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Thursday, January 27, 2011

thoughts on feeding toddlers and preschoolers - kids and eating part #2

a little lunch time love
So the other I found myself bleary-eyed, opening the cupboards for breakfast for the children, cup of coffee in hand.



Here are some animal crackers.


And fruit snacks.


Umm, so refined carbs and corn syrup for breakfast.


Mama definitely needs some retooling of her nutritional offerings.

It is so so easy to slide into what is easy with children.

Most days I do better.

I aim for something like this:

Protein and carb for breakfast = toast and squeezie yogurt or eggs and a handful of cheerios

Protein and fruit for lunch = PB sandwich and a cut up apple

Protein and veggie for dinner = Cut up bits of our steak and steamed broccoli

I am really bad about mixing it up though. They are picky but about strange things. Little miss won’t touch dairy, except squeezie yogurt. Little man won’t eat sauce with his noodles. He will however consume steamed octopus, shrimp and pieces of cod and the like. He once ate lamb brain. She loves pistachios and will eat hummous by the spoonful. They both adore broccoli.

Still, I need to work on it. I am re-inspired to try harder after reading this article.

Babies, I have Definite Thoughts about feeding babies. Feeding toddlers and preschoolers is a whole new ballgame though. It changes as their tastes change. Plus, they suddenly have an opinion, and will LET YOU KNOW ABOUT IT.


The best advice I have heard about feeding and nutrition at this age so far is – THEY KNOW WHAT THEY NEED. Your child might not drink milk until age three, might not like sweets or meat, might refuse food one meal and scarf down food the next. The key, I have found, is to always offer a round sampling of things and throughout the day. If my kid skips a meal I put out dried fruit and pistachios in between meals for them to graze on. In fact, we do a lot of grazing. (me too!) What I need to start doing is offering a wider variety of options and put more thought into daily and weekly nutritional scope.

tomatoes are totally yummy when eaten warm from the sun,
straight out of the garden!
Another good bit of advice – think about your child’s caloric and nutritional intake in terms of the week, not the day, and certainly not each meal. Your child may OD on yogurt one day but refuse broccoli and the next day scarf down “rabbit food” for dinner. At the end of the week think back, maybe you need to offer lots of protein over the weekend in varying forms to make up for a deficit? Like I said, they know what they need.

(More from Dr. Sears here about improving your famlies nutrition and more here too on the top 12 family foods to be eating)

There is so much stress about feeding children – maybe because we are so obsessed with calories and nutrition as adults? Everything is diet this and low-fat that.

My philosophy for myself is to eat reasonably, eat “whole” unpackaged foods, and stop stressing out! (This comes from a past of eating issues however which is maybe why kids obsessing over food issues by age 10 or parents obsessing with “making” their child eat XYZ food really freaks me out. Again, this is my ideal philosophy. I surely have days where all I eat is chocolate and chips.)

Food for toddlers and preschoolers should be wholesome and fun. Fun does not need to mean a box with cartoon characters on it. It can be celery “logs” with peanut butter “mud” and raisin “ants.” It can be cheese and fruit chunks eaten with toothpicks. Salads can be nibbled on like “rabbits.” Meat pieces skewered on (dulled down!) shish kabob sticks for a fun eating experience. (More tips here )

Ok. So. I am re-inspiring myself. (But I hope you remember my stance on stuff like this. I am not a hard core person. It’s all give and take, but one can have goals to aim for!)

ice cream. yum.
And, hey, I think it’s natural to go through up and down phases of eating habits. We do it as adults. The key is to try and swing back into it - a little more full force after the holidays, or say, after dada starts making a habit of buying soda for little man on a regular basis. (Umm. No?)

Back to that article.

I am thinking start the day with eggs. Cooked in coconut oil.

Start baking soaked grain bread again (recipe to come!)

Slowly start limiting (ie, weaning off of) juice and get back to kombucha as our main drink.

Limit their gluten intake (so as to not lead them down the path my body has taken!)

Continue introducing them to a wider variety of foods (sooooo easy to do brocolli and hot dogs for dinner because THEY WILL EAT IT WITHOUT A BATTLE. Last night, with peer pressure from cousins, he totally ate vegetable soup! Woohoo!!)

Also, stop battling. It's not worth it. They know what they need, keep remembering that Sara! (Although the comment below reminds me of the days where battling was required to get your kid to eat ANYTHING. lthis can be so hard....maybe keep trying but not to do it in a "battle" type mindset. See this article from Dr. Sears for some great tips on feeding picky eaters. )

Continue to improve the quality of our food sources (no garden at grandma’s in the winter! But…my sister is raising a pig for us so we will have good quality pork coming soon! Yay bacon!)

I think those are good first steps.

But of course, the giant box of fruit snacks will remain in the house. All things in moderation, right? And of course, mommy will indulge babies with their “ ‘nacks” occasionally. Just not for breakfast. You know?
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

winter blahs and a waldorf circle time

snuggly babies waiting out winter on the couch...
 I totally have the winter blahs. Not depression or anything like that. Just like, blah. I don’t want to move. Don’t want to cook. Don’t want to be crafty. Don’t want to play outside. Don’t want to go on playdates. I just want to sit on my ass, occasionally getting up to either pee or to get the kids food and/or snacks and wait for winter to be over.

Can I do that?


Fine. I can’t. I know. FINE. (Said with a big sigh like a moody teenager)

So I had this big post planned on like preschool and what we were or weren’t going to do and then I am reading through it and actually thinking about next fall and OH MY GOSH. I have NO IDEA what we are going to do.

Dilemma is thus: Little man turns five the day before the kindergarten cut off. Our city does full day kindergarten. YIKES. I can’t even imagine putting him in full day kindergarten! So, then I was thinking, the nice little private Waldorf school nearby. They mix the pre-K and Ks together until age 6 ½. I love Waldorf. I love this school. But it is freaking expensive. So then I was thinking. I will find a Waldorf oriented play group and HOMESCHOOL for kindergarten. I mean, kindergarten sounds more stressful than anything (for me, not him HA HA) the whole transition, the whole getting up in the morning, scramble out the door. And for what? He knows letters, he sounds out words, he does basic math already, we go on playdates, he manages in groups like Sunday School just fine. So, why? (This is rhetorical - I respect and admire teachers! What a calling! My sister and brother in law are teachers, and really amazing people...It's more kindergarten itself. Eh.) But then…who knows what life will be like in the fall?? So, I think we will apply to the nice little school for 3 mornings a week, and make that decision when we come to it.

In the meanwhile. We have been doing, yes just me and the two kids, a Waldorf like story-time and circle time a few times a week and oh my goodness they love it! It makes me feel good too, that I can do a fun creative activity that they truly enjoy.

Why Waldorf? It just feels right for our family. Basic Waldorf educational theory, as I see is this: That children are not just minds needing to be filled. That they have a spirit and a soul that needs nurtured too. That childhood is special, magical. That imaginative play is important. That learning to read and write and other book work can wait. That more important to that is experiencing a peaceful rhythmic home life where they “work” and play and enjoy childhood.

And not that other schools/philosophies don’t do this for a child (my own sister is a fabulous teacher who works with preschool kids!), but I like the focus on it, with the Waldorf theory. The purposeful delay of book work in favor of counting acorns out in the yard and drawing pictures of them and turning them into little dolls to play with. They have 16 years to engage with books and formal learning, you know? Why push it? Probably also my liking of this is because in my own childhood I was obsessed with grades and test scores by the ripe old age of 7. I can remember crying because of getting a 92% on a test. (But mom, I GOT ONE WRONG!! SOB!) My parents chose to homeschool me and my sisters for various reasons and for me, the lack of focus on grades and competitive learning was a life saver. So, maybe this is why I want to delay this experience for my (very similarly competitive) son. More on Waldorf here.

the actors- mother nature, snuggling her seed babies, jack frost
(boy doll), waves (blue knitted fabric) clouds (wool)
mr. sun (candle), and the north wind (wooden statue)
In any case. Circle time. Or, “candle time”, as I have started calling it. First we gather around “the actors” as little man calls them, then we light a candle (everything is nicer with a candle lit!), then mama uses the actors to act out a story. One story per month. We started with an adorable story called “The Seed Babies” all about Mother Nature searching for a “blanket” to tuck in her seed babies for the winter.

It’s seriously so cute.

Then we do a few action/finger plays about the season.

Then we blow out the candle and transition to lunch time at the table.

Nice, huh?

Before hearing about this traditional Waldorf preschool activity I never would have thought to do this at home myself. But, after reading more (especially on this website, but also this one, and this one) I thought why not do that now? I had no idea how much the kids would love it! Now, there are a lot of Waldorf homeschoolers out there that are totally hard core about it. No TV. EVER. All wood or wool toys. All wool or cotton clothes. Again, nice ideal to attain to but I am not gonna kill myself trying to “be” that ideal. (Ha. The children are watching Blues Clues as I type. Although I feel guilty about that...sigh. It never ends, huh? That balance between managing, trying harder, and giving in to what is easy...but that is a topic for another post...)

Anyway. Here is the story and fingerplays we did. Go light a candle and give it a try!

"DEAR me," said Mother Nature, as she tucked the last of her seed-babies in bed, and spread over them a blanket of leaves, "King Winter will soon be here, and I am afraid this covering is not enough to keep my babies from his icy grasp. I must get them another blanket. What shall it be? Let me see. It should be something soft and light. And for babies, of course, it should be white." So she went to Mr. North Wind, and said: "Oh, Mr. North Wind, please bring to me
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies."

But Mr. North Wind said: "I cannot unless Jack Frost will give me some of his silvery powder." So Mother Nature called to Jack Frost: "Oh, Jack Frost, please give Mr. North Wind some of your silvery powder, that he may make for me
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies."

But Jack Frost said: "You must ask the clouds to give me some vapor, then." So Mother Nature called to the clouds, and said: "Oh, kind Clouds, please give Jack Frost some of your vapor, that he may change it into silvery powder, and give it to Mr. North Wind, that he may make for me
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies."

But the Clouds said: "We must wait until Old Ocean sends us more vapor." So Mother Nature said to the Ocean: "Please, Old Ocean, send more vapor to the little Clouds, that they may give some to Jack Frost, that he may change it into silvery powder and give it to Mr. North Wind, that he may make for me
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies."

But the Ocean said: "The Sun must send us some heat fairies, first." So Mother Nature said to the Sun: "Dear old Father Sun, please send some of your heat fairies to Old Ocean, that he may send vapor to the Clouds, that they may give some to Jack Frost, that he may change it into silvery powder and give it to Mr. North Wind, that he may make for me
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies."

And the Sun said: "Gladly!" and sent forth a host of little heat fairies that called the vapor from the Ocean to the Clouds, and the Clouds gave some to Jack Frost, and Jack Frost changed it into silvery powder, and gave it to Mr. North Wind, and Mr. North Wind made for Mother Nature
A blanket pure and white,
Soft as down, and sparkling bright,
To wrap my little seed-babies.

(Notice too how the story subtly introduces the idea of weather and cloud and snow formation, but in a lighthearted, non-scientific way. This story came from this amazing database of stories. )

Then we read this poem and talk about seeds becoming flowers…someday…when spring comes again…(sniff sniff)

Little brown seed, oh! little brown brother,
Are you awake in the dark?
Here we lie cozily, close to each other:
Hark to the song of the lark—
"Waken!" the lark says, "waken and dress you,
Put on your green coats and gay,
Blue sky will shine on you, sunshine caress you—
Waken! 'tis morning—'tis May!"
Little brown brother, oh! little brown brother,
What kind of flower will you be?
I'll be a poppy—all white, like my mother;
Do be a poppy like me.
What! you're a sunflower? How I shall miss you
When you're grown golden and high!
But I shall send all the bees up to kiss you;
Little brown brother, good-by!
Then this finger play…
A chubby little snowman (puff out cheeks)
Had a carrot nose (point to nose)
Along came a bunny (hopping two fingers like ears)
And what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny was looking for some lunch
He saw that snowman’s carrot nose
And went nibble, nibble, crunch! (grab at your nose)
That chubby little bunny hopped into the woods. (hop away your fingers)
He wiggled his ears as a good bunny should. (wiggle your fingers)
He hopped by a squirrel, he hopped by a tree. (hop in a zig zag)
He hopped by a bird and he hopped by me.
He stared at the squirrel. He stared at the tree. (make your finger bunny look in different directions)
He stared at the bird and he made faces at me.(make a funny face!)
Then this action play:

Snowflakes, snowflakes, dance around (dance!)
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground (touch the floor)
Snowflakes, snowflakes, on my nose (touch your nose)
Snowflakes, snowflakes, on my toes (touch your toes)
Snowflakes, snowflakes, twirl around (spin around)
Snowflakes, snowflakes, touch the ground (whispering, fall to the ground)

(these and more winter fingerplays and verses here )

Then we usually do ring around the rosy, because little miss really likes it. Insert smiley face guy.

Fun huh? Let me know if you have any favorite stories or rhythms to add to this!!
Saturday, January 22, 2011

(yesterday's) zen moment

yes, he has a box on his head. its a knight helmet, ok?

Whenever the children disappear (don't worry dada, it doesn't happen too often) I usually find them like this, sitting down in the family room, side by side, staring up at the television with longing in their eyes. It's like finding the Israelites in front of the golden calf.


Unlike Moses I am a softie (or just super tired!?) and I frequently give in.

Also, could I turn your attention to the whispering going on in the above picture?

This is little man's latest in childhood development, the art of manipulation.

"Hey missy baby girl (yes, this is what he really calls her) do you want to watch a MOVIE?" he whispers to her in a baby voice.

"Oh-tay!" she whispers back.

"So, you need to ask mama to turn on a movie!" he says in her ear.


And there you have it.

He may not have been in the ice rink playing hockey since age 2 like half the Midwesterner kids around here BUT my boy has mad skills when it comes to manipulation.

And yes, we are so proud.
Thursday, January 20, 2011


So, hey! To the reader who nominated me as one of the best mommy blogger of 2010 on babble?




That was super nice of you and totally made me smile.

I had kind of a downer day, and well, that was nice.

Wanna come put my kids to bed too? (HA HA.)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

thoughts on feeding babies - kids and eating part #1

little miss eating yogurt and fried egg yolk
 When little man was a baby I succumbed to the worst myth in parenting. Feed your baby rice cereal! I will help him sleep at night! He was one of these babies that took an hour of walking the hallway to get him to fall asleep. And then he would wake up. All. Night. Long. I was desperate to sleep. (little did I know that I wouldn’t be sleeping through the night still four years later. HA. I thought I was tired then!)

I tried switching his diapers (fleece instead of prefolds?). I tried cluster feeding (nursing a ton) all evening. So when I heard about the rice cereal thing. Uh. Sure, why not.

I strapped little man into his chair and started spooning. Fun right?

But it didn’t work.

This (rather cruel) myth is perpetuated by well-meaning doctors and grandmothers all around the country.

Sure it is fun to feed your little guy spoonful’s of rice, like a little bird. We find this as mommies to be an eagerly met rite of passage. Oh how sweet!

But, rice cereal? To sleep better at night?

Umm. It DOESEN’T WORK. What it DID do was give him constipation for months on end and totally, totally stressed me out.

Since those first spoonfuls I have come around to a whole new approach to feeding babies. For example, that rice cereal only fills up baby with empty calories. It offers no nutrients, no essential fats for brain development. So, umm, rather pointless. (And did I mention the constipation??)

I have to say, there are few things that I am "set in stone" about with parenting. I won’t say I am totally militant about this but…eh, kinda. I really hate to be “you-should-do-this-and-nothing-else” kind of person. I am not that kind of person. In fact, that is the whole point of this blog, right? A little bit of this, a little bit of that. There ARE a few things however that I feel, well, firmly about. I guess this is one? But like, with anything it is an ideal. Ideals aren’t always reached. My ideal is to have the kids in bed every night by 7pm. A goal to shoot for, which may or may not happen (Please God? HA.) (ETA: Oooh, it did happen tonight, lucky me!).

So, with that caveat in mind, let us continue (insert smiley face guy)

Basically, I love something between a Dr. Sears and  Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions combo.
In short, this is what we do for babies. (AGAIN, WHAT WORKS FOR US) Extend out breastfeeding. Start solids later (past six months, and more like 9 months. No one tells you but waiting is worth it. Why? Frankly, it’s a lot of work to spoon feed a baby several times a day! Why do it if its not needed yet? Plus, it gives their little bodies time to mature and get ready to use food. Meanwhile, especially while they are getting the good stuff –breastmilk- they don’t really need it.). Start by offering fats and cultured dairy. Avoid any grains, as long as possible. Avoid cow’s milk until age 2 or beyond. (Goat’s milk is a good alternative, it is much easier to digest!) Be simple. Let them feed themselves.

I started changing things with little man within a few months as I read more. Offering yogurt mixed with applesauce. Mashing up broccoli with a fork. I also limited sugar and juice until he was around two. (My family ridiculed me a bit for this. My father even said once to him, I would give you this cookie but your mama won't let you eat it! Cruel hearted mommy!! I have since eased up a tiny bit, HA.)

When little miss came along I vowed to do it differently from the get go. I offered avocado (good fats!). Mashed ripe banana (good enzymes!) Yogurt (good probiotics!) and egg yolk fried in coconut oil (so many good things about this!) and yes, liver pate (good protein!!) and not until she was 8 months old or so. Then of course a mixture of veggies (just slightly mashed what we were eating) and fruits. I think the first thing I gave her was mashed fried egg yolk mixed in yogurt. She never ate a single spoonful of jarred baby food!

Best advice about when to start feeding babies? Go with your instinct. If your baby isn’t interested in a food, or in eating at all, don’t push it. To determine readiness look for their interest in food, their ability to swallow, their ability to sit upright and ability to pick up bits of food. Then try.

Start with good fats and protein. Remember building blocks for a strong little one!

When they do start to eat, remember it can take like 20 times of trying a new food to easily accept it. Offer them tastes of things. Waiting until your child is older makes this easier. They can mash it into their mouths themselves with their fat little fists!

Once you purge your mind of rice cereal at 4 months kind of thoughts, it really is quite simple and intuitive.

So. If your baby is fixating with your eating and chomping his little gums to get a hold of some food, go for it! Chop up some avocado, fry up an egg yolk in coconut oil, mix up some pate (sooo easy to make!), sit back, and let him enjoy it! Your kitchen floor is never gonna be the same.

Next up: thoughts on feeding toddlers and preschoolers!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

where i am at...

this song is getting to me this evening...lots of detailed posts in the works but instead i am listening to this song over and over. these guys (from my neck of the woods!) they totally rock.
Monday, January 17, 2011

on indoor jungles, snowy tigers, and chicken pot pie (Anti-recipe #27)

Yes. It's cold out. There is indeed snow piled all around. Yes, I know. But in the Northern Midwest that doesn't phase us much. We pull on our boots and hats and wool things and, well, we go to the zoo! Of course! Well, and also the lovely botanical gardens attached...lush and green with moist earthy air...ahhhh...If the kiddies weren't chomping at the bit to go see the "yi-ion" and "monko George" I could've sat in those divine rooms all day, smelling the warm green growing-ness all around me.

Will summer ever be here??

The kiddies loved the animals though and the temps warmed to a balmy 25 degrees.

A perfect outing.

And then, to come home to chicken pot pie stewing away IN THE CROCK POT! YIPPEE! (recipe below pictures.)

All in all, a wonderful day off. And it is 8pm. And the children are in bed asleep. Ahhhhhhh.

oh, green growing things. how i miss thee.

checking out the koi fish.

i like it here.

off to see the animals...


oooh. YI-ION! YI-ION take a nappy.
Shhhh. NI-NI Yi-ion.

Chicken pot pie in the crockpot...
So I was reading the crock pot lady (see link in my link bar at right) recently and was inspired to try chicken pot pie in the crock pot today. I did refer to her recipe but, as always with real recipes, found it to have a little too much measuring involved. So here is what I did.

I threw into my crock pot roughly 1 cup of chicken pieces (leftover from our roasted chicken the other night). Use whatever you have on hand. (I would've used more if I had it) Add whatever veggies you have. I used about 1 1/2 cups of frozen veggies. (I would've used more but that was the end of the giant bag we get from Costco) Ideally I would've chopped up onions to throw in but we are out. (Grocery shopping on the docket for tomorrow!) I would've added a chopped up potato but we were in a hurry to get out of the door.  Mix up 2 cups of stock, a handful of flour, and whisk to create a light white sauce (or you can use a can of cream of chicken soup - I don't because that sort of thing seriously grosses me out). You can make a real white sauce, starting with flour and butter then adding stock, if you want it thicker. Mine was fairly soupy. Add this into the crockpot. Mix up two cups of biscuit batter (using Pamela's or Bisquick). I am out of Pamela's so I used some GF flour, added appx 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp of baking soda, mixed in 2/3 stick of butter, some milk (enough for a wet batter) and threw in some garlic salt for good measure. Lump this into your crock pot. IT WILL RISE TO THE SURFACE. (I was worried about that one) Set it on low and roughly 6 hours later.... YUM...super easy (rich!) and really good.
Sunday, January 16, 2011

half-time window snakes

So. Dada spent yesterday either obsessing about or watching football.

I am not a football kind of gal. I don't even really have a comparable obsession with which to relate to his obsession. The Grey's Anatomy series finale (when the show was good)...for several hours...while wearing Grey's Anatomy T-shirts...and eating special Grey's Anatomy snacks??

I simply CAN. NOT. GET. INTO. IT.


I have tried.

I have asked questions.

I have pretended.

we got our game faces on...serious business...
So now, on important games at least, I do what all good wives in my position do. Don a T-shirt of the appropriate team, dress the kiddies up in their sports attire and settle down with the family in front of the TV...with a good book in hand.

Oh yes I did.

Sometime around half time the children were bouncing on the furniture, I couldn't focus on the book, the snacks were eaten (made by dada, HA. He makes GOOD wings.) so I took the children and decided to sew up a quick entertaining craft.

Window snakes. To be used to block drafts in their bedroom.

Little miss has her bed right below the window (a little mattress on the floor) and it has occurred to me, maybe she would stay in it longer if there wasnt a draft from the window. I had already tacked up a folded up quilt onto the (very cold) wall, hoping that might help. So then I was thinking rolled up blanket or...hmmm... a snake!


I cut out long pieces of fabric (a red one for little man, per his request) then used sand from their INDOOR SANDBOX (I know, I am crazy.) and filled them up. We then sewed the mouth shut, with little tongues sticking out, and sewed on buttons for eyes. VOILA. SNAKES!

(As a side note, please, do double up your fabric when trying this, if you so care to. The snakes unfortunately leak through the fabric the fine dusty sand...greeeeeaaaaaaaat. I thought about doing this but then got frustrated with my bad scissors and settled on a single layer.)

Anyway. Here are some pics. And thank goodness our team won!!

yes, i used old pajama pants

funneling the sand into the snakes -
the only part of the "craft" the kids

racing snakes

my snake! my snake!

you know when...

you know you have young children when your king size bed looks like this by morning...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

an ode to the farm

So I am at my mom’s farm today. It is lovely. We escape here quite regularly. And why?

It is restful.

Not only are there aunties to play Wii with little man (and a Wii!!) but there are rooms filled with books and crafting supplies and jars full of dried apples and raw honey on the counter.

And of course, Mamaw and Gee-pa themselves.

And in the summer. Oh my. There are sheep to visit and tractors to ride and eggs to fetch and gardens to dig in and rasberries to pick and woods to explore and cousins to chase fireflies is a child's paradise.

All week I have heard "my hug GeePA! my HUG FARM!"

And so we come.

Every mommy needs a place to escape to. A place of community, where one is free to open the cupboards and scrounge for the hidden chocolate peanut clusters on the top shelves, where children roam freely being watched by whoever is in that room at present, where mommy is free to blog without utilizing the television, where tea abounds  (cup after cup after cup) and there is always a hand to squeeze.

And sincerely, I wish a place of peaceful escape for all you mommies out there - where the tea runs freely and there are hands to hug little people and mostly, where mama gets loved on.

watching " 'arry podder "

homeschooling aunties

did i mention the tea?

lots and LOTS of tea

we love spinning stools.

peek a boo mamaw!

a cupboard full of pretties

this is what 25 years of homeschooling curricula looks like...

crafting galore

my mom loves sheep knick knacks....

...this is why...

Gee-pa's tractor

the once sunny porch covered in snow...
...the best place to sit with a cup of tea

Gee-pa and little miss.

Monday, January 10, 2011

on the whole what-is-next dilemma and being content regardless

So far the year 2011 makes me tired.

How is that for an opening line? Do you sense the whiney-ness about to come? Be prepared. You were forewarned.

No it’s not that I am whiney. It’s….hmmm.

I feel eh.

I am the type that really needs a what-is-next goal to strive toward, daydream about, obsess over, etc.

I don’t have that right now. And it’s really weirding me out.

For the first time in 5 years I don’t have a baby in the house and I am not pregnant. This is a real shift in existence. I told my husband it’s like I have been living my life day-to-day. Not looking up. And suddenly I find myself looking up. And it’s freaky. There is a big wide open horizon, with no clear road to go down.

What is next?! Where are we going?! Quick, look back down!!

Instead of dealing with this I am finding obscure things to obsess about.

Most recently I was obsessed with purchasing this ridiculously under-priced really super cool dome house out in the country. With land. And a creek. And an orchard. And A DOME HOUSE. I mean, how cool is that? (Can you tell I am still obsessed with it?) I spent no less than two solid days designing a floor plan on this website and obsessing over how we would upgrade it (a sauna in the basement! A craft studio above the garage!)

When I informed dada he was slightly alarmed at the level of my obsession.

Umm. Honey. That would be like an hour commute for me.

Yea? So? You could work from home part-time! I could homeschool the kids!


Good grief I am ridiculous.


I totally want to be a goat farmer.

Think of the cheese!!!

(Hmmm. Goat cheese….)

My husband’s response? Honey, you have dreads. You can’t be a dreaded goat farmer!

Ummm. Sure I can. Watch me.

Yet here I am. Sitting in a duplex in a major city. I couldn’t even grow tomatoes last summer, let alone goats.

But really, it’s not about the goats. Or the dome house.

Today I found my mind wandering to my former occupation and obsessing over working again in some exotic locale. (Dada can be the stay at home/homeschooling parent, right?)

And I think, good grief Sara, what is going on here??

I keep on going back to this – being faithful in the little things. The day to day. And letting life fall into place. Although, it is a fine balance between letting it fall into place and getting up the gumption to pursue your next big adventure.

I don’t know where the line is. Maybe that is my problem.

Maybe I just don’t know what I am talking about. That could very well be the case.

Maybe I just need more coffee. Or less? One of the two certainly.

The whole adventure of life is both exciting and exasperating in its mystery. I WANT TO KNOW. But knowing would make it way less fun.

I guess.

Maybe I just want a hint?

Or, to look at it the other way.

Maybe I need to figure out what it is I want? What direction our little family wants?

Right now, in this moment, hmmm...

I want to be a goat farmer/international adventurer who sells baby shoes on Etsy whilst writing the great American novel and raising 47 of the world’s best babies.

Ready. Set. Go.

(I dont know the rules about embedding you tube videos. But this one fits this post perfectly. Man, I love this song....)
Sunday, January 9, 2011

Anti-recipe #26 Kefir

My whole recipe section has been lacking lately. Why? I don’t know. I have little interest in cooking/baking etc. lately. Perhaps it was an overdosing in cooking/baking over the holidays? (Poor dada, too often he gets the 4pm text – WHAT SHOULD I MAKE FOR DINNER???? Sent in panic)
I really need to start planning out the week’s meals. And I need to start baking too. I have a great bread recipe to share and I want to try substituting with gluten free flour.
Maybe later this week.
For now here is a quickie recipe for you. Kefir.
What is it you ask? Basically it’s a liquid yogurt drink, made in a similar way but with a different culture. You can buy bottles of kefir in about any grocery store in lots of yummy flavors. It is an excellent way to get good probiotics into little tummies. its also a REALLY great first food for babies. I often chug it for breakfast, really filling, and good for you, and etc. etc.
(Do you sense my lack of energy? Sorry. I will try to do better.)
KEFIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(ha ha)
kefir grains ready to go
But it really is good stuff. And, like I said, its good for you. Like yogurt (but even better than yogurt because it’s made with more bacteria strains and is more easily digestible) kefir claims the following health benefits (from one of many kefir fansites out there):

Easily digested, it cleanses the intestines, provides beneficial bacteria and yeast, vitamins and minerals, and complete proteins. Because kefir is such a balanced and nourishing food, it contributes to a healthy immune system and has been used to help patients suffering from AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, herpes, and cancer. Its tranquilizing effect on the nervous system has benefited many who suffer from sleep disorders, depression, and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The regular use of kefir can help relieve intestinal disorders and create a healthier digestive system. In addition, its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity. Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition
Trouble is, it can be expensive to drink daily ($5 for a small bottle?!).

However, if you can get your hands on some kefir grains (the culture used to make it) it is seriously a snap to make. I mean. Seriously. A. Snap.
You can buy grains all over the internet. Here and here.
So, here is how it works.

Store your grains in a small plastic container, covered in some water, in the fridge. When you are ready to make kefir let your grains warm up first to room temperature. Dump some milk into a glass quart size jar (you can use raw milk, if you can get your hands on it, but otherwise regular organic whole milk works too. Whole milk is best because it will result in creamier kefir.) Let your milk warm up too. You can actually warm it on the stove – just to room temp/lukewarm! Or, do like me and let it and your grains (in their separate container) warm up on your stovetop (well, if you have a gas stove, mine is always slightly warm on top from the pilot light.) Don’t microwave your milk or grains to warm them up (ew).

kefir kefiring up on the stovetop

Once the grains have warmed up a bit dump grains into your jar of milk. Cover with a cheesecloth or woven dishtowel, secure with a rubber band and let sit for 24-48 hours. Your kefir should have a slightly thick consistency. It won’t be as thick as store bought (apparently they use gelatin and the like to thicken it) but it shouldn’t be as runny as milk. How long this takes depends on your environment. If you are in the frozen tundra like me it will take 48 hours or more. (Even with it sitting on a stovetop!)

straining out kefir grains

Once your kefir is thick enough its ready to go. Strain out your grains with a plastic strainer, dumping the kefir into a bowl (never touch metal spoons, bowls, strainers, to your kefir grains. I forget why -  its not good for the bacteria? Something like that.) Put your kefir into a clean jar and your grains back into the container, cover with water, and refrigerate. Store your finished kefir in the fridge.
some yummy goats milk kefir ready to drink.
So, you can drink it straight up. Really good kefir is thick and has some effervescence. It has a slightly yeasty smell, but not in a bad way. I like mine best mixed with OJ or grape juice. Or use in a smoothie. There are endless uses in cooking too and to ferment foods. I use it to soak my flour in my favorite bread recipe (forthcoming!!)
Oh, and you can buy goats milk at Trader Joe’s and make goat’s milk kefir for those of you who might be lactose intolerant. Goat’s milk is much more easily digestible. It is also closest to human milk and therefore a really great first food for babies.  (I have been meaning to do a first food for baby post…I will soon)
Ok. There you have it. YUM.
Thursday, January 6, 2011

how to make the best baby shoes ever - for big kids too!

So, now that I have a working sewing machine again (YAY!) I can share with you how to make my favorite baby shoes ever. And really, they are so great.

Basically they are Robeez styled shoes, but made of material instead of leather.

I started out making these because, well, dada was in law school when little man was born, and spending $20 on little shoes seemed rather ridiculous. After some searching online I found this pattern which I tinkered with and came up with the below steps for making shoes. I like them better than Robeez actually (when they turn out right!)

(As a note in how mine compare to the above. The above uses another piece to hold the elastic in and then you sew that piece to the inside lining of the shoe. Yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. Especially when working on a tiny baby shoe. The way I do it below just cuts out that step. Also, if you are making your whole shoe from leather you can use an extra piece to secure the elastic on the inside or outside of the shoe, like Robeez shoes, and then have one single piece with no lining for your shoe....OK. If that doesnt make sense just look through all the steps below...better? if not, ask me and I will try to clarify)
So, onto the shoes. They are great for big kids as well as babies. The pair below is for little man. I also have made them for cousins and my 20 year old brother as house slippers! (and yes, they wore them!)

What to use:

So you need several kinds of fabric for these shoes.

For older kids I prefer the following 1) a sturdy canvas, denim or corduroy for the outside of the shoe 2) a suede or leather for the sole and 3) soft flannel or fleece for the lining.

For babies, where the non-slip sole isn’t an issue, you can use any kind of fabric. A regular woven print works well, with a coordinating lining and then you can use just regular fabric or even corduroy for the sole (the corduroy gives a little traction for crawlers)

You also need a length of ¼ inch width elastic, maybe 6-10 inches per shoe (you will need less once the elastic is tightened and sewn but having more helps as you thread it through. See below if you are confused.

And then of course you can decorate the tops of the shoes, ribbon, applique on some kind of cutesy animal etc. I have never done this, aside from the shoes below. Not because it isn’t cute but because I don’t care enough to take the time to do it. HA!

So. Are you ready? Here goes what will undoubtedly be the longest post ever. Not that these are too complicated but that it takes a lot of steps. And also I ALWAYS end up ripping out several seams till I get it just right. Roughly one feature length cartoon video for each shoe. (HA HA HA)

 Step 1 - Cut out your soles and sole lining. Roughly in the shape of a kidney bean. Use your kids biggest shoe as a pattern. Don't forget to leave seam allowances! I got this suede from a suede shirt procured at a thrift store for roughly $4. I have tons of fabric left and have made lots of shoes already from it so it was quite the find!

Step 2 - Next cut out the top of your shoe. You are cutting a semi-circle shape roughly half the length of your sole. I should've made mine even longer, as you will see. Notice the shape you are aiming for in the second picture. If your shoe-ee has a high arch (or fat little feeties) be sure to give extra room. You are cutting four of these, two of your outside fabric and two of your lining fabric. I used the side of an old pair of cords so the seam was already there. Does that make sense?

Step 3 - Next you are cutting out the back part of the shoe. Notice the rough length above? Yep. Should've made it longer, as you will see. You are cutting four of these. Two of your outside fabric and two of yuor lining fabric. I used corduroy for the lining as well.

All of my pieces ready to go. Notice I cut lining AND an insert layer of fleece (green/grey) to go between the lining (dark grey) and the suede sole. I wanted these to be extra warm on our wood floors. I have never tried this before (that is a lot of layers to sew! But it turned out really well.)

Step 4 - Sew little button holes for your elastic to go through. These holes should be reinforced somehow (even if crudely, I have no patience for buttonhold attachments).

Step 5 - Decorate, if you so choose. I put lightning bolts on, hoping to entice little man to keep them on. (It didnt work)

The finished top piece.

Step 5 - Cut out buttonhole. Position piece over sole. We are getting ready to sew! Don't forget RIGHT SIDE AGAINST RIGHT SIDE. It gets confusing with all these layers but just think like this, you will be turning the whole thing inside out, or right side out as it were. Make sense?

Step 6 - Sew top of shoe onto sole. Its tricky. DO IT SLOWLY. You will inevitably rip it out once or twice until you get it in the right position.

Step 7 - Now turn it the right way to check for holes. If you missed the outer layer go back and sew that spot again. I always have to do this. Also, check to see if it fits your shoe-ee at this stage. I made these too small but was too impatient to cut out new pieces. So I had to go back and sew a 1/8th inch seam instead of the 1/4 inch seam I had just done. UGH.

Step 8 - Sew your back pieces together. Your elastic will slide through that hole, once you turn it right side out.

Step 9 - Turn the piece right side out and slide the elastic through. Then sew a little channel, if that makes sense, to secure the elastic in place (DONT sew through the elastic though) This is easier to me than shoving the elastic through after sewing the "channel" espeically when you are doing tiny baby shoes.

Step 10 - Sew piece onto sole, overlapping your front piece a little. Does that make sense? Hopefully it does...I made these too small and the didnt overlap the front piece enough. GRRR.

Here is another view to see what I did wrong. See that back piece should overlap the front piece. My baby boy has big feet! Sniff sniff.

Step 11 - String the elastic through the button holes you made...ALMOST DONE!

Step 12 - Pull elastic tight, but not too tight! Then sew ends of elastic together. I like to sew it twice so that if I get it on my shoe-ee and its too tight you can take it out a little and still have more elastic. I also tucks into the "channel" better. Now tuck it in. Turn the shoe right side out....and....

FINISHED SHOE! Looks cute here but....
...the fit is really bad...SHOOT. The top part isnt high enough and the back part doesnt overlap inside the shoe. It does fit better without socks but still. BOO. I gave up in disgust and finished the second one the next day.

Here is brother and sister modeling shoes made by mama.

SO, that pair didnt turn out well but others have. My favorites have been out of colorful flower print (a baby gift to my sister) and little leather shoes (one blue pair with fleece lining and one suede with the same fabric as the soles ont he above shoes.)

Really fun. Really easy, once you get the hang of it...questions? comments?

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