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!