Wednesday, November 30, 2011

bits and pieces of us

it seems i have an aspiring professional confetti maker around here these days.  i'm willing to help him build his career, so if any of you having an upcoming celebration, he works cheap!  ;)


who would have thought a pair of earbuds and a little music would cause this little trouble maker to stop and sit still for 5  whole minutes?  and 5 minutes was all i needed to get ready to head out the door to run errands. 


(love Christians face in this picture)

~resent phrases~
Christian eating something he likes:
"dis rishus mamma!"
(translation: this is delicious mamma)

Isaac... all of the time:
"mamma, can i have a thing to eat... with my teeth"
(this is to head off my suggestion of getting a drink first)

spent a couple hours this afternoon with a pile of felt and a pair of scissors.  i'm excited to show you what i made, but i'm not quite finished (ran out of black felt).  so now you have something to look forward to, hopefully, tomorrow.  :)

Nick and I will be looking at some more houses tomorrow evening.  we are praying that it will be a profitable time for us.  

it's been a long process, shopping for house #2.  at least, it feels like it (maybe it has something to do with not having multiple other life altering crisis' going on this time around).  Nick and i go through days of excitement to hunt and sift through the listings, and other days where we don't even want to think about it because there really doesn't seem to be anything that fits our list.  and through the highs and lows, we simply trade off reminding each other that God gives everything we need, and (to quote a lovely lady from church), "The wait is by His hands as well!" 

so we keep looking, and we keep waiting.  and in the mean time, i think tomorrow i will pull out my little box of winter decorations.  :)



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

excited for December!

normally, i'm a fall kind of gal.  love it!  but this year i'm very excited for December to come.  i don't know why, but winter has been growing on me.  it's cold outside and cozy inside.  i've developed a love for tights and leg warmers with boots.  i have a wonderful new coat that i love wearing.  and i think i might actually get into some seasonal decorations this year.  :) 

this one is first on my list.  (have i mentioned that i love the color orange?)

already bought a couple oranges.  just have to pick up a couple other bits and fire up the dehydrator and glue gun!  yippy!!

on a more christmas-y related note: just bought the new She & Him christmas album off itunes and really likin' it.  :)

a few kitchen related tips

here a few tips to my non gluten eating friends (or others who might be trying to have a more g.free kitchen).


in regard to flours
being that gluten free flours are a bit more perishable than your standard wheat flour, take a little more care with it. 

- if you stock up (like when you find a sale) store it in the fridge or freezer.  like any perishable, cold will slow everything down and help it to keep longer.  some flours should always live in the fridge (like Teff) but most are ok on the shelf as long as you are moving through it at a realistic pace. 

- most flours are happier in an air tight container & will stay fresher if stored in something with a tight lid.  that being said, wash out your container and let it dry completely in between bags of g.free flour.  you don't want the old little bits that are clinging around the rim to taint your brand new bag of (not cheap) gluten free flour.

- experiment with other grains!  only wheat, barley and rye naturally contain gluten, yet there are so many other flours and grains out there to play with.  just watch your source (you don't want something that's been cross contaminated).  i've found substituting 1/4c. Teff in place of 1/4c. other flours gives a lovely "whole grain" flavor.  & i've got a package of coconut flour sitting in my pantry i'm excited to try.

if things are looking a little flat
when things start coming out of the oven looking a bit deflated, it can be a real downer.  but don't start doubting your kitchen abilities just yet.  double check your other ingredients. 


-baking soda and baking powder may seem invincible, but will actually lose their lifting power over time.  it's recommended to replace both every 6 months or so. 
    baking soda is cheap and as it gets old it can be used for lots things like air/carpet freshener, tons of cleaning purposes, and other random things like this 75 uses for baking soda site.  even found one gal who claimed to make a anti cellulite scrub (not going to back that one up, just throwing it out there for any who are looking for something to do of an evening.)    
    baking powder can cost a bit more, and i've found it best just to buy it in more appropriate amounts out of the bulk bin.  i can get Rumford baking powder (my fav due to it being aluminum free, gluten free, double acting) at Red Clover (56th & hwy 2, behind the racket club).

a random non gluten fix
- for a couple months now i've been trying to figure out what to do about my brown sugar getting crusty.  i was taught just to toss a piece of bread in the container with it to soften it back up.  but with g.free bread being the price that it is, i use every last piece, including the wimpy heel of the loaf.  solution: a marshmallow will keep your brown sugar soft!  and marshmallows are gluten free (unless you are buying some crazy messed with kind of marshmallow that i've not seen before), and i always seem to have some around for g.free rice kriskpy bars.  so that is an easy fix!

so there you go.  i'm still trying to figure out all this gluten free business, and i'm happy to share what i learn as i go.  hope these little tidbits are helpful in your cooking adventures!   

Saturday, November 19, 2011

pumpkin bread (the best g.free texture!)

i love pumpkin.  and what's thanksgiving without something pumpkin?  but this thanksgiving we won't be at home.  we will be on a vacation with Nick's family in MO.  and while i've made gluten free, dairy free pumpkin pie before, i was unsure of how well it would travel and i'm not really wanting to make a g.free pie crust without my food processor (ok, call me lazy, but i hate using a pastry cutter).  

solution: pumpkin bread!  

i did a lot of hunting on the various gluten free blogs i follow and while plenty of them sounded good, it seems everyone has their own gluten free flour mix.  my pantry is already full of about a dozen different ingredients for my own mixes, so i don't need more 3 more ingredients to try and create another mix that i'm unfamiliar with.  

soooo, i did what i always do.  i mashed together a few different recipes to fit my pantry.  :)  

not to get all tricky on you, but i was hunting for a specific texture, as that is usually the biggest gripe with gluten free baked goods, so i ended up using a combination of my 2 favorite flour mixes. 

the first was my favorite Brown Rice Flour Mix that i gave back on my lemon bars post.  this flour works great for anything you want with a crumbly, flaky texture, like pie crusts or crisps.  

the second flour i used was Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix, which is primarily bean flour.  and while it might sound a little odd to be baking with bean flour, it works really well for anything that you want to have a gooey texture, like cookies & some breads.  

because i wanted something right in the middle, not too crumbly, not too gooey, i did a 1/2 and 1/2.  and let me tell you, it was spot on!

Pumpkin bread
1 egg 
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. & 3 T. unsweetened applesauce (i used 1 individual size container)
1 c. unsweetened pumpkin puree 
1 T. vanilla (or 2 t. homemade vanilla which is a bit stronger than the other stuff)
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1 c. Bob's Red Mill all purpose baking mix
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
3/4 t. xanthan gum
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. sea salt

preheat oven to 350 degrees.  oil one 9x4 loaf pan, or 3 mini loaf pans.

beat the egg & sugar well, then combine with applesauce, pumpkin puree, vanilla and oil.  add dry ingredients & mix just until combined.  

pour batter into loaf pan and sprinkle top with sugar (i used cane sugar on all 3 & added walnuts to one).  bake for 35-40 minutes for a large loaf pan or 20-25 minutes for mini loaf pans or until toothpick can be inserted and comes out clean.  (i suggest going more by the toothpick as pan color and ovens will vary baking time.)


let cool on wire rack.  store in air-tight container on the counter for 3 days or in the fridge for about a week.  

another husband stamp of approval (even with coconut oil in it!)!!!  and i'm so excited to have a pumpkin treat that will travel well for our thanksgiving vacation.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

a day of extremes

yesterday was a day full of both wonderful and blessed moments and difficult, stressful situations.   i had much to do so i made sure i spent time in the Word & prayer.  then i applied extra effort to do activities with my boys that would wear them out physically and mentally.  typically this will result in them being less needy, more agreeable, and better nappers.  however, yesterday, it failed.  


we went to the park and played outside to waste energy & had a great amount of laughs and giggles.  yet all day they bounced off the walls and tore things apart.  




so we spent time sorting little toys into plastic containers & putting big toys on the shelves in order to focus little minds.  this worked for all of... 20 minutes?  maybe???  


after Christian went down for a nap, Isaac and I did some chores around the house, then sat down with his Dinosaur ABC book (it's a dry erase book based on Biblical creation full of letters and places to practice writing them).  he ate up the one on one time and was so helpful and attentive.  we laid down for his rest time and i spent 40 minutes "soft tickling" his hair and face, yet when little brother started knocking on the door to be let out, Isaac snapped to attention like he had been on high alert.  short/no naps all around.  


my heart broke when i had to discipline my Isaac for angry outbursts and temper tantrums.   yet i about bursted with love when that same little man walked quietly up behind me and in his sweetest voice told me he was sorry for getting so angry and asked if i would forgive him.  those moments are what my heavenly Father was talking about when He said, "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul." (Proverbs 29:17)


i felt that a movie might be a good thing to keep little men busy while i whipped up some baked goods for our upcoming trip to MO next week.  an overly "helpful" 4 year old and a wound up 2 year old were not about to stay in the basement once they heard my mixer fire up and after 45 minutes of messy participation & stopping to soothe bonks and resolve arguments, we all felt the need for a cookie.  funny how sometimes a cookie can solve so many problems.


after a cookie & a sandwich & some orange juice & other random snacks dug out of the cupboard at 4:45 in the afternoon, i could find nothing else to feed my "starving" little men and in order to maintain sanity and avoid locking everyone in their bedrooms, i felt the best distraction would be making a mess.  after all, it seems to work whenever they instigate it...


so we foam painted the bathtub, using shaving gel mixed with food coloring.  this stuff is so much fun!  and because the gel turns foamy when you mix in the colors, it just keeps expanding and expanding.  it felt like they had painted every surface of the bathtub and we still weren't out of foam.  
anticipation

calm and quite

a little bit curious

mixing colors

investigating textures

hey...

body painting ensued, with a thick slathering everywhere.  and since i have boys, they found it quite hilarious to smack each other with paint in strategic places.  those photos have been kept from this blog, but i will tell you, there are few things cuter than a the chunky buns of a 2 year old with blue hand prints on each cheek.  ;)



at this point Nick got home & Christian started showing off.  we had to convince him not to rub it in his ears, carefully wipe it off his eye lashes & help him blow it out of his nose. 


and when you've painted everything else, all that's left is to get mommy.

thankfully, a good rise was all it took to clean up this chaos. which is a lot more that can be said for my basement.


after a day like that, i was about to give up on everything, but thankfully i have a darling husband.  he brought home pizza for supper, kept little men busy all evening so that i could fold laundry & begin packing, then put little men to bed while i finished up some cleaning.  


sometimes i feel ridiculously outnumbered in my home, yet i love all of these men, big and little, more than i ever thought i could love.  i guess that's the grace of God, helping one sinner to love another sinner.  and i am thankful!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

finally... vanilla!


Friday i finished my first batch of homemade pure vanilla extract! i have yet to bake with it, but i'm really looking forward to it.  especially since it is definitely gluten free, which i'm always looking for.  

i followed Laura's tutorial here on Heavenly Homemakers, for making your own vanilla at home.  it's so easy!  the only thing it takes is time.  6 months actually.  but don't let that scare you away from trying it!  considering it ended up costing me about $1.12 per ounce to make (not counting the cost of the glass bottles), that's a whole lot better than pure vanilla from the store which if i remember correctly i paid about $3 for a 1 oz bottle.  and this stuff is of a much better quality than that. 

so if you want all the details on how to make your own vanilla, head over and read Heavenly Homemakers (not to mention that she has a link for buying great vanilla beans, along with a discount code for 10% off through the end of this year). 

i'll just give you a quick run down of what i did.  

6 months ago, i bought a bunch of vanilla beans and split them down the middle (long way) and stuffed them inside 1 qt canning jar.  then i filled the jar with vodka (the cheapest kind i could find) and screwed the lid on tight.  

 I labeled the date (note to self: do not use clear tape and black marker to label jar when making homemade vanilla, as it results in a nearly unreadable tag that you will hold at funny angles and squint like an hold lady in order to try and decipher what was printed across it) then i stuck it on a shelf in my storage room and ignored it for a month at a time, when i would give it a bit of a shake and put it back in it's dark hiding spot.


after 6 months i pulled it back to my kitchen and ran it through a coffee filter to catch all the little beans floating around in it.

to store it i used amber bottles from Specialty Bottle, filling two 4 ounce bottles and nine 2 ounce bottles.


after filtering out my vanilla from the beans, i thought i would try following the advice of someone who commented on the vanilla tutorial, and try reusing my beans with 1/2 the amount of vodka.


so i snipped them in half and put them all in a 1/2 qt jar, topped it off and stuck it back in it's dark hiding spot.


this time i took my advice to myself and used blue painters tape instead of clear tape.  hooray for being able to read the label on the jar!



end result:
lot's of loverly vanilla from my own kitchen!  a couple large bottles for my own use and several little ones to give to loved ones.  :)  

so if you are looking for an easy way to cut some costs long term in the kitchen, you might give this a try.  i couldn't be happier with mine and will be doing this a couple times a year for the foreseeable future.

Friday, November 11, 2011

encouraging

today i read Seven Strategies for Having more Productive Days  and found it so encouraging.  my days have been quite difficult for a long time now due to my thyroid deciding to freak out and go all hyper on me.  and while a couple of things i'm doing seem to be helping (going gluten free being one of them) it's turning out to be a long slow road back to energy and efficeincy around my home. 

It was nice to read some tips and tricks for getting things done.  Her last tip, "Trouble Shooting the 'Bad Days'" was especially encouraging.  a wonderful reminder that while i may not be getting all the floors swept everyday, i do need to be looking for what i can do of value.  and that means probably a little less time surfing pintrest and a little more time in prayer.  that will be of great value! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

a nice tuesday drive though the basement

i have 2 boys.  and boy, oh boy, are boys different from girls.  yes, i know some girls that are pretty loud, that like a bit of ruff and tumble from time to time.  but even the loudest, roudy-est little girl is very different from boys.  of course, God did that on purpose, i just never knew to the extent He made them different until i had 2 of my own.


with my boys, everything that moves needs to be shot at, everything that makes noise is a monster, and i never realized how often i would repeat the phrase "that is not a sword!"  


Janna pinned a picture of a toddler t-shirt that i feel would work for either of my boys.


that being said, i keep a limited amount of toys around the house.  things that are sturdy and inexpensive so i don't feel bad about throwing it out if when it breaks.  things like small plastic animals from the dollar bin, duplos (the big chunky legos), and hot wheels are a few of our favorites.  


sometimes i like to find ways to mix it up and rekindle interest in the toys we have without spending a lot of $$$.  so when i saw a pin on pintrest the other day, i had to give it a try.  (i was sure i had pinned it so that i would be able to share it with you.  but, unfortunately, i must have messed up, because it is no where to be found.  all that being said, i cannot take credit for this idea, simply for copying someone and being spacey enough to forget to whom credit is due.)
roads!  (please forgive my terrible pictures, but they were taken in our basement on a wet and cloudy day)  suddenly those old hot wheels got a whole lot more interesting.  and for no cost to me! i simply pulled out an old role of blue painters tape that had gotten a bit wet at one time, so the tape is now warped and wonky along the edges.  and what is painters tape good for when it doesn't leave nice crisp edges??  why, it's good for roads!!!
up across the couch...
zig-zagging along the floor
even a parking lot on top of the ottoman
in fact, the more twists and turns, the better they liked it!  only the rumbling of little men creating motor sounds to their vehicles could be heard.  such a peaceful calm...  
... for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

my delightful sons

Proverbs 29:17
"Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
He will also delight your soul."