Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Restore Cast Iron

My husband's latest hobby is cast iron cooking. I am all for it! Number 1- using cast iron makes zero dirty dishes, and number 2, it makes delicious meals. I hope this hobby continues for a long, long time :) 

Cast iron does cost a pretty penny, though. Buying it new can be very expensive, and honestly it isn't made with the same quality as the older cast iron. Buying cast iron second hand can bring down the cost pretty significantly and give you a higher quality cookware. However, second hand cast iron often comes with a lot of rust. Some of the pieces my husband has picked up really looked beyond repair, but it is incredible what the right techniques can do to bring out that beautiful black cast iron look again. 

The method that you use to clean it really depends on the condition of the piece. For this tutorial we are going to use a 12" skillet that we picked up at a flea market for $8 as our example. This particular skillet had so much rust on it, that it literally had layers of built on coating that you could feel with your fingers. On the back, we thought there were no markings (but we found them once we finished). So yeah, if we can restore this piece, I think these techniques can be used to restore just about any piece!

Here is what you will need:
Vinegar (lots of vinegar)
Salt (lots of salt)
Basin of water large enough to completely submerge your cast iron piece
BBQ grill wire brush
Potatoes (5lb bag should do)

The first step is to give it a good scrubbing. The best way to start off with a first layer of scrubbing is using salt and potatoes. Yes, that's right, salt and potatoes. Cut your potato in half, and cover the entire surface of the cast iron with a good dousing of salt. Don't be shy with the salt, get a really good layer going and then scrub the pan with the potato, cut side down. The salt will form a kind of paste and begin to break off the first layer of rust.


The next step is to soak. Fill a container with water that is large enough to completely submerge your cast iron piece in. Our 12 inch skillet ended up going into a trash can :) Fill the container with water, vinegar, and salt. You should have a 1:1 ratio to vinegar and water, and add salt until it can no longer dissolve. Make sure that the skillet is completely covered and let it soak for a LONG time. Overnight is best. You will begin to see bubbles coming up from the rust as it literally separates from the skillet. By the next morning, the water will look really dirty with all of the rust that has fallen off and in our case, there was an outline of foam along the edge of the skillet that you could see on the top of the water. This water was clear before, I promise. Did I mention that this skillet was really bad off?

After soaking, it is time for more scrubbing. Start off with a wire brush (the kind that you use to clean the barbeque grill). Scrub, scrub, scrub. Use that elbow grease! You should see a difference, and maybe all the rust will be gone...but depending on the condition, you may still have more work to do.

Place your cast iron on the stove and heat it until it is completely dry. You will see all the steam coming off as the water evaporates out of the skillet. Once it is dry you will be able to determine how much rust is still left on it. Unfortunately, cast iron always looks darker (and cleaner) when wet. 

This process takes off one layer of rust at a time, so if your piece is really bad off, expect to do several overnight soaks with scrubbing sessions in between. Repeat the process (potatoes and salt scrub, vinegar, salt and water soak, wire brush scrub, and stove heat dry) until ALL of the rust is gone. You do not want to season your cast iron with rust still on it.

Once you have finally gotten all the rust off, it is time to season your cast iron. At this point it is probably a new color- not rusty orange, but not cast iron black- more of a silvery color. The black color comes after it has been seasoned. To get it to that point, when it will be ready for kitchen use, all you need is some Crisco. Use a pare towel to rub a layer of Crisco over the entire piece of cast iron. Next place it on a baking sheet and cook it in the over on 275 degrees F for an hour and a half. This process will also have to be repeated several times for the cast iron to soak up all of the oil and coat the surface. This coating not only protects the cast iron from rusting again, but also creates the layer of non-stick coating that flavors the foods that you will cook in it.

 Look at that beautiful black cast iron shine! I can't believe this is the same piece that we started with, and it has quickly become one of our favorites to use when cooking!

 Here are some before and after pictures of a griddle that we restored at the same time. This one only required one soaking and scrubbing, and it was as good as new!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

40 DIY Projects to Prepare for Baby- Part 2: The Nursery Edition

Before getting pregnant I read about a DIY mom who laid out 40 projects to complete during the 40 weeks of her pregnancy in preparation for the baby. I thought this was such a great idea, and I decided to do the same in getting ready for our daughter! To break up the overwhelming amounts of projects, I am posting them in 4 parts with 10 projects each (that is, if I finish all 40...).

I am only going to post pics of the actual projects that I made, and include links to any tutorials or patterns that I used. So many blogs just link to pics on other sites that look amazing but make me think "there is no way I could ever make that!" From one crafty, but not particularly talented, diyer- all of these project are very doable! 

Note: I also want to put a disclaimer out there that this nursery list is NOT gender neutral. I had this great idea that we would be frugal and make everything gender neutral to be used for all of our kids...and then we found out that we were expecting a girl. Suddenly all of that went out the window, and the nuraery just had to be bright, ruffly, and obnoxiously adorable! Needless to say, if you are expecting a little boy, this list will probably not help you at all.

When looking for the perfect bedding set for the nursery, I must have browsed thousands of designs online. What else is there to do while dreaming of baby? Nothing seemed right until I came across a picture on amazon that was SO adorable, SO perfect, SO girly and bright and fun...and unfortunately SO expensive! 
Carousel Designs Kumari Garden 3-Piece Crib Bedding Set:

$340 for a three piece set? I immediately decided to make my own bedding to look just like it. The fabric is in the line called Kumari Garden by Carousel Designs. I was able to buy the exact same fabric directly from their website. I bought 18 yards of fabric to do the whole nursery for $150. Let's see how far that amount will go in making the most adorable nursery you have ever seen!

1. Crib sheets

I made two crib sheets and they were so simple! They take two yards of fabric each, some elastic and a sewing machine. I used this tutorial from The Ribbon Retreat, and it was a simple starter project to boost my confidence and make me believe that I can actually make this nursery bedding on my own.

2. Changing pad covers

I made two changing pad covers, which are pretty much just a mini version of the crib sheet. I used this tutorial by A Small Snippet.

3. Ruffled Crib Skirt

I was so proud of this! It took a ton of fabric to make, a lot of time, and really serves no logical purpose, but I LOVE this crib skirt. It makes me giddy to see all of those cute little ruffles just overflowing with girly adorableness! While my crib does cover up the third ruffle, I couldn't care less. This skirt is just TOO CUTE for words! I used this tutorial from The Ribbon Retreat. The only change that I made was to use elastic thread to make the ruffles instead of gathering them all by hand. Let me tell you, this will save you HOURS, so go buy some elastic thread and save yourself the frustration.

4. Comforter

This came out so much better than I had imagined. I made it 42 x 56 which is big enough to be a comforter for a toddler bed, so that hopefully she will get a lot of use out of it for years to come. I used this tutorial from Fave Quilts. This was the first "real" quilt that I made that wasn't a rag quilt, and I was so pleased with how it turned out. I added a layer of batting to the middle to make it more of a comforter, and I love the weight of it.

5. Accent Pillow

There was no tutorial or pattern for this one. I bought a 13 x 17 pillow form from Joann's, thought up how I wanted it to look, and my mom and I just pieced it together. I LOVE how it turned out! The front is three pieces of fabric each 6 x 13. We added a 2 inch ruffle on either side of the center piece (again we used the elastic thread which makes ruffles a breeze!), and the back is a solid piece in the same fabric as the ruffle.

6. Window Valance

Once again, no pattern for this one. My mom and I cut a piece of fabric 2 1/2 times the width of the window, made a three inch wide casing with a coordinating fabric and added a three inch heading on top to form the ruffle. Seamed it up, and it was a simple project with a stunning outcome!

7. Wooden Initial Wall Art

I don't have a tutorial for this one, but it is pretty simple- there is no right or wrong way to make one! I bought the large wooden initial on the clearance aisle at Michael's for $3! I painted it in the same pink as her nursery fabric, wrapped some yarn around some parts, hot glued on some buttons, felt shapes, and ribbon flowers, and finished the whole project in about an hour. It fills the empty wall next to the window perfectly, and I couldn't be happier with the final product!

8. Name Canvas Wall Art

I used some spray-on fabric adhesive to attach some nursery fabric to a canvas, painted some wooden letters for her name, wrapped some yarn in coordinating colors, and added the felt and button accents. After that, I simply hot-glued the letters to the canvas! Once she arrives, I will be adding her date of birth in the lower right hand corner. I only wish I knew what that date would be!!!

9. Felt Flower Canvas Art

I had seen several pictures of these felt dahlias on canvases on Pinterest and loved them, but could never find a tutorial! No worries- I put together a tutorial here in case you are interested in making your own :) I covered two canvases with the nursery fabric and then hot glued the felt dahlias on top to hang on either side of her name canvas. The three together look fabulous on the wall above her dresser!

10. No-Sew Baby Name Pennant Banner

No tutorial link for this one, but it is pretty self-explanatory. I made pennants out of felt, cut out felt letters in alternating colors, and then used iron-on fabric adhesive to apply them. Next I cut out alternating sizes of triangles in the nursery fabric to put in between the pennants just to tie everything together. I hot glued the the pennants to a piece of ribbon and then added some tulle and ribbon to make the bows and accents. It looks perfect hanging above the crib!

Just to do a quick run-down of how much I saved by making the nursery bedding and accessories instead of buying them on etsy, here is what they would have cost:
Crib sheets (2)- $35 each    $70 total
Changing pad covers (2)- $30 each     $60 total
Ruffled bed skirt- $150
Comforter- $175
Accent pillow- $35
Window Valance- $35
Pennant banner- $25
Canvas wall art with name and felt flowers- $150

The total cost would have been $700, but instead I paid $150 for fabric and another $20 on paint, letters, felt, etc. Oh, and I also spent hours and hours making it all, but I count that as fun! Overall, I think her gorgeous nursery was worth every penny!
All we need to add now is one sweet little girl! 

If you missed Part 1, be sure to check out all the basic projects for just getting started!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Felt Dahlia Flower Tutorial

I saw some pictures of a felt dahlia flower on a canvas on pinterest and wanted to make a few to hang in my daughter's nursery. Unfortunately I couldn't find a tutorial on how to make it, so I played around with it for a while until I found what worked for me. It is pretty simple, so here's how to do your own!

First I covered a canvas in fabric using a spray on adhesive.  Next I cut out all of my felt pieces. My canvas was 12 x 12, so if yours is a different size, keep in mind that you will need to change the sizes of your felt pieces to make the flower larger or smaller. 

For the first two outer rows of petals, I cut rectangles that were 3in x 4in. Fold each rectangle in half lengthwise and cut a rounded corner going down about 1/3 of the length of the rectangle. This will form the tip to each petal.

Next, hot glue the flat end of each petal into an accordion "M"shape with each corner and the middle of each petal glued together. 

Next, hot glue 8 petals evenly spaced with the edges of the petals reaching out to the size that you want the finished flower to be.

Add a second layer of 8 petals with the new ones overlapping on top but set in slightly towards the center of the circle. Each new petal should fit right in between the first layer of petals to form a layered look.

For the last row of petals, use a slightly smaller size of felt. I used 2in x 3in rectangles to make the inner petals. Continue to hot glue them in between the other petals set in slightly with each row. You may need to add several more rows depending on the size of your flower.

Now for the center! This can be a little tricky. Make a star-shaped piece of felt and some even smaller petals. I used 1in x 2in rectangles for the center. Glue the four corners of your star together.

Flip the star over and hot glue each of the four center petals into one of the open corners of the star.

Glue this piece into the center of your flower, making sure that it covers up all the edges of the inner circle of petals. I wanted the center of the flower to look a little more closed, so I hot glued some of the edges of the center petals together.

That's it! The whole project didn't take long at all, and I was so pleased with how it turned out! 
Get out your glue gun and go to town :)

Pregnancy Heartburn Life Hack

I have to share my favorite pregnancy hack that has made the third trimester so lovely! Most pregnant women in the second and third trimesters deal with a lot of heartburn because of all the pressure from that growing baby! This causes a lack of sleep, which leads to making everything else just a little bit more difficult, when you already have a lot to deal with.

I stumbled upon a great solution just by accident, and I have to share it! I love ice cream (what pregnant woman doesn't?) and I found that on nights that I had a scoop of Blue Bell half an hour to an hour before bed, I didn't have ANY heartburn! It took a while for me to catch on to the correlation between the two, but sure enough, on nights that I didn't have any ice cream, the heart burn was inevitable. I realize that only the south has Blue Bell, but I'm sure that there are other brands that work just as well :) After doing some research I found that there is actually something scientific to it all- the calcium is what helps. Tums are basically calcium, but instead of taking something that eats at your stomach lining, I preferred to eat something that padded it :) I tried a glass of milk on a few occasions, and while it helped, the heartburn was still there, just not as bad. I guess milk just doesn't stand up to the wonders of heavy cream.

For the last few months I have had a scoop of Blue Bell every night about an hour before bed (my husband calls it my "prescription" medicine), and haven't had any heartburn since! I guess there really is something to pregnancy and ice cream- now if they only made a pickle flavor!

Monday, March 28, 2016

True Confessions of a Gluten-Free Pregnant Woman

It has been 286 days since I have eaten gluten (roughly 10 months).
I have only two weeks until my due date, and I'm honestly not sure which I am more excited about- having the baby, or having my first meal with gluten post-baby.
You think this is a game? The struggle is real!

As women, we make a lot of sacrifices for our children even before they are born! We sacrifice sleep, comfort, our pre-baby bodies, and the list could go on depending on your pregnancy. But I think we can all agree that the sacrifices are more than worth the reward of bringing a new life into the world!

Almost two years ago I had a miscarriage, which was devastating, followed by 15 months of infertility, which was frustrating, and then we were finally able to discover the possible problem. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, which is a thyroid disease in which your body produces anti-bodies that attack your thyroid as if it were a disease, which can lead to hypothyroidism, which can result in infertility and miscarriage. I started medication to regulate my thyroid production and also did some research that suggested that a gluten free diet could also help in regulating thyroid fluctuations. At that point, if you had told me standing on my head might help, I would have done it in an instant!

However, I LOVE food. I grew up in South Louisiana where the entire culture revolves around food, and really good food at that! I knew that giving up gluten would be difficult, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. We were VERY blessed and got pregnant the next month! (Sure wish we would have known about Hashimoto's two years ago...) We did not want to take this new pregnancy for granted or take any chances, so I decided to stay gluten-free as well as taking the medication until the safe arrival of our bundle of joy.

Let me just has been a LONG ten months.

I had read so many blogs about how easy and wonderful it was to be gluten-free. I am an optimistic, upbeat person, but I feel like someone needs to address the other side of being gluten-free just to give others a realistic view. Some of these views may be stronger simply because I am pregnant, and that seems to magnify everything :)

Here are some things that I have learned about myself and being gluten-free over the last ten months.

1. Get ready to cook a lot
Almost all prepared foods, frozen foods, and processed foods have gluten in them. Basically this means that if you don;t plan ahead and cook, you will starve. Being pregnant and wanting to eat a million times a day doesn't help. Especially when those random cravings begin and you can't eat any of them- it is really important to have some kind of back-up plan, which requires...well, planning. The first trimester is the worst, because it always turned my stomach to cook with morning sickness, but if you don't cook, you don't eat, and if you don't eat, that morning sickness will only get worse! Also, get ready to eat the same few meals over and over again (for us- red beans and rice, tacos, spaghetti with gluten free pasta, etc.)

2. There are whole sections of the grocery store you will never visit
I basically shop in only a few aisles of the grocery store in my gluten-free diet- the produce section, the meat section, and the dairy section. Everything else is gluten, and going down the aisles is not only tempting, but kind of depressing. I just pretend like the rest of the grocery store doesn't exist- no cereal, crackers, breads, frozen foods, cookies, the whole bakery, etc.

3. Getting invited to dinner with friends is complicated
I have now become THAT person...the one who gets invited to dinner with friends and then has to ask what we are eating so that I can try to politely let them know that I can't eat that. Or I can choose to not mention it and eat before we go, which is always weird. Or I can offer to bring the food (but they invited us to dinner so that they could make food for us). Bleh. I hate that. It doesn't take long before people simply don't invite us to dinner, because it really is just too complicated to eat a meal together.

4. Eating out is not the same
Eating out at a restaurant is a real ordeal. Choosing something off of the menu can be downright depressing. The first thing I do is scan the menu, skip the sections of pasta, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, desserts, anything battered or fried, and narrow down what options I may have left. This will usually be a salad or a grilled meat with veggie sides. There are times where there is literally NOTHING on the menu that I can eat. How is that possible? The problem is that I know EXACTLY what I want. I just can't eat it. So I try to decided between the two or three options that I have, and then the great inquisition begins. I hate being that person at the table with a million questions and the complicated order, but they are really good at hiding gluten in just about everything. So I order something, and I eat that. It definitely isn't the same restaurant experience as before.

5. The gluten-free loop holes will always give you the short end of the stick
Every now and then you go to a restaurant that has gluten-free options, which is always great because you have more options, but also bad because it costs twice as much. Trust me when I say that you will always get the short end of the stick when ordering gluten-free. If they have a gluten free bread option for the sandwiches, they usually charge extra. If they don't charge extra, their bread slices are really small and you end up with the equivalent of half a sandwich. When you are eating for two, it can be really frustrating. Also, be prepared to be patient, because the gluten free food is always the last to come out. I'm not sure why, but it happens every time.

6. Gluten-free foods are not the same
When I tell people I am gluten free, they love to make the comment that there are so many gluten free options out there now, which is true, and I do appreciate that there are gluten-free options out there. However, do not think that a gluten-free pretzel is going to taste like a regular pretzel, or gf pasta, or crackers, cookies, etc. They just don't taste the same. The pretzels taste like rice, the crackers taste like rice, the baked goods always have this very distinct grainy after-taste. They are bearable and will curb an absolutely undeniable craving (mostly because after eating the gf substitute you never want to crave that food again), but they are NOT the same. They also cost about five times as much. After eating rice-tasting gf substitutes that cost an arm and a leg a few times, I have learned to live without and eat things that are already gluten free like popcorn or corn chips. It just isn't worth getting my hopes up only to be disappointed.

7. The cravings do not go away with time
What has my #1 pregnancy craving been? Gluten. Hands down. I want it. I REALLY want it, ALL THE TIME. People say that after a few weeks you won't even crave it any more, and you won't miss it, and you will feel so good without it that you will never want to go back. That has not been my experience. I feel the same without it. I do miss it. And I still crave it. It is no joke. I still remember my husband and I going to visit some friends. They asked us to pick up some pizza for everyone on the way to their house. They insisted that we get it from one of the only places that doesn't offer a gluten free crust. I'm a big girl- I can handle it! We picked up a salad for me and the pizza for everyone else. My husband was driving, so I got to hold the pizza in my lap the whole way there...just smelling that awesome cheesy goodness on that puffy, bready crust...mmmmm. This was a low point for me, but I had a minor break down. With tears. Not a little bit of crying either- the ugly crying. Over pizza. I could probably get away with blaming pregnancy hormones, but let's face the truth- I love gluten, and I still crave it. I will literally catch myself watching someone eat a cookie, and I'm just fantasizing about what it tastes like even after ten months.

8. I have developed strange food pet peeves
There are some strange reactions that I have developed in the last ten months that I am not particularly proud of. One thing that annoys me is when people waste bread. Sometimes if a bun is bigger than a hamburger patty people will peel away the extra bread and throw it away. Every fiber of my being wants to swoop down on that discarded bread as if they were throwing away a hundred dollar bill! Or you go to a birthday party and everyone only eats half of their piece of cake and throws the rest away, and inside I just want to cry, and make that cake feel the appreciation that it deserves!
Then there is the issue of non gluten-free people eating gluten-free foods. I will splurge and buy the box of gluten free brownie mix for $6 (which is like a dollar per brownie) and make a treat for myself (even while knowing it will not taste remotely like the real thing). And then someone who eats gluten all day every day wants to have one, just to see what they taste like. This is like asking Frodo to give up the ring. But nice people don't say no, so I give them one. Their reaction at this point is a lose/lose. If they say, "That doesn't taste so bad, I don't know what you're complaining about." Then I'm thinking, "Easy for you to say- you can just wash it down with a piece of cake!" Or if they say, "Oh you're right, that does have a gritty aftertaste," then I'm thinking, "You ate one of my precious brownies and I knew you wouldn't like it!" This is why I hide food now. It's better for everyone that way.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Most of all, this is temporary! I am so glad that I don't have Celiac disease- I would have a serious breakdown. Gluten is a small thing to give up in order to have a healthy baby, but if it were for a reason any less important it would definitely not be worth it. Going gluten free is completely doable, but I will be really glad when I no longer have to do it! There are heroic people out there who create incredible gluten-free cuisine and make it all look easy, but I am just not one of them :(

Sunday, March 27, 2016

40 DIY Projects to Prepare for Baby- Part 1: The Basics

Before getting pregnant I read about a DIY mom who laid out 40 projects to complete during the 40 weeks of her pregnancy in preparation for the baby. I thought this was such a great idea, and I decided to do the same in getting ready for our daughter! I quickly learned that 40 projects is A LOT to create, and completing one project per week is an absolute joke! I completed zero projects during my first trimester when I was very busy with work and had no energy- ugh, that first trimester blah.... Most of the projects took place during my second trimester, in that burst of nesting energy that just happened to coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks at work giving me extra time to create :) 

I am only going to post pics of the actual projects that I made, and include links to any tutorials or patterns that I used. So many blogs just link to pics on other sites that look amazing but make me think "there is no way I could ever make that!" From one crafty, but not particularly talented, diyer- all of these projects are very doable! 

To break up the overwhelming amounts of projects, I am posting them in 4 parts with 10 projects each (that is, if I really do finish all 40...). This first list contains some basic projects that you can make in the beginning- things you will need for any baby and can easily make gender neutral since you won't know yet if you are going to have a girl or boy.

Enough chatting- on to the list!

1. Contoured Burp Cloths

From what I have read, you can't have enough of these! My sister never used a single one on her son, but I think she has the neatest child on the planet, and that is unlikely to duplicate itself in my daughter. I am prepared for spit up! These were so easy to make! I make a dozen of them (four of each of the three different fabric patterns). I used the free pattern from Floating on Cloud9. The only change that I made was to make both sides flannel, rather than cotton on one side and flannel on the other. Many moms had commented that the cotton didn't absorb well, and that kind of defeats the purpose of a burp cloth! I am so pleased with how they turned out. I bought the flannel at Joann's the day after thanksgiving for 70% off, and the total cost to make 12 was $4. In the store burp cloths run about $1 each, so I saved $8 (and mine are super cute!).

2. Cloth wipes

Yes, we are planning on cloth diapering. From everything that I have read, ti is easier to use cloth wipes with cloth diapers because they can all go in the same bag to be washed instead of having to separate the wipes into a separate trash can. But the price of cloth wipes is outrageous! They run about fifty cents each, and to have a good stash you need around 50. That adds up pretty quick considering it is just a cloth to wipe a baby's behind. These cloth wipes were so easy to make- they are 8 x 8 inch squares of flannel that I serged around the edges. If you don't have a serger, a plain zigzag or overlock stick on a regular sewing machine will do the job. You will get 20 wipes out of each yard of flannel that you buy (or if you do 7 x 7 inch squares, you can get 25 wipes per yard). I bought the flannel on sale and made 50 cloth wipes for $4. To buy them would have cost $25, so I saved $21).

Note: After making these I realized that they can be used for SO MANY THINGS! Wiping runny noses, sticky hands, or spills, I have a feeling that I am going to wear this set out pretty quickly and need to make more!

3. Nursing pads

Once again, I wanted to have a reusable option for this item rather that using disposables. I used the free printable pattern from DIY Maternity but didn't sew in the darts (it would have made it way too thick). I didn't follow their directions for making them either- instead I used three layers: flannel to go against the skin for wicking away moisture, a layer of Zorb in the middle to hold any leaks, and and an outer layer of fleece to keep moisture from soaking through onto clothing. I layered the three fabrics and serged around the edge- super simple! Zorb is a special super absorbent fabric that absorbs the same amount as ten layers of flannel! I ordered mine by the yard on etsy (it runs about $10/yard). Again, to buy these at the store is really expensive. On average they run about $7 per set! I made 12 sets, which used 1/4 yard of each of my three fabrics, costing a total of $4. (I saved $80!!!)

4. Rag Quilt

This is such a cute baby blanket, and really easy to put together. I had never made a quilt before, and this one turned out great! I followed the tutorial by Do It Yourself Divas. The only change that I made was to add a layer of fleece to the middle of the blanket. I wanted to use it as a blanket that I could put down on our hard wood floors for the baby to play on and the fleece added just the right amount of weight and cushion.

5. Knitted Baby Blanket

I love to knit, so of course I have to knit a baby blanket! After looking at a lot of different designs, I finally settled on this pattern by All Free Knitting. The only change I made was to make it 5 x 5 squares instead of 5 x 7.

6. Bibs

Bibs are an essential, so why not have some soft, cuddle, and cute ones? I used this pattern and tutorial from Life with my Littles. The only difference is that I used two layers of flannel to make mine instead of using cotton and minky. This was another really easy project to whip out in an afternoon, and I made half a dozen. Bibs cost $2 each, and these cost me $2, for a savings of $10.

7. Taggie Toys

These taggie toys are so cute! And what better way to use up all of the little ribbon scraps I have left over from other projects! I used this pattern and tutorial from Beloved Ones to make the dinosaur, and it is adorable! I hope that I have time to make this owl and this giraffe :)

8. Wash Cloths

I was originally going to make my own washcloths by cutting squares of terry cloth and backing it with flannel, but then I ran across a four pack of baby washcloths at the dollar store. I loved that they came in a variety of colors, so I bought two boxes. I cut out flannel pieces to match, sewed right sides together, turned then right side out and top stitched to complete. The weight turned out just right, and they made for a quick and easy bunch of washcloths. If you are looking for a more detailed tutorial, there is a great one at 2 Little Hooligans. Washcloths cost about $1.50 each, and I made 8 for $3, for a savings of $9.

9. Door Latch Cover

 So this item slips over the door handles and holds down the latch so that you can open and close the door without the click waking the baby. I used this tutorial from Practically Functional. The first one I made with just cotton fabric was too thin to hold down the door latch, so I added a layer of flannel in the middle to give it more weight. That did the trick! I'm not sure how necessary this item is, but it took five minutes and some scrap fabric to put together, so it's worth a try!

10. Baby Accessories Hanger

I'm sure I saw this idea somewhere, but I really can;t remember where. This baby accessories hanger is so easy to put together and is a simple way to keep all of the little hats, mittens, and shoes together in a place where you can easily see and access them. All you do is buy a pack of shower curtain rings with the clips, loop a ribbon around each one and a sturdy pants hanger, and voila! Now you can hang all of those little items in the closet instead of taking up a drawer where they all get jumbled up together.

To see the next set of projects, see Part 2- The Nursery Edition!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday: Jesus' Labor of Love

I am expecting a baby, and she could come any day now! This will be my first time experiencing childbirth, and as expected, I have some anxiety as I anticipate the event. My husband and I have taken child-birthing classes, and our desire is to have the baby without any interventions if possible. One of the things that we learned in our classes is that in order to cope with the pain, you must focus on the reward at the end. There was an acronym that I found helpful- P.A.I.N.

The "P" stands for purposeful. You are going through pain in order to accomplish an incredible task- birthing a new human being into the world!
"A" is for anticipated. You know that the pain is coming before it happens. You may not know the exact hour, but you know that this pain (which everyone claims is the most excruciating that a human can bear) WILL have to happen in order to bring your baby into the world.
"I" is for Intermittent. The pain will come and go, and there will be breaks in between so that you can bear it.
Finally, "N" is for normal. Could you imagine a baby squeezing out without there being pain? Not possible. Pain is a part of life, beginning with bringing that life into the world.

As I think about Good Friday and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, I am struck by the similarities. In the past I have always marveled at the sacrifice that God made to give up His only Son for us, as I have repeated so many times in John 3:16, but today I think about Good Friday from Jesus' perspective. He was human just like I am. He knew His mission in leaving heaven and coming to earth was to save us. But that didn't make His task easy. There was only one way for Him to finish the job ahead of Him, and that was to focus on the reward.

Jesus knew that His pain was purposeful. His pain would bring about the redemption of all mankind from sin.
It was also anticipated. He knew in advance the kind of pain, both physical and emotional, that He would have to endure in order to complete His task. In fact, the thought of the pain filled Him with so much anxiety that He even prayed to God that there would be another way, any other way, to take away the pain and still finish the job, but it was not possible. He was so distressed that His sweat came out as blood!
His pain was intermittent- he would go through several beatings, trials, and betrayals with periods of time in between before the final crucifixion.
And finally, his pain was normal. Even though He was God, He still experienced the full pain of any regular human being throughout the process. He didn't have any super-human strength or supernatural pain management. He experienced it the same way you or I would.

You see, as a pregnant woman, I am not looking forward to the pain of labor. I have plenty of doubts about my ability to accomplish the task before me. I have prayed for an easy delivery! I have asked if there is another way to bring our little girl into the world without the pain. Unfortunately, I know that there will be pain, that it will be almost more than I can bear. However, one thought will help me push through to the end- the anticipation of meeting our daughter, of holding her in my arms, of gazing into the eyes of that precious face and beginning a relationship with her in her new life! That reward will make all of the pain pale in comparison.

In the same way, when Jesus went through His excruciatingly painful death, He could have called it off at any time! He could have called in legions of angels to save Him and stop what was happening. Instead, He had one thought on His mind that allowed Him to complete His task. And that thought was ME! It was YOU! He so desired a personal relationship with us and the opportunity to bring about new life that He literally faced Hell in order to give us that chance. He was thinking of us in the moment where He reached the end of Himself and love was all that could sustain Him- love for a sinful, undeserving people. I don't know why Jesus' death had to be so painful, but the parallel as I face labor is overwhelming and incredibly humbling for me. I feel so loved! SO cherished! And so undeserving... We truly are His children, He has birthed us in His blood! And at the end of it all, He considered us a reward that made the pain pale in comparison.