Friday, June 22, 2012

Tiffy's Top Ten...June 2012

I thought I would share a few photos of our camping trip last weekend.  While I don't consider myself a "camper", this was one of those outstanding camping trips.  Maybe it was the running water inside the cabin...ha...no, I think it was the amazing views and the even more amazing people.  And, I just love being on a lake!  I'm more a "lake cabin" girl than a "tenter".  But, I'm pretty proud of myself...this is our 4th (!) summer tenting it with the kids!




This summer is already going so fast...I can't believe June is almost a memory.  I was thinking last week what I want my summer days to look like...I came up with 10 things that I would do on my perfect summer day.  My last Top Ten was a list of things I want to do this summer...this one is just a list of everyday things that make me happy.  Notice...I don't even have to leave the house!

Tiffy's Top Ten Things to do on a Summer Day:
1.  Start my day with Chai tea and Bible time
2.  Exercise
3.  Do some school with the kids
4.  Sew for 2 hours
5.  Drink lots of water
6.  Read a great book on the deck while sipping an iced tea or an iced coffee
7.  Scrapbook a few pages
8.  Accomplish a household cleaning/organizing project
9.  Cook real food
10.  Declutter as I go

Hmmm...nowhere on here am I driving kids to and from sports (all day long) or doing the dishes.  Those tend to be my two most time consuming tasks these days.  Not that I don't enjoy all the other things that fill my day...but if I could have a full 24 hours of peace and quiet, these are the things that would be top on my list.

I just noticed that this is my 100th post!  That's kind of fun.  This will be my last post in June...next week the kids and I are going "Technology Free" for a whole week.  No TV, computor, Wii, or Ipod Touches.  We can use the phone, my cell phone (no bells and whistles there), and our CD player (since we can't access Itunes).  My Sweetie will be out of town all week, and I am always looking for an opportunity to simplify.  The kids will be at VBS next week from 9-12...so I'm hoping to be super productive and get stuff done...and not be distracted by checking emails, reading blogs, Facebook, Pinterest...I mean hours gone that I will never get back...ha!  Never mind how enjoyable that is sometimes.  I haven't "surprised" my kids with this information yet.  They love their technology...but I think it's good to take some breaks.  I'll be shutting down my computor before bed on Sunday evening, putting a little reminder sign on the TV (we only have one), and gathering all hand-held devices in a little basket.  I'll let you know how it goes! 

XOXO Tiffany

"Our society - with its pressures of "too much" - is waging an undeclared war on childhood".

"By reducing mental and physical clutter, simplification increases a families ability to flow together, to focus and deepen their attention, to realign their lives with their dreams".

"Simplification is about stripping away the distractions and clutter that monopolize our attention and threaten our connection".

"It's true, you may be the one doing the caring now, and insisting on limitations that they may resist, but you are also beginning a pattern that they can continue for themselves and will serve them throughout their lives".

"To have emotionally healthy children in today's America means making strong choices in the face of the consumerist economy".

"By carving time out of our busy schedules we place an emphasis on connection.  When we simplify our childs daily life and their environment, we support them, making room for contemplation, restoration".

All quotes are from Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sewing Wednesday...getting there...

I've managed to find little bits of time to sew over the last couple of weeks...I've got 6 skirts ready to list on Etsy (well, 5...one is sold).  If my little business ever gets to the point of "going somewhere"...I sure would love to hire a photographer, model, and Etsy lister.  Those are my 3 least favorite jobs.  I just want to design, sew, and shop for fabric.  I have 10 skirts still cut out and waiting to be sewn together, but I am not finding the time.  I have all these ideas swimming in my head of things that I would love to create...my heart says "go for it!"...but, my head is saying, "finish what you've started".  I tend to be a thinker/contemplater and usually do what my head tells me to do...I wonder what would happen if I let my heart lead for a change?  Hmm.

It's a stormy free day!  Well, I left the house this morning at 6:00 this morning with Lulu...she had swim team from 6:30-8am at a pool 30 minutes from home.  But, now my day is free!  Maybe I'll do a little of what I "should" do, and a little of what I "want" to do.  Seeking balance.

XOXO Tiffany

"I am a believer, but I am still aware of the flesh within me that tries to get my own needs met".  Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P Freeman

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tropical Green Smoothie

 Good morning!  I started making this smoothie a couple of weeks ago.  I (we) love it!  It is light and refreshing.  I feel like I'm on the beach in Mexico when I'm enjoying this tropical smoothie.  MJ drinks it in a lidded cup and still doesn't know it's green.  He sees mine and says, "oh, you're having a green smoothie, huh, mom".   
 Love my VitaMix.
Tropical Green Smoothie:
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1 ripe banana
1 cup spinach
2 tbsp shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups ice

Blend and enjoy!

Above...I made a double batch and then froze the extras in my Starbucks Frappuccino jars.  I've also been putting leftover smoothie into our Popsicle molds!  

We just got back last night from a wild and crazy camping weekend with 7 other families (40 people total).  We camped at our friends grandparents cabin up in Grand Rapids MN on Deer Lake.  It was an outstanding weekend filled with fishing, boating, skiing, swimming, eating, roasting marshmallows, drinking coffee, and some relaxing.  The ultimate highlight of my weekend was when the moms requested a "ladies only" pontoon ride on Saturday afternoon.  We brought an amazing supply of homemade goodies and chips and dip.  What started out like a dream ended up being an adventure of a lifetime.  Picture it...storm heading in quickly from the west, prop stuck in the sand at Bear Island, boat won't move, ladies stripping down to swimsuits (or panties in someones case) to help move the boat, frantic calls to cabin for help, the storm is on us, 8 ladies put on 8 life jackets, the boat is released, the ladies see two hunks in a fishing boat, the pontoon takes a nose-dive, waves over the top of us, 6 inches of standing water in the pontoon, guys think the boat is going down, ladies back out of the waves and follow the guys around the backside of the island, hunky fisherman nets a beloved sandal that washed off the pontoon,  ladies huddle together and freeze while wrapped in sopping towels with the wind and rain upon us, our fearless leader drives that boat and follows those fishermen, we arrive at cabin, we shiver our way up to our tents to replace sopping wet clothing with dry clothing, we head into the cabin to warm by the fire with a cup of coffee/tea in our hands and proceed to relive our story for the next 24 hours.  One of my favorite adventures ever.  Oh, the laughs we shared!

I hope you all had an "adventurous" weekend!

XOXO Tiffany

"We can never have enough of Nature".  Henry David Thoreau

Friday, June 15, 2012

Organizing the kids...

 Hey guys!  A quick post today on a couple of ways that I try to keep my home/kids organized.  I do all my laundry in one day.  Friday.  I gather it up on Thursday evening, and on Friday morning, I sort, start a load, and complete all 5-7 loads of laundry by Saturday morning.  Each load takes about 1 1/2 hours, so I keep a little post-it handy with the time for the laundry to be flipped.  My laundry is in the basement, so it's easy to forget about.  When I flip the loads, I bring the clean/dry load up to the main level, where I fold and sort (the kids help with this).  I bought them each a wicker basket and tied a piece of fabric on so they know which one is theirs.  When the laundry is done, they grab their basket, put away all their clothes (still working on the neatness of this process), and then their basket is empty and ready for next weeks dirty clothes.  (I got the baskets at Joann's...$6 after 40% off coupon)
 My next little handy tip is a checklist for the kids and their sports.  This is handy for you if your kids can't read or pack themselves, but it is extremely handy when your kids can read and pack themselves!  I don't pack my kids bags for their sports.  I don't fill their water bottles.  They are responsible for their own packing and their own forgetting.  How fast they learn when they forget something on their own!  They learn NOTHING if mom forgets to pack it and they just get mad at mom.  Lucy has forgotten her tennis shoes for swim team dry land...she had to wear her flip flops...she hasn't forgotten her shoes again.  My kids are at the age where, on a lot of days, I drop them off at their sports and leave (usually b/c I need to drop or pick up the next kid!), and they don't have cell phones yet (doesn't mean they aren't begging), but sometimes I do get to stay and hang out.  If they have forgotten something, they want me to run home and get it.  No.  I'm not running home, you'll be fine, and I bet you'll remember it next time, and it you don't, you'll live.  Ha!  I love my kids so much I could just gobble them up...but I also love them enough to help them to be independant.
 I have this posted on the bench in our entry way.  I need to add a list for our Nature Walks!
Have a wonderful weekend!  We're off to a camping trip with friends in Grand Rapids.  They're expecting rain...it wouldn't be a Miller camping trip without a "little" rain!  Ha!  Eventually our friends are going to stop inviting us. 

XOXO Tiffany

"By simplifying, we protect the enviroment for childhood's slow, essential unfolding of self."  Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

iPhone vs Toddler phone

 I'm one of the last remaining human beings to not have a smart phone.  I'm always a little embarrassed to pull out my phone.  I feel like I need to explain myself...like, "my contract isn't up until February 2013"...or, "I don't really use my phone that much".  Oh, brother. 

So, I ran to Lakeshore Learning Store today because I wanted to get their Teacher Planner.  It's the best one I've found, and I've looked at a lot of them!  (the cover is cheesy, but the inside is great!)  The cashier asked me if I would like to text them so that I could receive a free tote.  Should've said, "No, that's all right, I'll pass".  But instead, I said, "sure".  So, I pulled out my Toddler-Looking-Phone and hit the Messaging button.  Then, I thought, "oh shoot...I've never texted someone who's not in my contacts".  I fumbled for a bit...then saw the button Manual Entry...score!  I clicked that, I put in their 5-digit text code, and I clicked Send.  Crumb!!!  I forgot to put the message Lakeshore23 on there!  I told her what I did, she looked at me with pity and told the lady behind me that she could help her in the next lane (while this techno-challenged lady gets her act together...I'm sure she wanted to say).  I sent the text again with the special message...I got the message with the code back from them, I looked up (at the new lady helping me) and said, "I have the code if you need it".  She said, "I think it's already been taken care of".  Oh, OK.  I stuck my little toddler phone back in my purse and I was handed this bag.
All that (embarrassing) work, and I was handed a ridiculous bag that I will NEVER use.  I need to remember to say, "no, that's all right, I'll pass".  Just another item for the Goodwill box.

So, do I really want an iPhone?  It's an extra $60 per month.  I could look super cool, pulling it out and checking my calendar.  I could look up random fun facts.  I could have my shopping list with me at all times.  I could have a touch-screen that is actually sensitive...my current phone is like the original touch screen...slide, slide, slide (with my finger on the screen), nope, it's still not "ending call"...oh well...I'll just throw it in my purse.  Though, maybe with my toddler phone, I am saving time.  I could tell a cashier "no thanks".  I could tell someone that asks if a specific date works, "I don't know, I'll have to check when I get home", and then sit back and relax.  A group of friends and I were chatting the other day, solving the worlds problems one topic at a time, and we were on at least our 3rd or 4th topic when our friend Natalie piped in and said, "Raw honey is as it exists in the beehive without adding heat...and yada yada yada".  We were like, "uh, Nat, that was like 3 topics ago...we've already chatted about swimming pools, homemade flax tortillas, and traveling to Mexico in the time we lost you to your phone".  Ha!  We love Natalie.  I could be that girl, looking up awesome facts about the topic in discussion.  I could tag myself at random places and take sweet photos and post them immediately. 

Or, I could keep my toddler phone and eat some humble pie.  Maybe I should pull it out and be all proud (of the fact that I am saving $60 per month!)...maybe I should read the instruction manual and find out all the cool things that this phone can do.  Maybe I should see how long I can go with this phone.  Maybe I should see what I could do with my extra $60/month.  I don't know...I still may get that iPhone in February.  But that's still 8 months with my hot pink texting phone.  And, to think, just 16 months ago I still had the metallic pink razor phone.  Things move too quickly these days.  To be continued...

Sewing Wednesday...I know it's Sewing Wednesday and I've been making skirts this week!  I'm hoping to finish some more up, take lots of photos, and list them on Etsy.  But, I also need to pack and get organized for our camping trip this weekend.

Have a nice day with your iPhone.

XOXO Tiffany

"Throw yourself wholeheartedly and full-time...into God's way of doing things".  Romans 6:13 in the Message Bible

Monday, June 11, 2012

Auntie Nancy's Homemade Flax Tortillas

 We just completed a wild and crazy weekend filled with family and friends.  There was book club, a swim meet, two birthday parties, a graduation party, church and small group.  It was all done by 7pm last night, and I was one happy lady.  I got my kitchen cleaned up and headed upstairs to get my jammies on and read.  A storm hit us at 7:25pm which was great because it brought the kids inside and we got them to bed too.  Lucy has swim team this morning at 6:15am and MJ is after her at 7:45am.  Then piano lessons from 9:30-11, and soccer camp for Daisy from 1:30-3:30.  Then, a night at home!  I hope another storm comes...I'm hoping for a movie night with the kids.  I got up at 5am this morning to make some banana bread for breakfast.

My Auntie Nancy makes these homemade tortillas, and they are about the best tortillas I have ever had.  My kids LOVE them.  I made her recipe a couple of weeks ago, but they didn't turn out as good as hers...so, while she was over last week, I asked her if she would make them with me.  We made a triple batch.  They were awesome, and I figured out what I did wrong.  Two things really.  I didn't knead them for long enough, and I cooked them too long.

The top photo is of the batch that we made together.  The photos below are of when I made them on my own.  Basically, here is the process...

Mix ingredients together, knead well.  Roll out into a log.
 Divide into about 12 pieces.
 Roll each piece into a ball and let rest, covered, on a plate for 30 minutes.
 Roll into a flat, round tortilla.  Place on med/hot griddle.  Flip after about 30 seconds.
Here is the official recipe:

Auntie Nancy's Flax Tortillas:
1 1/2 cups flour (or bread flour)
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted in micro for about 20 seconds)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water

In a bowl, mix the flour, flax, oil, baking powder, and salt.  We mixed it by hand.  It will be crumbly at this point. 

Add the water, and mix until you have a firm, but workable dough.  Add a little more flour if it is too sticky.

Knead the dough on a flat surface until it is smooth. 

Divided the dough into 10-12 equal pieces and form into little golf balls.  Let them rest on a lightly covered plate for about 30 minutes.

Take one dough ball and roll it into a flat, round, circle.  Gently lift it from your counter, and place onto an ungreased, medium/hot pan.  Flip after about 30-60 seconds.  Cook the other side for about 30-60 seconds.  Once you see the first sight of a golden brown spot, that side is done.  These are better under-cooked than over-cooked.  When they are cooking on the second side, press the tortilla down with your spatula, they may bubble up a little.  Stack them on a plate and cover them with a kitchen towel.  Store them in the fridge in a gallon sized ziplock baggie.

These make fabulous little cheese tortillas, or a ham and cheese and lettuce wrap, or enchiladas!

Enjoy!  I'm off to bring MJ to swim team.

XOXO Tiffany

"God is kind, but he's not soft.  In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change."  Romans 2:4 in the Message Bible

Friday, June 8, 2012

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

 This is my favorite baked macaroni and cheese recipe.  I made it on Wednesday for lunch...we had my Auntie Nancy and my two cousins over for the day.  They joined us on our nature walk...where we got eaten alive by mosquito's.  Then we came back home to work on our nature journals while I popped the mac and cheese into the oven.  I pre-made it in the morning and just put it in the fridge until we were ready for it.  After lunch, the kids put a sprinkler under the trampoline and jumped like crazy while Auntie Nancy and I made a triple batch of her homemade flax tortillas.  Yum.  I'll share that recipe soon!

I bought a new kind of pasta (to me) that I really liked.  I was just looking for a whole wheat pasta with only one ingredient.  I didn't want it to be "enriched this" and "enriched that".  So, I found this Bella Terra, all natural, no additives, organic pasta.  The only ingredient is:  100% certified organic hard amber durum whole wheat.  I got the cavatappi shape.  It was yummy.
I buy big blocks of healthy cheese and shove it all through my food processor with the shredding blade on, and then I just store it in a glass baking dish so that it is ready when I need it.   
 It's ready to go into the oven.
 It just came out of the oven.
The Lady’s Cheesy Mac by Paula Deen
4 cups cooked elbow macaroni
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
4 tbsp butter, melted
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk

Place macaroni (while hot) and cheese in a large bowl.  In separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni and cheese.  Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Now...my cousin David, who is 11 (we're just a few years apart), has been known to be a somewhat picky eater.  The kid probably pounded about 1/2 the pan of macaroni and cheese.  There were no leftovers.  After lunch, he asked me, "Where is a place in your house that you look at a lot?".  I was confused.  He wanted me to write a note to myself that I would remember to make this macaroni and cheese for him every time he comes over.  Ha!  I'd be happy to!

Well, I've got a busy day.  I'm hosting book club tonight...and then on Sunday I am hosting Lucy's family birthday party.  This morning, I finished a few cleaning items that didn't get done yesterday (sweep main level, vacuum main level, vacuum stairs, vacuum upstairs), and I've already done 3 loads of laundry...3 to go.  I've got my chicken baking in the oven for my dinner tonight.  Here's my menu:

Spicy Chicken Avocado Enchiladas
Cilantro Lime Quinoa
Black Bean Dip with Chips
Orange Creamsicle Cookies

These are all new recipes that I found on Pinterest!  I can't wait to try them!

On Sunday, I'll be making a triple batch of my

Lasagna Soup
Homemade French Bread
Cranberry Almond Salad
Dessert???

I keep forgetting to ask Lulu what she would like for dessert.  I'll keep you posted on that one. 

Have a great weekend!

XOXO Tiffany

"Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself.  Judgemental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors....You didn't think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard?  God is kind, but he's not soft.  In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change".  Romans 2:1-5 in the Message Bible (loving Romans right now!)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sewing Wednesday...organizing a space

Last Saturday, we had a free morning.  The first thing on our schedule was a soccer tournament game at 3:30pm.  Wha...what?!?!  We (almost) never get a free Saturday morning.  I started my morning by enjoying my Chai/Bible time.  Then, I was like, "oh my goodness...what do I want to do with my free time?".  I didn't need to spend 2 hours with the kids on their school work...I mean, total free time.  I was walking around "blessing" my house (flylady.net anyone?) and I thought, "I know what my project for this week is going to be".  Clean/organize my scrapbook area.  This area is in a corner in my little Sewing Studio, right off the kitchen.  It's really a dream.  So, why do I allow it to look like this? 
 I went over to my "Weekly List" that I print out and added Scrapbook Area to my To Do list for the week.  Then, I went right over and started working on it.  Why wait till Monday?  I got so immersed, that before I new it, I was done!  It was so much fun!  In the past, I have left my scrapbook stuff packed and ready, because the neighbor ladies and I have been scrapping once a month together for years.  Well, we have really been struggling lately to get anything on the calendar, so I thought, until things slow down (ha ha), why don't I just unpack it all and try to scrap at home once in a while?

My first step was to clear out.  Little red vacuum that I never use, moved to a new location.  Ribbons hung on the wall on two old nails that used to hold a calendar, gone.  Then, I started unpacking the bags that were used to haul my stuff, and began organizing the contents.
 What I ended up with was a cute little table that I could actually pull a chair up to!  I used to just bring my project to the kitchen table, but now, I can work on it right here!
 And, work on a project I did.  I sat right down and finished November 2009.  Finishing Nov '09 is kind of a long story...somehow I didn't print the photos for that month, so I had actually moved on from that point and needed to go back and finish it once I finally printed the photos.  Well, I was finally able to complete that book and present it to my kids.  They have been pouring over our scrapbooks ever since.  I only have 3 months left to finish up for 2010 and then I get to start 2011.  Maybe with my new, clean, little desk, I will get caught up! 
You should know...I do very simple scrapbooks.  I used to try to get all wild and crazy with them (like my talented neighbor ladies!), and then a while back, I came to a decision.  "Tiffany (I said), you can't do it all!".  You don't have the time to make "scrapbooking" your thing.  You love to sew and cook...you are homeschooling your kids...you enjoy a clean house...you don't have any more time in your life for another hobby.  I couldn't give up scrapbooking totally because I knew how important these photos and memories are to my family.  So, I decided to just simplify.  I just use fun papers, and a sticker here and there.  I hand-write my journaling and my tags for where we are.  It is also my goal to not buy any more scrapbooking supplies (only adhesive).  I want to use up what I have.

Pick a space in your house to organize this week!!!

XOXO Tiffany

"One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding;  how little one can get along with, not how much."  Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yaya's Chocolate Frosting

 Last week, we kind of ate like pigs.  Threw the healthy eating plan right out the window.  Memorial Weekend, the garage sale, Matt out of town, Lulu's birthday...I've got lots of excuses.  By Saturday morning I was just craving healthy food.  I made a tropical smoothie (adapted from a recipe on Pinterest) and the kids and I gobbled it right down.  I'm going to try to make a smoothie for us every day this week.  Such a great way to get in the fruits and veggies.  We are getting back on track this week!
 Twice in the last month, I've seen bacon wrapped dates.  My Auntie Nancy made them for our Memorial Weekend party (yum!), and I saw them on the 100 Days of Real Food blog.  Daisy and I gave them a try.  We just sliced the date (Medjool Dates) on one side, pulled out the pit, replace the pit with two whole raw almonds, wrapped it in a half slice of bacon, put a water-soaked toothpick through it, placed them on a foil lined pan, and broiled on hi for about 6 minutes (turning the pan once).
Here are our little bundles.
 A yummy snack!  Here is the recipe that we used:  Bacon Wrapped Dates.
 Lulu really wanted a red cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday.  Every February, I make this red cake with buttercream frosting.  It's one of my favorite cakes.  However, what I now know about food colorings, I was hoping to make this cake without the dye.  Lucy wouldn't have it.  So, here are my lovely (artificially dyed) red cakes coming out of the oven.
 I used my mom's chocolate frosting recipe (I should have doubled it)...and that cake was out of control good.  I would like to play with the cake recipe a bit...right now it is a doctored up yellow cake mix.  You add buttermilk, cocoa, baking soda, vinegar, 1 oz of red food coloring...and some other stuff.  But, for now, I am going to share my mom's chocolate frosting recipe.  She also has a fudge frosting recipe that we use all the time, but that one is better for pouring onto a pan of bars or a 9 x 13 cake.  This one is spreadable.
Yaya's Chocolate Frosting
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 tbsp butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Put the first 3 ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Place your chocolate chips in a mixing bowl and then pour your warm sugar mixture over them.  Beat with a hand mixer until creamy and cooled.

XOXO Tiffany

"Memories do not exist along a timeline.  In my mind everything happens at once".  The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

Friday, June 1, 2012

Is it Friday yet?

This was one of those weeks that you're just ready for it to be over.  I'm ready for Monday...a fresh start.  I didn't get the house cleaned on Thursday.  I've just been tired, overwhelmed, and un-motivated.  It hasn't been a horrible week, just different.  Ever had those days/weeks?  Yuck.  They bug me. 

But...today we get to celebrate my Lucy.  It's her 10th birthday.  We had homemade bagels for breakfast and I just pulled her Red Cake out of the oven.  I look forward to these quiet days, but she was feeling like she wanted more going on...so she invited some friends over to have cake with us this afternoon.

I'm off to switch my laundry...and then I'm thinking about sitting out in the sun with a good book and an iced coffee.

Happy Friday!!!

XOXO Tiffany

"Our love for our children must never be conditional".  Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline MD and Jim Fay