Wednesday, December 31

My Favorite Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe

Over the last couple months I've started making my own bread from scratch. It was one of my goals for 2014 to both save money and make healthier choices for my family. I don't like serving a lot of mystery ingredients and since homemade bread only takes four or five ingredients it seemed like an easy way to cut out a processed food. I started with whole wheat bread but after reading the book Cure Tooth Decay I decided to give real sourdough bread a try.

Here's the trouble with bread (and grains in general) - the tend to have properties like phytic acid that prevent them from being digested and more importantly block your body ability to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. Yikes. Based on what I've read I actually think grains are a big cause of cavities and other dental problems. If you haven't read this book and have any kind of problems with your teeth you need to check it out! The kindle edition is only $10 on amazon! The way around this is to do one of the three S's - soaking, sprouting, or souring. Basically you're breaking down the bad stuff before you even eat it! I tried a couple soaked bread recipes that didn't thrill me and sprouted flour is expensive! So that left souring.

Monday, December 29

2014 Year in Review

I was just looking back at some of my posts from the year and came across list of goals I wrote way back in January. My initial reaction? "Oh. I made goals? Oops." So... let's see how it went and if I'll be trying again for these goals in 2015!

Bake Bread - Success! I remember a slow start, making just a couple loaves in the first half of the year. But this fall I really jumped in and now make my own sourdough bread using a sourdough starter I made myself! We haven't bought bread in a couple months! The key for me was finding a really easy, doable recipe. I'll share it later this week!

Eat Whole Foods - Semi-success? I think we're definitely doing better than the beginning of the year, definitely more produce and more homemade food, but I hope to improve more still. I think an important step for next year will be meal planning or having easy, ready-to-cook meals in the freezer. Being unprepared is my bane, and many times we resort to fast food just because I don't know what we're going to eat for dinner.One of my favorite new recipes this year are runza pocket sandwiches, and one of the great things about them is that they are great for the freezer!

Teach Big Brother Letters - We didn't work very hard on this, but he does recognize the first letters of names for both of our families, and numbers up to 5! (see how I made his dinosaur birthday crown here)

Play Outside - We definitely hit this in the summer by playing outside and gardening every day. Our DIY sprinkler arch was a big hit! Winter is already a major fail though. We barely leave the house when it's cold. Brrrr.

Time with My Boys - Work in progress. I think I'm doing better... but still working toward a better balance. The book Hands Free Mama has helped so much.

Read - I guess I am reading more but not int he way I planned. I've been reading to the boys a LOT more. Some of our new favorites are Pete the Cat, Skippyjon Jones, and Big Brother is really into Magic School Bus right now. 

I completely read The Hunger Games and Unglued (we did this one in mom's group and it was great!). I started the Allegiant series but didn't finish the third book, and started Cure Tooth Decay and Hands Free Mama (I'm almost done with these two). And I've flipped through Backyard Homestead and Four Season Harvest. So basically I finished five books. In a year. I'm hoping I just forgot some.

Garden - We tried really hard and had a big beautiful garden... and the squirrels still ate almost everything. I don't know what to do. We even started our own seedlings, made a mini greenhouse, and fenced in the garden. I did manage to freeze and can a little from our garden and from my grandma's garden so I guess it wasn't a complete loss. :)

Take Walks - We did a good amount of walking this summer. And Big Brother did a lot of bike riding. We even took pictures on one of our walks to make this custom storybook. I think family walks are very underrated and we highly recommend them!

Save $$$ - We haven't really saved much, but it's because we've been putting any extra on our student loans so we still feel pretty good about it.

Organize the Basement - miracle of miracles, this is mostly done!!! My mom and sisters came for a weekend and helped me knock most of it out. Only my sewing corner still needs a little clean up. Whew.

Family Devotions - It's been hit - or miss. Big Brother got a new Bible storybook and has reminded us most nights for the last month.

All in all I'd say we were pretty successful this year. In spite of forgetting about our list!

How about you guys?  What were your goals in 2014? Did you stick to them or totally forget?

Saturday, December 27

DIY Custom Photo Storybook

We tried to really stick to our four gift categories for the boys this year (you can read more about that here) and one area we had a lot of fun with was "something to read." We made a custom storybook! We spent a day at the end of summer taking pictures of the boys at a local park and had them printed in an 8x8 Shutterfly book.

We went with the story "going on a bear hunt" because the pictures would be pretty simple and there were plenty of "scenes" in the park like going over a bridge, across a stream, etc. For each area we started with a picture checking out the obstacle.

Then a picture going across.

Then a picture running away after they find the bear! This one at the cave is my favorite. Big Brother really got into it at this point.

We made sure that all the pictures of the hunt had the boys going from left to right, then all the picture of them running from the bear go from right to left. We used Photoshop to make the pages 8x8" and add text to the bottom of each page. We printed a couple sample pages on our home printer to make sure the font size would be readable.

And the bear? My sister drew a few bears for us to photoshop into the running pages. Like this one:

Once all our pages were put together we loaded them into an 8x8 book on the shutterfly website. We used the "modern white" style for our book. The page designs didn't matter for us since we used the full-page photos we made in photoshop, but this style gave us the tan binding. (You could also use a different page layout to do a picture at the top and type the words into a text box, instead of making whole pages in Photoshop.)

We used a cute "behind the scenes" photo for the cover page, complete with a bear. When Big Brother saw this page he was like "THERE'S A BEAR!!!"

The first few pages show us reaching, then crossing each of our five obstacles - tall grass, a bridge, a forest, a river, and a cave.

Then there is a page of the boys running back across each obstacle away from a fuzzy little bear.

And all the back home, up the stairs, and into bed. With the last page very appropriately saying "We are never going on a bear hunt again!" Which is how we all felt by the end. You can tell by all the tears.

We're already coming up with ideas for a book next year! What a fun way to watch how they grow over the years. Here are a few more favorite pics from our day at the park.

King of the rock. "It's the biggest rock I ever saw!"

I kind of regret not using this for the Christmas card this year....

Have you ever made a storybook with pictures of your kids? Some of the ideas we've thrown around for next year are a treasure hunt, something with dinosaurs, or something with pirates. What would you do? We need ideas!

Wednesday, December 24

A Very Merry Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve! And from our little house to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas is tomorrow and this is the time, friends. As we're frantically running, trying to check the final things off our lists. This is the time to take a breath and remember what's really important, and to honestly ask ourselves what needs to be done. Honestly. Probably not a whole lot of things on that list. Certainly nothing that makes us ignore little smiles or brush off a bedtime story or get frustrated over the littlest nothings, right? So all together now (I'm still working on this lesson myself) let's log off of Pinterest, put away the glue guns, and decide we don't need 10 different foods for dinner. Instead let's use this precious time to do the things that are really important.

Let's enjoy this time with our families. This time that we can never have again. Let's laugh, snuggle, talk, and just be together.

Let's know that even if everything isn't done the way we imagined, it is still good.

Let's be thankful.

And most of all, let's remember the greatest gift that was ever given. And make sure our kids will always remember it too. Make this Christmas count.

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

"The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
Luke 2:11 NLT

Monday, December 22

How to fill a Christmas Eve Box

One of our favorite Christmas traditions with our boys is a Christmas Eve box (see our latest box here). It's pretty simple, just filled with new jammies, a new movie, and some yummy movie snacks. But ohmygoodness, they love it so much! We snuggle up in our new jammies and watch the movie before bed. This is what we have for our box this year.

Dinosaur jammies for Big Brother, and fox jammies for Little Brother (they are on sale!).

Monsters vs. Aliens movie (last year we went with Planes). We always try to plan ahead and get something cheap when we find a sale, black Friday is a great chance to get a cheap movie if you're up to it!

Popcorn! We like stove-popped, but microwave popcorn works just as well for the box! We got this organic popcorn from Amazon.

Hot chocolate mix is always a big hit. We make this homemade mix that's just cocoa, sugar, and a pinch of salt. So easy and so yummy!

And of course marshmallows. One of Big Brother's favorite treats ever, so we need them in the Christmas Eve box! We make these homemade as well to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other things we don't like to eat. They are actually pretty easy and made with real gelatin... so practically health food, right? :) We put in a small jar and he can just have the jar to eat or dip in his hot chocolate or whatever.

This is a peek in our box from last year:


 Do you do a Christmas Eve box? What's going in yours this year?

Monday, December 8

DIY Wooden Christmas Signs

We finally pulled our Christmas decorations out of the basement this week! Along with our old favorites, we added a few new Christmassy items this year. Some of my favorite pins on my Christmas board are of hand-lettered wooden signs. A few weeks ago when my sister was visiting we decided to bite the bullet and DIY a few Christmas signs of our own!

You only need a few things to make your own wooden signs, too!
  • wood (whatever sizes you like, we chose scraps from my garage)
  • paint (I used red and black for the backgrounds and white for the text)
  • a pencil
  • if you don't want to draw your signs freehand you could print text in your favorite fonts to use as a template

Step one was rummaging through my garage for leftover scraps of wood.We found a mix of plywood and boards in sizes that we could work with - mostly so we didn't have to get the saw out in this cold weather.

We brought all the boards inside and I gave them a quick coat of paint. I did one black, one red, and left one plain.

Friday, December 5

Herbal Cold & Cough Syrup Recipe

If there's one thing we know about winter it's that the weather change always brings a generous supply of runny noses, coughs, and general yuckiness. This year when our first round of sickness knocked out all the boys I gave this new herbal cough syrup recipe a try. It tasted great so the boys were always excited to take it, plus the herbs are all natural and great for fighting off cold & cough symptoms!

You need just a few simple ingredients to make your own herbal cold & cough syrup.I like to order from Bulk Herb Store or Mountain Rose Herbs. Both are very reputable so I usually choose based on who has what I need in stock! And I throw some elderberries in with my order for making immune-boosting elderberry syrup.

Echinacea Root - a natural antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and an excellent infection fighter. It stimulates the immune system to help your body heal itself!

Licorice Root - stimulates the adrenals while adding great taste & natural sweetness. Great for cold, cough, and sore throat, and works as an expectorant.

Ginger - has a long history as remedy for cough, plus it's great for nausea and diarrhea if they join the party!

Raw Honey -antimicrobial & antibiotic properties are great for treating cold and cough. It's also anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and a powerful antioxidant that strengthens your immune system. Which is why it's a staple in so many home remedies!

Once you're supplies arrive you can get started making your syrup. Here's what you need:

1/4 c. Echinacea Root
1/4 c. Licorice Root
1/8-1/4 c. Ginger Root, to taste (I didn't have any ginger on hand and made it without)
4 c. water
1/2 - 1 c. honey.

Wednesday, December 3

Christmas Pinteresting - Old School Style

Before the days of pinterest... I was a magazine clipper. Every time I flipped through a Better Homes & Gardens, I would cut out my favorite ideas and stuff them in a binder. Where, of course, I rarely looked at them ever again! But a few weeks ago we were cleaning out the basement and I stumbled across a few Christmas clippings I collected them over the years. It turns out my Christmas taste hasn't changed much in that time because I still love most of them! So it seems only fitting to welcome a few favorites into the golden age of pinterest. These are the faves that made the cut:

This last one was kind of funny because I totally forgot about it, but it almost exactly matches the advent calender I made last year! I guess it was still hiding somewhere in the back of my mind!

I think one thing we learned here is that I need more white in my house. I'm always drawn to these bright, white spaces. Especially with some Christmas greenery in the mix!

Big Brother asked to do the "Just Say BOO!" audio book during rest time. He listened to it on repeat and cracked up every time!

How about you guys? Do you have a favorite inspiration picture for your decorating this year? Or a bunch of pictures with a feel you love?

Monday, December 1

Easy Flannel Stocking Tutorial

Hey guys! I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving yesterday with lots of family, fun, and food. And most importantly a lot of thankfulness! And now that Friday has come, as we warm up leftover turkey for lunch, we know the Christmas countdown has officially begun! So let's hop to it and knock out a few of the items on our Christmas checklists!

Earlier this week I shared how we turned an old, reclaimed window into a Christmas stocking holder and today we're going to tackle those cozy flannel stocking hanging on it. If flannel isn't your thing, you can totally swap it out for a different fabric. No biggie. These are pretty fast and easy to make, so you can still make them before Christmas! Let's get started!

Here's what you need:
  • 1/2 yd flannel (or another fabric you like for the exterior)
  • 1/2 yd quilting cotton for the lining
  • 1/2 - 1 yd interfacing (I tried several and like the look of a thin fleece batting the best. Don't get one too thick though or it will be too thick to topstitch. But you can do any kind of interfacing you like for a different look!)
  • thread
  • 6" piece of 1" wide ribbon (or a 6 x 3" piece of fabric)
  • a stocking pattern (I used this Martha Stewart pattern without the cuff, or you can draw your own)