Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teething necklace DIY

I haven't seen or felt any teeth poking through yet but this little girl sure does love to chew on anything and everything she can get her hands on! I'm thinking teeth must not be far off.

Having a baby has severely limited the jewelry that can wear since everything goes straight in to her mouth so a teething necklace kills two birds with one stone. I get a pretty necklace to wear and she gets to chew! Not only that but it's super easy to make! Find the tutorial I used here at See Kate Sew

All you have to do to make this awesome (and comfy!) necklace is to sew a long tube of fabric (make sure to make it longer than you think you'll need, I made mine too short the first time and had to start over) and flip it inside out. Next you insert large wooden beads and tie knots in between each one.

The last step is to flip the ends of your fabric tube in, insert a pretty ribbon on each side, and sew it off. Echo totally love the necklace, both when I wear it and when I let her play with it on her own. I need to get more wooden beads so I can make one of these to go with every outfit I own :-)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Banana "Ice Cream"

One of my new years resolutions was to cut back on sugar (specifically white, processed sugar). This is a tough one for me because I have a major sweet tooth. I saw this recipe floating around pinterest for a blended frozen banana ice cream substitute and thought it could be healthier way to curb my sugar cravings.

I gave it a try and was instantly in love! All you do is freeze a banana, then blend it in a food processor with a tablespoon of peanut butter and half a tablespoon of cocoa powder ( I used hot chocolate mix because I was out of cocoa powder making it slightly less healthy). To me it tastes just like soft serve ice cream and the banana, peanut butter and chocolate flavor combo is one of my all time favorites  We even made a large batch and saved some and it is totally scoopable. I can see that this will be a staple for me all summer long. It will totally satisfy my need for ice cream!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Guide To Happiness

If only we could all be this happy all the time!
My friend over at One Trailing Spouse recently wrote a post reviewing a book called The Happiness Project. I haven't read the book myself but from reading her blog post on it I thought it had some good points. It got me thinking about the things that make me happy in my own life.

I'm fortunate to be a really happy person naturally. I obviously get down from time to time (don't we all?) but overall happiness is my normal way of being. Of course I am also lucky enough to be living a life that I love so that could have something to do with it :-)

If you are ever feeling blue try some of these little things to help make you feel happy. I find that they always work for me.

1. Try something new. A new recipe or craft, a new restaurant or park. Anything new to get yourself out of the rut you're in.

2. Limit social media. I seriously believe that this makes me so much happier but it's tough to do! Social media presents us with the best versions of other people's lives and glosses over the rough spots. It can leave you feeling like you're missing out on something and that everyone else's life is perfect. Trust me, it's not.

3. Indulge in small luxuries. Home made bread or fresh flowers in your window can really brighten your day! It doesn't have to be something big, just a small treat that makes you feel special.

4. Get out of the house. Nothing like some fresh air and new surroundings to clear your head.

5. Or stay home instead. Sometimes a movie marathon is just what the doctor ordered.

6. Make time for the things you love. Set aside some time each day to draw, cook, take photographs or read. Whatever you love to do. The trick to this is to not feel guilty about indulging in this, if you just set aside an hour a day for something you love then you won't feel bad about neglecting all those things you should be doing.

7. Make, build, cook, clean or create something. Do something with visible, tangible results. Nothing makes you feel more accomplished than producing results you can see with your own eyes.

8.There's nothing wrong with a little escapism. Sometimes you need a break from your life. When this happens, feel free to indulge in movies, tv and books that transport you to another place.

9. Do what you love, not what sounds cool. This is something I've struggled with my whole life. Figure out what you actually enjoy doing, even if it doesn't make you look like a rockstar to all your friends. Even if it's nerdy, or just seems uninteresting. If you enjoy it, pursue it with vigor.

10. Start a family tradition. We do Birthday waffles on Birthdays and watch A Child's Christmas in Wales at Christmas. We also go to the farmers market every Saturday morning, buy a chocolate croissant and coffe, and eat breakfast outside. Make yearly and weekly traditions a thing in your family, it gives you something to look forward to.

11. Stay away from news and politics. Maybe this makes me socially irresponsible, I don't care. I get the gist of current events from just being out in the world, I don't feel the need to follow the news closely. It only brings me down.

12. Don't be too hard on yourself. Cut yourself a break if you skip your workout once in a while, or cheat on your diet, or let your house get messy. You work hard, you deserve a few free passes.

I'm sure there are more that I use that I'm not remembering at the moment.
What tricks do you use to cheer yourself up?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pickled Radishes

My radishes are all getting ready to harvest which is very exciting because it will make room in my garden for other things. As usual I have way more radishes than I know what to do with. As I learned last year from my bumper crop of cucumbers, pickling is a great solution to this problem. I didn't really follow a recipe this time, just experimented until I got a solution I liked. The results were fantastic, I'm seriously hooked on these little guys. They would be great on sandwiches but I am loving eating them right out of the jar. Here is my recipe for tangy, spicy, crunchy pickled radishes.

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs salt
about 15 radishes (depending on how big they are)
1/2 jalapeno pepper
3 cloves garlic

Boil vinegar, salt and sugar until salt and sugar dissolve completely. In the mean time slice radishes, jalapeno and garlic in to thin, round slices and place in a small mason jar or any other lidded jar you have handy. Pour the liquid mixture over the sliced veggies and refrigerate for 2 days. This will keep in you refrigerator for several weeks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Easy Apple Crisp

This is another nostalgic post relating to the time when Echo was born. Really this apple crisp should be added to your new mom survival kit.

Echo was born in late September and the weather was spectacular. The days were warm and the nights were just starting to get nice and cool. We had planned for a Fall birthday for our fist child, not only is it my favorit season but no one else in our families has a Fall birthday so she will have it all to herself.

After we brought Echo home from the hospital our families were nice enough to bring us all kinds of food so we wouldn't have to cook on top of taking care of a new baby. My mom started bringing us seasonal and delicious apple crisp, what could be more comforting than apples, cinnamon, suger and oats? Soon enough we got the recipe from her and have been making it ever since. Every time we whip up this recipe it makes me think of sitting on the back deck with our newborn baby. This is one recipe that will definitely always hold a special place in our hearts.

10 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup white sugar
1 tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup water

1 cup quick cook oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix white sugar, 1 tbs flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place apple slices in a 9 by 12 baking dish and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Pour water on top of apples and sugar. In a separate bowl mix together  remaining ingredients and crumble on top of apple dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Mommy Survival Kit

This is another post for all my pregnant friends out there. 

One of my dearest friends recently gave birth and it got me feeling all nostalgic and weepy about the time we brought Echo home from the hospital. Those were some magical, exhausting, painful yet joyful days. Bringing home a baby is amazing and wonderful but the aftermath of birth can be not so fun. Here is my list of recommended products to get you through the first two weeks. In my opinion the first two weeks are the worst! After that you tend to figure out what you're doing but in the mean time you might need these survival tools.

1. Witch Hazel Pads. I really didn't think I would need these but my nurse practically insisted I try them and I was so glad I did! they are incredibly soothing on a very sensitive area of your body after you have put yourself through a lot. They sent me home with a bunch of extras and they really helped me though my healing process.

2. Gel Nursing Pads. These are a gift from God! I can't tell you how much these saved my life. Breast feeding was very painful for me at first and I ended up being really sore and chapped. I honestly don't know if I would have made it without these, they saved my life and allowed me to continue nursing even though I was in a lot of pain.

3. Some kind of E Reader. If you don't have one already, I highly recommend you get one. I took Eric's old one when he got a newer, fancier version and it is great reading while nursing. Personally, I got really bored while nursing in the beginning. It used to take Echo around 20 minutes to eat and I hated sitting there doing nothing. The E Reader is great because you can easily hold it and turn the pages all in one hand which allows you to position your baby with the other. Of course if you can get your husband to read to you that's even better. Eric always reads to me when he's home but once he went back to work and i was by myself during the day it was great to have a book in a format i could easily handle.

4. Yoga Pants. Your body takes a bit of time to get back to normal and being comfortable is really important while you heal. I lived in yoga pants for the last part of my pregnancy and soon after birth. They are as comfy as pajamas but not quite as embarrassing to wear out in public as flannel pants with bunnies on them. You may also want to pick up a pair of fat jeans at the thrift store to wear until you can fit in your old ones again.

5. Sleep Mask. I didn't actually have one of these but looking back I wish I did. You get so little sleep in the beginning and you have to take your naps where you can get them. This was really hard for me since I'm not a napper by nature. I think it would have been easier if I could have blocked out the light with a little sleep mask.

6. Netfilx. This is along the lines of the E Reader as in it's a way to entertain yourself while nursing. I would use it mainly at night when I was up for countless hours rocking and feeding my new baby. It kept me from freaking out about the fact that I wasn't in bed asleep. It's also nice for during the day when you're just too tired to do anything else. Save up a good series or two that you can watch straight through after your baby arrives, it will save your sanity.

7. Disposable Underwear. I know this sounds silly but the disposable underwear they give you at the hospital is the best stuff ever! It's not the sexiest thing ever but I have never worn a pair of panties this comfy in my life, I would wear them all the time if I could.

Your experience may be different from mine and you may have other great suggestions for things to help you adjust to your new life as a mom but these are what came in handy for me. Hopefully it will be helpful to some of you out there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Native Plant Sale and First Harvest

Last Friday I attended a native plant sale at the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell. I used to work there so it was really fun to go back to my old stomping grounds. This was my first native plant sale and it was a blast! I definitely plan to go again next year. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the actual sale ( I was too busy trying to push a stroller, drink my coffee and carry my plants all at the same time!) but here are some photos of what I got at the sale!

I got some herbs to plant in my newly installed window box on the back deck. The proximity to the kitchen makes it ideal.  So far I've planted parsley, sage thyme and oregano.

A gorgeous Heuchera for my shade garden 

Another blueberry bush, this brings our count up to 6! It's quite a large plant and was only $5, what a great deal!
I other garden news I harvested the first of my radishes today. They're still a little small but have great flavor, so exciting!

Monday, April 8, 2013

New Dishwasher and Spring Cleaning!

Echo has been sleeping better (lots better!) lately and that combined with the beautiful Spring weather has given us a renewed burst of energy. I went from just barely getting through the day to actually wanting to do things around the house and I have been in major Spring cleaning mode. Eric has been getting better sleep too and his big project this weekend was installing our new dishwasher. We desperately needed one and had been planning on getting a new one with Eric's Christmas bonus. It only took us until April to get around to buying one. Here is a picture the kitchen with the new dishwasher installed.

Finally the dishwasher matches the other appliances, one more step complete in our kitchen renovation project! It's hard to see here but Eric also recently added a metal backsplash to the right of the sink.

Our old one was dingy white and probably original to the house which was built in 1976. Not only did it not clean the dished well (you had to pretty much scrub them completely clean before putting them in the dishwasher) but the coating on the wire racks was starting to chip off and it was leaving rust spots on our white dishes. The new dishwasher was a huge pain to install since the people who built our house were crazy and put everything together in odd ways and then basically stuck it in place with chewing gum and twine (that's an exaggeration but not by much). After slaving away all day at it however, Eric finally got the dishwasher in place and ready for the test run.

I hate the floors in our kitchen, that's another thing on the list of things to replace.
 It works so well I want to cry, this is going to make my life sooo much easier! It's also insanely quiet, bliss. It made all our other appliances look really dirty because it was so clean so it inspired me to scrub down the entire kitchen, another check marked off of my Spring cleaning list. The other great thing about the new dishwasher is the giant box it came in!

Naturally we turned it in to a cat house :-)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Growing Growing Growing!

Spring is such an exciting time of year! I love watching the progress of my garden and this year has been especially fun because I get to watch my baby girl grow right along with my plants. It doesn't feel very springy this morning but here is what we have going on in the yard this season, maybe it will help you think of warmer times to come :-)

Tomato plants I started inside. I still won't be able to plant them outside for a while yet but hopefully they will be nice strong plants by then.

Trying growing carrots in pots this year, so far so good! Also a few radishes got in here somehow, weird!

My peas are getting bigger every day!

The fact that Echo can sit up on her own now makes my life so much easier! She can entertain her self a lot better now and I enjoy having her outside with me while I work in the garden. 

Of course she mostly just wants to eat grass and dead leafs 
My mixed bag of lettuce seeds are all coming up in beautiful different colors. 

Rows of radishes, the one thing I know I can grow!

Swiss Chard, a new crop for me this year. 

More peas growing in the front yard
And finally our azaleas are blooming! A sure sign of Spring!
 I'm so looking forward to my first harvest, the radishes shouldn't take too much longer. We also planted two new blueberry bushes and two raspberry vines this year but they weren't particularly picture worthy (at least not yet). This morning I am off to a native plant sale at the Chattahoochee Nature Center so maybe I will come back with some more great finds!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tips for Car Travel With Baby

I have now made several long car trips with Echo and figured I would share my words of wisdom with all of you pregnant ladies and new mamas out there. In December and again in March I made the 11 hour car trip to DC with baby Echo. Here is my advice for preserving you sanity on long car rides with a wee one.

1. Budget Extra Time
This trip is going to take twice as long as you think it will. You may have been able to drive for 11 hours straight when you were in college but your baby is not going to be up for that. You'll need to make frequent stops to feed, change and exercise your baby. Echo hates being restrained in her car seat because she can't move the way she wants to. Frequent stops allow her a chance to stretch, kick and wiggle. Getting exercise during stops helps her be able to sleep while we drive for long stretches too which is easier on everyone.

2. Bring A New Toy... And An Old Toy
I hate to break it to you but your days of packing light are over. You'll need multiple extra bags to bring enough diapers, toys and clothes for your baby on the trip. I think I overpack on toys and books because I am so nervous about keeping her entertained in the car but if you want to cut down on the amount of toys you lug around try the bring a new toy, bring an old toy tip.
I found that is was helpful to bring a new toy on the car ride, or just something that Echo doesn't play with that much at home. The novelty of it really helped distract her from being miserable in her car seat.  It's also helpful to bring an old toy, something you know your child loves and something they find comforting. For Echo it's something she can chew on that will always soothe her.

3. You Are The Best Toy
Toys are great and all but nothing beats your undivided attention when it comes to entertaining your baby. So get ready to make a fool of yourself and learn some good kids songs because you will be performing for much of the car ride. On our first trip out of state Eric and I made the mistake of both trying to sit in the front seat and letting Echo ride in the back on her own. This did NOT go well. Now I always ride in the back with her so I can talk to her, sing to her, read her stories and help her play with her toys. This makes for a much smoother trip.

4. Pack Snacks!
What's a road trip without snacks right? We all love snacks and so does your baby. If your baby is too young for solids bring a bottle for him/her to sip on during the ride. If they are old enough for solids pack a little tupperware container with whatever they like. On our last trip I brought cooked peas for Echo to eat in the car. Not only does she love them but they are relatively clean for baby food and won't make a mess in the car. I also brought her sippy cup filled with water which she loves. Sometimes when all else fails food is the only way to keep a grumpy baby happy.

5. Never Wake A Sleeping Baby!
This is the cardinal rule of car travel with a baby. If thew baby is still asleep, we keep driving. There will be time to stop later when the baby is awake and screaming her head off.

I haven't tackled air travel yet with my little Echo but we plan to try that over Christmas most likely. In the mean time we will probably continue to take car trips now that we've kind of figured out how it works. I hope these tips are helpful for some of you. Maybe you will get lucky and your baby will love car rides, but keep these in mind just in case :-)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

March Photos

 Here are a sampling of our photos from March this year
Echo in the snow (tough to see but it is slightly snowing)

Snuggling up on a chilly day

Echo loves to look out the window
Been wanting to get a picture here since before she was born

Eating potatoes and carrots 
Helping Daddy play Croquet on St. Patty's day
Wearing our green
Family portrait
Sophie is helping us play croquet too
Playing the djembe with Daddy
Swim classes with Mommy

Visiting Aunt Neil in Charlottesville 

Natural History Museum in DC


Monday, April 1, 2013

Paneer Tutorial

This Easter instead of doing the same old tired Ham with some kind of potato side dish, my family came up with the idea of doing and Indian food Easter! A little out there maybe but certainly delicious! For my contribution I made Paneer, and Indian cheese which is often used as the protein in vegetarian Indian dishes.

I had Paneer for the first time at an Indian restaurant in DC last December and was instantly in love. Once I found out how it is to make I knew I wanted to try it at the first opportunity. This was my first cheese making experiment and it turned out great! I will definitely be doing this again in the near future. Here is what you'll need.

A large stock pot or dutch oven
A wooden spoon
A gallon of whole milk
lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar (I used lemon juice and loved the subtle lemon flavor it added to the cheese)
A bit of salt
Cheese cloth or flour sack tea towels
A colander

Here is the process...

Bring milk to a boil in your dutch over or stock pot, stirring constantly to prevent scalding. Add salt to taste. Once the milk reaches boiling add your lemon juice until the solids start to separate. I just kept adding lemon juice until the solids had completely separated so I'm not really sure how much I added but I would estimate maybe 6 tablespoons. Once the solids have separated the whey will be greenish like in the picture.

Solids separated from the whey

Poor the mixture in to a colander in the sink that has been lined with a tea towel or several layers of cheese cloth (we did two batches and found that the tea towel gave us a firmer cheese in the end so we will be using that instead of cheese cloth in the future).

Straining out the whey
when the curds are cool enough to handle, pick up the corners of the tea towel and bundle the whole thing up, we tied the ends together with twine. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can by hand and then stack heavy things on top of the bundle to press the liquid out. 
curds bundled in cheese cloth
All the heavy stuff we could find stacked on top 

 After about 40 minutes the cheese will be ready to eat. You can then cut it in to small cubes or crumble it depending on how you want to use it. We planed on frying ours so we cut it in to cubes.

The wheel on the right was made with the tea towel and turned out much firmer, the wheel on the left was made with cheese cloth and was a little soft for my taste
 You can then season the Paneer however you like, we used masala fish seasoning just because it's something we had on hand, you can look up all kinds of Paneer recipes online for ideas.

After seasoning we stir fried them in olive oil until the outsides were golden brown and slightly crisp

Finished Paneer
 We served them as an apetizer for the main feast of chicken tikka masala and chicken vindaloo prepared by my parents and pictured below.

Soooooo delicious!
 This was an incredibly easy and satisfying foray in to cheese making. I highly recommend it for the novice cheese maker, it's a great place to start!