Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012: A Year In Review

I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t need January to come to make a change in my life. My desire to better myself is not seasonal.

I do, however, love a good year-end review. Love.

2012 was the year of learning contentment. Or at least trying to. Discerning what we need. Being thankful for what we have. Being mature enough to ascertain the difference.

Let’s look back, shall we [thank you social media; here’s the highlights of 2012’s status updates!]?

January

january

*Landon took a 5 hour “nap” this afternoon so he could ring in the new year with us. Sweet boy.

*Today can be summed up by my experience at Target: Lucy cried through the entire trip and then screamed potty and peed in the cart. After cleaning that up, I got everything from the cart loaded on to the belt when I looked up to see that the man in front of me was an extreme coupon-er. And half of his coupons wouldn’t scan. So I held both of my children (because Lucy’s shoes were wet) and waited to check out. Not winning.

*chickpea and oat chocolate chip pie and smokey chipotle mac n cheese. both = awesome. weekends = awesome. husband = awesome.

*Vegan tofu brownies are in the oven and I’m (according to Chuck) one step closer to being a hippie.

*It’s official. Lucy and Landon are wearing the same size pants today.

*old lady #1: “boy you’ve got your hands full.”
old lady #2: “looks like she’s got it covered to me.”

every time i leave the house there’s somebody telling me how full my hands are. crazy.

*Target had knee highs on clearance = Lucy got some new leg warmers = Lucy is supremely happy. Simple math, really.

February

february

*Last night we were driving on Olive and Lucy pointed at City Lights Church and said, “I want to go.” Awesome! I love it!

*lucy to landon: “this banana has a sticker on it!!!”

*It seems like L+L took turns napping today. I feel like I had kids either cranky or napping from 8 am to 8 pm. Let the three day weekend commence!!

*better oats raw pure & simple (rolled oats, barley, wheat, flax seed, quinoa, & rye), peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and almond milk. z-o-m-g.

*In the backseat, making up motions to the Marching Mizzou cd she asked to listen to. Reppin’ the Tigers tee she asked to wear. No big deal. Fake hashtag: #tiger4life

March

march

[Look at those cheeks. He’s been teething for almost a year. Oy.]

*The UPS man asked me to check my packages today and make sure they were all mine and not duplicates. Nope. All mine. I am swimming in groceries and new shoes. I love the internet. ;)

*Just reminded Chuck Baker that today is daylight savings and he replied, “My entire day is ruined now. Beth Baker you just stole an hour from my life.” So dramatic. So not a morning person.

*Four years ago I had a dream that one day I would walk into my backyard and pluck delicious asparagus. I planted seeds and nurtured them. I did my best to ignore the asparagus ferns that taunted me every year. And let me tell you, the reward is coming. Oh baby.

*Things you don’t want to experience when you’re doing home improvements: your husband coming up the stairs hiding his hand and asking for a rag. Question 1: Do you still have all your fingers? Question 2: Is looking at this going to make me pass out? Have no fear. Crisis averted. By an inch. ;)

*Lucy just stole steamed broccoli off Landon’s plate. Winning healthy lunch. Not winning sharing. Womp womp.

April

april

*Today we drove past a Home Depot and Lucy screamed, “No Mommy. Please. No no.” I guess we’ve been there a lot lately… Sorry kid.

*Mimi and Poppa have come and gone. They left in their wake four happy/sad hearts, amazing Mimi never comes empty-handed outfits, bags of kona coffee and macadamia nuts fresh from Hawaii (zomg), and me anxious to plan our summer in Savannah. Love them. Lucky me.

*Gah. I just changed my meal plan for the whole week. Similar to not going grocery shopping when hungry, you should not go on Pinterest at 5 o’clock. Boo. Yum. Boo…

*So I was chasing Lucy around the house (we do that sometimes) and she decided to dive onto her bed. She now has the imprint of a bed rail on her forehead. Sorry, but it was fun at first… right? Right?!

*Chuck Baker is ever the eternal optimist. Me: “I mean there’s hail damage on every panel. They might even total out your car.” CB: “Well, look at all these baby gumballs that fell out of the tree. I can get a head start on raking.” Buuuuuh.

May

may

*Oh you know just home with two sleeping babies on a Friday night while my husband is at the prom. :)

*After two hours I finally found Chuck’s checkbook. Last three checks written? [1] Dept of Vital Statistics for our wedding license. [2] Post office to mail wedding invitations. [3] Spirit of St. Louis Marathon. And then I nostalgically cried like a baby. Sweet memories. I love that guy! Happy 6 years of marriage on Saturday, Dude.

*I finally found Chuck Baker’s clean eating threshold. He was not a fan of the pea shoot salad. What a trooper.

*This week we’ve grilled beet burgers, sweet potato fries, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, corn, chickpeas, kale, and pizza. I’ve only turned the oven on once. It’s been kind of amazing.

*Holly: “Tate, do you like my new profile picture?”
Tate: “Yeah! Us and our two kids… ‘we found a child in this tunnel. That’s why we’re all so happy.'”

[We hiked with Tate and Holly so much Lucy thought they were her family.]

June

june

*After having one child throw it up all over me (multiple times) and the other spitting it out the other end (multiple times) I can confidently say fried chicken is out of the Baker diet for a while. Barf.

*”Lucy I have Mimi on the phone is there anything you want to tell her?” “Mimi is pretty.” Yep

*Chuck Baker: “I think Landon is going to look like Ian Ziering when he grows up.”

*Chuck carried Lucy 5.8 miles as we hiked the moderately difficult Clark Trail at Weldon Springs. So impressed with that guy.

*Packed four grocery bags of food for Savannah. This left me with two conclusions. There’s no such thing as vegan fast food and I totally take for granted the number of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s within driving distance of my house.

July

landon

[This guy turned one!]

*mini date night thanks to post-bedtime babysitting by poppa and mimi with publix chocolate chip ice cream and key lime pie. kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda perfect.

*First time to St. Simon’s Island. First time getting stung by a jellyfish. Yep. [But who’s complaining because we visited St. Simon’s Island, Tybee Island, and Fernandina Beach in one summer…]

*Welcome back to St. Louis Baker Fam. The high today is going to be 103 and your a/c is on the fritz. Boo.

August

august

[Baby carrying and fruit picking. Amazing.]

*Sometimes all a bad week needs is a great Friday. Thankful for two healthy kids, a fridge full of groceries, and a husband who does dishes.

*Lucy to broccoli: “Oh, you pretty, pretty flower. Too pretty to eat.”

*I’ve been working with Lucy to introduce herself to other kids at the playground. “My name is Doodie.” Proud Mama.

*Lucy to Landon: “Chill out, please!” At least she said please…

September

september

[Good friends.]

august

[Good friends?]

*Yay for babies that love quinoa. Boo for cleaning up after babies that love quinoa.

*No Lucy. No more Dora. It’s time for Gameday.

*Lucy gets out of bed and comes into the living room. “Dora, Boots, Benny, Dora.” She is a Dora-zombie.

*Super thankful for Chuck’s Mr. Mom skills over the past few days. And super thankful to be fever-free after a rough 48 hours.

October

october

*So grateful for amazing friends who let us crash for two days. And glad to be home after so many away. And glad I enjoy cleaning and laundry.

*I just put peanut butter on Landon’s banana and I feel like I changed his life. And that maybe he set some kind of banana eating record. [And then I took it away.]

*I love the Cardinals too, but if Chuck Baker wakes up one of my babies with his rally cries I’m going to punch him. In the face. [Love you, babe.]

*We’re playing with play dough. Me: “Whatcha makin’?” Lucy: “Kale.” And my work here is done.

*Watching the news this morning Lucy hears them talking about Detroit and starts dancing
the living room chanting, “T-I-G-E-R-S!”. Now to explain why that’s not okay… Wrong Tigers, Lu, wrong team.

November

november

[This picture accidentally makes me sad because it was our last outing with Her-Her.]

*My daughter has a carrot juice mustache and she just held up her juice glass and said, “Cheers me, Mama.” I’ve never been more proud. ;)

*Chuck is trying to teach Lucy to say, “My name is Lucy Baker and I’m allergic to eggs.” I think she’s got it, especially if she can start calling herself Lucy instead of Juicy.

December

christmas

*”Late night crafting to pull together the Minnie party of my favorite girl’s dreams. Literally. This morning she woke up and told me the cupcakes were trying to escape but she closed the door to keep them in.”

*Today Lucy told me that if I wanted I could have a princess birthday party when the time comes. She also informed me that she cannot have a Minnie Mouse birthday party next year because she will be too old. I just really like her.

*Just when you think you couldn’t possibly love them anymore, you find bouncy balls and hot wheels “wrapped” in coloring sheets and placed ever so carefully under the tree. Totally made my night.

*Lucy: “Daddy, Buddy’s poopy.”
Daddy: “Lucy you are right. You always know. Do you have a special poop detector nose?”
Lucy: “Nope. Don’t need one.”

One of the most enjoyable parts of this year was definitely the starting up of this blog. It’s just fun to come and share a little. Here’s a top five of the ‘ole blogs favorite posts. I was a little surprised!!

1. Let’s Decorate: Melonnie’s Birdie Boys Room

2. Our Meal Plan And How We Choose Food

3. On Being An Allergy Mama

4. We’re Like, Totally, Hippies! [Family Portraits]

5. Mama Confessions

What surprised me about this blog the most is the fact that in 3 months there were visitors from over 60 countries. Interesting.

So thanks for caring for our family and sharing in the silliness that I post here. 2012 was so great but I’ve got a good feeling about 2013 too.

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Our Special Plate

One more post before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Yay!

I made our special plate this week.

our special plate

That’s not it. That’s a blank canvas. I bought that guy at Old Time Pottery for a steal.

I saw this idea a few months ago of writing on white plates with a sharpie and baking them at 350F for 30 minutes. So we did it for Lucy’s birthday and she loved it. And I have to admit it was super fun. Her plate turned out awesome.

our special plate

So when I was aimlessly roaming the aisles of Target [Kidding. I’m a mom. I’m that lady pushing my cart through the aisles like a speed demon with a shopping list] I saw the Santa cookie plates and was sentimental enough to wish we had one. Ultimately, however, I’m also pragmatic enough to not want one plate that I’m going to use once a year. So here’s what I came up with:

our special plate

This is our special plate. I hope this plate will see loads of Santa’s cookies, icing from birthday cakes, favorite dishes and desserts shared with those we love. Two birds: sentimental, multi-purpose. A win and a win.

Here’s how I did it.

our special plate

I found some paper big enough for my plate. For me this was printer paper with a junk mail envelope attached to give a little extra width. Turn the plate upside down and trace around the outside. Then turn the plate right side up and trace around where the base of the plate meets the paper. That will help you figure out where to write what will be in the middle of the plate and what will be on the rim. It will also give you an idea of what the plate is going to look like. I decided to use my block printing instead of trying to mix up the handwriting. Ours says:

*This is our special plate

*We use it every time we have a reason to celebrate.

You’re a shining star. Friends to hold dear. A job well done. Cookies for Santa. Celebrating your birth. It’s a party.

So you can write and wipe off and write again until your heart is content. Then throw the plate in your hot oven and bake the words right on. Now I don’t know how this would hold up in the dishwasher because I mostly hand wash [gasp] but the comments on this page suggest the dishwasher will undo your pretty little doodles.

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This Week’s Meal Plan and Rabbit Rice

Okay, so I don’t know how it happened. And I’m not totally sure how I feel about it. I guess I’ve been heading in that direction for a while. But I wasn’t really ready to commit. It seems, however, that the decision was merely the natural progression.

I’m afraid I’ve become a vegetarian. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat. I like the way most meats taste [though I think veggies taste way better]. But the less meat I eat the less meat I seek. The more meat I eat the more meat doesn’t seem like a treat. [So Suessian of me]. Basically, the less I eat meat the more it makes me sick when I do eat it. So it feels easier to limit my meat consumption. It doesn’t feel like a big deal to me, but I think it’s because we’ve had such a slow regression in our meat consumption. But I’m not going to make that decision for the kids. I don’t think eating meat is a bad thing, so as long as they want it, it’s theirs. I’m also not sure why I feel the need to justify my choice, but there it is.

Onward and upward: let’s meal plan!

real food meal plan for a family of four

Sunday: Leftovers again. I feel like building this day of rest into my meal plan seriously helps keep the meal plan going every week.
Monday: My in-laws had an open house for Christmas so we did a light dinner. The kids had some frozen veggies and the parents had some snacks at the party.
Tuesday: Rabbit Rice. I’ll explain later. Yum.
Wednesday: We mixed the meal plan up a little and had pizza on this night. I’ve been wanting to try Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza dough; anyone a fan?
Thursday: Rabbit rice leftovers. Just as good the second day.
Friday: We decided to brave the mall so we got home a little late and had tacos. To make the tacos I cooked some sweet potatoes in the microwave. When they were done I mashed them together with some spicy red lentil chipotle hummus. You are welcome [so good]. Then I chopped up some tri-color peppers, onion, and tomatoes. I rinsed and drained a can of black beans and added that in. I seasoned it with chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cumin. It’s such a quick dinner. We topped it with feta in our tacos. Which seems like a weird cheese choice for tacos but it goes so well with the sweet potato [we use it in our sweet potato burritos, too].
Saturday: Sweet potatoes back to back! Chuck’s cousin sent me a recipe for sweet potato soup and as soon as I read it I knew it would be something we’d all love. We’re going to use a sweet potato/butternut squash combo because we’re trying to use up all of our food before we leave for Christmas vacation. Here’s a version of the recipe. As recommended I’m going to blend it up with my immersion blender. Thanks for the recipe share!

So, as I mentioned above we had Rabbit Rice twice this week. And, as I mentioned, we’re trying to use up what’s in the fridge before we leave to celebrate the holidays. Rabbit rice to the rescue. Here’s the gist: cook some rice. Saute or simmer all the random bits of veggies you need to use up. Add some broth. Combine. Serve.

SONY DSC

Here’s what our rabbit rice looked like [yes, I’m totally mocking the fact that people say vegetarians eat rabbit food].

Rabbit Rice
Serves 6-8
2 cups wild rice
4 1/2 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon salt

4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, ends removed and diced
2 onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, diced
10 oz sliced mushrooms
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed
1/2 cup diced celeriac [celery root] [you could use any root vegetable here: potatoes, turnips, etc]
salt and pepper

I started by putting 4 1/2 cups of water in my pressure cooker. My cooker asks that you bring the water to a boil before adding the rice so as soon as the water began to boil I added my green beans for 3 minutes. After that I added my rice and salt and closed the cooker.

I took the green beans to my dutch oven and sauteed them in some coconut oil. After they were cooked I took them out and set them aside. I added a little more oil and a little water and cooked my onions. I then gradually added in the carrots, celery, garlic, and scallions. I let them soften and then added the mushrooms and celeriac. With them I added some broth so that everything was just covered and the veggies would simmer and cook down some. You can season as you like. We only did salt and pepper because those silly children of ours have been rejecting anything seasoned beyond that [sigh].

While my rice was finishing up I added the green beans into my veggie mix. After it was finished, I added the rice and served everything up. The broth thickens a little while it cooks down so it gave the whole thing I gravy effect*. I loved it.

rabbit rice

[We also make this rice when we have leftovers from holiday meals; it’s even easier then. Cook some rice and throw in all of your random leftover bits.]

I intentionally made this a bigger meal and it gave us two dinners and one lunch for each of us. I appreciate it because it’s one of those meals that fill you up but don’t leave you feeling heavy. Maybe those silly rabbits are on to something…

*I know I speak of the glory of pressure cookers quite often, but I’m a big fan of using them for this recipe. The pressure cooker uses a lower temperature so you don’t lose all of your cooking liquid and you have a rice with a stickier, almost pudding-like consistency. It’s enough to make you want to eat rice for every meal.

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New Old Shoes

I found these shoes at the thrift store last week for 50 cents. That’s right, you heard me. 50 cents for a pair of scarcely worn Janie & Jack shoes from the Spring ’12 line. They weren’t perfect though. They had some blue scuff marks on the cream satin. And they were cream satin. Am I the only one that doesn’t want to put white or cream shoes on my toddler?

giving marked up shoes a second life.

So the first thing I did was throw the shoes in my washing machine. I mean, if they didn’t survive I’m only out 50 cents and if they do they’ll smell fresh and clean and brand new [definitely skip the dryer, though].

giving marked up shoes a second life.

Next I took some painter’s tape and taped off the leather sole. I used my finger nail to make sure I got the tape tight against the sole and close to the fabric.

giving marked up shoes a second life.

I used Martha Stewart’s Wild Blueberry acrylic paint for the project. I went with acrylic because I wanted it to be able to stand up to the elements and since they’re shoes I don’t need to worry about how stiff the paint will make the fabric.

giving marked up shoes a second life.

The satin was a great material to work with because it took the paint well. I only needed to make sure I didn’t use too much paint. I started under the bow and then painted the bow and around to the back of the shoe, leaving the strap for last.

I think these would look awesome with a contrasting color on the bow, but that idea was vetoed by the toddler.

giving marked up shoes a second life.

Now I’m looking at all of Lucy’s shoes wondering if I could give some others a sprucing.

p.s. I saw this idea of mod podge-ing fabric onto scuffed toddler shoes a while back. Maybe I’ll have to give it a go.

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This Week [And A Meal Plan]

[I started writing this on Saturday and just couldn’t finish. It seemed inconsequential. Saying more prayers for the families impacted by last week’s tragedy.]

Today I was driving the kids to check out the ballet school we’re going to enroll Lucy in at the start of the new year. We rolled past a fast food restaurant where a worker was outside lowering a flag to half mast and I lost it. Who doesn’t hug their kids tighter after something like yesterday.

By nature we, especially mothers, have a deep rooted desire to protect and defend innocence. So whether it be the bullying of a child with special needs or the unspeakable events of yesterday, our inner warriors are stirred.

But I think hugging our kids tighter and lengthening our fuse when they make us feel crazy is exactly the response we should have. Before we start wondering who we should blame, perhaps we could take a moment and pray for those impacted. And then extend that to a prayer of thanks for all of the blessings in our lives, asking for grace that they ever be overlooked.

Remember those children when you get upset about the puzzle pieces that were dumped on your kitchen floor. Remember them when you’re giving your bath-averse children a dunk to the tune of splashing and screaming. And remember them when you’re making dinner; thankful for the opportunity to make dinner for my family.

I don’t know how to deal with something like that. And maybe that’s why I’ll always be the person that cries at a flag half-raised or a funeral procession. But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with my kids knowing that loss impacts me, empathetically.

Here’s how our meal plan looked last week.

real food meal plan for a family of four

Sunday: Leftover Veggie Pot Pie
Monday: Creamy corn and tomato soup with cheddar biscuits. I made this by shucking some corn into my dutch oven and creaming it. When it was finished I added some prepared tomato soup. Everybody liked this, especially after I told Lucy it was pizza soup [it certainly smelled like it]. We used a soup similar to this one [same company] but it was seasoned with basil. I’ll have to share the biscuit recipe soon. It’s one that’s been passed down for generations and they’re always yummy.
Tuesday: Pineapple Tofu Stir-Fry. This was awesome! I added a head of broccoli and 5 oz of sliced mushrooms. Will definitely make this again with a longer tofu marinating time.
Wednesday: Green Beans on a bed of wild rice pilaf. I was pretty swamped Wednesday so we ended up having salads and we’re going to have this meal tonight.
Thursday: Roasted Vegetable Quinoa. I put cauliflower, zucchini, and mushrooms in it. It was divine.
Friday: Butternut Lasagna This recipe intrigued me so much I wanted to make sure I gave it a great shot so I didn’t make any changes to the recipe. It had some pros and cons. It had a great taste. I loved trying celeriac [celery root] for the first time. It was pretty, with all the layers. And it seemed healthy. However, it was a multi-pot dish. With a lengthy prep time. And it was closer to Shepherd’s pie on the spectrum of deep dishes than it was lasagna. Even though I roasted the butternut the night before, I still felt like I was in the kitchen working for a while. And lastly, it was a bit more pricey than I usually spend on one dinner [especially one that did not yield a ton of leftovers (though that owns to how tasty it was)]. Just the celery root was $3 and a can of butter beans $2. Delicious. Curb appeal. A lot of work.
Saturday: Veggie burgers with sweet potato fries. I went shopping with a friend and left all the recipes for veggie burgers with sweet potato fries out for Chuck. No, seriously. He did great! Although I didn’t realize until the next day that he’d accidentally used millet instead of quinoa. And he yielded about twice the amount of burgers as I do [haven’t figured that one out yet]. So I know it wasn’t his favorite night [did I mention he also watched and fed both kids] but it was a wonderful time for me with a friend who’s moving soon. And he survived. And I made the homemade burger buns. Nice work, husband. I won’t do that to you again [for a while].

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Campfire Cookies

When I first started baking vegan treats everything failed. Seriously. Everything. There were tears. There were moments when I questioned if it would be easier to buy new cookie sheets instead of scrubbing off weirdly textured baked on “treats”. There were more tears and phone calls to my mom. There were hours [and hours] researching on the internet. Batches [and batches] of cookies and brownies that gradually improved.

Trying to bake gluten-free treats without eggs or dairy. Desserts that didn’t stray too far from our healthy eating regime. Things I wouldn’t mind sharing with friends who didn’t have dietary restrictions.

So when I saw these cookies on Pinterest I desperately wanted to recreate them to make them vegan-friendly.

To the tune of the three little pigs I made three batches of the chocolate cookie before I landed on a winner. The first time I made them they were soft and flat. They tasted good but they couldn’t handle the marshmallow. It was too much for it. The second time I made them, I succeeded in making the chocolate pillows I had in my head but unfortunately they were dry and cakey. So the third time: just right. Chewy gooey chocolate cookies reminiscent of brownie dough. I’d call them a brookie if I didn’t hate when people did that…

campfire cookies [vegan and gluten-free]

Campfire Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies
adapted from Joy the Baker

2 1/2 cups flour [I used 1/2 spelt and 1/2 gluten-free all purpose, but you could use all Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten-free]
1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon soy milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugars. In a small bowl mix together warmed coconut oil, applesauce, and flax meal. Let that sit for a few minutes and then add the wet to the dry. Add the soy milk a little at a time until you’re able to incorporate all of the flour. We’re looking for a stiff dough. Add in the chocolate chips and vanilla.

campfire cookies

[If there’s one thing I’ve learned in vegan baking, it’s that the state of the dough doesn’t determine the final product. I’d say in “normal” baking a stiff dough would produce a dry cookie, but here we need it to keep the cookie stable.]

Using a cookie scoop, drop 30 cookies onto your parchment-lined sheets. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes until they no longer look “wet” but before they’re completely baked [I went a little under-baked but I’m a chewy cookie person]. While the second batch is in the oven, cut 15 marshmallows in half and prep your chocolate. I’ve tried taking chocolate squares broken into four pieces and using a couple chocolate chips and both ways worked fine.

campfire cookies [vegan]

Top each cookie with some chocolate and then put the marshmallow on cut side down [I used my kitchen shears to cut mine in half]. When the second batch is finished with the oven turn your broiler on high and place the cookies on the top rack for a minute or so. You really have to watch them the whole time they’re in there because they go from almost to overdone very quickly.

campfire cookies [vegan]
[This picture is from the cakey cookie batch. They were baked a little too long. Baking=science.]

Prep your other cookie sheet and bake those as well. When the marshmallows are cool enough to touch smoosh them down a little on the cookie so they’re spread over the whole cookie. When both batches are finished, leave them on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes or so. They’ll firm up a little more while they cool.

campfire cookies [vegan]

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Handmade Christmas: Tool Belt

A Very, Merry Handmade Christmas [on a budget]!

We live in an old house. This old house [hehe] often needs sprucing. If you’ve ever lived in an old, needy character-filled house you know what I’m talking about. My poor husband: his tool belt doesn’t really get a break. Sometimes I feel like it’s a constant companion.

So my kids see tools a lot. All the time. And they want in on the action. I’ve been collecting various plastic toys as I’ve seen them at yard sales and thrift stores since June or so. [I start my Christmas shopping in December: 12 months early.] So this project cost me $1.52. After I finished it I thought, “What have I done? They’re going to fight over this like crazy.” Thankfully they’re getting another toolbox from the grandparents [We have two doctor’s kits too. I’m all for teaching sharing but they love playing dress up so much it’s worth it to have two of each.]

homemade toolbelt

For the kit I bought a 2-Pocket Canvas Apron from The Home Depot for $.77. I found a bag of all the tools except the tape measure for $.50 and the tape measure for $.25.

I could have made the tool apron but it’s hard to beat canvas for $.77 and Chuck’s dad works for THD so they’ll think it’s fun to have something more official looking. So maybe this project is semi-handmade a la Sandra Lee but it doesn’t matter how much time you spend [or don’t spend] making something if the kiddies deem it worthy of pretend play.

Here’s the tape measure. Here’s the tools. This seems similar to the drill we got. There are actually a lot of cool tool sets out there: those are just the ones I found second-hand.

semi-handmade toolbelt

To make the apron kid friendly I cut the ends off to be shorter [and less of a strangulation hazard]. I then had my favorite artist [i.e. Chuck] draw a picture of the tools on the front of the apron. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that kids love it when there’s a place for everything. Once everything was drawn on [it took him like 5 minutes, I would have agonized over making the pictures perfect for hours] I used my sewing machine to sew additional pockets so that there would be one tool per pocket.

I also bought a book from the library [you know those books they sell after they pull them from circulation] called Fix It, Sam.

I wouldn’t mind adding The Toolbox or Tap Tap Bang Bang if I can find a good deal on them.

This project only took me 15 minutes or so and it lends itself to a lot of open-ended and imaginative play. Thrift store finds, under my tree.

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Landon’s Adventuresome Baby Boy Room

Landon is one of my favorite people [of course]! He’s so sweet and cuddly but he loves to wander off on his own exploring. I wanted him to have a room that could grow with him without being too focused on one theme [until he picks one anyway]. The goal for this room was to incorporate the brown and green elephant nursery items we already owned and add in some diy projects. Oh, and I wanted to keep it cheap so I only spent $65.

Little boy adventure room

The budget breakdown was: $11 for the framed artwork over the crib, $2 for wooden dowels, $5 for oops paint, $1 for the moose sleeping bag [yard sale], $25 for the rug at Marshalls, and $21 for the tent ($12 for the fabric and $9 for the wood supplies).

I commissioned those window cornices from my super handy husband. There’s a tutorial here that looks pretty similar but we used luan board instead of foam insulation. They’re great because every time I get bored of them I just add some new fabric. On these particular cornices I used a painter’s drop cloth for the beige material and then added the brown on top. The fabrics aren’t connected to each other: they’re both stapled to the board in the back.

dinosaur print on wall

The first thing you see when you walk in to Landon’s room is some artwork I made for him. To make it I covered the glass from the frame with mod podge and covered it with more of the beige painter’s drop cloth. I found the dino excavation plaque at Target on clearance a long time ago so I used hot glue to attach that to the fabric after it dried. I used a freezer paper stencil and some brown paint to print the word “roar”. To make the dino tracks I used an exacto knife to cut them out of a transparency sheet which I then used like a stencil on the wall. I’m kind of surprised how much the kids like the painted tracks and it was a 15 minute project. Worth it.

book and music station

This is our book and music station. We spend a lot of time here [or sitting on the rug in front of here]. The cards on the wall are Eric Carle Animal Flash Cards and I just picked out the three that corresponded with his initials. They love to explore the instruments. Everything is fair game! The stained chair is probably the most comfortable chair in our house. I decided to stain it green because there’s already an oak desk on oak floors: it was a good place to add color.

landon playing guitar

He likes to pluck…

moose sleeping bag and tent

I found the moose sleeping bag at a yard sale for $1 and I made the tent from this tutorial. Kids love tents and when they’re not playing with it I can tuck it behind the crib for easy storage.

closet organization

Am I the only one that loves a well-organized closet?

cubes with map

These cubes have been with me since my college days. They’ve had many jobs. Right now they hold Landon’s clothes behind the doors and his toys in the baskets. I found those baskets at Target a while back for $12 each [when these cubes lived in our living room and held dvds. Chuck brought me home a box of vintage National Geographic maps from the school library one day. He saved them from the recycling bin. And that is why I love that man. Best gift ever. To hang the map I used this tutorial.

map covered furniture

The sides of the cubes are covered with maps. I saw the idea on pinterest but the website where I first saw it has since been taken down. To do it I covered the cubes with mod podge and then placed the maps collage style. I sealed the whole thing with another coat of mod podge. I think it’s holding up so well because I didn’t do any corners.

mod podged cubes

On top of the cubes we keep our cloth diapers, a truck, and our cloth wipes warmer.

landon loving moose

I think he genuinely enjoys his room. And I love it too! But is a room ever really done for a crafting mama? :) Hopefully we’ll add these adorable felt logs to our tent set up soon!

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This Week’s Meal Plan & Blackberry Lemon Muffins

real food meal plan

Sunday: We had a Christmas party at church that included a pot luck. Yum.
Monday: Roasted Cauliflower and Spaghetti. So good. So simple. Why not fill your pasta dishes with veggies. I’ll have to photograph and share this recipe soon but I will say it included these roasted mushrooms. Oh.My.
Tuesday: JtB’s French Onion Soup Sandwiches. I’m normally a big Joy the Baker fan but this felt like diner food to me, and not in a good way. The onions were cooked in a bit of fat and I felt like it was coming out of my pores that night. Not a winner for us, but I know others enjoy it.
Wednesday: I whined about those sandwiches all day and devoted Wednesday to diner food detox. Salads: spinach, carrots, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and balsamic.
Thursday: It was my husband’s birthday so he chose to eat at Chipotle. We both got vegetarian burritos with brown rice, green peppers, red onions, black beans, corn salsa, tomato salsa, guacamole, and cheese. Mmm. Thankful mexican is allergy friendly!
Friday: We kept up the theme with mexican and salads. Chuck made a concoction that involved mashing up an avocado and mixing it with corn and black bean salsa. He then added spinach and sliced mushrooms and ate it with tortilla chips. I can’t lie, I was jealous I didn’t think of it.
Saturday: Veggie Pot Pie I’m hoping to set a new number of veggies per dish record. Double digits. Nerd alert.

Can I tell you a secret? I have major anxiety about cooking and baking for other people. In fact, I even have anxiety about sharing recipes. This is heightened when I share vegan recipes because they’re fickle and demanding and sometimes you can do everything exactly like you’ve done it a thousand times before and it doesn’t come out right. Grumble. And there’s the fact that I’m definitely a “feel it” baker. It used to annoy me so much when I would ask my mom how she made something and she would say, “Well, some of this and a little of that. I can’t tell you how much, you just have to add it until it looks right.”

But then there’s this other side of me that tells that wimpy, whiny side to suck it up. I’m trying to do something here. I’m trying to share something that’s important to me. So here I am, sharing a recipe.

Blackberry Lemon Chia Muffins

lemon blackberry muffins with cia [ gluten-free and vegan]

1/2 cup almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice [I usually just juice one lemon and see how much it gives me]

1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1/3 cup applesauce
2-3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one lemon
18-24 blackberries

Preheat your oven to 325F. In the medium-sized bowl that you’re going to mix up your cupcakes in, zest your lemon.

In a glass measuring cup measure out 1/2 cup of almond milk and add the lemon juice. Let this sit for a few minutes.

Meanwhile add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to your lemon zest bowl. Whisk it all together. Add the brown sugar. Warm the yogurt and applesauce so that they will not cause your [melted] coconut oil to harden and add all three to the bowl. Mix it well and then add your chia seeds. Add as many chia seeds as your want [since you’re not gelling them to be an egg replacer they’ll be like poppy seeds in your muffins so you’ll need to decide if you want a lot or a little]. Add in your vanilla and mix.

Fill your lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Place one blackberry in the middle of each cup (it will sink while baking). Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. I store ours in the fridge and they are good for a couple days.

lemon blackberry muffins with chia [gluten-free and vegan]

lemon blackberry muffins with chia [gluten-free and vegan]

I know not everybody [hardly anybody?] requires their treats to be gluten-free or vegan. If that’s the case I’d try these muffins. They look quite divine.

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On Being An Allergy Mama

Two years ago I was sitting in a small, dark room with my daughter on my lap, facing me. I held her tightly with one arm while the other held her hair off her back. Helpless. She was screaming. Violently. She was used to the routine of new doctors’ offices but was surprised and upset by the skin prick test she’d just had performed on her little back. And so we sat for 15 minutes. Her screaming and me crying.

The nurse came back in to check Lucy’s back. To me it seemed the whole thing was red. Large red welts with spidery veins extending from some of them. Her skin was not happy and neither was she.

The nurse told us the initial results and asked if we’d ever used an Epi-pen. “It’s extremely important that you understand this before you leave. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You need to be comfortable and confident with its use. Should the need arise, this is how you’ll save your daughter’s life.”

The doctor came in next. She spoke with such a monotone voice that [even after the scary Epi-pen talk] I left the office feeling like food allergies would be a minor nuisance. When I told friends their first response was, “But she’ll probably grow out of it, right?” And I kind of started to believe that myself.

And then the doctor called. Less monotone and more concerned. Lucy’s bloodwork showed her allergies to be life-threatening. We would need to completely eliminate her exposure to eggs, wheat, dairy, and peanuts.

Here’s what I didn’t know about food allergies before I became a food allergy mama [or at my least my very basic, surface understanding of what I know to be true]: There are a few different reasons as to why kids develop food allergies. Sometimes it’s genetic.  Some believe it can be linked to additives and modifications made to our food. When Lucy’s allergens enter her body, it thinks they’re a foreign bad guy that needs to be wiped out [like it would react to something trying to make you sick]. So each time she’s exposed to the foods that make her sick she builds up more antibodies to fight off the “bad guys” and her body amps up its defense against them.

So in an ideal world we would know exactly what foods make her sick and we would completely avoid them. This is harder than it sounds…allergy mama guilt is a real thing and we have lots to avoid. And I’m not totally confident we know all of her allergens yet. And, rather unfortunately, sometimes she has reactions to things that aren’t supposed to make her sick. So I try to find the balance between letting her “be a kid” and strapping her in a bubble. I haven’t mastered that just yet.

Here’s what I sort of wish all of my friends knew about food allergies:

-I would love it if I never again had to answer the “Will they grow out of it?” question. It’s right up there with “In the old days we just kept exposing them to it until they got over it.”

-Don’t feel bad if we’re coming to your house and you don’t have food for my kid. We’re used to it. And we’re okay with it. We can’t leave the house without snacks. But I do love getting a heads up about what kind of food will be there [if it’s a party]. And it’s never a bad idea to ask which foods shouldn’t be served around them or which foods they have a contact allergy to. For example, we’re an egg-free house so maybe don’t bring your Egg McMuffin over. We’re a peanuts for adults house because we can remember to wash our hands and maintain safe contact.

-If we touch something the kids are allergic to we have to wash our hands before we touch them again. Soap is the only way to make something safe for them. A drop of egg or peanut send Lucy’s skin down a fiery, hive-ridden path. Even if it’s not direct contact it can make them sick. Even if you washed it with water. Even if two days ago you ate a PB&J [Did anyone else just think about Pam Beasley & Jim?!] and wiped it up with your dish towel. If you touch my kid with that dish towel she’ll get fired up [it’s true, I know this from experience, hence the adult pb rule].

-It’s a big [huge] deal for us but I’m trying to downplay it for you because I don’t want to feel like a weirdo [about this anyway]. And I don’t want you to think I’m not appreciative that my children are otherwise in good health. Nor do I want you to think I’m downplaying what’s going on with your kids because it’s different from this. But I’m often having allergy thoughts. It’s the kind of thing that goes from great to awful in a second. And it’s inescapable [you know, unless they grow out of it ;)]. Landon ate a green bean that came from a plate that had at one time had ranch dressing on it and we spent a car-ride home pulling over so I could try to clean the throw up off of him and his car seat. Multiple times. It’s frustrating. And upsetting. And sometimes I just want to relax and not feel like I’m on high-alert. But I can’t. And that’s okay. Because these kids were fearfully and wonderfully made. And I’m blessed with the opportunity of their earthly charge.

On being an allergy mom.

I didn’t realize before I started this journey how quickly I could feel comradeship with other allergy mamas. I didn’t realize how deep the impact would be on our family. I didn’t realize how emotional I would get when other people go out of their way to be mindful of our allergies. It’s hard not to talk about it!

p.s. If you want to hear abut how we got our allergy diagnosis you can check that out here.

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