Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stretching Your Coffee Dollar With Iced Coffee

Is there anything more beautiful than that moment when the dream hits the coffee?
 I have a new addiction this Summer, iced coffee. I used to be opposed to cold coffee beverages but the Southern Summer heat combined with my ever growing need for caffeine has driven me to be a huge iced coffee fan. It kind started as a way to make our coffee money go a little further. You see, one of the things we don't skimp on in this house is good coffee. It has to be whole bean and it must be freshly ground before each time we brew. We have a fantastic cone filter coffee machine that I am just in love with but the problem was we would always have some left over in each pot and would end up trowing some out. I absolutely HATE wasting things, it's something that really bothers me. I could just see our good coffee money going down the drain and was killing me! I started saving our extra coffee in a stopper bottle we got at Ikea  (seriously these things are great, we use them for everything) and putting it in the fridge. Now every afternoon I can pour myself a delicious cold coffee treat. My perfect recipe is to fill the glass about two thirds with coffee, then the last third with milk, then I add just a touch of chocolate syrup and a few ice cubes, pure perfection!

I guess you would ideally have fresh coffee for you iced brew or even better do a cold brew, but for a busy (and exhausted!) mom of a 9 month old this is a great solution. It also helps me not waste coffee which makes me feel a lot more justified in buying the good stuff :-)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Silk Scarf Dyeing Tutorial

Echo playing with her new silk scarf
Silk scarves are a great toy for imaginative play no matter what age your child is. They are so soft and beautiful and are good for everything from dress up to making forts. My mom and I were interested in purchasing some for Echo but were surprised at how expensive they are. We found that it was a little bit cheaper to buy plain white scarves and dye them yourselves so we decided to give it a go. Not only is it less expensive but it's a fun activity to boot. 

all you need is icing dye, water and white vinegar 
 Icing dyes are a great way to add color to your scarves since it is food safe and safe for babies to chew on. Boil enough water to submerge your scarves completely and add about a quarter of a teaspoon of the dye to the water, stirring well to break up any clumps.

Soaking the scarves in water with a little vinegar mixed in will help the dye set

You'll also want to add a few tablespoons of vinegar to your dye solution before putting your scarves in. Once you add the scarf to the dye mixture make sure you stir it around really well to evenly distribute the dye. 

Simmer the scarves in the dye mixture for about 30 minutes and then remove and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. 

Dry to scarves in the sun and iron when they are slightly damp, this makes them soft and smooth. 

Look at my cool scarf!
 You can do a variety of colors or mix colors, you can even tie dye! The scarves turn out so soft and vibrant, we just love them!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


 We have had nothing but wet weather around here of late and as much as I love rain it's nice to see the sun out today. Here are some pictures I snapped with my macro lens in between showers the other day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Experience With Baby Led Weaning

Echo gleefully eating Cheerios
When Echo turn 4 months our pediatrician said it was ok to start trying solid foods with her. I was so excited, I saw it as a new way to bond with my baby. I even got a cute baby food cookbook, feeding and preparing special foods for her was a fun new experience we could share, or so I thought..

Feeding Echo her first solid foods was a disaster, she hated everything! We tried rice cereal, sweet potatoes  avocados, everything I was sure she would love before we started this whole thing. At around five months I finally got her to eat peas, I was so happy to find something she would eat! This only lasted a few weeks however and then she stopped eating those as well. Eventually I gave up on trying to force new foods on her and I had to admit that she just wasn't ready to eat solid food.

At Echo's 6 month pediatrician appointent our doctor told me she could now eat pretty much anything she wanted aside from whole milk and honey, as long as she could chew it and it wasn't a choking hazard it was fine. We then tried solid food again and the difference was amazing! She was much more open to eating different things and seemed to like almost everything. Of course by then I was sick of preparing special food for her only to have to throw it out. I started just giving her bites of whatever we were having and my life got a whole lot simpler. It was around this time that I started to read some articles about baby led weaning. The basic idea behind baby led weaning is that you feed your child bite sized pieces of food that they can pick up and feed themselves, it also means they can eat what mom and dad eat with no need for special foods. With baby led weaning there are no baby purees and spoon feeding. It was kind of what I had started doing on my own out sheer laziness (my mom did this with me and my brother as kids too but they didn't have a name for it back then).

There are so many great things about using this approach. Your baby learns to feed themselves and be independent while learning to love a variety of tastes and textures. I'm told that baby led weaning can be difficult for anxious parents because they are always worried about the baby choking but if you are easy going parents like us you'll love it.

Echo is almost 9 months now and absolutely loves to eat. I'm so happy about this, at first I thought she would never want anything besides breast milk! She really likes to eat just about anything but her favorites are any kind of fruit, Cheerios, bread, lentils, rice, beans, potatoes, avocados and sweet potatoes. As parents we love cheerios, bread and rice because they are mess free and easy for her to eat on her own. It's been so exciting to get introduce Echo to new foods and watch her tastes grow and expand. For our next baby I know we will use baby led weaning again, it just make life so much easier and happier for everyone.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Paneer Masala For Cheaters

Indian food is one of my very favorite types of cuisine, right up there after Mexican (can you tell I love spicy food?) but until recently I haven't done much cooking of Indian food at home. It always seemed too time consuming and difficult and who has enough forethought to marinate things overnight anyway? Well lately I have been taking on my fear of Indian cooking and trying some simple recipes at home (it's not as hard as I thought it would be). At Easter Eric and I had our first experience making Paneer, an Indian cottage cheese, and loved it! We also love masala sauce but I never remember to marinate my protein over night. I came up with this adapted version that doesn't require marinating and has a pretty authentic taste in my opinion. It may not be the most authentic in terms of process but it's delicious nonetheless! * Caution, this is very spicy!

2 Tbs Sunflower oil or ghee
2 cups cubed paneer cheese (see my tutorial here)
1 small onion, qaurtered
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in to 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic diced
1 Jalapeno pepper diced
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs Garhm Masala
2 Tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 Tbs cumin
2 Tsp black pepper
1 Tbs ginger
2 Tsp salt
2 Tsp paprika
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup whole milk

Saute the paneer in sunflower oil until browned on all sides, remove from pan and set aside. Add onion, peppers and garlic to the pan and saute until tender. Add tomato sauce and spices to the pan and stir until well combined. Add milk to the pan and heat through. Add cooked Paneer to the pan last and stir until coated. Serve with basmati rice.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

DIY Gauze Swaddle And A New Sewing Machine!

Echo and her new swaddle blanket. Also wearing a top I sewed for her using my old machine. 

Last year I purchased a used sewing machine at a Goodwill and began the task of teaching myself to sew. Well I've been having a blast sewing things for Echo and re-teaching myself sewing basics that I learned as a child and had forgotten and this Spring I decided that I was ready for an upgrade. I really loved my vintage machine but it did one and only one thing, it sewed in a straight line. Since I love using stretch fabrics and would like a machine that can handle them I decided I really needed something that could at least handle a zig zag stitch. After much research I ended up with a Brother Project Runway CS5055PRW (I'll admit it, I am a huge Project Runway fan!).

My new machine!
 My old machine had also started making a screeching noise so I knew it was time to get it serviced or else get a new one. I'm still learning so I didn't need anything too heavy duty but so far and I am beyond thrilled with this machine. It's super quiet so i won't wake Echo by sewing while she naps and the computerized controls make it easy to do overcast stitches, decorative stitches and button holes. The manual is also really helpful and easy to understand, I am learning so much from it!
Look at all the fancy stitches it does!
 For my first project on the new machine I stuck to something simple, a new swaddle blanket for Echo. I've mentioned before that Echo will not sleep unless she's swaddled. I've tried several times to break her of this but I eventually get too tired and give up. She will go to sleep just fine but then will only stay down for a few hours and then refuses to go back to sleep. It's not worth the struggle so she quickly gets swaddled again. The problem with this is that I guess most 9 month olds don't like being swaddled and they don't make swaddle blankets large enough for a baby her age. I really loved my Aden and Anais swaddles because of the light weight breathable fabric but they are expensive and don't come in large enough sizes for us.

To make my swaddle I ordered this cotton gauze fabric from amazon for $5.74 per yard. I got two yards of it and it should be plenty big enough for Echo for quite some time. The fabric is light weight, breathable, and perfect for summer! Then all I had to do was roll the hem over and sew it all the way around (using one of my new decorative stitches naturally).

Detail of the decorative stitching
It was nice to get a feel for my new machine with something so simple, now I feel ready to move on to bigger and better projects! Echo loves her new swaddle and has been sleeping really well with it. I just cant get her to sit still long enough to pose for a decent picture with it ;-)

Friday, June 14, 2013

What I Wish For Echo

I've been seeing a lot of these lists of what parents wish for their children going around and have been inspired by the great list by my friend at Our Brightly Colored Life to write one of my own. I know it's been done before but what a special thing to have in writing to able to show your child when they are older. Besides, I figure that the subject of how you want to raise your child is worthy of some thought, it's probably not a bad idea for all parents to make a list like this, at least mentally! So here is what I hope for Echo's future, although if the present is any indication she will far surpass any expectations I have of her :-)

I hope you have a ravenous curiosity and it makes me happy to know you will have the time to delve deeply in to whatever your passions are without being disrupted. You will be free to read, create or experiment all day, every day if that's what you desire.

I hope you have the courage and confidence to be yourself, and be proud of who you are. Never try to change yourself for others, you are amazing just as you are.

I hope you one day find a partner who treats you like the treasure you are. Now that I'm a parent I finally get it. No one will ever be worthy of my little girl, she priceless beyond rubies. I hope that whoever you end up with knows this and will treat you accordingly.

I hope that you love your unique name and own it. Your father and I worked hard to pick out your name and we think it suits you perfectly. I hope you feel the same way and will never feel less than other kids because you aren't a Sophia or an Olivia.

I hope you have empathy and look out for others, especially those that are smaller or weaker than you.

I hope that you and I will always be close. Having a mom that is your best friend is an amazing gift. I hope that we can have the kind of relationship that I have with my mom.

I hope you always laugh and play with the same abandon that you do now. It makes my heart melt to see you throw back your head and have a good laugh. As we get older we get self conscious about playing, laughing and having fun. I hope you will always find a way to be as carefree as you are today.

I hope you inherit my eternal optimism. You are bound to have your heart broken now and then. I hope you have the same gift for happiness that seems to run in my family and that you will bounce back quickly from any hardships.

I hope you inherit your father's keen intellect and gift for math. Math is not my thing but if you can master it it will just make your life easier.

I hope you inherit from both of us our ability to love deeply and wholeheartedly. We both have this and it makes for a strong, devoted relationship.

Mostly I hope that you find something that makes you happy, fulfilled and content. Whether you want to go to college or walk dogs for a living, whether you want to be a high powered career woman or a stay at home mom like me, I hope you find that thing that makes your life whole and satisfies you you completely.

Love, Mom

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blueberries And New Photo Gigs

Lately I have been fortunate enough break in to the world of product photography. It started with a recommendation from my former coworker Jessica Suarez, an amazing photojournalist and great friend, check her out! It has now lead to several repeat jobs and a new opportunity coming up to do some photos for a jewelry catalog. I hope to be able to share some of those photos with you all in the near future but for now here is one of my practice product photos I took at home utilizing my new photography tent and reflector. Our blueberry bushes have been much more productive this year and we have been enjoying picking fresh blueberries daily, here are some I picked just the other day.

Product photography isn't something I knew much about until recently and I still have a lot to learn but I have been enjoying flexing my creative muscles and tackling this new aspect of the field!

Healthy(ish) Peach Crumble

We have had to take a break from the farmers market for a few weeks due to having too many weekend plans but we were finally able to return this weekend. Lo and behold, peach season had arrived! We were able to score a huge bag of scratch and dent peaches for cheap and needed to find a way to use them up before they went bad. We make apple crisp all the time in the fall and love it for it's simplicity and deliciousness. Here is a slightly healthier version using peaches, whole grain flour and reduced sugar. It tastes nice and light for Summer!

6 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 cup almond butter
3 Tbs butter
2 Tbs whole grain flour
3 Tbs quick cook oats
1/4 Tsp vanilla
Dash of salt
Dash of cinnamon
10 ripe peaches

Combine all ingredients in except peaches in a medium bowl, cutting in butter and almond butter to dry ingredients until crumbly. Set aside. Slice peaces and arrange in an 8"x8" baking dish (I didn't bother to peel them but if you don't like peels feel free to get rid of them). Sprinkle crumble topping on peaches and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. It doesn't get any easier than that! I couldn't help but think this would be great as an ice cream topping too, mmm....

Monday, June 10, 2013

We Own Our House!

The outside of our house with our wedding sign, the tree we got as a housewarming gift, and the tree we planted when we moved in :-)
 It's hard to believe that just over two years ago we were renters of a tiny bungalow in West Midtown. We had rented the house after we got engaged and Eric moved in right away while I waited until after the wedding. It was an old house and in terrible repair but we thought it was perfect for a young couple just starting out.

We went on our honeymoon about a month after the wedding and returned home in the midst of an ice storm to find that our rental had been put up for sale, no one had even bothered to tell us! It was a little unnerving to think that the place we called home could be taken away from us just like that and it was then that we started to think about buying a place (prior to this we had no interest in buying a house, it was the furthest thing from our minds).

Over Christmas we happened upon a house that had gone up for sale in my parents neighborhood, the same neighborhood I had grown up in. We went inside to check it out and were instantly in love with the high ceilings and massive windows. We made an offer and by February of 2011 we had closed on the house.

The house quickly became a home and as part of our financial plan we put as much extra money on our mortgage as we could. We already had a 15 year mortgage instead of the standard 30 and the house was pretty cheap to begin with so it wasn't long until owning the house free and clear became a very achievable goal. Well, last week we made the final payment and we finally own our house for real! This is such an amazing feeling, I'm still in shock over it.

The people we dealt with at the bank kept saying, "congratulations! When will you be moving to a bigger house?". Seriously? Is this what people do? We just paid off this house. A large part of building life long wealth is not buying junk you don't need. Not only do we not need a bigger house but we love the house we have. We've been a young married couple here and brought home our first baby to it's walls. We are pleased as punch to live here and even happier to be full, official owners (not to mention completely free of debt). Naturally we went out for Pizza to celebrate :-)

Celebratory pizza at Marietta Pizza company, our favorite pizza joint!
 Now that we won't be making house payments any more (woo hoo!) here are the next steps in our life long money saving plans.

1. Invest! This isn't really my forte but Eric does a lot of research on the topic and is excited to start investing. We are still young enough to be able to invest without too much worry and plan to start with moderate to low risk investments.

2. Save for retirement. We are both guilty of not contributing to our 401ks as of late. We plan to start putting at least a little away for retirement.

3. House projects. Our house being so cheap was great for us but it means there are still a lot of things to fix and improve around here. We plan to take some of the money we would used for house payments and use it for house improvements instead.

4. Start a travel fund. This one is certainly more important to me than to Eric but I really want to set aside a little bit for travel and vacations.  

5. Continue to live frugally and accumulate wealth. That one speaks for itself. Since we started making an effort to live frugal and save more money we have been more and more satisfied with our quality of live. We plan to continue to look for new ways to save money and to love the things we have instead of lusting after new stuff.

Friday, June 7, 2013

May Photos

In spite of May being a really busy month with work for me (numerous product shoots and gearing up for a big out of town wedding on June 1st) we packed in a ton of fun stuff too! I took so many photos it was hard to edit it down but here are the highlights from last month.

Playing on the back deck in the cute new outfit I sewed for her.

With daddy at the botanical gardens
Visiting her grandparents and great grandma for mothers day in Knoxville

Sacked out
Gibbs Gardens
Gibbs Gardens

Greek Festival in Marietta
Greek Festival
Botanical Gardens again, for my Dad's birthday this time
Botanical Gardens fountain
Botanical Gardens
At Woody's, getting a cheesesteak sandwich

Botanical Gardens with friends, that membership is really paying off!
Playing with the mirror at the hotel room, the night before Natalie and Phillip's wedding!