Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Handmade Felt Food

One of my projects this month has been to clean out and organize my sewing room.  In doing so, I discovered quite a few unfinished projects.  So, next on the list is to finish these projects.  Last week I finally wrapped one up!  

Two years ago I purchased a pattern and supplies to make felt play food for my daughters.  We were anticipating a move, which would mean room for a kitchen set and I wanted them to have food to play with.  I pinned the fabric to the pattern pieces and then stuck them in a box for two years.  I have thought about it from time to time, and always kept putting it off. 

Making felt food was really fun!  It's a bit tedious, as the pieces are somewhat small, but it was totally worth it for me, and the girls love it!  They saw the pattern cover, and have now commissioned me to make cupcakes and a cake--that will have to wait until I can finish some of the other unfinished projects I discovered in my sewing room...

Here are some pictures of the felt food.

The eggs and carton are my favorite.

Snow White came to model the grocery bag.

I used this pattern.  Look for pattern sales at Joann's, or use a 50% off coupon.

Strawberries, carrots, apples, squash, tomatoes,  an orange,eggplant, and a pumpkin

Have you finished any projects lately?  Or, do you still have some sitting in your closet?  There is no better time than the present!

Linking to:
Home Stories A2Z

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Pot Roast

I love a good roast.  It is hands-down my favorite meal to eat when we visit my in-laws.  Mom always serves it up with squash casserole, mashed potatoes {or sometimes rice}, cauliflower with cheese sauce, and often a chocolate pie for dessert.  During our first year of marriage, we lived just down the street from my in-laws, and we would frequently have Sunday dinner after church at their house.  We definitely made it a point to go if previously stated menu was on the agenda.

I have never been able to make a good roast.  It either ends up too dry or just tasteless.  One of my cooking goals this year was to learn how to make a delicious roast.  Goal accomplished.   Last week I found and tried the perfect pot roast recipe and it.was.delicious.

I've been given permission to make this one again, so that tells me it's truly a winner!  Next time I might try the red wine instead of the beef broth, though--we'll see what a difference that makes in the taste.

Why did I like this recipe so much?  Searing the onion and the carrots before cooking gave both a sweet flavor that I don't normally taste in a roast.  We also had a few carrots from our garden, so it was fun to put those to work in one of our meals.

The meat was perfectly done without having to do anything to it.  Once it was in the pot in the oven, I left it alone and just took it out in time to eat it.  It was tender, juicy, and fell right off of the fork.

Instead of having to make gravy after the meat was done, we just used the juices in the pan for our potatoes, and it was perfect.  This saved time, and I'm not the world's best gravy maker, so it also saved me some frustration.

If you're looking for an easy pot roast recipe, this is the one!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Perfect Pot Roast

1 whole Chuck Roast (4-5 pounds)
2 Tablespoons oil
2 whole onions
6 whole carrots {I don't think I quite used 6, just whatever was in the fridge}
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beef broth {or red wine}
3 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and pepper the roast on both sides.  Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet or Dutch oven.  Cut onions in half.  Place onions in hot oil until browned on both sides.   Set onions aside.

Place carrots in the hot pan and cook until nicely browned, but not cooked thoroughly.  Remove carrots.

Add some more oil, if needed, to the pan, and sear the meat on all sides.  Remove roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, pour in 1 cup of beef broth and whisk vigorously to remove all brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Place the roast back into the pan, along with the carrots, onion, remaining broth and thyme {you can also throw in some rosemary}.

Put the lid on the pan and cook at 275F for 3 hours {for a 3 pound roast} or 4 hours for a 4-5 pound roast.

source:  Pioneer Woman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Make Your Own Baby Food

One of the things that I've really enjoyed during with all three of my children is making baby food.  For some this might sound like a horrible waste of time.  'Why make baby food when you can purchase it so easily from the store?'

There are many reasons that people choose to make their own baby food.  Mine is not for health purposes necessarily, although I do like knowing exactly what is in the food I'm feeding my baby.  My reasons are primarily two-fold:

1. It's a bit more economical.
2. I enjoy it.

My general rule of thumb in grocery shopping is to only buy produce {and meat} that is on sale during a given week.  If I'm going to make baby food for a member of our family, I simply purchase more of that produce than the rest of us would eat, cook it up, and freeze it for the baby.  It's amazing how many servings of baby food you can get from just two sweet potatoes, for example.

For some strange reason, I have gotten a great deal of satisfaction out of making baby food.  I guess that's why I have a blog titled Only From Scratch.  I like to cook and bake, and I enjoy doing it starting with the basics and ending up with something delicious.  Making baby food is similar to putting together a meal for my family.  When I heat up that little block of frozen peas, I smile remembering that I put that together for my baby.  {You can go ahead and think I'm weird, that's okay--just trying to be honest with you!}

Up until having Mason, I just did a bit of online research on how to make baby food.  There are some great materials out there, but this time around, I wanted something more concrete.  So, I purchased a little baby food cookbook by Annabel Karmel, titled, Top 100 Baby Purees.

I noticed in the store the other day this same author has several other cookbooks on food for children and families.  Her recipes are simple, which is great.  And, the nice thing about the baby food cookbook is that she breaks it down by age of the baby, so you know exactly what is appropriate at each stage of feeding.

The basic supplies for making baby food:

-Food processor {this is all I've ever used}, blender, or specialty baby food blender, like this one:

-Freezer containers for storage.  Ice cube trays work great, and usually each cube is 1 oz. capacity.  Several companies also have storage containers specifically for baby food.  I use a combination.  I have an ice cube tray that I use.  Once the food is frozen, I simply pop it out and store the cubes in freezer bags.  I also purchased these storage containers, you can find them here.

-Vegetables, fruit, and water.  It's pretty basic.

My friend, Mary Beth, shared a great post on how she makes her baby food, which I'd encourage you to read if you're considering this.

One of the greatest things I like about making baby food is that you have the privilege of offering a variety of foods to your baby much earlier than if you purchase them from them a jar in the store.  Avocadoes are one of our favorite foods, and you just can't find that in a jar at the store.  This is a great first food for babies!

Next week I'll be back with a recipe or two for baby food.  You see, I've been buying food lately, because I wanted to get a good head start with Mason and I wasn't in the mood to cook {it's that pregnancy related lack of motivation I get in the beginning}.  After buying a good set of food, though, I realized just how much money I save if I make it at home, so once we go through the batch I purchased, it's back to homemade!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mason at 9 Months

In case you hadn't realized, this week is updates on the kids week.  I do have some projects and recipes coming up soon, but January is my month to sort of get organized, plan, and de-clutter.  So, I thought it would be appropriate to update you on some family news.  Hope you don't mind!  {I know the Grandmas enjoy it}.

Sunday marked 9 months for Mason.  Wow, time sure does fly by!  It seems like with each child the time just goes by even faster.  The past nine months have been wonderful, but also emotionally challenging at times.  We have been so blessed to have a child with Down Syndrome whose overall health is excellent.  This is not the case for many people with DS.  Many have congenital heart problems, thyroid issues, trouble with vision and hearing, even gastrointestinal difficulties.  Mason has thus far been free from all of those things.  And, we praise the Lord for this.

Trying to open Christmas presents

He got a little frustrated

Physical development is generally delayed in children with Down Syndrome, and we have seen some of that with Mason.  He was tested at 5 months, and was coming in right about 3 months behind with most development.  We have been blessed to be enrolled in a program called Babies Can't Wait, which is excellent.  They provide various therapies for children with developmental delays, all at no charge, for those who qualify for the program.  This has been a tremendous blessing for us!  Right now Mason just has physical therapy, so once a week, our PT comes to our home and works with Mason for an hour.  I sit with them and learn the different exercises that we should be doing with Mason during the week to help him progress at the appropriate levels.  Being able to have therapy at home is wonderful, especially with having other younger children at home right now.

Physical therapy is hard work for this little guy!  Most days he does fine, but he has occasionally refused to participate by pouting and screaming at the PT.  This is not normal behavior for Mason, who is always happy, so we know that he is working hard.  This past week during the last few minutes of our session, we looked down to discover him like this:

Proof that he gets tired from these sessions.  However, the physical therapy is definitely proving to be effective.  He now rolls all over the place, and is quite close to being able to sit up on his own.  We can see that his muscle tone is improving and our PT is very pleased with his progress.  We've even started working with him on hands and knees so that he'll be ready to crawl when the time comes.

Watching football with Daddy.  Mason is a typical sport-loving boy!

I haven't been consistent with feeding Mason solid foods.  It just takes so much time!  But, we've been back at it the past two weeks and it's starting to go more smoothly.  Sometimes it's hard to keep food in his mouth, as he tends to stick his tongue out instead of using it to pull the food back.  And, he is definitely a messy eater.  {I'll be sharing with you soon about an easy bib to make for your messy eaters--so be sure to come back}.  I was able to nurse Mason up until about 7 months, which is the longest I've ever made it.  Then, I got pregnant, so I had to quit.  He transitioned beautifully to formula and I have to admit I'm glad to be free from breastfeeding.

Mason is the happiest little guy and is so much fun.  The girls love that he responds to them now with smiles and laughter and they look forward to when he's able to crawl and play with them.  They don't understand that he has Down Syndrome, and won't for some time, but we emphasize with them the importance of always loving and caring for their little brother.  So far there is no problem with them in that regard!  They are quite the doting big sisters.

The days to come are still unknown, but each day we just rejoice in the gift of our son, as we rejoice in the gift of each of our children, and we lean heavily on God's grace and strength to face whatever the next day brings.

Thanks for letting me take the time to share with you about each of our kids this week!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mallory is 3

I shared yesterday about Isabella turning four, and today it's Mallory's turn.  Never in my wildest imagination did I think my first two children would be born just one year and twelve days apart, right after Christmas!  It's a busy time of year for us, but lots of fun.  Somehow it always sneaks up on me and I'm obviously behind in writing about it.


Mallory turned 3 last week and we had a fun day celebrating her.  She requested a smoothie for breakfast, cheese chips for lunch {tortilla chips with melted cheese}, and pizza, NOT homemade, veggies and dip for dinner.  We topped it off with strawberry cake.  Mallory is definitely our fruit and veggie lover.  Turning 3 in our household also means being able to chew gum, so she has definitely made her way through at least one pack of gum this week.

What is Mallory like at 3 years old?

-Independent.  She wants to do everything 'by myself'.  She has even started dressing herself, without any instruction, which is very helpful.  She also buckles herself into the carseat, another huge help to me!

-Funny.  This girl has a sense of humor and is pretty quick with comebacks.  She keeps us laughing and makes everything more fun.

-Sensitive.  She can get her feelings hurt pretty easily, but she's also quick to comfort others when they are sad, hurt, or upset.

-BINGO lover.  The girls got BINGO recently and Mallory loves it!  It's really helping her to identify her numbers, so she's having fun and learning at the same time.

-Hugger.  Wow, this girl can give some awesome hugs!  She wraps her arms as tight as she can around our necks and hangs on for dear life.  I hope she never gets tired of this.

We love our girl!  She has fun with her sister, but it's also great to get Mallory one-on-one.  It's during those times that she opens up and talks to us.  We're learning more and more what each of our children needs from us in the way of love and attention.  This parenting thing sure is the hugest learning curve I've ever had!  But, oh. how. worth. it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Isabella is 4

Our oldest daughter, Isabella, turned 4 at the end of December.  It's hard to believe we've already had her in our family for four years.  She is such a delight to us!  We had a family celebration on the day of her birthday, just a small dinner, cake and some gifts.  The birthday girl requested macaroni and cheese with sweet potato casserole for dinner.  She's easy to please!  She was a little bit sick on her birthday, so didn't really enjoy it, but her attitude was great anyway.

What is Isabella like at four years old?


- Questions abound.  Who, what, when, where, why, how--that pretty much sums it up!

- Imagination is always present.  Most days she never even wears 'normal' clothes.  From the moment she gets out of bed until she puts on her pj's at night, Isabella is in dress up clothes.  {Thanks, Nana, for keeping us well supplied!}

- Love for her siblings is obvious.  She enjoys being with Mallory {most of the time} and they both play quite well together right now.  I love to listen in on their giggling and chattering throughout the day.  Isabella shows great affection for Mason.  She always kisses him, wants him to be happy, and is interested in everything about him.

- A lover of books.  We could sit and read all day and this girl would be thrilled!

- Game player.  After receiving a few new games for Christmas, we could alternate between the books and games and she would be content.

I could go on with a long list, but said girl just got up from her rest time, so I must sign off.  We are so thankful for our little big girl and look forward to what this next year has in store for her.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What a New Year Brings

At least once a year most of us take the time to reflect on the past and look to the future.  We long to make something better than it was before, improve some area of personal discipline, or in the very least, make a small change in a particular area of life.

A new year brings change.

With change comes a barrage of mixed emotions.  Some crave change; some run from it.

Changes can be planned: choosing to eat more healthily, workout more often, organize your home, read more books, travel to a foreign land.

Changes can be unplanned:  the loss of a loved one, an illness, unemployment.

In both the planned and unplanned changes of life we have a God who never changes.

Over the Christmas season I reflected a lot on a character in the Bible who had an unplanned change in her life.

A young girl, probably 14 years old, visited by an angel, was told that she would be the mother of the long awaited Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.

This was unexpected.  Yet, how did she respond?

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." {Luke 1:38}.  And, then, she went on to glorify God for what He was going to do {Luke 1:46-55}.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, humbly accepted the change in her life.  Yes, what a privilege to be the mother of Jesus.  But, surely she also knew the prophecy concerning the Messiah that He would one day be despised, rejected, oppressed, crushed, and put to death {Isaiah 53}.

The road would be difficult at times for this mother.

She would face changes of all kinds, wonderful and hard.

And so, as this new year unfolds, I look to the past.

2012 brought a significant change in my life:  the birth of a son with Down Syndrome.  This was an unplanned change.

Yet, I have seen over and over the gracious love of God in the midst of this change.  I never thought I would survive the first months of his life.  And now, here we are, just about nine months later, and we're thriving!  God gives His grace each and every day to face the unknown.

2013 will bring another unplanned change in our lives:  the birth of another baby.

At the end of October we found out that we are expecting a surprise little blessing, due July 7.

I struggled with a lot of fear when we first found out this news.  Fear that I would not be able to handle a newborn, and a child with special needs.  Fear of telling the news to friends who struggle with infertility when I got pregnant preventing it.  Fear that somehow Mason would not get the attention and help he needed.  Fear that I'm not capable of handling four children under the age of 4.

As I looked at Mary's response to the unplanned change in her life, I learned to replace my fears with joy and thankfulness for what God had planned.

This new year will bring changes for each of us.  Some will be planned, some will be unplanned.  It is in our response that we have the opportunity to glorify God, as Mary did.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" {Proverbs 16:9}.  This is the verse that has been on my heart for the past two months as I've reflected on change.

We can make every plan we want for this new year; ultimately it is the Lord's will that is going to be accomplished.

May this new year bring for you great rejoicing in the unchanging character of our God who gives grace and strength to face any type of change that He chooses to give.