Monday, December 17, 2012

Handmade soap without the work!

I've shown you how to make your own soap and I know it looks kind of fun, and the end result would be oh, so lovely, but really, you just aren't sure about turning your kitchen into a science lab.  Right?

Well, I've branched out from making soap only for our family and made enough soap to bathe a daycare center, for a month.  I want to share our soap with others while helping provide for our family at the same time.

If you would be interested in trying handmade soap and experiencing all the ways it pampers your skin more than the beauty bars sold at the stores, please browse around my Etsy shop, Birch Creek Soaps.  I've included a "buy 5 and get free shipping" special to help everyone out a little bit.

Our family appreciates your interest.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Four kids is...

Ever want to peer in on a family with a lot of children to see what it's like?  Well, I'm going to give you a window, but, I hardly consider four kids a lot of children.  I do notice a difference though in the reaction when I tell strangers that I have four kids compared to when I used to tell them I had three.  The most comical one recently came from a girl, three years older than me whose getting married for the first time.  I was alone so when I said I had four kids her mouth dropped open and said "oh my gosh!" in a completely shocked manner.  I suspect it wasn't much of a compliment.  Whatever.  I should have told her we're expecting four more just for kicks.

2 parents (one who will consume a salad bar daily if it's in the fridge)
1 teenager
2 tweens
1 who eats like a bird and
2 who are boys = a trip for fresh produce about twice a week.

I've been keeping a running total starting Monday 4/23 to keep track of the produce coming into our house.

14 apples
4 oranges
1 lemon
20 bananas
1 head of iceberg lettuce
1 head of romaine lettuce
4 artisan lettuce heads
2 lbs asparagus
2 english cucumbers
6 tomatoes
3 peppers
3 bags baby carrots
3 lbs. strawberries
1/2 lb. blueberries
3 zucchini
1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes
1 1/4 lb. celery

When we woke up this morning, Monday 4/30 we had a completely empty fruit basket, 3 zucchini (one made it's way into bread today and the other two will be grilled tomorrow night) and half the celery was still waiting to be eaten.

We can drain a roadside produce stand, for sure.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Matthew!

My handsome young son turns 10 today.
How can that be true?
It seems like just yesterday he was this small baby, 
with his barely-there hair and eyes so blue.

Matthew is our most sensitive child, by far.
His heart is one of pure gold.
And although he's now ten years old,
he still reaches for this mama's hand to hold.

Matthew has the cutest dimples,
the one on the right is is somewhat deeper.
I love when he flashes his small, sly smile
and everyone around thinks "he's a keeper!"

Matthew stole my heart from the moment I saw him and it's a joy to watch him develop into his own young man.  He's a sponge of information and often educates us and those around him with his little morsels of information.  Matthew has loved anything to do with Egypt or mummies since he was small but he also had a mad love for Legos and building.  Since he was young he has told us he wants to be either an architect or an archaeologist; both professions would fit him so very well.
Happy Birthday, Matthew!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Gifts

Teacher appreciation week is quickly approaching; it is usually celebrated during the first week of May.  This year I got a jump start on our easy, but thoughtful, gifts because Claire's teacher is leaving this week for her maternity leave and I wanted to make sure she got the goodies before leaving for the year.

I've made 5 small gifts, one for each day.  They aren't hard or expensive but they are very cute and I hope they bring a smile to my childrens' teachers.  Good teachers are invaluable so I want to make sure they know how much we appreciate them.

Day 1:
We need S'more teachers like you!
I followed this tutorial and she's included a free printable. I purchased the Jet Puff stacker marshmallows to fit in the bag a little better and they are made to stack on graham crackers, so I thought they would be perfect.

Day 2:

You deserve a HAND!
Trace your child's hand print and then attach it to a bottle or tube of hand lotion.

Day 3:

You are just WRITE for (child's name here).
Attach to a package of pens.

Day 4:

You were MINT to teach!
Fill a treat bag with minty things and attach a topper.  You could also attach this to a package of mint gum and skip the treat bag.

Day 5:

1. Best Teacher Bar None
Instructions and link to download template.
I worked for about 30 minutes to make my own folding box for the Hershey bar and then I realized it was worth it for me to pay the $3 to download the pre-made template.  All I had to do is put a piece of white card stock in the printer and hit print. Easy.  To simplify this, you could simply cut a piece of card stock the width of the bar and make a sleeve to slide the bar into.  You can decorate the sleeve as you choose.

I found Microsoft Word to be the easiest way to make the bag toppers.  You don't even have to make a bag topper on the computer; you could simply cut a rectangle and then decorate it by hand.  If I had more patience, I would have let my kids decorate them.  But, I'm up against a deadline with plenty on my plate so I skipped the 'needing patience' step and did it myself while the kids were at school.  I'll try harder next year.

There are so many cute ideas out there on the interwebs; it was hard to pick just five of them.  Here is a good list of cute, easy and inexpensive ideas for appreciation gifts.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, Emily

It just seems impossible that she is 12. My memory is still quite vivid of willing this stubborn child out of my womb at a week overdue. How can it be that it was already 12 years ago?

Emily is stubborn
Emily is a fighter
Emily is an overachiever
Emily is a perfectionist
Emily will not take "no" as an answer

You might view those as negative personality traits and occasionally they do cause frustration in our house but, those personality traits will carry our girl far when she's a grown woman. Man, she is going to pick a career path and blaze a trail straight to it, there is no doubt in my mind. She will be stubborn in her studies, a fighter when she feels like she can't make it, an overachiever who will be set the bar high and achieve it with perfection, and I pity the person who stands in her way and tells her no.

Emily is kindhearted.
Emily is a cheerful giver.
Emily is sensitive.
Emily loves children.
Emily loves animals.
Emily loves the Lord.

And we LOVE her. We are so blessed to watch this young girl grow into a young lady and achieve the goals she sets for herself. She has seamlessly transitioned into middle school this year and followed in our band geek footsteps with her decision to play the clarinet.  (proud parent moment!)

Today is for Emily and celebrating her.

Friday, January 6, 2012

{DIY} Padded Crutches Tutorial

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Emily had surgery on her foot a week ago and has made her way around on crutches quite well so far.  But, after two days of using the crutches full time at school her arms were very sore, so I knew I needed to come up with a fix, quickly.

I scouted the web and found many options to buy padded covers for the crutches but that didn't suit me well.  I needed something now, not a few days from now, so I went on a search for some instructions for making a set of covers at home.  I didn't find much.  I could duct tape a towel around them but I knew that would not go over well with Emily so I brainstormed and came up with my own solution.  And now I'm going to share with you.  You're welcome.

Lay the crutch on a piece of paper and trace around the top of it.  Cut out your pattern.

You need to cut the fabric quite a bit larger than your pattern because you need to adjust for a seam allowance and more padding than what is there now.
My first pieces weren't cut wide enough on the bottom.  Thankfully I pinned the pieces and tried it before sewing them or even cutting another set.
The bottom of your cover needs to be at least the width of the top of your crutches or the cover will not fit over the top when finished.  In the end, the top of mine could have been quite a bit more narrow, so you don't need as much extra as I have here.

With right sides together, sew your pieces leaving the bottom open; then clip the corners so the cover will lay correctly once turned right side out.

Time to iron your bottom hem.  Turn up the bottom edge 1/4" and press, then turn up 1/4" again to create a finished edge, press.  Sew hem in place close to left edge.

Now to make these covers stay on your crutches.  Using a small width elastic, place it an equal distance from bottom edge.  Secure elastic in place with a few stitches and then pull it taught with one hand while you sew.  This will gather the material as the elastic relaxes.  Fold over your ending piece of elastic and stitch to prevent it from unraveling.

To make your crutches more comfortable you will need some sort of padding.  I used quilt batting here because I had some left over but I would have used old towels or t-shirts if I didn't have the batting on hand.
Cut two pieces of padding, one just slightly smaller than the width of the top and the second piece the width of the middle of the crutch.  Most of the weight bearing is on the middle of the crutch so I felt it needed the most padding there.
Wrap it around your crutch and secure.  I used painters tape because I wanted to be able to easily remove it.  The painters tape secured the batting very well.

Place one side of your crutch into the cover and then carefully stretch the cover over the other side.
You now have much more comfortable crutches, and they're cute too!

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This is post is part of Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou.  Skip on over to see what others have made this Monday.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday!

The other children usually meander into the kitchen for breakfast on their birthday acting somewhat tired, just waiting for me to squeal, "Happy Birthday" or break out in the birthday song.  
But, not Claire.  
No, she cheerfully waltzed into the kitchen with a huge smile and both arms outstretched and announced "today is my birthday!" in a grand fashion.  Then she ran into the living room, or blue room, we affectionately call it so I can feel like we have a house big enough for a maid.  Oh wait, any house is big enough for one of those!
Anyway, she ran into the blue room and said "I'm going to see how many presents there is for me birthday" (and I tactfully refrained from correcting her grammar because, hello, today is her birthday).  Then I realized she was thinking a birthday fairy delivers overnight like Santa so I gently told her birthday fairies don't exist. OK, so maybe I was laughing but admit it, it is pretty funny.

J is gone this week so we are celebrating her birthday on the weekend.  She's asked for a Minnie Mouse theme and asked me 3 days ago if I had her cake done.  I must really have her fooled that I can do it all; where is that magic birthday fairy?

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gems from Jacob

While cleaning out the car recently I found this; a drawing Jacob drew during church a few weeks ago.  The pastor was explaining during Jesus' days they would annoint a guest's head with oil to welcome them into their home, and how we would think someone is bizzare if they met us at the front door with a bottle of olive oil.


Sunday, November 27, 2011


The number of pumpkin pies my family has consumed this weekend.  6 people, 3 pies.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

The finishing touches were put on the gladiator boots today and the pattern pieces were finally folded and tucked back into their proper envelopes; another costume sewing season has come to a close.

And, I am thrilled.

This year's costumes were fairly time consuming and I decided to take a 2 week break in October to take the kids to Virginia so I really felt under the gun to get the last costume finished on time.

And then, after all that, the most commented costume of the night?  Jacob and his banana.  The one that we spent 10 minutes of online searching, typed in a few numbers and then waited for it to show up.  Every year I say, "next year I'm just going to buy them" and then somehow I decide to make them.  But, next year....

Strawberry Shortcake & Raspberry Tart

Roman Gladiator

Banana (who felt like he should spend his pre-candy time on the computer and I thought it was too hilarious looking to pass on a picture)

And all my costumed creatures together.

And now I need to go inspect their candy to check for the poison laced apples.  You know, the ones our parents had to check for too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sentences of stuff

I think about blogging almost every day, but the day to day grind is what fills my time and when I think about blogging, I put it off; and obviously, put it off for quite a long time.  It quickly entered that weird "it's been so long since _________ that know I don't exactly know how get it back."  Such as the distance between friends or family that you know is there but can't seem to figure out the best way to call them up.  Yea, that is me and this blog.

So, maybe I'll just start trying to get back into things by journaling what we've been up to and hope the writing flows and becomes a more regular thing for me again.  I also use Facebook a lot so sometimes I feel like blogging things here is a repeat.

Morsels of life from September and October:
Over Labor Day we submitted to the kids' desire to go camping.  They all positively loved it and I know we'll be back there again when the temperatures climb above 50 at night.

To make the occasion even more memorable I picked up a package of Jiffy pop.  I didn't realize I captured Jacob making this face when I took the picture.  It gives me a good laugh every time I look at it.

Halloween started early here.  I was able to get the kids to decide on costumes in September and then drug out the sewing machine and turned my formal dining room back into the designated craft room.   Emily is going to be Strawberry Shortcake with Claire as her Raspberry Tart and Matthew is going to be a roman gladiator.  Jacob never decided so I'm pretty sure his will be purchased last minute, as it usually is.  He's entered into that weird stage of not knowing if he should dress up but still wanting to so he doesn't make any decisions until a few days before Halloween.  I'm cool with that, as long as he doesn't hold it against me that I don't sew his costumes like I do for his siblings.

J is gone for awhile for training so I decided to load up the van and drive 14 hours with the kids to visit him for a week during their fall break from school.  We met J in Washington D.C. for a quick weekend trip of sight seeing and also got to watch him run in a 10 mile race with 30 thousand other people.  We then went back to his temporary home in Norfolk for the week and enjoyed some easy going family time.    I have tons of pictures from this trip so I'll try to do a post of them soon.

I'm pretty sure we could squeeze a couple more little ones in the frame, don't you?

And this is where I sign off because I probably just made my mother have a heart attack.  :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Make your own: Instant Oatmeal Packets

I read that it was possible to make your own instant oatmeal packets several years ago.  I filed that away in my bookmarks for the day that I decided spending $2.50 on a box of conveniently packaged oatmeal was far too hard for me to accomplish.
OK, so maybe I had inclinations of being frugal and healthy way back then but let me tell you, with 3 kids under 5 years of age I was far too busy to care about the sugar content in instant oatmeal.  I needed that sugar just to survive the multiple diaper changes in one day.

Making your own instant oatmeal packets will save you money and best of all put you in control of what you and your family are eating.  You might not know this so I'll let you in on a secret- I'm a control freak, so this is right up my alley.

What you'll need:

3 cups Oatmeal
Pinch to 1/8 tsp. salt for each baggie
Blender (or food processor)

You can use either quick-cooking oats or rolled oats; your choice.  If you use rolled oats you will need to chop them up in the food processor or blender to make them into quick-cooking oats.

Take 1 cup of the oatmeal and process it in the blender or food processor until it is oat powder; you may need to process 1/2 cup at a time if using a blender.

Make your packets
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
2 Tbsp. oat powder
pinch of salt

To prepare:
Dump your oatmeal in a bowl and add 3/4 cup boiling water.  Mix and let rest for 1-2 minutes to thicken.  I have also had success with mixing 3/4 cup water in the bowl with the oatmeal and microwaving for about 90 seconds, stopping once to stir.

Flavor Combinations
We all know oatmeal usually tastes better with yummy flavors mixed in; here are a few flavor combinations you can add directly to your packets.

Sweetened Oatmeal: 1 Tbsp. sugar or other dry sweetener of your choice.
Brown Sugar & Cinnamon: 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Apple Cinnamon: 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. chopped dried apples, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Banana Bread: 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. chopped dried bananas, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, dash of nutmeg
Fruit & Cream: 1 Tbsp. non-dairy coffee creamer (I used vanilla because that is what I had) and 2 Tbsp. dried fruit (you could use peaches, apricots, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
Raisin: 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1 T. raisins (you can also add raisins to the apple cinnamon oatmeal)
Health Packed: Add 2 Tbsp wheat germ and/or 1/2-1 Tbsp. ground flax meal

I added 1/2 Tbsp. of ground flax meal to each of my packets; it's an easy way to sneak in some beneficial ingredients without my kids knowing.

When testing these packets I first made all brown sugar and cinnamon packets.  The three kids who eat oatmeal tried it and proclaimed it was the best they'd ever eaten, so I take that as success.  This time I made 3 different flavors for some variety, banana bread, apple cinnamon, and strawberries and cream.

Good luck and have fun taking control of your oatmeal!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weird obsession

My kids have this weird obsession with cemeteries; they would walk around cemeteries for hours if we let them. I suppose maybe I created this obsession several years ago.  If I would have known how excited they get when I say something like "I was looking on google maps and found a cemetery right in the middle of a neighborhood" I may not have encouraged the stop over.

A few years ago while trekking to the beach, we saw many signs in the South Carolina country that marked historic sites.  I kept saying "we need to stop at one of these and see what is there."  So, one time we did.  It was a very, very old church that had a cemetery behind it.  It was completely abandoned but we had a good time looking a piece of history and the kids became obsessed with running around the headstones looking for the oldest one.
"Dad, this guy was a general in the confederate army!"
"Mom, this one is from the 1800's!"

An obsession was born.  Now our trips include phrases like "come on, we need to stop at that cemetery."  "Please mom, it'll only take a few minutes."

Emily has learned how to look up cemetery records online and can tell you the oldest grave and then like a scavenger hunt she needs to find that grave.

While I admit that finding the resting place of people who helped shape the city you're from is kind of cool, it is still a bit weird and I try to keep a button on their lips while out in public.
"Mom, let's go that cemetery we saw on the way here" tends to raise a few eyebrows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A day with a friend and Burg Lichtenberg

Today I had the pleasure of meeting an online friend, in person.  Our husbands were both creeped out by it but we were both so excited to actually meet each other.  I had the best time hanging out with her for a day in the real Germany.  First we went to a farmer's market nearby that was simply awesome; I saw the best produce I've ever seen today.  Then I tagged along with her for the rest of day and got to see her kids' schools, their music lessons, her house and real German villages.  It was a normal day for her but I had the best time.  We may have to have discussions with the kids soon because it might be really cool living here.

J came and picked me up from her house and then we spent the evening at Lichtenberg Castle which is right up the street from her house.  Seriously, right up the street.

This castle was built in 1200, making it over 800 years old.  That is just hard to fathom.  The castle caught fire twice so the ruins have been turned into grounds for a church, restaurant and youth hostel.

We climbed up into this lookout tower to enjoy the view of the countryside.

We had dinner on the patio of the castle restaurant before driving back to the hotel for the evening.

It was a very fun day and I love that it got us away from the touristy areas and the Americanized Germany.

Burg Nanstein

I learned yesterday that burg means castle so this would be the Nanstein Castle.  This castle has been turned into a summer theatre and it also has a small restuarant/bar (mostly bar) at the top.  We saw lots of beer but no food so we sought out food from a different location.

There is also a 10K hiking trail that goes all over the mountain that Nanstein is located on.  J has been to the castle twice before and hiked the trail once so he wanted to take me up there.

It was a very uphill journey but after a few minutes we came to this.

More pictures from the castle grounds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rothenburg, Germany

The historic district of town is surrounded by the old town wall.  Cars aren't allowed within the historic district unless you live there or you are a hotel guest.

You can walk up the towers to the top of the wall and then walk around the entire city.  A bit dark and creepy in some spots but really cool.

I just loved all the German houses and shops all lined up.