Friday, September 27, 2013

Homemade Pumpkin Pecan Granola

Ugh... practically every blogger right now is writing about how much they love Fall.  And though I wish I wasn't doing what everyone else is doing - I LOVE FALL!

Ok, I got that out of the way.  (even though it will probably come up again in the next 15 or 16 posts)

Something I really enjoy doing for myself and my family is finding simple ways to celebrate each season.  Fall is crazy easy to enjoy, right?  The only way a person might conceivably NOT enjoy Fall is if they shut themselves inside their window-less home for three months and forced all pumpkin and cinnamon and apple flavored/scented/decorated things be checked at the door. And even then, I still think some Fall loveliness would seep in and they'd be stuck enjoying it, even despite their best attempts not to.

The past few years I've prepared a special breakfast for our family to celebrate the first day of Fall.  This year I was out of town for the first day, but I WILL NOT let the celebration slide!  It's tomorrow morning.  So today, one of the things I did to get ready was make Pumpkin Pecan Granola.  It's delish!  And I'll tell you about it here...

Pumpkin Pecan Granola Recipe
(pst!  it's healthy!)

Dry Ingredients

8 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oat bran
1 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup slivered natural almonds
2 cups finely chopped pecans

"Wet" Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin puree (I use canned, but I'm sure fresh is fab!)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup (use real maple syrup if you can!!  better flavor, better for you!)
3/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 (heaping) T. pumpkin pie spice
1 T. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl or pot.  Set aside.

Combine all the wet ingredients in a medium pot.  Stir regularly over a medium flame, careful not to let bubbles spurt hot pumpkin stuff all over you!  It won't come to a boil, but heat it through well (until the spurting bubbles become too much!)

Stir the wet mix into the dry ingredients.  Stir well to coat evenly.  (It helps to be a body builder to do this or to have a husband with strong biceps who's willing to wield a mixing spoon.)  

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread granola evenly on both.  

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.  (I tend to bake it on the long side to crisp it up a bit.) Stir half way through.  

Allow to cool completely before storing.  I store half in a tupperware in our cereal cupboard, and the rest in a gallon ziploc bag to save for later.  

This granola tastes great as is, but it's even better served with dried cranberries!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Toddler Apron Tutorial

I've been making these aprons forever.  My kids use them ALL the time - in fact, if you've visited this blog more than a couple times, you've probably seen my kids wearing a variety of these things.  I've made so many that I hardly even have to think about it anymore while I'm doing it.  So it was a bit of a challenge to put a tutorial together as I made one - but I think it was worth it!  At least, I hope it was!  This is a great, quick project - and it's perfect for gift giving.  I hope you enjoy it!  (And if you blog about it or Pin it, be sure to link back to here! Thanks!)

Here we go...

Toddler Apron Sewing Tutorial

(by Theresa @


NOTE: I am sorry.  This pattern is no longer available.  

two coordinating fabrics, 1/2 yard of each
10 inches of coordinating ric-rac
set of 3/4 inch D rings
coordinating thread
scissors, straight pins
steam iron
self-healing cutting mat and ruler, rotary cutter (helpful, but optional)

NOTE: Seams are sewn at 1/4 inch except where noted.

Prewash and iron fabrics

Print out pdf pattern.  Tape bottom of paper to the top of another 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet.  Cut along pattern lines.

Fold fabric for the front of the apron in half lengthwise. Place the side of the pattern labeled "FOLD" on the fold and pin in place.

This is the fabric I used for the back.  Please don't get confused by this.  It's the only pic I got of the pinned pattern.

Cut out around the pattern.  Do the same for the fabric your are using for the back of the apron.

From the "back" fabric, cut a  9 x 12 inch rectangle that will become the pocket.

Also from the "back fabric, cut these pieces:
3 rectangles 2 1/2 in. x 17 in. each
1 rectangle 2 1/2 in. x 5 in.

here's everything cut out

Make the pocket.  Fold the 9 x 12 rectangle in half, right sides together, so that it's 9 x 6.  Press the fold.  Sew around the three open edges, leaving 3 in. open at one end.  Clip the corners.

Turn the pocket right side out.  Press the seams flat and press the opening in 1/4 inch, so that the side of the pocket is straight.  Pin the opening so that you have a visual reminder of where it is.

the opening pressed in with 1/4 in. seam
Pin the ric-rac across the folded top of the pocket.  Attach with a top stitch, being careful to tuck the excess under each of the ends so that it's caught by the stitches underneath.

top - the ric-rac pinned on / middle - sewn on, front view / bottom - sewn on, back view

Make the neck and waist ties.  On each of the 4 rectangle pieces, press down the top and bottom 1/4 inch each - I just eyeball the 1/4 inch.  

Then fold them in half, and press.

On each of the three long pieces, open them back up and press one end like this...  

Fold it back up and press again, so that each long piece has one finished end.

Sew all of the rectangle pieces closed.  Sew along the open edges as close to the edge as possible - I'm usually at about 1/8 inch.
Press all of them again to neaten them up.

Put together the neck piece with the D rings.  
Slide the D rings onto the shortest piece, approx 1 1/2 inches from the end.  Fold the end in once and then twice as shown. Press and sew a strong line, backstitching at either end.

Attach the pocket to the front of the apron.  Center the pocket one inch down from where the "arm" curvature ends - I used the ruler to measure both the inch down from the curve and to find the middle of the apron and pocket. Pin in place and sew the non-ric-rac sides to the apron, at 1/8 of an inch, backstitching at the beginning and end for strength.

Assemble the apron!  Yeah, it goes that fast!
Place the front of the apron face up on the table.  Begin placing the neck straps and waist straps as shown.  The parts that will eventually be visible when the apron is done, will be laying across the front of the apron.  If you've never sewn something that you'll turn rightside out, this could be confusing.  Just use the photos as a guide.  It's a good idea to pin the straps in the center as well as on the sides to hold them in place while you're sewing.  The waist ties may be so long that they need to be folded and then pinned out of the way.  The bottom photo shows this, it's just a different apron so the material is different. Don't be thrown off!

waist straps folded and pinned in center to keep them out of the way while sewing
 Next, lay the back of the apron on top of the front piece right sides together.  Pin around the edges and top, but not the bottom.

sorry, not a great photo
Using the above picture as a guide, you will start sewing (using a 1/2 inch seam) in the bottom left corner.  Sew up the side, around the "arm" area, across the top and down the other arm area and side.  Backstitch at the beginning and end.  

Turn the apron rightside out through the bottom.  Remove all pins, pull out the corners and press the seams.  At the bottom, press the front and back in 1/2 in each, as shown.

Now you will top stitch around the entire apron, starting across the bottom to close it up and going around the entire thing.  I stitch in about 1/4 inch in.  Be sure you don't accidentally sew any of the straps to the apron.  Keep them pulled out to the right as they pass by the needle.

Press the whole thing again, and YOU'RE DONE!!

Make a couple more, put em on your kiddos and then head to the kitchen to make cookies or pumpkin pie with your cuties!

Please let me know if anything is unclear or if you have any questions about the pattern or instructions.  And of course, let me know how it turns out when you try it!  Again, I'm happy for anyone to use the pattern and tutorial, but it sure would be nice if you'd link back to me here!  

Happy sewing!  

ps - I'm working on a tutorial for an easy baby quilt - but writing the tutorial doesn't seem to be as easy as sewing the quilt itself... check back soon to see if I get it all sorted out!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seven Quick Takes (a grouches attempt at gratitude)

I've been quite a grouch lately - mostly grumbling and scowling with occasional doses of woe-is-me.  Every day I recognize it, and realize it's so completely and utterly ridiculous, but I haven't been able to shake it.  I do in fact love my life and realize how immensely blessed we are - we have so much and we have each other and our life is glaringly (if not almost embarrassingly) free of tragedy, pain, sorrow, and difficulty. And yet, you'd be hard pressed to see it in my expression or hear it in my tone of voice.  And what you do hear and witness would leave you wondering if my role model was Oscar or Eeyore.  It'd be a tough call.  I have to be a little more intentional with my gratitude these days... so...

Here's my list of Life's Little Things to Be Grateful For - Seven Quick Takes Style (With perhaps a few too many photos... sorry.)

(1) For the delightful experience of standing outside the bathroom door listening to Ruth recite parts of The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash while she washed her hands.

(2) For not running out of gas on the highway with all the kids in the car, and thanking the patron saint of "minivans that are operating on mere fumes," whichever saint that may be.  (And yes, I was actually praying to that unnamed saint.)

(3) For my kids, who mysteriously went outside at 7:30 yesterday morning and instead of getting dirty and causing mischief first thing, created a "Nature Preserve" in our backyard.  (Their words, not mine.  It turned out to be more of a nature appreciation center.)  Grace abounds when kids do stuff like this on their own!  


(4) For the series Catholicism by Fr. Robert Baron, and for how good it has been to watch and discuss it with friends.  And for important Fr. Baron tidbits like this one - prayers of request/supplication are not important because they can change God's mind about something.  They are important because they change us.  They change our disposition toward God, encourage us to approach Him with childlike confidence, and serve to increase our hope and reliance on God.  And I might add, that it's the same with prayers of praise and exaltation.  God's goodness and glory are not changed or augmented by our praise, but it can sure be life-changing for us and those around us to acknowledge that goodness and to place ourselves before that glory.  

You're probably thinking, Wow, she's got some major spiritual immaturity happening there if she's just picking up on this.  Oh I admit it.  This stuff is Prayer 101, but it was something I needed to be reminded of.  

(5) For Russ.  For a husband who is a wonderful father, who helps with the laundry, and cleans the toilets, and does all my heavy lifting, and treats me to pumpkin beer, and takes the kids on long long bike rides so I can get some sewing done.  (Top secret sewing project will be revealed after this weekend when it will be delivered to my sister at her baby shower!!) And, I'm thankful to Russ too, for giving me the weekend AND a Monday off to go to the shower!  Love you, babe!

(6) For my girls.  They've already started practicing their big sister skills for when the new baby arrives...

diapering courtesy of Ruth
(7) And for my boys, whose "grown-up-ness" took me by surprise last week when they played a one on one football game... shirtless.  They're not little boys anymore.  They're taking their shirts off and using words like touchdown, punt, tackle, extra point, and touchback.  (what the heck is a touchback anyway??) They're growing up quick, I tell you!  I was grateful I got to capture some of these moments - 

Growing up, but they still know how to treat their little sisters real nice, even taking them for rides on their garage scrap seesaw...

I'm so thankful that God has given my kids siblings!  That's kind of a number (8) but it's been on my heart and felt it was important to mention in my gratitude list.  When I started counting my blessings I realized, my cup runneth over.  (Psalm 23:5)

Happy weekend!  

Thanks for hosting another 7QT, Jen.  Head over to Conversion Diary to check out more!  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Encouraging a Habit of Delight (or School is Happening Even Here...)

Today was the kind of day that reminds me, "it's all going to be fine."  Lessons will be fine.  They'll learn to read and write just fine.  Math?  Fine.  Diagramming sentences?  Fine. (maybe...)  Some days, because we homeschool and because we can, I just have to trust that it will all turn out fine, and we take advantage of what's set out before us, and do something different.  Today the "different" was the fact that it was 80 degrees in September and I wanted to get the kids to the creek at least once more this summer.  Lessons can wait. (Except the boys did wake up at 5:30 today, so I set them to work on some easy stuff before breakfast.  It's that or go back to bed, kids.) Lessons can wait.  Today's is a different kind of lesson.  

*  *  *  *  *  *

If we give our children regular opportunities to get in touch with God's creation, a habit is formed that will be a source of delight throughout their lives.  - Karen Andreola, paraphrasing Charlotte Mason in A Charlotte Mason Companion

We are all meant to be naturalists, each to his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world of marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.  -  Charlotte Mason

a creek-side snake skin

we shared the creek with a Great Blue Heron for a while!

And for an extra awesome bonus - We were able to meet up with some friends there... so here are some distance shots of the kids so that I'm not breaking blog ethics and putting other kids faces up here.  

There were 8 kids (between ages 3 and 7 + three babies!) and they lugged stones out of the creek and worked together to build this cool "house"...

Sometimes you just have to get out of your own backyard if you want to really be outside.  It sure felt great today!
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