Hoes Down Festival!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!



Tomorrow is the Hoes Down Harvest Festival! It's our CSA harvest festival and held at the farm where all our box goodies are grown.
This is Therese's first year attending and probably the first year John will remember. It's our homeschool field trip for October so I hope everyone is prepared for me to be in "fun fact mode". :) Here's what we're looking forward to most!

1
Tipi activities

These are storytimes, puppet shows, and other fun kid things in tipis set up in one of the fields. The kids love lounging on all the soft quilts and animal (probably fake though) skins. It's a nice break from the hustle and bustle on the rest of the farm.

2
Music and Dancing

Because hustle and bustle there is! There are three different music stages and a called Contra Dance in the evening. 
I have never done, or even seen, Contra dance before so that might be a fun adventure!

3
Children's Area Crafts

One of the best parts of Hoes Down is all of the fun crafts and activities in the children's area. Petting zoo of farm animals, ice cream churning, corn husk doll making, and Sheep to Shawl (where the kids get to help shear the sheet, card the wool, spin the wool, dye it, and weave or knit it. It's awesome!).

4
Hay Fort and Obstacle Course

Even as a toddler, John loved the hay fort. There is also an obstacle course of farm equipment.
My little wannabe marines are going to love it!

5
Creek Playground

There is a slow moving, wide creek that runs through the farm, and it's open for wading and frolicking during the festival. 
Once it gets dark, it gets lined with lanterns for the nighttime story walk.

Along the banks is a nice, shady lawn for playing sports or napping under the trees.

6
Food!

So much yummy! It's like an all day farmer's market.

7
Wellness Tent

All day massages and free acupuncture - yes please! 
I'm not sure I believe the acupuncture really does anything for me, but I know it secures people letting me rest and be still for 20 minutes.

Setting the World on Fire - the St. Catherine of Siena Conference

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This past weekend was the Catholic women's conference Setting the World on Fire!


Kendra Tierney, of Catholic All Year, was generous enough to open her home to all of us. This being a conference of Catholic women, that included a lot of babies!

We got to christen the living room with the first mass to be said in the house. (There will be a chapel but it was neither finished nor able to hold a group our size.)

Father brought brown scapulars for everyone who wanted them, and apparently the moment was documented. Thanks Jennifer!

It cracked me up that there were 3 women wearing veils and ALL of them were the infinity scarfs from Veils by Lily in Charcoal Blue. I had no idea I was being so trendy.
Our two main speakers were Kendra and Meg Hunter-Kilmer, aka the Hobo Missionary.

Both speakers focused on evangelization - what it looks like and how we do it as Catholic women. 
By and large that also focused on evangelizing as moms and bloggers too. 

Meg has an awesome podcast, Hobo for Christ, that includes saint stories for kids. I highly recommend it because this is what happens when Meg tells kids saint stories:


These are the kids who left the pool and trampoline to listen to Meg tell saint stories. 
Yeah, she's that good.

It was great to finally meet in person women that I've followed for a few years now, and to meet people who have read my blog too. (Hi Christina!) I love seeing the fruit of putting myself out there on the internet.

There were a number of our uber-talented, etsy crafting, Catholic women who were generous enough to give us some parting gifts as a memory of the weekend. 


I'm allergic to the vast majority of metals, but so far this appears to be safe for me. Yea jewelry that doesn't burn me!

Most of the attendees were local-ish so they just drove in, but there were a few travelers. A group of us got an Air BnB house together which just extended the fellowship time! We got to come back to the house and have our own happy hour in the backyard. 
Found out Ashley, of Between the Linens and Catholic Women Live, is a fellow Anthropology person. Love meeting other people who are my flavor of nerd!

Sara (of Catholic...Again), Michela (of California to Korea), Meg (our Hobo for Christ who blogs at Held by His Pierced Hands), and Me!
If you want to see more pictures, check out the hashtag #stcathconf on Instagram (because #settingheworldonfire was largely taken by Kenny Chesney...)

Self-Care Is Found By Jumping Off Cliffs

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Welcome back to JEI (Just Enough Info) with The Zelie Group!
This week we're talking about self-care.


I'm a big proponent of the concept of self-care, but I've noticed that I tend to do self-care by jumping off proverbial cliffs. 
When I need to *really* re-charge, I have to learn how to trust other people (ahem, husband) to keep the home ship aright. Because this recharge is not going to happen with tiny humans afoot.

So here's a glimpse at my liquid fuel, how I push my limits to relax, and why it's super important to make this not a once-in-a-blue-moon thing.


What is your mom beverage of choice?


Well I suppose this one falls into different categories: Daytime and Relaxing time.

My daytime thing is coffee. Like lots of coffee. I really love coffee!

I don't like black coffee. I prefer Whole Milk to about this level of pale.
But I'm kind of ok with just decaf when needed. I've learned that I really do just love the taste of coffee (warm coffee though). It's not about the buzz for me.
But also not complaining about said buzz. When it's 10:00pm and I'm still at the studio, I'm super happy when I've had a cup before class.

Now my alcohol drinking style has been summed up as "old man". I like straight up drinks that, are balanced, but don't hide the fact they are alcoholic.

If it's beer - I'm going for stouts, porters, and anything with the word black in the title.
Mixed drinks are leaning towards the Bourbon, Whiskey, and Scotch varieties.


An Old-Fashioned is my go to at a happy hour.

I'm basically anti-tiki bar. I don't do Vodka. Gin is the closest overlap to most women's drinking style.
It's ok. I've found it to be bonding material with the priests and seminarians.


What do you do to relax?


I had to think long and hard about this one because I'm really bad at relaxing.

Like really REALLY bad.

Like whenever I get some free time I find myself texting/emailing/gchatting someone something along the lines of "crazy idea, but...." then we proceed to pull off something ridiculous yet awesome.
It's how I roll.

I think Ballet, and dancing in general, is how I really relax.

Yet ballet is not intrinsically relaxing. I mean, have you SEEN people dance ballet? Bodies ain't supposed to do that.



I think all dancers are just a little crazy. We're all convinced that we just need to try it one more time, work just a little harder, try just a little more, and we'll finally be able to push beyond where we've ever gone before.
The crazier thing is - it works. It actually happens.

When I'm dancing I have both definable physical goals (get my turn out stronger, legs better supported, push over my foot faster) but I also have less definable artistic goals.

Ballet is more of a mind game than most people know. Yes, you need the brute muscle strength to be able to developpe a la seconde, but it's what you're *thinking* about that lets you dance it.

Getting to Ballet class is a priority for me in my week. When my husband is traveling for work, I make a point to get a sitter so I can make it to my evening classes. It makes such a difference!

At the ballet, I'm not a mom. I'm not "too young". No one cares about what academic position I have on any controversial thing. We don't talk politics - in fact we hardly talk. We just dance.

At ballet, I may know really intimate details about another student's physical struggles, weaknesses, and strengths. I will trust them not to drop me, kick me, or hurt me - literally trust them with my life sometimes, yet I may not even know their names. It all doesn't matter when we're dancing.

There is something really freeing in being able to start anew every time you go out on stage or into the studio. It's such a beautiful exercise in trusting a stranger, and letting them see something deep about you.
I hurt every day after class, but I keep coming back for that beautiful moment when it all clicks and it works. It's worth all the soreness and blisters.

When was the last time you got away with girlfriends or alone (and the grocery store does NOT count)?


We went on our second honeymoon this summer, plus two weddings that I attended in Texas sans husband and kids.

I'm very lucky to have a husband who has totally "got this" at home. I have no question he can handle dinner, bath time, and bedtime. It was hard won - he had no younger siblings or babysitting experience and so truly had to learn from scratch, and I had to learn to let him learn. He still does not parent or do household things exactly as I would do them, but letting that happen is how I've worked at giving him the space to parent. Because I've let him do that, I have the ability to regularly have evening events!

I do think it is extremely important for moms to remember that they are not "just" moms - you are also women. Women who need friends, adult companionship, and intelligent conversations. And I'm talking about conversations that are not just about kids, as absorbing as they are.

Between ballet classes, choir practice, Endow meetings, and "friend dates", I feel like I can work on developing my skills as an artist, but also have interaction that is just for fun. Life cannot be allowed to be too serious or boxed in constantly.



I will be having a mommy traveling alone time this weekend! It's the Setting the World on Fire Conference in Los Angeles this weekend, and I'm so excited! Finally getting to meet a lot of internet friends in person, and see some old friends again.
Also my first time in LA outside of the airport. This should be fun. :)

******************
Your turn!
Link up if you have a blog, respond in the comments if you're a reader.
Make sure you read the rules of the link up, and follow each of your hosts in some way!


Alicia – Sweeping Up Joy | Pinterest | Facebook
Kirby (me!)  – Under Thy Roof | Instagram | Facebook
Kerry - Fishbowl Fortune | Instagram | Facebook


Next week we're talking about the Angel feasts that are just around the corner!

Naming your Guardian Angel:  yea or nay?
Have you had any angel experiences?
How have you shared about angels with your kids?

Let's Talk Chores

Thursday, September 15, 2016



Welcome back to JEI (Just Enough Info) with The Zelie Group!

This week we're talking chores - for mom, for kids, and housekeeping services.

Per my usual, I have opinions! Lots!



1. What chore should you be doing now instead of answering this question?


I normally write here during two situations: 1) we're in the middle zone while the laundry is in the dryer and the kids are on an independent projects/morning recess, or 2) it's naptime and I have to be silent in my teeny-tiny apartment or I'll ruin it for everyone. I don't mess with naptime...

So at this moment, my chores are either done, are being done, or cannot be done!

It's both great and terrible. There is always something I'm magically not getting to. 

I have developed really good systems for getting my daily chores done. Cooking, dishes, laundry, sweeping are so programmed into me that I start to do them automatically. I can trust my hands to handle those without too much worry.

But the bathroom!
It's SO NICE when it has been recently cleaned, and it really truly only takes 15-30 minutes to do it if I'm also scrubbing the tub. But I will come up with tons of things I'd rather do.

Yesterday I actually scoured the stove, scrubbed the subway tile in the kitchen, and beat and aired ALL THE RUGS instead of cleaning the bathroom for 15 minutes. I literally spent an hour doing everything else but that bathroom that would have taken a quarter of the time.

It's a flaw....


2. Do your kids have chores? If yes, what’s your chore system?



They do!

I start giving them "jobs" as soon as they are capable of following directions. So about 9 months or so.
They initially are just putting away their own toys and books. By which I mean they throw toys and books into bins. Sometimes the right ones.

Now, at 2 and 4 years old, they can:

  • Put away their own clothes in their dressers, and put away some of the household laundry
  • Help set the forks and napkins on the table before dinner
  • Pick up their own toys and books
These are the things they are expected to help with everyday, but there are lots of odd little chores they do depending on the work of the day.

Often I'll give them a little job out of whatever I'm doing. Putting away mixing bowls while I'm unloading the dishwasher, wiping down surfaces while I'm sweeping, putting the paper/cardboard in it's recycling bin while I do the glass/plastic, etc.

Giving them jobs that mean something lets them contribute to the good of the family on an age appropriate level and teaches them practical skills. Even for jobs they can't directly help with yet, like fixing the toilet or canning, I have them observe and I talk through what I'm doing.

We don't really have a chore system beyond me repeating over and over that "it's laundry time!" or "setting the table time!" and "clean up time!" at regular points every day.

3. If someone gifted you a housekeeping service, would you use it?


On a regular basis? Probably not. Mostly because I feel like I have the day-to-day stuff pretty under control.

There are times when I would really use it. Namely: right before a new baby is born, postpartum, and before moving.

Having homebirths means I get really intense about cleaning things when I'm in my due window. But it would be really nice to have someone else fulfill my weird need to have the bathroom scrubbed at all times while 39 weeks pregnant. 

Last time we moved, there were so many deep cleaning things that kept popping up that I just did not want to deal with AND pack AND supervise tiny humans. 

When the above situations are not happening, I keep on top of things by doing deep cleaning on Ember Days. That translates to four times a year.
The Ember Days are supposed to be for fasting and prayer, and we do that too, but I like the concept of getting rid of the physical clutter along with the spiritual and mental clutter.


****************

 Your turn!
Link up if you have a blog, respond in the comments if you're a reader.
Make sure you read the rules of the link up, and follow each of your hosts in some way!


Alicia – Sweeping Up Joy | Pinterest | Facebook
Kirby (me!)  – Under Thy Roof | Instagram | Facebook
Kerry - Fishbowl Fortune | Instagram | Facebook


Next week's questions on self-care for moms:

What is your mom beverage of choice?
What do you do to relax?
When was the last time you got away with girlfriends or alone (and the grocery store does NOT count)?


In Defense of Screentime for Moms

Tuesday, September 13, 2016



Ever felt guilty about snagging facebook time while waiting for lunch to heat up in the microwave? Or checking email at the park?
There are a plethora of articles all over the internet about unplugging and minimal use of tech for moms. The message being that one cannot be present or "in the moment" of parenting while having just checked email, sent off a text, or updated instagram.

Last week I wrote about the kinds of screen time I like my kids to have. Because my oldest is only four years old, I don't have the struggle of limiting computer use, smart phones, or other gaming time yet. However, *I* make use of screens all the time, and contrary to internet belief, I think you can use a decent amount of screentime and still be "present" as a mom.

In fact, I think using screens can make you a BETTER mom. Used properly, screen time can be a form of self-care.

Here's what I'm doing on my phone or computer every day.

Having virtual community

Y'all, motherhood can be really really isolating with little kids.

I'm part of a number of Catholic mom groups, blogger groups, and an NFP group where I can find support and answers to questions I have about everything from NFP methods, to technical blogger help, to comradery in the struggle that can be taking little kids to mass.

I've done spin off groups of women forming temporary internet communities to pray a novena together or have a mom's book club via message board.

Organizing Real Life community

Facebook is far and away the easiest way to check in with my family and friends. It's where I organize events like movie nights and park play days. Email threads are always going about future event ideas, planning liturgical celebrations for the little ones.

As great as virtual community is for filling in those gaps while everyone else is away at work or school, it can't bring meals after a new baby is born or give a real life hug.

Getting inspired to keep doing this

I know it's not true for everyone, but I LOVE seeing other people's perfect moments.
Those Instagram feeds where the room is clean and bright and the kids are calm and playing sweetly? It's like instant de-stresser for me.

Scrolling through Pinterest and seeing other people's ideas for new meals to try and organizing tips lights my fire to get my own projects done. Pinterest is particularly great because it's not just "look how awesome and pretty this turned out", it's also "and here's how to do it!"

Dwelling on how hard this motherhood thing is right now doesn't do anything for making it better. Trying something new, and finding a way out of the rut makes it better. Remembering that it can be different, that it's not completely crazy to want to not be drowning in clutter, makes it better.

What about people who struggle breaking away from screens?

Just like everything that we struggle to balance, some amount of awareness and discernment is needed for all of these things. Maybe you only use Facebook for a particular time a day. Maybe you set yourself a task to complete and then you close the laptop. It's all about building the discipline to use these things in a healthy way.

I argue banning screens, or shaming moms for using them, prevents the good that is possible from having access to a virtual community. In a time when motherhood is largely a solo state for 8+ hours a day, taking away the one easily accessible link to the adult world seems less than wise.

Screentime I LIKE

Friday, September 9, 2016

Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes.



I have a few rules for screentime (which at my kids ages just means shows/movies) for the kids.

1. Screentime only happens once chores and school are done.
2. It can't be annoying to mom

That last one is really really important.

I try to be sitting in the room with them whenever they're watching a show or movie. Partly to explain anything they don't understand or is intense (like when the crocodile grabbed a gazelle drinking at the river), but also so I understand their play and questions later. John is a store-it-up-and-ask-you-two-days-later kind of kid.

I favor things, like PBS shows and documentaries, because they have the bonus of letting the kids see real things that they will not likely see in person for quite a while.

Here are my top 7, yet in no particular order, shows/movies that I like and are kid approved.

1
Wishbone
I loved this show as a kid! It's so 90-tastic.

I like it because it is live action, uses good actors, and presents stories of great literature in an age appropriate way while still remaining true to the story,
I find most of these episodes on Youtube. Yea free!

2
Nova


Our original gateway drug to John's love of documentaries. I used to put a Nova on when I was rocking John to sleep because he took over an hour to be solid asleep enough to transfer to the bed (I've since way improved my putting kids to sleep game).

Eventually he began playing interesting games like "Underwater Radar", where you construct ships out of blocks but how they would look as underwater shipwrecks on radar, and "Spinosaurus Attack". Not dinosaur, specifically a Spinosaurus (he only eats fish, but BIG fish.) 

Nova lets the kids see real stuff done by real scientists. I love the sense of wonder they get from it. Visuals seem to be really important to thinking about things like planets, nebula, oceans, volcanoes, and extinct animals.

3

Liberty's Kids


John has an odd love for the American Revolution. My best guess is because it involves snappy uniforms and lots of guys named John.

This is an animated series that tells the story of the American Revolution from the viewpoint of 3 kids: young Loyalist girl, Patriot boy, and the youngest is a French orphaned boy. They all happen to be working for Benjamin Franklin on his newspaper.


4
CCC Saint Movies
*Contains affiliate link*
CCC OF AMERICA
No one makes saint movies as good as CCC. I grew up on CCC movies, both at home and occasionally in CCD classes.
They typically inspire John to want to say the rosary for all the "poor souls in Purgatory". I'm cool with that being a consequence of watching a movie. ;)


5

Magic School Bus


I still contend that my knowledge of things like photosynthesis and the water cycle was largely learned from watching the Magic School Bus.
These do a great job of introducing science concepts in a fun way, and the internet is just full of experiments and other jumping off points you can use to build on the episode you just watched.
There's a free science curriculum from Our Cozy Den to make it super duper easy!

6

Ballets


John has his first ballet lesson of the year tomorrow morning (yea!).
I think the best way to get through that hard training of getting the basics down is to have a good idea where all these steps will lead. 
Youtube has everything from the full performance of Swan Lake by the Kirov Ballet, variations of from full ballets, to videos made by ballet students.
We're probably a long way off from being able to make it through a full length ballet in a theater, but we can handle 30 minutes at a time.

7
The British/Vintage "Family Features"


Sometimes after dinner or on rainy days we'll have family movie time. I've found we tend to go for British or vintage movies. Favorites have been The Water Horse, Cheaper by the Dozen (the 1950 version), and Robin Hood.

JEI - Prayer Edition

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Great news y'all!
The facebook community for The Zelie Group is now up and running! We have some fun ideas in the works, so like the page to stay in the loop.

This week on JEI (Just Enough Info) we're talking about prayer.




1.What are your favorite devotions?

I switch around favorite devotions depending on what kind of season of life I'm in at the moment.


I favor the rosary when I'm on the go, or when I have a baby that is in the will-only-sleep-on-a-breathing-person stage.
I re-re-(I can't even tell you how many times I've restarted) start the Liturgy of the Hours when I *could* slow down but I need to reinvigorate the discipline it takes to accept that that10 minutes would be better spent in prayer.
I do believe taking some time to have devotional time without small people crawling on me is important. I wouldn't count being a human jungle gym as quality time if I was trying to talk to my husband, why would it be fine when I'm trying to talk to God?

However, I DO pray with my kids. More on that to come!




2.Have any of your prayers been answered? Do you have any prayers that you are glad weren’t answered the way you’d hoped?


Oh yes.

Perhaps the biggest one was about my vocation.

When I was a kid, I had a strong attraction to the religious life. My parents were very supportive of this possibility, and when I was 12 I was able to spend a week at the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Grand Prairie, TX. Just a short drive from where I grew up in Dallas.

It was one of the motherhouse convents, so the very old and the very young were all together. I lived in the Formation House, a part of the convent especially for those in formation and discernment, which meant some of the time recreation and group prayer was sometimes just with others at varying stages of discernment.

The sisters assigned us jobs like every other able bodied person in the convent. Mine was helping Sr. Mary Francis in the laundry, and occasionally in the convent library, shop, or museum.
I learned the rhythm of the convent days. It's where I learned how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and how to chant.

I ended up coming back for a few summers, as well as Come and See Days. I entered the order as an Associate - a lay member who is pledged to assist the order through prayer and a commitment to living the spirit of the Holy Family.

The whole time I was praying about entering, but it was more like "what do I need to do to be the best sister I can be?" instead of asking God if this is what he really wanted for me.

My answer came one day during adoration. As best I can explain, I passed out and I had a total answer that God was not calling me to be a sister when I woke up. To this day I have a hard time explaining exactly what happened, but the certainty never wavered - this was not my calling.

And I was mad about it!

Religious life was what I very much wanted for myself, and letting go of that dream was rough.

It was a long road to discerning that married life would be my calling, and a funny story about how I finally came to accepting my vocation and meeting my husband. That's a story for another day.

3. How do you pray with your kids?

If you've been reading this blog for a bit, you might know I write about this a good bit.



Right now, we read a chapter from our Golden Children's Bible as part of our school time everyday. We pray before all meals - even Therese. I aim for at least one rosary a week with them.

We have mass study as part of my homeschooling this year. I'll have to write more about how I do that, because I'm really making it up as I go, but we use John's mass kit to go over different parts of the mass. The goal is for them to gain familiarity with the prayers and movements in the mass so it is easier for them to follow.

Here's three of my favorite posts about praying kids!








 Your turn!
Link up if you have a blog, respond in the comments if you're a reader.
Make sure you read the rules of the link up, and follow each of your hosts in some way!

Alicia – Sweeping Up Joy | Pinterest | Facebook
Kirby (me!)  – Under Thy Roof | Instagram | Facebook
Kerry - Fishbowl Fortune | Instagram | Facebook


Knocking on Closed Doors - Why Having an Apostolate is Not Just "A Nice Thing To Do"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016



A friend linked to a recent blog post The Lie of the Apostolate. The post really bugged me. The main call of the post is good - that we should make sure our families are loved and cared for - but it went about it in a way that did not sit well with me.

I think what bothered me is that the post gave the impression that serving beyond your family is optional. That it is something that's great if you get around to it, but no biggie if you don't.

That is selfish naval gazing masquerading as holiness, my friends.

You know what happens when people feel that serving in their parishes, neighborhoods, schools is optional? The work does not go away, it shifts onto someone trying to fill in the gaps - or worse, that support network disappears for good.

Lately, that's been me for my parish. I've been attempting to carry the weight of five people. I'm only one person, and it shows.
You know the saying "Many hands make light work"? I think one cannot appreciate how much the many hands are needed until one tries to do the work of the many. It's not pretty.

I cannot express how much even a little assistance would help. It may not feel like much, but someone volunteering to set up drinks before a parish event, print out fliers, or be a greeter at the door takes loads of burden off of those people who are trying everything they can to keep this ship afloat.

When I look around trying desperately to communicate how much those willing hands are needed, all I've been seeing are closed arms.

There are typically reasons, many of them are good, to have the decision to volunteer be "not right now", but there will ALWAYS be a reason not to step up.

It may feel to you like you're just saying "not right right now", but to the people who are left to try and keep things afloat it feels more like you're saying "not my problem". When not one helper can be found, those volunteers that are left are being disrespected and taken advantage of by the very people they are trying to serve.

If you want to have a healthy neighborhood, parish, or school, you have to show up. It is not someone else's problem, it is your problem. My problem. Our collective problem. 

You CAN find some way to contribute! I really truly believe every person is valuable and needed, and that every person can give back to those communities they so freely utilize.

Tap the old lady on the shoulder who you see always doing something for the parish, tell her how much you appreciate it, and ask how you can help. (Seriously, I cannot recommend this highly enough. You have no idea how long it has probably been since anyone told her "good job".)

Fill a need that you see in your neighborhood.

Ask your kid's teacher if there is something they wish they had available for their classroom.

What if you have babies and this is all scary and overwhelming? I have a whole post about that!



The idea that your family is your apostolate is all well and good, but it is not ok to use that as a reason to ignore your larger family. Don't forget about us! We haven't forgotten about you.

Busy Person's Hand Soap - How I Make DIY Castile Soap

Tuesday, September 6, 2016



You might have heard the FDA recently decided that antibacterial washes will no longer be marketed in the US due to evidence they are no better than regular soap and water, and may even be harmful over the long term.

My husband, very quickly, sent me the news article about the decision and I just laughed. My thrifty ways are vindicated!

I've been making our hand soap for a few years now. Not really to avoid the antibacterial chemicals, but because it's cheap (and I don't like lugging heavy things home from the store. #carlesslife)

Three years ago I bought a whole case of Castile Soap from Amazon (that's 48 bars), and I'm still using it!
I essentially convert the bar soap into a liquid soap. It's easier than you think.

I came up with this version after trying a number of recipes on Pinterest that were either too difficult, too time consuming, or did not work consistently. Consider this the busy person's DIY hand soap!

Here's what you'll need:

Ingredients


1 Bar Castile Soap
Tea Tree Essential Oil
8 cups Water

Directions

1. I grate the whole bar of soap, using a fairly fine grater, into a bowl large enough to contain the water as well. I recommend metal or glass as you will be pouring boiling water into this bowl.

This is the most time consuming part of the process, but this makes things much easier later on.



Helpful tip: Do NOT set your grated soap on the counter when making Italian food. #AskMeHowIKnow

2. Boil the water.
I just use my trusty grimy tea kettle for this. The water amount does not need to be completely exact in this recipe. I normally just fill the kettle and set it on to boil while I'm grating the soap.

3. Fun part! Pour all of your boiling water into the bowl with the grated soap. Gently stir to make sure all of the soap is dissolved, but you don't want to be stirring up too many bubbles.

4. Add about 10-15 drops of Tea Tree Oil. I'm told this has some natural antibacterial properties, but I also just think it smells good.

You can add a few drops of other oils at this point for fragrance, but make sure you research them to verify they are safe for direct skin contact.
If you don't have oils, I don't think they're strictly necessary. The soap will still work without them.

5. Now leave it in a safe place and don't touch it! Seriously, walk away and forget about it for a few hours. The soap needs some time to be still so it can start to thicken into a liquid soap consistency.

Often I make soap at about 8am and it has thickened enough by lunchtime, so expect 4 hours.

6. After you've gotten in some good doing-anything-but-messing-with-the-soap time, come see if it's thickened!

Do not be worried if it looks solid on top, I promise it's not.

Take your big spoon and stir it around to break up the big clumps. Once that's done you should be left with a bowl of liquid soap!

Troubleshooting: Did your soap sit too long and now it's an unbreakable mass of solid, jelly, soap? Boil some more water and pour a little bit on at a time while stirring. Make sure not to add too much or you'll be stuck waiting for the soap to thicken again.

7. Time to store your soap!

I've found an old liquid laundry soap bottle to be the perfect size for storing my homemade soap.
My trick it to stopper a funnel with my finger, ladle soap into the funnel over the bowl, then move the funnel over the laundry soap bottle and let the soap flow into the bottle.

Boom, soap!

Making each batch of soap comes out to about $2. Thrifty happy dance!

"Let's Have Cake" Party! - Therese's 2nd Birthday

Sunday, September 4, 2016



Yesterday we had Therese party in honor of her 2nd birthday!
Every time I asked Therese what kind of party she wanted to have she would only reply with "cake". So that's what I did!
I essentially made every cake-ish dish that had peaked my interest in the past year, and made it! 


The Food

Menu

Starters


Cheese/Salami Plate (Blue, Brie, Herbed Brie, Gouda)
Hummus
Assorted Crackers
Fruit Salad (Watermelon, Blueberries, Raspberries)

Mains



Before cooking picture. I added squash to the recipe for more color since I couldn't find purple carrots.

What is a Smorgastarta you ask? Essentially, it's a savory cake.
These were very popular in Sweden in the 70s, and have been making a bit of a come back.
I have to say I was very skeptical that this would turn out any good at all, but it really was quite tasty.

I lightly follow the linked recipe. I wanted to make it gluten and dairy free to accommodate more of our party guests. I used dairy free sour cream and cream cheese for the frosting, and cobbled together bits of gluten free bread to from the layers.

Because gluten free bread is very crumbly, I need something on the bottom layer to act as a glue. I made up a Dill Lemon spread and added that on top of the bottom bread layer with the cucumbers. Excellent choice!

My smoked salmon for the second layer fell apart when I took it out of it's package, so I created a smoked salmon spread by combining it with the mustard sauce and a little mayo to get the right consistency.


It's topped with pre-cooked shrimp, parsley, and smoked salmon.

Dessert

Birthday Cupcakes


I've wanted to make a Watermelon Cake for a while. I chopped a watermelon in half, cut off the rind, patted dry and decorated with a rice whip (to make it dairy free), sliced almonds, raspberries, and blueberries. Big hit with the kiddos!


I'm a big believer in letting kids have real sugar and cake on birthdays. It's my hill to die on.
I made cupcakes this year to speed things up.

This is my DIY cupcake stand. I take 2 dinner plates, put a cereal bowl upside down on top of one, and place the 2nd plate on top of the bowl. Voila, cupcake stand!


Decorations/Kid Space



We reused a bunch of the decorations from the Georgia Peach Engagement Party
Like I didn't even take down the paper poofs. 
Different, Dollar Tree, banner, and Matt hung some streamers along the hallway. 
Keeping it simple.

Since we often have a number of crawling babies at our parties, I've been bringing out the area rug just outside the patio door and placing the block box on it. Our patio is covered with a roofing material that is very rough on crawling baby hands and knees. The rug gives them some outdoor space that stands a chance of not ripping up baby pants.

Party Time!

Little Therese had so much fun! Most of the kids are very used to playing together at church and park dates, and they all went right into their favorite games.

Devouring some Watermelon Cake.

Auntie sent a princess dress. So much glitter! I suppose she should probably watch the Disney Cinderella now since the book version dresses look REALLY different.

Grandma sent a baby doll and doll Ergo. Huge hit! Therese did get first crack but was happy to share with brother/friends.

***********


Dress: JC Penny (I think)
Wrap: Discount Dance (because it's my dance warm up...)
*Not Shown* Shoes and Chapel Cap: Payless sandals, Veils By Lily.
I got this dress for my friend's wedding this summer, and now I'm on a mission to find ways to wear it. Can't have things languishing in the closet!
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