Oct 31, 2012

Photo Op

My sister-in-law called me several weeks ago and asked if I could take some family pictures for her.  I didn't hesitate one moment!  She and my brother have the most beautiful family, and of course, I'd take any opportunity to snap pictures of the world's cutest kids.  Marshall and I joke that the Gap models better watch out.

It's no wonder they have gorgeous children!
The setting they picked out was incredible, and the kids loved running through the trees.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous going into it.  I read up on all kinds of child photography tips, and I kept reading that with kids under age five, you might as well just hope for some nice candids.  With four kids five and under, I was very skeptical of the outcome.  For the most part, they were eager to smile for the camera, even though it was freezing outside.

That is one good looking family!
Thank you to everyone who prayed for Taylor yesterday!  The surgeons were able to get the entire tumor out!

Oct 30, 2012

Pray for Taylor

Please pray for baby Taylor as she has surgery today to remove a cancerous tumor that is near her spine.  She checked in for surgery at 6 AM, and the procedure will last for twelve hours.  You can read her story here: http://lifeinthehallhousehold.blogspot.com/

Oct 29, 2012

Stayin' Alive

Yes, we're still alive.

We've been on the road for the past four weekends and are preparing to be gone again this coming weekend.  For the past month, I have felt as though I'm white water rafting through life.  It's fast, crazy, and we've had so many unexpected twists and turns.  It's been fun, though.

If you've texted, called, or e-mailed us and haven't heard back yet, please don't take it personally.  We're trying to stay afloat.... just stayin' alive.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  -Matthew 11:28

Oct 23, 2012

Warm Fuzzies

I was in major need of a hug yesterday, but Marshall had to work his regular schedule plus two hours of overtime.

So I made a quilt instead.  A really fuzzy, warm flannel quilt.

It makes me think of sweaters, mittens, hot chocolate, and Hershey's Hugs.  And it's so soft.

I used the same pattern that I made the baby quilt from, but this time, I added a border.

The back is red flannel.  I haven't finished the binding yet, but it will be the red and white polka dot flannel.  All of the flannel came from here.

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Oct 18, 2012

Decisions, Decisions!

We visited Marshall's family recently, and as I browsed through the store, I came across the perfect paperless towel flannel fabric.  I immediately cut some off and sewed up a set of towels.  They are incredibly soft and possibly even more absorbent.  What do you think?  Love them?  Dislike them?

They should be at the store by this weekend and will be put out for sale with the other available sets.  We already put out the regular towels (three prints per roll), the holiday towels (three holiday prints per roll), and now we'll have the flannel-backed food print.  Which roll would you decide on?  I need feedback; leave a comment!

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The 36th AVENUE

Oct 17, 2012

4 Ingredient Larabars

As our road trip weekends continue, I've been searching for some great travel food.  With our busy weeks, quick and easy is my only option.  Healthy is important, too.  We are so, so tired of fast food.  We don't normally eat out, and it's wreaking havoc on our bodies.  Most of what I'm packing for the road is snack food- baby carrots, celery, cheese, boiled eggs, almond/berry trail mix, and of course, Coconut Cream Larabars.

Have you ever bought Larabars?  I've heard so many people rave about them, but when I saw what stores charge for them, I quickly turned my cart the other way.  And then I found a recipe for them at The Elliott Homestead that changed my life forever.  They are SO good.  And if you know where to find your ingredients (Aldi for me!), you can make them for a fraction of the cost.

Coconut Cream Larabars

You will need:
1 C almonds
1 C coconut (mine was sweetened, but it doesn't need to be)
1 C pitted dates
1 t coconut oil

Use a blender or food processor to grind the almonds into fine crumbs.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend away.  If the mixture isn't sticky enough, add another date.  Keep adding dates until you can pinch off a piece and roll it into a ball.

Press the mixture into a 9 x 9 dish.  Refrigerate to harden before cutting.  Store bars in the refrigerator.

How simple is that?!  As long as you stick to the ratio of 1 cup nuts : 1 cup dates : 1 cup {whatever}, you can play around with the flavors and create your own Larabar recipe.  I'd love to know if you try a different flavor.  Leave a comment below!

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The 36th AVENUE

Oct 16, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is one of our favorite breakfasts.  It feels like comfort food, but it's fairly healthy and super filling.  It's also quick to make and can easily be modified for different flavors.  Our current favorite version is Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from Budget Bytes.  It makes the house smell wonderful while it bakes, and it is just SO yummy!

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (click to print)
(adapted from Budget Bytes)

15 oz (1 can) pumpkin puree (I actually used squash that I'd frozen)
1/2 C brown sugar
2 T chia seeds
6 T water
1 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t salt
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C milk
2 1/2 C dry old-fashioned oats

Mix the chia seeds and water in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.  After sitting, the seed mixture should be "gooey."  This is good!  The chia "eggs" will bind the oatmeal together (and add LOTS of nutritional value).

While the chia eggs are sitting, butter a 9 x 9 dish.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
When the seeds look nice and gooey, add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well.

Pour the pumpkin mixture in the prepared dish, cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  We eat it straight out of the fridge for breakfast.  It's such a tasty, quick breakfast!

Oct 15, 2012

80 Reasons Why I Shop at Goodwill

You know how some people could walk into a store and pick out the MOST expensive item without ever looking at price tags?  That's me.  Marshall confessed last week that he realized it shortly after we were engaged.  I think it scared him a little bit, but I take comfort in the fact that he married me anyway.

Even though my taste may be on the more expensive side, I hate spending money on stuff.  Especially when you can buy it for so much less at garage sales or Goodwill.

Are you too stuck up for Goodwill?  Sometimes I think I might be too stuck up not to go to Goodwill... I love going through the store and seeing how many name brand or good quality items I can find.  Here's a running total of our favorite finds:

2 ties, Arrow sweater (Large/Tall- sooo hard to find!), Chaps sweater (tags still on!) = 4

vest, Eddie Bauer t-shirt, Gap sweater, striped shirt, Lands End sweater, Vigoss jeans, 2 long tie-belt sweaters, Old Navy shirt (I so badly wanted to buy it in the store last November, but we had just moved and didn't have money for "extras."  Not only was it at Goodwill, but it was on sale at Goodwill.) = 13
Ann Taylor Loft dress, striped Gap skirt (tags still on!), khaki Gap skirt (after a little sewing, it will be modest enough to wear in public) = 16
vintage rolling pin, frame, canister (I actually have 2), vintage Ball jar, 2 silver candlesticks, 2 wooden candlesticks (the 2 larger candlesticks still had tags from Target), decorative urn, ironstone plate, glass dome lid, silver tray (from Pottery Barn) = 31
This is just a small representation of all the books we've found at Goodwill. = 54+
Gap wool coat, brown puffy coat (I ruined the hood in the dryer... sad), and then I found another brown puffy coat from Ralph Lauren (with tags still on!) = 57+

Lots of decorative plates, chalkboard frame, apothecary jars, rocking chair = 68+
And that's not all!  I've also picked up an Ashley end table (69+), Little Tikes toy box (70+), brand name clothes for our nieces and nephews (71+), a vintage Jenny Lind high chair (72+), the entire What to Expect series for my sister (73+), vintage Pyrex dishes (74+), little book shelf (75+), Wolfgang Puck stainless steel pan (76+), and tons of kids toys (77+).  Yesterday, I bought two pair of Gap jeans (78+), a Gap polo (79+), and an Isaac Mizrahi skirt (80+).

When it comes to Goodwill, I can't afford not to shop there!

Oct 12, 2012

This Week {illustrated}

It's been a busy week.  No, it's been a busy two weeks.  We made a last minute trip last weekend which quickly turned into making the same trip for the next couple of weekends.  I didn't even bother unpacking our suitcase.

In spite of the craziness, some things still had to be done.  I picked up a couple of pie pumpkins and a humongous butternut squash a couple weeks ago, and I decided it was time to do something with them.  I roasted the pumpkins and the squash (375 degrees F until soft: pumpkins- 1 1/2 hrs, squash- 2 1/2 hrs).  The seeds were scooped out, washed, soaked in saltwater, and roasted.  We've been loving the crustless pumpkin pie and butternut squash soup this week!


After boxing up my tomatoes last week, I came home to an entire flat full of ripe ones.  I picked an easy marinara recipe and froze a whole bunch for spaghetti.  I think I've earned a nap.

That's all for now...

Oct 11, 2012

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
Great River Road- Wisconsin side
For the wonder of each hour,
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child;
friends on earth and friends above;
for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
Effigy Mounds hiking trail
 For Thy Church that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
Effigy Mounds lookout
 For Thyself, best gift divine,
to our race so freely given;
for that great, great love of Thine,
peace on earth and joy in Heaven:
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.
Great River Road- Iowa side
Marshall and I took a little trip along the Great River Road to admire the autumn splendor.  It was incredible!  Only God could make death and dying look so beautiful.  We stopped at Effigy Mounds and hiked up to a couple of the lookouts.  The view was breathtaking!  And for those of you who think that Iowa is just a bunch of corn... Think again!

Oct 10, 2012

A Special Gift for a Special Delivery

My sister is having her first baby soon, and I am SO excited!  Being an aunt is one of my favorite things.  There is something so nice about having little ones to cuddle and play with without actually having to give birth.

I wanted to make something meaningful and special for the baby.  I thought about my other nieces and nephews and the kind of baby gift that was meaningful for them.  Three of them were given either a blanket or quilt at birth that has become almost a part of their identity.  Anyone who is close to them at all knows which blankie belongs to each child.  Those blankies go everywhere and cannot be slept without.  So, I decided to make a baby quilt.

My sister and brother-in-law decided not to find out the gender ahead of time, so I looked for fabric that was clearly "baby" but not too gender specific.  I skipped the batting and opted for a flannel backing.  It is so soft and warm but still lightweight enough to be carried around by a toddler.  Best of all, it came together in just a couple of hours.  It is by far the easiest quilt I've made yet.  You can find the pattern, "Lap Quilt 'In a Jiffy'," at Moda Bake Shop.  The only change I made was to leave off the border.  A baby quilt doesn't need to be that large, but if you are making a lap quilt, go for it.

I used one of the fun stitches on my sewing machine for the quilting.  I love the little details!

I found all my fabric, including the flannel, at Ben Franklin.  Sam was a huge help as I looked for non-gender specific prints and patterns.  I'd say it was a success!

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Oct 8, 2012

Spaghetti Squash + Sauce= Squashetti

For years, I have wandered through the produce aisle wondering what in the world a spaghetti squash is.  Is it squash?  Is it spaghetti?  I don't remember having it in our home during my growing up years, and I turned out okay, so I never bothered with the squash.  My husband, on the other hand, was apparently given quite a bit of squash as a child, and he loves it.  I probably could have picked a more... normal... squash to work with for my first attempt, but after reading up on spaghetti squash, this one sounded easy to work with.  And it IS!  It really is just a matter of baking the squash to soften the insides and make the "noodles."  I don't have a picture of me scooping out the seeds and pulp, but the photos below show you what to do after that.

Enjoy your squashetti!

Oct 5, 2012

This Week {illustrated}

This week has been exciting, crazy, overwhelming, and not at all what we expected it to be.  But we we're rolling with the punches and even took a little time to enjoy the gorgeous outdoors.

That's all for now... I am worn out!  Enjoy the gorgeous weekend ahead!