Friday, December 27, 2013

Crayon roll

Crayons are wonderful, and a bare necessity to exercise little creative minds. There are a lot of crafters out there making wonderful crayon holders, wallets, aprons, you name it. Since I had purchased several packs of Bare crayons, a non-toxic plastic crayon which I've found to be very kid and mom friendly, I needed something to house exactly 30 crayons per kid. The best thing I could find was a 15 crayon role at the blog, Chocolate on my Cranium. From her pattern I increase the front and back pieces to 13 x10" and then made two pocket strips of 13x5", and instead of ties I used my handy dandy snap pliers. Voila, a 30 Bare crayon holder.
Also, instead of using fabric stabilizer, the outer shell is vinyl, which is naturally, and perhaps overly, stiff. These crayons can go out in the rain and will probably stay dry.

After I finished this I began to think I might make a few more to list on Etsy. However, even an internet sales crafter is required to register for a sales tax number here in VA. I'm thinking about it, but it will require paperwork every single month (or a $10 fine) even if I don't own a single penny to the state in sales tax. Seriously, the time sucking bureaucracy is the most discouraging part of it. Seriously, if you can, make your own!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Week 5, day 1 P90X

Well, I've made it through the first 30 days. Good thing weight loss isn't the goal, because I haven't lost any weight. I'd like to think I've gained more muscle and burned some belly fat. I have a pair of pants I'm using as a gauge of what I'd like to get into, and while I can squeeze into them, I wouldn't wear them yet, because their still too tight for public. I might have lost an inch in the waist, but what I notice is that it varies from day to day and from the beginning of the day (when I look significantly slimmer) through the progression of the day and meals. Sometimes I tape at 34, sometimes 35, and often at the end of the day 36 inches.

As long as I'm eating and drinking enough I feel so much more energetic, and I'm able to do more and more of the exercises. So I feel stronger and more flexible.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week 3 slow down

Working out took a bit of a back seat to the increased demands of a round of colds giving our immune systems a specialized workout. An already hectically paced week full of doctors appointments, recitals, and snow, which brought a few heaven sent cancelations, resulted in a couple necessary off days. Though, I managed to squeeze in a round of Ab ripper one day. While this week has brought gains in strength and increased ability to do even more of the exercises, I can see a little less endurance on cardio movements. Since 90% of my respirations take place through my mouth these days, decreased oxygenation is a very real excuse, so I'm taking it easy as it seems prudent.  

Today I picked up where I left off and completed yoga. This workout seems very helpful, but requires so much time. I blow off the three minutes of meditation at the end so I can get back to caring for the masses in my home. I can lay around in a fetal position some other time, or relax several times a day while nursing the baby. In fact my session was interrupted for about 10 minutes to nurse the baby in dire need. That's what the pause button is for after all. And any how, nursing a baby a workout in and of itself, requiring a lot of high quality care and nutrition to ensure success. I don't need to work very hard to feel the taxation on my body, so judicious prudence stresses that it's good to slow down when needed.

Don't be like me...
remember mozzarella!
Fuel is very important. Last night we had The Pioneer Woman's Potato Leek Pizza. I missed the part about mozzarella, and simple used goat cheese and parmesan only, which might explain why the kids weren't so thrilled with my latest experiment. However, Ree's pizza dough recipe yield much better results than the one we'd been using before, which redeemed my potato pizza enough that no slice went uneaten.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I want more energy

This is me a couple months ago trudging up a hill while out apple picking on a glorious day with my family. But I'm tired and I would rather be at home, not hot and exhausted. Sure I have a baby on my back, but he needs to be there, and I need more energy to carry on.

So I'm more than half way through week 2 of P90X. My waist is a squishy 36" around, my weight about 130 (which is where I've been for a while). I'm tandem nursing my two youngest children, so I am NOT dieting. The only thing I'm doing new is working out. My goals are to get stronger and build endurance so I can enjoy outings again. I shouldn't dread family outings for fear of exhaustion.

Today was my legs and back workout followed by the ab ripper supplemental. Last week I hated this workout, but it was not that bad at all this week. I'm using the pull up bar as an anchor for the resistance bands, because I can't do pull ups yet. I've never done a pull up in my life, bar hang yes, but never a full pull up. 

Already, I can feel a difference in my energy level, in that I'm able to do more of the workouts, and I just feel better. This rejuvenation also inspired me to finish my spontaneous sewing project to add a sleeping hood to my Beco Gemini baby carrier. I got the idea from, Pimp my carrier page. My rendition would need some more fine tuning, but it was a good attempt that turned out well enough for my own personal use. My carrier has a hood cover now and the baby can fall asleep on my back and he won't need to hang out without head support anymore. I haven't done much sewing in this past year. It feels wonderful to get the creative juices flowing again and be productive!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Diverting from tradition

...Oh, but just a little bit. Usually, we make pumpkin pie and sometimes apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner. This year my husband balked at pumpkin pie filling from a can, however, neither of us had time to render down a pumpkin. My original plans called for just an apple pie, but I to be spontaneous too.

Yes, I over baked
the coconut flakes too.
I've had a bag of coconut flakes in my pantry needing to be consumed. So, I found a Coconut Cookies recipe, which we made, that was awesome! This resulted in left over coconut milk. Heeding the author's suggestion we were determined to make something else to use up the milk.

For the first time ever, we had Coconut Cream Pie, and even though I over scalded the custard, and the pie had a slight burnt flavor, it was still a big hit. We're looking forward to trying this again, only next time, not burnt.

Since I'd used up my only pie pan for the Coconut Cream Pie, I had to get creative with my apple pie plans. During an earlier point in our army life we were stationed with a woman who made "cheesy apples." Fondly recalling her delightful desert inspired me to make an apple cheddar cobbler instead. This worked better for me, because I still haven't mastered mixing and rolling pie crust. I'd rather just mix the dough and then pound it into the pan then have to deal with rolling it. I've just never been able to do it. Cobbler is way easier.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm working out!

Today was my third day of my first week doing the workout program, P90X. My husband acquired this a while ago. As I was pregnant when he went through it last year, I've never tried this before. The husband doesn't like working out at home, and prefers to go places and see things while exercising. Since I'm committed to being home with the kids at all times, everything that happens in my life has to take place at home or it's not going to happen, at least not on a regular basis. So I've dusted off the group of CD work outs, and am giving them a try. Maybe I'll update with a flabby belly shot next week and keep track of my results.... we'll see.

The first workout I did, on Monday, was the Core Synergistic, which was brutal! Some of the moves I simply could not do, because I seem to lack even a introductory level of core strength. I tried everything at least once, but for moves I found I could not do, I just lay there and watched, or did part of the move instead. I've been so stiff and sore since doing this first work out.

Yesterday, I did cardio, which wasn't too bad. The funky jumping jacks are kind of fun. Since I was sore I wondered if I'd be able to do another workout, but as each workout is targeting different muscles it wasn't any harder once I'd got warmed up and going. I've noticed that doing the next workout helps relieve the tightness of the muscles used the day before.

Today I attempted the shoulders and arm workout, but I had to break so many times for kid and baby issues that it took twice as long to complete the actual workout. My guide also directed me to complete the Ab ripper workout, but I decided to post phone that till tomorrow, perhaps while the turkey is in the oven. I suppose this is still better than not doing anything at all, and at least this way I can hit pause and come back to it when I need to step away.

Using 5lb dumbbells I found shoulders and arms to be quite doable. Though I modified the chair press, and had to limit my reps on the funky side crunch thing when my 8 month old decided if I was on the floor I must be a fun piece of playground equipment, repeatedly climbing on top of me.

All and all I think my core is the weakest and that's where I'm going to flounder for a while. Hopefully, this will help me get that part of my body more in line with everything else.

My goal is to get stronger and more energetic. I want to be able to do more with my days and not feel so tired all the time. You never get something (worth anything) without putting in hard work to earn it.

Update: Day 4 was Thanksgiving so I did Ab ripper X, which I'd missed the day before. Yowzers, do I have a lot of room for improvement there! However, now I'm inspired to develop some nicely toned abdomen muscles, something I've never achieved before. Today I resumed with the regularly scheduled day 4; Yoga, which seems long. I'm beginning to feel strain in muscles I didn't even know existed. I suppose that's the point. There's certainly a few of these moves I can't do yet, but I tried just about everything.
Update: Day 5 was legs and back. Half the workout is pull ups. I've never done a pull up in my life, but not for lack of trying. The best I've ever been able to do is a bar hang. For the first week I just did mock pull ups, but next week I hope to employ our portable chin up bar and try them using the chair assist method.  Day 6 was Kempo X, with lots of punching and kicking karate style, lots of fun! And finally, today, Day 7, was rest and Stretch, which still required about an hour of my time; well spent. Tomorrow will be Core Synergist again. I started the week at about 130lbs and haven't lost any weight so far, which isn't my goal anyhow. I want to build muscle, strength, endurance, and energy so I can do of the things I need and want to do. I do feel a bit more energized already.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Balsamic Vinegar Goodness

This dish reminded me of something I had once, a long time ago, before I had kids, when I was still young, and agile.  I was a very fortunate guest at a swanky Italian Restaurant in Pasadena, CA. While my order was just sliced tomato's, mozzarella, everyone else at the table was ogling my meal the entire time. Such simplicity can be splendid sometimes.  

My attempt to condense the vinegar, per Pioneer Woman's instruction didn't quite yield the same drizzle effect she accomplishes. Therefore, my conclusion was that all that vinegar and oil goodness needed the support of a bed of spinach, which was my contribution to this great dish. Though you can't really see it, it was fresh and divine.

We have two of Ree Drummund's books in our kitchen. Inspiration abounds when I crack them open. Of course I've been learning from Ree for years as I've followed her blog. You don't have to purchase her books to obtain her recipes. However, after a while it becomes handy to have your own copy so you're not smudging butter and flour all over your laptop while scrolling through the webpage.

While this is tasty, it's also nutritious. Instead of tomatoes you might choose to see vitamins A, C, E, K, and Potassium. The spinach is providing even more nutrients with vitamins A,C,K, and folate (which is even better than it's synthetic sister, folic acid). Pair those up with mozzarella's protein, calcium, vitamin B12, and mega calcium, and you're eating pretty good!

The Caprese Salad by The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mushroom Onion Soup

The kids really liked this, which is surprising given it has (don't tell them) onions and mushrooms. Two out of five asked for seconds. Of course it might have more to do with the fact that daddy made liver last night. Try as he might, liver has a funky after taste that no amount of butter and onions can overcome. I could have made just about anything they probably would have loved it. Mostly, I was hoping for something to help ease the upper respiratory stuff that's creeping into my house.

Anyhow, before I forget what I did here:

32 oz. (1qt) Kirkland Organic Chicken stock
4 cups water
1 cup basmati rice
4-6 baby portabella mushrooms
1 medium onion (peeled and diced)
1 shallot (peeled and diced)
3 green onion (diced)
1cup spinach (chopped, fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Optional 1/4 cup parmesan (finely grated)

1. Heat your large cast iron pot on the stove.
2. Melt butter in the post while you chop your onions.
3. Sauté onions, green onion, and shallot in to butter until they have caramelized (formed a browning over 1/3 of the onion surface) and left a lovely browning caramelized coating on the bottom of your pot. Chop your mushrooms while your onions are cooking.
4. Add mushrooms and spinach to the pot and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Add chicken stock, then rice, ginger, salt and pepper, cover the pot, and simmer on medium heat until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes).
6. Stop here if you like this to be a rice pilaf dish, keep going if you're really aching for soup.
7. Add water and continue to heat.
8. Taste to see if you think it needs more spice (I added a bit more ginger).
9. Add Parmesan, stir, and serve.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not your mom's egyptian cotton

This comforter isn't even six months old. Since I bought it at the beginning of spring, it hasn't hardly been used all that much either. Perhaps my washing machine is a bit aggressive, except I did use the bulky bedding setting. It could be my daughter might have snagged it on something, somehow... I have no idea. 

So my unglamorous craft project of the day was sewing this up and stitching a large fleece patch over the top. Since this was a store closing clearance item, it's not like I can take it back, so I might as well make the best of it. Besides, patchwork quilts are sentimental, right.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Breast: A Natural and Unnatural History

Florence William's book, Breast: A Natural and Unnatural History, came to my attention after I completed some continuing education on women's cancer. This book has a lot of gems, and reading incrementally helps me to process them all.

Lactation is just part of this book, Williams isn't pushing it on us, but looking at the science in a fairly unbiased way. There have been a few damming accusations thrown at human lactation and it's important to look at all of the surrounding circumstances. For instance, why does lactation act to decrease breast cancer in some women, but then you hear about women who are pregnant, or nursing a baby discovering they have breast cancer? I've personally known two women diagnose with breast cancer within two years of childbirth, who breastfed exclusively. That has baffled and frightened me. Williams interviews a scientist who speculates that it's not so much nursing your babies, but the age of the mother during her first pregnancy that is important, and my friends were older when they started having children. The  younger you are when you give birth, the less likely you'll develop breast cancer, supposedly.  The theory is that a first pregnancy later in life, when the breast might have more pre-cancer cells, might actually trigger an outburst of cancer when the breast tissues rapidly expand for lactation. So in these situations, the older first time mom, may have an increase risk of breast cancer than the woman who never has children at all. This makes me grateful that I had my first child in my early twenties. I hope it was soon enough. Still, this is not great news and needs to be researched further.

 My attachment towards lactation is solid, and I wish more moms and babies would benefit from it. Still, it is important to find alternative ways to feed the babies who can't be breastfed. Having been bottle and formula fed myself, I morn the loss of all the protections I might have had, and wonder what damage might have been done, and what am I lacking in my milk that won't be passed on to my children, as the effects are thought to be multi-generational. When my grandmother's generation abandoned nursing their babies they probably had no idea what they were giving up. I think the loss is affecting us even today, as it seems that children are even less healthy then they used to be.

Another section of the book deals with environmental contaminants and toxins in breast milk. This is tragic, however, I wouldn't toss in the towel on human breast milk, simply because if our bodies are polluted, surely the cow's milk is too. So I doubt formula is going to be "cleaner" than we are since it's derived from animals walking and eating from the same planet as us.

Clearly, this post isn't complete since I haven't finished reading this book yet. However, I'm learning so much from it that it seemed appropriate to go ahead and recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered at all about anything breast related. The thing I like the most so far is that Williams has done her research and come into contact with so many scientist who are currently studying many different aspects of the breast, breast milk, and our immune system. I hadn't expected it, but this book is tying into the theme that emphasizes the importance of good gut flora to our health.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Last Rose of....Fall

Despite the night freezes, there are still a few roses in my island garden. Since it's a bit past pruning time, and I had to get to it, these are now gracing our dining room table, not the last rose of summer, but fall.

Of course it reminded me of the song, Last Rose of Summer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My rockin Cuzin!

Skyla has been singing and writing for many years, but her latest song, Let's Meet Up, is probably my favorite so far. It's kind of catchy.

You can preview it for free on her website.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let's Laminate!

How I managed to home school without a laminator for over six years I can not fathom. When our Classically Catholic Memory, (CCM) history timeline cards arrived it became a first order priority to procure a laminator. Surely they'd be wrecked in short order if I didn't find a way to protect them. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a laminator, by Purple Cow, at Costco, selling for less than $20. Reviews on amazon were decent, so I snatched one up, brought it home, and started encasing all my flash cards in plastic. The machine came with only 30 pouches in my flash card's size, but I was able to find more, with decent reviews, at a good price. To my delight the pouches I bought worked just fine in the machine and were even nicer than the first group. 

Laminating is a little addictive. Once you finish one project you'll already have another in mind. Lucky for me, I'm too busy for addictions. Though my notion to laminate my copy of alphabet cards is finally underway with the help of my oldest daughter. She's picked up where I left off and has been helping me color.  The machine came with 100 full sized pouches, so I haven't had to buy any other sizes as of yet.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


After reading a few books that have touched on the subject of gut health, our family has been on supplemental probiotics. Your gut is naturally lined with bacteria that are essential in aiding digestion and protecting your body from infections. Probiotics compete with bad bacteria that interfere with the good flora your body needs. In nursing school my instructor taught that acidophilus should be recommended for patients on antibiotics to help with gastrointestinal side effects. Acidophilus can be found in just about any grocery store. However, there's so much more to probiotics than just Acidophilus.

What really inspired my quest to learn more about probiotics was the hospitalization of my 6 week old son for urinary track infection (UTI), which led to a couple courses of powerful antibiotics. While he tolerated them well enough, his gastrointestinal track was showing signs of distress and he developed a snorting upper respiratory nasal congestion sound accompanied by frequent sneezing and occasional teary itchy eyes. Perhaps most folks would shrug those symptoms off, but I was concerned he might develop allergies or worse, asthma. Thus began my research on alternatives to both warding off future UTI's, avoid the need for future courses of antibiotic, and restoring my son's immune system. 

Gary B. Huffnagle's, The Probiotic Revolution, is a great introduction on the topic, in a format that is easy and quick to read. Originally, I'd began Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride's, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, because of hearing raving reviews of how GAPS diet had helped children on the Autism Spectrum. I wondered if there was some sort of connection to my older son's spectrum diagnosis, my allergies, and my newborn's freak UTI. The GAPS book is time and academic intensive and I'm a busy mom. Since I had a hunch probiotic were the direction to go, having read through comparative studies of the utilization of probiotics vs. antibiotics to combat UTI,  my attention shifted to Huffnagle's book, intending to get back to Dr. Campbell-McBrides's book later, which hasn't happened yet. At best I've skimmed her book, whereas, I read Huffnagle's cover to cover, word for word, and enjoyed it very much. From the GAPS book I gleaned the importance of weeding out refined carbs and sugars in the diet in preference to wholesome proteins and nutritive fats, as well as essential fatty acids (fish, krill, flax seed, chia seed are just a few examples). Both books extol the virtues of probiotics in developing a healthy GI track, immune, and neurological system. My energy was pretty low at this point, so I needed to find something that would help not just my baby, but myself as well.  

Several different probiotic brands have been ushered into our fridge in the past several months.  Originally, I started the baby on Biogaia Infant probiotic drops because I'd read L. reuteri, which is cultured from breast milk, is one of the first probiotics babies receive from their mothers. Since I was not breastfed as a child, and having completed countless courses of antibiotics in my lifetime, I speculated that perhaps my own breast milk might not be as ideally cultured. Thus, it was important that I beef up my own flora as well. A few months later, BioGaia, was bought by Gerber, and there was none to be found anywhere. Nature's Way's Premadophilus Reuteri became our replacement for BioGaia, while I looked for something better.

  Consistently, the guidelines for picking a probiotic are to find one with many different strains and with a larger cell count, no less than 1 billion. Huffnagle also recommends rotating through different probiotics because different strains have been found to be effective against different pathogens. Thus having more varieties in your pantry, might be better for you then just sticking to the same probiotic for years on end. Before I ran out of BioGaia, we began using probiotics by Udo's Choice Infant and Toddler, which has 3 billion cells and was well tolerated by all the little people in my home, and available at Whole Foods, in the refrigerator section, in the middle of summer. Probiotics shipped in the heat might be useless on arrival. When our bottle of Udo's was done, we gave Seeking Health's Probiotic Infant 10 strain, 10 Billion cell product a try. Usually, I administered about half the recommended dose,  giving approximately 5 billion cells a day. Since Seeking Health is expensive, the search continued and when this bottle is finished we'll be trying the children's formula by Natural Factors, which is a 7 strain, 3billion cell count variety.

The older folks in the house took a few different probiotics as well. We also took L. Reuteri, which has been studied for it's effectiveness in combating H. Pylori, a bacteria that both my husband and I had to take antibiotics to eliminate a couple years ago. However, we soon moved on to an easy chewable by Roex, which had 10 billion cells, but only three strains, and remains a favorite for their convenience and sweet tangy flavor.

Food Science, makes an affordable, 5 billion cell (per capsule), 8 strain probiotic. It's advertised as 15 billion "if" you take three capsules, which doesn't seem totally necessary for us at this time. With 150 capsules, I can give each person in the family one a day, and since dad isn't always home when I hand them out, one bottle can sometimes last a whole month. For the little ones I'll just open a capsule and put the probiotic powder into their drink, food, or strait into their mouth. This is definitely my "budget" probiotic of choice.

If money were no object I'd buy more probiotics from Seeking Health, because they seem to have the higher culture varieties and cell counts. However, a cheaper alternative, is Natural Factors 12/12 formula with 12 strains and 12 billion cells for about half the price of Seeking Health, which also has 12 strains, but twice the cells, and twice the cost. Since we're also eating probiotic rich foods (such as plain yogurt and kefir), I think we'll be fine with the products in the 3-10 billion range. I've read a few reviews that make me suspect that the higher cell count formulas might work a little too aggressively in some folks. I'm a less is best kind of gal. If 1 billion works, then it's enough, why go higher if you don't need to?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nintendo DSi I almost bought it

My son has been begging for a video game system for years. His mother remembers watching her little brother play Nintendo and doing very little else.  My experience with video gaming tells me that it's addictive and can interfere in ones ability and desire to achieve something other than getting to the next level of the video game. It's imperative that my son experience life without a flashing screen dictating his mode and controlling his attention span.

Still, there are times when it could be handy to have something small and captivating for him to do that might help keep him quiet and out of trouble for brief periods of time; like when he has to accompany the family to events for his sisters (dance recitals) and his attention really isn't required. So, I almost bought him a Nintendo DSi for Christmas.  Remembering how fun Mario Brother's was, when my brother let me play, loosen me up just enough to think, perhaps a portable game system could be a useful tool.

Then I watched the promotional video for the system and learned about all the other things the little hand held device could do. It's not just for playing videos games, but a camera, video, audio recorder, and internet browser too. Okay, I may be showing my luddite colors here, but I had not been counting on a Nintendo being an access point to the internet for my 12 year old. So, naturally, I'm reconsidering my plan to purchase this for my son. I really don't want to have to worry about what he might be coming across on the net while we're, for example, at his little sister's Little Flower's meeting. I'm just not tech savvy enough to feel confident in my ability to find a way to make this device kid safe.

Is there something better and safer out there?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Radishing Radish

We started a fall garden in our little cold frame green house. Today I harvested a sizable radish. Radishes are lovely grated and sprinkle over a salad, which gives it a bit of zest.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dutch Oven

It's really red, but
the camera turned it
Having been married for over a decade, some of the pots we received at our wedding were giving up the ghost. Several had lost their handles making them very difficult and a little dangerous to use. Thus my birthday request was "something" to replace those pots, preferably something versatile, large, and indestructible. I saw a Le Creuset Dutch oven and fell in smitten with the big red pot. However, I found nothing to love about the price.

We've had a cast iron skillet made by Lodge for over 14 years, which is still serving us very well. It's our go-to pan. While researching Dutch ovens, I was sidetracked a little when I realized a second skillet would come in handy, as there are often times, especially when my husband is cooking, that having more than one skillet would expedite our meal preparation. These skillets are still made in the U.S.A, and are reasonably priced. We got our second one for less than $20 at a local store. Coincidently, the iron skillet is the sort of pan you used to see cartoon characters using to smack intruders and give them big goose bumps on their heads, with little stars and birdies flying about, as they would lay knocked out on the floor. In a pinch you could defend yourself with one of these pans. Lodge could advertise, "Cooking and home security all in one!"

Since we like our Lodge skillets so much I was pleased to see they make Dutch ovens as well. The only down side is their enameled products are made in China. However, I read that the Le Creuset is also made in China. So I put the Lodge on my wish list and I've been happy with it thus far. While the price seems to fluctuate, we were able to get my super large Dutch oven for about $75 online, and less than a week later the price shot back up again, making me feel really good about the timing of my birthday and that particular sale.

So far I've used my Dutch oven to make chicken broth, broccoli cheddar soup, butternut squash soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and just the other night my husband made Sheppard's pie with it in the oven. Indeed, this is a very heavy pot, definitely a two handed operation when picking it up. Surely, we'll be using this for years to come.