Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas

I'm almost done Christmas shopping this year.  My excuse is that I want to just enjoy December with the kids and not worry about gift buying.  In reality, its just that I love shopping and got an early start.

We have a small home that is quite full already with plenty of toys.  I'm continually picky about choosing non-toxic options, especially for the littlest ones.  For the big girls I mainly focus on reading reviews and being sure we are choosing quality items that will last.  Of course we end up with our fair share of Barbies too.  Who can resist a little girl who wants that?  It does help that my kids do not watch TV and therefore don't know what the hot new toy is this season.  Anyway, here are some fun gift ideas I've come across in my searching.  I'll keep the photos out of this post in case you have little eyes watching you like I do:

flannel sheets (twin size + matching toddler!)

pajamas (cotton, tight fitting = no toxic flame retardants)

mini trampoline (on sale + a 30% off coupon for new customers)

Jim Weiss CDs (one for each girl)

twilight ladybug (Lucy and Julia already have one; its Esther's turn.)

bath toys like this net, ring toss, or dunks

puzzles - (Crocodile Creek are made in the US to good standards.  Esther is quite the puzzle master.)

Green Toys sandwich shop (was $6 the other day so I snatched it up!)

doll house building blocks

ABC wallet cards (These look really fun!  I got an extra ring so that Esther and Isaac can share a set.)

Playmobil and Playmobil 123

items from American Girl (Lucy and Julia have Josefina and Julie to buy for, Esther is getting things for her Bitty Baby.)

books (I will do a separate post for this one.  We love books!)

panties with days of the week on them (Gap Outlet had some.)

and for Isaac:

Robeez shoes

Green Toys dump truck

Camden Rose wooden car

car play rug

North Star Express Train (Grandma and Grandpa got him this.  I'm so excited!)

What fun things will be under your tree this year?  Do you enjoy Christmas shopping?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Truth in the Tinsel

Are you Black Friday shopping?  I've been keeping an eye on the sales online, but haven't purchased much today.  Traditionally we go cut down our Christmas tree every year right after Thanksgiving and today was the perfect do for that.  I'm excited for Christmas with all my little ones, its always so much fun to see it through their eyes.  We are working hard at making things meaningful and conveying the truth behind all that we do during this season.  This year I am going to be using a super fun e-book full of ornament crafts:

Truth in the Tinsel is an advent experience for little ones.  You read a section of the Christmas story and then craft an ornament to go along with it.  Crafts are totally up my girl's alley, and this looks like it was written for their age level!  (I sometimes struggle with finding things that aren't too preschool, but not over their heads either.)  I'm so excited about this!!  There is a Facebook page where you can follow along with others.  Their blog also has some fun ideas on how to set everything up and get it ready to go.  So excited!

If you purchase today, the Black Friday special is that you get the printable ornaments for free.  (Yes, for those days that you don't have extra time to create an ornament, there are printable ones to color.  Awesome!)  :)  Can you tell I'm excited about this?

(I became an affiliate for this because I loved it so much!  If you purchase through my link I will receive a percentage.  Thanks!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


In years past, we've created a thankful tree.  This time we decided to go with a turkey.  I laminated the body and glued on wiggly eyes just for fun.

On the days leading up to Thanksgiving, each family member writes what they are thankful for on a feather.  Its fun to see the turkey fill out and remind ourselves of how much we have to be grateful for.  Its such a simple tradition, but one we look forward to each year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Paper Doll Obsession

This is what my kitchen table looks like all the time now:

My girls are currently obsessed with crafting paper dolls from  We print bodies, hair, and clothes in various themes.  The girls color, cut them out, and glue them together.  When they are finished, I laminate them so that they are sturdy for play.

This is only a small selection; we probably have fifty or so of these guys around:

In an effort to contain the mess a bit, I came up with a storage system: a folder with a page protector in the middle.  Full papers can be stored in the pockets, and little cut-outs go in the clear page.  Finished paper dolls are stored in a ziploc bag.  Each girl has her own folder and ziploc bag.

This has kept them happy for hours on end!  In fact, Lucy just came and asked me to, "Please print off a few more?"  :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Easy Sewing/ Service Project

Now that my girls have started sewing, we are always on the lookout for a fun easy project to do.  I had this on a Pinterest board for some time now, and it turned out to be a great idea.  We made pillowcases: one for each child, and one to give away.

Conkerr Cancer is an organization that gives bright cheery pillowcases to children in the hospital, many suffering from cancer or other terminal illnesses.  Anyone can sew pillowcases and send them to the volunteers who hand them out.  The website gives clear directions and information on how to go about the project.

Each girl selected a main fabric and a trim fabric.  We bought enough to make two pillowcases from each set of fabrics.  I sewed Esther's and Isaac's of course, but Lucy and Julia were able to do a good portion of the work themselves.  The sewing is easy straight lines.  I did learn how to do a French seam, which was new to me (but very simple).

The girls are very proud of their work, and excited to send pillowcases off to children who need them.  I love that they were able to practice their sewing skills and do a service project at the same time!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I got a new sewing machine for my birthday!

My old machine belonged to my grandma.  I love it dearly, but it is starting to break.  The foot pedal gets burning hot after a bit of use, and the instruction manual is unclear and falling apart, making it hard to figure out anything new.  Costco had this Brother machine recently.  (I love shopping at Costco!)  After some research online and a visit to my local sewing machine dealer I decided this would be a good choice.  It was cheaper than the machines sold locally, but appeared to have similar functions.  So far, I am pleased with it.

I have already learned to do a few new things that I didn't know how to before.  (It came with an overlock stitch foot which makes almost like a serged edge, really nice.)  Mind you, I have only used two or three of the million stitch options - I have quite a bit to learn.  The best part about it though, are these buttons, and the sliding knob:

Call me old fashioned, but I did not realize that you could sew without a foot pedal!  These buttons (or the pedal) stop and start the machine.  The sliding bar is the speed control.  If it is all the way to the left, the machine will only stitch very slowly.  Is this all clicking in your mind yet?  Do you remember learning to sew as child and being yelled at for racing the machine?  :)  I can now teach my girls to sew!!!

Lucy and Julia were soooo excited to learn to sew!  I no longer had the problem of needing them to reach the foot pedal, or of being afraid they would make the machine sew too fast!  My mom was in town for a visit and helped the girls get started by sewing a Barbie blanket and pillow.

They both did very well and sewed carefully.  Without having to control the speed or foot pedal, they could concentrate on moving the fabric around and sewing a nice straight line.

Julia was jumping up and down and saying "I'm sewing!  I'm sewing!" ...while sewing.  I laughed and told her to pay attention.  They are both very proud of their Barbie blankets and pillows.  We've also been working on another fun project that I will share later.  :)  I love sewing!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Penguin In The Room

We have a new friend at our house!  A penguin!  He is actually an air purifier, made by Crane.  With the fall season of colds and sniffles upon us, it makes me feel good to know that I can do something to help keep our home healthy.

Mr Penguin contains 5 levels of filtration to eliminate all kinds of germs and dust:

It is very easy to open the back and find first a washable filter.  This helps the HEPA filter function more effectively by removing large visible particles from the air first.  Our is looking dusty after having been in use for a while.

This is the washable filter:

After you remove that piece, you see the HEPA filter.  This removes 99.97% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns.  It needs to be replaced every 3-6 months.

On the back of the HEPA filter is an odor absorbing active carbon filter.  Behind it you can see a photocatalyst filter that works in combination with a germicidal UV light.

The penguin has a simple control knob, as well as a shut off feature if he is tipped over.  It emits a white-noise sort of sound when running, but it is not obnoxious.  We have moved him from room to room and have gotten quite a bit of use from him already this fall.  Indoor air can actually be very polluted, so its great to have something to combat that.  If we are fighting colds I run the penguin often.  He does need to be in the center of a room for maximum air flow, so night time is a good time to do that.  (Otherwise Isaac attacks him.)  There are little red and blue lights that turn on when the penguin is functioning, so it makes a great night-light too.

Julia is currently enjoying learning about penguins, so its kind of fun to have our very own penguin friend.  Maybe we should name him though, hmm....

Crane USA sent us the penguin in exchange for review.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Evenings At Our House

Ross has been reading the Little House on the Prairie books to the girls for some time now.  Once everyone is ready for bed, we all sit in their bedroom and listen to him read a chapter or two.  All of us look forward to this time of night.  When Ross is gone overnight for work, or arrives home late, things can be a bit hectic.  It can be hard for me to read when Isaac is wanting to nurse and snuggle to sleep.  I've started putting on a Jim Weiss story on CD for them to listen to.  The girls absolutely LOVE these!  We have Uncle Wiggly's Storybook, Animal Tales, and A Collection of Just So Stories.

Jim Weiss has such a great storytelling voice, and the stories are just plain fun!  I am not sure if I could even tell you the girls' favorites as they love them all.  They listen intently, giggle out loud, and chatter about the stories throughout the day.  The Tortoise and the Hare always makes them laugh when the Hare talks really fast.  Giggly Biggly (on Animal Tales) is often requested, but they love to listen to any of the stories over and over again.  I had an Uncle Wiggly book as a child, so its fun to hear those stories again.

Greathall Productions has recordings for little ones on up to adults.  I like that they are grouped by age on the website so that I can easily see what would appeal most to my sensitive girls.  Although I initially thought some of the stories might be scary (Uncle Wiggly and the Lion, The Three Billy Goats Gruff), they have all been fine, even for bedtime.   There is also a page on the website that lists the CD titles according to subject (Ancient History, Mythology, etc).  This is a great resource for adding the titles in to school studies.  We will be listening to Jim Weiss for many years to come.

I am ordering several CDs as Christmas gifts for the girls.  (no batteries needed, doesn't take up lots of space, provides plenty of entertainment, two thumbs up from mom!)  They are also available as digital downloads.

We received Animal Tales and Uncle Wiggly's Storybook free of charge for review, and we're hooked.  Thanks Greathall Productions!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Easy Gluten Free Bread

I can hardly believe that I've survived six months of being gluten free and dairy free.  Up until the day that I started, I never thought it was something I would be able to do.  We've struggled to figure things out along the way, but so far it has been doable.  A friend recently shared her gluten free bread recipe with me.  I changed it just a bit, and have been making it regularly.  After searching hard for a good easy recipe I was thrilled to get this one!

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch/ potato starch*
3 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs

1 1/4 cup warm water (Heat to between 100-110 degrees.)

*Use a mix of the two starches.  Lately I've been using 3/4 cup potato starch and 1/4 cup tapioca starch.

Place ingredients in bread machine in order given, with yeast being on the bottom.  Turn bread machine on and slowly pour in warm water.  Use a spatula and scrape down the sides, helping the machine mix for a minute or two.  Close the lid and let the machine do its work.  :)

Gluten free bread dough is more sticky and wet than a typical yeast dough.  It does not require as much mixing or baking time, so usually a rapid bake setting works best.  I use a setting called "Basic Light".

I love how easy this recipe is.  It uses minimal measuring utensils, and comes together quickly.  This is the basic sandwich bread that we keep on hand.  To save even more time, you can put together baggies of the brown rice flour, sorghum, starches, xanthan gum, and salt.  

Do you have a favorite gluten free recipe?  I bet this would make a good cinnamon swirl bread or other variation.  Let me know if you give it a try!