On-the-Road Project

I saw a post about making headbands on a blog I just recently discovered.  I don't usually tend to wear headbands because I can not usually find any that are strong enough to hold back my super thick hair.  Especially at work I think that I should wear headbands more often because it's the worst to be in a germy room, hunched over a patient and have your hair fall in your face.  The last thing I want to do is to reach up with my now germy hand and touch my hair and face.  The thought has crossed my mind several times that I wish that I had a headband.
Munchkie also has bangs that are so thick that by just walking outside her face turns bright red and the bangs start getting damp with sweat.  I intend on growing her bangs out and think that during this process headbands are pretty essential.  That is, if I can get her to keep them on her head. 

I'm trying to come up with some things that I can entertain myself with during our really long car ride that is coming up soon.  These headbands seem so easy and quick that I can hopefully pound out a few of them before we even get to the Midwest.
Photo by Our Tiny House, used with permission

My friend just recently made some for herself and also a super cute headband for her baby with some tshirt material as well.  They are so cute and look so good on both of their heads it really made me think that I need to get in on this headband action.
Our Tiny House's Braided Headbands

And how cute are these little bow tshirt headbands?
Our Tiny House's Bow Headbands

Check our her blog, she has all kinds of cool craft projects!


Creamer for Your Coffee

We are getting ready to make the 17 hour drive to the upper peninsula of Michigan to visit my family's lake house.  I have inherited from my mother a love and desire to bake and prepare so I wish that I had time to bake up all kinds of goodies.  But working every night but tonight leading up to our trip does not really give me a chance to do all kinds of baking.  So instead I'm trying to do a little bit here and there.  Tonight I put together the crumb topping for Overnight Challah Bread French Toast to fix for my family for breakfast.  It's so easy and all I have to do is throw it together the night before and then toss it in the oven the next day. 

I also made some Cinnamon Strudel Coffee Creamer to add to our coffee in the mornings.   Right now our house smells so delicious from the cinnamon, almond and vanilla that it's making my mouth water.  Because I am trying to follow a diet that does not include dairy, fruit or carbs, I used almond milk and heavy cream to make it thick and creamy.  I also left out the syrup with plans to use stevia to sweeten each cup to taste.  Right now it is sitting on the stove while the flavors all meld together.  I am planning on straining the mixture through a mesh sieve and storing in the refrigerator once it cools.  This creamer just takes your coffee to the next level.  I have tried several of the coffee creamers from the above link and this remains my favorite.  Several times I have tried to eliminate coffee from my diet and it just never works.  Coffee is just so good that I can't live without it.  The caffeine headaches are something I can get past, but the desire for coffee, is something I can't.  Munchkie's Daddy has been both emotionally and physically addicted to coffee since he was in high school, but he's too good for even any creamer that I can create.  He is a "purist" and only drinks it black (I think he's just a coffee elitist).

If you're not a coffee drinker but think this creamer sounds good, it also tastes great in a cup of tea or hot chocolate.  For obvious reasons, these are enjoyed more in the winter time.  However, on the upper peninsula of Michigan,  the mornings are cold and crisp, the perfect morning to enjoy a steaming cup of coffee with a delicious breakfast casserole.

For my coffee creamer I used-

1 pint (~2 cups) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups almond milk
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract


The Trio of Moving

We have been so busy lately, making trips all over.  We have made the two hour trip to our soon-to-be-new home several times and this past weekend we went to visit Munchkie's Daddy's family, a five hour car ride to both visit and bring stuff for storage.  It is very stressful planning yet another move, especially when you don't really know anyone in the area.

The three essentials for moving as a family are
  • A place to live
  • A job
  • Childcare
These are all so intertwined that if you don't have one of the trio, you can't have the others.  Without a job, you can't afford a place to live.  But if you don't have childcare, you can't work, and if you don't have a place to live, you can't find a new job.  Oh it's all so stressful!  We have successfully found all three!  I can not even begin to express what a relief this is. 

Now, the prepping for the moving must start.  We are moving into an even smaller apartment so the downsizing has begun.  It seems that with each move we have made, we have moved into yet an even smaller place.  So each time we have downsized a little bit more than the previous time.  We are sorting through all of our belongings and deciding which ones are essential.  I love this.  I love organizing, cleaning out and getting rid of stuff.  However, I also like to find things we "just have to have."  So now I need to sort through all of this "have to have" stuff and decide if it's worth it to move it out of this house, up three flights of winding stairs and then back out again in one to two years.  If that isn't motivation to minimize, I don't know what is!

We also would like to make sure that the things in our house are eventually all very good quality things.  While everything is workable right now, the fact that we talk about if such and such piece will make it through a couple more moves, makes it automatically on my "let's not take it with us" list.  We also talk about each one and say, will we still want that in five years when we hopefully have an actual house to live in?  If it's questionable, away it goes.  It's just not worth it to keep moving all of this stuff that we aren't going to want at the end of our moves.

When we made our last halfway across the country move I also got really excited to do the sorting and organizing, starting months ahead of time.  But then when it came down to the days before the move, I got completely burnt out (probably didn't help that I was ending my first trimester of pregnancy) and just could not do anymore.  I am trying to pace myself this time so that I don't get tired of it by the end, but also not wait until the last days either.  We are making a list with photos of all the things that we will be eliminating and I plan on having a Name-Your-Price Facebook tag sale.  Our plan is to get rid of stuff, and maybe even make a little bit of money off of it. 

I'm really interested to see how this turns out.  Now that we have the basic essentials of the move figured out, and have begun the sorting process I am already designing the rooms in my head and figuring out how to arrange the furniture.  I think that finally, I feel like this is real, everything has fallen into place and we are really getting ready to start over yet again.


The Pasta of Summer

Last fall this Tomato Basil Pasta Salad was my favorite pasta dish to make because I love tomatoes, basil and garlic. After a recent walk we looked through our cabinets and fridge to find something to fix for dinner.  We worked together in the kitchen to quickly made some food before we all had breakdowns.  While the water was boiling, Munchkie's Daddy chopped basil from our herbs and walnuts mixing them with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  While he was doing that I chopped tomatoes.  Once the cheese tortellini was finished boiling he drained it and I added shredded mozzarella mixing to let it melt on the hot pasta.  Then we mixed in the basil mixture and tomatoes.  It was so delicious that Munchkie asked for seconds and probably would have eaten thirds if it wasn't already past her bedtime.


MY Mama Never Said There'd Be Days Like This!

Well, at least if my mom did tell me there would be days like these, I didn't listen to her.  To start, I am writing this at 2:09 am.  I worked Friday night through Wednesday night with Monday night "off", which means that I spent at least part of the day sleeping for work, working or sleeping from work, Friday through Thursday and spent over 63 out of 133 hours at work.  Ugh!  Today I intentionally only allowed myself a few hours sleep in the hopes that I would be able to sleep tonight.  Nice try!

While working so much there was absolutely no way that I could even fathom thinking up, making and cleaning up after a meal.  I have never been so thankful for Chipotle in all of my life.  I was able to "provide" a meal that was full of veggies, beans, and meat free of hormones or antibiotics.  It was a delicious meal that fed us that night, then Munchkie and Munchkie's Daddy the next day for lunch as well.

I just don't ever think that I realized how tired a person could be.  Emotionally and physically.  All this work, prep for traveling to the in-laws this weekend, more work, traveling 17 hours to the family lakehouse, more work and then moving is a lot for one little family to handle!  I just never expected my life to be like this.  So busy all of the time that I can barely keep my head on straight, let alone do things that are enjoyable.  On Tuesday when I woke up I took Munchkie to daycare, Munchkie's Daddy to work, came home, got a quick work out in, showered, dashed off to the dentist, came home, tried to sleep for a couple hours, got my dinner and Munchkie's lunch ready for the next day, laid her outfit out, while trying to have some quality time with the family at the same time as I was getting ready for work.  Whew!

So how is it, that after this exhausting week I cannot fall asleep?  How is this possible?  Probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that when my head hits the pillow it starts running like crazy.  Making lists for the store, making lists of things to pack for this weekend, making lists of things to pack for two weeks from now, figuring out what days I can get all of the laundry done, plotting out a Word document of all the things we need to measure at the new apartment next week, who I need to call to catch up with and meals I can put together or bring with me to keep eating healthy during these busy times.

Throughout this I am finding it even more important to deliberately spend time with my family.  Something I thought just happened.  I never realized that you have to specifically set aside time to spend with those you live with.  Through all of this we are trying to make time to get a little movement in together.  This actually works out beautifully, we go walking on paths by our house laughing, talking and playing together.  We look for animals and identify different sounds we hear.  Then we sit on the rock and watch for boats to go by before heading back watching out for rocks and roots.  Taking this time in the quiet, peaceful outdoors has really showed me how great it is to spend time moving as a family, it makes those busy times just melt away for a little while.


Yay! E-i-zing!

I have tried countless times to get into exercising.  To be honest, I just hate it.  It's something that I dread, but I know that I have to do.  I don't enjoy sweating.  I don't enjoy huffing and puffing.  I don't enjoy feeling like I'm going to die.  I don't enjoy having to take the time to get ready afterwords. I just don't like it.  Munchkie's Daddy and I say frequently that we wish we were the kind of people who craved running or weight lifting instead of craving Cheese-its or ice cream.  We're just not those kind of people.  Munchkie's Daddy sent me this article on How Exercise Makes Us Feel Good from the NY Times and I know that you are supposed to feel good when you exercise, but it's actually building up the motivation to start exercising that's the problem.  When you anticipate the sweating, shortness of breath, feeling of death, you have to really psych yourself up to exercise.  We are moving soon to an area that relies mostly on public transportation, bikes or your own two feet to get around and so I feel that we need to really work on our physical fitness.  If I'm miserable exercising and I have to run a few blocks to catch a train, I'm going to be out of breath, sweating and miserable before I even get to work.  Not something I'm looking forward to.

I subscribe to several of the Simple Living Media blogs and in their newsletter they highlighted this post on Simple Family Fitness and it caught my eye.  I have always been someone who needed someone to exercise with and keep me motivated.  Who's better to keep you motivated than your family?  So I did some blog hopping from that post and went to fitfamilytogether.com to read some more.  Munchkie's Daddy really like the idea too and so I signed up for the 7 day challenge.  We went on our first family walk together when I woke up today.  I have to go back into work tonight, but instead of wanting to lay on the couch and not do anything, I'm feeling pretty good.  We had such a fun time and hope to continue going on family walks and bike rides. In the words of Munchkie "Yay Mommy, we're e-i-zing! look at me! I running!"


Do You Cook in Cast Iron?

Do you own a cast iron skillet?  If so, do you use it?  Like good newlyweds we registered for a Lodge Logic cast iron skillet and didn't know what to do with it.  I made cornbread occasionally and that was the extent of my cast iron usage.  On the way back from my aunt's in North Carolina a few times we stopped at the Lodge Logic outlet and picked up a few more things, including a small skillet that needed to be seasoned.  Now, five years later, we don't even put the skillets away because they are used the most.
Farmer's Market sugar snap peas with a drizzle of olive oil, scoop of sesame tahini, salt, pepper, teriyaki and sesame seeds.

Lately, I've been reading about the health benefits of cast iron, especially for women.  Women are especially prone to anemia, as well as not taking care of ourselves.  If there's something we can do for ourselves that's simple, we should do it.  Everything that we cook from scrambled eggs to vegetables to chicken breast is cooked in the cast iron skillet and the extra iron gives us a little boost.  It also makes a mean corn bread in the oven.  The clean up is ridiculously easy, we just take pour a little drizzle of olive oil in the pan and wipe out.  No water, no soap and no scrubbing.  No matter what we cook in it, all we have to do is wipe it out, the seasoning makes it almost no stick.

Here are several links to articles about cast iron skillets that I found in a two second Google search. 

Anemia and Nutrition: The Importance of Iron
Anemia- Dietary Factors
Anemia and Pregnancy
Ever So Humble, Cast Iron Outshines the Fancy Pans
The Benefits of Cast Iron Cooking

If you have a cast iron skillet you should use it. Not only does it cook your food quickly and evenly, it gives you a little extra iron that you may not be getting from your diet.


Happy Birfday A-mare-ca!

 Memorial Day always signaled the beginning of summer to me growing up, we were always days away from summer vacation and it was just starting to get warm enough out to be allowed to leave the house in shorts.  Now that I've lived in the Northeast for a little while, my thinking has changed.  I think it's partly because the kids around here don't get out of school until late June and partly because once you're all grown up and working there just isn't a "summer break" anymore.  This may be the reason why I love a summer get together.  It makes me feel like there is a break, even if it's just for a day.  It also gives me a reason to spend time being creative in the kitchen.

Munchkie's Daddy tells me that I go overboard every single time we go somewhere.  I think for him it's work to put together several dishes to take somewhere, but I on the other hand, truly enjoy it.  It's something that makes me happy and I get to do something for others as well.  Double win!

I was asking my coworkers the other night at work what I should make for a July 4th party and one of them suggested a cake she had seen somewhere.  I'm all about creative cakes, so I decided to go look for this cake idea.  Thanks Make it and Love it for this wonderful cake idea!  It was a huge hit!  If you want to know how to do it, click on the previous link.  Ashley of Make it and Love it has great, easy to understand instructions, and a super cute Tshirt idea for next year!