Wordless Wednesday #6 - "The Wiener"

Nov 30, 2010

This is Ruben, "Ruby" for short. But my mom insists on calling him...

 "The Wiener"

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Nov 27, 2010

I found the original recipe for this here a few years ago and my guys love it. If I want to take it to a gathering, I have to make an extra to leave at home. While there aren't many ways you can make it healthier, I do use Neufchatel cheese (less fat), part whole wheat pastry flour/part unbleached flour, demerara or turbinado sugar (gives the topping a good crunch too), and almond milk (although it's still far from dairy-free). It is definitely a special occasion recipe for us.

If you like coconut and wanted to change it up a little, you could probably substitute coconut milk for the milk, possibly virgin coconut oil for the butter, slivered almonds for the pecans, and add shredded coconut. Hmmm...I may have to try that.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
1 c butter, softened
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c milk
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c chopped pecans
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese and 1 1/4 c sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9-in. springform pan. Combine pecans, cinnamon, and 1/4 c sugar; sprinkle over batter.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove sides of pan. Cool completely before cutting.

Linked to Tuesdays at the Table and What's Cooking Wednesday.

Fever Phobia

Nov 26, 2010

Are you afraid of a fever? When your little ones develop a fever, do you automatically reach for the acetaminophen or ibuprofen? Have you seen a recent commercial on television that first shows a crying, feverish toddler, who then, after supposedly taking a certain fever reducer medicine, is happy and laughing? My first impression from it was that we are to see the fever as the illness and that by getting rid of it, we fix the problem. It looks normal to most parents because we have been taught that a fever is a bad thing. We can't cure a cold but we want to do whatever we can to make our children feel better so we treat what we can.

For the past week or so, my younger children have been fighting a virus that apparently has been affecting most of the community right now. Miles has had an intermittent fever since yesterday evening and the first thing that both my husband and my mother said was, "Give him some Tylenol." After all of the research that I've done, I know that a fever is not usually dangerous and is really a good thing in most cases. Although opinions vary, my own personal limit is 103 "ish", depending on how my child is acting, his age, his symptoms, and how long he's had it. Dr. Sears has a guide to fevers in children here and Dr. Greene has more to say here. You may want to print the information to have as a handy reference when you are dealing with a feverish child at 3 a.m.

Have you stopped to think about why we get fevers? Did you know that a fever is actually the body's natural defense against viruses and bacteria? So while there are conditions that warrant reducing a fever, not all situations require it. By lowering it prematurely with medicine, you may actually be making it easier for the germs to multiply and make your child sicker. Not exactly what you were shooting for, I'm sure.

Another downside to fever reducing medications is the potential for allergic reactions. NG broke out in hives after taking Motrin (ibuprofen) when he was younger. And when you take into consideration the warnings of potential liver damage from overuse of acetaminophen and the numerous recalls of Tylenol products this year, you may want to take a moment and reevaluate the need to give your child or yourself a fever reducing medicine. The AAP gives suggestions for treating a fever without medication.

Consider the fever a sign that something is brewing inside your child's body and make sure that he or she gets plenty of rest, eats healthy foods, drinks plenty of water, and stays away from others. Monitor his or her fever and symptoms and don't hesitate to contact your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed here.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor. My information is from books and trusted online sources, as well as from conversations with my own family doctor. Please read the links above, do your own research, and consult your physician. As always, my advice is to be informed. Don't do things a certain way just because that's the way your mom, your grandmother, or "everyone else" does it.  

I Am Thankful...

Nov 25, 2010

2010 has been a very eventful year for our family and I have many things to be grateful to our awesome God for. I am thankful...
  • that my fifth son was born perfectly healthy and beautiful.
  • that my husband returned home safely from Afghanistan four days later.
  • for Papa Bear, who is a diligent and hard-working provider and protector for our family, who is proud to serve his community and his country, and who balances me out.
  • for M1, who is growing into a confident, capable young man way too fast.
  • for NG, who is nurturing, creative, and a good judge of character.
  • for IB, who is friendly, funny, and adventurous.
  • for LJ, who is tender, protective, and adorable.
  • for M2, who is cuddly, sweet-tempered, and determined.
  • that I still have my mother here on earth to love and spoil my sons (no matter how much I complain about it).
  • for a stepfather who loves my mom and all of us as his own and is thoughtful and generous to everyone he meets.
  • that we were able to pay off almost all of our debt and still have a down payment for a new house.
  • for our new home, with room for all of us and family and friends too. 
  • for access to clean water and a bounty of healthful foods.
  • for our health and God's provision.
  • for selfless people who put their own lives at risk to protect others: soldiers, law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency responders.
  • that I live in a country where I am free to worship my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and teach my own children as I see fit.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   Colossians 3:17

Linked to 5 Minutes for Mom.

Wordless Wednesday #5 - "Boxed In"

Nov 24, 2010

{He was already in when I noticed the drill. I helped him navigate past it and make his way around, much like a revolving door.}

Real Men...

Nov 23, 2010

Real men wear babies AND wash dishes!

Linked to Daddy's Time.

Kitchen Sneak Peek

Nov 22, 2010

My kitchen cabinets are done! I am so excited! And that's saying a lot because not too many things make me feel giddy. I suppose that it's because I spend much of my day in the kitchen and my previous kitchens have always been smaller and old, um, retro or vintage. So, while it may not seem like much to others who live in newly built homes, it is a BIG deal to me. For this stay-at-home mom, the kitchen is where the action is. Cooking, cleaning, (and in our case) laundry, and studying all happen in the kitchen. It is truly the heart of our home. 

Here are the old cabinets on their way out. They are being reused in my SIL's workshop.

Noah is our budding carpenter. He loves building and deconstruction, of course. That screw he is working on in the picture did NOT want to come out. It finally took Papa Bear grinding the head off of it!

And here are the custom made cabinets that were made by Steve, a friend of my husband. Steve makes beautiful, top-quality cabinets in his spare time and is a humble, God-glorifying man. The unfinished back side of the L-shaped cabinet is going to be painted with black chalkboard paint. The empty spaces will be filled with a dishwasher (of course!) and an overhead microwave very soon.

I love the shine of a stainless steel sink, especially this one with offset, deep basins. Papa Bear is going to install the new faucet tomorrow. 

And the crowning glory...the PANTRY. Since I don't have a walk-in pantry or closet, I needed something to hold all of our dry goods and my small appliances. I was originally going to do a base/upper cabinet combo but, at the last minute, it struck me...the biggest pantry we could afford!

Want to see inside? Don't we all like to see what's in other people's cabinets? 

Now I need to find new lighting and window treatments, paint the walls, and cover the checkerboard linoleum with something more pleasing to the eye. All without breaking the bank. 

Thank you for sharing in my joy! 

Wordless Wednesday #4 - "Sweet Tea"

Nov 10, 2010

Freshly brewed sweet tea...THREE QUARTS.

He was more upset about it than I was. He even growled.

So I didn't say much. The floor needed to be mopped anyway.

Don't you just love my awesome linoleum floor? My kitchen cabinets are almost done, then we'll say goodbye to our life-size checker board floor.

Linked to Miles to Go Before We Sleep and Home Grown Families.

Chicken Pot Pie

Nov 9, 2010

Making chicken pot pie is simple, especially with my easy pastry recipe. So skip the frozen store-bought ones or the recipes with canned soup and see what you've been missing. If you're up to it, start from scratch. Well, I suppose it's not really truly "from scratch" unless you grew the vegetables and milked the cow too. :)

You can substitute other vegetables if you prefer, keeping the same total amount to about 4 1/2 cups, or increase veggies and reduce chicken, etc. To be honest, I don't actually measure everything in this recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie
3 1/2 c frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn, green beans)
1/2 c frozen Fordhook lima
1/2 c diced potato
2/3 c butter
2/3 c unbleached flour
2/3 c onion, chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 1/2 c chicken broth
1 1/3 c milk (or milk substitute)
3 c cubed, cooked chicken (or turkey)
Pastry for 9" 2 crust pie

Melt butter in 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour, onion, salt & pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat. Stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute. Stir in chicken and vegetables; remove from heat.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare pastry. Roll out into rectangle, large enough to cover 9x13 dish. Pour chicken mixture into 9x13 casserole dish. Cover with pastry and trim edges so that it doesn't hang over. Use fork or knife to poke several holes in top. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet in case it bubbles over. Bake about 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Linked to Tuesdays at the Table.

Easy Pie Pastry

I can't remember where I found this recipe but I'm so glad I did. It makes a really good crust, especially for pot pies, and it doesn't use hydrogenated vegetable shortening. You can make it even healthier by using expeller-pressed oil and all whole wheat flour.

Easy Pie Pastry
2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
2/3 c canola oil
1/2 c cold water

Stir together flour and salt in medium bowl. Whisk cold water into oil until emulsified. Pour oil mixture into flour; stir quickly with fork until all is just moistened. Do not overmix. Divide dough in half for two pastry crust or leave whole for 9x13 casserole. Roll out dough between two sheets of waxed paper until 2" larger than diameter of pan. Remove top sheet of paper and use bottom sheet to lift and flip pastry onto dish. Trim crust as desired.

Garlic Lime Chicken

Nov 8, 2010

This recipe is from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. My family loves it! To save time, I quadruple the seasoning amounts and keep it in a spice jar. I serve it with Basmati rice that I make in my pressure cooker with chicken broth instead of water.

Garlic Lime Chicken
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or cilantro)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fresh or thawed (or 12-14 chicken tenders)
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
4 Tbl lime juice
1/2 c chicken broth

On a plate, mix seasonings. Sprinkle on both sides of chicken breasts. In a skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken and add lime juice and broth to pan, whisking up browned bits off bottom of pan. Keep cooking until sauce has reduced slightly. Add chicken back to pan to thoroughly coat and serve.

Menu Plan Monday 11/8/10

Nov 7, 2010

We have family coming in to visit this week and we'll be having an early Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family on Sunday. With four extra people in our house all week and a houseful this weekend, I'll need to fix easy and economical meals that feed many. I'm grateful that Laura's Lean ground beef is on sale for $2.99/lb this week!

On a side note: My new kitchen cabinets and counters won't be ready until the following week and I am currently (and have been since May) dishwasher-less!. Please pray for me. Just kidding...sort of.

Monday:  Garlic-Lime Chicken with Basmati Rice   
                 Prep: Brown beef              

                  Prep: Soak oatmeal

Wednesday:  Spaghetti Bolognese  
                       Prep: Make homemade chicken stock

Thursday:  Chicken Pot Pie (make 2-9x13)
Friday:  Homemade Pizza (subject to change, maybe take-out)
              Prep: Baked French toast

Sunday:  Potluck Thanksgiving Dinner (I'm still not decided on what I'm fixing.)

Linked to OrgJunkie.

Change: Our Thanksgiving dinner is actually Saturday (miscommunication), so no BBQ chicken this week and leftovers on Sunday.

Raising Healthier Kids - My Experience

Nov 4, 2010

Warning: This is a long post and you may not agree, but this has been our experience and we have made choices for our family based on it and extensive research and prayer. 

Hindsight is 20/20. That may sound cliche, but it is the truth. My parenting has evolved a great deal over the past 17 years, especially during the past eight. Once I opened the door to whole foods, holistic healing, and healthy, greener living, I began to see amazing changes in my family's health. I only wish I had learned it earlier so that I could have saved my two oldest sons from the ear infection/antibiotic treadmill and numerous other maladies.

With my first two sons, I accepted it as "normal" for them to experience frequent illness and ear infections. I also accepted it as "normal" to have a visit to the doctor and antibiotics with every earache. Because I was never given any advice regarding prevention {most, if not all, doctors know that dairy should, at least, be avoided during upper respiratory and/or ear infections}, both of my sons ended up on the seemingly endless cycle of infection and antibiotics during their first year. Note that I breastfed both boys past their first birthdays, so up until then they were exposed to dairy in MY diet. Eventually, M1, my oldest, "grew out of them" around 3 and NG, my second son, got tubes in his ears by his first birthday. Of course, when NG turned one, I gave him whole milk according to doctor recommendations and he began to have diarrhea and rashes. The doctor recommended soy toddler formula and I kept NG on that for a few months until the intolerance seemed to go away. Of course, it only seemed to go away because the symptoms changed. NG continued to have sensitive skin and later developed eczema.

As a young parent, I also followed doctor's orders and took my boys in for every vaccination on the schedule. Fortunately, both of them got the chickenpox before they were due to receive the (then) new chickenpox vaccine. Unfortunately, NG received two doses of the Rotashield vaccine before they recalled it due to some children developing bowel obstructions from it. He did, however, end up getting rotovirus about the time he would have had his third shot. When we moved from Indiana to Kentucky, I took the boys to get updated on their shots and was informed that Kentucky's vaccination schedule required about 2 to 3 more shots. Poor NG ended up getting FIVE shots at once! I felt horrible for him but, at that time, I didn't know I had any other choice. 

Fast forward to baby boy #3. While I was pregnant with IB, I began to learn, via the wonderful world wide web, more about natural parenting and healthy living. As a Christian homeschooler, who practiced attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding, it just made sense to switch to real, whole foods, avoid vaccines with harmful chemicals and toxins, support our immune systems naturally, avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and keep harmful chemicals out of our home by using natural cleaners. I didn't make all of these changes overnight; it has been a process and still is.

After IB was born, I had learned enough to know that dairy had been (and probably, still was) a problem for my children. Although the medical community, in general, is reluctant to admit a connection between food allergies/sensitivities and ear infections and other conditions, I was becoming convinced that dairy was the culprit behind M1 and NG's ear infection issues and poor immunity. I was exclusively breastfeeding IB when I decided to test my theory with an elimination diet for myself, M1, and NG. We stayed away from all dairy products for almost two weeks, then on test day, we had some sharp cheddar cheese. While I did notice behavior changes in NG, the most pronounced result was that IB developed diarrhea with a horrible bleeding rash in less than a day after MY consumption of cheese. {Fortunately, I had Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on hand and it healed the rash completely within a couple of days. Love that stuff!} Needless to say, I discontinued dairy for all of us as much as possible. It seemed impossible at first but got easier. We have not remained dairy-free completely but do not consume it as regularly and some of us abstain from it when I notice problems or when someone is ill. For example, NG occasionally has an episode of eczema when he's been consuming dairy too frequently. I also choose organic and, primarily, cultured dairy products, like yogurt and cheese.

Another turning point after IB's birth was our thoughts on vaccinations. While I had been researching the pros/cons of vaccines prior to his birth, we were still on the fence about it. So we went ahead and started the recommended schedule, but when he had his two-month shots, I let the pediatrician know that I was considering stopping. She let me know that if I chose to not vaccinate my child than she could no longer be our doctor. As it happened, IB reacted to those vaccines with fever, vomiting, and high-pitched crying for several hours. So, two months later, we had our last appointment with her (with NO vaccinations) and I found a family physician who respected our decisions and selectively vaccinated his own children. That was the last time we allowed any of our children to receive vaccines. Unfortunately, there was a lapse in communication between the nurses at Levi's birth. He came 3 1/2 weeks early and very quickly {20 minutes after I got to the hospital}, so I didn't have time to share my birth plan with the staff. While one nurse was asking me if I wanted him to have the Hepatitis B shot, the other was giving it to him. "Oh, I'm sorry. I already gave it to him." I still wonder if that was really an accident.

In comparison to my first two sons younger years, my younger three have experienced much less illness and have only had a handful of ear infections between them all together. And even then, we avoided antibiotics by treating them with natural ear drops, warmed olive oil and garlic, and occasionally, Tylenol. It is true that most ear infections will resolve themselves within 48 hours. Our doctor rarely sees anyone in our family. What exactly has caused my children to have stronger immune systems? Avoiding dairy? No vaccines? Avoiding processed food in favor of whole foods? Less toxins in the home? Maybe one more than another, but looking back {that hindsight I was talking about}, I can see that all of the changes we have made in our parenting and lifestyle have tremendously affected our family's health for the better.

I Won a Potty!

Nov 3, 2010

A big "Thank you!" to Cristi from A King's Court IV. I entered her sweepstakes for a new BabyBjorn Little Potty and won. I am so excited because I never win anything AND we really needed a new potty. I got rid of our old one a while back. It had seen better days {before my first four boys}.

My only concern about the BabyBjorn Little Potty is its size. I have read reviews stating that it is best for petite babies or those who are practicing elimination communication with younger babies. And, of course, at only 8 1/2 months and 24 lbs.*, M2 is definitely NOT petite. He is my chunky monkey with plenty of "squish factor". I hope that it will fit him because I like the simple design of it. As soon as I receive it, I'll let you know how it's going to work out.

Update 12/2/10: I received a white potty and it is just the right size for M2 at 9 months. I think that it will be good for taking with us when we go to Mawmaw's but I'm not sure if we'll be able to use it as our regular full-time potty once we start potty-training.

*I am guessing at his weight. He was 21 lbs. at 6 months and has been in size 12 months for about a month.

Have you had any experience with the BabyBjorn Little Potty?

Wordless Wednesday #3 - "Brothers in Law"

Nov 2, 2010

There are two new sheriffs in town, y'all. Could they be any cuter? 

Linked up at Wordless Wednesday and Miles to Go Before We Sleep.

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