Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Delicious Pairing

Brownie batter dip and homemade graham crackers. I’m telling you this is the yummiest healthy snack you’ll have. Now the name might be a little deceiving because the dip doesn’t taste exactly like brownie batter but it is chocolatey and has a similar texture. The graham crackers are a common staple in our house and you can find the recipe here on my friend, Jill’s, blog. I don’t change anything when making them. I did alter the dip recipe a little bit, my changes are italicized.

Brownie Batter Dip by cooking ala mel

1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 1/4 cup Medjool dates, pitted I used California dates and to be honest I don’t know the difference
6-8 T cocoa, to taste
2 T almond butter (or another nut butter) I used peanut butter
2 T coconut oil I wish I had coconut oil but used canola instead 
1 T vanilla
1/4 t salt
2 T dark chocolate chips

I also add about 1.5 tbsp. honey because I don’t think it’s sweet enough as is.  This recipe is so rough on my poor little food processor so I have to do it in batches.  But if you have a decent (and large) food processor you will have nothing to worry about!

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dates until chunky. Add in the chickpeas, almond butter, coconut oil, and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Add in the salt and cocoa, and blend until well mixed. Add in the chocolate chips and either stir or pulse a few times to break up into coarse pieces.

I really wanted to add pictures but honestly the dip looked a little bit like poo when I photographed it.  I promise it tastes so yummy though!

Freezer Meals

A member of our family recently went through some pretty major surgery that will leave them without much mobility for quite some time. Unfortunately they don’t live close enough for us to visit frequently so I wanted to make sure they were well taken care of even if we can’t pop in every other day. I found a fantastic blog post that prepares you to make 4 wonderful crock-pot dishes that are frozen ahead of time. Each recipe is divided into two-serving portions that are placed into gallon bags and frozen. All you have to do to prepare them is pull out of the freezer the night before and let thaw in the fridge. Then put them in the crock-pot and leave it be! So easy to prep and so easy to prepare. Since our family member lives in a two-person household there will be eight meals ready to go for them.

To make things even easier I wrote down all the instructions on each bag. I also cooked a bunch of rice, portioned it out into ziplock bags and stuck them in the freezer as well.

The meals are:

  • Savory Vegetable Beef Soup
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Healthy BBQ Chicken
  • LinkStephanie’s Goulash

And they can be found here. I didn’t make the pot roast but it looks yummy as well!

Next thing I need to do is make these meals for our family!

Tank Tops and Curtains

Without even realizing it I have made/re-made five tank tops in the last month or so.  My goodness what is the deal?  I don’t know but here I am to share another tank top I made with some unusual fabrics….

A duvet cover!  And if you were to tour my home you’d notice that the same fabric has also been made into curtains.  I know I’m goofy but I just love the print so much and I have a ton of fabric!

I also made the same tank top from some fabric I found at Goodwill.  Remember that shopping trip where I scored really big?  Well I also found about 1.5 yards of a nice lightweight cotton print that I made a shirt out of and…oh no, I just realized I also made a curtain out of it for our mudroom.  Apparently curtains and tank tops have a lot in common, like they can often be made from the same fabric.

I didn’t take any pictures of how I made them but here is the post.  One note about making this shirt.  The first time I sewed the sides and left room for the armholes I made them too small.  The armholes should really fall a few inches below your armpit so that the tank isn’t too tight.  You can always tighten it more by tying the bow tighter.

Another note: The tank pictured on the bottom has a thinner sash than I would have liked.  The straps don’t stay on quite as well because it’s so thin and it gets wrinkled really easily and is hard to iron.  I actually use my hair straightening iron to smooth it out and it works great!

I know I have two already but I actually would love a few more!

Oh and one more note.  The jeans I’m wearing in both pictures are my absolute favorite!  I got them from Banana Republic and spent what was for me a ridiculous amount of money on them.  But you know what?  It was so worth it because they fit like a dream and I wear them about 70% of the time.  Invest in good jeans people!  And then save money by making tank tops out of duvet covers 🙂

My Favorite Refashion

So I was browsing Pinterest last night (what’s new) and came across a men’s shirt turned into a tank.  I went straight downstairs and grabbed a shirt my mom passed down to me and started working.  I wanted it done right away so I could wear it today and it worked!  I’m loving this shirt…it was really ill-fitting before and now it fits perfectly!  It was so easy too which is the only reason it turned out this well 🙂

I used another tank top to draw out a pattern on the blouse.  Then I sewed a very small hem around the armholes and because it was too big around the arms I then brought the straps up a little bit and brought in the sides.  I almost didn’t post this because the pictures are so horrible, sorry!

Remedying the Space Issue

We live in a decent sized house. I’ve never felt like we are short on space except in our bedroom. The house was built in the 1950s which means small bedrooms and even smaller closets. Jeremiah and I have to share a 5 foot closet and one dresser and because of this we frequently go through our clothes and donate whatever we don’t wear. This really isn’t good enough though because I still find myself stuffing things in already-full drawers and having sweaters fall off of the top shelf because they are stacked too high. That is until I found a new way to fold our shirts. Just look and see:

Now I am able to fit all of my t-shirts, tank tops, and thin sweaters in one drawer.  In another I have my pajamas and workout clothes.  I put all of Jeremiah’s t-shirts and undershirts in one drawer and shorts in another.  The top two drawers of the dresser are for his socks and underwear.  In the closet we now just hang my jeans, dresses and blouses.  He has hanging shelves with jeans and sweaters on it as well as some dress shirts.  The top shelf just has the heavy sweaters and sweatshirts on it.  Obviously if you have a lot of clothes this solution will work a little differently for you.

Such a simple solution that makes a huge difference!

Cleaning out the Pantry

Since we did our kitchen remodel we have a beautiful open floor-plan but we did lose our huge wall of shelving. I am totally okay with the trade-off (and the new granite countertops) but I have had to make sure that our pantry doesn’t get too full. It’s amazing how many boxes of half-full pasta boxes I can accumulate! This week I decided to only buy the basics when grocery shopping (i.e. milk, cheese, stuff for bag lunches, produce) and wing it every night for dinner. I buy chicken once a month from Costco and have a few other things in the fridge that needed to be used so I wasn’t too worried about putting meals together. Here was the menu for the week:


Bean burrito: can black beans, seasonings (garlic salt, cumin, chile powder), cheese, salsa
Note: this really needed rice to be a complete meal because although black beans are a good source of protein they are not a complete protein so they should be paired with rice. A tidbit leftover from my vegetarian days that I don’t know the science behind. I didn’t feel like waiting 45 minutes for the rice to cook so I skipped it (even though I shouldn’t have).


Polenta and Beef Skillet: tube of polenta, ground beef, jar of spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, half an onion, salt and pepper to taste, shredded cheese (mozzarella)

I sauteed the meat and then added the onion and mushrooms and cooked for a little while longer.  Add the spaghetti sauce and let simmer for a little while longer, season with salt and pepper if desired.  Then place slices of the polenta on top of the meat mixture and top with cheese.  Put the lid on the pan and cook on medium-low until the cheese is melted and the polenta is warmed.


Chicken and Quinoa Stew: Chicken breasts, quinoa, zucchini, mushrooms, crushed tomato (28 oz. I think), white wine, garlic, fresh basil, dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste

Cook the chicken breasts in a little olive oil and once they are browned on the outside add about 1/2 c. white wine and a couple cloves of garlic. After this has simmered for 5-10 minutes add the can of crushed tomato, quinoa, vegetables, and seasonings.  Continue simmering until the quinoa is cooked.  If you feel like it isn’t “soupy” enough (that sounds appetizing doesn’t it??) then add a little chicken broth.


Garbanzo bean wrap: can of garbanzo beans, assorted greens, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, hummus, tortilla

Rinse the beans and then mix with some olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Layer the ingredients on the tortilla this way: hummus, greens, beans.  This is yummy and light, great for summer!  The hummus made it even better, it was chipotle hummus from Trader Joe’s.  So yummy! I don’t think this recipe would be nearly as good without it.  This wrap would also be delicious with feta.

Going grocer shopping tomorrow so back to planning meals! It was kind of fun to get creative with my meals but I like having recipes that I can just

Cloth Diapering (a never ending story)

If I could stay with one type of cloth diaper this would be a story with an end.  But it isn’t and that is because the velcro on my Thirsties wraps is completely wearing out and I’m not surprised since Dieter has worn the heck out of them for the past year.  I figure they were still a good investment and I can easily sew new velcro on to them I just have to go to the store and buy said velcro. In the meantime my wonderful cloth-diapering friend lent me a wool soaker that she loved using on her son.  I love it too.  Not only does it fit well but D doesn’t try to pull it off because it goes on like shorts.  And there are a ton of benefits to using wool covers that I started learning about as I was doing research.  There is this whole underground cloth diaper society where people express their incredible love for all things wool diapering.  And although I’m exaggerating a bit I’m really not that far off, check this link out.

One of the perks of good wool diaper covers is that you really don’t have to wash them for weeks because of the lanolin in the wool. They are essentially self-cleaning (to a point) as long as you care for them properly including lanolizing them occasionally.  There are great websites out there with much more information on diaper care than I could ever give here.  So with all of this exciting new information in mind I decided that I would once again pick up the knitting needles, after a surprisingly long hiatus, and knit a couple covers.  I went to Ravelry (think of it as Facebook for needlework) and typed in soakers.  There were so many possibilities but I landed on the Curly Purly Soaker for a few reasons:  1)it was free, 2)it had great ratings, 3)it was free, 4)the pattern was written with a range of sizes.  There were some really great patterns for a small cost that I will definitely purchase if this works out. People put their babies in a lot of different wooly-wear including shorts and pants that act as a diaper cover and clothing all at once and the patterns for them are adorable.

After lanolizing the cover I knit I am happy to report it is keeping D’s clothing nice and dry.  I love it!  If you want to knit this diaper cover here are some notes in regards to the pattern:

  • I used Paton’s Classic Wool.  I wouldn’t say this is the highest quality yarn you could use but it’s affordable and knits up really easily.  I didn’t want to sink a ton of money into the first few just in case they didn’t work out.
  • I needed to use a size 6 needle to obtain gauge.  This means I used a 2 for the waistband and legs, a 4 and 6 for the body.
  • I added the optional short rows.
  • I picked up 56 stitches for the legs and knit in a 1×1 rib for 1.5 inches.


T-Shirt Upcycling

Ah, upcycling. There’s something so trendy about that word. Something even better about it is that upcycling usually means cheap or free! I don’t like to think of myself as cheap in a bad way. Getting creative by using what I have on hand or what I find in a thrift store is so much fun! Making gifts using recycled/upcycled materials can be a little tricky. Some people really appreciate a homemade gift but others might appreciate something fresh from the store instead. One person in my life who is sure to enjoy a nice handmade gift is my mom so for her birthday I decided to raid my craft closet to see what would inspire me.

I started with an old t-shirt that I didn’t really like anymore.

I cut strips about 1.5 inches wide and the length of the bottom of the shirt.  My strips were extra long because the shirt was pretty baggy but if when you start braiding you feel like your strips aren’t long enough then cut some more and sew the ends together to lengthen them.  I didn’t really measure anything.

This part reminded me of the friendship bracelets I used to make when I was little.  Those were fancier than a simple braid but that is all you need to do here!  Just keep braiding and braiding and then tie a knot when you have about 4 or 5 inches left.

So this is how I figured the end should work.  Tie one knot in the end and then leave a little gap and then tie another knot.  This way you have an opening for the other end of the braid to go through.  If it’s tight enough you will have a nice closure.

Next you can add any type of embellishment you’d like to.  These were the supplies I used to make…

…a flower.  I sewed it onto the necklace.

So this is how it ended up.  It was long enough to loop it around my neck three times.  I think next time I would braid it more loosely so that it isn’t so stiff and drapes a little more nicely.

I made a bracelet with some thicker strips and the same type of closure to complete the ensemble.

So this was my mom’s birthday gift! I’ve seen her wear it several times so I guess she likes it. 🙂 I’ve also seen her wear the necklace as a headband (so creative) and it looks great that way too!  It actually gave me the idea to make a couple braided headbands for myself.  Great way to keep my hair off my face as the days heat up.

Decorating a House

I will freely admit that decorating a house is hard.  I failed even before we moved in with the paint colors I picked out.  We’ve only been living in our house for a year and  a half and I already want to repaint nearly every room.  I had no idea that paint color was such a finicky thing!  I wanted all of these fun bold colors and now I look around and think, ” no it’s all wrong.  Completely wrong.”  Oh well.  Painting is so much work so I’m just going to deal with it and cover up the walls.




So here enters the two pieces of canvas wall art that I got from Goodwill while we were newlyweds living in a tiny apartment.  They hung on walls in three apartments and one house so as you can imagine I got incredibly sick of them.  I mean, hello, I can’t even stand the paint I put on the walls less than two years ago!  I found an idea on Pinterest (where else??) where you paint canvas and then use puffy paint in the same color to draw a design.  It creates a really cool effect.   I had to paint several (6-7) layers of white latex paint over the existing print before I got a surface I could use the white puff paint on.  I then found a font I liked in Word and started copying the wording I wanted onto the canvas using a pencil.  After letting the puff paint dry and a final coat of latex paint I was done!  It took me a really long time because a)I could only work on it during naptime and bedtime, b) it was really hard to find the word “family” in that many languages, and c) it was super tedious work.  I like the results though.

Being Dieter’s Mom

Two things brought me to writing this post. The first is all of the links on Pinterest I’ve been seeing lately about the “25 things every child needs”, “10 ways to raise a happy child”, or the hundred other variations. I’ve really enjoyed reading them and even taking a few notes to add to my mental parenting handbook. I started wondering what I would write if I were asked to come up with a list of surefire ways to raise a happy child and you know what, I don’t know.

The other circumstance that led to this post was our chiropractor. Him and his wife are expecting their first child in a month and he tells us that we need to write down everything we did with Dieter so they can do exactly the same thing. He has always loved Dieter and thinks he’s the greatest (until his little one arrives I’m sure 😉 ).

What I was realizing is that although I have no idea what 10 things every parent should do to have a wonderful child I do know what things I must do to have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted Dieter. I only know how to be a mother to one child and this is what it entails:

How to be Dieter’s Mom
1. Kiss and hug excessively
2. Hold him whenever those little arms reach for me.
3. Whisper when I feel like screaming.
4. Crouch down to his level when I want to tell him something. Especially when I am trying to redirect his actions.
5. Hold onto my schedule loosely and adapt it when possible to meet his needs.
6. Let him freely explore his surroundings even if it means cleaning up after him.
7. Use the word “no” sparingly and “good job” excessively.
8. Rock him before bed at night and always make sure the pray over him.
9. Do not minimize his fears or tears even when the cause seems so trivial to me.
10. Allow him to freely express his frustrations and place him in a safe environment to do so if need be. Usually this is in my arms.
11. Converse freely with him but use simple words when I need him to understand.
12. Don’t forget that he is little and needs extra attention sometimes.
13. Thank God daily for the miracle He has given us.