June 29, 2011

Picking Blueberries

Brandywine Farms

Remember how I mentioned that berries might just be one of my favorite parts about summer back when we were talking about Farmer's Markets? Well, we were invited by a friend to pick blueberries this week. Um, berries?! Yes, count us in!

Yesterday we loaded her car with two car seats, two baby boys, two diaper bags, and two mugs of coffee (Henry must have been excited about the blueberries 'cause he was ready for the day at 5:30am. what's going on with that?) and headed out to Rolla for some old fashioned summer fun at the Blueberry Farm.

The Missouri weather was awesome - being a Texas gal, I just can't get over how nice a summer of 80's and 90's with rain is. Most of Texas is either shriveling up under 110 degree weather and drought or literally burning up in massive wildfires. (Send up a prayer for all those farming communities, please.) Which means many small towns are canceling fireworks this year in order to keep the crops and homes in their area safe. So while half the country seems to be drowning, the other half is in desperate need of water. I know, I'm off on a tangent, but I worry for my home state when it gets like this. Back to berry business...

We had temperatures in the seventies along with clouds left over from a rain storm; the grass and berry bushes were still damp from the morning dew - perfect pickin' weather. :) We were each handed a little plastic bucket and shown a row of blueberry bushes, and we were off. Pickin' and chatting and laughing and, yes, popping a few of those deliciously cool berries into our mouths. It was such a fun morning, and I left with over a 1.5 pounds of blueberries for $3.60. Seriously, you can't get a pint in the store for that price!

With 4th of July right around the corner, I'm planning on having a blueberry theme going on with our food for the weekend. Brandywine Farms had a great looking blueberry scone recipe they were handing out. I'm going to have to layer some of these sweet little guys with strawberries and whipped cream for a Red, White, and Blue look. And, there is most definitely going to be a blueberry cobbler to devour somewhere in this coming weekend. I'll let y'all know how it all goes; right now I'm just enjoying my berries over a bowl of oatmeal.

Have y'all ever been to a pick-your-own farm? Its not just Pumpkins and Christmas trees; you can find produce all year long at farms like those. What are your family plans for the 4th? Any patriotic recipes you're planning on whipping up? Is there a burn ban in your area or do you get to pull out the sparklers and bottle rockets this year?

Brandywine Farms provided buckets for picking, but if you're looking for your own basket to take along to a Pick-Your-Own Farm, check out Amazon:

p.s. Have a baby who loves blueberries too? Check out our Blueberry Puree Recipe!

June 24, 2011

Come and Get It, Y'all!

I loved this post from Passionate Homemaking about sitting down to dinner as a family. This was very important to my parents while I was growing up. So many of my childhood memories took place in their kitchen from eating a meal together to cooking with my mom and sister to teaching my brothers to dance around our kitchen island.

Here's the Post:
The Family Dinner Table

Its a sweet little read for a Friday afternoon and a wonderful reminder of how important it is to take time to be a family face-to-face in this busy world we all live in.

Here's most of the fam around my parents' table this past February.

What's your favorite memory of your family as a child? Anything special your parents did weekly to make sure y'all got quality time as a family? Or maybe there's something you and your spouse do now to encourage and strengthen your family?

June 22, 2011

Baby Fruit Recipes

We are moving right along with solids at our household. Banana, Avocado, and Sweet Potato were a thumbs up. Green beans are an Eh-I'll-eat-them-but-they-aren't-my-favorite, so today I have two fruit purees for y'all.

Blueberry Puree

2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
Doesn't get much easier than that, right!? 

Cooking Instructions:
- pour blueberries into your baby food maker, food processor, or blender
- hit puree for about 10 seconds or until smooth

- there will be small bits of peel in the puree. to remove simply pour through a fine, mesh strainer, using a rubber spatula to force the puree through.

- you will end up with a thin yogurt-like consistency after straining.

- heat puree in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat until hot, 3-5 minutes.
*this step is optional. heating the sauce breaks down fibers and aids in digestion. after your baby gets used to eating blueberries, you no longer need to heat after straining.*
- let cool and serve.

Storing Options:
3 days in the frig in an air tight container
3 months in the freezer (try splitting it up into single servings by freezing in ice cube trays. then place "ice cubes" in freezer safe plastic bag)

Obviously the bottom two slots are not blueberries (they're pear), so today its a two for one special! Below is how to make Pear Sauce...

Pear Sauce
1 pear, chopped
1/2 cup water

Cooking Instructions:
- steam chopped pear for 10 minutes
- puree for 10 seconds

Storing Options:
3 days in the frig in an air tight container
3 months in the freezer (try splitting it up into single servings by freezing in ice cube trays. then place "ice cubes" in freezer safe plastic bag)

Did your baby dig the fruit puree? Try Brown Rice Cereal and a Prune Puree too! Like what you're seeing here? Most of the recipes we try can be found in Cooking for Baby or the Beaba Babycook Recipes.

June 20, 2011

A Thank You to the Absent Father

No, not all the dead beat dads out there. I am, of course, talking about the American soldier.

Thank you, thank you, thank you from our Army family to yours. Sunday was Seth's first Father's Day, and he was home - not TDY training somewhere or deployed halfway around the world or on 24hr. Staff Duty or you-fill-in-the-blank. I know Father's Day does not rank up there with Christmas, births of children, or anniversaries, but in the military any holiday your soldier is home for is a cause for celebration.

Our celebration consisted of homemade meals and simple gifts: baby hand prints framed and Seth's favorite book as a child. We spent the entire day at home just the three of us. What a blessing.

Thank you to our military for keeping this country free, so our family can have these special moments. Thank you to those who volunteered to serve our country. The ones who are taking their turn (for some this is turn 4 or 5 or more) in a combat zone. The ones who are missing not only Father's Day this year, but birthdays, afternoons spent in the sprinklers, watermelon seed spitting, firecrackers, summer nights catching lightning bugs, and the rest of the bounty the summer brings.

While we were sitting around the table together opening cards and drinking coffee, some dads were sitting in the heat and sand or on a rocky mountain side opening hand made cards of construction paper and love millions of miles from their kiddos.

When you pass a soldier, don't forget to thank them. They have missed so many holidays and special moments so that your family can spend every one together. They are proud and willing to sacrifice for this country - its not pitty they need, but true appreciation.

Happy Father's Day to all the hard working dads out there!

June 17, 2011

Spring Garage Sale!

I mentioned a few days ago that in addition to finishing a quilt on the road I also held a garage sale while visiting my parents. It was our solution to getting rid of everything we cleaned out and making a little extra cash as well.

Isn't that always the dilemma? We are constantly cleaning out in an effort to make our homes more organized. The letting go of our stuff seems to be hard enough for all of us (isn't it just stuff?), but then when you finally get the motivation to say goodbye to the bucket o'plastic kids' meal toys or the funky candle holder from great-aunt Betty, what do you do with it all?

1) As an American family, we just have too much junk.
2) Things simply wear out, stop fitting, out grow their purpose, etc. Things of this world are not permanent.
3) When we become less, He becomes greater - this applies to all aspects of our life, including our home.

So here are the details of the first of many garage sales I'm sure - since we're all sinful, and I'm betting that our household will continue to struggle with the accumulation of worldly goods. I have been slowly going through everything from clothes, to dishes, to baby items we never used or don't want to keep for the next one the past few months. Each time I visited my parents, I would take a load in preparation for the garage sale at the end of May.

The Clean out:

Empty Hangers, now doesn't that feel good? 

I filled the rest of this big old box with DVD's we never watch.

Now I have room for a few picture frames instead of just shelf after shelf of books we've already read.

The Sale:

We were blessed with a beautiful and breezy May day in Texas for the sale.

The Profit:  $182.50

This was my first garage sale, so I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised with our profit. The books and DVD's that were left at the end of the day went on to Half Priced Books. The only part of our clean out that didn't get put in the garage sale was our pile of clothes. Those will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club just down the road here in Missouri.

Anyone else host a garage sale after spring cleaning? Have you found them to be worth your time? Or do you prefer to donate? What are other ways you clean out when your family is drowning in stuff?

June 15, 2011

Building Up a Firm Foundation

 Really Woolly Bedtime Prayers
"I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep." John 10:14

It is weird that one of my favorite devotional books is one given to our son for his Baptism? Part of this stems from how sweet it is, but a huge part is while the words are made simple for the children, God's Word still finds a way to speak deeply and profoundly to me.

The theme of Jesus as our Shepherd runs throughout the book. Each daily devotion has a short Bible verse that talks about one of Jesus' shepherding attributes. The Bible verse is followed by a poem and a two line prayer. It is perfect for little attention spans. (mine included)

With the exception of three Bible verses (my Conformation verse: Psalm 25:5, of course John 3:16, and Psalm 23 - thanks to my pre-school teacher Mrs. Koster who patiently helped write these verses upon my four year old heart), I have always had a hard time committing verses to memory permanently. The verses in Bedtime Prayers are short and simple; my prayer is that I will be able to learn them right along with Henry. Most of the scripture is taken from The Holy Bible, International Children's Bible, and it is amazing to see God's strong Truth written in such simple words.

If you are looking for a devotional book the whole family can relate to, this is a great one. Maybe you're a new Christian (or a veteran who's out of practice with a daily devotion) and a lot of the Bible feels overwhelming or hard to understand; don't be ashamed to order this little board book. Its a great way to be reminded of God's love every day. We are enjoying its presence in our home.

"The Lord is my Shepherd.
I have everything I need."
Psalm 23:1

June 13, 2011

Making a Baby Quilt

I told y'all all about my road trip with baby and dog sans husband last week. Did I mention I also finished a quilt and held a garage sale (more on that in another post soon) while on the road? Yup, not going to lie, I felt a little like super mom with all that I accomplished and managed to fit in the X-terra those two weeks.

I had been wanting to learn to sew, quilt, knit, something for a few years now. I wish I had taken a home ec class in high school. I just feel like there are a lot of skills women used to pass down from generation to generation that we are loosing. Then last year we found out we were expecting our first child. Hooray! Along with the exciting news came that urge to learn to sew again. A friend from church said her mom quilted and would be more that willing to teach us both.

This was great news except that we were moving in a few months. There wasn't much time. I met with her and her mother for a few weeks and learned the basics of a sewing machine, how to create a pattern, make cuts, allow for seams, and other must-knows. I even sewed my first few squares together at her house. It was so neat to see my baby quilt start to come together. Then it was time to watch the movers box up our home and fly back over the ocean to the mainland.

My beginnings of that little quilt went into a box as well, and there it sat for months. Without my teacher by my side, I was too scared I would mess up if I tried to work on it alone. Sweet Henry was born, and my life was consumed with being a new mommy. I thought my poor quilt was doomed to never be finished.

Then I read this Young House Love post about how they made their first quilt. All the sudden I realized - Henry's baby quilt doesn't have to be perfect - it will be special because I made it especially for him. Also, its only fabric; if I mess up, I can just use my trusty seam ripper to back up a few steps. I realize for y'all who sew/quilt on a regular basis my method will be full of mistakes and improper techniques, but please bare with me. With new energy, I packed up my grandmother's sewing machine that my mother, sister, and I pass around to whoever is in need of it at that time and hit the road.

My stack of quilt squares finally seeing the light of day again after being forgotten for so many months.

Straight pins are your friends for keeping everything together while you run it through the sewing machine.

In Baton Rouge I managed to get all my little squares for the front sewn together. Place your squares with the fronts sandwiched facing each other; you should be looking at the back of the fabric as you sew. This way all the extra fabric from your 1/4" seam will end up on the inside of the quilt.

See the front of both squares lined up facing each other.

I sewed two squares together at a time. Then sewed two sets together (always inside out; the fronts facing each other) to make a row of four squares.

Here are my six rows of four squares. Every other square is a solid piece of fabric. The squares made of five different pieces are what I made while working with my sewing teacher before our move. They of course take some time to make, but don't get scared of them. Think of it as making lots of tiny little quilts, and then sewing them together.

Please ignore the funky hairdo going on in the back and the pajama pants at the bottom. Focus on the beauty of getting all those little squares sewn together at last!

In Ft. Worth I put on the border. Which is really just four inches of extra fabric around the edges. I wanted the quilt to be a little bigger, and there were a few fabric patterns that I loved so much and wanted to use more of them. Same method as the squares: pin everything with the inside facing out, sew all the pieces for one side together, and then sew the whole strip to the quilt.

Here are a few close ups of the five piece squares.

I decided not to put batting in the middle; I wanted this to be a lightweight and totally machine washable (another reason I used a sewing machine instead of sewing by hand - the seams will be stronger for going through the wash) blanket since Henry will most likely be drooling and spitting up on it. I simply cut an old sheet to the size of my quilt to use as the middle. Then I cut the tangerine colored fabric the same size for the back. I lined the front, middle layer, and back up inside out (like you're sewing a pillow case) and sewed three of the sides and most of the 4th. Then hand stitched the last little bit together after I flipped the whole thing right side out. I ran the whole thing through the sewing machine in three different spots to hold the three layers together, so you could pull it apart in the middle.

And, drum roll please......
Henry's Baby Quilt!

Now I'll confess it is not perfectly square. I'm not an expert yet and had a little trouble keeping all my seams the same 1/4" width; therefore when the whole thing was put together, it was slightly off. The more exact you are with cutting squares and then sewing seams together, the easier it will be to keep all your edges and corners lined up. Its like a ripple effect; with each step you get a little more off from that perfect square. Still, I'm pretty proud of how the first thing I have ever sewn turned out, and Henry boy seems to like it too - he's already Christened it with baby spit up. 

I can now say with experience that the baby quilt goes through the wash beautifully!

And for those of you who are sentimental like me, here's a shot of Mompy's, my grandmother's, sewing machine. A little old school in the design. A little amazing that its still running. A lot sweet that Henry's quilt took shape with his great-grandmother's machine.

Ok, I know there have to be some experienced seamstresses out there. Any tips for a beginner? I'm thinking pillow cases will be my next sewing project. What was your first project? Any funny novice blunders you'd like to share? 

Want to start on your own quilt or other fabric project? Check out these cute patterns! Amy Butler's fabrics are adorable!

June 10, 2011

Daily Thoughts from an Army Wife

I say daily because as a military spouse your husband's job is never far from your mind. Even while he is home and away from harm, there is no power suit or pair of loafers to take your mind off what his duty truly means. He still puts on his ACU's (Army Combat Uniform) and combat boots to go to work, and that red dirt from Iraq never washes out. I see it every evening on his boots as he walks in the door.

As I'm folding the laundry, I realize that there are six pairs of PT's (Physical Training Uniform) not just one like I thought. Why then have I been washing that same set of PT's every day when I could have cut my washing load down by five? And just as quickly as that thought came, I bite my tough. We have so many friends who would trade washing a hundred loads of smelly PT's just to have their husband and father home right now. Really, could I be more selfish? When in all honesty, I know that I am truly blessed to have tan ACU shirts and Army green boot socks mixed in with baby clothes and burp rags. Many other families have fathers who are missing first steps, first words, first days of school, and even first births because of a deployment.

I know our turn will come around again, and we will cross that year of separation when it gets here, but for now - even though I think about Seth's job daily - I will be thankful for the time we have as a family.

p.s. Army wives out there; love the laundry room sign? Buy one on Etsy.

June 8, 2011

Sunburn Cure

Summertime is upon us. Bring on the watermelon, bare feet, warm nights, lightning bugs, and sweet tea - Oh, yeah, and the sun! You really can't beat a day in the water on a hot summer's afternoon. But, along with those delicious rays (if you're like us) comes the burn afterward. Any other families blessed with that try-like-heck-to-tan-but-always-burn-instead gene?

Well, I stumbled across this little sunburn remedy while catching up in the blog world after our Big Ol' Texas sized road trip. Relief from your burn can be found in your kitchen cabinet: Vinegar.

Here's how to take care of those Lobster Red shoulders:

1) Gather some rags, vinegar and a tub/bucket.
2) Pour a bit of vinegar into the tub, then saturate the rags.
3) Squeeze out the excess moisture – not all of it, though – just enough to keep the rags from dripping.  You want them to still be a bit heavy with moisture.
4) Lay the rags across the sunburned area.
5) Wait for 15 minutes, minimum – more like 30.
6) Remove the rags and take a cool shower/rinse off the vinegar.

 A shout out to Deezahoney, another fair skinned blogger for this summertime home remedy. She suggests getting those smelly vinegar soaked rags on yo body ASAP - the Vinegar works its magic best on the first day of your sunburn.

Happy Tanning, y'all!

Any other secret solutions to beating the never welcome sun burn? Maybe a trick to avoid peeling? I'm an aloe/cool shower gal myself, but Vinegar is sounding like it might do the trick too. Heck, double team that sunburn - do both! :)

June 6, 2011

Traveling with a Baby and a Dog

.....and without Seth.

I have been on a massive - over 2100 mi. - road trip these past two weeks (sorry - there's your explanation for the lack of posts) without my other half. Being a military family means lots of training away from home for Seth and lots of "visiting family for the last time" before our next big move for me and the little guy.

We PCS (permanent change of station) to Ft. Lewis, WA, at the end of July. Don't worry y'all will get to hear all about packing/moving/driving out west with an eight month old soon enough, but this month we took a practice run - for lack of a better term - through Louisiana and Texas to visit all the relatives. Oh, and I brought Toby, our 80 lb. German shepherd/lab/rottweiler mix along for the ride. Everyone did surprisingly well in the car, and when Seth can't travel with us, I actually prefer to bring Toby along - no one even thinks about messing with us.

Of course there were just a few (read: tons of) tears while stuck on a bridge for 2.5 hours in Baton Rouge with a starving baby while all traffic headed east and west was forced off the highway. Mommy just about had a break down while cutting off three lanes of traffic, doing an illegal U-turn, and literally catching air in the X-terra through an intersection. It was the end of two days of driving, and I really didn't think I could handle sitting in one more single red light. It was all very dramatic, and we were all screaming/barking as we flew through that intersection.

With all that said, the rest of our trip was cake.

So, here's the run down for traveling with child and pet:

1) We leave early.
 - I feed Henry at 5am, and we are on the road by 5:30. This way Henry sleeps for 3-4 hours before we even have to think about stopping.

2) We still cloth diaper on the road.
- I really couldn't live without my Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag. It has a zipper side for clean diapers and one for the dirty. Since it is soft, I can stuff it anywhere there happens to be room for it in the car. Also machine washable!

Our wet/dry bag full of dirties. 
You can see the zipper for clean diapers there on the right.

- I do use disposable wipes. I can't seem to think of a good way to keep cloth wipes damp, mildew free, and spill free for such a long trip. If we were driving to one location and staying, I don't think there would be a problem, but we went through 6 states and 7 cities in 2 weeks. It was just a lot. Any cloth diaper moms have a solution for me?

3) I allow myself and Henry to each have one carry-on sized bag.
- If it doesn't fit, we don't need it. I packed one weeks worth of clothes and just did laundry along the way.
- Henry's bag: clothes, blankets, burp cloths, toys, board books.

4) Toby gets a small backpack.
- food, bowls, leash, two tennis balls, one squeaky toy, and a bag of food.

5) My Seven sling
- this allows me to wear the baby and still have two hands to unload, walk the dog, etc.

Wearing our boy on a walk this past spring.

6) The extras:
- Henry can't sit up on his own yet, so the Puj bathtub came with us. It lies flat and doesn't take up much room.

Here is the Puj ready for bath time, but it unsnaps and flattens for storage.

- We recently started introducing formula and solids, so one reusable grocery bag for food and bottles.
- One bag for my laptop and camera.
- One diaper bag

There is always more on the way home because we have three very generous sets of grandparents who love to spoil our little guy, but there's the list folks. It might still be more than we need, but I do try and keep it to a minimum. Playing both parents for a couple of weeks is a big job, and the less we're traveling with, the better.

Ok, what is a must on your travel list? Is there something you just never leave home without when you've got the baby on board? What does your pooch need on a family vacation? Any seasoned parents out there with tips on traveling with a little one?