Archives for February 2012

Moby-style wraps for my girls

I’ve been making baby carriers for our daughters this week, and it has been so much fun!  Our two oldest daughters are both pregnant, both expecting little boys.  Amanda is not due til May, but Erika’s baby was due several days ago, so we are on eager baby-watch around here.

The carriers I’ve made are patterned after one I used and loved with our two youngest daughters.  Mine was a Hug A Bub, which is very similar to a Moby Wrap. The design is exceedingly simple: a piece of fabric about 6 yards long and 20 inches wide, hemmed, with 20-inch square pocket sewn across the center of the rectangle. The girls both liked a soft chocolate brown knit fabric for the main part of the carrier, and chose different fabrics for the center pocket.  The hardest part of the project was laying the stretchy fabric out smooth and straight, then cutting it to the right size.  (Click on pictures to enlarge.)


Here’s Erika’s carrier.  The pocket fabric is a woven cotton with just a little stretch, and adds a good bit of stability to the center of the carrier.  Amanda chose a knit fabric for the pocket that also worked well.

The carrier wraps and criss-crosses around the parent’s body several times, creating a secure, cozy cradle for the baby, and an utterly comfortable wearing experience for the parent.  In my years of mothering tiny ones, I tried MANY carriers, and found this one to be the most comfortable one out there.   Below you can see the top of the pocket, folded over and hemmed.

The next picture shows the bottom front edge, with bottom edge of the pocket wrapped around to the inside of the carrier.  I finished every edge of the entire carrier with a ‘stretch’ zigzag stitch on my machine, which should stand up under the weight that this fabric will hold  (once that lil baby gets chubby.)


Since the carriers are very long and can be hard to fold up, I decided to also make matching stuff sacks.  Fun, eh?

Here’s a photo of me modeling Amanda’s carrier.  Doubtless it will be waywayway cuter on my daughter, complete with a baby peeking out– I’ll try to remember to get a pictures for you eventually.  But this gives you a general idea of the look of it.  I delivered Erika’s carrier to her today.  She tried it on and was very pleased with it.  Now all we need is for her baby to arrive!

The carriers can be a bit intimidating to tie on at first.  Here’s a good video explanation.  Once you’ve done it half a dozen times, it gets easy, but at first you will want good instructions.  And if you’re a novice seamstress and need more detailed sewing instructions than I supplied here, check out this complete tutorial from A Load of Craft.

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Teens shopping and cooking– a story from another house

After reading about of our teenagers and their kitchen experiment, my friend Leah and her son were inspired to try this idea at their own house.  Here are two posts telling about their adventures so far:

If you try this with your teenagers, will you let me know?  I’d love to link to you so that others can read about your adventures too.

Springtime table ideas

I love doing different things on my dining room table at different times of the year.  I regularly change up the table runners and centerpieces, and always have my eyes open for fun things I can do.  And as much as possible, I try to keep it frugal and use mostly items I already have somewhere in the house. This year I’m already plotting springtime table decor. (Is anyone else sick to death of winter grey?) Here are a few ideas I pinned lately on Pinterest.

I’d probably do this bouquet with silk flowers so it’d last all spring.  And I’d check the thrift stores before I bought new flowers. Some thrift store flowers are too ugly to bear.   But often I can find a few things that still have life in them. The trick with this arrangement would be to keep the kids out of the candy.


I love the daisies in this arrangement, and could use this rectangular wood box for arrangements in other seasons too.



I crave yellow in springtime.  Aren’t these tulips lovely?  This would also be pretty with daffodils or forsythia. (Which reminds me:  I REALLY need to plant forsythia at our house!)

Source: via Mary on Pinterest

These felt flowers are just darling. It’d take precision and sharp scissors to get the flowers looking this crisp, but the result is darling.  Since these flowers are small, I would probably do several mini-bouquets in tiny vases down the length of the table on a table runner of complimentary fabric.  I already have some tiny blue-glass vases that would be perfect for this.


I think this ‘grass’ placemat would be a sweet table centerpiece, and I love the daisies scattered on it.

Source: via Angie on Pinterest


This neutral-toned display is really sweet.  You could skip the flowers if you wanted only greenery.  Or you could tuck silk baby’s breath from the thrift store in with the grass.  I’d also check thrift stores for cute pots for the base of this arrangement.  Or I’d brush simple clay pots with a light layer of white or pastel craft paint.


Here’s another elegant neutral-toned arrangement that you could do with twigs.  The birds are made from craft paper  (here’s the direct link to that project).


Bonus:  here’s a fun Easter poster to print and mount or put in a frame.  I printed one for our kitchen wall.


How about you? Do you like decorating for different seasons? Are you thinking about brightening up your house for spring?

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Mommy hook winner

The winner of the Mommy Hook is commenter #5, Kim S.  Kim, email me your address and I will get your extra ‘hand’ sent your way!

I Need Someone to Cook for Me

The following was written by our 14 year old daughter.  She was the kid least thrilled by the $20 cooking challenge, and was even less excited to write about her week.  Mom’s note:  despite her impressions of the week, she actually did as good a job as anyone.   (Here’s her food list.)


This week I did $20 of food for a week. The meal I enjoyed eating most was fish sticks and French fries. The spices I put in my potatoes were parsley, paprika, garlic powder and salt. It was good.

The food I liked least was the chicken. I cooked it in the oven and I put thyme and other spices that I forgot. It tasted really bad.

I also made rice. In it I put onion, chicken and turmeric. It was ok. The hardest part was washing dishes. I don’t even know who made all those dirty dishes. Oh! I almost forgot– when I was cooking my rice I burned my onion so I had to change my pot. Tell me, who would do that? I had to spend 10 minutes washing the pot.

For my dessert I made cinnamon rolls. They were great, even though I was not in a good mood when I ate them.  The most fun part was making ramen stir fry. In my stir fry I put onions, carrots, chicken and soy sauce. It was really good.

This week I learned that I need more like $100 than $20 a week so I can hire someone to cook for me because I am a bad cook. If I had more money I would hire my brothers to cook for me.


End of winter coziness

Here are my little girls (ages 9 and 7– how did they get so big??  waaahh) modeling their new coats.  Their old ones were perfectly adequate, but when I saw these on clearance for $8 at Sears, it was too good a deal for me to resist.  They were utterly thrilled to have new ones, and the coats are big enough that they should get some good wear out of them next year too.




Starvation Week

Here are some $20/week thoughts from our other 13 year old son, who just finished his cooking experiment today.  (See his shopping trip here.)  And be reassured:  despite the title, I don’t think he spent any of the week hungry.


These last seven days, I planned and cooked all my meals by myself. The shopping went well. I went a little under, about eighteen cents. The first meal I cooked was French fries. They were O.K. but I burned them a little. I liked having canned ravioli.  Next time I would get lots more ravioli.

The ramen stir fry was also pretty good. It had noodles, onions, tomatoes, and a little bit of oil.  One of the hardest things to do was when everyone else got to eat something wonderful and I had to eat boringness like ramen again.  But I did like not having to eat oatmeal.

Making donuts was really fun. The first time I just mixed some sugar and cinnamon together then right after I took them out of the pot, plopped them in the sugar mix, they were really good. The next time I made some glaze for the donuts.  It had sugar cinnamon and milk in it. They were definitely not my favorite– wayyy to much cinnamon.

The best meal I made was deviled eggs.  They were much easier than I thought they would be. I would make those more often if I did it again.

Overall it was hard, fun, and frustrating each at different meals. I learned a lot about how much work it takes to feed yourself on a reasonable amount of money, while not eating rice and beans all the time. I am just glad that I don’t have to feed the whole family. Thank you mom!

The last $20/week shoppers

Zebra Pen Winner: Commenter #103 Laura Williams


A few days ago I took my final two teenagers (13 yo boy and a 14 yo girl) on their $20 shopping trip. They’d had the advantage of watching three other siblings do their shopping, and had definite ideas about what they wanted to do.











The photo above lists the items our son bought, along with the prices he paid. The big packet of chicken was shared between both of the kids.  He opted for home-canned applesauce as his fruit and fresh tomatoes as his veggie.  Frozen burritos and ravioli made for easier meals than several of the other kids chose.










Our 14 year old daughter is not a big eater and had a hard time spending all her money.  She ended up with enough money left for fish sticks, chocolate milk, and enough grapes for several meals.  Since she bought three veggies (corn potatoes, carrots) and two fruits (apples and grapes)  she didn’t feel like she needed any home-canned items.  Looking at the per-day calorie count of all she bought, I am guessing she probably could have fed two of her on that number of calories.

Note:  For this experiment I’ve been guesstimating calories using a website called Calorie Count.  I listed the total amount of each food purchased, and then divided the grand total by 7 to get an idea of the total number of calories they had available per day.  All of the kids ended up with leftovers, so in general they didn’t actually eat that much.  But this experiment reflects that it is easy to get plenty of calories even on a moderate food budget.

Wounded Calzones

This story was written by my 16 year old daughter who came home from Ethiopia in 2007.   I knew she’d do a good job cooking, but I am just as proud of the time and effort she took to beautifully describe her week of cooking for you. (Here’s how she spent her $20)






















As some of you may know I was doing the $20 for a week. It was very challenging and fun. The first day after shopping I got tired a little bit but I started my on food that afternoon. So I started cooking. I had chicken that needed to be taken care of. I needed also some kind of plan what to do with that chicken. So I went to my mom and got some advice and I started chopping my chicken.

I realized I needed dinner so I started my rice [and was frying my chicken] and all together I had three pots on the burner. So as I’m stirring my frying chicken, my pot of broth was over flowing. When I am dealing with the broth, my rice needed water so I raced to get water because I don’t want burned food for dinner. Who wants burned food? Not me.

As I eat my food I realized it is not burned or anything wrong with my food. All my not wanting to deal with three pots and my hassling paid off. Yaaa, I am so proud of myself.

On Wednesday I made calzones [with chicken, tomato and onion]. I put all the stuffing on the dough.  As I was covering it with the dough I realized some of the stuffing was leaking. What I did wrong was I rolled the dough very thin in the bottom and very thick in the end. I just shoved it in the oven hoping for the best. When it was done it looked like a loaf of bread that someone shot it and started bleeding. I cut it so I can eat it. Actually it tasted very good. But the top is very big and ugly. I learned that if I make calzones next time I need to make the bottom a little bit thick and the top way thin so that I don’t have to eat a wounded calzone.

The best food that I made was fried ramen. It was very yummy.  Also I made bread. It was way cheaper then the store bought. I think the least I like was eating eggs.

But the best thing I did was making donuts. I think it was about 4 when I realized I need to make donuts because I was hoping that I can bring some to my two best friends for Valentine’s Day. When I finished with my school it was about 5:30. I rolled my dough and shaped [the donuts] and put it aside so that they could rise. About 6 I started doing my donuts and I have to do it fast because we need to leave to church. As I was scurrying my oil got very hot. I quickly put new oil to cool it down. I had 3 more pieces of dough to go and this is what happened. I was going to take off the donut from the pot with a fork. I took it half way and the donut slipped and fell inside the oil giving a big splat all over. I got a little bit on my face and three [burns] on my hand.  I went to my friends and l told them this is how I love you, showing them my burned hand and face and their donuts.  This is how I ended my last day of $20 for a week—burning myself.  That is right.  Burning myself.

But I learned a lot of things [about] how I should use my money wisely and how I should eat as I am doing the $20 for a week. It is a very good experiment before you get out from your parents house and see the new world. I want to do this experiment again. It is a lot of fun.