Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Book Review

 I have a quick little book review for you this Monday Morning! I am loving all these faith based Living Lights Berenstain Bears books.

This is a padded board-book that contains 8 Bible stories; Creation (Gen 1), Noah Builds an Ark for God (Gen 6), David Meets Goliath (1 Sam 17), Daniel in the Lions' Den (Daniel 6), The Birth of Jesus (Luke 1), The Good Neighbor (Luke 10), Jesus in Jerusalem (Mathew 20), and He is Risen (Mathew 28).

This book is perfect for toddler-aged children. the illustrations are classic Berenstain Bears, with the Bears as story characters. The stories are extremely paraphrased and shortened. Which on one hand, works great with little ones with short-attention spans. However, on the other hand, a lot of the story gets left out. I think this is a good jumping-off point for getting little ones familiar with the stories. As their attention span grows so can the length and depth of the material presented. My kids continually surprise and amaze me with what they learn and understand about God and the Bible.  

I received the book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


 After a week of unseasonably warm weather, I was relived to wake up to cloudy skies. I have been waiting for just such a day to get some garden work done. There is something so magic and freeing about saving seeds. I wasn't sure if I was going to get much done this year, due to my waning energy levels. However, with my tiny helper in tow, we got to work. She insisted on wearing an old shirt of her brothers, which was fine by me for garden chores.

After a morning of gathering we brought the bounty inside. I was surprised by how helpful she actually was. Generally, doing any job with an almost-three-year-old is rather inconvenient. I want her to learn and love this work so I do my best to say "yes". So, Violet and I got to shelling.

I found myself incredibly amused by her imagination. The beans were babies, being born from their mommies tummy. So sweet, and true in a sense. They are all the potential for new life! Each shell she popped open in surprise, "Oh! cute babies time to come out." I guess we all have babies on the brain around here.
 In the afternoon I prepped a huge turkey for dinner. After a major influx of meat from my husbands elk, a freezer clean was necessary. On the bottom of our chest freezer I discovered a forgotten turkey and ham (along with numerous other ridiculous things I had tucked away). We planned an epic family feast tonight. Unfortunately, just as the turkey went in the oven my husband got a call from a friend-- who had, of course, just killed a "monster bull". So off he went to help pack the thing out. It's funny, this is something that probably would have upset me in years past. After all the work I went to, to have him leave. I would have pouted the rest of the night and not enjoyed the time I did have with the kids. This time I just tried to focus on being thankful for the meal, the kids and the fact that he is so faithful to help a friend in need. Fall can be such an unpredictable season around this joint. Hunting is such a huge part of my life in the, but it's not a part of me at all. I'm glad he has a hobby he enjoys, that fills our freezer and is seasonal ;) The kids and I still enjoyed our feast. The turkey is, at this moment, sitting out *still*. I just can't bring myself to the unsavory task of carving that beast up and finding room for it in the fridge. After it's cut and the meat is put away then I still have to get the carcass in the crockpot for stock. Clean up is my absolute least favorite task of all. With candles all glow-y and kids tucked in, I had better get to it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Week 3

 We have begun week 3 of the school year! Only forever more weeks to go ;) So far we have been up to some fun stuff around here.

My favorite thing about homeschool is the freedom we have. In fact, it's one of my favorite things about being a stay-at-home mom in general. I have the freedom to set my own pace, prioritize as I wish and make my own choices. It also is one aspect that can come back to bite me if I'm not careful though. Having that sort of freedom requires a lot of self-control if you want things to run smoothly. With the introduction of school, I am noticing that perhaps I don't have as much self-control as I thought I did... Sometimes things just need to get done, whether it's what I want to do or not. So I am working on my discipline, so that I get the most out the freedom I do have.

My son and I sat down and wrote out a list of all the things he wanted to learn about this year. It is long list. He is so hungry to learn and has so many questions. I love that I can take that natural hunger and channel it into education. One of the first things he thought of was "how his body works and what happens to food and stuff". Well son, I am happy to oblige.

I found this book at Goodwill and I couldn't pass it up. I knew it would be perfect for Titus. The pages have huge 3 dimensional replicas of body parts that pop off the page. On the first page the rib cage pops out, showing the heart, lungs and liver all placed underneath. It is hard to describe, I'll have to take pictures of it later. He loves looking at all the pages. Even though he can't read, the pictures are very educational. I have read through the book with him- we did a page a day. Although he didn't understand everything, he got a lot from this!

A great place to buy this book or any book is Thriftbooks. I LOVE that site and find tons of quality used books there.


Another fabulous Goodwill find was this Usborne book- Understanding your Muscles & Bones. This book has kid friendly pictures and an eye-catching layout. We haven't made it to the finish of this book yet. We read through 2 pages a day. Titus begs to keep going, but we are savoring it ;) It is fairly easy to understand, requiring only occasional anecdotes from me.

Yesterday we were reading about people who can bend their muscles and joints beyond what the regular person can. It talked a little about acrobats and gymnasts. I looked up a few videos of gymnasts on YouTube and both kids were totally amazed. We also watched a video of the Ross Sister (contortionists from many years ago). I have enjoyed all the additional learning this book has sparked!

The Magic School Bus Another fun way to learn about the body is The Magic School Bus! You can watch it on Netflix. I remember watching this show when I was my son's age. There are several great episodes on the body.

Ms. Frizzle teaches them about digestion (season 1 ep. 2)
what happens when you're sick (season 1 ep. 3)
how bones and muscles work together (season 2 ep. 2)
and how muscles work (season 3 ep. 9)

This has been a fun show to enjoy in the evening together.


This fun activity is one I have prepped for Friday. Confessions of a Homeschooler made this neat life-size human anatomy map! You can also use the pieces she provides to make a puzzle.

I have a large roll of kraft paper and we plan to do as she did, trace his cute lil' body, and then glue the organs where they belong. I know he is going to enjoy this because he loves to get hands on. I'll post a picture of ours when it is finished.


Those are just a few of the things we have been doing for school. He also does reading (How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) and math work daily. I use school time to practice his weekly AWANA verse too. We have done a few nature hikes and journals with friends, which area total hit (mostly because they involve friends ;)

The picture of the kids at the top was from today-- I had them draw a picture with crayon and then fill it in with watercolor. I gave pretty broad instructions, but encouraged them to draw a fall scene. My daughter just does her own thing, which is awesome- she is 2. Also, I don't think I have a picture of her where she doesn't have yogurt on her face. Titus drew a fall tree, a bird, his dad, two trucks, grass and a road. I love doing art projects with them! In fact one of the things we are going to learn about is famous artists. That was one of the few additions to our list that I made!

Earth Mama Angel Baby

Organic Baby

     I received an exciting package in the mail today! One of my favorite companies sent me their Big Push Birth & Baby Kit to try. I remember the first time I saw Earth Mama Angel Baby in the store. Their packaging was different, their name was different and their ingredients were different. I was instantly intrigued. 

    I wasn't much of an "Earth Mama" until I had my first child. I loved the fragrant lotions from chain body stores. It seemed inconsequential that my cleaners were nearly toxic and shampoo filled with sulfates and parabens. I remember slathering myself with lotion and then picking up my sweet, pure newborn. It was the first time it had really occurred to me that everything on my skin is getting on his skin. His onesie and blankets were washed with any highly scented product I could find. Soon he would be crawling all over and putting everything in his mouth-- all things I cleaned with some intense chemical cleaners. I took a lot of care to eat clean and take care of my insides, yet there was little care to what I used on the outside. That was really the beginning of my "Earth Mama" journey. I started being a lot more conscious of the products we used. My allergies and asthma improved, my house has never been cleaner and everything still smelled amazing.

   Earth Mama Angel Baby was founded by Melinda Olson years ago in her Oregon kitchen. Their safe, herbal products contain zero toxins, without sacrificing quality or effectiveness. A little more about their mission,

"Earth Mama believes in the natural process of birth, and the healing power of nature. Our mission is to provide safe, herbal alternatives for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and babies of all ages, and to help educate people about traditional plant medicine and safe personal care. We manufacture natural and organic products that work, combining generations of women's wisdom and traditional plant medicine with the safety and assurances of contemporary evidence based research. If it doesn't measure up to Mama's standards, it doesn't leave the building."

     The Big Push Birth and Baby Kit  contains a line of products perfect for postpartum care. Birth is no joke. Having a baby is seriously hard work and it takes a huge toll on your body. This is the time to take care of yourself and heal. 

     I used the Postpartum Bath Herbs after my second child and I loved them. Just taking a few moments for myself, drawing and bath and soaking was so important to my mind and body. Each sachet includes sea salt, organic oatmeal, organic witch hazel leaf, organic yarrow flower, organic plantain leaf,  and calendula flowers. I was a little scared to use it at first (sea salt? hello burning!) but there was no stinging. These are also awesome soaked and chilled for instant relief down there.

    If you're a first time mom, you might be thinking "do I really need bottom spray and bottom balm?" Let me just tell you, these things are totally worth it. I tore so badly with my first and I wish I would have had these products. The spray has cucumber, lavender and peppermint in it. It soothes, cools and heals. The balm is packed with healing herbs. Place is in the fridge for cooling relief.

   Also in the kit is their natural nipple butter. I used this product with my second as well. Did you know that the Natural Nipple Butter was the first lanolin free nipple cream and the first verified non GMO nipple cream too? Pretty cool. I always rubbed what was left on my fingers onto my cuticles or lips. This stuff is super moisturizing and healing. Perfect for cuts and scrapes too.

The two teas are products I have never tried before. The Monthly Comfort tea helps you recover after childbirth and manage the crazy hormones. The tea has cinnamon, lady’s mantle, red raspberry leaf, nettle, lemon balm, ginger and alfalfa. I brewed a cup and a did a little taste test for you all. It's delicious, a little spicy and very soothing. There were a few packages of the Milkmaid Tea too, which promotes healthy lactation and milk supply. Also, a shout out to their Morning Wellness Tea, for making my insane morning sickness more manageable.

Also included in the kit are some goodies for your new angel! There is baby oil, lotion, baby wash and bottom balm. It is so surreal to imagine using these products on my little one this March. You may have noticed I love richly scented products. The lotion and wash smell heavenly. They are naturally scented with sweet orange and vanilla oils. I love that the soap is castile based and super concentrated. The lotion is a total winner and I plan to buy the full sized for our whole family. The baby oil is grapeseed based, no need to worry about nut oils. The bottom balm is an all-in-one product that I have a feeling we will use a lot. Perfect for diaper rash; but also cradle cap, cuts and scrapes, small burns and itchy rashes. It contains lavender, tea tree and myrhh oils-- anitfungal and antibacterial super fighters.

I am so stoked to have all these products in my arsenal as our family goes from 4 to 5. I know many of these will be packed into my hospital bag when the time comes. I love that this company began in Oregon and creates amazing products for mamas like me! If you are in Oregon and looking to find these in store, you can check and see if they are available near you! Their products are also available to order online here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Productivity and Reality

We woke up the other morning to rain in the forecast. We have had dribbles here and there this September, but not a whole lot. The kids and I bundled up to bring in some of the harvest. I set the kids to picking any ripe tomato they could find. This lasted about 2 minutes before they went to snack on grapes.  

This is about half of what I brought in- in all their cracked and split glory. I brought in a bunch of grapes too, as I wasn't sure they would fare well in the rain. It was a long afternoon of canning... By around 2 I was extremely exhausted. I'm about 16 weeks pregnant now and I haven't gained all my energy back. In fact the last few days I have felt terrible. I laid down and sure enough the rains began.

Happy wet everything.

 I feel totally at a loss as to how I am going to get everything practical done, while feeling like a zombie. This is such a busy time of year, more apples are waiting to be canned, more veggies to be brought in and froze. The reality is, it just isn't going to get done. So, here's to making the most of this season of not being able to make the most of the season. Instead I'll be here, curled up by the fire.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Four Fool-Proof Gluten-Free/Sugar-Free Treats

Learning to bake without sugar and flour has been a serious challenge for me. I love to bake, I always have. We are not entirely sugar or gluten-free. However, at home I try to keep our treats that way. There really are a plethora of recipes out there that follow those regulations. I have found, for the most part, that these are hit and miss. Either the recipe is a total bust, or I try to substitute for the flour and sugar with disastrous results. These are four of my favorite, fool-proof desserts. Each one has turned out perfect for me. They either have an alternative flour or sugar source or are easily adaptable. They are all the creations of other talented bloggers, whose links can be found in the descriptions.

There is just something about a chocolate chip cookie... Something that I have found impossible to recreate without flour and sugar. I love my cookies soft and a little gooey. This recipe from Mrs. Criddles Kitchen hits two big notes for me-

1. The cookies taste amazing. They really do taste a lot like your typical chocolate chip cookie. Fresh out of the oven, these are out of this world.

2. They use exclusively coconut flour. Coconut flour is so much more affordable than almond. Unfortunately it is also really dry. I haven't found a single recipe that uses exclusively coconut flour that is not nasty. I think the cream cheese really helps the moisture content.

My final tip when making these cookies-- leave them in a ball as she suggests. I think the shape helps lock in the moisture of the dough.


Low Carb No Bake Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake 
 I feel like there is really no explanation needed as to why this is delicious. Just look at the picture. This beauty comes from All Day I Dream About Food. This is a perfect recipe to bake for finicky family and friends; you know, the ones who think you eat cardboard. This dessert is so decadent, all without the sugar or flour.

She uses Swerve as a sweetener here. I have used truvia with great success too. I have all used the crust recipe as a base for other treats

The recipe on a whole is a little involved. However, the results are totally worth it. This dessert is pretty much impossible to resist.

One last note, this cheesecake does not stand up well to heat. I made it for 4th of July and it got soupy fast. Keep it chilled until you're ready to serve. 
Banana Bread is a family favorite around here. I was so pleased when I found this recipe by Minimalist Baker. Best of all, all you need is one bowl. I love baking a loaf of this on a cloudy afternoon. It is pretty much perfection with a hot cup of coffee.

In this recipe she sweetens with cane and brown sugar. I always sub those out with truvia. Everything still comes together great. I have also made it with coconut sugar, which adds a great flavor. 

This recipe does have you use almond meal, gluten free flour and oats. I generally have all those on hand. I keep a few things of Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour around. I have been really happy with the results. 


Vegan Gluten Free Ginger Snaps! Also adaptable as gingerbread men cut outs. So simple and delicious! minimalistbakercom

This recipe is from the talented Minimalist Baker as well. Gingerbread is a holiday classic that I start craving in the winter months. Generally, gingerbread is hard and crispy. In this recipe these cookies are clouds; soft, pillowy gingerbread clouds.

I probably made these too many times last year. I went a little gingerbread overboard. These are perfect with coffee too.

The recipe calls for a flax egg and vegan butter. We are not vegan so I use a regular egg and regular butter. I replace the brown sugar with coconut sugar. Even with the substitutions these turn out amazing.

My tip, after these have cooled, place them in a sealed ziplock bag. They keep their soft crumb much longer that way.   

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thankful by Eileen Spinelli

 I have another great kids book review for you today! Thankful, by Eileen Spinelli is a book that celebrates the big and little blessing in our lives.

I am always looking for ways to encourage my kids to appreciate the gifts that God had given us. Having a thankful heart can make hard situations a lot easier. Besides that, a thankful heart is pleasing to God! I always think of this verse,

"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

Thankful is a lovely, poetic book that is an easy read with little ones. The book is really quite simple, but some of it is very beautiful. My favorite page was,

"The dancer is thankful for the beat, that stirs her heart and hips and feet."

 My kids enjoyed reading through it with me. The rhyming and illustrations kept their interest. The pictures are all in lovely, muted colors. Each of the illustrations revolves around a family portraying the text.

With Thanksgiving on the way, I am sure this is a book we will be reading again and again. It got our family talking about all the things we are thankful for. I love when a book can spark a discussion with my kids!

I received a copy of Thankful in exchange for my honest review.

Q&A for creatives

 When I saw this book, it was instantly appealing to me. I have seen a few other Q&A books from Potter Style, but never this one. This book is a four-year year journal, specifically for creative people (or people looking to get creative).

I would, in general, consider myself a pretty creative person. In fact, it's a big part of who I am. I find all creative endeavors very fulfilling.

But here is the thing-- I'm a mom. Which I love. It can, however, be
very draining in the creativity department. Sometimes the duties, diapers and dramatics don't leave me with a lot of time or energy to get creative.

I love the structure and freedom that this book provides. Every day has a jumping off point. The inspiration can be as silly as "What would you put inside a jell-o mold" or as contemplative as "What would best symbolize your life's biggest challenge right now?".

 Each day has a grid with four boxes- one for each year. I love that they are placed side-by-side in that way. You can compare not only how your life has changed, but your artistic skill has well.

Besides the question and the space-- the rest is up to you. You are free to use whatever medium you see fit. The pages are pretty sturdy and seem like they would stand up well to abuse.

I can't wait to fill this book up and then look back on it in a couple of years! I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.

Mamaway Ring Sling

The next addition to my baby gear collection-- this sling by Mamaway.

I have a few baby carrying devices. My go-to is my Ergo pack. That thing has been a major life saver. It really works best for older babies though. For newborns I love using a sling.

I sewed a sling to use with my daughter. I loved it, but it wasn't adjustable. I really needed a ring sling like this one.

There are a lot of cute patterns to choose from, but I am a sucker for gingham. The material is 100% Pima cotton, it's light-weight and very breathable. I feel like I could use this in the summer and not roast. Because it is cotton, I know it will wash well.  There is plenty of fabric to adjust and provide adequate coverage if you breastfeed.

Since my baby won't be here until March, I tried it on with a friends. The rings felt super secure. I was worried it might feel like they were slipping. However, because of the double rings it
locks" in place. It felt comfortable around my shoulder and back.

I know that when my baby gets here, this will be a life saver. With three kids I am going to need my hands free! Thanks to Mamaway for sending me the product in exchange for my review!

Grey and White Muslin Swaddling Blankets

 I am now almost fifteen weeks into this pregnancy. It still hasn't totally sunk in yet. We are going to be a family of five. I will have three children.

While I have lots of baby gear from my previous two littles, I enjoy picking up a few new things; just for this babe. Things have gotten worn out and gross a lot faster than I thought they would. One thing I knew I would be needing for this baby was some new swaddling blankets.

In recent years I have seen more and more muslin swaddlers. I love the idea of a breathable, light-weight material. Generally my go-to is a knit blanket. You can really swaddle that baby tight! I thought it would be great to give these a try though.

This three pack of blankets came from SavvyBaby. I love that they are gender-neutral in print and design. We don't know if we are having a girl or boy yet, so neutral was a must. I usually don't like gender-neutral baby stuff. A lot of times it just isn't cute. A lot of yellow, ducks and frogs etc. Not really my style.

These blankets are very cute and modern. They feature three different designs; chevron, arrows and +.

The pictures I took are after the blankets are after they have been washed and dried. The material felt a little scratchy right out of the package. For some reason, the chevron blanket especially. After washing the are much softer. I'm sure over time and washes it will only improve!

I can't wait to swaddle the new baby up in these blankets! I folded them neatly and put them away for the time being. I will be so pleased to see them again when I pack them into my hospital bag!

I was sent these from SavvyBaby to try in exchange for my review.

Fall Feelings

So it's fall. I know not technically. The weather may not be in agreement with me. However, I am happily pretending.
Yup, that's me. It may be 85 at my house right now, but a sweater and boots feels totally appropriate. The apples are ripe and quarts of applesauce are slowly being added to my shelves. Yesterday was the first day of the Bible study for moms' that I attend. Soon AWANA will be in full swing. I might have got out all my fall decorations already. My husband killed his elk the opening day of bow elk season (hallelujah).

AND school has begun! My sweet little pre-k boy started homeschool on Tuesday. Ahh homeschool, where the lunches are always good and the principal is my cute husband.      

When does it start to feel like fall to you?