Friday, September 20, 2013

Cake Decorating with Frozen Butter Cream Transfers

For The Fish's birthday, I wanted to do a Dr. Seuss theme, but apparently no bakeries have the licensing to put actual Seuss-y images on cakes (at least not the run of the mill bakeries around here). I wasn't about to pay the kind of money you'd have to pay for a super custom cake from a fancy bakery when this cake was just for my 1 year old to smash and throw on the floor, so I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to tackle the cake issue.

Then I remembered that a fellow blogger and long time friend of mine had posted about using frozen butter cream transfers (FBCT) to decorate cakes. She made it sound really easy, so I figured I might as well give it a try!

Since we did a One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish invitation, I decided to use the Blue Fish as my cake decoration.

I should pause to say that I had never decorated a cake in my life. I had to Google how to assemble the little icing bag thingies with the tips and everything, and I have the shakiest hands on the planet. If I can do this, anyone can.

I whipped up a batch of Wilton Butter Cream Icing. I thought it tasted gross, so I added more vanilla extract than it called for and a little salt since I was using unsalted butter in my recipe. Then I mixed it for much longer (I had read that mixing it for a long time would improve the flavor). With those modifications, the flavor was good!

Step 1:
The first thing you're supposed to do is make a mirror image of the design you'll be using. Since I wasn't using any words in my design, I didn't do this. Basically it didn't bother me that the fish in my design would face left instead of right.

Step 2:
Tape the design down to a flat surface. It should be something that can easily fit in your freezer. I used the smallest cutting board we have. Then tape a larger piece of wax paper over the design.

Step 3:
Assemble the icing bags and practice making lines so you know how much pressure to use when you start drawing your design. I used a size 1 tip for the outline of the fish.

Step 4:
Remember that the first icing that you put down is going to be the foreground of your design. Start by outlining the design and filling in any shading/details that you need. You can see where I messed up on the outline in places and just wiped it off and started over (that's what all the black smudges are about).

Step 5:
Begin filling in other areas of your design. You should try not to leave blank spaces between your icing lines. Another tutorial I read said that you could use a small plastic paintbrush (the kind you get with cheap watercolors when you're a kid...obviously a new one) to make sure the icing is smoothed out and doesn't have blank spots. I didn't do that as you will be able to tell from the finished product in a little bit.

Step 6:
Remember that what you're looking at right now is the BACK of the design. Cover the whole back of the design with the same color icing that you will use to frost the cake. This is creating a little "podium" for your design to stand on and will help it be more stable when you pop it off the wax paper and onto the cake. You can go past the outline a little and it'll be OK because it will blend with the icing you're using on the rest of your cake. Once you've covered the whole design, use an offset spatula to smooth it out carefully. Try to make the whole thing about the same thickness.

All done, but just leave your extra icing in the bags and stick them in the fridge (see step 7). Put the design in the freezer and let it harden. I also put it in the freezer in between each icing color to make the outlines harden up. I only kept my finished design in the freezer for a few hours, but I've read that you can keep it in there for much longer for better results.

Step 7:
When you're ready to put it on your cake, undo the tape that's holding the wax paper to the solid surface you put in your freezer. Turn it upside down onto the cake and carefully remove the wax paper, revealing your design.

I did have a problem with a little bit of my outline sticking to the wax paper, so I had to touch up those spots with a little icing once it was on the cake.

To get a really smooth butter cream surface on your cake, follow these instructions for tips on smoothing out the icing with a smooth textured paper towel before adding your design. Here's my cake before and after the paper towel trick.



Linking here:
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The Homemaking Party @ Hope in Every Season

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pinterest Picks 10

Squash Casserole
There was a near disaster with this one when I misread the recipe to say 6 squash and zucchini rather than (what it actually says) 6 cups of squash and zucchini. For the record, 1 regular sized squash or zucchini yields about 2 cups of chopped up squash or zucchini. You're welcome. :) Anyway, this turned out well. We liked it, the baby LOVED it, so it was a win-win.

Healthy Chicken Tortilla Casserole
So here's the deal...this is basically a Mexican chicken casserole but it calls for corn tortillas instead of tortilla chips. I think corn tortillas are gag worthy, so I was going to just toast some flour tortillas. But I didn't have time for that nonsense, so I tried just putting some flour tortillas in it. Slimy slimy slimy. So basically the flavor was fine, but the texture was gross. Maybe some foods just aren't meant to be healthy.

Pollo Fundido
I had never used Mexican Dipping Cheese before, and I know it's "processed cheese food", but dang if I don't like some processed cheese food. In an effort to save cooking time, I cut the chicken breasts into fajita sized pieces with kitchen shears. Delicious on a tortilla with the cheese and some Mexican rice. Yum!

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil
This was my first time making orzo. Weird considering how much I love pasta. Anyway, I didn't have enough basil, so this didn't have as much flavor as I would have wanted, but it was still good and the baby is a big fan. (But what food is he not a fan of?!)

Sharing at:

Pinned it, Made it! Monday @ Country Girl at Home

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dr. Seuss First Birthday Party

It's hard to believe that my baby is 1! He had a great time at his Dr. Seuss party this weekend.

For food, we had:

Thing 1 and Thing 2 (strawberry jello with blue frosting on top)

Wockets in our Pita Pockets (pita pocket sandwiches)

Hop on Popcorn

Fish in a Dish (Goldfish crackers)

One Fish Two Fish cupcakes (I had a bakery make cupcakes with icing in primary colors and I stuck different colored Swedish Fish on top)

Pink Yink Drink (Hi-C juice boxes)

I also made a smash cake for him with the "Blue Fish" from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. It was my first attempt at doing a frozen butter cream transfer and it wasn't perfect, but it was sufficient for a 1 year old. :) I will do another post soon with a step by step look at how I decorated the cake.

The invitations came from CardMeKelly on (the picture above is from her Etsy site). She has really cute designs if you're in the market for invitations!

We also got a Cat in the Hat themed birthday hat/diaper cover/necktie combo from CutiePiesTies on He wore those for the professional cake smash pictures, so hopefully I will have those pics to share soon. He did NOT love cake that day, but hopefully the photographer was still able to capture a few cute ones.

Posted at:

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Pinned it, Made it! Monday @ Country Girl at Home

Friday, September 6, 2013

Pinterest Picks 9

Chicken and Cheese Lasagna Rollups (kinda!)
I cheated. I had leftover homemade meat sauce, so I didn't want to put chicken in these. Instead I just combined cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to make the filling, spread it on the lasagna noodles and rolled them up on top of the sauce. I topped it with a little mozarella and parmesan (the picture is pre-topping). It ends up tasting much like stuffed shells or something like that. I may try to make my homemade sauce without meat sometime and try the chicken version, but I bet the chicken version would be even better with alfredo sauce!

Greek Marinated Chicken
This turned out well, but the flavor wasn't as strong as I was expecting based on the yummy smell. I think it would be ever better with a little dill mixed in.

Crushed Hot Potatoes
I usually don't like potatoes with skins, but these were so good! My husband said they're his new favorite way to have potatoes. I used coarse sea salt, coarsely ground black pepper, and oregano. Yummy! Will definitely make these again.

Pesto Ranch Crock Pot Chicken
I'm a sucker for anything with pesto. This was no exception. I liked the sauce so much that I froze it after I took the cooked chicken out of it. I think I might make a pasta sauce from it in the near future.

Tried and True Recipe Board

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dr. Seuss Printables

I'm planning a Dr. Seuss themed birthday for The Baby Fish and I've been looking for printables that I can use to label the food we'll be serving. There are some really cute ones on Etsy, but I didn't want to be tied down to serving the foods that are on the typical labels. I need flexibility! I need the ability to change my mind at the last minute and still have a label that matches the food!

I decided to make some simple ones for myself and I figured I might as well share them with the world.

Here's a blank label that you can scooch on over to Picmonkey to personalize for yourself.

And here are some examples of some labels I've made so far. If you decide to use the template, show me what you've made with it! I'm a Picmonkey n00b, so I'm sure you will amaze and awe me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pinterest Picks 8

I'm about ready to find another "WOW!" recipe, so if you run across any, let me know! The ones I've tried lately could all be really good with a little tweaking.

Ultimate Chicken Fingers

I hate it when the link on Pinterest doesn't go back to the recipe! This link seems to be from a blog that doesn't exist anymore, so if you know the actual recipe, let me know. I just guessed based on the ingredients listed, and it was kind of blah. I'm sure with the right ratios of ingredients, it would be closer to "ultimate" like the title suggests.

Baked Zucchini Sticks

I was worried that these would be mushy like the zucchini "crisps" I had tried before, but the texture of these is actually crispy on the outside and not mushy on the outside. The cayenne pepper gives them a little kick and The Baby Fish gobbled them up.

Best Asparagus in Under 10 Minutes

The recipe calls for both shredded and grated Parmesan cheese. I thought I had both, but I only had grated. Basically the cheese clumped up and fell off the asparagus, but that's not the recipe's fault. I would definitely try this again and err on the side of under cooking it so that I could cook it longer during the "cheese melting" portion of the program.

Quinoa Burgers
This recipe makes a TON of food, so I would suggest maybe halving it if you aren't feeding a lot of people. I made the whole amount and froze the patties individually so that I can take them out and feed them to The Bottomless Pit Baby. Seriously, I thought the grocery bills were supposed to start rolling in when he was a teenager, but I didn't expect an infant to eat so much! Anyway, these are a good source of protein, and he doesn't seem to mind them as leftovers.

Tried and True Recipe Board

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Pinterest Picks 7

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken

This was so good that I took the pic above and texted my husband to tell him to come home soon because the chicken was disappearing fast. This was my first time using chile paste, and I actually expected the chicken to turn out much more spicy than it did. It was mostly sweet with a little spice.

Then I got on a salsa kick.

First I made Salsa #1
I could not stop eating it. This makes a pretty small batch, so I will double it next time.

Then I made Salsa #2
This makes a HUGE batch. I ran out of chips and I was sad. Unfortunately, I tried to blend it all at once, and the garlic didn't get chopped up as much as I would have liked. Still good though!

Healthy Penne Alla Vodka
I have formed the opinion that Penne Alla Vodka should not be healthy. Also, this recipe has no mention of vodka except in the name of the recipe. Probably because you get the tangy taste from the Greek yogurt and don't really need it. I added some anyway. I definitely prefer the unhealthy Pioneer Woman version. :)

All of the recipes I try end up on my Tried and True Recipes board. Feel free to follow.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

BLW Friendly Crock Pot Chicken and Veggies

First, a quick description of BLW (Baby Led Weaning) for those who are wondering what in the world BLW stands for. :)

People who use the BLW feeding method don't feed their babies purees. Instead, starting at 6 months (and when the baby can sit independently and is showing signs of readiness like bringing items to their mouths, etc.), they allow the baby to self feed regular big people food. We started with avocado, but really any soft food works well.

Anyway, we are now at the point where The Baby Fish can eat just about whatever we are eating. I'm not a BLW purist. I feed him oatmeal and yogurt every day with a spoon. Sometimes I feed him some of the more slippery fruits with my fingers if he's getting frustrated with them slipping out of his hands. For most everything else, though, he's on his own. He loves it!

Here's a recipe we tried earlier this week. I wanted to start incorporating more meats into his diet, but meats can be a little tricky for him if they aren't the right texture. If they're too difficult to chew, he gets MAD! Using the crockpot makes the chicken incredibly tender and easy to chew, it tastes great (yes, I eat it too!), and you can add veggies to the pot so that they come out tender and flavorful too.

BLW Crockpot Chicken and Veggies

1 Chicken Breast (could do more and freeze in serving size portions)
About 1/2 cup of lower sodium chicken broth
1/2 bag of frozen green beans (Used frozen because I had some I wanted to use up. Fresh would work well too!)
Throw in some carrots if you have them!
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Cook in crock pot on high for 4-5 hours or until the chicken shreds easily.

* BLW Note: Never add extra salt to baby's food. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and other problems. Choose lower sodium alternative ingredients when possible.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Pinterest Picks 6

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells
There's just something about pesto + chicken that makes me happy. These were very rich, so I think I might add more chicken to it in the future to offset some of the richness of the cream cheese mixture.

Cheesy Garlic Cauliflower Sticks
You've seen the pins. Pins that try to trick you into thinking that cauliflower can somehow be a substitute for bread. It's a lie, y'all. Cauliflower != bread. I would go so far as to say cauliflower < bread. Really, the smell of the cauliflower cooking doomed this recipe for me. After I had mixed the garlic into it, it was a little more manageable, but eww that cauliflower smell. It doesn't use a whole head of cauliflower, so I fed the rest of it to the baby and he loved it for some reason. My husband loved these "cheese sticks", but he didn't have to smell the cauliflower cooking. :) Zucchini Parmesan Crisps OK so the word "crisps" is up for interpretation on this one. I'm sure it was user error, but the only thing crisp was the browned parmesan cheese. Even so, they had the flavor of skillet fried potatoes, so I ate them. :) If anyone has tips on how to make them actually be crispy, they would be fantastic and I would like to hear all about it.

Baked Parmesan Paprika Chicken
Ah the smell of butter in the oven. I mean...ah the smell of chicken in the oven. Seriously though, this smelled great cooking, was simple and quick to prep, and tasted great.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My Take on Amber Teething Necklaces

There comes a time when you're just sick of having to see your kid shove his fingers in his mouth and scream with teething pain. We tried several pain relief tactics (natural teething tablets, natural teething gel, Tylenol, Motrin, cold teethers, vibrating teethers...) before we finally tried the amber necklace.

If you cloth diaper, you've probably seen amber necklaces all over the place. When we first inquired about them at our local cloth diaper store, about 80% of the kids that were in there with their parents had one on and the parents were singing their praises.

How does it work?

Baltic amber contains Succinic Acid, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. As the skin warms up the amber, the acid is released and absorbed through the skin.

I can't say that it takes away 100% of his pain, but I can tell a huge difference in the amount of drool that's pouring out of him when he doesn't have it on vs. when he does. In the last couple of months, he has decided that it's appropriate to put the necklace in his mouth (it's a really short necklace, so I would have thought it was impossible), so he hasn't been wearing it as much. I have heard that the earlier you start a child wearing the necklace, the less likely they are to notice they're wearing it and mess with it. I guess we missed the boat on that. :)

Here's a picture of him back when he didn't try to eat the stinkin' thing (Courtesy of my sister. If you're in the Tupelo area and need some photography, she can hook you up!)

At 10 months, we are now up to 12 teeth, so share your best teething tips! I expect that his cuspids will all come in at once any day now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pinterest Picks 5

Asparagus Gratin
This looks fairly impressive and it was a big hit with my husband, but I didn't love it as much as I expected. Probably because it required a decent amount of prep work and I'm just not that into prep work. I think it's best saved for special meals. All in all, I like this asparagus recipe better.

Mexican Rice I actually love Mexican Rice, but I had never tried to make it until I ran into this recipe. As it turns out, it's really quick and easy. I might try the same recipe with quinoa just to see how I like it.

Baked Chimichangas. The link takes you to my inspiration for trying this, but I actually kind of marched to the beat of my own drum on this one. I'll paste my own version below. My husband said they're the best chimichangas he's ever had and it's a huge bonus that they're not deep fried!

1 lb shredded and seasoned chicken (I cooked two chicken breasts in the crock pot with about 1/2 a packet of dry ranch and probably the equivalent of 1 packet of dry taco seasoning, plus about 1/2 cup of chicken broth. In the future I will add about 6 oz of cream cheese to the crock pot to keep from having to mix it together later.)

about 6 oz cream cheese (could use less and could use the 1/3 less fat kind)

cheddar cheese


cooking spray

Cook the chicken and combine with cream cheese and cheddar cheese, spoon it out on a tortilla and fold it up, placing it seam side down on a wire rack (I put a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet to catch any melty cheese). Spray the top of the tortilla with a small bit of cooking spray.

Cook at 350 for about 15 minutes, flip the chimis, spray tops with cooking spray, and cook another 15 minutes.

I made some steak ones too using cut up steak that my husband grilled the day before. Just sprinkled the steak strips with dry ranch, taco seasoning, mixed in the other 2 oz of cream cheese and some cheddar cheese and folded them up.

I made a dipping sauce with sour cream + Frank's Red Hot.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cloth Diapering and Solid Foods

Back when The Fish was still EBF (exclusively breastfed), I mentioned that the rules for formula fed and solid fed babies are different than the rules of diapering an EBF baby.

Now that we've been feeding solids for nearly 4 months, I can weigh in on how our diaper routine has changed.

I have a little 1 gallon bucket that I keep beside his changing table. If he poops, the diaper along with all of the poopy cloth wipes go into the bucket until I get a minute to spray them out. Once they are rinsed, I dump them into his main pail. This system has worked fine for us. I will say that the sooner you get around to spraying the diaper, the less work it is. That probably goes without saying, but I just thought I'd throw that out there.

We have the Flo diaper sprayer. I haven't tried any of the other brands, but it does the job. I think it was about $50. There are cheaper brands out there and there are ways to make your own with a kitchen sprayer, but this one's spray power is pretty adjustable and it's easy enough to use.

The first time my husband installed it, the instructions that came with it left out some details that caused the sprayer to leak a little. We did a little googling and found what the problem was and haven't had any problems since. It comes with everything you need to install it (including the flexible line that connects the toilet to the water source), so you don't need to purchase anything else with this brand (aside from maybe a wrench of some sort). One "con" is that you have to shake the water out of the spray head before you put it away after each use or it will drip a nice little puddle on the bathroom floor. The second time my husband installed it (we just moved), he had it all put together in a jiffy, so it seems pretty easy once you overcome the questionable instructions. Totally worth the $50.

We are no longer on a septic system, but I still haven't tried the flushable diaper liners. I'm used to spraying his diapers anyway, so I just don't see the need. Plus, I think often enough he can I put this...exceed the limits of the liner with the masterpieces he makes for me, and I would end up needing to spray parts of his diaper anyway. They are probably a great idea for people who travel with cloth diapers or people with babies who are less ambitious poopers.

Fun bonus! I don't know how this happened, but somehow blogger sees some of my pics as .gifs. Isn't this Harry Potter-esque?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pinterest Picks 4

S'mores Bars!
I love it when I see something on Pinterest that looks delicious and I can go straight to the pantry and make it. It's like destiny! These are messy, gooey, yummy deliciousness!

Sour Cream Chicken Bake
This only has a few ingredients, takes almost no prep time, and you could make enough to feed a crowd easily. The taste is similar to poppy seed chicken, but with less prep time. I've made it twice now and I will say that using the Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix as a topping really is better than using regular bread crumbs.

Honey Lime Chicken Skewers The pin doesn't take you to where the recipe originated, so if anyone knows who owns this recipe, please let me know so I can update the pin. We have made this twice and the second time I made extra just so we could have leftovers. It's that good! I marinate the chicken all day so that it really soaks up the flavors.

As an aside, was I the last to know about these nifty herbs that come in a tube? They last a long time in the fridge as opposed to buying the little packet of fresh herbs. I used the cilantro kind for the chicken skewers. It did not have a strong flavor, but I can't keep an herb plant alive to save my life and when I buy the little packets of fresh herbs they always go bad before I use them all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pinterest Picks 3

Here are our newest experiments:

Crockpot Lemon Chicken
What's not to love about a recipe with a total of 4 ingredients that's cooked in a crockpot? This is one of those pins that drives me crazy...if you click it, it doesn't take you where you're expecting to go. However, it's kind of hard to mess up and the description gives you enough info to make the recipe without having an actual recipe. I wish I had made extra so we could have had leftovers!

Creamy Cheesy Potatoes
There are so many good things in this recipe! Cheese! Cream Cheese! Sour Cream! I mean how can you go wrong? The recipe says to use 6 potatoes. I only had 5, but they were on the large side and I think it was maybe one too many potatoes (my preference is to have more sauce). It turned out well, but I think in the future I would skip using real garlic and use garlic powder instead. I don't like the weird crunch that garlic has when the rest of the dish is kind of smushy. What made this dish even better was adding a little ranch dressing to it. Yum!

I also decided to use the homemade cream of chicken soup recipe from the same source as the Creamy Cheesy Potatoes recipe. I went ahead and pinned it here:

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup
This was so easy and the final product looked and smelled just like I would expect of the condensed version you buy in a can, but without the weird mystery ingredients. I don't always have chicken broth on hand, so that's the only thing that would keep me from just making my own from now on.

Crescent Roll Casserole
It really sounded like a good idea, but we didn't like the texture of the finished product. It's a good idea in theory, but the rolls stayed gooey from cooking in the soup.

One Pot Mac & Cheese
I have made this several times and it's so easy and only dirties up one pot! I usually add a little browned hamburger meat to it and it's like Hamburger Helper, but way better! This time, my helper accidentally added a TABLESPOON of salt instead of a TEASPOON. Whoops! :) I wouldn't suggest doing that.

These (and all of my previous pinterest trials) are saved here: Tried and True Recipes

Linking up here:

Homemaking Party at Hope in Every Season

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shabby Shadowbox

I've really been wanting to do a little project with a bird nest to tie in the decor of the second master bath to the bedroom.

I already shared some artwork that's in the bedroom, so I thought a nest would work well without being too matchy-matchy.

It started with this shadow box. I really wanted a white one, but the only ones that Hobby Lobby had that would be deep enough for this project were black.

Luckily, I just happened to have some white acrylic paint. :)

I did a quick little paint job on it. I didn't want it to look too perfect, so I left it at the point where some of the background was still showing through. It would look nice with a solid white too or a complementary color, but it's all about personal preference.

To complete the project, I gathered the cast of characters below, plus a hot glue gun. (What would we do without hot glue guns?!)

The shadowbox was 8X10, but when I cut the paper down to that size, it was a little too snug, so I trimmed it down a little. I actually trimmed it a little too much, but thank goodness I wasn't trying to make it look perfect.

After I trimmed the paper down, I hot glued it to the backing of the shadowbox. Here are my helpful hot glue gun hints for this project:

1. Have extra glue sticks within reach
2. Don't try to glue the whole surface at once. Line up your paper like you want it and start in one corner, pressing it down as you glue it.

In other words, learn from my mistakes.

Here's the final product:

Linking with:

Make Bake Create

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Artwork Redo

We've been working on staging our house to sell it (don't you just love moving?!), so we've been buying artwork and decorations.

We're decorating the second master in kind of a shabby chic style, so I've been looking for something to hang on the wall in there. I found a few things online, but I just wasn't ready to commit to any of them.

Then we went to Hobby Lobby and wandered and wandered...

And my husband found this (on clearance!):

He has a good eye. The color wouldn't work, but we looked it over and decided we could take it apart and paint it.

We painted the birdcage "Catalina Mist" and the wooden part is a cream colored crackle paint. As an aside, we should really learn to READ the paint cans because the crackle paint was supposed to be step 2 of a 2 step process. Whoops! It didn't crackle all that much, but we were ok with the results.

Before and After:

If only the walls weren't white, but I'm not painting them just to move! :)

Linking here: Homemaking Linkup
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Pinterest Picks 2

Here are a couple of Pinterest things we've tried recently.

Cream Cheese Filled Chicken

I was a little skeptical of the dredging on this one because it says to dip it in flour, then egg, then corn flake crumbs. I thought the egg would wash off the flour, but actually I think it made the rolled up chicken hold together better. I didn't have a lot of problem with the cream cheese mixture oozing out of the chicken, so I would call that a victory.

It was pretty good. The prep time is minimal, and that always makes me happy! I used pressed garlic instead of garlic salt, and I think maybe I didn't add enough salt to make up for it, but you live and you learn.

Soft and Chewy Springtime Blondies
Do you know of my Cadbury Mini Egg addiction? Well when I saw a dessert that incorporated those little pieces of heaven, I knew right away it would be a winner. I even let a bag of Mini Eggs languish on my kitchen counter for a week or so because I wanted to try this. Well, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. I ate the eggs, folks. I still wanted to try the recipe though, so we made it with chocolate chips instead. I'm always skeptical of brownie/blondie recipes because I don't like for them to be cake-like. If it's not chewy, it's not a brownie/blondie. The texture of these are just right and the possibilities are endless as far as what you can mix into them. I have a feeling that we will make lots of variations of these!

What have you tried lately?

Linking here: Hope in Every Season
Make, Bake, Create

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This Week's Pinterest Picks

I have a slight addiction to Pinterest. I use it mostly to find recipes to help me get out of the recipe rut, but sometimes I find other things of interest. Mostly I just pin them and never look at them again, but I try to find a couple of things per week to actually try.

Here are some things I've tried recently.

Borax Ant Trap Recipe

It's suddenly like I'm living in a bad 80's movie starring a legion of nasty old ants. My favorite ant killer is Terro Liquid Ant Bait, but it's not always easy to find. The active ingredient in it is Borax. I like it because it's a natural substance and though you wouldn't want to drink the stuff, it's not a pesticide, so it's not as harmful as regular ant killers. Plus, it works REALLY well.

Anyway, my sweet husband searched the world over for it on his way home from work and couldn't find it, so I told him to just grab some Borax so I could make my own.

I put it out last night and when I checked the first trap, I thought it was a flop. My mistake may have been labeling it as ant bait. Maybe ants can read?

Anyway, then I checked the other one and BINGO!

The website says it works overnight. I think that's a bit of a stretch. Even the Terro kind takes a few days to get rid of all of the ants. When I refill it, I will put less liquid in the trap. I want them to drink it and take it home with them, not drown in it. The website says to soak it up on cotton balls, but I didn't have any.


Sticky Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki

This smelled so good cooking! It's always a bonus when I run across a recipe that I have all of the ingredients for. It's also a bonus when I can throw it in a slow cooker and forget about it! I didn't have the ginger this called for, but it was fine without it, and I served it over quinoa instead of rice.


Melt in Your Mouth Chicken

This was so easy that I was able to prepare it while the cranky teething baby was still awake. Granted, I had to put some gangsta rap on Pandora and sing along while changing the words to make the words baby appropriate. And I had to randomly hide behind the island and jump out to make him laugh, but it worked! My oven has a fancy "cook time" feature that will turn off the oven when the timer goes off, so it worked perfectly for me to pop in the oven just before beginning the marathon that is trying to convince The Baby Fish it is his bedtime. It was a little salty, but I think it was just because I cooked half the amount of chicken the recipe calls for and didn't half the coating. If you're concerned about salt, maybe use a little less of the seasoning salt. You can always add more when it's done if you need to.


I move all of the recipes I try to my Tried and True Recipe board so I can keep up with what I've tried.

If you've tried any Pinterest experiments this week, share them with me. It's always interesting to see real reviews.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What I Wish I had Known About Pregnancy

I think that one of these days, this will turn into a series of posts, but the best place to start is the beginning.

When I started this journey I didn't know what I didn't know. I have this annoying habit of questioning things, though. I'm sure it drives people crazy, but whatever.

When I first got pregnant, I chose my care provider based on distance from my house and distance from my husband's workplace. To be fair, I did look up some ratings, I think, but basically that was it. I didn't know what birth preferences were, so I didn't bother to choose a doctor based on my philosophies (I didn't have philosophies about birth yet!). I realized after I had The Baby Fish how lucky I was that I ended up with a doctor who cooperated with me. Most people who share my obnoxious/obstinate/nitpicky ideas about pregnancy and birth choose a midwife/birthing center/home birth. I lucked out, but it makes me a little anxious about next time (if there is a next time) because my current doctor is moving out of state.

So here's what I wish I had known. Let me preface this by saying, I'm not a doctor and I don't care how anyone else births their babies. My only caveat is that you should decide how you want to do things through your own research rather than just bobbing along and letting someone else determine what your experience will be. We are fortunate to live in a time where medical interventions are available and in some cases they are necessary. They just aren't necessary nearly as often as they occur. Do your research. Your body. Your baby. Your birth experience. You have to take responsibility for your care.

1. If you have any crunchy tendencies, read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth the minute the second line shows up on the pee stick.

2. Research your care provider's/hospital's Cesarean rate. I hate to tell you this, but there are some doctors that will try to convince you that you need a C-Section so that they can be home in time for dinner, or so you won't interrupt their day off. They won't tell you that's why you need one. They'll probably say something along the lines of "the baby is just too big" or "failure to progress" or "your bag of water has been ruptured for too long." Again, in some cases that's true. Not always, though.

This is a great article about the rise in the number of C-sections amongst low risk women. You might think, "Oh, but all of those surgeries were necessary to save lives." Not so much. The rate of "bad maternal/fetal outcomes" has not decreased with the increase of C-sections. Seriously. Do your research. The rate of poor maternal/fetal outcomes is super low in the US, but it is still higher than the rate in some undeveloped countries. Isn't that baffling?! Here's another great article.

3. Your doctor will probably mention an induction. You probably don't need one.

If you are low risk and haven't exceeded 42 weeks gestation and you don't want to be induced, do your research, figure out what you want to do, and fight for it. You cannot be forced to consent to any medical procedure. You have a choice. You may have to sign some sort of waiver, but find out what your options are. You are not "overdue" until you exceed 42 weeks. From 40-42 weeks, you are "postdate."

Ask what your Bishop Score is. If you are induced with a low Bishop's score, the probability that your induction will lead to a C-Section skyrockets.

The average gestation for a first time pregnancy is 41 weeks 1 day. My doctor would have happily induced me at 40 weeks. Not because of any complications or concern about the health of my baby or me. It's just kind of what they do. I declined a 40 week induction and the baby came out anyway! He didn't come out at 40 weeks, but he came out when he was ready. Crazy how our bodies and our babies know what to do! :)

4. Research Evidence Based Birth. If your doctor suggests an intervention that you don't want, ask questions about why it's necessary in your particular pregnancy. You are the consumer. You are paying for a service. Don't fail to ask questions because you don't want to "bother" your doctor. A good doctor won't mind answering your questions and putting your mind at ease.

5. Figure out what your birth preferences are well ahead of your due date so you can discuss them with your doctor and get his or her input. You don't want to find out that you're not on the same page in the delivery room. If your doctor isn't supportive of your wishes, find out why and decide if he or she is directing your care from the standpoint of standard protocol or if your particular medical needs are being taken into consideration.

I could go on and on, but the main point is this: Learn as much as you can about what kind of care you want and what kind of care your doctor is going to provide. Be informed. Know your options.

Resources for more info:

Amnesty International
The Business of Being Born
Ina May Gaskin
Evidence Based Birth Blog
International Cesarean Awareness Network

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Demystified Diaper Dilemma

The funk came back. I thought it was a goner, but the funk came back...

I discussed my particular issues with my local diaper experts and they said they thought that my diapers just weren't getting enough water in the rinse to get all of the detergent out. When you don't get all of the detergent out, you get ammonia buildup in diapers = stink! This is a common problem with high efficiency washing machines. The usual "fix" is to throw a wet towel in with the diapers to add weight to the machine and trick it into adding more water.

I had tried doing that (along with nixing the "spin" in my prerinse cycle), but I was still having trouble.

Not only that, but some of my diapers have kind of yellowish brown patches on them that particularly seem to stink. And no, it's not poop. That was a little more mystifying than the smell. Not even the experts were sure of what that was. You can kind of see what I'm talking about on the diaper on the right.

I also picked up some Rockin Green detergent. It's maybe the most popular detergent amongst cloth diaper users because it rinses clean, is all natural, gentle, smells great, and it has cute little gimmicky scent names (Motley Clean, Smashing Watermelons, Barenaked Babies), etc. I thought that since my detergent wasn't rinsing out, maybe a more clean rinsing version would do better.

Then my washing machine died. Lovely, but it might be the best thing that has happened to my diaper routine because I think I've figured out the problem.

The machine wasn't letting enough water in. Even for an HE machine, it wasn't letting enough water in. And it was cutting off in the middle of the rinse cycle. Not only that, but when the repair guy came, he detached the hose that lets water into the machine to check the water pressure, and the clean water that was going into the machine was BROWN! (Umm...hello brown patches on diapers!) Ah the joys of well water! They are supposed to repair it today and I will be anxious to see what kind of difference it makes.

In the meantime we have been back in disposables and back to leaky nighttime ("12 hour"...yeah right!) diapers. Not only that, but I've had dirty diapers sitting in the pail for 3 days now and that is driving me absolutely nuts. I can't wait for it to be fixed!

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Teething Schmeething

A certain little someone is working on tooth #3 this week and though he looks and grabs at the bottle of teething tablets like some kind of crack fiend, they just don't seem to be totally taking care of the pain.  I think tooth #4 is right around the corner too (seriously?!  He's not even 6 months old!).

Anybody have any experience with Baltic amber teething necklaces? I haven't seen a single review of them that isn't positive, but I don't know if any of my "real life" friends have any experience with them.  I would prefer to use something natural than to dope him up.

Don't let this sweet face fool you...he bites!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ever notice how much vanilla extract costs and how quickly it disappears?  Maybe it only disappears so quickly here because I'm married to the world's best waffle maker, but it seems like there's only enough in one of those little bottles to make a few desserts.

As it turns out, it's really simple to make your own.

See exhibit A:

What you need:

  • Some sort of bottle that seals (we got ours at Hobby Lobby, isn't it cute?)
  • Cheap vodka (we used a couple of cups)
  • Whole vanilla beans (we used 5)
Now in order to do this, you are going to have to get over your fear of running into some of your fellow church members at the liquor store.  Some of y'all know what I'm talking about!

Vanilla beans can be pricey, so you might want to find a place that sells them in bulk or order them online.  If you're wondering why they're so expensive, it's because all of the growing and harvesting of the beans has to be done by hand.  Isn't it strange to think that in this day and age, there are still crops that are handled without the use of machinery?

I digress.

  1. Wrangle your vanilla beans onto a cutting board and cut a slit all the way down the bean.
  2. Drop the beans into your cute little bottle.
  3. Pour in enough vodka to cover the beans.
  4. Close the bottle and shake it up.
  5. Store in a dark cupboard and take it out to shake it up every now and then.
  6. As you use it, top it off every now and then with more vodka.  You can reuse the same beans in this way for awhile.
Within a couple of weeks, it should be ready to use!  When we first made it, the color was a light brown,but the picture was taken after about 2 weeks and you can see how dark it had gotten.  It has been about a month now and it's even better.

If you look around on Pinterest, you can find some variations on doing this, and some free printable labels for the bottle (very cute ones!).

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The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Friday, March 1, 2013

In Which I Conquer my Fear of Diaper Stripping

You may recall that I'm terrified of having to strip diapers. Well you know what happens when you announce something like that publicly? Yep. I had to strip diapers last week.

Apparently you're supposed to strip diapers from time to time to help get rid of any mineral/ammonia/detergent that has built up in the diapers over time. We were over five months in and I had never stripped them. It was a good run.

If you Google stripping diapers, you will see that there are a million different ways it can be done. What works for one person may yield dismal results for another person. There are many factors to consider when figuring out how best to strip your diapers. Do you have hard or soft water? A traditional or HE washing machine? Do your diapers smell funny straight out of the wash? Do they smell poopy/fishy/ammonia-y?

I mean they're diapers. A care routine shouldn't be this complicated.

I wasn't really sure what I was dealing with, but The Baby Fish was starting to get some red patches in his diaper area, there was a weird smell that I just couldn't put my finger on (not poopy, not ammonia-y, just kind of moldy) when I took the diapers out of the washer, and his first diapers in the morning could fell a horse. I figured the morning diaper thing was just because he sleeps for 12 hours at night (please don't let me jinx myself) and nothing about 12 hour old warm pee SHOULD smell good, but the other issues were nagging at me.

I called my trusty diaper store and they suggested these two products:

The Bac-Out has live enzymes that eat up organic matter that is in the diaper and the Funk Rock is a natural ammonia bouncer.

Before I used those things, I attempted stripping them with blue Dawn dish soap. I was a little scared that I would come back to suds cascading out of the machine and down the stairs, so I didn't use very much.

I didn't notice any difference in the diapers after using it.

Then I tried the Funk Rock. Still no difference.

Then I tried the Bac-Out. I tried it once in the washer and didn't notice a difference. Then I dumped all of the diapers in the bathtub and soaked them in hot water with a good amount of Bac-Out overnight. In the morning, I washed them as usual (you really want to make sure you've rinsed all of the Bac-Out from the diapers before putting them on the baby so the enzymes don't attack the baby's skin). Still stinky.

So I did what I've heard you're never supposed to do.

I used bleach.

Bleach will void some diaper warranties, so I don't necessarily suggest it, but I did remove all of my diapers that have PUL before using bleach, so I was left with prefolds and a few fitteds. Then I rinsed, rinsed, rinsed.

It did the trick! Even that strong early morning pee smell is GONE. (I seriously stuck my head in the diaper pail the other morning to make sure and I couldn't smell anything! Ha!)

I've since read that using up to 1/4 cup of bleach in the wash once a month or so will not void most warranties, so I may do it every now and then just to keep them fresh.

In the meantime, I am going to try using the Bac-Out and the Funk Rock occasionally to try to keep buildup down.

I will say that we turned to disposables for a few days while I experimented with all of these stripping techniques and I was so glad to be back in cloth when it was all over. If you've only ever used 'sposies, you probably don't notice the chemical + pee smell, but I challenge you to use cloth for a little bit and then go back to disposables. It really is a strong chemical odor. The little trashbag of wet disposables that had only been sitting for one day was almost nauseating. His newly stripped diapers could sit wet in his room for two days and you wouldn't even know they were there.

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