Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stromboli or Calzone??

So what's the difference between a calzone and a stromboli? It seems that they are used interchangeably. Maybe the only difference is that calzones are folded in half where strombolis are rolled.

Well... according to Man vs. Food the difference is calzones are filled with cheese. I can't find any confirmation on what really makes them different. I always thought that calzones had sauce inside, but I am finding that some stromboli recipes do too.

Well...I've always called my recipe here it is...meat, cheese and toppings rolled in pizza dough. Yum!

Take a look at the bottom of this post for freezing directions too! It's a great meal that you pop out of your freezer.

Here are the ingredients! Yummy!

Rachie's Stromboli
-pizza dough (2 crust recipe or  2-16 oz. refrigerated packages)
-1/4 lb. deli salami, thinly sliced
-1/4 lb. deli sandwich pepperoni, thinly sliced
-1/4 lb. deli Virginia ham, thinly sliced
-Parmesan cheese
-Mozzarella cheese, shredded (fresh has the best flavor)
-1 small onion, minced
-1 green pepper, minced
-1 package fresh mushrooms, diced or sliced
-pizza seasoning (my recipe below)

Roll out the dough onto a a floured surface or a plastic pie sheet. Cut into two equal rectangles.

Put an overlapping layer of salami down the middle. Follow up with an overlapping of the sandwich pepperoni.
(Sandwich pepperoni is so much easier to work with and so yummy. You can substitute little slices if that's all you have to work with.)
 Cover the pepperoni with a little layer of mozzarella. Be careful not to add too much or it will come spilling out while it's cooking!

Sprinkle some pizza seasoning on top.

This is where you put in your toppings. You can use really any pizza toppings you like. I love mushrooms, onions and green peppers with mine. You can even skip the toppings altogether if you aren't a veggie fan.

Next, top with some Parmesan cheese. Mmm!

Now comes the secret! Add the deli ham on top of everything. This will secure your cheeses and toppings inside your stromboli.

Now gather your long sides together. I kind of roll and pinch them together. Then, roll in the small ends. I normally find some extra dough at the end and I pull it up towards each other to cover any holes in the dough.
Right now you are looking at what is called the steam side. It is the part where your steam can escape. This side will be face down on your ungreased cookie sheet or stone. I prefer a stone for my pizzas and strombolis.

Top each stromboli with a spray of cooking spray or a light coat of melted butter for a great golden crust.

Here are two ready for the oven. Notice that I have not cut any holes in the dough. Some recipes I have read suggest cutting slits for the steam to escape. This has just left lots of oozing cheeses, so I don't bother.

I normally bake them at 425' for 20-25 min., but you can follow your pizza crust directions to make sure. You will know they are done when they are golden brown.

Serve the stromboli in thinly cut pieces and dip in your favorite sauce or dip. We love this Cheesy Pizza Fondue or dipping it in some melted butter with garlic butter.

Pizza Seasoning
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T oregano*
1 T thyme*
1/2-1 T cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper

-Combine thoroughly. Store in airtight container.

*can substitute the oregano and thyme with 2 T Italian Seasoning

Each recipe makes about 4 strombolis depending on your pizza dough recipe, which would serve 4-6 people.

This recipe is a perfect freezer recipe. Follow the directions until they are all rolled up. Wrap in plastic wrap. Then, wrap in foil. Place in a freezer bag. Write cooking directions on the bag (temp, time and adding the butter or cooking spray). When you are ready to use them, pull what you need out and put right into the pre-heated oven. Add about 10 min. more cooking time than the original recipe.

Hope you enjoy this fast, easy and yummy recipe! It's a staple around here!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Journey to 80: Answered Prayer

This is Part 3 of my series "My Journey to 80".
Read Part 1: The Beginning.
Read Part 2: After Pregnancy.


I hope you haven't been too overwhelmed or feel a sense of hopelessness from reading parts 1 & 2 of my story. This is definitely where God shows His power and provision in my I headed to the ER.

I wish I could recall ALL of the ways God provided answers to prayers during 10 months of pregnancy, 7 months of leg pain and then almost 3 weeks of pain after the delivery of my baby girl...but time has deleted some of them from my memory. I do, however, remember several that really stick out to me.

I praise God for my next door neighbor. Thanks Norma! She had walked a similar road of back pain. She helped me walk to the car to get my spinal injection and held my hand as fear and faith battled through the pain. She was there to bring dinner and watch my little one when we needed to go to tons of appointments before and after surgery.

I praise God for my nurse friend who worked at the ER, brought dinner, had her husband mow the lawn for my husband, held my hand as I screamed, talked about my pain meds with me, prayed with me, met the ambulance, came with me to the hospital and handpicked my ER doctor for me. Thank you Sylvia!

I praise God that my best friend was in town. She rocked and fed my baby girl. She was Mom for that entire week of pain. She also sacrificed sleep to pray with me and gave me massages to relieve any pain that she could. She read me scripture and sang worship songs to me too! I will never forget crying out to God with her.  Thanks Abby! You're the best!
Abby and my teeny baby girl
Life could not have gone on without my Mom and my Mother-in-law. They kept my family going. They made tons of meals, cleaned, changed diapers, were another set of Moms for my baby when I couldn't even hold her, and they supported my husband when he needed sooo much help! They are the greatest women in my life! Thank you God for both of them!

I praise God that I had a teeny baby girl. Those early days were so difficult to not hold my baby girl and take care of her. God planned her size according to my ability. We can always trust His plans!

I praise God that He arranged the right doctor to be in the ER. Dr. Yeager called two neurosurgeons until one would admit me and get me into surgery. The first one he called wanted to send me home! Not to mention that I knew his family because his daughter was in the other first grade class. It was such a blessing to see a familiar face who wanted to help me!

I praise God that after making my trip to the ER, within 30 min. I finally had relief from my pain. Dilated, I never knew your name before, but thank you that you exist! Thank you Lord that the neurosurgeon had an opening for surgery Monday evening. Within 3 hours I met a nurse practitioner from his practice was giving me surgery options! I had a severe herniation in my L5-S1 and a smaller one in L4. Some people wait months to years for back surgery! I was getting a microdiscectomy the next day!

Lastly, I praise God for my husband. He protected, provided, supported, encouraged, and calmed me down. He took care of all the details. I remember him waiting in person for my written scripts and facing the nurse so I could get them as soon as possible. He worked from home so I had him near me if I needed him. He took care of our newborn at all hours of the night. He took me to every doctors appointment. He held my hand every moment I needed him. He was my everything when everything meant sooo much.
my amazing man and my sweet baby girl

I know I am missing many who helped me and kept us going when life was hard. I am thankful for how God used you all during the darkest hours of my life. The hours may have been painful, but the Light of the World was working it out and shining through all of you.

"You are the light of the world--like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14 (NLT)

God could not be hidden. Those who walked the path with me could see and feel God at work. Surgery came, but God wasn't done working!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Journey to 80: After Pregnancy

Read The Beginning of my chronic back pain story here.

Just one day shy of my original due date, I was being induced. The leg pain had gotten so bad that I couldn't take it any longer. There was no thought of going natural at this point. My leg would not let me stand at all, so an epidural was the only solution. I was in heaven! No more leg pain. In a few hours I was holding my precious baby girl. She weighed a mere 5 lbs. 14 oz. I would later realize that her petite size was all a part of God's plan for me.

This was my baby girl. Her tiny little self in her very large looking car seat!

If only that was the happy ending to my story.

The day I delivered, I remained in bed. The thought of walking was just too painful. The following day, I could only walk with help. My feet dragged against the floor. The task of a shower was frightening. My husband was my strength and my support.

On top of my own physical battle, my little girl spiked a fever and ended up in NICU for 48 hrs. The walk to the NICU was so difficult emotionally and physically...not to mention nursing was a nightmare. Looking back it seems impossible that I even made it through...or my husband for that matter. But God continued to be our stronghold.
This is my darling little girl. The thing on her head was her IV. Spinal tap came back clean and so did all of the blood work. We were so thankful it was only 48 hours and that we could take her home!
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27 (NASB)

The orthopedic doctor was called in while we were in the hospital. He gave us hope that I would heal and get back to myself after a few weeks. In a week I would go in for some physical therapy to help with the severe weakness in my legs and of course the leg pain.

Physical therapy would give me some hope. The first therapist went and got another one for a second opinion. Apparently I was out of her league. I started very slow. Nursing would not let me rest long enough to get well enough. Looking back I would have switched right to formula, but remember that strong will I mentioned?!?!?! I did stretches and made some progress.

Just after Leona turned 3 weeks, I quickly spiraled out of control. Monday I had an MRI which through my back into a fit. By that night I could only lay down on my stomach and was in a lot of pain. Tuesday I was calling for stronger narcotics. By Wednesday I was screaming every 4 hours as my pain meds wore off.

My best friend had arrived in town to celebrate my baby girl's arrival only to hold my hand as I cried out in pain. I recall calling out to God with her to give me the strength to endure one more minute. When that minute had come, we prayed for the next.

I was brought in early Thursday morning for a spinal injection after the Morphine and Percocet rounds were starting not to help.

The fear was fighting my faith. Every time the increase of pain began, I was overwhelmed with fear of the pain that would soon build. The spinal injection affects lasted about 20 min.  When I got to the car, I was popping more meds. So much for that helping.

I was definitely being humbled. An ER nurse friend of mine had to wash me from the bed. I couldn't get a shirt on, even with help. I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom. I couldn't feed my daughter. Nursing was impossible... when you can't even get off of your stomach...well you can imagine. All I could do was lay face down into my mattress... scream...cry...and pray.

By Sunday morning I had a UTI, stiff neck, throbbing knees and such unbearable pain in my leg that we called an ambulance. The turn in our hallway was so tight that they actually took me out the bedroom window on a stretcher. The men lowered me into the back of a pick-up truck to drive me around to the ambulance.

All I could do was trust that someone would help me and not just send me home with more pills. I needed an answer. I needed a fix.
 I needed to pray more than ever!

"Let us therefore come BOLDLY to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace in time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

My Journey to 80: The Beginning

So far on my blog I have been pretty closed lipped about my physical health. After sharing my journey with a fellow college friend, a godly woman and another chronic back pain sufferer, I decided that it was time to share my story.

"How are you feeling?"

"It's an 80 day!"

This is a common text that I share with two of my close friends on days when I feel like I am trapped in my 80 year old body. I skipped right past being in my late 20's to being 80! At my best, I probably feel like I am in my mid-40's; you know those years where everything begins to hurt and ache. Honestly those days I praise God that I can be up and about with my kids...enjoying sweet moments with them and not laying flat on my stomach writhing in pain.

Well I am skipping ahead of myself. Let's get back to the beginning of my story.

It was Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Columbus Day. I was getting ready for school at the terrible hour of 5:30AM...I don't miss those early teacher mornings...when I couldn't get motivated. My stomach was so nauseous. Suddenly the suspense was killing me. It had been 2 1/2 years of waiting...could it really be happening? Yep! The two lines proved it! In June, we'd be expecting our first little one!

Nothing could have prepared me for what the next 10 months would hold. At the beginning of December, my back began to hurt... similar to what it felt like back in college after I had fallen on the gym floor on my tail bone and spent 2 weeks recouping.

I went to the chiropractor, the only thing that helped back then, and 2 weeks later I was back to feeling better.

At the end of January, we had an ultrasound. That evening suddenly there was a terrible pain down into my left leg. The chiro couldn't take any x-rays due to the pregnancy, so it was all guess work. I thought it would just go away, but several weeks later I was headed to the hospital to make sure there wasn't a clot in my leg. After I was cleared from that, I was given some Tylenol with codeine for the pain. Hating to take even an Advil for a headache on a normal day, I tried not to take any of the Tylenol because now that I was pregnant, I didn't want anything going in that had codeine in it!

The pain continued until I ended up visiting the chiro repeatedly. Most of those days I just ended up in the same pain and sometimes even worse. I had started walking so crooked. It was like my left leg grew over night and my hip was like 6-8" higher on one side. I ended up putting a lift in my right shoe to try to fix the problem.

When the chiro visits stopped helping, I resorted to acupuncture and massage therapy. Massage helped a little. Acupuncture reduced my pain. By now I was popping the Tylenol to try to endure the rest of the school year.

Many people ask how I did it. Honestly, it was many called off days. My teaching partner was amazing and helped when I needed to lay down multiple times in the nurse's office. My first grade class was amazing too. They often walked to specials classes with me watching from down the hallway. My computer was also propped up so I could stand to teach, type and check my email. When I wasn't teaching, I was resting at home.

But my full and complete answer to this question is...IT WAS ALL GOD!  God provided the people that helped me. He also has built in me such a strong will that I stubbornly pushed on. Who wants to hear the woes of a first time pregnant lady, anyways? Above all He gave me the strength to face one day at a time.

"God is our refuge and strength, 
A very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NASB)

The nights were the worst. About 1AM, I'd wake up and lay there until I couldn't refrain from using the bathroom anymore. I'd slowly get up to only get unbearable pain in my leg, hobble to the bathroom, try to bend down as far as I could and then scream in pain for the next hour until the pain made me pass out.

Towards the end of the school year, a sub was in my class more than I was. In the mornings I could barely walk and the pain was excruciating for about 30-60 min. Then it would taper off. I still walked slowly, but it was at least bearable.

This is 37 weeks. The last week of school. You can see how crooked I was standing.

I couldn't wait until my little one came out and got off of my sciatic nerve, or so several OBGYNs in my practice thought. The last three weeks I was finally out of school. I rested a lot, but my pain in the mornings was getting worse. By the last week, the pain would last about 3 hours and then it wasn't stopping.

I ended up at the orthopedic doctor by wheelchair and was miserable. Finally he talked some sense into my OBGYN to induce me. I was finally going to have some relief and my pretty baby girl in my arms. It felt so freeing. Unfortunately nothing could have prepared me for the next 4 weeks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our Family Prayer Sticks

Don't you just love Pinterest? I mean I just love seeing other people's ideas. It's so inspiring. When I saw this on Melissa's Projects...I knew this was a project for our family.

I am so thankful for my years of teaching. The first thing God impressed upon me is how sweet and special a young child's prayer is. When I faced cluster migraines, my little kindergartners prayed daily for me. Their parents would tell me the sweetest stories that have remained with me to this day.
I have also been forever impacted by my first grade teaching partner, Miss Eger. She inspired me to teach children about a deep and consistent prayer life and how to encourage others.
Now that I have turned from "teacher" to "Mommy", I jumped on this idea. The computer design person in me jumped onto publisher... made some circles... stalked Facebook for pictures of family and friends... used the pictures as the filler for the circles...and WALLAH...
Then, I attached them to popsicle sticks. Do you see your face?
If you look closely, you will see our immediate family, extended family, friends, pastors, missionaries, politicians (our president, vp, first lady, congresswoman and the republician candidates for president and vp), and even our pediatrician. There are a couple of people who are missing due to lack of pictures, but I hope to add them soon.
It is sooo great to have these pictures for my kiddos since we live far away from family. Just in the few days of using them, LJ keeps pulling them out and guessing who everyone is. No more explaining who extended family is when we visit over the holidays!!
I added a little decoration to our watering can. I almost just put magnets on the backs of them and used them on our fridge, but I love how this can turned out!!
So how will we use our tin? On Mondays, we will pick 1 stick person to pray for each day that week. We will aslo send a special card to them for encouragement. I am going to take my print out and print it on a full sheet label...cut them out to make stickers add to their card.
At dinner, each person at our table will pick a person to specifically pray for. At bed time, LJ will pick someone special to pray for. Already, she has loved praying for her second cousins Anna and Abby. Thinking ahead, I have a feeling that each of my kids will have a tin that they will put together for their night-time prayer time. They can include all of their friends and people they want in their tin. Maybe this will be where I use them as magnets??

I think this would have a great application to a small group or even youth group. Pick a Stick and pray for a friend! If I ever get into the classroom again...this would be a great way to pray for each other!

Here is another version without pictures from the blog Joy's Hope.
When we get our first encouragement card done, I will show you a picture of it. Maybe you'll be the first one to get it in the mail!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick PowerPoints

I am probably the only one around here that doesn't know how to make quick PowerPoints, but if is the genius information :)

Quick PowerPoint Pictures

Want to transfer different pictures into a slide show in 5 seconds? I love this because I can share pictures really easily with friends in a PowerPoint b/c they can just right click them and SAVE AS their own picture! FIRST you need to have the pictures all gathered in 1 spot on your computer, if possible. If not, go down to my **note!

SECOND you need to open PowerPoint 2007.
Click on the INSERT ribbon.
Click on FILE/DISK.

NOW you are looking for those files you saved.
You want to click on all of them at once so select one of them.
If they are all right in a row, hold the SHIFT button and click the last one in the bunch.
If they are in different spots, hold the CNTRL button and click each picture individually.

**If you couldn't put the pics in one spot, just click on individual pictures and go back to FILE/DISK button and search for the other pictures.

LASTLY it will take you back to the photo album part where you can edit how picture looks, if you want captions, frame style, the order you want, etc.
Just click CREATE!

WALLAH! Beautiful pictures right on your slides in seconds!!! This is great for the hundreds of pictures I put on Chapel slides!!

Now...for the best part...

Transferring Word Documents into PowerPoint

I teach Chapel and have to make music PowerPoints which has been such a pain at times. Copy/Paste, Copy/Paste, Copy/Paste...hundreds of times over! So... I finally researched it :) Why all the pain? Love PowerPoint 2007!!

Ok. So first go into Word and copy or type in all of your lyrics or words for your slides.

Anything in style HEADING 1 will be a title to a slide. Anything in style HEADING 2 will be put into a bullet point under the HEADING 1 above it.

So...if you are looking to do lyrics, I put spaces in between where I want the new slide to begin. I select the title of the song as a HEADING 1 and any spaces as HEADING 1 so that it doesn't put a title to each slide after the first one. Then, all of my lyrics get a HEADING 2 style.

Let me tell you how to change the HEADING styles.
Go to the HOME ribbon.
Click the QUICK STYLES arrow.
You'll now see HEADING 1 and HEADING 2.

Now that you have your Word document ready. Save it.

Open PowerPoint 2007.
On the HOME ribbon click the NEW SLIDE arrow.
Go to the bottom where it says SLIDES FROM OUTLINE.
Find your file and OPEN it!

Now for me...I don't need those bullet points and I certainly change my font and size. So as I go through each slide, I change out of bullet points and edit my font, etc. YAHOO!!!! A new PowerPoint in about 5 min. Of course, I can't stop there.

Making Cute Backgrounds

I hate plain slides, so I always right click my slides and FORMAT BACKGROUND.
I click PICTURE. I click FILE.
I choose a picture from my files. Something fun, but not too busy.
Then, I change the top, bottom, left and right offsets if I need to make it larger.
Then, I play with the transparency until it is like a watermark.
APPLY TO ALL and there you have a more interesting background!

I am always looking on google for a cute scrapbooking background.
Sometimes I even scan a piece of cute paper and use that too!
Every once in a while I will even create my own art in publisher or paint and use it too :)
Here are some of my favorites:

Enjoy and get creative!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Means Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam!'s that time of year when I start my canning projects. I love having my little Leona to help out! She's such a good helper. If you're planning on doing dishes or baking...she's always game!

I thought in the process of showing some of our family pictures, I'd also share how we make our freezer jam. As our friend Tony would say, "Nobody makes it like you do!" The secret? I've used the Sure Jell Pectin recipe from the box...hahaha! I have changed it up a little bit. It's not rocket science, but here it is...and of course with visuals :)

Strawberry Freezer Jam

2 to 2 1/4 c. crushed strawberries (I use 2 1/4 c.)
     This is about 2 pints of whole strawberries.
3-4 c. sugar (I use 4c.)
1 pkg. (3 Tbs.) regular Pectin
3/4 c. water
3-4 pint canning jars with lids and rings
     OR 3-4 (16 oz.) Ball plastic freezer jars with lids
     OR 7-8 half pint jars with lids and rings
     OR 7-8 (8 oz.) Ball plastic freezer jars with lids

strawberry huller or knife
canning lid magnetic stick or tongs
small saucepan
large saucepan
large flat dish like a casserole dish
several spatulas
clean dish rag
large strainer
4 c. pourable glass measuring bowl
large mouth canning funnel
other measuring cups/bowls

I started with 4 lbs. of strawberries for this regular sugar recipe. It was enough to make a little over 3 batches (10 pints altogether). If you are doing multiple recipes, unfortunately you can't just double everything. Make 1 recipe at a time.

Eventually I will probably start collecting some of the Ball plastic freezer jars. They are more expensive but you don't have to worry about buying new lids every year and they are so easy to put into the deep freeze :)

Step 1: Prepare your jars. I make sure my dishwasher is empty and clean (sometimes this means running 1 c. of bleach on a quick wash cycle first). I place the jars in there and do a quick wash cycle with just a tad bit of dishwasher detergent. Then, later when I am ready to fill them, the jars are still hot. Many canning directions will say to put them in a hot bath. This is not necessary for this recipe if you use your dishwasher. The goal is to make sure they are disinfected. The freezer will actually seal the jam. Place your lids in a small sauce pan with water. Put them on low-medium low. They will need to sit in a lightly bubbling bath until you are ready to use them.

Step 2: Rinse and soak your strawberries for a few minutes. Drain. Allow to dry.

Step 3: Remove the hull. I use a very simple metal strawberry huller. You can just use a knife too. The goal is to remove the leaf and the base of the stem without wasting the strawberry. (NOTE: You can use slightly over-ripe strawberries, just remove or discard moldy pieces!)

Step 4: Begin to mash the strawberries in a flat casserole type dish. Do one layer at a time. They will not be mashed all the way. Make sure to leave little chunks. Pour the mashed berries into a 4c. pourable glass measuring bowl.

Step 5: Once you have 2 to 2 1/4 c. strawberries, it's time to add in the sugar. I use 4 cups with my 2 1/4 c. mashed strawberries. Feel free to test taste to see how sweet you like it. Allow it to set for about 10 min. while you go on to the next step. (As you can see I used another bowl to mix the sugar and strawberries before pouring them into the glass measuring bowl. This was unnecessary and just made more dishes.)

Step 6: In a large saucepan, add 3/4 cup water to 1 pkg. of regular Pectin. If you can find a jar of pectin powder, this is the cheaper way to go! Mine called for 3 Tbs. to equal 1 box.

Step 7: Bring the pectin to a boil. STIR CONSTANTLY! Allow it to boil for about 1-2 min. The pectin will change to a more clear liquid. It will be a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

This is almost ready. It will look a more clear than this.
Step 8: Stir the strawberries contantly as you add the pectin to it to prevent any hardening. Stir for about 3 min. so that they are mixed well. (If the pectin leaves junks...go fishing for all of the hard pieces and try adding another batch of pectin.)

Step 9: Place the funnel on top of the jar. Pour the strawberry/pectin mixture into jars. Wipe the rims with a clean, wet dish rag to remove any spilled strawberries.

Step 10: Using the canning magnetic stick, grab a lid from it's warm bath. Apply to the top of the jar. Twist the ring on top of the lid.

Step 11: Place the jars in the freezer. Most recipes say that they only last 6 mos. in the freezer. I have had mine for about 3 years in my deep freezer and they are still fine. All that sugar will preserve the jam. When you want to use the jam, place it in the fridge to thaw. Use unthawed, refrigerated jam within several months. Also, if you can't wait to try it, leave some out in a little need to freeze if you plan to use it right away.

NOTE: I also made a low sugar recipe this time. It is very hard to find a good recipe. It actually is a different process with the pectin and adding a sugar substitute. After I have tasted it, if I like it, I will post it here too. If you have a recipe that you use for low or no sugar added jam, please leave it in a comment! Thanks!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wacky Cake for Leona

Turning 3
My Mother-in-love just found this recipe for my food allergy sweetie :) We found it here on Kids with Food Allergies. I can't wait to try more recipes on there.

My understanding is that the Wacky Cake originated during the Great Depression when eggs and milk were scarce. Now, if only restaurants and bakeries got on board and started carrying some so I didn't have to always have one with me when we go for a special treat like Flavor Freeze, Pavs or Durbin's ice cream stands.

Mmmm! "Tat's GOOD!"

 Wacky Chocolate Cake (see other variations below)
-1 1/2 c. flour (see Gluten-free variations below)
-3 Tbsp cocoa powder
-1 c. sugar
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 Tbsp vinegar
-5 Tbsp oil
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 c. water

Preheat oven to 350'F. Combine dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredient mix to dry mix. Mix until you get a smooth batter. Pour into a greased and floured 8-9" pan or 12 cupcakes. Bake 30-35 min. for cake or 20 min. for cupcakes.

1. vanilla cake: omit cocoa; double amount of vanilla.
2. spice cake: omit cocoa; add 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
3. orange: omit cocoa and vinegar; substitute orange juice for the water.
4. lemon cake: omit cocoa; substitute lemon juice for vinegar; add some lemon extract

Gluten-Free Variations:
1. 1 3/4 c. GF flour mix or wheat flour. Add 1 tsp. xanthan gum.
2. 1 c. sorghum flour, 1/2 c. potato or cornstarch, 1/4 tapioca starch
3. 3/4 c. sorghum blour, 1/4 c. garbanzo bean flour, 1/2 c. potato or cornstarch, 1/4 c. tapioca starch

Milkless & Eggless Pumpkin Cake

My daughter is allergic to milk and eggs. It is very hard to find yummy non-dairy treats, let alone cakes. This is the first recipe I found that Leona could eat.

Milkless and Eggless Pumpkin Cake
-3 c. flour
-2 c. sugar
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-2 tsp. baking powder
-2 tsp. baking soda
-2 c. canned pumpkin
-1 c. oil

1. Grease pan and lightly flour. Bundt pan, 2 loaf pans or 24 cupcakes.
2. Preheat oven to 350'.
3. Mix dry ingredients.
4. Add oil and pumpkin. Mix well.
5. Pour into pan(s).
6. For cupcakes, bake 20-25 min. For the loaf pans, bake 30 min. For the budnt pan, bake 1 hour.

Need a milkless, butterless icing?
Just use powdered sugar and water for a thin icing.
Add shortening to thicken it. I am still on the look out for a great tasting icing.
Currently I am using this recipe from Eggless Cooking.
It is a good stiff recipe for cake decorating, but I am trying to find something more yummy for the whole family.
I will update this when I find one :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Potty Training

17 months and starting potty training
I think I can honestly say that our young 3 year old is officially potty trained. We started at 17 months (November 2010) putting her on her potty chair before her baths because she loved to squat and pee-pee right on my bathroom mat...ICK!! Then, we pursued it for awhile until my back started hurting that January.
20 months and sitting on her potty

We started again in April 2011. She did well but it was still hard at times for me to be able to help her. Next, came my pregnancy, so obviously potty training was not a focus for the first few months. Then, in December 2012 I realized we needed to get her trained before we got her into her big bed and before the baby came in late March.

her first night in her big girl bed :)
So off we went! My Mom came for a little bit and helped get her really going as we switched to panties (It's all or none with this girl!). From then on we made progress. She was pee-pee trained, but the boom-boom (love the wording right!?!?!) training was a PAIN! She was all drama about the boom-boom. It had gone on the floor one time...and I learned never to be upset about an accident from that point on...and it was forever a tramatic event. She'd go to sneak a diaper, put it on and go in it just so she didn't have to go boom-boom on the potty. If we caught her in time, she'd sit on the potty for HOURS!!! She'd just hold it in as long as she could. Oh the whining! It was craziness.

Just recently we came home from a week vacation in Ohio and something changed. Suddenly she came and said she had to go, got on and pushed it out (sorry...a little grusome for some of you! hahahaha!). Now, she goes multiple times! Naps are normally accident free, but the final step was GOING TO CHURCH WITH PANTIES ON!!! She went twice at church this past Sunday! So...I feel free to say that my little baby girl is growing up...she's potty trained :) YAY! will be a little bit of time to tackle the night-night time pull-up...but hey...we conquered the hard part :)

Potty Training? 

Here are some things that helped our family:
  -Potty Training Your Child in Just ONE Day by Teri Crane (this is especially great if you are starting when they are older!)
  -From the suggestion of the above book, we showed her baby doll going pee-pee in the potty (by holding a water bottle squirter behind her) and praised her for going potty! I never did the accident thing with the doll because she was still pretty young then and didn't understand much.
  -We read the kid's book Big Girls Use the Potty. It was a great visual for her of what a potty was and what we do on it.
  -We taught Leona the signs for poop, diaper, and potty/toilet. (We never got to use it, but plan to with our little guy: Potty Time by Signing Time.) Signing really helped with starting at an early age so they could understand.
  -I taught her all of her letters from the potty. We hung an alphabet strip and we went over them every time we went.
  -We sang a lot of songs and signed to some of them.
  -We also practiced our signing on the potty. Great way to keep a toddler entertained and learning!
  -There is also a book by the Baby Wise author called Potty Wise. I bet that is a great book too! We didn't use it, but will probably read it before James is at that stage.

Vaccine Research for My Family

A friend of mine, who is a nurse practioner, lent me a book called

"What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Children's Vaccinations"

by Stephanie Cave, MD, FAAFP with Deborah Mitchell.

You can read the first chapter here.

You can also read the U.S. vaccine schedule here.

Now...before I go any farther, let me just set you straight on my intentions. I sought out to read this book out of a desire to learn more about the risks associated with vaccines so my husband and I could make a wise choice about vaccines for our children. With several family members having auto-immune diseases (MS, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, etc.), I wondered if that put my children more at risk for complications from vaccinations. I also wondered if there was any proof of some people's opinion that autism could be a result of vaccinations. Obviously not all children have auto-immune diseases, including autism, so I wanted to find out if there was truly a correlation, if any. This post is just my opinion based on my findings and our family's personal choices about vaccinations. I am not a doctor or nurse, just a teacher at heart.

First of all, I find it odd that our society accepts and even pushes organic products for the health of our families, yet we pop pills for everything and anything, and inject so many different things into our bodies without much question. I believe many parents wonder at the hepititis b vaccine within the first several hours of birth and the alarming 6 vaccinations our little 2 month old children get at their second check-up. I mean just to a normal person it seems WAY excessive. BUT...we trust our doctors and their opinions and just do it anyways. That's what we did with our first child. Honestly, looking back we were so overwhelmed by her health problems (failure to thrive) that we never really looked into it.

Luckily, I don't believe my daughter's vaccinations have had any affect on her health... except for one thing. After she received the chicken pox vaccine (around age 15 months) she got a small case of them. You can read the experience in the post "An Uninvited Guest" and "She's on the Chart!"  I soon found that MANY parents had experienced the same thing. This was serious for us though as every ounce of weight mattered to her health until age 2. This vaccine set us back 2 weeks in eating. My pediatrician basically said that the vaccine didn't cause her getting the flu-shot, am I right? Ummm hello! Seriously I can't even count the parents that said that their child had the same thing happen to them! In my mind it just goes to show that there seems to be a gap in logic out there about vaccinations. I'm not saying that doctors are dufuses or anything...just that vaccinations seem to be trusted a little too much. I will also stop to say that I LOVE my pediatrician. She was in the armed services for a while. She is a vaccine-aholic :) but I do trust her opinions in many areas.

After reading this book, I am overwhelmed by the lack of education that is given to us parents and certainly the lack of research that has gone into some ingredients found in vaccines. I agree with the author that the reason that more education is not given about vaccines is because many parents would opt not to give some, most, if not all vaccines. Some of it is just common sense and now I have a book that gives me statistics and information on these vaccines to help me make an informed decision for my family. I am so thankful.

So my opinion about this book. I am a teacher at a heart, so I love reading statistics and finding my opinion in a topic whether I disagree or agree with something. This book was great at explaining each vaccine: what it is given for, what types of ingredients go into it, risks and positives. HOWEVER, I caution that this book, again in my opinion, is very one way. When I started this book, I basically felt I needed the other side of the coin so to say because I feel like medical professionals make us feel like our children will die if they don't get all of their vaccines. I wanted to know true risks of not getting them and getting them. This book sometimes made me feel like my child could die or be so severly hurt by vaccines. I did not like feeling like that, but I took it all in to make my balanced decision remembering both sides.

ONE KEY FACT that I really hung my decision on was the fact that children do not start producing bile until 6 months of age. For those of you trying to remember what bile is (honestly needed that myself), bile is produced by the liver to break down fats. It also helps to rid your body of toxins in your body. So when we put these vaccines in our little babies, they don't have bile to help rid the toxins from their bodies. It would also seem that our babies have a very weak immune system which is why they get their antibodies from their mother's milk...and as the baby grows up, the milk gradually decreases in it's antibodies. Now, my doctor would say that the vaccines have barely anthing in fact she said that they are significantly lower doses than when my parents were growing up.

ONE LAST KEY FACT came from the significant changes in our children after the altering of the vaccine schedule/reccomendations in 1994. Autism, asthma, diabetes have all been on the rise. Plus those of us in the teaching field would tell you that kids are much different these days. Many are hyper and hard to contain at times. This is concerning! There may not be a correlation, but something is going on in our society. The main difference in the schedule was the Hep-B vaccine. Knowing that France has banned it since 1998 because of it's links to MS and other neurological diseases...makes me stay FAR AWAY FROM THAT ONE! Besides...realizing that Hep-B is an autoimmune disease that is passed by blood, semen, and other bodily fluids and that my family is not a carrier...makes me wonder why so many people get it without thought. I don't plan on my little baby boy at a couple of hours of age getting a tattoo, getting acupuncture, etc. If he was going for a blood tranfusion or had other risks, then certainly it would be a consideration. On top of that, I plan on homeschooling for a this decision may need to be weighed if I decide to send them to school or daycare.

I believe that looking at your family's healthy history is the way to go in this area of immunizations. Honestly, knowing that MS and diabetes are very prevalent in my family, makes me more cautious with immunizations. was our decision. Based on the cases seen in my dr's office with whooping cough and that the Amish community in our area does see cases of whooping cough as well...we did give James the pertusis, tetanus, diptheria (DTaP) vaccine at 3 mos. This was a hard decision for me based on the earlier finding about the bile. I actually cried when he was so unhappy just a few hours later praying that we had made the right decision. I believe it was for my family. At 6 months, I will reevaluate what may be next for my little guy as far as vaccines. At this point I don't plan on getting the boosters for the DTaP. At the advice of my dr. we did eliminate the rotavirus and the hep-b at this time. She did want us to get, I think it was the Pneumococcal, 3 weeks later, but I decided against it. Even though she is all about vaccines, she was accepting that my decision was to take it slower and eliminate some of them altogether so this made me feel I was making a good balanced decision....because again I appreciate her opinions and thoughts very much.

So there you have it...all my opinions and some of my findings. I realize that some of you reading this may be more on the every vaccine on time route, others on the no-vaccine list and then some may be in the middle like me. Whatever your choice for your family, I just pray that you make your decision by educating yourself on your family history and what each vaccine is all about. All we can do is trust the Lord and take in all of the information we have and do our best! Feel free to leave an opinion or other information you have found in your studies in the comments below! It is great when we can learn from each other.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Doctor Stats for James and Leona

I just can't believe my little guy is already 3 months old!  He is such a great baby! He is so happy! He loves to eat! He loves to play with his big sister on his play mat! AND he is already watching some TV...gotta love Signing Time!

Leona had her 3 year old dr. appt and James had his almost 2 month old appt. on June 4, 2012.
Here are the stats:

Leona is 34 3/4" long and weighs 25lbs. 4oz. She is 5% in weight and 8% in height. She is still at the bottom of the chart, but at least she is on it. The dr. wants to check her again in 3 months and see where she is at in height. Last time she was like 40%, so she might check her thyroid again if she is still low again. Otherwise, she is happy with her progress.

James is 24 1/4" long and weighs 12 lbs. 9 oz. (gained 1lb. in 2 weeks). He is 97% in weight and 80% in height. Quite the difference from his sister. He is thriving with nursing and everything looked great with him. She was definitely encouraged to see his progress and so excited for us that we can just enjoy our little guy. We don't have to go back until 6 mos!!!!! So weird to not visit her frequently! HAHA!

Leona also started music class. It's called Musikgarten. She loves it! Here are some pictures from her class: