Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Belated, of course, but I just have to post what we were up to. Then I'll cooperate with the rest of blogworld and and the calendar and post something about Christmas!

My in-laws decided that instead of hosting a regular Thanksgiving dinner for "only" 9-14 people at their home, they'd host a dinner at their church for 150 people who might not otherwise get a Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the main centerpiece on the serving table.

These are the simple centerpieces I did for the rest of the tables.

The goal was to make the fellowship hall look festive and inviting while using things the church or members already owned. 

I think it looks simple and welcoming!

We spent a couple hours on Wednesday setting up, then ran some last-minute errands and went home to cook sweet potatoes from our garden. 

Here she is, The Boss, as we called her on Thanksgiving. :) She planned and organized for weeks ahead of time so Thanksgiving Day ran smoothly.  

There were many volunteers from the church who came to help out instead of staying home with their families!

Here are the centerpieces with the candles lit and ready to go!

The dessert table!

Look at all that food! Church members and local businesses donated everything! A dentist from town even showed up that morning saying he was there to help! He warmly welcomed people in the lobby and disappeared without eating a crumb!

Here is a group from the rehab center enjoying the meal. They clapped for us and told us how nice it was to be treated like humans. I'm not telling you for the accolades, but so we can all realized how much we have to be thankful for!

The people standing in this picture are church members who acted as servers, bringing people hot cider, salad and pies. That really helped those of us serving in the kitchen!

We (and I say that only because I helped; this was all the organizing of my in-laws!) also sent meals to the jail and the police station. As the day wound down, we realized we had a lot of food leftover, so my father-in-law called the jail and asked if they would like seconds for supper! We dished up more and sent it out. Someone told him when he delivered the food, "It's so nice to know there are people out there who care." Doesn't that make it all worthwhile?!

No mommy-blogger could write a holiday post without pictures of her kids! Does he look full or what?!

Clearly this little guy's attention is no longer on the empty plate! My sweet husband spent most of the day at his parent's house with the boys so I could focus on cooking and serving.

I hope you and your family had a nice Thanksgiving. We're definitely planning to do this again! What a blessing we all received by blessing others who are less fortunate.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Do you ever have procrastination-inspired brainstorms that turn out sooooo much better than you could have imagined? 

Let me show you mine:

Now here's the story: 

I needed a birthday present for a grandparent. It had to be low-budget. As in low. I knew I had taken a couple great pictures of my boys this summer, and what do grandparents love more than pictures of their grandkids? Maybe some artwork by them? 

Enter dollar store frames + paint.

No, my little guy isn't wearing a shirt. 

Oh look, neither is big brother!

Yes, J2 tasted it. No, it wasn't toxic. We used washable tempura in 3 different colors. J2 wasn't telling if the red tasted different than the green!

J1 didn't taste it, but had as much fun painting his hand, the paper plate, the newspaper and an extra paper as he did the picture frame!

Here are the masterpieces laid out to dry on plastic wrap. I did fill in a couple spots so the frame wasn't showing, and I painted the inside and outside edges.

J1's frame has more streaks cuz he actually brushed the paint on.

J2's frame has a sponge effect because he patted the frame with his brush. I added a coat of poly and wrote their names, ages and the date on the back with permanent marker.

Here's the finished product!

Aren't they adorable?! (Yes, I see that I need to center the above picture!)

Here's a cost breakdown:
frames: $1 each
paint: already on hand
poly: previously owned
5X7 pictures: Kodak kiosk at CVS, $2 each (I know, I could have done better for 5X7s, but I love the quality of Kodak pictures and didn't have time to order from their website which is cheaper than the kiosk option.)
subtotal: $3 each
grand total for gift: $6

This will be a project for more family members in the future, you can count on that! I know they will love it. I do! 

Chic on a Shoestring Decorating

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Raw Experiment II

75% of what we've eaten the last 10 days has been raw! Can you believe it? It's been so much easier and tastier than we thought it would be. We're going to continue eating about the same way because we feel really good -- more alert and energetic.

So why not 100%? Well, we like the potatoes and squash from our garden, as well as the applesauce and tomatoes that we've canned. We like our grains and legumes cooked as well. We also don't want to raise the bar so high that we set ourselves up for failure! So 75% is what seems will work for our family.

Before we started on this experiment, I thought that a raw diet was a couple pieces of fruit for breakfast, raw carrots for lunch and salad without dressing for supper. Sure, you CAN do it that way, but I don't want to! Yes, our intake of salads has gone up, but we've been inspired by recipes I've read to add different things than we normally would--who knew we'd like fennel?! 

Here are a couple examples of our meals.

Breakfast: Nut granola with blueberries and almond milk, orange slices.

To make the granola, soak 1 cup each of walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds (all raw, not roasted) in water over night. Rinse and drain, then pulse them in the food processor with 10 whole dates and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

It was so yummy! Our 18-month-old loved it. That recipe is enough for the four of us to eat for two breakfasts! I haven't started making my own almond milk yet, but I will as soon as I can find a place to buy raw almonds at a decent price.

Another breakfast we like is simply to take oatmeal and instead of cooking it, let it soak up the almond milk for a few minutes. Top it with raisins, dates, shredded apple, cinnamon, blueberries, whatever you want. It's delicious!

Via Recipes For Joy Blog
Lunch: Zucchini & carrot pasta with pesto, tomatoes and olives.

My favorite recipe so far is one similar to the above picture--I was so busy enjoying it both times I made it that I forgot to take a picture! The recipe I have (a combination of two, really) calls for zucchini and carrots as the pasta. I used a potato peeler to get large strips, more like a fettucini  noodle. The pesto is made with equal parts walnuts and olive oil with a bunch of basil, a little lemon and salt. I also added kalamata olives, fennel and tomatoes. So amazing!

Supper: Wild rice on spinach with tomatoes & avocado, sushi rolls.

I soaked the wild rice for 3 days, like the directions said, but still found it very crunchy. I think we'll stick to cooking rice, but I liked the avocado and tomato. I found a 'better than tuna' recipe that is basically sunflower seeds and walnuts and whatever veggies you have around all mixed in the food processor. It has a light dressing of lemon and soy sauce and we dipped it in tamari after rolling it in nori (seaweed). It was salty and good!

So there you have it! Now you can say you learned something today!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm Thankful For...

Thanksgiving could be my favorite holiday. I think the only reason that it isn't is that it's kind of the kick-off to a very busy, sometimes hectic, over-commercialized Christmas. I LOVE Christmas, don't get me wrong! I love the music, the decorations, the festive spirit everyone has. I love giving and getting and traditions. I can't wait to set up a tree for the first time in 3 years, and I'm looking forward to NOT traveling this Christmas so we can be home to enjoy it. 

But this was about Thanksgiving! Well, I love Thanksgiving because it's pure. You can't do much to take away from the meaning of it, the beautiful, historical significance, the focus on family and abundance instead of commercialized pressure to have more and get more. My one complaint about Thanksgiving is that it's crammed between Halloween and Christmas. You know? Couldn't it be on it's own so it gets some attention?!

So in my universe, we'd skip Halloween altogether (soapbox, so I'm not getting into it unless you ask!) and have Thanksgiving in October before the Christmas rush. Then we'd get to focus on Thankfulness and have plenty of time to get ready for Christmas after that!

Anyway, this year for Thanksgiving we're headed to my in-law's in Missouri. They are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner at their church for families who don't have much to be thankful for. Isn't that beautiful?! Instead of sitting in their comfortable house, eating too much food and probably taking the warm house and delicious, abundant food for granted, we'll be working hard to make sure others have a happy Thanksgiving! I love it! I can say that because it wasn't my idea.

My family is bringing sweet potatoes from our garden. We had a bumper crop this year and they're delicious! I'm also bringing the centerpieces for about 15 tables.

This is it:

Canning jar candle holders!

I selected a random assortment of canning jars, jelly jars and baby food jars, added about an inch of rocks to the bottom, dropped a votive candle on top of the rocks, then added some twine and a dried leaf. 

My inspiration was a Real Simple magazine about 4 years ago. They used sand in their jars, but it was expensive to buy at the store! I looked for decorative rocks and just didn't like the selection, so I went to the pet section and got aquarium rocks!

Since then, I've been known to use dried split peas and other beans. Because I'm doing so many jars for the church's Thanksgiving Dinner, I'll probably use a combination of the rocks and dried beans. You could use rice or whatever (nonflammable) filler you have around.

The centerpieces at the church will be smaller too--I just don't have that many jars and I want to help in more ways than spending an hour lighting the candles!

I'm thankful for being able to GIVE this Thanksgiving!

I'm participating in this party:

Dare to DIY

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heartbeat! (Week 14)

we got to hear our baby's heartbeat today!

The whole family went out to breakfast then had our first visit with our Midwife. I can't believe that 2 years have passed since we first met Kathy! I like going to her house and not a clinic, and I feel that the care is so personalized. We talked today about the medication I take and ways I can help the baby NOT grow so big! J2 was 9lb 12oz and while I didn't have gestational diabetes or anything, Kathy gave me a list of foods to be careful about--dairy (not a problem since we're vegan!), refined carbs (white flour, white pasta, sugar, etc), and several kids of fruit and veggies. 

After answering some questions and talking about how I felt and the symptoms I've experienced during this pregnancy, Kathy used her handy-dandy chart to see approximately when Baby 3 is due: May 17, 2011. That is 41 weeks because both of my boys were born between 41 and 42 weeks, and that means I'm 14 weeks along right now. So exciting!

Then Kathy whipped out her fetal doppler device and while Daddy listened and big brothers watched with big eyes and big ears, we heard the shoo shoo shoo of the baby's heart! It was at 140 today. I even recorded it on my cell phone to text to my Mom & a couple close friends!

J had lots of questions afterward! He is very curious about 'our brand new baby'. He asked over and over what he looked like, so tonight I showed him images on the computer. J also wanted to feel the baby moving in my tummy, but I told him he'll have to wait awhile before he can feel that. We pulled out J's baby book to look at his ultrasound images and how he looked when he was a newborn. It might help him know what to expect when the new baby is born, but he couldn't quite grasp that that baby in the pictures was him!

I am doing well. My 'morning sickness' which is actually in the afternoon and evening for me, cleared up about a month ago and I have a lot more energy now. I am starting to have to use a rubberband to do up my pants and am wearing some maternity shirts because they are longer. It's getting uncomfortable to sleep on my tummy too. I feel so much less apprehensive about this pregnancy and delivery! It's nice to know what to expect and to be completely happy with our caregiver! Kathy reassured me that 2nd deliveries (remember my 1st baby was a c-section, my 2nd baby was my first natural birth) are usually about half as long and much easier than the first.  Kathy lives an hour away from us, so she urged us to call her as soon as labor starts!

My one small complaint is that our insurance does not cover nurse-midwives, even though she is licensed and legal in our state. We don't mind having to pay out-of-pocket to be able to have the kind of birth experience we want, but we won't be having an ultrasound. I'll miss seeing those black & white images, and baby's gender will be a surprise! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Something from Nothing (AKA: Free Playroom)

Winters are long here. 

Way. Too. Long.

And COLD. Like, new-meaning-to-the-word-COLD cold.

As the time approaches and we're spending less time outside, this Mommy was getting desperate for a new place for the boys to play. I'm trying to limit the amount of toys in their rooms, cuz it's always a disaster--or it would be if they had their way, but we're the old-fashioned kind of mom and dad that make them clean up several times a day.

I know. So rude.

Anyway, I wanted an area where they could be louder and run more and not worry about my things and not always have to clean up so much cuz no one would see it, and a place to stash those huge toys that quickly fill up bedrooms and somewhere away from the bedrooms in case someone's sleeping. Even more important considering there's another baby on the way.

Enter our unfinished basement. Unfinished plus 40 years of storing someone else's pack-rat tendencies. And bugs. And mice. Unfinished brick walls and cement floors and exposed pipes and wires and things in the unfinished ceiling. We do plan to finish the basement in the next couple of years, so all of the exposed elements will be hidden and I wasn't thrilled about spending a lot of time and effort painting. Besides, the point was to do this for FREE!

Because I started with nothing, there's no picture of it. LOL! Just the mental image you get from reading the above paragraph. Here are the afters:

No excuses, Mommy!

Not pictured: rug, twin mattress to act as a couch, basketball net. It's also conveniently close to the laundry area so I can fold clothes while the boys play. And there's a bathroom!

We're all loving the new play area, especially our budget!


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