a life that enhances His beauty instead of one prevents it from flourishing.  I hope that you will consider doing the same, in your own natural way and in your own time frame. 

Websites to visit:
and check out Easy Green Living by Renee Loux.  It has lots of wonderful recipes and resources for "green" beginners!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wheat Crackers Recipe

It is the end of the week and the end of our groceries so I've been trying new recipes in an effort to extend the time between grocery trips.  This has provided me with an opprotunity to be more frugal and creative in my meal planning and has even provided me with a few new favorite recipes.  Today I tried making wheat crackers from a recipe I've had for a while now.  We're out of bread and yeast so this recipe was perfect for eating with cheese, tuna, or peanut butter and really would be great with any dip.  These are so simple to make and so addictive.  I love having a cracker recipe that doesn't have any sugar or preservatives and is healthy for the family.  My kids LOVE them so I'm sure I will be making these quite often.

Wheat Crackers

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups organic white flour
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
More sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, white flour, and 3/4 tsp salt.  Pour in the vegetable oil and water; mix until just blended (blend will be dry).
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough as thin as possible.  Place dough on an ungreased baking sheet, and mark squares out with a knife, but do not cut through.  Prick each cracker with a fork a few times and sprinkle with salt.
4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven or until crisp and light brown. (My crackers were a bit thick so I had to bake them much longer.)  When cool, remove from baking sheet, and separate into individual crackers.

I baked one batch in the oven and one batch in my convection oven and both worked well.  The convection oven crackers were ready in much less time of course.  Next time I am going to try adding ground flax seed to the mix...about 1/2 cup.  You could also add dried herbs, garlic, or other seasonings to create a flavored cracker.  Cinnamon and sugar would be a great topping instead of the sea salt for a yummy sweet snack!  The options are endless!

*recipe found at and submitted by Ray Anne

Friday, October 9, 2009

Making Your Own Yogurt

I decided to try my hand at making my own yogurt in order to cut down on the higher costs of buying organic yogurt as well as knowing what exactly is in my yogurt.  I bought a yogurt culture starter that was sent to me in powder form and I added it to some organic milk.  After 2 days, the yogurt was "set" and I was able to taste my very first homemade yogurt.  Honestly, the taste wasn't bad at all.  Obviously I had to add some vanilla extract and sweetener (organic agave nectar is perfect!) and Katelyn even enjoyed it.  It was very liquidy because I chose to use 2% milk instead of the recommended whole milk.  I have read that you may add powdered milk to the mix and it should thicken it up.  I may try that next time or I will use whole milk because the consistancy was way too liquidy to enjoy it as actual yogurt but it would do well in a smoothie.  I was trying to save on calories but I think the whole milk will be worth it.  It is so easy to make and much cheaper than store-bought organic yogurt.  I bought my yogurt culture from a website for $11.99 and you only need to buy it once as long as you continue making a new batch of yogurt every week.  From now on, I am only spending money on the milk and I have the option of adding whatever I want to the yogurt.  What a frugle way to have organic yogurt for the whole family!

The website for the powdered yogurt culture is and I bought the Matsoni Yogurt Starter.  {I have read some yogurt recipes that use store-bought yogurt as a starter but I decided to start fresh and use this culture instead}  Let me know if you decide to try it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Through Sweat and Toil

This weekend our family attended our very first Farmer's Market. I found a market that is only 2 miles down the road and they have several vendors providing an array of state-grown goods. I didn't have a plan as we walked into the market, but I did know that I wanted to buy some organic beef and vegetables. The kids were excited as we walked in and looked at the pumpkins lining the entrance. Katelyn enjoyed smelling a vendor's soy candles saying that the pink candle smelled like "pink". I think that made the vendor's day since I could hear him laughing as we walked away. Noah found a few rocks to put in our bag although I'm not quite sure if they were "organic" (hehe). Brenden and I were a bit confused as we tried to decide what to buy during our first trip. After purchasing a can of salsa, we made our way over to the organic beef vendor where we sampled some beef bratwurst that tasted amazing. The kids and I looked at pictures of the farmer, John, and his huge red tractor milling the organic wheat, pictures of the cows grazing in the wide open pastures, and the farmer's grandchildren helping grandpa on the farm and playing with the farm kittens. We even met the farmer in person and he told the kids about his grandchildren. It was incredible to meet the family who works the cattle ranch and know that we were all helping each other in some way. We bought a four pound brisket and four quarter-pound hamburger patties and I was already anticipating cooking a tasty, nutritious meal for my family. We then moved on to a lady's booth and picked out a few tomatoes and apples which Katelyn insisted on carrying the rest of the trip. Finally, we grabbed some onions and yellow squash on the way to the car and our first trip was complete. When we got home, we all tasted one of the tomatoes, two apples, organic beef jerky, and some salsa. Knowing that we are helping small family farms while helping our own family be healthier is something that I feel is another step in learning how to be a godly homemaker. Tonight I made organic brisket with organic carrots, farmer's market onions, organic garlic, and organic tomato sauce poured over the top served with freshly baked bread. It seriously was the best meal I have made yet. The flavor was amazing and it was all do to the fresh ingredients. I think cooking could be so simple if we only bought fresh ingredients that are organic and in season. We don't need seasoning packets or flavor additives to make our meals at home better. We are only covering up man's quest to gain control over our food sources and veer farther away from the wholesome goodness of God's creation. I am beginning to learn how important it is to eat organically through studying several books, documentaries, and websites. Even reading through Genesis with the kids has opened my eyes to the way God intended man to work the earth. God did not intend for man to create food in comfortable air-conditioned laboratories but said that man must sweat and toil for his food. As Christians, we should honor those farmers who still adhere to this important work ethic by supporting them and getting to know them through Farmer's Markets.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Faithful Stewards

Lately, I have been reading about living a more "natural" life and therefore undergoing a slow transformation in my diet and in my home.  Why am I taking on this long, difficult (yet very important) task?  Because I believe that God calls His people to live in a way that encourages health in our bodies, homes and environment.  God created the fruits, vegetables and animals and called them "good".  He told us to eat of them and to use them to our benefit so that we may be better servants of Christ.  Unfortunately, technology, large corporations and greed has caused America to veer away from the good things that God has made and has created an altered environment.  Not all technology is corrupt (of course!) but in this case it has caused much destruction to our agricultural techniques and way of living.  In order to change this discouraging path, we have to start with what we buy and who we are supporting.
We are to be faithful stewards of the bodies He has given us, the food He provides for us, and the homes that He blesses us with.  I think this means that we are to take the best possible care of these blessings.  Just as we wouldn't want a gift we've given to a family member to be uncared for, God does not want us to be careless with our bodies, food and homes.  In these areas, I believe the best care is the natural way that God has provided us.  Some of us have veered off this way of living so much that we no longer think about what we are putting into our bodies and what we are cleaning with in our homes.  Some of us tend to go with the flow and the mass production of goods and think that it is the right way.  As Christians, I believe that it is our duty to gain wisdom in these areas and always be aware of what we welcome into our bodies,  homes and environment.    This is God's world, we are God's people, and we should be living as faithful stewards, showing others that we truly believe that He created the world and everything in it. 
I am not saying that we are to be hippies, tree huggers, and environmental activists but I am saying that we should care about the way God's creation is becoming tainted through greed, pride, and the hunger for more power.  Genetically modified foods are becoming the norm and they are causing all sorts of problems.  From problems on family farms, government restriction on the production of seeds, health problems due to GMO foods, species becoming extinct because of these practices, to large corporations trying to gain more control over American farms as well as overseas, our environment is suffering and we should not be supporting those who cause harm to God's creation.  This is a difficult task although one that is very important. 
Due to my strong belief in this serious subject, I have been making small steps towards eating more organic foods, shopping at our local farmers market, and using non-toxic cleaning products in our homes.  In addition to these steps, I am trying to be content with what I have and finding ways to reuse items that I already own.  This even means buying less clothing for myself (yikes! a hard one for me...) and creating new items out of things I have laying around the house.  While I am trying to be a better steward in all areas, it is not an easy journey and I am thankful for the encouragement I receive from books, websites, and even a documentary or two.  Here is a list of resources I currently use and some that I have enjoyed in the past.  I hope this helps you at least begin your own research and path to a more natural, God-glorifying way of life.  Pray, research, and find ways to a be a faithful steward so we all can be better equipped to serve Christ and teach others that God's creation truly is good.
(While I am listing these websites for wonderful natural living info, I am not backing all beliefs of these individuals.) (one I go to almost daily) - lists all Farmer's Markets in your area
Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time  by Stephanie Langford (ebook available on - I am currently reading this and so far I love it!
Food, Inc.  by Karl Weber (a bit repetitive at times and although I don't agree with some of the information, it has some important info on our country's agricultural business practices; also a movie I plan on renting soon)
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Plowing in Hope: Towards a Biblical Theology of Culture by David Bruce Hegeman  (not about "natural living" per se but about how the Christian is to view culture and what our culture is...very good book!)

Easy Green Living by Renee Loux (a great beginner's guide to living more naturally in the home)
The Future of Food (LOTS of information about genetically modified food and big corporation farming)
King Corn (low budget but still has some interesting info)
Super Size Me (the effects of an unhealthy diet...more fun than factual)

Please share with me your thoughts on the subject and perhaps any resources you come across!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall in the Air and in the Oven

After witnessing many stores launch the start of the pumpkin season, I decided it was time to bring out the dried yellow leaves, not-so-scary jack-o-lantern candle holders, pumpkin scented candles, and other signs that welcome Fall into our home. The cool breeze has been brought upon us from the North and the smell in the air is crisp and clean. Fall has arrived a bit sooner than usual and I am thankful God has given us yet another reason to rejoice in His beautiful creation.

This morning, after decorating the inside and outside of the house with all of my Fall trimmings, it was time to dust off the can of pumpkin from last year (hey, it hasn't expired yet!) and try a new pumpkin muffin recipe. I just have to share this recipe because it is surprisingly delicious. My husband was only going to take one bite of Noah's leftover muffin, but decided it was too good to not eat all of it. Now that means it passed the most important test of all! So, in honor of the beginning of my favorite time of the year, I am sharing the recipe with you all. Happy Fall and Happy Baking!

Pumpkin Wheat Honey Muffins

1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (I used more like 1 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 honey
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, or line with paper liners. Place the raisins in a cup, and add enough hot water to cover. Let stand for a few minutes to plump.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center, and put in eggs, pumpkin, oil, and honey. Mix just until the dry ingredients are absorbed. Drain excess water from raisins, and stir in along with the nuts. Spoon into muffin cups so they are about 2/3 full.
3. Bake for 18-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in the pan before removing from cups.

*recipe found on and submitted by Colleen Moir Thank you, Colleen!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Lost Art

My husband informed me of an article stating that the practice of cursive writing is being replaced by teaching computer skills. Schools are viewing handwriting as something done only when jotting down a note or writing down a grocery list therefore cursive is definitely not needed. Computers, texting, iphone and Kindles are becoming widely used among school-aged children and the need for handwriting is becoming almost obsolete.

"The decline of cursive is happening as students are doing more and more work on computers, including writing. In 2011, the writing test of the National Assessment of Educational Progress will require 8th and 11th graders to compose on computers, with 4th graders following in 2019." (quoted from an article by the Contra Costa Times "Cursive writing may be a fading skill, but so what?" 9/19/2009)

Yes, taking notes during class is sometimes essential but why spend time teaching the unique curves and loops that represent cursive handwriting? Are there any benefits? According to a Samuel L. Blumenfeld's phonics website (author of many books on the literacy of America, homeschooling, and phonics): "There are few things that help enhance a child's academic self-esteem more than the development of good handwriting. It helps reading, it helps spelling, and because writing is made easy, accurate, and esthetically pleasant, it helps thinking." ( Back in the 1940's, it was thought that cursive was going out of style due to the typewriter and now our schools are phasing it out completely. Texting and Instant Messaging online has led to several acronyms that replace spelling out the entire word. I believe that with the loss of cursive and the increase of these acronyms, children are at a disadvantage in their spelling skills. Every computer has spell check and it looks like most don't even use that convenient option. Yes, cursive is essential to the educational well-being of our children. Cursive handwriting encourages the correct way to hold a pen and produces less pressure on the fingers. Teaching cursive first, then print later, is what was is highly suggested by Samuel L. Blumenfeld. Writing in cursive assists young readers through less confusion of letter recognition and helps word recognition through "spatial discipline". Blumenfeld also claims that it is easier to learn cursive because of the ease of the curves and curls.

Once again, I am thankful that I have chosen to homeschool my children so I can choose how and what they will learn (I'm not saying that every school is bad...there are some great schools out there!). Blumenfeld's approach to learning cursive first, print later, has persuaded me to look further into this method and most likely teach my children this way. The benefits of cursive are worth the extra effort, although it may not be "extra" at all. Teaching my children cursive may enable them to be better students, readers, and perhaps even more intelligent. I encourage you to check out Samuel L. Blumenfeld's phonics website,, and possibly read some of his books. We must be diligent in our approach to learning the correct way to teach our children. If we teach our children as the world teaches, we will only raise children who will follow the majority and never ask "why?". But if we teach our children to be aware of what they are learning and why, it may help us raise Godly and intelligent children who will be leaders in their generation.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Many homemakers may feel unfulfilled while at home because they do not allow themselves the time or freedom to be creative.  Keeping a clean house, doing the laundry, teaching the kids, doing the dishes, taking care of the dog, exercising, and other tasks seem to take precedence over our creative tendencies (although some of these tasks can include some added creativeness).  We put the desires that are deep within us on the back burner and our home life begins to seem dull due to lack of creativeness.  In The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes that every Christian should be creative because we are made in the image of Christ, the true Creator.  "Man was created that he might create.  It is not a waste of man's time to be creative.  It is not a waste to pursue artistic or scientific pursuits in creativity, because this is what man was made to be able to do.  He was made in the image of the Creator, and given the capacity to create - on a finite level of course, needing to use the materials already created - but he is still the creature of a Creator."  (pg.24)  As Christians, we should be more inclined to use our creative capabilities than non-Christians because we represent the Creator.  Being creative is a God-given ability and forgoing this desire or need is going to cause a numbness to the beauty of the created.  As homemakers, we must find a balance in keeping our house beautiful through cleaning as well as by being artistic in the home. 
 Because of our increase in technology and our hectic schedules, our creative abilities have gathered dust and are out of shape.  We spend too much time on the computer (this I am guilty of!), watching tv, playing games (um, this too), keeping our days full by going to and fro, and constantly squelching the desires God has instilled within us.  "Does this mean that we should all drop everything to concentrate on trying to develop into great artists?  No, of course not.  But it does mean that we should consciously do something about it.  There should be a practical result of the realization that we have been created in the image of the Creator of beauty...whether you are a man or a woman: the fact that you are a Christian should show in some practical area of a growing creativity and sensitivity to beauty, rather than in a gradual drying up of creativity, and a blindness to ugliness." (pg. 33)  Although everyone has creative abilities, the type of ability differs.  Just because Sally can paint beautiful portraits doesn't mean that Sue must paint as well.  If Harry can knit a manly scarf, it doesn't require Luke to knit a manly blanket.  Each person has a creative talent and some may not yet know that talent.  The point is to try something that requires the use of your hands, your mind, and your energy.  As you begin to use your creativeness, this will exercise your abilities and provide you with new ideas.  You may even inspire others to be creative as well.  "Man has a capacity both for responding and producing, for communicating as well as being inspired.  It is important to respond to the art of others, as well as to produce art oneself.  It is important to inspire others to be creative as well as to communicate by one's own creative acts." (pg. 25) 
Now that the idea of being creative has been strongly encouraged, Schaeffer goes on to describe various ways that a homemaker (or anyone) may put to use this God-given creativeness.  She discusses interior decorating, gardening, food, clothing, writing, etc. and provides some practical advice in these areas.  I was convicted about my lack of gardening (see previous blog "The Green Thumb Mandate") and about my uninspired desire to make my home more beautiful because of our old, falling-apart house.  "It seems to me that, whether it is recognized or not, there is a terrific frustration which increases in intensity and harmfulness as time goes on, when people are always daydreaming of the kind of place in which they would like to live, yet never making the place where they do live into anything artistically satisfying to them...Trying out all the ideas that come to you, within the limits of your present place, money, talents, materials and so forth, will not use up everything you want to save for the future, but will rather generate and develop more ideas." (pg. 66)  I am thankful for this book as it has given me the push I needed to garden and to be thankful for the home that I have.  It doesn't matter where we are or where we live, we can make any place more beautiful.  This book is relevant to all generations and to men and women alike.  I would consider creativeness a Christian duty and one that could be dangerous if gone unused.  Write, sing, paint, sew, dance, build, craft, garden, design, bake, photograph, act, draw, invent, knit, sculpt, CREATE!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Green Thumb Mandate

I have put off gardening long enough. Excuses have been somewhat reasonable: pregnancy with twins, newborns, toddlers, and not much money to buy plants and mulch. There is so much work that needs to be done to our aging house and I have also used this as an excuse to neglect our plant beds. When we bought our house, there was a small garden in the backyard with large red tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and yellow squash. Unfortunately, I was 5 1/2 months pregnant when we moved into this house and I did not have the energy or capacity to lean over and tend to the garden. In the past year, tending to the beds in our front yard has been on my mind yet I have been putting it off and still making excuses. In our previous house, I was often in the yard pulling weeds and planting new flowers yet I have let the importance of gardening diminish in my homemaking. Lately, I have been reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer and as I came across the section titled "Gardens and Gardening" I became convicted.

"Neighbours, friends and strangers walking by ought to find the Christians' gardens, farms, estates, schools, hospitals, huts, missions and factories, surrounded by beauty of grass, moss, rocks, ferns, bushes, trees, flowers and vegetables, planted and cared for with an expression of originality and artistic planning on some scale. A Christian individual or organization should not move into a property and turn it into shambles. The opposite should be true. It should grow and blossom into a place of beauty, demonstrating something of the wonder of the One who made plant life to produce seeds in the first place. Christians should have more beautiful gardens, should be more careful to build without cutting down the lovely trees, should be more sensitive about keeping the brook unspoiled as it bubbles through their lands." (pg. 88)

This house was surrounded by well-kept flowers and vegetables and we let it go to "shambles". Our next door neighbor, Jay, mows 5 or more neighbors lawns and has the best looking yard and plant beds on the street. He even mows our lawn once in awhile and here we are letting our yard go to waste. We could be showing him what it means to be faithful stewards of God's creation by keeping our yard well-kept.  What a Christian example we are!

I finally went to the store two days ago and bought plants, flowers, and mulch. Today I took the kids outside with me as I pulled weeds, trimmed our one bush, and prepared the beds for the plants. As we were outside, Jay came out and gave me a drink, gave the kids Capri Sun, gave Noah a candy cane (haha!), and then brought out wipes for the kids' sticky hands. I know he is happy that we are finally gardening. He has given Brenden a rake for the leaves and weeds, transferred his flowers to one of our beds, offered to till our main bed, and has provided tips to maintain a weed-free garden. Tending to our yard has brought us somewhat closer to our neighbor and will hopefully show that as Christians we do care about Christ's creation. Edith Schaeffer believes that wherever you live, whoever you are, there is an opportunity to beautify your home. However small or however large, it is important to have some sort of plant life growing so we and others are reminded of God's beautiful creation. Gardening teaches us, disciplines us, rewards us, and is even able to be used as an evangelistic tool. I cannot wait until I can stand in front of our yard and be proud of my hard work. And I will be even prouder that it is God's beautiful creation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book Review: Heirloom Baking

This morning as I sip my hot coffee, I am also enjoying a sweet butterscotch bar with a taste reminiscent of sugared pecans roasted in the oven during the holidays.  This past weekend while at Half Price Book's Labor Day sale, I found a lovely baking cookbook that is quite unique from others I have seen.  Not only does it have the most comical looking sisters on the front cover but it also boasts some of the most delicious recipes from several past generations.  The full title of the book is Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters: More than 100 years of recipes discovered from family cookbooks, original journals, scraps of paper, and grandmother's kitchen.  Whew!  There are recipes from the late 1800's like Grandmother's Biscuits (sugar cookies) and Grete Leonard's Canadian Butter Tarts, a recipe from the 1990's named Chocolate Graham Toffee Fingers, and some very unique recipes like Dorothy Brass's Pineapple Pie and Mama's Apricot Strudel with Cream Cheese Crust (YUM!).  The pictures that accompany some of the recipes are mouth-watering and make me want to bake every single recipe from the book (hello, exercise!).  There is also a section in the back for recipes you may want to write down and a cute little pocket for recipe cards you may have been given from your own grandmother.  
Yesterday,  I chose the Butterscotch Bars with Brown Sugar Meringue Topping from the 1930's for my first recipe to try.  As I was mixing the egg whites with the brown sugar, I began thinking about how amazing it is to be baking from a recipe that was used in the past generations' kitchens.  It is something that links women together and creates a special bond by knowing that those women who have gone before us were also figuring out the whole homemaking thing.  They were the homemakers who knew what it was like to try a new recipe only to burn the delicate crust or scorch the blueberry strudel.  They were the homemakers who understood how special it was to bake something lovely for a tired husband when he came home.  They were the homemakers who found joy in baking with their children, teaching them their cherished recipes that had been passed down from grandmother to mother to child.  And now, we are those homemakers. 
 It is vital that we understand the importance of homemaking.  The family as a whole has gotten so busy and so scattered that we forget what baking does for a family.  It causes a family to slow down and savor the goodness of something you prepared just for their enjoyment.  As Edith Schaffer states, "And it is time well spent in really having a family life, in making home more fun than any other place, which makes other 'attractions' seem boring by contrast." (She is talking about creative recreation but I think it also goes for other types of homemaking.)  There is a sense of excitement as the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven fills the house on a rainy day.  There is a sense of welcome when one comes home from work, opens the door, and is greeted with the smell of fresh baked bread awaiting their arrival.  It makes coming home something one can look forward to.  Baking is important and a tradition that homemakers must not forsake.  Slow down, enjoy the process of leveling, pouring, mixing, tasting the batter with your finger, and give your family and yourself something sweet to savor.