Thursday, May 26, 2011

One-size Pocket Fitted Diaper Tutorial

Here's my first attempt at a sewing photo tutorial!  I found this free pattern for a one-size fitted pocket diaper at Little Bean Bum's blog.  She has photo instructions there too, but I changed a few things, so I thought I would show you what I did!  This is a great pattern.  Easy and quick to make, and it fits my one-year-old very well.  The fact that you stuff it in the front makes it much easier to sew, and I love that you can use just about anything stuffed in the pocket!  I bought a big bag of microfiber towels in the automotive department of our local Meijer store for really cheap.  One of them works ok for shorter period, but I would recommend using 2 for naps or overnight.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment. we go!

Cut out the pattern according to Little Bean Bum's measurements.  I did make the narrowest section in the middle a little slimmer after my first trial run.  A full sheet of newspaper works great.

Trace pattern onto fabric and cut out.  I used terrycloth for the outer layer and Alova suedecloth for the inner layer (both from JoAnn's)

Pin pieces right sides together, using a few extras around the wings to keep them matched up just right.

Stitch all the way around using 3/8" seam allowance...

...but leave the front open!!

Sew in elastic right on your seams.  Little Bean Bums' tutorial shows to make a casing for the back elastic, but that sounded like a lot of work to me, so I did the back elastic just like the sides.  I stretched the side elastic starting about 3" from the front of the diaper all the way to about 1 1/2" from the wings.  To sew elastic, lay it on the wrong side of the inner layer where you want it to start.  Stitch back and forth a few times, then switch to a medium zigzag stitch.  With the needle in the fabric, pull elastic tight and begin stitching.  Continue stretching the elastic as you go, stopping to readjust as needed.  When you reach the point where you want your elastic to end, switch back to a straight stitch and go back a forth a few times to lock in your stitches.  Cut the elastic off close to your stitching.  This sounds complicated at first, but it doesn't take long to get the hang of it!

Trim seam allowances all the way around the diaper.  Hem the front opening with a zigzag stitch (but don't sew it shut!)  

Turn the diaper right side out and push the wings all the way out...I like to use a pen tip with the pen not out.  Topstitch all the way around (again, don't stitch the front closed!) about 1/4" from the edges.  When you reach the sections with elastic, make sure to widen your allowance to about 1/2" so as not to stitch over the elastic.  When topstitching the elastic portion, stretch the diaper out tight.

All done!  Here it is on my 12 month old, secured with a safety pin.  This diaper will require a cover, of course:-)  Snappis also work great since the outside is terry.  You can adjust the size by simply tucking the front pocket of the diaper into itself.  Enjoy, and happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

Well, it's another cold and rainy day here in mid-Michigan (big surprise), so what's a girl to do?  BAKE!  I was already planning on making pizza dough for dinner later, so focaccia seemed like a logical next step.  Here's the recipe I came up with, and it turned out delightful!  The food processor has become my new best friend in the kitchen...what a time-saver!

Fresh from the oven!

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp. salt
1 T. yeast (or one package...I buy in bulk to save costs!)
1 cup hot water (120 degrees)
1 egg
1 medium sweet onion
1 T. butter
olive oil
Rosemary seasoning blend or fresh rosemary, chopped small (I used Pampered Chef Rosemary Herb Seasoning Blend)

In food processor bowl, combine flour, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and yeast and blend for a few seconds.  With machine running, slowly add water and egg.  Process for about 30 seconds to a minute.  This is almost too much for your average size blender, so you may need to stop and poke the dough down a few times.  Remove dough from processor and gently knead in about a tablespoon of rosemary blend.  Lightly coat a large round baking stone with olive oil and place dough on stone, cover with a large bowl, and rest for 5 minutes.  Uncover and press dough out to edges of stone.  Brush dough with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in a warm spot to rise for about 30 minutes.

While dough rises, caramelize the onions.  Chop onion into thin wedges.  In skillet, heat butter and 1 T. olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar.  Cook slowly over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  If onions are browning too fast, reduce heat.  This should take the whole 30 minutes the bread is rising.

Remove wrap from dough.  With the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the dough.  Brush again with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with rosemary seasoning and spread onions over the whole thing.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Homeschool Convention Recap (and mishap...)

Alright, I'll give you the mishap first so this post can end on a good note later!  Friday afternoon we parked in the DESIGNATED parking lot for the Lansing Convention Center.  Paid the 5 bucks (twice, actually, because I had to leave to pick up Dan and come back) and parked right where the attendant told us to park. We come out at the end of the evening to find our section of parking lot roped off as the "Fireworks Fallout Zone" for the Lansing Lugnuts baseball game and all the vehicles GONE.  No towing company to call, no information about where our van is...nothing.  Thankfully a helpful cleanup crew gentleman at the stadium across the street remembered the name of the towing company so we could find our car.  Long story short, we couldn't get our van until the next morning and had to pay about $120 in towing fees and parking tickets.  Grrr.  But I'm not going to get hung up on it and complain.  You'll see why at the end of the post:)

I did get to enjoy one of the best meals I have had in a loonnnggg time on Friday evening during our dinner break.  Dan and I went right across the street from the Convention Center to a little hole-in-the-wall looking place called "The Knight Cap".  Basically we chose it because 1.  It was close  2.  It wasn't busy because it was obviously a bar and "good" homeschoolers don't frequent such places (watch for a post still coming up about what we thing about that!) and, 3.  They advertised as being the place for beefeaters, which we most definitely are.  Well...from the moment I walked in I knew we were blowing pretty much our whole date/dining out budget for about the next 8 months, but let me tell you, it was WORTH EVERY PENNY.  The service was amazing.  Our server sat down and talked to us casually for a few minutes, explained the menu, gave us his suggestions and favorites...and the atmosphere was so cozy and intimate!  And of course, the food.  I ordered one of their local seasonal specials, veal with Michigan morel mushroom sauce and sauteed fiddleheads.  Heavenly.  If you're ever in the Lansing area and want a really nice dinner experience, you simply must go there!

I could go on and on about all the ideas, good books, interesting people, etc. from our trip to the INCH Convention this weekend, but instead of boring you with all those details, I thought I would sum it up with three quotes I jotted down while listening to some excellent teachers.  I could say much, much more, but this will give you the "essence" of what I came away with from the conference (besides books and curricula, of course!)

First, a quote from speaker Michelle Miller in her presentation, Mom's Role in Raising Men: "If boys don't see an enemy, they will create one in themselves."  Wow.  Even with my oldest only being eight years old, I can totally see this.  My boys want a battle.  They need to conquer things.  And in our culture, it's not like the "enemy" is running at us with a battle axe in his hand wearing animal skins and a helmet with horns.  Our enemies today are usually invisible, or dressed in more innocent clothing.  Presenting history, science, language, math...everything we study together as part of a great battle for the minds and souls of every person on the planet could certainly go a long way in motivating my boys to learn, rather than sinking into self-indulgence or self-destruction.  OK, I'm getting a little heavy here...

Next, keynote speaker Voddie Baucham (which, for the record, is pronounced Voe-dee Baw-kum) said, "Every person who enters your home should be met by the aroma of Christ."  He spoke of being raised in a Buddhist home and how he could still smell the incense, hear his mother chanting and see the shrine on the wall.  His mother's worship left a permanent mark on all his senses.  Through purposeful traditions and intentional daily routines I can leave the same mark on my childrens' memories...cookies in the oven, fresh pine needles at Christmas, songs of praise filling the house...these things are more than "warm fuzzies" to me.  The sum total of all those sensory impressions can add up to a beautiful childhood that points to Christ in big and little ways every day; a comforting, welcoming place where relationships are safe, no matter what.  I know, because it's the same way I feel about my own home growing up!

Finally, a great line from Heidi St. John (check her out on facebook at "The Busy Homeschool Mom"): "Be amazed!  Everything is amazing but nobody is happy."  Oh, how sad, but true!  There are countless things in our little world--even our own backyard--to be amazed over and somehow we still manage to just find the things to gripe about.  It reminds me of one of my favorite little poems by Robert Louis Stevenson that I find myself repeating again and again:

"The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Off to the INCH Convention!

This weekend is finally here...Dan and I get a weekend away all to ourselves!  Well, sort of.  We're going to the INCH Convention, Michigan's annual homeschool conference.  We've been to it a couple times before, but it's been a few years and I could use a little shot of excitement in my veins!  And it seemed like a good reason for the two of us to get away...Hard to believe that our "baby" Percival is big enough to go without me for a night though.  How the time does fly!  Only a month ago he was still waking up to nurse at night, and then all of a sudden, he just stopped.  A little sad for me...but not much:)

I'm eager to hear this year's keynote speaker, Voddie Baucham.  For one thing, I want to hear from his own mouth how you actually pronounce his name.  Voe-dee?  Vod-ee?  Bowcham?  Bawcham?  Never really quite sure...And while I probably don't agree with absolutely 100% of what he has to say, I really have enjoyed what I have heard from him before.  After all, his primary ministry is to restore Christian families to impact the world, which is pretty much what we're all about too:)

Finally, for anyone who is interested, here is my "shopping list" for the exhibit hall.  We'll find out after the conference if I'm able to stick to it:)

Latina Christiana I (elementary Latin)
Ludere Latine (Latin language games)
Memoria Press 2nd Grade Literature Guide
Saxon Math 54
Mystery of History Volume 2: Resurrection thru the Middle Ages
History Through the Ages Historical Figures Timeline set
Art ideas?

Preschool hands-on stuff

House Update...

Our house will be looking very different very soon, so I thought I should post some pictures of the progress before it's all done!  When we bought the house, it had no kitchen...which is fine for me because I get to do whatever I want with it! We took out a wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and we're putting a computer desk area in the kitchen as well.  Our cabinets are being delivered today!  I'm so excited to see them.  We ordered the new Martha Stewart Cabinets from Home Depot.  Here is what the kitchen looked like now before we did anything:

We knocked down the wall on the right and there will be a peninsula in its place.  We had to make the window (yes, that ugly board is where the window was supposed to be) much smaller to accommodate the cabinets we needed.  The computer station will be at the back of the room.  This kitchen is much smaller than the one we did at our old house, so that's going to take some "adjustment" on my more walk-in pantry.  But I think it's going to be super cute!  Our cabinets are white, and we're planning on making concrete countertops.  Any suggestions for wall colors/backsplash?

In the rest of the house...Dan is done with framing, plumbing, and I think he's almost done with electrical stuff, but that's hard for me to say since I know pretty much nothing about that!  This weekend he'll be hanging drywall so that next week his uncle can tape, mud, and repair the drywall and plaster throughout the house.  And then guess what?  I get to paint!  Finally a job that I know at least a little bit about!

In other news...I'm hobbling around on crutches today after an unfortunate roller skating incident last night.  I took the kids to their Awana roller skating party and it didn't bode too well for me.  My skating skills are adequate enough (I certainly spent my share of time at the roller rink for junior high mixers!) but some people just don't know when to slow down.  Like during the backwards skate.  Picture two grown men skating backwards full throttle.  Picture me trying to shimmy between them to avoid a massive collision.  End result?  Me on the floor, 2 grown men continue skating like nothing happened.  Yeah, I wasn't too happy.  Funny thing is, my ankle didn't hurt at first.  I kept skating the whole night.  But as soon as I took off the skates, I couldn't walk!  Pretty sure I sprained my ankle, although it's not even swollen...So now here I am hopping around on crutches with a bruise that's bound to be the size of Texas on the right side of my bum.  On the plus side, the boys have vowed to wait on me all day.  Sir Kay (boy #2) already made breakfast...what a sweet boy he is.  Hoping this crazy thing starts to heal quickly because I can't stand being laid up!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Recipe: Rhubarb Bread with Honey Lemon Glaze

I was feeling a little Martha-ish this afternoon, so I decided to experiment with rhubarb a little bit!  My mom teaches my two oldest boys and some of their cousins a group singing lesson, and their recital is tonight.  I thought a nice fresh loaf of bread would be a great little appreciation gift.  My in-laws (where we are still living!) are starting to have lots of rhubarb ripe for the picking!  I decided to try a quick bread and it turned out great!  Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sour milk (or buttermilk)
4 eggs
4 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour with great results)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb

1/2 cup honey
2 T. lemon juice

Heat oven to 350.  Grease 3 loaf pans.  Beat sugar and margarine, mix in rest of wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.  Fold in rhubarb.  Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.  Immediately after baking, poke bread with a fork several times on the top and brush on glaze.  When bread is cool enough to handle, remove from pans.  Makes 3 smallish loaves.  Delicious!  I also found a cute printable label to put on it.

What's been in your oven lately?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Little House, Big Dreams

So, this is where it all happens!  The heart of our own "domestic reformation"...

For some reason I've been totally putting off writing this post.  It just always seems like too much to tackle.  I mean, this is where I anticipate a good portion of the rest of my life happening.  That's a lot to take on!  A little history for those who don't know me personally: my husband and I (and growing family!) lived in a VERY rural area in southern Michigan for the last 8 1/2 years before moving back to our hometown in Michigan's "thumb" area last September.  Our first son was only 6 weeks old when we moved to our previous location.  Dan (my husband!) served as a youth pastor in a small church there for about 7 years, then decided (for many reasons) to return to his engineering background.  At about the same time, we decided we really wanted to move back closer to our families--they all live in the same county except for us and we are blessed to have a family that actually wants to live close to one another!  So we listed our house, and waited.  And dropped the price.  And waited, dropped the price, etc., etc.  Finally after about a year on the market, we decided to just move anyways.  Dan's parents graciously let us live with them, even though we had no idea how soon we could actually start looking for our own house since we hadn't sold our last one yet.  Amazingly, right after we decided to move, an offer came in.  It was lower than what we had hoped, but good enough.  So with our house finally sold, we began looking for our own place.  We knew we wanted some land.  We would have settled for 3 acres if that was all we could afford, really hoped for at least 5 acres, and dreamed about having 10.  I don't know...I guess we just like to stretch out:)  We looked at lots of places, but nothing seemed right, and almost every one we looked at would have to be a cash buy because of its condition or other factors.  Oh, and did I mention we were looking for something under $60,000?  Yeah, we knew we were dreaming.  To make a long story short, after much prayer and searching, the Lord pretty much dropped our home in our laps.  This adorable home came on the market midwinter, listed at an unbelievable price, and it was on 20 acres!  Again, it was a cash deal, and right at the same time God worked everything out that we could make that happen.  Sure, the place needs work, but I don't think we would have it any other way...we can't seem to help ourselves!  (If you could see pics of the last house we reno'd, this place looks like a palace!)

The way the Lord has orchestrated SO many things for us in the last couple years is absolutely remarkable.  We never dreamed we would have property like this!  And it's been so fun watching everything turn green there and imagine what it could look like in a few years...and dream about our boys growing up there too.  We love the idea of self-sufficiency, producing most of our own food and teaching our kids to be entrepreneurs with whatever resources they have available.  There are so many opportunities for me to express my talents and interests there...the house is pretty much a blank slate for me to put my own special "touch" on.  I can already hear the music being played and made, the veggies from the garden in the freezer, the school lessons on the chalkboard...I really don't know where this desire for self-sufficiency comes from, but I do know that the most satisfying moments in my life have been at home, tending the garden while the kids play or marching around the kitchen to Bruckner while supper cooks.  Sure, some of our attempts at "do-it-yourselfing" have been total failures, but I know this is where I belong, changing the world through one family.  Our own little Domestic Reformation.

Master Bedroom

40 x 40 pole barn!

awesome stone barn...someday it'll have a roof:-)

The "Piano Room"

Living and Dining

Adorable stone shed (it has morning glories starting to climb the trellis now!)

View of property from near the house...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nettle Tea!

I love spring, especially once we get past that "brown" phase and things start to green up!  And boy, is it finally happening here!  I wanted to share this recipe/how-to with you because it helped me so much last spring.  Towards the end of my pregnancy with Percival (I was due around the 1st of May) I started getting this awful, itchy red rash on my arms and legs.  The best thing I could figure out was that it was PUPPS, not uncommon during pregnancy.  It was the most annoying thing.  Ever.  I couldn't sleep (as if sleeping wasn't hard enough at 8 months + already!) and I could hardly enjoy anything even during the daytime because I itched ALL the time.  I showed it to my doc at a checkup and his answer was basically, "Put some steroid cream on it and hope you have that baby soon."  Well, sorry doc.  Wrong answer.  I started researching online and found that many believe PUPPS is caused by an overtaxed liver--your blood volume increases so much during pregnancy that your liver just can't keep up, so those extra toxins start rearing their ugly heads as a nasty rash.  One of the remedies listed on some herbal sites was nettle tea, and we had nettles in abundance!  I started drinking several big glasses of it every day and within just a few days, the rash was almost all gone.  Now a year later, I'm going to try it again just to see how it helps.  I haven't been eating too well lately, so it probably won't hurt to give my body a little cleansing boost.  The taste is just sort of "green". Nettles are LOADED with vitamins: vitamin A, C, B vitamins, and antioxidants. God's natural energy booster! 

Here's how:
Pick a bowlful of nettles.  WEAR GLOVES.  They're nicknamed fireweed for good reason.  And whenever you're going to consume wild foods, make sure you've correctly identified it!  You'll find tons of pics of nettles with a quick google search.
Wash them well.  I use a salad spinner.

Put in a pitcher, cover with boiling water, and steep well.  I prefer to drink it cold.  After a day or so it'll start to turn really pretty bluish.  This is normal and fine!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I'm Listening To

I was hoping to write a "real" blog post tonight all about our big ambitions for our new "homestead".  But it turns out that was a little too ambitious for me at this moment.  So instead, you get to hear about my latest favorite tunes.  Enjoy!

Up first...this great song by Eisley called "The Valley".  Beautiful melody and harmonies, and totally unexpected chord changes in the chorus.
The Valley

Next...a few songs from the album I've been listening to almost nonstop since January!  The album is called In Feast or Fallow by Sandra McCracken.  It's unusual for an album to stay at the top of my "list" for this long...
In Feast or Fallow
This is the Christ
You can listen to the whole album (and download!!!) at her website.

Finally...this one is just really fun.  Not the greatest sound and video quality, but hey, they're in the woods.
Gungor: "The Earth is Yours"

Hope these songs brighten your weekend...and happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to Repair Fruit Trees with Rodent Damage

...hopefully.  As we were happily off playing in the caves of Kentucky, the fauna back home were having a heyday with all the fresh plantings we left for them.  Dan and the kids got me a small orchard for my birthday/mother's day--10 trees in all.  And it sure didn't take the critters long to find them.  When we got back from vacation, the worst of them looked like this:

I did a little searching online and about the only solution I found was to cover the wounds with tar to prevent further infection and hope for the best.  Here's what you need:

Small amount of tar (like driveway sealer...check the back corners of your basement before you go buying any!)
plastic/latex gloves
old paintbrush
flexible drainage tile
cable ties (zip ties)

Wearing latex gloves, just paint the tar over the wound with the paintbrush to completely cover it. Supposedly as long as there is at least a small amount of bark left going from below the wound to above it, the tree can recover.  I really hope so...I was looking forward to homegrown fruit in a few years!  To prevent further damage, we just cut lengths of flexible drainage tile to cover the lower portion of the tree, cut it lengthwise to slip around the trunk, and secured it with cable ties, like this:

At the other end of the yard...the boys got to spend an hour planting about 20 blue spruce across the front of the property for privacy.  It cut our school day a little short, but quality workin' time with Grandpa is hard to beat!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Kentucky Vacation Recap (with lots of pictures!)

Good beer, good friends, the Creation Museum, Mammoth Caves and Abraham Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home made up the last few days of our Kentucky tour!  Yes, I know, many would consider a few of those items a contradiction...maybe one day I will write a nice, deep, theological post about why we believe it's biblical to enjoy a few brewskies now and then.  But that's another whole story, so for now you're just gonna have to wait.

Thursday afternoon we went on the Mammoth Passage Tour at the caves.  It wasn't as long as I would have liked, but Percival and Gawain were not about to put up with anything longer than an hour.  Friday we spent a good few hours at Lincoln's birthplace and his boyhood home nearby.  We weren't planning on being there that long, but it was well worth the visit.  From there we drove up to Cincinnati to visit some good high school friends and their adorable daughter.  Greg treated us to a fantastic evening at The Hofbrauhaus and we spent a fun night with them at their home.  Saturday we headed to the Creation Museum nearby.  We only had about half a day to take it in, which definitely was NOT enough time to really see it all.  The museum is great--everything is of very high quality.  I highly recommend it!  I'm hoping we can go back sometime and see it in more depth.  If you decide to go, try to plan on getting a 2-day pass or at least having a good full day.

OK, on to the fun part...some pics!

Gawain high-tailing out of Hidden River Cave.

Entrance to Hidden River Cave with our personal tour guide!

There she is, Athena with all her 8 lbs. of gold gilding...

Down the stairs into Mammoth Cave

View from a hiking trail "above ground" at Mammoth Cave N.P.

Monument at Lincoln's birthplace.  The house they *think* he was born in is inside.

Isaiah, Moses, and David at the Creation Museum.  I can't tell you how many times Gawain had to ask if all these guys were real.

Dan with the lizard guy.  Isn't he cute?  (My husband, that is?!)