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Are the leaves changing where you live? Having grown up in Florida, I’m used to greenery and soaking up the sun on the beach through December but I absolutely love having actual seasons here! Everything is the perfect shade of orange and red and yellow.
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But with this display of colors comes colder weather and that means sniffly noses and little coughs aren’t far away. All of a sudden I feel everyone around here is getting sick. Several of our friends have coughs and/or fevers and it seems to be spreading, eek! So before we come down with something I wanted to boost our immune system and hope that it just skips us this time. Fingers crossed! We’ve been taking some extra vitamin C but I wanted something more, something yummy and healthy, something with cold fighting powers mixed in. Chicken noodle soup it is.

We normally buy whole chickens and if I don’t use the carcass right away, I freeze it for stock or soup. This was the perfect time to use one up. This past weekend Morgan also closed up our garden and pulled the last of the carrots. These little guys were definitely making it into the soup!

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I started with the base of onions, celery and cute garden carrots (plus some extra from the store).

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Then I added 8 cups of water, the chicken bones from a yummy roasted chicken and some herbs.

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I had some sage, basil, oregano, and thyme from the garden and found some bits of bay leaves in the pantry.  I tossed it all in, let it boil, then reduced to a simmer for about an hour.  Right before we were ready to eat, I removed the bones, and added some pasta.  A few pinches of salt later, lunch was served!

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One of Starr Lily’s favorite things is having picnics in the living room, so we got cozy on the floor and gobbled up some delicious and immune boosting soup! Even Baby Koala Bear got a spot at our picnic.

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Is there something you like to eat to keep your family healthy?

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So after a fun trick or treating night with dear friends,

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we ended up with a good amount of candy.  We don’t eat a whole lot of candy around here so this year we decided to have some fun with it! Instead of letting it sit in a bowl and collect dust until the next “candy season,” we did some art and experiments with it all.

First we dumped it all out on the kitchen floor and sorted it.

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Starr Lily sorted her “dulces” based on color, or type, or shape.  We found candies that had S’s on them (her new favorite letter) and made a separate pile for all the skittles.

Next we practiced some cutting,

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and more sorting,

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and pouring.

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Then, we observed.

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Within a few seconds of adding water, we had some awesome colors! And because she put different colors into the same bowl, they started blending! It looked really cool. I pulled out the paintbrushes and some paper and she painted with those colors for a little while, but the blending was what really captured her attention.

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Eventually she poured them all into the same bowl, but she made this little work of art first.

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Isn’t it adorable?  Ha! I think all her art works are great. But seriously though, look at how focused she was at getting those little papers to stick with her skittles paint!

I’m not sure what else we”ll do with the other candy.  Maybe see if they float or not? Talk about density? Maybe cut some open and dissect them with tweezers and other pincer tools? Either way, I think she’ll enjoy playing with them.

Have you done fun experiments with candy? I’d love to hear what you did.

That’s right, I’m brewing some kombucha.

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I feel like I’m one step closer into awesomely crazy-crunchy mom world, but I’m loving it, ha! Have you tried kombucha? It’s full of good probiotics and is also tastey and fizzy, win-win! I suppose some people aren’t too fond of the yeasty flavor, but I like it. It almost reminds of hard cider… almost. But buying kombucha can be pricey and some of my friends are making their own so I knew I could get my hands on some SCOBY (more on that in a bit) to make my own.

There are a ton of how-to videos out there, so I’ll just direct you to one I like from Cultures for Health and instead tell you how ours is turning out. Here’s a quick recap: first, brew some tea (I had 6 bags of Lipton’s) and steep it with a cup of sugar. Add the SCOBY and enough water to fill a gallon jar and let it sit for a week on the counter. Pretty easy, no?

The only thing that has taken me a while is finding just the right container. Apparently plastic and metal containers are a no go so we need to stick to glass to keep the bacteria and yeast happy. I wanted to do two ferments to flavor the kombucha so I needed to find bottles for that too.

I ended up buying this and this from crate and barrel (they had a great sale!) and then used some pint and half pint canning jars that I had on hand. I also bought some extra goodies, but they aren’t necessary! Cuppow makes a lid to add to the canning jars so you could drink from it and I like using a straw so I bought these stainless steel straws too. It makes drinking my kombucha a little fancy and fun!

I was able to pick up a SCOBY from my friend (thanks Pamm!) before my jars arrived and was so excited to start making a brew that I just used the largest glass container I had on hand. It has the plastic/metal dispenser, but it didn’t affect it at all.

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So back to the SCOBY. SCOBY is an acronym for Sybiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and is pretty gnarly looking.

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The bacteria and yeast live off of the sugar and ferment the tea into some yummy, healthy fizziness! It feels a bit squishy, and after each original ferment, you grow another SCOBY to share with your friends! I’ve read you can give it to your doggies as a treat or compost it for the garden too.

After the tea has sat on your counter for a week, then you can rebottle it and add some flavorings to make it extra fizzy. I added clementine segments and ginger to this batch.

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I muddled it up, added the fermented tea, put the lids on and let them sit on the counter for another two days. Ok, I didn’t really let them sit there, I had one every day and noticed how much fizzier and tangier it got. They were all yummy! And Starr Lil’s loves it too! I also tried strawberries and it was amazing.

Here is the only warning – true story, my sister made a batch and the pressure from the second ferment exploded a bottle and kombucha went flying all over her kitchen. I still chuckle imagining her cleaning kombucha off of the ceiling. So you might want to refrigerate the second ferment after two days, just in case!

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I’m excited to try some different flavors soon, like apple cinnamon, and I just found a recipe for spicy chocolate!

Up next on my fermenting adventure… water kefir! Have you tried some of these yummy/healthy fermented foods?

Ever since we moved in, Morgan has wanted to tear down walls and make our house have that open-concept feel, but the wall he wants to tear down is load bearing and, well, expensive to remove.  So the next best thing is to remove this hanging set of cabinets that gets in his way. I wish I had a better before picture, but you can see it here.

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The hubs is kinda tall and apparently this little set of cabinets is was the bane of his existence.  You think I’m exaggerating, but every weekend for the last 2 years he has asked me if we could just tear it down.   He claims that it constantly blocked his view and (I’m not kidding) he felt the cabinet actually lunged at him and hit him in the head anytime he bent down near it. It must not have been fun…

But we couldn’t just take it down! It had valuable kitchen storage! Where was I to put all our bowls and cups and things? And then last weekend, Morgan had a brilliant idea. Just move the cabinet! Shift it over to the other side of the dining room and we wouldn’t lose any storage. There are four cabinets, so we could hang two on the wall and place the other two underneath to make a little counter.  He was on a roll and just went with it.  In just a few minutes we had this.

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We had to do a little research on how to remove cabinets and found that we needed to take off all the doors and all the trim to find hidden screws.

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We knew we’d need to reuse some of the trim, so we were extra careful taking it off.  And then they were down!

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I know I was hesitant, but the lack of cabinets really does make our kitchen feel a whole lot bigger! My only requirement was that I have a functioning kitchen while we did this, so before we go patching up any drywall, we needed to reinstall the cabinets since the dining room table was storing our stuff, ha!

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Taking down the cabinets was one thing, but putting them back up required yet a little more research! We have this Home Depot book that was gifted to us and it is never far whenever we tackle a project.   I like having pretty books around and this one is an eye sore, but even I have been caught skimming through it and learning interesting tidbits.

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Well, after doing some measurements, finding studs, drawing on the walls and cutting some wood, Morgan made a ledger to sort of “prop up” the cabinet and then secure it to the studs.

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Putting in the bottom piece was a little trickier.  We had to remove shoe molding and cut some custom pieces to fit around the base board, use some shims and level it, but it finally fit in perfectly.

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I’m pretty happy with it!

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It’s not quite finished yet though.  The doors have to go back on, some light sanding, repainting, and a counter top too.  Not to mention restocking it! But it’s almost done.

I just love actually getting projects done.  This one wasn’t even on our list, but it certainly makes hubs happy every time he walks in the kitchen! Do you have any projects that you tackle spontaneously?

I was looking through my pictures the other day, actually, a couple months ago and I found a bunch of pictures that I hadn’t taken. Mostly they were shots of the fan and of blurry little hands and fingers but every once in a while I saw a good one like this.
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She has a good eye, right?!
I’m not in the habit of letting Starr Lil’s play with my phone, and I even have it passworded (is that a word?) so she can’t use it. But my iPhone has that go-straight-to-the-camera-with-the-slide-of-a-button option and that’s how all these pictures were taken.
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She really knows how to capture some cute moments though.
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Sometimes I’ll hear her telling Stone to say cheese or her stuffed animals to smile.

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I love seeing what draws her attention and even though the pictures may have been more accidental before, they definitely have more purpose now.

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She sure loves her feet!

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Do your littles have a camera?

Yep, that’s right, doggies, we have multiple doggies.

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And all these pups need nice, comfy, plushy beds to sleep on.  But have you seen the price of dog beds in pet stores? Ridic. Really.  So we just make our own! We use the three inch thick foam from Joann’s (make sure you use your 50% coupon!) and some outdoor canvas-sy material.

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With the fabric right sides together, pin it around the foam.  You’ll want it a little tight. Then take a pen and mark where you’ll sew.

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To make the corner just pinch and fold the fabric so it folds around and draw another line where you’ll sew, like this:

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Pull out the foam and stitch it up on the lines you drew. That corner line is a little tricky, but just fold it and sew too.

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Before flipping it inside out, I went ahead and hemmed the raw edges so I could stick some Velcro on them. It always makes washing the covers easy when you can just pop out the foam and throw the covers in the washing machine!

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Then flip it inside out and marvel at the corner!

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Almost finished!! Slide (or shove) the foam back into cover and slap some sticky Velcro on the open edge.

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I ran one more line if stitching over the Velcro, just to make sure it stayed in place and that’s it!

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Now the doggies can sleep comfy again!  Carson was happy about it, but still doesn’t understand why he has to share with the little one, haha.

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Have you made doggie beds before?

Our little bug turned three a couple weeks ago and since she LOVES the pool so much we threw her a Luau for her birthday!

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We set up a little table near the front door with the little flower hair clips and we also had some cute grass skirts for our guests as they came in. The dollar store had the skirts and it was fun to see the kiddos (and mamas) running around in their skirts!

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For the drinks, we borrowed a friend’s soda stream and added some organic lemonade to the spritzy water.  Morgan also made some yummy mixed drink concoction with coconut cream.  It was tastey!  And to set the ambiance, we my little bro, found a fun Hawaiian station on Pandora.

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The craft table was a hit too.

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We had two crafts set up: 1) make a paper flower lei (thanks Pinterest!) and 2) create a totem pole mask. Next time, I might make something a little more interactive.

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My mama had fun creating a lei with my little bug too.

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Morgan outdid himself with his carnitas tacos and thanks to all the guests who brought some amazing side dishes! And a super thanks to Nana Starr for making a yummy upside down pineapple birthday cake.

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We also had chocolate cupcakes, not from scratch, but the King Arthur gluten free chocolate cake mix is seriously the yummiest mix ever! And we topped them off with a whipped coconut frosting – to. die. for!  In fact, we had some extra and put it on the side for the other cake too. Nom Nom!

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I really enjoyed the photo backdrop too.  This was another Pinterest winning idea. We had tons of help setting everything up and it came out great!

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It was so nice to have our family and dear friends with us to celebrate my little bug monkey chipmunk (I think that’s her animal of choice today) as she turned three (eek!). And I can’t wait to see what other fun parties we have in our future.

Have you thrown any parties recently?

I made Starr Lily a birthday dress when she turned 1 and was hoping to make it a tradition, but last year I dropped the ball and well, maybe now it’s an “every-other-year” tradition, ha!

I had originally planned on making this dress, but when I went to buy some fabric I just couldn’t find something that fit the luau theme.  (That of course didn’t stop me from buying some fabric anyways.) I was about to use a cute floral print, when it hit me that Morgan has about 10 Hawaiian shirts that he rarely wears.  I rampaged through his closet and found just the one I wanted to cut up.

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I love the palm trees and the little bits of red throughout. But this fabric was a bit thick and now I didn’t have enough to make the original dress so I sort-of followed the Ice cream social dress tutorial from Craftiness is not Optional instead.

I chopped off the top portion with plans to make something coordinating for Stone.

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And because I wanted to make sure the dress was long enough, I added a 3 inch piece of muslin to the top portion.  DSC_9114

I’ve sewn a few items by now and this is the first casing for elastic I’ve done.  Crazy, right? Crazy easy, is what it was.  I used the elastic to make a casing and then stuffed it through!

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I thought the tutorial had straps that were too wide so I used wide bias tape instead.  Unfortunately, I lost track of our camera and don’t have pictures, but I just sewed them in.

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The hubs gave me the idea to make them meet in the back and I think they look adorable!

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I love the buttons too.  It still looks like it was dad’s shirt, but now it’s an adorable birthday dress!  My 3 year old little model let me put her dress on for these pictures, but the day of her party she insisted on wearing a purple t-shirt underneath! I’m glad she likes it though, even if it doesn’t have a coordinating shirt. And just look at how cute she is?!

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I could just kiss and hug on her all the time! My sweet little babe is three and time is going by oh so quickly.

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Do you make your kid’s birthday outfits?

These last couple of weeks have been jam packed full of fun! Starr Lily turned three (eek!) last weekend, we went to Pennsylvania for our friend’s wedding this weekend, and our family was able to visit us too.  I’ve been meaning to post these little party favors I had ready for Starr Lil’s party, but well, I’ve been having too much fun, ha ha!

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Aren’t they cute! They were easy-peasy to make too! I went to the dollar store and got a bunch of flowers.  Then I enlisted my mom’s help and busted out the old glue gun. I pulled of the flowers from the stems, like so,

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And while my mama cut out a ton of little felt circles, I cut two slits in each one and slid the hair clip through.

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Once we got the assembly line going, it went by pretty quickly! I love just chatting with my mama while working on something too.  It reminds me of being little and cooking or cleaning while mom shared stories from when she was little. I keep telling her she needs to write them down!

Back to the party favors, mom glued felt circles onto the flowers (and nearly glued her fingertips shut too),

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and then I glued the clip part on to that.

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We let them dry overnight and that was it!

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Starr Lil’s likes to wear them! (And they keep her bangs out of her eyes too.)

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I’ll share more about her party soon and her cute little dress too! What party favors do you like to give at parties?

The mosquitoes are killing me. Just eating me alive. I go outside for 30 seconds and come back with 5 new bites. It’s bad. Especially cause the kids like being outside so much! I don’t like using the DEET stuff for fear of, well, death and thought maybe I could sneak by this year since the mosquitoes hadn’t been horrible. But I was wrong. They’re out now and they know where to find me. Not only that, but Starr Lil’s is getting bitten too! Poor little thing has welts on her little legs and arms from the bites. Any suggestions on how to relieve the itchiness?

There are a ton of diy bug sprays out there and I thought I would give them a try, but which one to go with?! That’s when I decided to do a bug spray challenge. A sort of, off-the-cuff experiment to see if one worked better than another. I did some quick googling and saw that most of the recipes are very similar. Some have witch hazel, some have oils, some have vinegar, most have essential oils, and water. So here are three that I’m using for inspiration: (I’ll have to make some substitutions for some ingredients I don’t have.)

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Witch hazel and olive oil,

Instead of the vegetable glycerin, I used olive oil and about 15 drops of eucalyptus, tea tree and citronella essential oils.

Witch Hazel and Castile soap

The only change I made here was to use the same essential oils as above, since that’s what I already had. Although I’m tempted to use lavender essential oil, next time.

Vinegar

I just made a smaller batch of this with the same oils above too.

I ushered the kids outside to give them a try,

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and tested all 3 sprays!

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the one on the left is definitely the one I’ve made in the past (it worked, but turns out cinnamon oil was a bad call to add in). Do the others do a better job ‘sticking’?

I sprayed the witch hazel and olive oil on my arms, witch hazel and Castile soap on my left leg and the vinegar on the right leg. Good news!! I only got one mosquito bite on my forehead, which had not been sprayed and only a tiny little gnat bite on my left arm. So who’s the winner? Duh duh duh…

Witch hazel with Castile soap and Vinegar!

I sprayed some around Stone, but not directly on him and he didn’t have any bites at all.

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so big!!

Pruutty amazing! And look at my sitting little guy! 6 months old already, le sigh.

And here is a blooper shot of when I asked Starr Lily to sit on the door step:

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ah, love this age.

Yup, gotta love those toddler years. A mere 20 seconds later we have this:

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I love the progression of her pretty clean dress, post play 🙂

happy little girl again and we’re bug bite free!

I did try all three sprays at the softball field the other day with the same results. Except we had to reapply about every 2 hours.

Do you make your own bug sprays? What recipes do you use? How do you keep your toddlers happy?