Simple Crochet Infinity Scarf

Once you have de-cluttered your home and have a little free time - because you are no longer picking up and putting up some much STUFF - you have time for a hobby. Keep it simple!

My hobby is crocheting. It can lead to a yarn addiction and a closet full of yarn, so be careful!

Here is a pattern I created recently for this fall whether. It took me a little time on Saturday and Sunday and it was finished.

Ribbed Infinity Scarf

Materials

Yarn - Worsted 4: Medium                            

Crochet Hook – Size J

Abbreviations:                              

ch – chain

st – stitches

sl st – slip stitch

sc – single crochet

dc – double crochet

hdc – half double crochet


Special Stitches

Foundation Single Crochet (FSC) - Ch 2. Insert hook into second chain from hook. Yarn over and draw up a loop (you will have 2 loops on your hook), then yarn over and draw through only the first loop on hook – creating a sl st. You will still have 2 loops on your hook. Yarn over and draw through both loops. Next sc (repeat the following steps for as many scs as you need): Insert hook into the sl st loops of the last sc. Yarn over and draw up a loop and pull through first loop on hook. Yarn over and draw through both loops on hook.

Directions *Note* You may inc. or dec. the length of the scar by inc or dec the # of FSC or Sc in row 1*

Row 1: FSC 225 or ch 226, sc from second ch from hook across to the end (225). Connect ends by slip stitching thru the beginning of the chain. You now have a circle.

Row 2: Ch 2. Dc in each sc in the BACK LOOP only. Sl st in the top of the chain 2. (225)

Row 3: Chain 1.  Hdc in each dc in the BACK LOOP only. Sl st in ch 1. (225)

Rows 4-13: Repeat rows 2 & 3 five more times.

Row 14: Sc in each stitch. Sl st in the ch 1.

Fasten off and weave in the ends.       
Please try the pattern and let me know if there is a problem or if something is confusing. 

If you aren't a crochet-er, you can find this scarf on my etsy shop Little Monkey Shop in the scarves section.

Beef Lasagna


It's pretty easy to make Lasagna with whole foods. My main difference now that we are only eating real foods is to use organic ingredients and whole grain lasagna pasta.

Serves 8

Ingredients
1.5 lbs Organic ground beef
.5 lb Italian sausage - watch the ingredients
2 jars Organic Pasta Sauce - I use Tomato Basil
1 Lg container of Organic Cottage Cheese
1 egg
1 cup Parmesan cheese - shredded
3 TBS dried Parsley
1.5 cups Mozzarella cheese
Whole Grain Lasagna Noodles - you'll need 9 noodles

Directions:      Put your oven on 350 degrees.
1. Brown your ground beef and Italian sausage.

2. Add the 2 jars of pasta sauce.

3. Cook your noodles according to the box directions.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and parsley.

5. In a 9x13 pan, add just a little sauce to the bottom. Then make layers of noodles, cottage cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese, and pasta sauce. Repeat for 3 layers total. Top with sauce and Mozzarella cheese.

6. Bake at 350 for 1 hr or until bubbling around the edge.

A Laundry System that works for me!

Having your house up for sale makes you rethink all areas of your life, even how you do laundry!

We had a great laundry method to start with, but it soon showed a glaring error once we put the house up for sale and had to keep it ready to show most of the time.

Old System

Everyone had a day of the week that was their day to do their laundry. Anyone over 8 at our house does their own laundry. Except for my husband - I lovingly do his! Part of trying to be that good wife!

The best thing about this system was that I only did laundry one day a week. Perfect!

In this system, everyone had a basket in their room where they were suppose to keep all their dirty clothes until it is their laundry day. On laundry day, they washed, dried, folded, and put away their clean clothes.

The problem was that at any given time, the majority of bedrooms where full of dirty clothes, in or out of their basket, waiting for their turn to use the washer and dryer.

A weeks worth of dirty clothes can really stink and are an eyesore for showing the house.

I had to change my system!

New System

Now we wash one big load of clothes every morning - everyone's clothes together. Sometimes we separate the colors and do a light and a dark load.

During the day I throw in the washer anything I find that needs to be washed - clothes, dish towels. I have an extra basket at the foot of the washer for any lights that need to be washed separately.

After showers at night, everyone brings their clothes to the laundry room. They throw darks into the washer and lights into the basket. We include towels too, but usually, I do one towel load a week. Yes, we reuse towels!

Before I go to bed, I start the wash. If there aren't many lights in the basket - and they aren't good white shirts - I throw them in the washer so I'm only doing one wash. We have a delay start on our washer, so I set it to start about 1 hour before I plan to get up in the morning. (1minute)

In the morning, before I pour my tea, I put the wash into the dryer. (1minute)

The clothes dry while I drink my tea and read. By time that breakfast is over - or before - the wash is ready to be folded. (10 minutes)

 I set up the ironing board and fold the laundry as I take it out of the dryer. One pile for each person. Sometimes I use the top of the washer and dryer as well.



I put my husband's and mine clothes, the baby's clothes, and the dishtowels away.        (5 minutes)

 Everyone else gets their clothes pile out of the laundry room and puts it away.

 If I need to straighten the laundry room quickly, before the kids have had time to get their clean clothes, I move the piles off the ironing board to the top of the washer and the board over the hanging rod.

On this rod I hang anything that needs ironing. Doing ironing as needed, rather than letting it pile up for days, helps keep a neat laundry room as well.

This whole process takes me less than 20 minutes, not counting washing and drying times. The only down fall I've discovered in this new system, is that I am doing everyone's laundry everyday. I know! But not having any dirty clothes lying around, ever, more than makes up it!

Fall Community Service Project - Pumpkin NICU hats



Over the past year I have donated crocheted newborn hats to our local Memphis, TN children's hospital, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

Last week we received a letter from the NICU at Le Bonheur asking for more hats. If possible, they would like us to make pumpkin hats for each of their little ones for the fall season. They have a 60 bed level 4 NICU.

My daughter, Hannah, has taken this project on as her high school service project. I'm helping her, as I have time, to crochet as many newborn and smaller sized pumpkin hats as we can for Le Bonheur's NICU. This will become a year round project.

We would love for you to join us in our efforts to provide every NICU patient tLe Bonheur Children's Hospital a warm and cozy hat.

While you may use any pattern you like, the patterns we are using can be found at Little Monkeys Design. Use any pattern you'd like to, just remember, the hats need to be preemie size hats that will fit 1-5 pound babies.

Please email me if you are interested in joining our efforts. Feel free to pass this blog post on to others you know whom may be interested as well.

The end of November we will switch to winter holiday themed hats for the NICU. Stay tuned!



Pumpkin Pie Granola - a great Fall gift idea


One of my favorite breakfast foods is granola. It is super easy to make, yummy over yogurt or on it's own in a bowl of milk, and makes a great gift!

You can exchange the ingredients in the recipe to a point to get the taste you are after. Since it is October, I was created Pumpkin Pie Granola and it is scrumptious!

We are going to visit friends this weekend, so I thought a jar of homemade granola would make a great gift to take to give to our friends.

*Note - Do not add the raisins (or dried fruit you want to use in your granola) until after the baking process. They will burn and you will be picking them out of your granola every time you stir it.*

Pumpkin Pie Granola

Ingredients

9 cups Oatmeal
1 stick Butter
1 cup Honey
1 cup Almonds, chopped
1 cup Raisins
1 cup shredded Coconut
2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spices

 Directions

Get out all your ingredients and utensils you will need.





Set oven to 350 degrees.


Melt your butter and whisk in the honey.


Put all your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl except for the raisins.


Add your honey/butter mixture to the oatmeal mixture and stir until completely mixed.


Put wet granola mixture into a large pan. I use a turkey pan.
Once oven is heated, put granola in to bake for 15 mins.




Granola should look slightly toasted. Stir to turn granola over in pan.
Put granola back into the oven for 10 mins.
Stir again.
Bake for another 10 mins.
By now the granola should be completely toasted
on both sides throughout the mixture.
Add the raisins and let the granola cool on the counter top, stirring often.
Cover it with a cloth while it cools.



Store your granola in a tight container.
I should make 11 cups.
I put my granola into a glass canning jar with a lid
and added a crocheted ribbon for a fall decoration.

Makes a yummy gift!








How to Keep a Clean House with 5 Children Living in It


Unfortunately, I don't have all the answers, but we often hear from realtors that view our home with their clients - "How do you keep your house so clean with ALL the kids you have?"

To begin with, a dirty, cluttered house is not an option if you are wanting your house to sell.

I've learned a few things over the past year of having our house for sale that has really decreased the stress of "keeping it clean"! Getting the kids involved from a young age really helps. It's not long before they can be a big help that can be counted on. Something you need when trying to get the house ready for visitors in a short period of time.

First - get rid of stuff! Anything that is broken needs to be thrown away. It's amazing how we keep things that are broken just because we don't have another one to replace it with. Kids are really bad at this. We had lots of Barbies with missing arms or legs, torn doll dresses, and chewed on toys. A promise of a new item at a later date will usually encourage them to part with the worn out item.

Belongings that are never used, in the way, moved from room to room with no real home - needs to find a place in the Goodwill box. We keep this box in the garage and add to it regularly when we discover items that we don't really need or want.

Once you have a room, such as a child's bedroom or playroom, de-cluttered to just the items you want to keep, the fun begins! We let each child keep out what she could fit in a large plastic tote - with the lid on. This box was neatly stored in her closet. The rest of her toys we packed away neatly in labeled plastic totes and put them in the attic. Occasionally we will get one of these boxes out and refresh the toys in the tote that are kept out permanently. It was amazing to me that the kids didn't really miss the items that were put up in the attic. They rarely ask to get them down. Proves we had too many toys to begin with!


When they want to buy a new toy, they must make sure that it will fit in their box in their closet. Often I suggest we put it on the Birthday List and wait till then to see if we're really that interested in the item.

A few household rules help. All items in the room must have a home and they must stay in that place unless being actively used. We have a place where all our electronic items - tablets, Ipads - are kept. This keeps them from being laid around all over the house. All clothes must be put away, not piled on the floor, before bedtime. The less that has to be picked up and put away at a later time, the cleaner the house on an everyday basis.

In the kitchen, find a place for the majority of items to live when not in use. A bare counter top is easier to wipe down, looks cleaner and makes the kitchen look bigger. The only major appliance I keep out is my Kcup coffee maker because it is too big and heavy to move in and out of a cabinet. Plus we use it all day long in the winter time to make warm drinks.

                      


Removing excess decorations around the house has helped to keep it tidier as well. Any realtor or stager will tell you to de-personalize your home when you have it on the market. Putting extra things away and creating clear surfaces makes them easier to keep them clean as well. If there aren't 20 birdhouses arranged on the front table, there's less to dust and less to straighten right before a house showing or guest arrive for a visit.


We keep cleaning supplies in every bathroom of the house. Each older member of our household is responsible for keeping clean the bathroom they use the most. With the cleaning supplies right where they are needed, there's no time spent looking for them or waiting until someone else is done with them in their bathroom cleaning job. The only thing we don't replicate in each bathroom is a broom for the floor.


Thursdays are bathroom cleaning days, but we do use the Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes for last minute wipe downs in bathrooms and the kitchen.
The last thing you want in creating a clean house is for dirty clothes to be all over the place. I plan to write an entire blog post on how I've conquered the laundry monster. The main point is to have a laundry system that you like and that works for you and your family. We initially had one that worked - everyone doing their own laundry-, but I didn't really like all of the consequences of that plan. I now do a load or two a day of everyone's laundry together, and we don't have any dirty clothes lying around on a regular basis. Much easier than having a smelly closet from a dirty clothes basket when you are showing the house to a potential buyer.
Floors are my big sticking point in a clean house! If they are messy or sticky they make the whole house look dirty. We clean floors in the kitchen and living areas Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a regular basis. This means picking large items up and putting them away - mainly books or Cade's toys, sweeping and mopping if necessary. Touch ups can be quickly done when a realtor calls for an appointment or a friend calls to say they are coming by.
With a lot of de-cluttering up front and a little cooperation from everyone in the household, we are able to clean our house in a short amount of time and keep it that way!

Do you have any good cleaning ideas to add? Please comment.

Oolong Tea with Coconut milk - a cozy Fall drink

I love Tea!

I usually stick to black tea, but I've been venturing outside my comfort zone.
I enjoy this recipes for it's deliciousness and it's healthy properties.
Goes great with a good book! :)


Oolong Tea with Coconut milk

3 Oolong tea bags
3 cups boiling water
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground Red Pepper
Honey or Stevia to taste
1/4 cup Coconut milk
Boil the water. Put tea bags in a large jar.
Pour water over tea bags and steep for 5 minutes.
Add in the rest of the ingredients.
Put lid on jar and swirl.

Pour tea into a cute mug and enjoy.




Cooking with Whole Foods: Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta

When we started simplifying life in general and eating only whole foods, I had to recreate a few of our recipes to fit that definition - simple, whole foods.

For me, I don't like to try a recipe that has a whole list of ingredients. Usually the more ingredients = longer time in the kitchen and a proportional less chance my family is going to like it!

I try to stick with recipes that have just a handful of real food ingredients that I usually have on hand.

Here is a simple, real, whole food dinner that my family enjoys. It's simple, delicious, and takes less than 20 minutes to prepare.

 Serves 6
Ingredients
3 TBS Coconut Oil
5 Chicken breasts - baked and diced
2 Sweet Peppers -  mix of Yellow, Red, Orange or Green - diced
1 Onion - diced
1 jar Italian Cacciatore Simmer sauce - or make your own with 1 (28 oz) can Crushed tomatoes           and  3 TBS Italian seasoning
1 can Fire-roasted Tomatoes
1 (12 oz) box Whole Wheat Pasta - I use Penne

Directions


Dice your peppers and onion.

In a large pot over medium heat, add your coconut oil. Once it's warm, stir in your peppers and onions. Saute for 3-5 mins.

 Add your cooked and diced chicken.
 Add your cacciatore sauce from jar or homemade. This brand did have a tiny bit of sugar - look for one that doesn't have any.
 Add your fire-roasted tomatoes to the pot.
Cook your pasta according to it's directions.

Add your pasta to the cacciatore sauce and serve.
Serving Suggestions:
We like to serve this dish with a side salad and green beans for a complete meal.


Uncluttered Closets


I wish I had before and after pictures of all the closets we cleaned out over the past year. And pictures of everything we took to Goodwill!

We used to do the time consuming children's seasonal clothes closet shuffle.

1. Take all the current clothes out of the closet.
2. Get the next season's clothes out of the boxes in the attic.
3. Make sure the "new" clothes fit and hang them in the closet.
4. Go thru the "old" clothes. Donate the ones that won't fit the next child. Pack up the ones that someone can wear next year.
5. Put the "old" clothes in boxes and carry them up to the attic.

Then you can just about be guaranteed a cold or warm spell where you wish you had those clothes back in the closet that are now in the attic.

Finally I had had enough.

 That process took half a day, twice a year! The last time we did this dance, I determined I wouldn't do it again.

We kept only the clothes that would fit into the closet - easily - for all seasons. Summer and winter bottoms on the bottom bar. Summer and winter tops on the top bar. Or you could divide the closet in half, one half for each season.

The only clothes I have in boxes in the attic are the clothes from bigger sisters that won't fit little sister yet. And they are marked with season and sizes so I can find them when we're ready for them.

We wash a load or two of clothes every day, so in reality, we don't NEED more than just a few outfits per season. ( Guess that goes for me too??)

When journeying to a simpler lifestyle, we must be willing to simplify all portions of our life - things we own, our work, our diet, even how we spend our rest time.

While I hate cleaning out the children's clothes closets, and they loath giving items away, I get a happy feeling just looking at a simple, clutter free, organized closet. And it's much easier for them to keep their closets organized if there is less in it.

Less time spent on chores equals more time on hobbies (or just plain resting) for all of us.

The big key to keeping the closets clutter free is to really limit our shopping trips!

Tropical Breeze Protein Smoothie

I just made this for lunch and had to share! I thought I might have to add some sweetener, but I made it first without any and it was perfect!


Tropical Breeze Protein Smoothie

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat
3/4 cup Coconut milk
3/4 cup Almond milk, unsweetened vanilla
1 cup Pineapple, frozen
1/2 cup Spinach, frozen

Put all in a blender and blend until smooth.
Insert straw and enjoy!


Eating Real Foods



We live on a small farm and grow a lot of our own food, buy local meats, eggs, and milk, but there is still a fair amount of food that we must buy  - at the grocery store or Costco.

I thought our diet was pretty healthy - I read labels, but I tended to skim over the ingredients I didn't recognize.

After reading In Defense of Food  and  The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan I felt like our eating habits needed a few significant changes. We ate pretty healthy, but we needed to eliminate the processed foods - mainly white flour and sugar - that were in our diet.

WHY?
Processed foods, often claiming to be low fat or low carb, are in fact the very thing making a lot of Americans unhealthy, sick, and fat. If you don't believe me, watch
http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home
Making smarter (and sometimes more expensive) food choices now may reduce our healthcare costs later in life. According to Michael Pollan, "the industrialization of our food" can be traced to four of the top chronic, fatal diseases - coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.

Recently our family started including only whole, unprocessed foods in our diet. We have noticed a variety of personal health benefits such as having more energy, losing weight, and overall just feeling healthier.

As we sought to loose weight, we noticed simply eating whole foods - products of nature - was much less complicated and successful than counting calories.

Starting now while the kids are young and their palate is moldable helps them to learn to prefer whole foods over processed foods.

What are Real Foods?
Whole foods in their most natural states - organic (when possible) fruits, veggies, dairy products, local raised meats (without hormones or antibiotics), 100% whole grain products, natural sweeteners, water, tea, coffee and wine.

The hardest for us to loose was our desserts! We have learned to make a few with whole grain flour and natural sweeteners.






The journey to Minimalism


Two years ago I thought we might be moving. I looked in my closets and could not imagine having time to pack all the STUFF, not to mention how we were going to move it all. Then I realized, a lot of the STUFF we didn't ever use. Did we really need it?

I'm a What If person. We might some day need 12 large quilts. I might need 6 wicker garden baskets next year. You get the picture. So I have a hard time letting go of things.

But, the thought of the time and expense of moving all our STUFF got me motivated. I went through all of our closets and took items we rarely used to the Goodwill. Some I tried selling on Craig's list, but living a ways out of town, being a busy homeschool mom, etc made it more time efficient to take items to Goodwill unless it was a high dollar item.

I wish I had a collage of pictures of all the bags of STUFF we gave away. I think I would be floored!

But we didn't move. We had a baby, added more stuff, rearranged rooms in the house and settled back down.

Meanwhile I started following the blog http://www.becomingminimalist.com and learned a lot about minimalism. I think my family thought I was going to throw out just about everything we owned. And I did think about it. I mean, do we really need 4 spatulas??

A year ago we decided we did need to move and put our house up for sale. Thanks to the awful real estate market, it's still for sale. Maybe next week we'll have a buyer!

To prepare, I went through the house again, getting rid of more STUFF that had come to the surface that we hadn't used in the last year. Some of it that I wasn't sure about I put in a box in the garage. If I found I needed the item, I went and got it out of the box. What was left in the box after about 6 weeks - set your own time period - I took to Goodwill or our local charity home, depending on the type of items.

After 6 months with no house buyer, we got serious. We hired an auction company to do a real estate auction of our home. It wasn't a distress sell, but a hard property sell. We have a large home on 30 acres 30 minutes out of town, and that's not what the average buyer is looking for. The auction was a way to get more interest generated.

So, if it sold in the auction, we would have 30 days to move out. In that time period we had already 2 trips planned and paid for. I had about 6 days free to pack the entire house and move it out to wherever we were going. I had to find that landing spot too in that same time period.

I decided I'd better get packing.

Meanwhile, I had also been selling extra farm supplies that we had laying around in the barn. Through this I had met a couple that had just moved and had boxes. This played right into my minimalism theme - I wouldn't have to buy something we would soon have to throw away and we could keep something from going to the land fill that could be used again. I hoarded their boxes! Then I slowly started to pack up our closets of out of season items that we wouldn't need in the next three months, china dishes, decorations, pictures, anything we could live without for the next little while. Our house was going to sell, right?

But it didn't! The only ones who showed up for the auction were people who just wanted to see what an auction was all about. How disappointing! And I was ready to move!! I had even found us an apartment that would let us rent it for a month at a time until we had more time to find us a more suitable home for a family of 7.

It's been 3 months, and you know, I haven't had to unpack very many of those boxes. I hadn't packed away our everyday items, but just things we didn't use very often or didn't need in the summertime - scarves, boots, plus decorations. I had neatly put the boxes back on the shelves of the closets and I've taken very few of them down to get something out of them. I am glad for detailed descriptions of the box's content that I had written on 2 sides of every box so I knew exactly where the items where that I needed.

Some of the boxes contain keepsakes that we would never get rid of - things from our wedding, photo books, baby books, etc.

But what about all those other boxes that sit in the closet, unopened, just waiting for whenever the moving truck comes? Should I keep them ready to move, unpack and de-clutter each box again, or take them all to the Goodwill?

Why I drink Tea

Why I drink tea by Tea in the Morning Too

Tea isn't just a comforting and pleasant beverage, it also has remarkable healthy properties.
Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water. You can drink it iced or hot, and there are enough different varieties of tea to suit anyone - there are over 1,500 types of tea—not including herbal teas.
People have been drinking tea for centuries because of its health effects. Much research suggests drinking tea—particularly green tea—can fight diseases and even lengthen life.

Just a few of teas many benefits:
Cancer Prevention
Protection Against Heart Diseases and High Blood Pressure
Brain Boosts
Keeping blood sugar at moderate levels
Fighting food-borne bacteria
Enhancing immune system function
Assisting in weight loss by blocking the breakdown of starch
Maintaining the body's fluid balance
Reducing stress - my favorite!

It's true that tea contains caffeine, but tea generally contains less caffeine than coffee, and the caffeine in tea is metabolized more slowly, so you can drink more cups all day long without getting caffeine overload symptoms.
Why I drink tea by Tea in the Morning Too

Tea Preparation:
Black tea is best prepared by bringing fresh water to a boil. Pour 6 to 8 ounces of the boiled water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried black tea leaves or one prepared bag of tea leaves in a cup or tea pot with strainer. Steep the infusion for 3 to 5 minutes, making sure not to over steep it, as that can make the tea taste bitter. Adding milk is an option, but it may reduce the beneficial effects of the black tea.
My Mornings
In order to insure that my tea is ready for me in the mornings, I start the preparations the night before. I have a programmable Mr. Coffee Pot that I've only brewed tea in. I put my tea bags (or filter and loose leaf tea) in where the ground coffee goes and then add my water. I set it to start brewing about 15 minutes before I plan to get up.


Why I drink Tea by Tea in the Morning Too


There's nothing like starting your morning with English Breakfast Tea or Lady Gray Tea!

Starting our Blog

Today my oldest daughter Hannah mentioned that our friends have a new blog A Homespun Country Life and maybe we should start one too to journal all that we do from cooking, to crocheting, sewing, gardening, and more. Here is a start as I discover the blogging world. I'm new at this, and there's a lot to learn, but I think it will be a good experience for both of us, and something we can do together, creating memories of it's own.

I plan to write about our journey to a more simple lifestyle and a healthier diet. Whole foods are our main staples while we seek to eliminate processed foods from our diet.

Hannah has her own blog at Spinach is good for you where she collects her favorite healthy Pinterest recipes and ideas.