Saturday, March 31, 2012

Things have been crazy. Here's proof.

I don't usually go more than a day or two between posts and it's always strange to me when I do.  Especially when we're not away on vacation or something.  And we weren't.  Things were just kind of crazy in general around here this past week.

PROOF:

I can't spell

In making these little "Happy Spring" notes to go inside the Easter eggs in the Brown Bags this month, I totally misspelled "spring" when I was setting it up on the stamp.  It wasn't until I printed this first one that I realized it didn't look quite right.  Happy Sring!



Our car broke and we bought a new (used) one

I mentioned this the other day (and thanks for all your kind thoughts and worries), but we had a bit of a car fiasco.  Last fall we decided to cut back financially in any way we could (so I wouldn't have to work anymore--so worth it) and one of the the ways we did this was selling our nice car that we were still making payments on and buying a cheap car outright.  

We were so happy not to be making car payments anymore that we ignored the fact that our cheap car smelled like a chain smoker.  "This is what it feels like to live within our means."  That's what I chanted to myself every time I remembered that I kind of hated that car.  Because I did kind of hate it.  But I loved that we didn't make payments on it.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bad News

I just found out this afternoon that our car (that we just bought a few months ago) needs repairs that cost almost half as much as we paid for the car in the first place.  I have hatred in my heart about it right now.  But instead of harping on about that, I leave you with this little piece of joy:

Downton Arby's



Anybody else totally in love with this show?  What am I saying?  Of course plenty of you are in love with this show.  I've been hearing about it from Bridget for ages, but I only just started watching it when we were at my in-laws' last week.  And... I... uhh... watched the entire first season in two days.  Now I'm just waiting for the second season to come out for free on our Amazon Prime or something.

Ahh, now that's nicer to think about than... nevermind.

Some Goals

If these little blossoms can bloom, so can I.  :)

I feel really good about what I've been doing in life lately.

I love that we're eating so well (so healthy, I mean).  Even more than I love the way my body feels better, I love the way I don't feel guilty about a single thing I put in my mouth.  That is so huge for me.  I'm so prone to self-inflicted guilt and it has been nothing short of liberating to only eat things that are really good for my body.

I am also still loving hanging our laundry up to dry.  I still feel just as whole and fulfilled about that as I did when I wrote this post.  I especially love it when I can hang our laundry outside on sunny days.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Colorful clothes swaying in the breeze.  Love it.

I love the way preschool is going with Olivia.  Right now we're doing it with a few other moms and kids and Olivia is absolutely loving it.  Each of us moms takes one day (Mon-Wed) to teach which keeps it low-stress and high-fun.  We usually do preschool here at our house since half of our basement is set up with a preschool calendar and other fun stuff and Olivia spends the time between waking up and preschool starting telling me that it's time for preschool and bringing me books to read to her.

And with so many things in life going so well, I've been thinking about other things I want to improve on.  Things that aren't bad, but could definitely be better.  Or things that I need to do more consistently.  Here's what I've decided on:

Exercise:

  • Go on the exercise bike or something equivalent for 30 minutes at least Mon-Fri
  • Do some ab exercises every day, at least Mon-Fri


Spiritual:

  • Read the Ensign cover-to-cover every month
  • Read, watch, or listen to a General Conference talk from the most recent General Conference at least once a week


It's funny, but I'm always more enthusiastic about improving when things are already going well.  (As opposed to when things are already going badly.)  It seems like it should be the other way around, but it hardly ever is.  Do you get that way too?

Anyway, here's to improving a little.  :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Worn Out! (Oh, and Brown Bag)

We picked some of these pretty little flowers for part of the preschool lesson today.

I feel like I have been in the kitchen all day long today.  I made another loaf of bread, some of this fresh and yummy guacamole salsa (I'd say it's more of a salad dressing than a salsa, but I really like it), and got a big dinner ready for our dinner group.

Confession: We made a big roast for dinner group tonight.  Bryan's mom spent all last week talking into eating a whole foods, plant-based diet (which we're doing now), and then proceeded to send us home with all the things she doesn't eat anymore.  Haha.  One of the things she sent us home with was a huge roast, so we made that for dinner group tonight.  I threw in a bunch of little potatoes, some carrots, and some chopped onion.  Bry and I ate the veggies, but not the meat.  Though the roast turned out really amazing-looking and I admit I was tempted by it.  But we both held strong and stuck to our veggies.  Yeah, us.  And, uh, thanks for eating the meat that was pawned off on us and then on you guys, dinner group friends.  :)

For dinner group we served the roast and veggies, the fresh whole wheat bread I made earlier today, and some salad.  The salad consisted of spinach with toppings of chopped tomatoes, left over black bean and veggie salad, and guacamole salsa for dressing.  Yum, yum.  All you hardcore plant-eaters out there can boo us for eating the veggies cooked with meat.  But whatevs.

Mixed in with all that time in the kitchen, I also did a load of laundry in the washing machine and then hung it all up to dry outside, taught preschool this morning, went to the grocery store, played outside with Olivia, and went on a good walk.  Today has been really rewarding and fulfilling in a whole-living kind of way, but it's also worn me out!

Oh yeah, and the 2012 March Brown Bag is tomorrow.  Hahaha.  This is funny because I haven't done a single thing for it yet.  Usually on the day before Brown Bag I'm stressed and I've already turned the house upside down setting up for it.  Today?  Not stressed.  Even though I haven't done a single thing yet.  Oh, that's not true.  I did pick up a folding table from my neighbors... about an hour ago.

Luckily there are only 10-15 people coming this month, so it should be fairly low-key.  Hence my non-stressing.  Also, in the previous months I've made new decorations and really gone all-out making each one distinctly special.  (At least in my head that's true.)  But since we were out of town last week and things have been busy since we got back, I gave myself permission to just keep things really simple this month.  Good thing the decorations from last month are still up!  :)  I loved them so much that I left them up.  They may stay up until we move out.  We shall see.

Anyway, I have a handful of things I need to do tonight to get ready for Brown Bag tomorrow.  And one of those things is introducing you all to the 2012 March Brown Bag sponsors.  Woot woot!  All of these businesses are owned and operated by women I know personally who love what they do and do an excellent job at it.  Please take a minute to look through their shops and websites and show them some love!


From Wonderland (no link)

And, with that, I'm off to help get Olivia in bed and then get back to work!  Wish me luck!  :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Super Easy Yummy & Moist Whole Wheat Bread (no sugar, no oil, no butter, no dairy)


When we were visiting Bryan's family last week his mom kept feeding us lots of yummy whole-food goodies.  Every morning I was spoiled with a fresh-made smoothie with lots of yummy fruit and spinach and a slice or two of homemade whole wheat bread.  Mmmm.  So good.

She sent us home with a fresh loaf and a bag of some freshly ground whole wheat flour.  We're already a little more than halfway through the loaf she sent home and I definitely wanted more when we ran out, so I decided to test out a recipe and easy method right away so we'd be all set when do finish off the loaf from Bryan's mom.

A few weeks ago one of my good friends decided to start making her own bread, more on the basis that it's so much cheaper than store-bought bread.  She makes super yummy pumpkin rolls almost every week for our dinner group, so I'm pretty trusting of any bread that comes out of their house.  :)  Her secret to success for consistently making homemade bread all the time is: a bread machine.  She dumps all the ingredients in, lets the bread machine do the hard work, and then puts the dough in bread pans in the oven to bake.  (Otherwise you end up with a weird-shaped loaf with a hole down the middle.)

Well, my envy for the simplicity of my friend's homemade bread combined with my longing for my mother-in-law's homemade bread resulted in a trip to the thrift store yesterday in search of a bread machine.  I am happy to say that I found one!  For a whopping $8.99 I now have my own bread making robot.  So awesome.

Yesterday I put my new bread machine to work.  I got a good recipe from my friend (she got it from her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but mine didn't have bread machine recipes in it--boo) and made some alterations to make the bread even healthier.

Read more for the (super easy) recipe!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Black Bean & Veggie Salad


Black Bean & Veggie Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans (drained & rinsed)
  • 1 can corn (drained & rinsed)
  • 1 cucumber (sliced & quartered)
  • 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 5 roma tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/3 red onion (diced)
  • 1/4 bunch of cilantro (diced)
  • 1 large avocado or 2 smaller avocados (diced)
  • 1 lime (cut into quarters)
  • balsamic vinegar (about 1-2 TBS)
  • salt (to taste)
Mix everything except the lime, balsamic vinegar, and salt together in a big bowl.  Squeeze all of the lime juice from the lime over the salad and mix.  Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and mix.  Add salt to taste and mix.

Yield: A very large bowl of fresh salad.  Definitely big enough to take to a big family potluck.  Or to enjoy lots and lots of by yourself at home.  :)



We made up this fresh yummy salad last night to take with us when we went to visit out good friends Emily & Richard.  What I thought would just be a nice little salad ended up being a nice BIG salad.  Halfway through chopping and dicing we had to transfer the salad from the medium size bowl we were using to a 32 cup bowl.  It wasn't filled to the brim, but it was pretty full.  

The four of us ate quite a bit of it during dinner and I kept munching on it by myself after we got back.  It was so fresh and yummy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington D.C.


Today Bryan and I left Olivia to play with Nana (Bry's mom) while we took a little jaunt into the city.



Washington D.C. is known for the cherry blossoms this time of year and, due to an early peak in the blooming, we happened to go on one of the peak days.  It was so fresh and beautiful.  Such a wonderful way to celebrate and welcome the first day of Spring.



Come join us while we walk around a bit of the city!

Vegan


Bryan's on Spring Break right now, so we're out in Virginia visiting his family.  I could write an entire post on how grateful I am that Bryan actually has Spring Break now (boo to BYU for loving EFY kids more than Spring Break), but that's not what this post is about.

Since the moment we arrived here last week, my mother-in-law has been telling us all about the way she's been eating vegan for the past couple months.  It all started when she watched Forks Over Knives on Netflix, studied up on it all some more, and made the switch.  So now she (mostly--having family visiting tends to ruin any good healthy eating plan) eats a "whole foods, plant-based diet."

Ever since I fully recovered from my miscarriage back in January, I've been trying to change my lifestyle to be healthy all around, rather than dieting and/or exercising in spurts.  So even before we started hearing the "whole foods, plant-based diet" preached from the rooftops around here, it was really something I was already trying to do on my own.  But I constantly found myself feeling like I sort of knew which foods were good and bad, but not really knowing.

Last night Bryan and I watched Forks Over Knives and I had already started reading The China Study the day before.  So far the film (it's a documentary, not an infomercial, in case you were wondering) and what I've read in the book so far has really rung true for me.  It's one thing to encounter a fad diet and make a complete overhaul on your life on a whim.  But, like I said before, this was basically something I was trying to do anyway.  And I think calling it a fad diet would be inaccurate.  Eating whole foods and lots of plants is something people have been doing from the beginning.

Anyway, the basic premise is that instead of eating a typical American diet (which I think we can all agree is not leading the way to good health) eating a "whole foods, plant-based diet" means eating things like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.  This also means cutting out dairy, eggs, and other animal products like meat.

I won't go into most of the science and details since I definitely don't feel like an expert on the subject, but, from the research that has been done, cutting out animal products can prevent (and even reverse) heart problems, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases and help you live a healthier life all around.  I've known enough people in my life who got cancer "for no apparent reason" and both of my paternal grandparents had diabetes, so the idea that I could eat healthier, feel better, and stay away from these lethal diseases really hit home for me.

Anyway, I haven't gone full-blown hard core vegan yet.  But I am very seriously thinking about it.


P.S. I've started a vegan board on Pinterest.  All of the things there are either recipes that are already vegan or that could easily be altered to be vegan.  If you have other great yummy vegan recipes, I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Allergic

Olivia smelling the daffodils in front of our home
Lately I've had the sniffles.  And itchy, watery eyes.  But it's not allergies, guys.  It's not.  I've never had allergies.  Allergies are for sissies.

That's what I told myself (and Bryan who knows full well what allergies look like because he has them himself every year) for the first few days.  Then, finally, yesterday I gave in and tried combating the itchy eyes/ears/throat and my barely-runny/really annoying sniffle-y nose with some allergy meds.  Fortunately (or unfortunately?) it worked.  So I guess I should fess up and say, if allergies are for sissies, then apparently that's what I am.  Welcome fellow sissies.

I have no idea where I read this, but I remember reading somewhere several years ago that the Willamette valley in Oregon is one of the worst places for seasonal allergies.  Well, it just so happens that I grew up right along side the Willamette River in that very valley, but somehow made it through childhood unscathed.  So I guess I always figured that if I had made it through that without any problems, I would be allergy-free forever.  Ha.  Apparently not.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photo Challenge: Bubbles


You know what's hard?  Taking a picture while blowing bubbles.



You know what's harder? Taking a picture of a toddler while blowing bubbles.

This week has been another week of finals for Bryan, so Olivia and I have been spending lots of quality time together while he studies.  Luckily the weather here has been absolutely gorgeous the past couple of days, so we've been able to spend most of our time outdoors.

Yesterday evening I pulled out the bubbles (always a big win with Olivia) and she had fun running around trying to pop them for a good long while.  Talk about a perfect way to wear your kids out without wearing yourself out.  ;)

I love the magic of bubbles floating in the air, especially around mesmerized little kids.  But, as it turns out, that magic is a bit tricky to catch in photos.  Ahem.  Especially when you're running a one-woman (or man) show of re-filling the bubble wand, blowing the bubbles, telling the toddler not to play in the dirt, and taking the pictures all at the same time.

Case in point:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yellow & Teal


I was scrolling through my Pinterest homepage just now and this funny coincidence caught my eye.

Signs of Spring


Today as Olivia and I were walking in from running some errands I noticed (well, she noticed first and then I noticed) some pretty little weeds growing along our fence.  After she went down for a nap, I was puttering around the house feeling bored and aimless and wanting to be outside in the beautiful weather.


So I stepped just outside our back door to do a bit of springtime harvesting.





This pretty little bouquet of homegrown weeds fit perfectly in this mini glass jar.


I love that even the stems are bright and full of fresh springtime color.


Undies Pattern -- For Boys & Girls (size 12 months-6 years)


Hurray hurrah!  It's finally here!


The Undies Pattern is now available in the shop!



I have a 10 year journal that I write in daily.  I'm into my third year right now, so it's fun to write in my journal each night and then read about what I did that day on the year before... and the year before that.


Want to know what I was doing last year a couple of days ago?  Sewing up the very first pair of these fun little undies.  (Those little purple undies in the top row were among the first few I made.)  I laughed as I read that in my journal.  Really?  A whole year ago?  Haha.  Wow.

When I set out to make some undies for Olivia a little over a year ago, I didn't plan to draft patterns and write out in-depth instructions with full color photographs for every single step of the process.  I just wanted some undies that would fit my tiny girl.

Even now that Olivia wears mostly size 3T clothes, the 2T/3T size undies from the store are still big on her.  So thank heavens for these fun and easy undies.  And thank heavens they're practically free to make!



The Undies Pattern includes the following sizes:

  • 12-18 months
  • 2T/3T
  • 4T/5T
  • 6
I love that making these undies myself allows me to make them just the right size for Olivia.  Because she needs the coverage of the 2T/3T undies, but with a smaller waist.  (Though, let's be honest, she can still squeeze into the 12-18 month size panties I made for her way back when.)



Most of the undies I'm showing off here are in girl colors since, ya know, I have a girl.  But this pattern is also great for making boy undies.

Check out the Undies Pattern Flickr group for lots of fun photos of undies made from this pattern, including several great pairs of boy undies.

Continue reading for more photos and details about this fun pattern! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Benny Bunny's Book -- Free Pattern & Tutorial


Are you ready for the final Benny Bunny tutorial in this fun little series?
Benny's book is the easiest of his things to make.
(Okay, other than the button cookie.)



These little books are so easy you could make Benny a whole library full in about five minutes.

Ready to get started?
You'll find the full tutorial and pattern after the jump!

Benny Bunny's Blanket -- Free Pattern & Tutorial


Ready to make this cozy little blanket for your own little friend?  Let's go!

Benny Bunny's Pillow -- Free Pattern & Tutorial



Alright, we've already finished making Benny Bunny and his mattress.  Now it's time to make a pillow for his sweet little head!

Find the full pattern and tutorial after the jump!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Benny Bunny's Mattress -- Free Pattern & Tutorial


Here's something I think we can all appreciate: a good mattress.  And all the better if it's tiny and charming, right?



Benny certainly thinks so.  And who can blame him?  I'd love to have a pretty little mattress like his.

(Though, let's be honest, it's probably not the most comfortable mattress in the world.  But if you're flat like Benny, who needs a cushy mattress?)



Benny's mattress is so simple to make.



And it fits just right in his tiny little home.



Ooh, so cute and cozy.

Need to make your own mini mattress?
You'll find the free pattern and tutorial after the jump!

Benny Bunny -- Free Pattern & Tutorial


Benny Bunny is a fun finger puppet friend.


He lives in an Altoids tin and loves to read.  For more about what Benny loves to do, see HERE.

Today we're making Benny Bunny.  If you'd like to make your own, jump in and join us!

Find the full Benny Bunny tutorial after the jump!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Benny Bunny -- A Pocket Pal (Free Pattern & Tutorial)


Inspired by these fun furry friends I spotted on Pinterest a couple days ago, last night a new friend came to play at our house.  He's especially fond of Olivia.  And cookies.  And books.  He's fairly quiet and prefers to spend his time reading, but we can always coax him out of bed to come and play.




He's one happy, friendly bunny!  And oh-so fun to play with.  He's great at keeping little fingers busy (and quiet!) for long happy periods of time.



Olivia loves to read him stories.  During church today she whispered stories to him for quite a while.  Stories are Benny's favorite.



Chocolate cookies are Benny's other favorite.



Sometimes he likes to be naughty and sneak them in bed.



Eating chocolate cookies + reading in his cozy bed = a very happy Benny Bunny.



Benny has lots of things that make him happy.

If you want to make them too (as well as a Benny Bunny of your own) come back throughout the week for a fun collection of fast and easy mini tutorials.


By the end of the week (maybe sooner if I have time to get all the tutorials up right away) you'll have a cozy Benny Bunny of your own to play with!  Update: Links to all of the tutorials are included below!

Get a list of materials to have on-hand after the jump!

Also after the jump, I'll include a list of the mini tutorials and update the list with links as each of the tutorials are published.  So feel free to pin this page on Pinterest.  It'll have everything you need when you come back to it later.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Spy Quilt Square Swap


My cousin Jenn is having an I-Spy quilt swap!  If you want to join in, here's the info from Jenn!

Who: Anyone who wants to participate and can cut 4x4 squares. There's only room for 13 people.

What: An i-spy swap is easy! All you have to do is choose 10 different i-spy fabrics and cut 20 4x4 squares out of each fabric.  Basically, you'll be cutting 200 squares out of 10 fabrics. Fat quarters work great.  I-spy fabrics are generally novelty cotton prints that are FUN for kids to look at. 
You'll send all those fabrics to Jenn with a SASE to get your 200 fabrics back.

When: Send all fabrics in by March 26th get fabrics back by April 3rd.  If you're from over seas, send your fabrics in a few days before March 26th.

Here's some fun ideas for i-spy quilts:

Inline image 1




A few more details as written by Connie:


1. Cut 20 4" squares out of each of 10 different novelty print fabrics (quilting quality cotton wovens - no flannel). A 1/4-yard cut or fat quarter will get you 20 4" squares, so you will be purchasing a total of about 2 1/2 yards of fabric. This is NOTHING when you consider all of the fabrics you will be getting back.

2. In order to avoid duplicates, everyone will need to search out unusual or obscure prints. Look for things that aren't available at chain stores like Walmart, Joann's or Hobby Lobby. Pick fun prints that you love!

3. Remember that we are looking for fabric with objects on it, not printy-prints. (A fabric with FLOWERS on it is very different from a FLORAL PRINT.)

4. No "licensed" prints: No Disney, Spongebob, Dora, John Deere, L.A. Lakers, etc.


5. Remember seam allowances! Be sure you can tell what you are looking at within a 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" square. Nobody wants only half of an object in their square -- cut them well! (Depending on your fabric choice, you may need to buy more than 1/4 yard in order to get an object into each cut square.)

The first 13 people who email Jenn at jennjohnson06 {at}gmail {dot} com can join! Jenn will email you the rest of the details. Also, feel free to forward this on to any friends you have that might be interested in joining us!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Wind Blown





Freshly laundered sheets drying outside on the line.
Blowing in the wind.
Mmm... they'll be so crisp and wonderful when we climb under the covers tonight.

Love love love this nice weather we're having today.

_________________________
Info:
-clothesline is from the dollar store (cut in half--the other half is hung across the ceiling in our basement for indoor drying)
-clothespins are from the dollar store ($1 for a pack of 40ish)
-tied one end of the line to an old staple metal sticking out of the fence, wound it around a fence post, and tied the opposite end around another fence post.  Easy peasy.

Read more about our adventures in not having a dryer here.