Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Free Shipping

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! We've got our turkey in the oven and family on the way. To celebrate the holiday and to help you with your Christmas shopping, I am having a free shipping sale through the weekend in the Etsy shop. Just use the coupon code THANKSGIVING2012 to receive free shipping on any order (U.S. orders only). The coupon will be active until midnight MDT on Sunday 11/25. Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Holey Girl is 6 Months!

This sweet girl turned 6 months old this week. I can't believe how big she's getting. She's still small for her age (5th percentile), but at least we are on the charts and she is growing and that is all that matters.

We found out at her 4 month check-up that she had a heart murmur and we had to see a cardiologist. Come to find out she was born with 2 holes in her heart (an ASD and VSD). It was a scary few days between when we found out about the hole (at first we only knew about 1) and when we were able to speak to the cardiologist.

The cardiologist explained to us how common it was (1 in 100 babies is born with a heart defect) and that most go on to live normal, healthy lives. Our "holey" girl is lucky in that so far she is fine and it is not affecting her too much. As long as she continues to grow and stays active, she will probably not have to have any treatment. They may have to repair one of her holes, but they most likely won't have to do anything until she is 8 years old.

I guess lucky isn't really the right word for what she is. She is blessed. When we first found out about her heart, we had so many friends and family members praying for her and we felt them. Although we were scared, we knew it was going to be okay, and it was. Prayer works. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

New in the Shop: Universal Pacifier Clips

 I've got some new items in my Etsy shop. I'm really excited to show you all as I have been working on these pacifier clips for a while. Other things kept coming up though so I could only do a few at a time. I still have more colors/styles to complete, but I decided to just get what I have up for now.

The great thing about these pacifier clips are that they work for almost any pacifier type. I say almost because I have not tested it on every type, but I am pretty sure you can find a way to get it to work with any type. A lot of clips have a wide piece of fabric/material that clips around the handle part of the pacifier. They are frustrating because not all pacifiers have handles. All pacifiers do have ventilation holes though which is why my style of clip will work.

My clips have a loop of skinny elastic at the end that you loop through the handle, if it has one, or a ventilation hole if it does not. It will even fit through the tiny holes of the Soothie pacifiers that most hospitals give out!

The ribbon is sewn securely to a suspender style clip that has strong plastic teeth that grip onto your baby's clothes/blanket/car seat/stroller, whatever. They are high quality and pretty much impossible for baby to pull off. 

The ribbon is also so pretty and soft. I have several that I made for my baby girl and she loves to suck on the ribbon itself :)

I currently have 9 styles up on Etsy, but more are coming so look out for those too. Check them out here:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread That You Will Actually Want to Eat

A few years ago I started making my own bread from scratch and now I will never go back. The homemade kind tastes so much better, is so much better for you, and is so much cheaper. It is a little extra work, but once you get the hang of it, it is not hard at all. I make bread at least once a week.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I made it a lot more and froze a bunch so that I wouldn't have to make some for a while after I had my baby. You can freeze them for a month or two, but I wouldn't go longer than a few months or 6 months at the most as they get freezer burnt really easily and that ruins the texture.

When I first started making bread, I used the bread recipe from pantry secrets. It is an okay recipe that is meant to be fail safe and easy. It is easy and fast, but I don't think that my recipe is any harder. Mine might be a little easier to mess up, but even when I do mess up, it still tastes good, it just doesn't look as pretty. I also like that mine has all REAL ingredients. Theirs requires Soy Lecithin and I am not sure what that is exactly, but I am sure it is processed and we are trying to avoid processed foods as much as we can. It is also hard to find and you have to buy it from them (which is convenient for them).

My recipe comes from my mom, who got it from a local bakery in CA. I have modified her recipe a bit to make 2 regular size loaves as hers makes HUGE loaves that don't fit in my bread bags. Growing up, everybody knew my mom for her bread. She would donate a few loaves for silent auction fundraisers and they would often sell for over $50 a loaf! It is really that good and you can hardly believe that you are eating whole wheat bread because it is so light, fluffy, and moist.

I was scared to make hers at first because I didn't think that I could make mine as good as hers, but come to find out it is really easy and mine taste just as good!

This bread uses 100% whole wheat flour. I grind mine myself if a wheat grinder right before I make it. Wheat flour loses its nutrient value quickly after you grind it (like within a few days) and can become rancid quickly. When you grind wheat, if you do not use it right away, be sure to store it in the freezer so that you can retain the nutrients better. You can also use whole wheat flour purchased from a store, but it won't have the nutrient value that using freshly ground wheat can have.

So on to the recipe (scroll all the way down for full recipe)

Break making is so much easier if you have a good mixer with kneading attachments. I use the 20+ year old mixer that was a hand me down from my mom after she got a Bosch. Bosch mixers are the best. Kitchen Aids will work, but their motors are not as strong and will burn out rather quickly if you make bread very often.  You can also mix and knead everything by hand.
 First thing I do is grind my wheat. I usually use hard white or hard red wheat. You can use either kind, just not soft wheat. I think the red has a little bit stronger of a flavor and I have heard that it can be a little harder to digest for people who are not used to eating a lot of wheat, but I have not noticed any difference.

I fill the top of my grinder with as much as it will hold. For my grinder, this makes about 4 cups and only takes a few minutes to grind. I set it aside to use later.
 In the mixing bowl, I first combine 2 1/4 cups of hot water, 1/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup honey and 1 t salt. For the water, I use filtered water and then heat it in the microwave for a minute. You want it hot, but not so hot that it burns your finger if you put it in it.

I also have a trick for the honey. I take my 1 cup pyrex liquid measuring cup and first put in 1/3 cup of oil. Then I add honey until it gets up to 2/3 cup. The honey will settle towards the bottom, but there will still be a little oil between the glass and the honey. Then when you pour it out, the honey just slips right out without sticking to the glass.
Then I add 1/3 cup of gluten. The gluten is very important as this is what keeps the bread from being crumbly. When using whole wheat flour, you have to have gluten or the bread won't have good texture and will be dense. Gluten has gotten a bad rap lately, but gluten is only bad for people who are sensitive to it. For most people, it is totally fine. Just because something is gluten free, does not mean it is healthy. 

 Then you add 1 Tablespoon of yeast. You can use dry active or instant yeast. Both will work just fine. The instant rises faster at first, but the dry active catches up and in the end they both make the bread rise in about the same amount of time.

 After the yeast, I leave my mixer on, and then add about 4-5 cups of wheat flour, a cup at a time. My wheat grinder usually does about 4 1/2 cups at a time, so sometimes I supplement with a little bit of bread flour (I like the Turkey Flour from Lehi Roller Mills) if 4 1/2 isn't a enough. Do not use all-purpose flour.

 The amount of flour needed will vary depending on the day (humidity, pressure, temperature, etc) which is why you add it a cup at a time. You want to keep adding until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a clump in the middle. When I made it for these pictures I used about 4 3/4 cups. If you add too much, it will be dry, but if you don't add enough, it will be too wet and sticky to work with. If you end up adding to much, just a little bit more water.

After adding the flour, put on the lid, turn up the speed and have it knead the bread for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile I usually put the ingredients away, wash my measuring cups/spoons, and grease my pans and a small section of the counter. I will also turn on the oven for just a minute, just so it is a little warm, but not hot.

After 5 minutes, turn it off and then grease up your hands really well so you can take the dough out of the bowl and put it on your counter. The dough should be pretty smooth and a little sticky so make sure you put it on the greased section of your counter. After you start kneading bread, you don't want to incorporate any more flour which is why we grease our hands and the counter instead of flouring it. 

Now we are going to hand knead it just a bit to smooth it out a bit more after taking it out of the bowl. Start out with a somewhat flattened mound, then fold it in half and press. Then rotate it 90 degrees and do it again. I usually use both hands for this, but I needed one hand to take pictures with. Repeat this 4-5 times.

Now you want to split the dough in half to make the 2 loaves. I form an elongated ball and then use my thumb and middle finger to pinch the dough into two (somewhat) equal halves.

 To form the loaves, I flatten it out and fold it in half like I do when kneading, but then pull the sides down a bit to form a smooth top with the seam on the bottom. I place the loaves seam side down in the pans.
 My loaves weren't quite even, but that is fine. It won't matter too much. I place the pans inside the warm oven to rise. The rising time will again vary a ton. For me, it takes 20-30 minutes. If you have not made bread before or do not make bread very often, it will probably take longer. The more you make bread, the faster it will rise due to the amount of "wild" yeast that will be present in your kitchen. You want it rise until the dough forms a little dome above the rim of the pan. It will rise a bit more when you start to bake it too so don't let it rise too high or it can collapse. When mine gets close, I take them out of the oven and put them on top of the stove so that the oven can preheat.

When fully risen, bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the top. When you pull them out of the pans, the sides should be slightly golden brown too. If they are pale, they need to be baked few minutes more.

Immediately take them out of the pans and place on a cooling rack. If you don't do this, not only can they become overbaked from the hot pans, but the steam can make the bottoms all soggy.

They smell so good, that it is tempting to cut into them right away, but in order to retain the most moisture and not have them dry out, it is better to wait for them to cool before slicing. Use a good serrated bread knife and cut them while on its side rather than from the top for best results. The end result is soft, moist, fluffly whole wheat bread that tastes soooo good. Store it inside a bread bag to keep it from drying out, but be sure it is fully cooled first to keep moisture from forming on the inside of the bag and making your bread soggy.

Because it has no preservatives, homemade bread will mold faster than store bought bread so be sure to either eat it within a few days or just store it in your fridge. I've kept loaves fresh for 2 weeks or more by keeping them in a plastic bread bag in the fridge.

The original recipe calls for 2 rises, first in a bowl and then in a pan, but most of the time I just skip that first rise and it always turns out just fine.

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
2 1/4 cups HOT water
1/3 C oil
1/3 C honey
1 t salt
1/3 C gluten flour (if bread is crumbly add more)
1 T Yeast (active dry or instant)
about 4-5 C Flour (whole wheat, bread flour or combo) then more if needed.

Combine water, oil, honey, and salt in mixer, then mix in gluten. Add yeast, then add flour 1 cup at a time until it pulls away from the sides. Put lid on and mix/knead on high for 5 minutes. *Butter/oil bowl and your fingers. (Dough should be sticky and moist) Twist dough around finger in bowl, then turn upside down in mound. Cover with a towel and put in warm, draft-free place to double in size (about 20-25 minutes). Punch down, divide in two and put in two loaf pans. Let rise in pan (about 15-20 minutes). Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

 *You can also skip the first rising and put the dough directly into the loaf pans to rise.

So there you have it. It may seem hard, but it really isn't. Just a warning though, once you start making it, you will not want to buy store bought bread ever again :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Toddler Alligator Costume

 To go with the Princess Tiana theme for Halloween, I made an alligator costume for my 2-year old son. It is perfect for his personality. He is so sneaky and gets into everything. I definitely have my hands full with this little guy.

I used simplicity pattern 2506 for the body. It is actually a dinosaur costume, but alligators are reptiles so I think it works. I followed the pattern exactly except for adding the contrast stitching across the tummy to make it look more like an alligator belly. I used a warm cozy fleece so that it would be comfortable and warm while trick-or-treating.

The tail is stuffed with fiber-fil and is so fun. My son kept trying to grab it and it was fun to watch, kind of like watching a dog go in circle trying to catch its tail. 

The back closure is make of velcro which makes it easy to take on and off. Perfect for my squirmy on the go little guy.

I came up with the head after seeing this Wolf costume from Make-it Love-it. I used a baseball hat for the base, added some plastic canvas for the snout and then covered the whole thing with the fleece hood. Some of it is sewed together and then glued to the hat with hot glue. It took a few tries to get the nose sewed together just right. It was tricky to the get the curves right and then I stuffed it with a little fiber-fil to give it more dimension. The eyes, teeth and nostrils are made of felt from my stash.

I added a velcro chin strap to help keep it on his head so he is free to run without it falling off.

I absolutely love how this one turned out. It is so perfect!

Homemade Princess Tiana Costume

This year my daughter wanted to be Princess Tiana for Halloween. I was very happy. She has been a little obsessed with My Little Pony lately and I was scared she would want to be a pony for Halloween. A princess is much easier and fun for me to make. I love making Halloween costumes, especially when the results turn out so great!

I started with a pattern (McCall's 6619) and then tweaked it to make it look like Tiana's dress. I used costume satin for the bodice, skirt and peplum, and tulle for the overlay. I think the lace and sequins give it more of a princess look although they aren't really authentic to Tiana's real dress.

The thing that I liked about this pattern is that it is more like an apron then a dress. The back is open and has a tie closure. It makes it so much easier to get on and off and will make dress-up play easier when it gets added to the dress-up bin after Halloween.

I came up with the design for the flower on my own. I cut some petal shapes out of leftover ivory satin and heat sealed the edges so it wouldn't fray. I sewed the ends together tight to make the flower shape and then soaked the whole thing in spray starch a few times as I shaped in to the flower shape that I liked. After it was all dry I added the ribbon and jewel center. I pinned it to the dress instead of sewing in on permanently so that it can be removed when the dress is washed.

For the bottom, I used a woodburning/hobby tool to carefully cut off the bottom and give it the zig zag shape edge. The tool  is nice because it melts the edge to keep it from fraying while cutting it at the same time. 

It ties in the back in this big beautiful bow and then I added the button and elastic loop by the straps because the bodice was a little too loose on the top for my skinny daughter. 

We are so excited to wear it trick-or-treating!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Crochet Frog Hat Pattern

When my oldest daughter decided that she wanted to be Princess Tiana for Halloween, I figured it would be perfect for her baby sister to be a frog. I decided that it would be fun to crochet her a frog hat for her costume. I searched for a pattern to use, but didn't like most of what I found, so I just made my own.

I love how it turned out and the fact that she can wear it all the time, and not just for Halloween. I finished it just in time too. It has started to get cold here, especially in the mornings and now she has something to keep her head warm.

This pattern has not been tested and I wrote it as I went. If you find any mistakes or have any corrections, please let me know. Thanks!

Crochet Frog Hat
fits infants about 3-6 months

Materials needed:
Size G crochet hook
Yarn- medium weight in 4 colors:  a large amount of green, and small amounts of a contrasting color, black, and white. (I used Hobby Lobby's "I Love this Yarn" in Limelight for the green, Red Heart super saver in shocking pink for the contrast color, and Hobby Lobby's "I Love this Cotton" in black and white for the eyes and mouth. It is probably better to use all of one kind of yarn for the project, but I just used what I already had.)
Tapestry Needle to weave in ends, attach eyes and cheeks, and embroider mouth.

I give the approximate number of stitches in each row, but if you are off by one or two stitches it should still still work.

Hat with earflaps:
Ch 3, sl st to form a circle

Row 1: Ch 2, 13 dc in circle, sl st to top of ch 2 to join (14 dc).

Row 2: Ch 2, 1 dc in same stitch as ch 2 and then 2 dc in ea remaining stitch, sl st in top of ch 2 (28 dc).

Row 3: Ch 2, 1 dc in same stitch as ch2, *(1 dc in next  2 stitches, and the 2 dc in next stitch) repeat around, sl st into top of ch 2 (about 39 dc).

Row 4: Ch 2, 1 dc in same stitch as ch 2, *(1 dc in next 3 stitches, and 2 dc in the next stitch) repeat around, sl st into top of ch 2 (about 50 dc).

Row 5: Ch 2, 1 dc in same stitch as ch 2, *(1 dc in next 4 stitches, and 2 dc in the next stitch) repeat around, sl st into top of ch 2 (about 61 dc).

Rows 6-13: Ch 2, 1 dc in ea stitch around, sl st to top of ch 2 to join.

Row 14: Ch 2, 1 dc in ea of next 8 stitches,  then make ear flap #1:

  1. sc in each of next 11 st, ch 1 turn
  2. sc2tog, 1 sc in each of next 7 stitches, sc2tog, ch 1 turn
  3. sc across (9 sc)
  4. sc2tog, 1 sc in each of next 5 stitches, sc2tog, ch 1 turn
  5. sc across (7 sc)
  6. sc2tog, 1 sc in each of next 3 stitches, sc2tog, ch 1 turn
  7. sc across (5 sc)
  8. sc2tog, 1 sc, sc2tog, ch 1 turn
  9. sc2tog, 1 sc, ch 1 turn
  10. sc2tog, ch1 and then sc down side of flap toward opposite side of where you started the earflap, when you get to bottom, continue row 14:

1 dc in ea of next 18 stitches, then repeat steps 1 through 10 to make second earflap. When complete, finish row around with 1 dc in each stitch and sl st to top of ch 2, fasten off and weave in ends.

In contrasting color, (I used Shocking Pink) sc around bottom edge of hat and earflaps. I would start in back and then join with a sl st at end. Fasten off and weave in ends.

Eyes (Make 2):
In green:
Row 1: Ch 3, 11 dc into 3 ch from hook, sl st to top of ch 2 to join (12 dc).

Row 2: Ch 1, 1 sc in same stitch as ch 1 and 2 sc into each stitch around, sl st to top of ch 1 to join. (24 sc)

Row 3: Ch 2, 1 hdc into ea stitch around, sl st to top of ch 2 to join, fasten off leaving long tail (at least 12 inches).

In white:
Row 1: Ch 3, 11 dc into 3 ch from hook, sl st to top of ch 2 to join (12 dc)

Row 2: Ch 1, 1 sc in same st as ch 1 and 2 sc into each stitch around, sl st to top of ch 1 to join, fasten off leaving long tail (24 sc)

In black:
Row 1: Ch 3, 9 dc into 3 ch from hook, sl st to top of ch 2 to join, fasten off leaving long tail (10 dc).

Attach black circle to white circle using the black tail. (I like it to be off center, but you can make it look whatever direction you want)

Attach white circle to green circle using long white tail, if you stitch it carefully, you can make it so the white stitches do not show on the back of the green circle.

Attach green circles to hat, I like them to be evenly spaced apart from the center, but more towards the front at about row 4 of the hat.

Rosy cheeks and mouth:
In pink (make 2):
Row 1: Ch 3, 11 dc into 3 ch from hook, sl st to top of ch 2 to join, fasten off leaving long tail (12 dc)
weave in center tail, then attach to hat using long end tail.

In black, using back stitch and a tapestry needle, embroider mouth between the two cheeks.

Take 3 lengths of green, 2 of hot pink and 1 each of black and white yarn that are approximately 25-30 inches long (I just eyeballed the length) and loop center through bottom of earflap. Braid for 10-12 inches and then overhand knot. Trim yarn ends. Repeat for second earflap.

For PERSONAL USE ONLY, please do not sell the final product or claim the pattern as your own. I would love for you to share your work, but please link back to this pattern. Please do not republish this pattern in any form. Thanks!

UPDATE: Due to the popularity of this hat, I have had several instances where people have stolen pictures from this post to use to sell this hat which is not only dishonest, but illegal. I have had to watermark all of these images to prevent this from happening more. If you come across any of my photos that someone is using illegally to sell this hat, please let me know by emailing at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tips for Staying Healthy and Disinfecting your Home

For a few months now, I have been acting as a Emergency Preparedness and Self Reliance Specialist for my church. It is very different from what I was doing before (I was a secretary for the Primary, which is the children aged 18months-12 years old) and it has been a bit of a challenge for me. Most of this is because I like to be more of a behind the scenes type of person. For this new assignment, every other month, I get to do a quick presentation to the women in our ward (church) on some topic relating to self reliance or emergency preparedness. This is so hard for me, I get so nervous and despite how much I prepare, I feel like when I get up in front of everyone, it just comes out in a jumble and makes no sense. I also think I talk too fast out of nerves so that probably makes it worse too.

This last Sunday, I did a presentation on something that is near and dear to me, preventing infectious diseases. In college, I studied Microbiology and worked for several years in a lab studying infectious diseases after I graduated. One of my responsibilities in that lab was to perform disinfectant tests where we studied the efficacy of different disinfectants at killing various microorganisms (like staph and salmonella). I felt like I needed to share some of the knowledge that I have because of what I studied.

I am not sure if I said everything that I wanted to in that presentation and I think this is good information to share with everyone so I am sharing it on this blog.

The best way to prevent sickness is to keep our bodies healthy. Our bodies can do amazing things when we take care of them. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, reduce/minimize stress and think positive. People who think they are going to get sick, often do. The healthier you are, the easier it is for your body to fight infections and although you may still get sick, your body will be able to handle it better and be able to get rid of it faster.

Secondly, most infections are spread, through contact with our hands and then into mouth or respiratory tract. Wash your hands, A LOT. Not just after you go to the bathroom, but before you eat or prepare food, after changing diapers, after going shopping (grocery carts are full of germs), when kids come home from school, after playing sports/going to gym, after sneezing or blowing your nose, after handling dirty laundry.  Also, use soap and make sure you wash them for long enough: sing the ABC song or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star while you lather to know that you are doing it for long enough. Also the most common way of contracting a cold or other infection is from germs getting on our hands and then into our mouth, nose or eyes so avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes so that any germs on your hands cannot get into your body.

Thirdly, you want to keep things clean, but you don't want to be a "germaphobe", it is better to just be what I call "Germ aware". You don't want a sterile house, you need to be exposed to some germs for a healthy immune system. Your immune system needs to be stressed a little to stay active and strong. It is like exercising, you can't not exercise and then one day just expect to be able to run a marathon. There are also good, healthy germs that help keep the bad ones away and you don't want to kill them by disinfecting too much. Focus on disinfecting more when family members are sick to prevent the spread of known disease to other household members, but don't try to keep your home germ-free all the time.

When using disinfectants, You don't need to spend a lot of money. Regular household Bleach is highly effective and strong, but it is also harsh and corrosive so you don't want to use it all the time. The most effective bleach concentration is 10% at room temperature so you need to dilute it with water and DO NOT mix it with anything other than water. Dilute it even more for use in the kitchen and rinse afterwards because it will leave a residue and you don't want to ingest it. I like to use 10% bleach on bathrooms when a family member is sick with a stomach bug. Stomach bugs can spread like crazy and you want to be sure to disinfectant well to prevent them from spreading to everyone in your family. It is also good to add it to your laundry when washing underwear etc (whites only as it will ruin colors) as many stomach bugs can survive your washing machine.

Use vinegar on commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, computer keyboards, etc. It won't kill everything, but it will kills things like cold and flu viruses and it is mild so you can use it everyday, and it won't hurt you if you drink/eat it. Just be careful though as it will not kill microorganisms that are slightly acid resistant like E. coli so I recommend using something else after preparing raw meat (I like to use those disinfectant wipes).

Also remember that time is important when disinfecting. The surface must stay wet for proper length of time for the disinfectant to be effective. Be sure to look at product labels to see what manufacturers recommend for this.

For things that can't get wet or that you can't launder, put them outside in the bright sun for the afternoon: UV rays from the sun will help disinfect them for you. We like to take the pillowcases off our pillows every once in a while and stick them outside to freshen them up.

If you do get sick, STAY HOME. Quarantine yourselves so that you don't spread your sickness to others. 

You also don't want to have to drag your sick kids along to the store or have to go yourself when you are under the weather, so I made this list of things that I recommend having on hand for when you or your family gets sick:

Helpful items to have in case of sickness:  

Food Items: Gatorade/Pedialyte, Saltine Crackers, Canned Soup, Rice, Applesauce, Juice, Popsicles, Ginger Ale or Sprite.  

When sick, one of the most important things your body needs is to stay hydrated. Giving kids juice, popsicles, and clear soda will help get your kids to drink more.      

 Medications: ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), Tums, Pepto Bismol, decongestant, allergy medication, Benadryl, other prescription medicines, also a thermometer.  

Make sure they aren't expired and be smart about using them. Follow the instructions on the package and your doctor's recommendations.  

Hygeine/Clean-up:  masks, gloves, household bleach, vinegar(or other type of disinfectant), disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, plastic bags. 

This information is only meant as suggestions and should in no way be used to substitute for a medical care from a doctor.