Tuesday, November 19, 2013

30 Days of Thanksgiving Days 11-20

So I mentioned in my post for days 1-10 about how I've tried to let Leeland come up with his own ideas and what he's thankful for each day, but I have a confession... Daniel and I may have persuaded day 11 just a tad. Mostly because Leeland hadn't really heard the word "veteran." After a nice conversation about what a veteran is and who are some veterans we know, he happily helped me write veteran down on the leaf.  Yes, did I mention that before?  Leeland is really into trying to write these days, so we both hold the marker and he likes to help me write each day. So here's what we've got for days 11 through 20--

Day 11--

Day 12--

Day 13--
^^ After a spontaneous visit to the doctor for antibiotics for an infection of his lymph nodes. I had no idea they could even get infected?!

Day 14--

Day 15--

Day 16--

Day 17--


Day 19--

Day 20--

Days 1-20 complete, and I couldn't be more proud of Leeland! So much to be thankful for now and always.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

I have always loved Samaritan's Purse and everything that they stand for. They are a ministry that helps and gives to those in need in the name of Jesus.  Often times when there are natural disasters, they are some of the first ones on scene to give supplies or help, but while meeting those physical needs are also the ones ministering and sharing the gospel. Daniel and I spent a week in New Orleans with Samaritan's Purse a year after hurricane Katrina. (Fun fact, that was when I guess you could say our love "blossomed"... Shortly after we got back in town our relationship status changed to officially dating.) 

Another ministry they do at Christmas time is called "Operation Christmas Child" where people are asked to fill a shoebox with items for kids in need around the world. OCC has always been near and dear to my heart, but has recently become even more important to me so that we can show the boys how to give to other children at Christmas time.

I brought home our shoebox from church a few weeks ago, and Leeland was very curious about it, mostly because he likes playing with boxes. We started to explain that we would fill it with toys and hygiene items for another kid, and to my surprise he did NOT like that idea. He wanted toys for himself and not to give to other kids. I was a little shocked and saddened by his initial reaction, but after more thought, I guess I should've expected it. It's human nature really-- to want want want, but only for yourself. We're all selfish! It's Christ who changes and transforms our hearts and minds to want to help others. 

.... Needless to say, we had several conversations about the box before he began to come around.  The fact that he wasn't so keen on the idea to begin with is just more the reason to participate to show him how to give....
I'm happy to report that today he was very excited to help me shop for the shoebox, and was even quite opinionated about what the shoebox needed. We chose to shop for a little girl in the age range of 2-4, and this is what we came up with--
Wooden blocks, wooden lacing cards, a coloring book with crayons, teddy bear, bar soap, rubber duck with wash cloth, toothbrush and toothpaste set, 2 pairs of socks, and some underwear. (And we tossed in one of our Christmas cards with a family photo of us.)

We ended up with a very full box we had to tie closed. 
So proud of our Leeland and all of the help he provided.  I look forward to packing many more Operation Christmas Child boxes as a family in the future. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Days 1-10

I'm not sure where it started, I would guess Facebook, but I've personally participated in "30 days of Thanksgiving" for the past 2-3 years. The idea is that everyday for the 30 days of November, you state something you are thankful for. It reminds me of Ann Voskamp's "1000 gifts" and it is a lot of fun and offers perspective. 

This year, it was very important to me to get Leeland involved. In years past, he has been too young to understand, but this year we are battling the "I wants" hard core....  It's human nature really, we're all incredibly selfish without Christ, but I guess I was so alarmed because I didn't expect the "I wants" to begin so early.  He was spouting off a laundry list of items he wanted for his 4th birthday a week after his 3rd birthday. I love that we have such generous friends and family who love to shower and spoil our boys for their birthdays and Christmas, but it makes it really hard to teach thankfulness. 

The hope is we go through this 30 days of thanksgiving to help prepare his heart for what's to come. He's so excited about Christmas coming (and I am too), but I want him to enter this holiday season thankful for what he has and not anxious about what he will get.  

Since he's only 3, I knew a visual would be of importance, so I cut out leaves and hearts out of construction paper, and we've been writing something we're thankful for down everyday and attaching it to a long piece of yarn, creating a garland. (I wish I could remember where I found the display idea, not sure if it was a Pinterest, a friend, a catalog... But it's really cute and working well.)

This is what Leeland and I have come up with each day--

Day 1 & 2--

Day 3--

Day 4--

Day 5--

Day 6--

Day 7--

Day 8--

Day 9--

Day 10--

I've done my best to let him choose what we write down each day and he definitely keeps me on my toes. I will admit to asking him the question ("what are we thankful for today?") more than once on some days because a lot of times his 1st response is whatever object catches his eye in a room first. Haha! 

It's been interesting, and he keeps me on my toes with some of his responses. This will definitely be a nice addition to our family traditions. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homemade Yogurt (+Recipe)

I've been making my own yogurt for months and have been asked by several folks how I do it, so here it is.  There are lots of homemade yogurt recipes out there, and even fancy yogurt maker gadgets, so I'm not re-inventing the wheel here, but I've looked at a few recipes, combined and adapted them to suit our needs and taste with this crock pot** yogurt.

- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
-1/2 cup honey
- 1-2 cups plain Greek yogurt (to start)
- Fruit, toppings, flavorings of choice (optional)

So lets get clear on the ingredients, of course organic milk is preferred, but if you can't do organic, lean towards a regular pasteurized milk and not "ultra pasteurized."  The ultra pasteurized wont thicken properly and you'll end up with a loose, watery yogurt. 

Honey is what we choose to sweeten our yogurt with, it's personal preference and you can increase or decrease the amount. You could also use an alternative sweetener, like stevia if you want.  I would avoid white sugar probably, I don't think the yogurt warms enough to dissolve it, and your yogurt will turn out grainy. 

Greek yogurt, buy yogurt to make yogurt? What? So yes, you do need 1-2 cups store bought plain Greek yogurt to start your 1st batch, after that you will use a reserved amount of our homemade yogurt to make subsequent batches. (Of course that's pending you don't eat it all.) I say 1-2 cups because again, it's personal preference, you definitely need 1 cup, but if you like thicker Greek style yogurt like us, you can use 2 cups of starter. 

Ok, so lets get cooking!

1. Pour half-gallon milk in the crock pot and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
I usually set alarms on my phone to keep track of times.

2. After the 2 1/2 hours is up, you are going to turn off the crock pot and unplug it and let it sit on the counter covered for 3 hours. 

3. Once this time is up, add in your yogurt starter and mix well. At this point while its warm, I go ahead and mix in the honey too (mixes better), and I also add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

4. Put the lid back on the crock pot, wrap the crock pot with 2 bath towels and place in the oven for 8-12 hours, or ideally overnight is easiest. If you choose to start it in the morning and keep it in the oven during the day, just make sure it's not a day you need the oven to cook dinner. 

After the 8-12 hour rest in the oven, the yogurt is technically done. Just pop it in the fridge and you'll be ready to eat soon.... However, as mentioned before, we like thick, Greek style yogurt, so I choose to strain ours a little to give it that thick texture. 

5. To strain (optional,) line a colander with cheese cloth, (or note here, I used a paper bag) set in a bowl and I choose to strain it in the fridge. It doesn't take long at all. 
It really only takes like an hour to strain, worst case scenario if you feel like you strained it too much, you can still add the liquid whey back in. 

And don't throw that liquid whey you strained away! You can put it in smoothies, drink it, use it for fermentation, or I've even used it in place of water in baking whole wheat artisan breads. 

So in the end, it's a long process yes, but it's crazy easy! Your crock pot does all the work! And this is what the end result looks like--
Left to right-- the blue jar is strained whey, the medium jar is yogurt I'm reserving to use for my next batch, 7 small jars of ready to eat yogurt, and I made 2 medium jars of frozen yogurt for me! (Peanut butter frozen yogurt with coconut and dark chocolate chips mixed in.) 

Leeland likes to enjoy his with blueberries mixed in, how do you like your yogurt? 

**Disclaimer- not all crock pots are created equal, so keep an eye on it your first time, because your cook times may vary a little. We own 2 different crock pots, and only one of them I can use for yogurt making, the other gets too hot too fast and burns the milk.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Paw Patrol Cupcakes

What do you do when your 3 year old nephew decides he wants his birthday dessert decorated like a cartoon you have NEVER seen in your entire life?  And on top of that, he changed his mind nearly everyday leading up to his birthday.... Well, you do your best and you try to make it work.  And by that I mean, free printables to the rescue!!

Paw Patrol cupcakes--

The little dog bones were my creative addition-- they are made with white chocolate.  My nephew loved his paw patrol cupcakes and that is all that matters!

New Nephew!

We're Aunt and Uncle again!!  Welcome Mr. Ian Kroh born on Halloween at 10:09AM, 7.65 pounds and 19 inches long.

He's pretty perfect.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't get just a little bit of baby fever holding him.... just a little bit.... 

Congratulations to Daniel's brother Nate and his wife Monica!

Halloween Festivities

It's become a yearly tradition to head a short distance out of town to a local fruit orchard for Halloween festivities the weekend before Halloween.  They do hay rides, games, smores and hot dog roasting, and then top the night off with watching "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" after dark, outside, under the stars.  I have no doubt that the boys have fun, but I kind of think that I might actually enjoy it more than them. Ha!  This year it was extra special too because Daniel was off work and able to join us, AND this is the first year that we've done a family costume.

Gru and his minions!  I of course crocheted the hats and scarf myself.  The yellow shirts are all courtesy of Old Navy, which happens to be the ONLY place in town with long sleeve yellow shirts right now.  And the boys overalls are courtesy of Osh Kosh because Osh Kosh is the ONLY place in town that sells overalls beyond the size of 2T, and we needed a 5T for Leeland.
^^ This minion needed Momma to hold him.^^
 I don't get it.  Praise God that our family photos turned out decent this year, but for whatever reason, when Momma is the one behind the camera, they just don't want to look. ((Sigh))

 ^^ I LOVE THIS GUY!! ^^

I hope that the orchard never stops showing this movie and doing this fun halloween night.  We really do love it!  So nice to have fun family traditions.

Then Halloween night, Daniel sadly had to work, so I sent some treats with him to share with the guys at work, that the boys helped me make.
 Hayden, I'm gonna need you to stop turning your head every time Momma pulls out the camera.

The cute little Halloween tins came from the dollar spot at Target.  We needed 9, and bought the very last 9 at one of the many local Target stores in our area.  They were meant to be!  This treat mix is actually one that I usually make with my family at Christmas.  At Christmas time it is cheerios, red and green M&M's, peanuts, and white chocolate or I used vanilla candy melts.  Daniel had the brilliant idea of subbing out the M&M's for Reese Pieces to make it for Halloween, and then I threw in the candy corn mix too.  It was a pretty brilliant idea, I almost like the Reese Pieces better!

Halloween night, the festivities were quick.  Leeland had been saying he wanted to go trick or treating all week, but we were lacking time since Daniel needed the car to get to work that night.  We went to a local trunk or treat at a friend's church-- there were about 15 cars in the parking lot handing out candy and then once you went around, they were providing hot dogs for everyone.  It was small, but it was perfect for the amount of time we had and still gave Leeland the feeling of trick or treating.

Hope you all had a fabulous time celebrating Halloween with your kiddos and families!