A thousand reasons to love October.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A clear October Saturday just couldn't have been more perfect.  I know Anne Shirley has been quoted hundreds of times, but I can't help but say it again:

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." 
- L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

A mini home tour: our main floor.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Within 30 seconds of walking into this house, Shawn announced, "We need to make an offer." The white kitchen with new appliances, the brand new hardwood floors, the space, the price. It sold us. We did make an offer later that day and moved in three weeks later. While we'd love to purchase a fixer upper someday in the future, now's not that season. So to have a house with very few updating needs was a huge blessing.

The house is split-level, and the following photos are of the main level. If you go upstairs, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. If you go downstairs, there's a partially finished space that functions as my craft room and a play area for Liam, as well as a large unfinished space with laundry and lots of storage.

The one major update we've done was to have the walls on the entire main floor painted. The kitchen used to be a baby blue (see photo below), and is now Benjamin Moore Gray Owl. The living room and hallways are the same color, just lightened by 50% (though, honestly, you can hardly tell a difference between the two colors). I love this color. It doesn't reflect blue or purple or even beige. In most lights, it's just a pure, light gray. Exactly what we were going for.


The kitchen is my favorite we've ever had. It's bright and airy with three large windows that look out onto the street, so I never feel closed off in a corner while I'm scrubbing dishes. (And it's so fun seeing kiddos walk to school every morning.) The only downside to not having any shades up yet is that, at night, it feels like a fishbowl where everyone can see right in. Eventually, we'd also love to buy a breakfast table for the nook in the corner that's begging for one.

While there's still lots I'd love to do - mainly photos and art on the walls to make it feel a little more personal - I love living in such a simple, serene space. It's easy to keep clean because we just don't have that much stuff to find places for. (Liam's toys either stay downstairs, in his room, or hidden in the crate in the living room. We use a Bumbo-type seat strapped into one of the dining room chairs for his highchair.) And because buying two houses in one year is expensive, our decorating budget was $0, so I'm thankful the things we already had fit the space nicely and naturally.

 PS - I'm happy to share sources for all of our furniture and accessories, but when I thought about it, 90% has been thrifted, purchased from Craigslist, or given to us by friends. But if you have any questions about where we might have found something, please leave it in the comments and I'm happy to point you in the right direction!

Recipe: GF Pumpkin Cake.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

via Instagram @whitneynewby
Is it a crime to post a recipe without a close-up photo of the finished product? Perhaps. But it seems like every time I bake this pumpkin cake, it's gone before I have a chance to take a real photo. This picture of Liam gobbling up his third piece straight out of the oven will have to suffice, at least for now.

This is a gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free recipe that I can feel good about feeding my toddler (and the rest of us). For the past five years, I've used Pamela's Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix for nearly all of my gluten free baking. But when a friend recently gave me a bag of Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend to try, I was hooked. While Pamela's contains a small amount of dairy, sugar, and tree nuts (almond meal), Namaste does not. I actually like the final product more, and it's less expensive. Score and score.

This recipe was adapted from Namaste's website, where I replaced the canola oil with coconut oil and the sugar with coconut sugar, which I also purchase in bulk from Amazon. The end result is a super moist, not overly sweet pumpkin-flavored quickbread that can easily be made into muffins or a bundt cake. You could also add chopped apples, chocolate chips, or a pecan topping to dress it up a bit.

GF Pumpkin Bread - adapted from NamasteFoods.com
1 cup Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend
1 cup Coconut sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. Coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 cup Canned pumpkin
2 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Baking soda
1/8 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 8" x 8" baking pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl combine sugar and melted coconut oil. With a wire whisk blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time.
3. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
4. Spread batter into prepared 8" x 8" pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

How we're *trying* to stay healthy during cold & flu season.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Four years ago, I wrote this post on "how we're staying healthy during cold & flu season." Looking back on it now, it's obviously written pre-kids because, with little kids in the house, staying perpetually healthy often feels impossible. Liam is in some form of childcare with other toddlers at least 3 times a week and it's almost inevitable that he brings home a cold or virus every couple months and generously shares it with us. When we moved to Raleigh last year, it felt like one of us was sick every few weeks. So this year, we're taking action! Or at least trying. (I write this as Liam and I are, ironically, on the tail end of a cold.)

I've updated and expanded the info in my original post to include what we're doing with Liam, as well as what I hope to do in the future. 
1. Wash your hands with soap and water. In the antibacterial hand gel craze, this may not be so obvious. While hand sanitizer works well if you have no access to soap and water, and while it does kill most microbes, it doesn't physically destroy them and wash them away from the skin's surface like good old-fashioned soap and water does. Most hand sanitizers are composed of mostly alcohol (60-95%) which does destroy bacteria, but it also strips away the outermost layer of skin and dries out your hands (which has to do with point #2). Also, the CDC notes that the most common infections are typically viral (not bacterial) and therefore are not killed by the active ingredients in hand gel. Bottom line? Use hand sanitizer in a pinch, but not as a replacement for good ole soap and water. If I've just picked up Liam from childcare and he wants a snack in the car where we have no access to soap and water, I put antibacterial on his hands and hope for the best. Otherwise, I always try to find a sink. Also, making your own natural hand sanitizer with essential oils looks intriguing, though I haven't tried it myself.

2. Moisturize your hands. Your skin is your number one protection against disease. So we have to be careful when we have wounds or openings to the skin that allow bacteria or viruses direct access to our bodies. In the winter, when your hands get really dry and sometimes crack, those little cracks are a weak spot for your immune system because they allow microbes in. No wonder it's so much easier to get sick in the dry winter, right? So keeping them moisturized protects them (and you) from disease.
3. Elderberry syrup. It's our secret weapon. I learned about it several years ago on Passionate Homemaking and Shawn and I have used it with a lot of success. This Fall and Winter, we'll be taking one to two teaspoons of it every morning as an immunity booster. Also, if you're at the beginning of a cold or infection, you can take 1 teaspoon every 2-3 hours and you'll get over it much quicker. It's powerful stuff! We had been buying bottles of it from Whole Foods, but just recently started making our own (which is much cheaper) with this tutorial from Mountain Rose Herbs, which is where I buy our elder berries. You can also purchase elderberries on Amazon. It's all natural, works amazingly well to fight cold and flu, and actually tastes really good. I think kids would really love it! Try it out! I just made this year's batch of elderberry syrup and made sure to use raw, local honey this time around - which has added health benefits for seasonal allergy sufferers. And from the research I did, raw honey has no more risks than processed honey for children or pregnant women. I also put 1 teaspoon of elderberry syrup into Liam's sippy cup in the morning and he doesn't mind the taste at all. When we were both recently sick, we took a teaspoon every few hours and got over our colds very quickly (in less than 3 days). 

4. Flu shots. I know this is such a controversial topic, but because I'm pregnant and because of my background as a registered nurse (and the complications I often saw of people having the flu), we're all getting flu shots this year. I've personally never gotten the flu after getting a flu shot, and because the flu can be pretty dangerous in pregnancy, it's what my midwife strongly recommends. We do always opt for the preservative-free shot which can usually be found at Walgreens (just call ahead to check). This means that it does not contain mercury as some flu shots do. It is refrigerated, and I think it stings a little more, but it feels well worth it to me.

What are some tips you have on staying healthy during the cold/flu season?

P.S. I'm tempted to jump onto the essential oils bandwagon. I've read so many positive things about them, just haven't made the leap. Worth it? Any specific brands you'd recommend? 

DIY: Cozy baby blanket in under an hour.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I'm kicking it into full gear as far as baby crafting goes. This little project couldn't be easier, even for beginning seamstresses, and I love how it turned out. Fresh, modern, but so useful. 
Once you've pre-washed and dried the fabrics (quilting cotton and chenille), you can easily make this baby blanket in under an hour. The finished size is approximately 34" x 41". 

1 yard cotton quilting fabric*
1 yard coordinating chenille fabric**
Sewing machine
Sewing pins
Iron & ironing board
Rotary mat, cutter, and ruler (optional)

*The cotton quilting fabric I used is called Desert Blanket in Desert from the Arizona line by April Rhodes. I absolutely love the entire line - so current, delicious colors, and mostly gender neutral.
** I purchased the cream chenille fabric from Joann Fabrics.

1. Wash and dry both fabrics, according to manufacturer instructions, which can be found on the end of the fabric bolt.
2. Iron the quilting cotton and trim the fabric down to 35" x 42". I used a rotary mat and cutter which makes things quick and precise, but you can also measure and cut using a ruler and scissors.
3. Lay your trimmed quilting fabric on top of the chenille fabric, straightening and smoothing as much as possible.
 4. Trim the chenille fabric all the way around the quilting fabric to create two equally sized pieces.
 5. Place fabrics right sides together and pin all the way around, trying not to stretch the chenille fabric as you go.
 6. Using a 1/2" seam allowance, sew the two fabrics together all the way around, leaving a 6-inch opening on one side to turn the blanket right side out. It's important to use the quilting fabric as your guide for sewing as the chenille is much stretchier and shifts around easily.
 7. Turn the blanket right side out and, if needed, use a warm iron to press the quilting cotton. (Do not iron chenille.) Using a 1/4" or 3/8" seam allowance, topstitch all the way around the four sides of the blanket, making sure to enclose the 6" opening you left to turn the blanket.
8. Trim your threads and enjoy! The blanket is machine washable.

I wish I had a newborn baby to model this blanket, but I will have to wait until January for that.
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