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What Do April Snowstorms Bring?

What Do April Snowstorms Bring?

A. Lots of broken branches
B. Everything being cancelled or postponed
C. The cold season being extended
D. Decrease in morale
E. All of the Above

In case you were wondering, the answer is E.

Spring is always sort of an adventure in Colorado and this year was especially exciting. We’d hoped we’d gotten the worst of the snow out of our system in March, but it kept coming with a vengeance  in April causing everything from the Scout fundraiser dinner to a few of our long training runs to be cancelled. In between snowstorms though, we’d pull out our shorts and sandals as we’d get glimpses of beautiful weather. Some of the month’s highlights include:

  • The arrival of our apple tree we ordered a year ago. Cooper was extremely disappointed when I pulled it out of the box and exclaimed, “That’s not an apple tree, that’s a stick!”
  • Earth Day/Week – Noel got to drive a Tesla and Earth Day pulled through with nice weather.
  • Ellen going to work with Noel – She was so excited and made quick friends with one of the other kids.
  • The cat killed 4 baby bunnies and 2 squirrels in one week! He’s now on house arrest an indoor cat because the bunnies here carry a disease that can kill animals and make people really sick. Plus, his murderous frequency was a little concerning . . .
Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

I remember looking at my father like he had lost his mind. “You can’t go to a gas station without a car, it’s, it’s . . . it’s insane!” I protested, flashing my most dramatic “you’re-ruining-my-life” face. Dad was unrelenting and in the end, I furiously walked the 2.5 blocks to the gas station to fill the gas can so I could mow the lawn. Truthfully, it wasn’t a task that asked too much of me. I was old enough to drive and have a job so I was perfectly capable of running an errand on my own. I ran Cross-Country and Track so the distance wasn’t too much. It was also broad daylight and it wasn’t like I was walking through gang territory. The only thing standing in my way was a a hyperactive desire to not stand out and a touch of laziness. As I stood at the pump I furtively looked around, double and triple checking that I didn’t see anyone that I knew. Once my can was full I shamefully approached the gas station fee window with a dollar bill and a handful of change  and then began my trudge home. As I approached my house the clouds of teenage ego began to clear a little and I remember thinking, “That wasn’t that bad. I don’t know why I made such a big deal about it.” I of course said nothing of the sort to my dad.

Bike Trailer

These days my ego is a little less fragile and I care much less about what other people think about me; laziness, however, can still be an issue. Since today is Earth Day I decided it was the perfect motivation to get me back into the habit of riding my bike to pick Cooper up from preschool. The ride was tougher than I would have liked it to be, but the weather was perfect and the kids thought it was a lot of fun. We pulled into the driveway and as I was unloading the kids a car pulled up in front of the house. A younger woman I didn’t recognize got out and said she’d moved into a house around the corner a few weeks prior and that she’d recognized me as the gal that biked to preschool pick-up and she figured she should say hello. We chit-chatted for a few minutes and then parted ways. Our kids are in different preschool classes and normally we would both just drive home in our unmemorable cars and pull into our garages, so who knows how long it would have taken for us to realize we were neighbors if we ever realized it at all. Sometimes doing things the “greener way” can take longer or seem inconvenient, but there are often benefits we probably wouldn’t think about. Today I added 20 minutes to my preschool pick-up routine, but I burned a few extra calories, got some Vitamin D therapy, and made a new friend. (As a bonus, Ellen got to see a few dogs.)  I’m feeling sufficiently motivated to try a little harder to show Mother Earth some love. Who knows how she’ll repay me next time.

Bowl Covers

In honor of Earth Day we’re doing a giveaway over on our food blog, so hop on over to enter!

Easter 2014

Easter 2014

Religiously, I feel like Easter is a very important holiday and I really want my children to understand that. This year, we tried out “Seven Days Till Easter” that was featured in the April edition of The Friend. Basically, each day in the week leading up to Easter we would learn something about Jesus by reading a scripture, singing a song, and matching what picture went with that day’s theme. Even though it took five minutes or less, it was still sort of a stretch for the attention span of our little people. At the very least, they were able to identify Jesus in the pictures we showed them, so we’ll count it as somewhat successful.

Dying Eggs

We also did some fun things. We dyed eggs for the first time with our kids. We tried out some natural dye methods. Our attempts at green and yellow were a flop, but the pink and blue-gray worked well.

Ward Easter Party

On Saturday, my friend Pam took the kids to the church Easter breakfast and egg hunt while Noel and I went to class.

Puppy!

Ellen insisted the puppy go with her.

Matching skirtsMatching skirts and puppy.On Sunday we went to church where we we sang beautiful Easter songs and learned about Jesus. Less importantly, Ellen and I rocked matching skirts.

Easter Presents

We got the kids some presents for Easter. Although Cooper kept calling them Christmas presents. I’m just going to assume it’s because he understood the Jesus connection between the two holidays, right . . . ? I am really good at giving the kids gifts of things I was already going to get them. (Happy Birthday! Here’s some underwear!) We mostly got them stuff for an upcoming trip to Great Sand Dunes (sand toys, water shoes for Cooper, and a sleeping bag for Ellen).

Slumber Party!

Ellen of course had to test out her sleeping bag and therefore Cooper also needed to get his out.

Egg Hunt

We hid some eggs in the yard for the kids to find.

On the hunt.I was tricky and just filled the eggs with all the candy they’d already received from grandma and at the church egg hunt.

Basket full of eggs.They didn’t seem to notice that they’d been duped. Especially since a large flat rate box arrived yesterday from Hershey, PA loaded with goodies.

Find the eggs!Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

 

And the Winner Is

And the Winner Is

Our little tree hugger in the making.
Our little tree hugger in the making.

We used random.org to select our giveaway winner and it choose commenter number 9, or Brenna! Brenna, be on the lookout for an email from me asking for your current address.

Thanks for all the comments this past week. I’ve loved reading all your ideas on how to be more green. I actually got three times more comments than I anticipated, so thank you for crushing my low expectations 🙂

The weather here is beautiful, so I think I’m going to go enjoy this little slice of planet I live on. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.”                             ― Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World

Repurposing Adult Clothes into Kid Clothes

Repurposing Adult Clothes into Kid Clothes

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a fan of repurposing. It gives me kind of a weird thrill to turn something that has lost its use into something really useful for hardly any money. I also like to sew, but the majority of my sewing is either for profit or personal use. This is partly because I’m selfish, but also partly because sewing clothes for little people can be really frustrating since everything is so tiny and they often don’t wear it for very long. (I’m not going to go into the myriad of reasons why I don’t make Noel clothes.) I do however make kid clothes for special occasions and have started making pants for the boy-whose-pants-fall-off-even-though-he-wears-gigantic-cloth-diapers. When I take on these tasks I like to go through my stash of clothes set aside for future unnamed projects. Turning adult clothes into kid clothes not only saves money and reduces waste, but it also can make the finished product look more professional. Allow me to explain.

A pair of shorts with a hole in the crotch turn nicely into a smart looking pinstriped pants for the boy.
A pair of shorts with a hole in the crotch turn nicely into a smart looking pinstriped pant for the boy.

As often as possible I try to keep original hems. This produces a cleaner look in the finished garment and also saves you time. This is often easier to do with capris, shorts, or skirts since pants sometimes drag on the ground. I’m lucky that my husband is super tall so his old shirts currently are perfect for making cute pants for our skinny kid. In case you were wondering, I typically use this basic kid pant tutorial. If there’s enough fabric, I make the pants extra long and hem them using this technique so the professional hem is still visible, but the life of the pants has been extended.

Top
A sequined top of mine transitions nicely into a warm weather tunic for Miss Ellen.

Store bought items often have fun embellishments that I like to work into the new item. Once again, you’ve saved yourself some time and the item doesn’t look homemade to the naked eye.

An old sweater shirt into an asymmetrical cardigan and an old dress into a special occasion toddler dress.
An old favorite sweater shirt into an asymmetrical cardigan and a fancy dress I wore on the first date a boy asked me on turned into a special occasion toddler dress.

Reusing items often means I’m using a higher quality fabric than I probably would have bought, which also doesn’t tip most people off that the item is homemade.  Of course I can’t neglect the added sentimental bonus repurposing can bring. I often hold onto articles of clothing because of the memories they hold even though I have absolutely no intent of wearing them. By turning them into something else, you free up space in your house and the memories can live on.

P.S. Today’s the last day to enter the giveaway. If you haven’t done so yet, hurry over to Monday’s post and leave a comment before I wake up tomorrow morning and choose a winner!
Natural Beauty

Natural Beauty

Doesn’t everyone want a nice rosy glow?  Well, how about going for a run or doing a few push-ups before going out instead?  That’ll do the trick every time.  Do you want bright glowing eyes?  Get some sleep.  Red lips?  Give them a little nibble and you’ll be just fine.  Want to radiate from the inside out? Smile!                                        –“Eliminating Lady Temptations”

Maybe it’s just because I never really got the hang of the whole make-up thing, but I’m a huge believer that less is more when it comes to being beautiful.  I am, however, still a woman and I often devote more time than I should working on and lamenting over my physical appearance. Here are some of the things I do to  still feel beautiful, but keep my beautification routine a little more natural.

beauty-treatment-girl

  • Use make-up sparingly. I typically wear make-up just on Sunday and every once in awhile on special occasions. I’ve gotten so used to not wearing make-up that sometimes I think I look scary when I do wear it.
  • Exercise – I could go on and on about the benefits of exercise, but I’ll keep it short. When you exercise you look and feel better. It’s also free to cheap and good for you.
  • Wash Hair Less – I only wash my hair about once a week. This saves both water and my time.  When my hair starts to look a little greasy, I’ve found that a little bit of cocoa powder makes for a great dry shampoo. I haven’t been able to break out of the shampoo habit, but since it takes me a really long time to go through an entire bottle of shampoo and conditioner I have a bit more to spend on eco-friendly choices. (BTW, most are still cheaper than salon brands.)
  • Use Hair Tools Sparingly– I typically wash my hair at night and then wrap it up in an old t-shirt to dry over night. (I’ve read that the t-shirt produces less frizz than a traditional towel.) This spares my hair from a lot of blow dryer damage. It’s also a really great method for curly hair and I’m often pleased with how good my hair looks when I wake up the next morning. I do use a flat-iron to fix things here and there, but try to avoid using it heavily every day by getting creative with different kinds of braids and up-dos. (Check out my friend Robyn’s blog for some cute and easy styling ideas.) I always get way more compliments for the creative hairstyles and the funny thing is they often take me less time. (Keep in mind, I’ve been braiding my own hair since third grade so I have a lot of practice.)
  • Make your own products. I’ve started making this DIY exfoliater that has revolutionized my world. No exaggeration. I have really dry, sensitive skin and while using good soap has helped, this recipe for “soft, silky legs in a bottle” has eliminated practically all of my remaining itchiness and razor burn. (It hasn’t been very effective on stress itching, darn it.)
  • Be Confident. Nothing can beat confidence and if you do it right it can be contagious.

I also really like Seventh Generation’s 10 Tips for a More Naturally Beautiful You. What do you do to be more naturally beautiful?

PS Don’t forget to hop over and comment on Monday’s post if you’re interested in winning a set of reusable bowl covers.
Happy Earth Day and a Giveaway!

Happy Earth Day and a Giveaway!

I woke up this morning and was feeling pretty bummed because I hadn’t planned anything special to celebrate Earth Day. I started to feel guilty about how much I’ve used disposable diapers this month and how I have two separate car trips planned today that could have been consolidated into one if I’d done any sort of planning. I was feeling like a pretty terrible wannabe-tree-hugger. Noel and I were discussing my disappointment as he got ready for work and he said something  like, “You know, a lot of people think that being environmentally friendly means driving a Prius or putting solar panels on their roof and so they just don’t do anything. While those things are awesome, the thing that would make the most difference is if everyone just did a little something more everyday.” I thought about that as he drove our car away to work so he could fill the trunk with free compost. (What, doesn’t your employer give away free compost on Earth Day?) I may feel like I’ve failed sometimes because  we still haven’t followed through on our goal to compost or because I just can’t get into a habit of using cloth diaper wipes, but I am doing some things. Already today I’ve saved four diapers from the landfill and eaten leftovers for lunch even though I really wanted to just go pick up fast food. And hopefully the feelings of disappointment that come and go will keep pushing me to make baby steps of improvement. Realistically all any of us can do is start where we’re at and try to be a little better. Over the next five days we’re going to share some of the things we’ve learned and would love for you to jump in with any of your own ideas or experiences.

Also, we thought it would be kind of fun to do a little giveaway. (And maybe test the readership of this here blog . . .) I’m going to be giving away a set of my reusable bowl covers.

BowlCoversSimply leave a comment on this post sharing a small thing you do to be more Eco-conscious by Thursday night. Friday I’ll select a winner at random and make an announcement on our final “Earth Week” post. If you’ve never left a comment on our little blog before, now’s the time to reveal yourself 🙂

Changing the World

Changing the World

Maybe it’s because I live in Colorado, but I’m lucky to have several friends that share many of my strange hippie tendencies. A week or so ago, one of these friends sent out an email alerting a few of us to a really awesome event happening on April 20th. Um, no, not that 4/20 event. I’m talking about the Great Cloth Diaper Change of course!     1-IMG_0804Normally, we are the kind of people that hate crowds or waiting in lines, but everyone has something they’re willing to brave the crowds for and apparently our weakness is free cloth diapers. Strange? Maybe. We also figured since everyone attending would have kids even if we showed up marginally on time we’d beat 75% of the other attendees.

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Serin and Emilie checking out our loot.

Once we got checked in and received our swag bags, we found a place to sit in the midst of the sea of baby wraps and exposed breasts (really kicking myself for not bringing business cards) and rifled through our bags like it was Christmas morning.

4-IMG_0827If anyone thought it was ridiculous how excited we were about our freebies, they obviously have never had good nursing pads. The free jellystone necklace I got even matched the earrings I was wearing.

2-IMG_0819The kids fought over snacks and we watched the MC (a grown man) change himself into the largest cloth diaper I’ve ever seen. I’m still not sure if the fact that he wore it over his jeans made it more or less weird. Nobody left at that point, but maybe that’s because they hadn’t done the raffle yet. For the main event, we all laid our kids on the gym floor, simultaneously  changed them into their brand new Rumparooz diapers (I don’t think they could be accused of shameless product promotion, do you?), and then held them up Simba-style for the cameras.  After those three exhilarating minutes were over, we all packed up our stuff and headed home so the events staff could clean up for the wedding that was scheduled for a few hours later.

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I loaned Miss Ellen to Serin since her youngest is out of diapers.

Ironically, the event was only half a mile from all of the pot celebrations, but we resisted checking it out after we were done even though it’s totally legal here now.

DownEast Remix

DownEast Remix

Dress Without JacketDo you ever have one of those moments when you discover a hole in an article of clothing, start angrily muttering under your breath about how you can’t believe this item you just bought is already falling apart, but then almost have a heart attack when you start counting in your mind and realize that you’ve owned this item for 5+ years? Happens to me all the time. Where does the time go? What to do with these pieces is always a bit of a conundrum for me. I’m a huge fan of second-hand shops (for both donating and purchasing), but I feel bad donating clothes that aren’t in bad enough shape to be recycled (for those shops that participate in those programs), but also aren’t in great enough shape for someone to really want to wear them. Often, I just stash them in my sewing room and wait for brilliance to strike. Which is what happened with my “new” dress I’m posting about today.

Don't we have the best pictures?
Don’t we have the best pictures?

I had a dress I bought from DownEast several years ago that I loved. It was such an amazing dress that three other women in our church congregation also owned it and we each unofficially adopted a week of the month that was our “turn” to wear it. Over the years it somehow got stretched out though.

Yes, we are hot and tired.
Yes, we are hot and tired. But isn’t Mini Coop adorable?

I also had a basic pink tee from DownEast that had an unraveling hem. When both items had landed in my sewing room pile, I knew it was time for a DownEast Remix. I cut a few strips off the bottom of the shirt and used this tutorial to make the “braided” neckline. (I did two rows of the “braid.”)  Then I cut the original top off the dress, did a basting stitch around the raw edge and cinched it till it was the same size as the bottom of the t-shirt, and sewed them together using regular thread on top and elastic thread in my bobbin. (I based a lot of the dress assembly off of this t-shirt dress tutorial.) I added a belt and voila, as good as new.

Dress w/ Jacket And just for fun, look how cute this little girl looks with her tiny ponytail.

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Medium Rare Cake – AKA High Altitude Subtle Red Velvet without Dyes

Medium Rare Cake – AKA High Altitude Subtle Red Velvet without Dyes

Red Velvet Cake

Noel requested red velvet cake for Valentine’s Day this year. Now there’s just one little problem I have with red velvet cake: the insane amount of red food dye most recipes call for. I was engrossed in researching cakes made with beets when Noel looked over my shoulder and interjected, “I’d rather have a good tasting cake that wasn’t red.” So, we turned to one of our trusted food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I love Smitten Kitchen and have made maybe only one recipe of hers that was less than exquisitely delicious. Her only shortcoming is that she, like 99% of the other exceptional cooks in this world, lives at sea level which can lead to complications when you’re using some of her recipes at a mile high. With the help of one of my favorite local cookbooks, I tweaked the recipe a bit and then subbed water for the exorbitant amount of food coloring. I  couldn’t have been happier with the results.

 

Slice of Cake

I had read that originally red velvet cake was red because of the chemical reaction created by the vinegar used in the cake and was delighted to discover that this cake did take on a red hue. Noel jokingly kept referring to the cake as “Medium Rare” since it was brown on the edges and red in the middle. If you’re looking for a subtle red velvet cake, I highly recommend this one.

IMG_9913
Cooper now believes in “smiling” for pictures.

 

Little Red
Ellen in her festive V-day outfit.

It even  won the approval of these silly people.

High Altitude Subtle Red Velvet Cake Adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Butter (for buttering cake pans)

3 3/4 cups cake flour (Actually used this cheat for making cake flour.)

1/2 cup + 1/2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa (Not dutch process – I used raw cocoa powder from Whole Food’s Bulk bins)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups canola oil

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar (Measure just barely below the top of the cup.)

3 large eggs

6 1/2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/4 cup + 1 1/2 TBSP buttermilk (I generally use this simple substitution.)

2 teaspoons baking soda (Measure just barely below the top of the spoon.)

2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 2 round cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides, sprinkle with flour and distribute evenly around the pan by turning it and tapping the edges.

2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add water and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. Divide batter among pans and turn extra into cupcakes for the little people. Place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. (About 15-20 for the cupcakes.) Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap to seal in moisture. Cool an additional 15 minutes. Then remove from pans, recover with the plastic wrap, and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature

3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Assemble the layers, adhering them together with icing. Ice with a thin layer (can use a bit of water to make the icing less thick) to trap crumbs and put in the freezer for a little bit then finish with a thicker layer. I used this technique to ice the top. Enjoy!