Thursday, October 23, 2014

Crafty Christmas: Heating Pad


Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 9 weeks away!

It's winter and that means it is cold outside! Well, I guess that all depends on where you live, but we live in Michigan, and it gets cold here. Homemade heating pads are terrific gifts; they'll warm the recipient's heart and toes! This is still a beginner project for sewing, so don't feel like you can't do this. Say it with me, "YES, I CAN!"

Here's what you need to make a heating pad:
  • Fabric that is about 20 inches by 9 inches
  • Chalk
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Rice (tip: keep expired rice around to use in projects!)
  • Essential oils (optional)
Here's how you make a heating pad:
  1. Wash and dry your fabric; iron as needed.
  2. Use the ruler to be sure all sides are even; most fabric cut at the store are not.
  3. Pin the right sides of the fabric together so the wrong sides are facing out. Sew one short end and both long ends.
  4. If you want to use essential oils, mix the rice and oils together in a bowl at this time.
  5. Turn the pad inside out so the right sides of the fabric are now facing out. Make sure the corners are all squared away and iron the fabric again. Top stitch along the one short end and the two long ends.
  6. Add about a half of a cup of the rice mixture to the bottom of the fabric. Measure out about 3 inches and mark that measurement with chalk. Sew along that line.
  7. Add another half cup of rice and measure another 3 inches. Mark the line with chalk and sew along that line. Repeat three more times.
  8. To end the project, add one more half cup of rice, then sew the ends together. I ironed my ends underneath, then sewed along the top, so the pad would have a finished look. I'm not a fan of frayed ends.
Tip: If you're having trouble sewing along the chalk lines (the rice does tend to get in the way), pin along the line. I found that helped keep the rice in line.

Bonus Idea: Don't feel like making a full-on heating pad? No worries! From fleece, cut out a circle that fits in the palm of your hand. Sew around the edges of the two pieces, and before sewing it totally shut, fill the inside with rice. Sew the circle shut. Make 2 of these and you have two hand warmers. Shh, I made some to stick in Jason's Christmas stocking!

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gaming Corner: Yahtzee

I truly enjoy this game, due mostly to the fact that I am a sucker for dice rolling. The whole game revolves around rolling dice and trying to score as many points as possible. Set-up is get out the score pad and 5 dice.


5 dice and a score card = very simple
Turns will be taken by each player, until all of the boxes on the scorecard have been filled. On your turn, roll all 5 dice. You may then re-roll as many of the dice as you choose. And after that, you again may re-roll any of the dice you choose one final time. You then would use the faces shown on the dice to determine the score you put in one of the boxes. To do this requires an explanation of the score card. It is divided into 2 parts: an upper section and a lower section. In the upper section, there is a line for each side of the dice: 1, 2, 3 and so on. When scoring on the top section, you score a number of points equal to the amount on the dice faces but only to the faces that match that number in the row you are scoring... that sounds confusing but after the following example it will make perfect sense.


The above picture scores either 2 points in the 2 box, 6 points in the 3 box, or 8 points in the 4 box.

The bottom section of the score card has a bunch of poker hands that you are trying to roll. I will list off each type and how many points they are worth:
3 of a kind - Sum of all dice rolled
4 of a kind - Sum of all dice rolled
Full House (3 of a kind and 2 of a kind) - 25 points
Small Straight (4 in a row) - 30 points
Large Straight (5 in a row) - 40 points
YAHTZEE (5 of a kind) - 50 points
Chance - Sum of all dice rolled

If ever you roll any additional Yahtzees after rolling your first, you get a bonus 100 points and get to take another turn. Part of the fun of the game is figuring out where to put your rolls. Take the following dice roll for example. You could score it as a short straight, 8 points in the 4 box in the upper score card, or even 14 points in chance.


It could happen that at some point you may have a roll that you cannot score. If that happens, you must put a zero in one of the boxes. At the end of a game, all the boxes are totaled up and whoever has the most points is the winner.

I loved this game as a child and it still has a special place in my heart. Probably just because of the dice rolling but maybe because it is a game a kid can play that isn't just luck (I keep coming back to that.) :-)

-Gamer Jason

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason (and David): Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping

These muffins were super good. I'm not exactly sure what streusel is but it made the muffins taste great. You will want to make these again right after you finish the first batch. If you do, please make sure to share. :D


Yup, there are that many blueberries in this muffin.
That is why it is so good!
Ingredients
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2/3 cup + 1 1/4 cup flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • zest of a lemon
  • 3 cups blueberries
Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners.
  • Mix butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup sugar together in a bowl until fluffy.
    • I'm not exactly sure what fluffy mixed butter looks like but I guessed that once everything was combined and mixed for another few seconds that I had achieved fluffiness.
  • Add 2/3 cup flour and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until it looks like a crumb topping.
  • Set it off to the side of the room to use at the end of the recipe.
  • Whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  • In a different bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, remaining sugar, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon zest until well combined.
  • Pour the batter into the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. 
  • Fold in the blueberries.
  • Distribute the blueberry batter evenly in the muffin tin.
  • Sprinkle the topping made at the beginning of the recipe all over the batter.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.
  • Let the muffins cool in pan for 10 minutes and then pull them out of the pan to finish cooling.
    • If you serve the muffins warm, they will most likely not come out of the liners cleanly, but with that being said, I cannot advise against a nice warm muffin.
Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Book Room: A Lady at Willowgrove Hall

Willowgrove Hall is full of secrets, but soon everything hidden is brought to light.

Cecily Faire has a secret—and she intends to keep it. But when she arrives at Willowgrove Hall to serve as a lady’s companion, she comes face-to-face with the only person who knows the truth about her past.

As the steward of Willowgrove Hall, Nathaniel Stanton is dedicated to serving those around him. Nothing escapes his notice—including the beautiful new lady’s companion. He is certain the lovely Miss Faire is hiding something, and he determines to uncover it. But Nathaniel has a secret of his own: he is the illegitimate son of Willowgrove’s former master. Falling in love was not part of his plans . . . until he meets Cecily Faire.

When Willowgrove’s mistress dies, everything changes. Fear of exposure forces Cecily to leave under the cover of darkness, embarking on a journey to finally find her long-lost sister. When the will is read, Nathaniel’s inheritance makes him question his future plans. Cecily and Nathaniel are forced to make decisions that will change the course of their lives. Is their love strong enough to survive?


Additional notes: This is the third book in the Whispers on the Moors series. You can read my review of the first book here and the second book here.

My thoughts: There is nothing more satisfying in a book than real characters and a real plot. I loved how relatable the characters' problems were - they weren't just superficial issues. For this time period, and for conservative people in this time period, they are real issues.

I have to admit I was a bit sad the story ended how and when it did; just when Cecily gets what she wants (which is not just the boy), the story ends. I wanted to know more about what happens next. The ending was bittersweet for me.

I was also hoping that somehow Willowgrove would come to someone other than who it did. I felt sure Mrs. Trent would change that, but it appears that is not to be the case. If nothing else, all of my disappointments just prove how invested I was in the book and the characters.

If you're a fan of historical fiction, you'll enjoy this series.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Day in the Life of a SAHD

This is a recording of Jason's day on Thursday, October 16th. We both had fun with this as he recorded his day on a Google doc and I could read what he was doing while I was at work. It gave me great insight as to why exactly the house is always messy when I get home...

7:00 AM
I wake up, feed Preston and start making lunch for my wife.

7:15 AM
Bug is stirring, so I deliver a bottle of milk to her in bed and return to the kitchen to continue making Jess' lunch.

7:19 AM
Bug is fully awake and done with her milk, so I change her diaper and put her in morning play clothes.

7:24 AM
Bug and I head back to the kitchen to finish up Jess' lunch. We give Jess hugs and kisses as she leaves for work.

7:31 AM
Bug and I pick up some loose change. I start to record my day on Google Docs, then I earn my daily Swagbucks and Bing points. I also get distracted by clips of Jimmy Fallon's late night show.

7:52 AM
I chase Bug around the living room... just because it's fun. While she plays independently, I read a bit of my current book, which is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

8:22 AM
It's time to start cleaning the kitchen and get breakfast around for me and Bug. We eat strawberries.


8:44 AM
I declutter the living room and ask my daughter if she had anything to do with my wallet contents being spread all over the living room floor.


8:58 AM
I change Bug's diaper and put her down for a nap, then play on the computer and be generally unproductive.

9:39 AM
Christmas is coming quickly, and I need to finish a sewing project so I begin to work on that.

10:08 AM
My bobbin runs out of thread and when I get up to change it, I can hear Bug making Bug noises in the bedroom. I scoop her out of bed and get her a snack of yogurt and fresh water.

10:14 AM
Bug and I make bread dough.

10:28 AM
I brush Bug's hair while we watch a bit of the Lego movie, then I change her diaper.


11:15 AM
Time for lunch - it's spaghetti noodles and green beans today. I read her books while we eat. After lunch, we play with trucks in the living room, then pick up the kitchen from lunch.

12:15 PM
We watch a little bit more of the movie, then I put Bug down for a nap as she is obviously tired. She drinks a milk bottle and I change her diaper before officially laying her down.

12:45 PM
I return to my sewing project, determined to finish it. Jess calls shortly after 1 PM and the phone was in the room with Bug. Not smart. The ringing wakes her up.

1:55 PM
I change Bug's diaper and put her back down for a nap. She stays asleep this time (I also made sure the phone was not in the room with her), and while she's asleep, I finish the sewing project, bake potatoes and take a nap. Once she wakes up, I change her diaper, get her a snack (a pouch of apple mush), play with her in the living room, start dinner and Jess comes home from work.


5:28 PM
Dinner is finished. Bug is always ready to eat, and she loves to eat ketchup by the spoonful. Dinner today is a hot dog, French fries and green beans. We're using up leftovers and items from the pantry this week.


5:43 PM
During dinner, I run down to the apartment complex office to get a package before the office closed. After dinner, I give Bug a bath, then laugh as Bug runs around the house wrapped up in her hooded towel. I get her dressed for the evening and brush her hair again. I get her milk and water and tuck her into bed for cuddles with Jess and her bunny.


6:33 PM
I clean up the kitchen and dining area. After that, I do some work online and play with Bug.

7:40 PM
Bug is clearly getting tired so Jess and I finish up our nighttime routine with her, which includes changing her diaper, refilling her water bottles again, and tucking her in bed with hugs and kisses. After we tuck her into bed, I read some more of my book.

8:18 PM
I check on Bug and refill her water bottles, then get an apple for a snack. After finishing up some work online, I head down to the gym for my daily two-mile walk. I come back home, eat another snack, shower, brush my teeth, then head to bed around 10:30 PM. Good night!

While I found Jason's day to be generally productive, I am always happy to see how much time he spends engaging our girl in active play: learning, discovering and exploring. This is definitely why the house is messy when I come home - not only because they've been playing but because they've been playing, he has less time to clean. I'm good with that. 

Jason has great patience with Bug and includes her in his chores. This day was very light on household chores as we had picked up the house and cleaned really well on Wednesday night. Jason was able to use time he would've spent on laundry and cleaning to finish a sewing project and take time for himself. Not every day is like this, but this gives you a glimpse into what he did yesterday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason (and David): Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

These mashed potatoes are VERY GOOD. We have made them three or four times now and this is the first time we have gotten around to taking a picture because we have been more focused on eating them. If you are having a meal where you could have mashed potatoes with it, you should make these mashed potatoes to go with it.


Ingredients
  • 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
    • You don't need to peel the potatoes, but Jess thinks that it is better when you do so.
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • Up to 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 14 tsp pepper
Directions
  • Put the potatoes and garlic in a pot and cover them with enough water so the water is at least 1 inch higher than the potatoes.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then let them cook for 20 more minutes.
  • Drain the water from the pot and mash the potatoes and garlic with a potato masher.
  • Mash in the butter, and slowly mix in the milk until you reach the desired consistency.
    • It is possible that you will not use all the milk.
  • Mix in the sour cream and serve.
The best part is you can whip up a batch of these in about 30 minutes, with only a bit of prep time at the beginning and mashing time at the end.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Monday, October 13, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: why baby-led weaning works for us (and how it can work for you, too!)

At 5.5 months, Bug plucked a piece of celery from Jason's plate - and I just
happened to have our camera handy and ready to commemorate the moment forever!
I remember the first time I heard the phrase "baby-led weaning" (BLW) and thought it was just something to do with breast-feeding. Since I thought that's what it meant, I can only imagine other people are also confused.

Let me be the one to enlighten you - while BLW can also refer to a baby weaning himself from his mama's milk, more often than not, we're referring to a baby weaning himself off milk/formula and starting on solids without a parent shoving spoons into baby's mouth. Baby learns to feed him or herself with his or her fingers.

When I discovered what BLW really was, it was kind of a "duh" moment for me. I mean, isn't this how all kids learn to eat? By doing it on their own?

Sadly, it's really not. While there are some babies who won't have the developmental skills to feed themselves (for whatever reason), most babies are perfectly capable of not only being able to feed themselves but they are also capable of feeding themselves well. Have you noticed that sometimes your baby/tot eats more on certain days or at certain times? That's because your child is really hungry then! Babies won't over-eat; they're not conditioned to do that. They will eat when they're hungry, and when they're not hungry, they won't eat.

Babies and tots also know what exactly their body needs. Some days, they might scarf every carb in sight; other days, they might push carbs out of the way and stuff protein in their little mouths as fast as they can. You can rely on your baby to know what he/she needs to keep going.

BLW is allowing your child to feed him or herself. Your baby will let you know when s/he is ready to start BLW. When Bug was about 5.5 months old, she plucked a piece of celery from Jason's plate and began to gnaw on it. Our BLW journey with Bug was slightly odd; the girl had no teeth until about 14 months old. Even now (at 18 months old), she barely has 4 teeth.

Before Bug had any teeth, she was not too interested in food. At times, she would allow us to feed her from a spoon, and while this made me feel better, please know that your baby is perfectly fine to just be on breast milk or formula. Babies do not need solids of any kind before 1 year.

If teeth are an issue for you, at some point, pouches of food may be a good first food for you. Even to this day, Bug loves sucking the food out of pouches, and we keep pouches in the house as a good to-go snack or meal for her.

Once your baby has teeth and can work food a bit better, always place your tot in a high chair. This helps encourage them to focus on the activity you're placing before them - food! The key to BLW is patience and trust.Your baby may scarf green beans one day, then eschew them the next. Your baby will enjoy testing gravity with all kinds of food. Be patient with your baby; your baby is just trying to figure out this food thing. Trust that your baby knows what s/he is doing; even if you think the tot hasn't eaten anything, the tot has eaten just enough.

Do not become frustrated with your child. Do not encourage them to eat with your actions or words. Let them be the driver of this race; if baby is hungry, baby will eat.

Baby may also take a longer time to eat than you would take. We've been pre-conditioned to eat quickly to move on to the next task; not only do babies take time with getting food into their little mouths, chewing, swallowing and doing that all over again, your baby will also crave mealtime as social time. One of our favorite activities during mealtime (once the adult has eaten and is just hanging out with Bug) is to read books to her. We've found this actually increases what Bug eats - whether because she's focusing more on food or because she's so engrossed in the book, she just keeps stuffing her mouth, I don't know.

Bug definitely has days where she eats everything in sight and I start to fret about our grocery bill. And then she has days where she picks at each meal. One day, she'll scarf down macaroni and cheese; the next, she'll pick at it. This is okay. Your baby knows what she's doing. Bug also enjoys throwing her food from her tray; this is okay, too. Bug is testing gravity and honestly, I'm sure she knows she's testing our patience. In children's defense everywhere, I totally understand testing gravity. Everything falls to the ground but balloons. But they don't know it's everything but balloons. All they know is when they were about 1 year old, you brought them this balloon thing that didn't fall down and now they're wondering what else might not fall down. I totally get it.

BLW ensures your child's diet matches your child's needs. It strengthens your child's hand-eye coordination and their pincer grip. BLW allows your child to be independent. Your child literally has everything she needs to be successful at feeding yourself. Give you and your child the gift of happier mealtimes and choose BLW.

If you would like more information on BLW, I highly recommend reading Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley.