Friday, July 20, 2012

I made the switch!

I switched my blog over to WordPress! Come check me out over there and save that address if you want to keep hearing from me!

Thanks everyone!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Menu Plan: July 6-15

Welcome back! I have been absent all week due to issues with my laptop. We officially started our grain-free at home journey this month. Since we do not have any known allergy or intolerance to grains, we will still eat them if we are served them in other peoples homes, but will make wise choices when we eat out to avoid them as much as possible. The only exception to this, of course, is Julian, who will not eat grains until his first year molars come in. The way that we eat grains is grossly distorted from how they used to be consumed and I am convinced this affects our health as a nation. Considering the government still recommends a large portion of your daily intake come from grains, many Americans are consuming WAY too many and not the right ones when they do. But, I digress.

Here is our menu for the next week or so:

  • Friday: Chocolate zucchini muffins and fruit
  • Saturday: Coconut flour pancakes and bacon
  • Sunday: Eggs w/ sausage and fruit
  • Monday: Chocolate zucchini muffins and fruit
  • Tuesday: Eggs w/ salsa and fruit
  • Wednesday: Almond flour muffins and fruit
  • Thursday: Eggs w/ sausage and fruit
  • Friday: Almond flour muffins and fruit
  • Saturday: Coconut flour pancakes and bacon
  • Sunday: Eggs w/ sausage and fruit

My husband takes a packed lunch (or dinner, if he works third shift) when he is working at the hospital, which consists of peanut butter and jelly or honey between two pancakes, veggies, fruit and a dessert. If he is working at the office, he eats lunch out, much to my chagrin! Julian and I had been eating leftovers, but too many times we were finishing everything at dinner, which left us with nothing for lunch the next day. I am going to try doing snacky style lunches for him and I. We will have smoothies and veggies everyday and rotate between hardboiled eggs and beans with cheese. He is typically home for lunch on Saturdays and we eat lunch at church on Sunday afternoons.
  • Saturday: Pigs in a blanket, veggies and fruit
  • Sunday: @ church
  • Saturday: Shrimp curry w/ quinoa and smoothies
  • Sunday: @ church
  •  Friday: with friends, bringing a salad
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Salmon patties, veggies and fruit
  • Monday: Chicken and potatoes
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Red-Red w/quinoa and sauteed bananas
  • Thursday: Salmon, veggies and potatoes
  • Friday: Chicken cakes and veggies
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Pigs in a blanket and bananas
What are you feeding your family lately?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scripture Study: Creating an Atmosphere of Worship

photo credit
Lately, I have found myself getting easily frustrated and quickly irritated with both Kerry and Julian. I could throw out a bunch of excuses in an effort to justify my behavior, but that is not the appropriate response. My behavior is not the fault of Kerry or Julian. It is the result of my own sinful heart choosing sin rather than grace.

I reflected on my daily routine to see if there was any way that I could carve out more time to spend with the Lord, more time in His Word and, while I realized that I often do have more time that I could spend with Him, sometimes that is just not reality. However, one simple change afforded me the opportunity to spend literally all day with the Lord and not allow my homemaking and child-rearing tasks fall to the wayside. I decided to listen to nothing other than praise and worship music during the day. I did this yesterday for the first time and I noticed a definite difference in my attitude and my response to both my husband and my son.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Psalm 71:8 My mouth is filled with Your praise and Your glory all day long. 
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the word worship shows up in scripture 114 times and the word praise 195 times. The word sing appears 99 times, most often in some variation of the phrase "sing to the LORD". It seems to me that worshiping and praising the Lord is an important thing to do. While I know that worship is not limited to singing, having praise and worship music flowing through my home during the day definitely adds to the atmosphere of worship I hope to cultivate in my home.

Another way that I am aiming to create an atmosphere of worship in my home is by committing Scripture to memory. I was blessed to come to know the Lord at a young age and memorized quite a bit of Scripture as a child, which comes back to me easily even many years later. I memorized Scripture in school, all the way through college where I memorized entire books at a time. I have let that go since getting married and having a baby, but that is something that I want to re-ignite in myself so I can be an example for my children.

I am planning on taking this challenge over at Intentional By Grace during the month of July.  
Will you join me? How do you create an atmosphere of worship in your home?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recipe Reveal: Salmon Patties

One of my goals for 2012 was to serve fish once a week. I know that eating good fish can do wonders for your health. However, have you seen the price of fish at the meat market? It is hard for me to stomach the $5/lb for grass-fed beef, let alone the $10-$15/lb for good fish. What's a mama to do?

One way that I have been able to meet my goal of serving fish once a week is by serving my family salmon patties. I buy canned seine net caught wild Alaskan pink Salmon from Aldi for about $2.50/can. One can feeds all three of us one meal plus enough for Julian and I to have leftovers the next day for lunch. This is a frugal way to still be able to eat good fish!

Salmon Patties

1 can (14.5 ounces) wild caught salmon
1 egg
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tbs. parsley
scant cayenne pepper
1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut (or breadcrumbs)
Butter or coconut oil

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Melt a small amount of butter or coconut oil in a pan on the stovetop. Form the salmon mixture into patties and place in the hot pan. Cook on each side about 2-3 minutes. We like to eat ours with homemade ranch smeared on top!

this post is linked to: real food wednesday and healthy 2day wednesday

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Submitting to Rest

photo credit

I am dealing with an unexpected case of mastitis. It came on suddenly yesterday and, as anyone who has been through this before knows, it wiped me out! I don't know about you, but it is not easy for me to accept the fact that my body needs rest. Rest? There is laundry to do, a cleaning schedule to maintain, not to mention an energetic 13 month old to take care of.

So today, instead of tackling my cleaning list, instead of finishing purging the house for a goodwill donation, instead of working on my seemingly never-ending to-do list, I am resting. I am basking in the glory of having my husband home from work and watching him (and cheering him on from my perch on the couch!) cook, clean and take care of Julian for me. It is HARD, though! I want to be up doing, serving, cleaning, preparing etc. Yet, I know, my body will thank me by healing itself much faster if I rest than if I just powered through and continued with life as usual.

This unexpected rest has afforded me the opportunity to catch up on some reading, write a few blog posts, spend lengthy time with the Lord (so refreshing!) and sleep, oh glorious sleep. I am hoping to hit the ground running tomorrow, but, for now, I am thankful for the rest that God gave me, despite the fact that it came via illness.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Menu Plan: June 25-July 1

You may notice some repeats from the menu I posted last Monday. We were blessed to spend time unexpected time with our families this past week, which meant getting to go out to eat twice in one day. I, of course, ended up not cooking, so we had some meals to use up from last week. I made a HUGE batch of chicken and potatoes last week as well, so Julian and I will be finishing those up this week. We start our grain free month on Sunday, so I am trying hard to use up the rest of the grains in the house this week. Here is the menu!

  • Monday: Fried mush, cantaloupe
  • Tuesday: Sauteed brussel sprouts, bacon and cantaloupe
  • Wednesday: Eggs w/ sausage, cantaloupe
  • Thursday: Pancakes in a pan, fresh fruit
  • Friday: Eggs w/ salsa, fresh fruit
  • Saturday: Coconut flour pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit
  • Sunday: Eggs w/ salsa, fresh fruit
  • Monday: Chicken and potatoes, cheese cubes
  • Tuesday: Salmon patties, carrots w/ homemade ranch dip
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Olive Garden (taking a friend out for her birthday!)
  • Friday: Snacky lunch (veggies w/ dip, fresh fruit, cheese cubes, beans etc.)
  • Saturday: Family picnic (celebrating hubby's maternal grandparents 57th anniversary!)
  • Sunday: Church potluck (celebrating hubby's family friends 50th anniversary!)
  • Monday: Italian stew, smoothies and organic sweet corn
  • Tuesday: Brown rice pasta w/ homemade red sauce, smoothies
  • Wednesday: Taco potatoes, smoothies
  • Thursday: Leftovers, smoothies
  • Friday: Curried brown rice pasta, smoothies
  • Saturday: Leftovers, smoothies
  • Sunday: Grain free pigs in a blanket, smoothies

Friday, June 22, 2012

Around The House: My Cleaning Schedule

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Some people view routine and schedule with disdain. They feel boxed in and enslaved to their schedule. Not me!  I have found that, without routines and a loose schedule in place, scary things happen. Things like the bathroom going uncleaned for weeks at a time. Things like four trips to the grocery store in one week. For me, routines and schedules provide freedom and peace of mind. I know when I wake up on any given day that there are certain things that will be accomplished that day and other things that I know I do not need to worry about because it is not the day for it.

While I have routines and schedules for all areas of home management, one specific area that has relieved stress in my life is my cleaning schedule. Today I am going to share that with you. Please remember that I am not saying that everyone needs to have a schedule, but I just know that this works for me and I want to share it in case someone else might benefit from it.

I like to set Tuesday aside as my cleaning day. I try to not plan any doctor appointments, play dates or errands on Tuesdays, but, of course, sometimes I can't avoid that and I have to readjust. While have routines and schedules has proven helpful to me, I have to remember that they exist to serve me not the other way around.

 I break my cleaning tasks down into weekly, monthly and quarterly jobs. I assign the monthly tasks to the different weeks of the month, so I am not adding several extra tasks to one cleaning day a month, but spreading them out throughout the month.  I accomplish the quarterly tasks as I have time during the month they are assigned. I realize that I have the distinct advantage of living in a small apartment, so I do not have as many cleaning tasks as a homeowner would have. Perhaps when we own a home, I will not be able to get everything done in one day. However, for now, this system works well for me.

Storms Family Cleaning Schedule

  • Mop kitchen floor
  • Scrub kitchen sink
  • Wash stove-top drip pans
  • Vacuum
  • Dust
  • Scrub bathroom sink
  • Scrub tub/shower
  • Clean toilet
  • Clean mirrors
  • Change sheets
  • Clean refrigerator and freezer inside and out (fourth Tuesday of the month)
  • Wipe down pantry shelves (fourth Tuesday of the month)
  • Wipe down outside of cabinets (first Tuesday of the month)
  • Rotate mattresses (second Tuesday of the month)
  • Clean shower head (third Tuesday of the month)
  • Flip couch cushions (August, December, April)
  • Vacuum couch and chair (September, January, May)
  • Wipe down dining room chairs (October, February, June)
  • Change vacuum filter (November, March, July)
  • Clean oven (December, April, August)

Do you use routines and/or schedules to accomplish things around your home? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scripture Study: 1 Corinthians

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"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4:17-18
These verses have been weighing heavy on my heart over the past few days. There are so many injustices in this world. So many things that cause me to weep. The three year old nephew of an acquaintance who just this morning had his cancer-filled eye permanently removed. The child sex slaves not just in Korea or India, but in Minnesota. The over 3,000 children waiting for a family in the Illinois foster care system alone. My 18 year old sister who faces life with a brain tumor. Stuff like this stinks. It hurts my heart. But, I remember the words of Jesus when He says,
"...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
 For believers, these troubles are more than what they appear on the outside. They are molding and shaping us for God's purposes. They are refining us. I don't know how people who do not have Christ as the anchor, as the foundation, of their lives process issues like this, but I am so thankful that when my heart is burdened, when my soul is torn to pieces, reading and hearing about the troubles in this world, that I can turn to the One who created and sustains all things for solace. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Menu Plan: June 18-24

 It has been almost three months since I last posted a menu. For some reason, my typically well-planned life has been not so well-planned as of late, which resulted in some less than stellar menu planning. I think I am back on track, although in about a month everything will be topsy turvy yet again as we move to Champaign!  As a side note, it has been far too long since I have been able to find organic potatoes around here. I found them this past week and promptly bought six pounds. Yikes! Hence all the potato dishes this week...

  • Monday: Birthday berry crisp, fresh fruit
  • Tuesday: Baby red potatoes with sausage and garlic, fresh fruit
  • Wednesday: Perfect fall muffins, hardboiled eggs
  • Thursday: Eggs with sausage and garlic, fresh fruit
  • Friday: Soaked pumpkin oatmeal with walnuts
  • Saturday: Coconut flour pancakes (recipe below!), bacon and fresh fruit
  • Sunday: Eggs with sausage and garlic, fresh fruit
  • Monday: Rice with chicken, fresh fruit
  • Tuesday: Grain-Free Pigs in a Blanket, carrots with homemade ranch dip
  • Wednesday: Cheesy pan-fried potatoes, fresh fruit
  • Thursday: Smoothies with cheese and veggies
  • Friday: Italian stew, fresh fruit
  • Saturday: Salmon patties, fresh fruit
  • Sunday: Lunch at church

Coconut Flour Pancakes
 Makes about 20 pancakes

9 eggs
2 sticks butter or 1 c. coconut oil, melted
1 c. coconut milk (or whole milk)
4 tsp. honey (maple syrup or sucanat works great, too!)
3 tsp. sea salt
3/4 c. coconut flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (aluminum free, if possible)

Mix together eggs, butter/coconut oil, milk, sweetener and salt in a larger bowl. Add the baking powder and coconut flour and continue to mix until everything is incorporated. Melt a little more butter/coconut oil in a skillet and scoop about an 1/8 of a cup of batter into the pan. Repeat until you have about 20 pancakes. Server warm with more butter and real maple syrup!

This post is linked to menu plan monday

Friday, June 15, 2012

Birthday Berry Crisp

In honor of my husband's 25th birthday, I created this special berry crisp. He is not a huge fan of cake and I am not that great of a cake baker, so it works out well for me! This dish also got me one step closer to using up the remaining oatmeal in my apartment as we are preparing for a grain free experiment during the month of July.

Birthday Berry Crisp

1 c. organic rolled oats
1/4 c. melted coconut oil
1/3 c. organic sucanat
1/4 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. organic berries (I used strawberries, but raspberries, blueberries etc. would work too!)
1 tbs. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Mix the first six ingredients together in a small bowl, cover and allow to soak for 12-24 hours. After the soaking period, mix berries and lemon juice together in small baking dish (I used an 8 x 8 in.). Pour/spread the soaked crumb topping over the berries. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy as is or with homemade ice cream!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cucumber Infused Lavender Lotion

photo credit: karenandbrademerson

Ever since embarking on our real food journey about a year ago, I have been incredibly interested in the effects of what we eat on our bodies. This quest led to lots of reading, shopping, questioning and habit changing. It also led me to realize that not only does what we eat have a major impact on our bodies, but what we put on our bodies also matters. I wrote a post about that a several months ago. This journey is best approached with baby steps, although I have been known to go crazy when I find out that yet another thing that we use that is less than stellar for us and throw it all away (just ask my husband about infant Tylenol...), and this post is a new baby step for me.

I have known for quite some time now that the lotion from a certain smell good product store that I have used for the past several years is essentially a toxic cocktail. However, I had tons of it stored up. It is expensive. I was given some of it as gifts. The list goes on, but the point is, I finally ran out. I knew that day was coming, so I had been slowly building up my supply of homemade lotion ingredients. Julian took an especially long morning nap today, so, after I did my necessary work (cleaning the bathroom and showering!), I stepped into the kitchen and created this delightful lotion.

Cucumber Infused Lavender Lotion

2/3 c. cucumber pieces
1 c. avocado oil
1/4 c. beeswax
1/2 c. almond oil
1/2 + 1/8 c. water
20-25 drops lavender essential oil

Place the cucumber pieces a small pot and pour the avocado oil over it. Turn the heat to medium and allow the oil to heat until you hear (or feel, if you are standing to close!) it start to pop. Turn it down to simmer and put a lid on the pot. Allow this to sit for an hour and a half. Strain the cucumber infused oil into a large measuring cup and immediately mix in the beeswax. Stir until the beeswax is melted. Pour in the almond oil and allow this mixture to cool for about ten minutes. Pour it into the blender and slowly add the water. Drop in the essential oil. Blend the mixture on medium, stopping to stir every so often. Blend until everything is well incorporated, about ten minutes. Store your lotion in a pint sized jar and enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

May in Our Home

We experienced an unseasonably beautiful and warm May here in central Illinois. May was busy! It brought Julian's first birthday, my college graduation and my little sister's high school graduation three weekends in a row. We finally had a break to breathe Memorial day weekend and celebrated by simply relaxing!

We enjoyed Julian's birthday as a family by taking him on a picnic and playing at the park. A dear friend of our family gifted us a photo shoot for his birthday and we took advantage of the gorgeous weather on his special day by taking the pictures at her home and the nearby park where we picnicked. We have been blessed to cultivate friendship with her and her family over the past two years and are incredibly grateful for them! I am a big believer in practical gifts, especially when the recipient doesn't know any different :), so we gave Julian a floppy sun hat, a new amber teething necklace and a stainless steel sippy water bottle for his birthday. He has worn the necklace 24/7 since we put it on him, we have not had a chance to try out the hat and the sippy cup is a bit of a learning curve for this exclusively-breastfed-never-had-a-bottle child, so we are still working on that one!

We traveled to Chicago for my  graduation from Moody Bible Institute the second weekend in May. Although I officially finished up classes and graduated last May, I was too busy recovering from having a baby the week before to participate in the commencement ceremony last year! To be honest, I was not looking forward to the stress of traveling and staying away from home etc., but I am exceedingly glad that my parents convinced me to go through with walking in the ceremony. Besides having the satisfaction of actually walking across the stage to receive my diploma rather than just getting it in the mail along with bills and other day-to-day things, I was able to see my friends that I lived with for three years all together one last time before we dispersed, quite literally, across the globe to do the work the Lord has prepared for us. I was especially grateful to get to visit with one of my floormates and her husband who will be doing work in India this summer. She shared some special news with me that I would have missed out on had I not gone to commencement. I was able to encourage her and her husband in a special way that I would not have been able to do otherwise. I also spent some time with my roommate of two years and was able to meet her entire family for the first time. It is sobering to think that it is quite possible that I will not see some of these amazing women I lived with for three years again this side of heaven. I praise the Lord for the work He has called each of us to do and sincerely hope that we will all be reunited again on this earth!

With all the major events going on, I was afraid Mother's Day would end up an after thought. We had lunch with my husband's mom and her family, then came home and took a much needed nap. In the evening, my sweet husband gave me a handmade card and took me and Julian on a hike at the nature center near our apartment. We finished the night with frozen yogurt from a local shop.

My one and only sister graduated from high school the weekend after my college graduation. This was also a bittersweet ceremony as it marked for my parents the end of a seventeen year relationship with Peoria Christian School. The ceremony was beautiful and my sister even more so, of course!

We are looking forward to a summer filled with birthdays, our second anniversary, weddings, VBS, a big move and more!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grain Free Blueberry Muffins

It was my intention to start posting our menus again, but I realized that I need to re-evaluate how I menu plan in light of the fact that Julian is eating more table food these days. We are not giving him any grains until his first year molars come in, so some of the food we regularly eat he cannot have yet. We are planning on doing a grain free month for the whole family in July to see if cutting out grains will alleviate some of the digestive issues both Kerry and I have. So, taking both of these factors into consideration, I have been experimenting with alternative flours lately. This muffin recipe is my latest concoction!

Grain Free Blueberry Muffins

6 eggs
1/4 c. milk (I used coconut)
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. coconut flour
1 c. organic blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Mix together eggs, milk, honey, coconut oil and salt. Be sure to give this mixture a good beating, as the key to baking with coconut flour is making sure the eggs are well beaten. Add in the coconut flour and baking powder. Mix until the batter is no longer lumpy. Thaw the blueberries, if using frozen, and fold them in the batter. Scoop into lined muffin tins and bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Simple Cobb Salad

In the winter, we love to eat soups and chilis several times a month. In the summer, we much prefer salads. Although I am always looking for new dinner salad ideas to serve, this is an old favorite of ours.

Simple Cobb Salad

10 oz. bag organic lettuce
10 grape or cherry tomatoes
2 hardboiled eggs, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Homemade ranch dressing

Place bacon in a deep frying pan and cook over medium heat until done. Remove to plate and allow to cool before crumbling. Arrange lettuce on two plates. Top with tomatoes, eggs, avocado and crumbled bacon. Finish with the dressing and enjoy!

This post is linked up to Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Our Real Food Journey

I realized as I was making dinner last night that it was around this time last year that I was introduced to the world of real food. That got me thinking about how I had never written down our story, so here I am to share with you how we got to where we are now. Of course, we have by no means "arrived", but we have made some radical changes over the past year and I think it would be prudent to share how we got here.

While I was pregnant, I was incredibly concerned about everything that was happening to me medically. I did countless hours of research on giving birth, newborn procedures and vaccinations. I had a detailed birth plan and was ready to fight anyone who dismissed my wishes. It never occurred to me to consider what I was feeding my pregnant body. To put everything into perspective, I should make note of the fact that mere hours before our son was born my husband and I stopped at McDonald's to get some french fries and Hy-Vee for some animal crackers. And I thought all of that was perfectly fine...

I stumbled across Stephanie's site, Keeper of The Home, soon after I gave birth to Julian. I can't even remember what I was looking for, but, whatever it was, the search led me to her site. I camped out there for a few days, poring over posts while nursing my baby. I was astonished by what I was learning. I had, like many people, thought I was eating and feeding my husband and I a healthy diet. I cooked all our meals at home (open a box of this, throw in a can of that) and thought that we were doing pretty well. Boy, was I ever wrong! At that point, my freezer was full of meals lovingly prepared by the ladies from our church, I still wasn't comfortable driving and my husband was back to work and school full time, so I couldn't start implementing the things that I was learning just yet. As soon as we worked through the meals in the freezer and I was finally driving again, we were getting ready to move, so I didn't want to start overhauling our food supply just to have to pack it all up in a few weeks. So, we ate through what was in our pantry and freezer over those next few weeks until we were down to a few cans of tomatoes and condiments in the refrigerator. We moved into our new apartment, got settled and I had a blank slate in the form of an essentially empty pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I was excited!

Although I was excited, I was still unsure of where to start. I had all the information, but how would it play out in real life at the grocery store? I called up a good friend of ours who I knew fed her family the way I wanted to start feeding mine and asked to go grocery shopping with her. That might seem unconventional and maybe even a little presumptuous, but I was eager to learn! I packed up my eight week old baby and off we went to learn how to shop for real food frugally. Looking back, I am certain we made quite a sight traipsing through the store with four kids aged four, three, one and eight weeks. I actually walked through one of the stores cradling my nursing baby in one arm while taking notes on what she was purchasing! I learned quite a bit on that trip and gained an incredible amount of confidence. I highly recommend to those of you who are starting out on this journey to find someone who has been doing it for a long time and tag along. You will be amazed at what you learn.

I came home and excitedly shared all the new things I had learned with my husband. Unfortunately, he was not on board with me right away. I wanted to quit buying cereal? We weren't going to eat frozen pizza anymore? His world was crashing down around him, or so he thought. I am happy to say that he has since warmed up to most of my crazy ideas, although there are definitely things that he misses (scotcheroos) and things that he simply won't eat (avocados). I am still learning and probably will be forever, am still buying some things that other real foodies would look down on (store bought yogurt, anyone?) and have yet to keep a sourdough baby alive for longer than a week, but am so pleased with the improvements changing the way we eat continues to make in our lives.

I am forever indebted to sites like Kitchen Stewardship and Passionate Homemaking for doing the hard work and allowing people like me to learn from your research. I have read several books that helped shape my thoughts on food and continue to follow and learn from dedicated bloggers like those I have mentioned already and others, such as Modern Alternative Mama. I hope that what I have learned and continue to learn can be an encouragement to others on their journey to better eating.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Julian: 12 months

Our baby is officially one year old! I join with the chorus of every mom when I say that I can't believe how fast it went. I find myself often just staring at him in awe, so amazed and grateful that the Lord has given him to us to raise.

We had his party the week before his actual birthday so could spend the real day as a family. We had a lazy morning full of coconut flour pancakes (special so the birthday boy could have them!) and bacon. We went to the park and had a picnic for lunch. Our good friend Kelsey took some adorable photos for us to commemorate his first year. We finished the fun day by going to One World for dinner where Julian had hummus for the very first time (he loved it!).

He has popped one more tooth since turning one, rounding the tooth count to five now. He is working on two other ones, but they have yet to surface. He is enjoying all sorts of food now...scrambled eggs, ahi tuna, raisins and cheese, to name a few. He is still nursing wonderfully and sleeping not so wonderfully, but he will get that part eventually :) We are loving the beautiful weather we have been having and are taking full advantage of it by folding the laundry outside, eating lunch under the shade of the trees next to our apartment and going on lots of walks at the nature center by our apartment.

Weight: 18 lbs. 13 oz.
Length: 29 in.
Head circumference: 47 cm.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Julian turned UNO!

Although Julian's real birthday is May 5th, we celebrated with family this weekend. The theme for his party was UNO, the card game of yesteryear, and I had so much fun incorporating it in all the details.

The Invitations (Design: Randie Kocher ; Photo: Kelsey Sliger)

My good friend Kelsey took some adorable photos of Julian playing with UNO cards and my husband's cousin Randie came up with the awesome design. I fear I set a precedent with these invites and will have a hard time topping them in the years to come!

The Decorations (Dollar Tree and Party City)

I borrowed the color scheme from the UNO cards, so everything was black, red, yellow, blue and green. We had yellow and red plates, blue and green cups, yellow and green forks, red and blue napkins and black tablecloths. Each table had a bunch of balloons in the same colors. We scattered UNO cards throughout the house as further decoration. I also used mini UNO cards that we found at Party City as the cupcake toppers. My favorite part was the banner that my husband put together using the photos that Kelsey took of Julian playing with UNO cards and some vintage UNO cards from his mom.

The Memories (Book Design: Grace Lawler ; Materials: Scrapadoodle)

I borrowed this idea from my friend Kelsey, as well ( you see a theme here? Kelsey has great ideas!) She made a small scrapbook that she gave me at the baby shower she hosted for friends and family to write notes to Julian in before he was born. I LOVED that idea, so I had my crafty sister make a similar one for Julian's first birthday since he won't be able to remember anything about it on his own.

The Food (Hyvee and homemade)

I served chips with homemade salsa, broccoli and cauliflower with homemade ranch dip, fruit and organic whole wheat chocolate cupcakes with sucanat buttercream frosting. My mom and I attempted to arrange the fruit to look like a UNO wild card.

The Outfit (Amazon and Jo-Ann Fabric)

I got the idea for Julian's party outfit from my good friend Kelsey. She introduced me to freezer stenciling at the baby shower she hosted for me a little over a year ago. Since I am really not crafty at all, she came over and helped me make the stencil on Thursday afternoon. Thanks, Kelsey!


 The Cake (Homemade)

 I made Julian a small cake version of the same cupcakes I made for the party. I used pineapple to make it look like a yellow UNO card. I don't claim to be a fantastic (or even mediocre!) cake decorator, but it was as healthy as sweets can be, which was the goal. He was not too interested in his cake, but we got some good photos of him playing with it!

The Family

We are so grateful the Lord saw fit to bless us with a healthy baby boy almost one year ago. We look forward to seeing how the Lord uses Julian to further His kingdom in the years to come!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pancakes in a Pan

I am always hunting for quick and easy recipes to serve on Monday evenings in our home since I am gone all day doing laundry. In the fall/winter, I almost exclusively relied on my crockpot to cook a hot and delicious meal while I was away from home all day. Now that spring has sprung and summer is not too far away, soups and stews in the crockpot just don't sound that appetizing. However, I still need quick and easy because there is no way that I am walking in the door at 5:30 loaded down with clean clothes and cooking a complicated meal. I adapted this recipe from a recipe I found in a Food Network magazine to suit the dietary choices of my family. It is extremely yummy and takes approximately five minutes to be ready to pop in the oven. Definitely a Monday meal around here!

Pancakes in a Pan

1 c. greek yogurt
1 c. flour (whole wheat pastry flour is what I use, but anything would work!)
4 eggs
2/3 c. coconut oil (or butter, if you prefer)
dash of vanilla extract
optional: chocolate chips, almonds, walnuts, shredded coconut, chopped apples etc. 

To soak: Mix the yogurt and the flour together in a small bowl and cover. Leave out on the counter for 12-24 hours. 

If you would rather not soak, skip the yogurt and just follow the directions from this point on.

Heat the oven to 425. Put chunks of oil or butter in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan and stick it in the oven while it heats up. Throw the eggs into a blender and mix for a couple of minutes. Add the soaked flour mixture (or just the flour, if you don't want to soak) and blender for another minute. Add the dash of vanilla and any optional additions you want and give it one final whirl in the blender. Remove the pan from the oven and gently shake the pan from side to side to evenly distribute the oil/butter. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Homemade Cleaners

All Purpose Spray/Glass Cleaner

1/2 tsp. liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's tea tree soap)
1 tsp. borax
1 tsp. super washing soda
1/2 c. white vinegar
2 c. hot water
25 drops essential oils (I use orange and eucalyptus)

Mix the soap, borax, super washing soda and vinegar in a small bowl (I use a measuring cup that has a pour spout). Add the water and stir. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then add the essential oil. Pour or funnel into a old spray bottle.

Toilet Cleaner

1 c. water
1/2 c. liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's tea tree soap)
1 c. baking soda
1/4 c. white vinegar
25 drops essential oils (I use orange and tea tree)

Put the baking soda in a large, deep bowl. Slowly add the vinegar (the foaming and fizzing is normal!). Add the soap and the essential oils and stir. Pour or funnel into an old squirt container. 

Bathroom Cleaner

1 c. baking soda
1/4 c. vinegar
1/3 c. castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's tea tree soap)
3 tbs. super washing soda
1 tbs. coconut oil
1 tbs. salt (I use Real Salt brand)
25 drops essential oil (I use sage and orange)

Put the baking soda in a large bowl. Slowly add the vinegar (the fizzing/foaming is normal!). Add the remaining ingredients and mix together well. Spoon into a container. I use this to clean the shower and the sink in our bathroom and kitchen. I spray the all purpose spray first, then rub some of this mixture on my sponge and scrub away. 

Our Cleaning Journey

When we first got married, I cleaned house (or crackerjack sized apartment!) with a vast array of your typical cleaners...409, Clorox, Scrubbing Bubbles etc. I never really thought anything of it until I got pregnant and was warned to stay far away from those nasty chemicals in cleaning supplies. This got me thinking about why it was alright for me to be breathing those chemicals in when I was not nurturing a life inside me, but, for those nine or so months that I was pregnant, I absolutely should not be around the chemicals in those cleaners. Instead of doing something about it, I just decided to have my husband do the cleaning while I went out somewhere...good plan, right? It worked for the most part, until the day I came home and he had splashed bleach on our black bathroom rugs while cleaning the toilet. Maybe we should clean the toilet with something that won't immediately ruin whatever it lands on...

This incident happened a few weeks before Julian was born. To be honest, cleaning was the farthest thing from my mind in those first six weeks or so. I really don't remember how we got clean clothes and diapers, even, let alone how our apartment was habitable, because I certainly was not cleaning it! My thoughts about switching to safer cleaning products were revisited when we were moving out of our old apartment towards the end of June. Kerry and I, along with Julian, had gone back to the old apartment one last time so Kerry could clean one more thing in hopes of getting a little more of our deposit back. Julian and I were sitting on the floor when all of a sudden Kerry told us to get out immediately. Apparently he had accidentally mixed two cleaning products that, when mixed, emit poisonous fumes. Lovely. That experience solidified for me that I needed to find new cleaning solutions right away.

In the spirit of motivation, I threw all of our old stuff away, which meant I needed to replace everything if I wanted to clean our new apartment. I trotted off to the local health food store in search of all natural cleaners. I found them, bought them and just about cried when I saw how much it all cost. I reassured myself that the cost was worth it because I was not going to be inhaling toxic fumes or exposing my baby to them while I cleaned. I was not thrilled with the way these products cleaned, but they were all natural and I figured I would just need to get used to them. Well, fortunately, I got used to them, however, our budget did not. We just simply could not continue to purchase these cleaners and afford to pay for everything else we, electricity etc. Back to the drawing board.

I was conflicted. I knew that I did not want to go back to the conventional cleaners, but I also knew that we could not sustain buying these all natural products. So, I did some research. Lots of research. I tested several homemade cleaning recipes. Some worked, some didn't, some smelled awful and others used things I would never have around (vodka as a glass cleaner?...I wouldn't even know what vodka looks like if I did want to buy it!). Finally, after a couple months of testing, I have tweaked and revamped several recipes and come up with homemade cleaners that I love and that won't break the bank. With nine items, I can make cleaners that will clean everything that would need to be cleaned in my apartment. Of these nine items, only four were new purchases that I was not already buying for other uses in my home. Without further ado, here are the nine items I need to clean my home!

Super washing soda
Liquid castile soap
White vinegar
Baking soda
Coconut oil
Essential oils

With these items, I am able to make an all purpose spray that I use on all hard surfaces as well as toilet bowl cleaner, shower cleaner, dish soap, glass cleaner and dust spray. I just used the shower cleaner for the first time yesterday and my husband commented today that the tub looks cleaner than it has in a long time, which is a BIG DEAL coming from a man who claimed nothing could clean a bathroom better than a can of scrubbing bubbles :)
Have you thought about the cleaning products you use in your home? Have you tried making products yourself? Check out the DIY page on my blog for the recipes for these cleaners.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Like Mother, Like Son

Some parents put safety locks on their kitchen cabinets...

not me...

and apparently not my parents, either!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Julian: 11 months

Our baby is eleven months old now! He still has only four teeth, crawls super fast and cruises around the furniture, but has yet to stand unsupported or to take any steps yet. I am perfectly fine with that considering walking will bring a whole new set of challenges for me! He has become a little more interested in table food over the past month. Most recently he has enjoyed turkey, pork loin, sweet potatoes, clementines, hardboiled egg yolk, chicken, salmon and catfish. He is still nursing wonderfully and sleeping not so wonderfully...but I only get this time with him once, so I am perfectly fine with getting up in the middle of the night to take care of my sweet little boy. We are looking forward to celebrating his first birthday at the end of the month!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How I became engaged

Be sure to read the first two parts of our love story before reading this post!

Today marks the second anniversary of my husband asking me to be his wife. Here is how it happened...

It was a Sunday. I had come home from college for the weekend and had gone to church with Kerry and his family. After church, we headed over to his dad and stepmom's house to celebrate Easter a week early with his extended family. I thought that we would be getting engaged that weekend, but it was Sunday and I was starting to get disappointed. After all of the extended family left, Kerry asked me to go for a walk in the woods behind their house. I did not really want to go for a walk because it had recently rained and it was going to be muddy! However, Kerry convinced me and off we went. We walked for quite some time and finally came to a log where we sat to rest. I noticed a hawk, Kerry's favorite bird, flying in the distance, so I turned to point it out to him. When I turned around, he was down on one knee with the most beautiful solitaire sapphire ring in his hand. I don't remember the exact words that he said because I was crying too much, but I do remember saying an enthusiastic "YES!" and shouting for joy :) We walked back to the house to tell his dad, sister and stepmom, then headed out to catch my train back to school. It was the shortest train ride back to Moody I ever took because I was enthralled the entire way there with my beautiful new ring!

Check back in August to hear about our wedding day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/26-4/1

While I did plan my menu for this week like usual, my pantry/freezer/refrigerator are WAY too full, so I am going to go ahead and cook what I had planned for this week, but try to not go grocery shopping (except for produce on Wednesday since HyVee has 10% off organics every Wednesday) until I run out of things to make.

So, here is the plan for this week!

  • Banana muffins, hardboiled eggs and fruit x 2
  • Soaked granola and fruit x 3
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Scrambled eggs and sunrise smoothies
  • Standard lunch x 2
  • Leftovers x 2
  • Taco salad and fruit
  • Stuffed peppers and salad (recipe below!)
  • Hot dogs, fruit and fresh veggies
  • Leftovers, fruit and fresh veggies
  • Church lunch
Stuffed Peppers
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. brown rice
1 c. water
6 peppers (I usually use green)
2 cans tomato sauce
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Place rice and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 20 minutes. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned. Remove and discard the tops and seeds of the peppers. Arrange them in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing up. In a bowl, mix the beef, rice, one can of tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spices and spoon into each hollowed out pepper. Mix the remaining sauce in a bowl and pour half over the peppers. Bake for one hour, basting the peppers with remaining sauce every fifteen minutes or until peppers appear tender. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/19-3/25

Since it has been in the 80's nearly every day for a week here in central Illinois, we nixed the oatmeal for breakfast in favor of smoothies all last week. I made up some granola and banana muffins over the weekend, so those will be in the breakfast rotation for this week, too. I put away all of our winter clothes, so hopefully this gorgeous weather is here to stay!

Here is our menu for the week!

  • Standard lunch 
  • Leftovers
  • Salmon patties, green monster smoothies, fresh veggies and dip
  • Sweet potato burrito bowls, fruit, veggies and dip
  • Italian stew, biscuits and fruit
  • Keema, biscuits and fruit
  • Hot dogs, fruit, veggies and dip
  • Church lunch
Banana Muffins
3 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 bananas, mashed
1 1/2 c. sucanat (or other sweetener)
 2 eggs
2/3 c. butter, melted
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Combine bananas, sweetener, eggs and butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture and mix until smooth. Pour in greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Enjoying March

We have been experiencing BEAUTIFUL weather this week and I definitely hope it lasts! This week we have picnicked with friends, taken several walks at the nature center by our apartment, slept with the windows open all night long and played in onesies. Thank you, Lord, for the sweet blessing of warm weather right when the cabin fever was setting in!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Julian: 10 months

Julian turned ten months old on the 5th of March. He has been crawling since January, and is now pulling himself up and cautiously cruising along various pieces of furniture. He has four teeth and continues to nurse wonderfully. He is still not all that interested in table food, although we do offer it every meal. We had a terrible time getting him to look at the camera this month, but I do think the photo we ended up with is pretty cute!

Talking to his bear :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/12-3/18

I am looking for new breakfast ideas, so if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. Oatmeal is wonderful when it is cold outside, but this warm weather is making me not want to eat a bowl of steaming oats in the morning!

Here is our menu for the week...

  • Soaked oats x 6
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 3
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 2
  • Picnic lunch with friends (!)
  • Salmon patties, smoothies and veggies
  • Soup, biscuits and fruit
  • Hot dogs, salad and fruit
  • Church lunch
  • Standard lunch x 2
  • Leftovers and smoothies (or, in the case of tonight, popcorn and fruit!) x 3
  • Chicken cakes, potato wedges and salad
  • Shrimp curry, biscuits and fruit
  • White chicken chili, biscuits and fruit
  • Volunteer dinner
  • Popcorn and smoothies
Shrimp Curry
 This is by far one of my easiest recipes. I LOVE Indian/Thai/Vietnamese food and was super happy to realize how easy it is to recreate it at home.
2 cans coconut milk
2 tbs. red curry paste
1 tbs. fish sauce
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Bamboo shoots, pepper strips, baby corn, edamame etc. (optional)

In a skillet, combine coconut milk, curry paste and fish sauce (add any optional veggies at this point). Slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and add shrimp. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked and the flavors mellow, about 15 minutes. Serve over hot rice.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super Easy Homemade Frosting

We are having a friend of Kerry's over for dinner tonight, so Julian and I have been busy cooking all day. I decided yesterday that we would have the Sourdough Chocolate Cake from Smart Sweets for dessert. I made the cake up this morning and planned on making the almond frosting that goes along with it this afternoon. I ended up not having everything I needed for the frosting, so I improvised and came up with this super delicious and healthy frosting!

Super Easy Homemade Frosting

1 c. greek yogurt
1/4 c. real maple syrup

Put the yogurt and the syrup in a bowl and mix (I used my hand mixer since I don't have a fancy stand mixer!) on low until well combined. Feel free to lick the beaters :) Spread on cake or cupcakes and enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 3/5-3/11

I began reading Organized Simplicity this weekend and, although this is not the order she recommends in the book, tackled my kitchen on Saturday. I re-organized the pantry, purged kitchen gadgets and tools (some that have not seen the light of day since we got them as wedding presents!) and cleaned out the fridge and freezer. I made an inventory sheet of my spices and all my pantry items, as well as a freezer inventory. Needless to say, I am SO invigorated by the overhaul and am looking forward to cooking in my newly organized and simplified kitchen this week!

Here is our menu for the week!

  • Soaked oats and fruit x 6
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 4 (for Kerry)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 4 (for me)
  • Soup buffet, biscuits and fruit
  • Snacky lunch on the road
  • Church lunch 

Sweet Potato Chili

1 large onion, sliced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 c. black beans
1 1/2 tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. orange zest
1 c. chicken stock

Combine all ingredients in a big pot and bring to a boil. Then lower and simmer for at least four hours.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Thank you, Jesus!

The Lord blew me away in a BIG way this morning...

Kerry and I watch a little girl a few mornings a week named Emily (not her real name). Emily is eight years old. She is dropped off at our apartment around seven and one of us takes her to school around eight. She usually arrives around the time we are sitting down to eat breakfast, so she reads quietly or plays with some of the toys we have. She is intrigued by Julian and loves to pick out his diaper cover when I go to change him. She does not come from a Christian home and does not regularly attend church. She talks and sings songs about things I never even knew about until after I was married. If Julian were any older, I would be worried about the influence she had on him.

One day while we were driving to school last week, she was telling me about what she was learning in school. She mentioned some foreign countries she was learning about and asked if I had ever been outside the US. I told her that I had and shared with her the various places I had been on missions trips. She was quite impressed with this and exclaimed "I didn't know you were a missionary!". I explained to her that I am not a missionary in the sense that she was thinking, but that I am a Christian. She told me about a VBS she had been to once before and the missionaries she met there. We got to her school and that conversation was done.

When she got here this morning, we were sitting down to breakfast. We prayed and she was just walking around the living room, talking to us while we ate. She sat down on the bench by our front door and, out of the blue, said, " I can't wait to be a Christian someday." I asked her what she meant by that and she said that she couldn't wait until she had prayed enough to make her a Christian. I was close to crying, at this point, so moved by what the Lord was allowing me to participate in. I told her that the only thing she must do to be a Christian is to accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus. So, she sat on my couch and prayed to accept Jesus as her Savior.

I am so humbled and grateful that the Lord used me to help this little girl realize her need for Him in her life. This serves as a reminder to me that God can and will use ANYONE to accomplish His purposes, even a stay-at-home mommy just trying to make a little extra money for her family by watching a little girl a few times a week. Thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Menu Plan Tuesday 2/27-3/4

Yesterday was extremely busy and I did not get to posting our menu for the week.

In other news, I did not get to bake bread last week because I killed our sourdough starter :( I started another one and it will be ready to go on Friday. My plan is to try some bread on Saturday!

Here is our menu!

  • Soaked oatmeal and fruit x 5
  • Eggs and toast 
  • Sourdough pancakes, bacon and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 3 (for Kerry)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 3 (for me)
  • Hot dogs, salad and fruit
  • Soup buffet, biscuits and fruit x 2
  • Church lunch
  • Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings and fruit
  • Hamburger Vegetable Soup, smoothies and biscuits (recipe below)
  • Baked Yams and Black Bean Stew, biscuits and fruit
  • Standard lunch x 3 (for Kerry)
  • Leftovers and smoothies x 3 (for me)
  • Popcorn and smoothies
Hamburger Vegetable Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. potatoes, diced 
1 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. celery, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 c. brown rice, soaked and uncooked
4 - 8 c. water
1 tbs. salt
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf

Brown ground beef and onion together until meat is lightly browned. Drain off grease. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 2 - 4 hours. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Julian: Big Boy

I saw Julian pull himself up to his feet for the first time today! I am so proud of my big boy and yet a little sad at the same time to see him growing so quickly. Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing of this beautiful baby boy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Now that Julian is almost ten months old, I am finally starting to feel like I have a handle on this mom thing. Just kidding...I still have no idea what I am doing! But, I do know that God has given me all that I need for life and godliness and that there is nothing new under the sun, so I press on and continue to rely on Him and His strength to do the job He has called me to right now. That being said, I do have one insight to share that has made the transition into motherhood much smoother for me.

 While there are many things that are absolutely necessary to purchase (or receive as gifts!) before having a baby, there are several that you may think are necessary that, in reality, are just nice to have or even completely unnecessary. I am not going to in depth on baby gear here, but, if you would like to know what I think is necessary, nice and a complete waste of money (and space!), feel free to ask and I would love to talk abou it! There is, however, one item (or three!) that I use every day, multiple times a day, and will talk about with anyone willing to listen:

My baby carriers.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I started doing all sorts of research. I knew some things that I wanted to do right off the bat (cloth diapers, natural birth and breastfeeding), but others I learned about as I began my research. Babywearing was one of those things that I knew nothing about prior to pregnancy, but I became increasingly intrigued by it as I read more. Kerry and I took a class at Once Upon A Sling in Bloomington and I was hooked!

I started out with a hybrid wrap that I used with Julian beginning the day he was born. I used this exclusively until Julian was about five months old. I loved this wrap, especially in the summer, as it was lightweight and easy to use. I wore Julian everywhere in my wrap. He went to weddings (and slept through them!), on hikes, to church, grocery shopping, baseball games and even to the state fair. I was able in the first few weeks of having him to still clean the house, make dinner and do laundry all without having to put him down. The benefit of this baby carrier is the ability to tie it on before leaving the house and pop baby in and out without unwrapping for diaper changes and feedings. It is versatile and very pretty, although not exceptionally user-friendly right away. I watched several videos, looked at the instruction booklet and called Anna at OUAS several times before I felt confident enough to wear Julian in the wrap outside of the house. Although I have not tried this, you can also wear baby on your hip and on on your back with this carrier. Side note: Some moms are able to breastfeed in their carriers, but I never felt comfortable (comfort wise, not exposure wise) doing this. It sure would be nice, though!

I was given a mei tai for my birthday, so I started using that carrier in addition to my wrap in September. You must put the baby in this carrier as you tie it on, so it does not lend itself to the ease of use as much as the wrap does. However, this carrier is made of heavier material than the wrap, so I found myself gravitating towards this carrier as the weather turned cold. This carrier also folds up nicely and, for me, fits well in the diaper bag. I wear Julian everywhere in this carrier as well, most notably all day long while we explored Chicago with friends in October. If I could do things over, I would chose a mei tai with a hood because of the ability to protect nap times with the sleeping hood, especially when doing a back carry. I believe I can purchase a separate hood for the mei tai that I have, but it would be infinitely better to purchase one with a hood already attached. I have used this carrier for both front and back carries and love it for either one.

My mom won my third carrier in a facebook giveaway (thanks, mom!) and it is a soft structured carrier. You need ample space to get baby in the carrier and I find it to be bulky, so I have not used it outside of the house by myself yet. I think the space issue will change as Julian gets older. It is my favorite carrier for back carries as it has a baby insert where you snap the baby in before putting the carrier on your back. This alleviates my worry about Julian squirming out of my grasp while I get him on my back. I use this carrier almost exclusively now when I need to get housework done and Julian wants to be held. He loves to ride on my back while I vacuum or do the dishes.

I LOVE babywearing for several reasons, but the biggest benefit to me is how free it makes me feel! I can do anything I need to around the house or out of the house and have my baby close to me. Housework does not suffer and neither does baby!