Tag Archives: family

DIY Baby Sleepsack

20141117_124520 Baby sleepsacks are all the rage throughout the winter months as they keep new babies nice and warm without new parents having to worry about bulky blankets which are a risk for smothering and infant death. Sleepsacks can be purchased at just about every baby store and online registry these days…but many are expensive and there are limited prints and styles. Here is one I made as a baby shower gift for a friend – the total cost was (hopefully my friend doesn’t see this post) about $5.00. There are many variations (zippers in the front instead of snaps, or Velcro along the sides, or even kimono style wrap front designs), no matter which style you choose these are always sure to be a big hit.

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I started by picking a fabric I knew my friends would enjoy (they had registered for other fun monster print items) and then I mapped out a pattern. If you already have a sleepsack handy you can literally just trace the one you have. If you don’t you can make a paper pattern by looking up different styles as I did here. (I also used a baby onesie (3-6months) when creating the pattern to ensure the neck and arm holes would be big enough for baby to fit into them comfortably.)

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Next cut out the pattern  x 4- front and back of the outside and front and back of the liner. I used a crushed velvet material for the liner and a flannel for the outer shell. Then sew from armpit to armpit leaving about 3 inches of space on one side (this will allow the sleepsack to open so the baby can be placed inside). You can see my opening where I have left pins in the liner.

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Flip the two pieces inside out and stuff the outer shell into the liner and sew together the arm pit holes and the yolk of the neck. You can close the top of 3 shoulders but leave one open so you can turn the sack right side out.

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Open the whole you have left at the top of the shoulder and proceed to stuff the sack through it turning the whole thing right side out.

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Now you only need to close up one hole and get ready to add buttons or snaps. I used a blind hem to  close the top of the shoulder so it would match the other three however you can use a straight stitch over the top after you tuck in all the raw unfinished edges.

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Finally add buttons to the top for a clean finished look and snaps to the insides of one shoulder and the open side. I used the button on the left to secure the left shoulder (it doesn’t open). The button on the right is just for decoration as safety snaps are what the parents actually use to close the garment up. Vowalla one happy custom sleepsack ready for a new baby.

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Filed under Budget, Children, Crafts and Gifts, DIY, Family, Motherhood, parenting

Girls vs Dinner Eggplant Parmesan & Fruit Salad

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The last week of August and first week of September were busy times for the two of us here at Girls vs Blog. In addition to our regular daily activities and stresses we were also preparing for Katie’s baptism. Of course such a momentous occasion could only mean one thing…Road Trip! Well..for one 🙂

After having finished Katie’s dress (mostly… I may have done a few things the night before the baptism) I packed up my little car and began the trip out to Utah. The great thing about these occasions and trips is time with friends and family and of course both Girls vs Bloggers in one room…working on projects and cooking food and having fun together!  This trip was no different, and while many times we find ourselves so excited about getting to visit we forget to take pictures of our adventures…this time we managed to capture dinner.

With two spunky girls in the kitchen (and a handful of little ones running around helping) how could dinner be anything but fantastic…not to brag or anything. So here it is…Eggplant Parmesan and a delicious fruit salad topped with a lime, honey, mint dressing. Enjoy!

We began by making a trip through the pantry to see what we had on hand and then made a trip to the store to see what was fresh. As luck would have it Eggplants were piled high, looking delicious and ON SALE! We picked up two to feed 9 people and had left overs to take next door to the neighbor. Next we strolled through the fruit section and found fresh berries were on sale…so into the basket they went as well. With a game plan in place we assessed what we had seen in the pantry at home and then picked up a few remaining ingredients like panko bread crumbs and one or two extra tomatoes (as we weren’t sure there were enough from the garden).

Step 1: Gather all ingredients so you don’t have to run around the kitchen looking for stuff halfway through

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Step 2: Slice eggplant into 1/4-1/8in thick sections and place on a wire rack. Salt the slices liberally then set aside with paper towels or kitchen towels under the racks. This allows the additional moisture to come out of the eggplant which keeps the outer crust crispier later and makes for more even cooking.

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Step 2: Prep for tomato sauce. Gather your fresh picked or purchased tomatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Coat tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a 350 degree oven for 10-20 minutes or until the skins begin to roll and peel away from the flesh. If skins can be easily removed they are done…if they are still difficult to remove and are taking flesh with them when you peel back place the tomatoes back in the oven for a few more minutes.

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Remove tomatoes from oven and set aside to cool slightly before peeling. While tomatoes are cooling grate a zucchini (we are about to hide some super nutritious veggies in this delicious sauce. The kids won’t even know they are there!) As luck would have it our girls actually like the veggies so I don’t really have to hide them…but I still like to grate the zucchini because it disperses the flavor well and thickens the sauce! Then peel the tomatoes and set aside.

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Step 3: Remove casing from your italian sausage of choice (we used spicy italian chicken sausage) and place it in a hot pot. Immediately begin to break up the sausage with a wooden utensil. Once the sausage has begun to render its fat add one whole diced onion and saute until the onion is translucent and the meat has finished cooking. Then add 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, grated zucchini, and any other veggies you are slipping in (I also grated the thick ends of the eggplant and added them in). Sauté until veggies are soft and garlic is fragrant.

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Step 4: Dice, crush or otherwise destroy your lovely roasted tomatoes and add them to the pot along with a few hardy palms full of your favorite italian seasoning combination (we make up our own each time adding spices such as basil, parsley, oregano, pepper, cumin,  paprika, thyme, crushed red pepper, etc). Then reduce heat and let sauce simmer while you complete the rest of dinner (add a palm full of sugar to the sauce at the end…right before serving to brighten the tomatoes and round out the sauce. Don’t add it earlier or the sugars can scorch!)

Step 5: Prepare fruit salad! We added grapes, raspberries, blue berries, strawberries and banana’s. Rinse all fruit and slice the grapes in half and the strawberries into quarters. Add all fruit to a bowl and toss with dressing. Dressing = 2-3 fresh limes squeezed, equal parts honey and a splash of oil whisk together. Then add freshly chopped mint leaves and whisk again before poring over salad. Toss all fruit and dressing to combine and then set aside to allow the flavors to marry while you finish dinner.

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Step 6: Your Eggplant should have a nice layer of moisture sitting on the top at this point showing you that it is ready to get started. Pat all dry (pushing down a little as you do to squeeze out remaining liquid). Then follow the three-step process for coating – dredge, wash, coat. Dredge in seasoned flour (seasoned with S&P)

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Dip in egg wash.

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Coat in bread crumb mixture. Bread crumb mixture is 2/3 panko to 1/3 traditional bread crumbs. Add the same spices you added to the sauce to the crumbs so your eggplants are well seasoned and tasty; as well as a handful of parmesan cheese. Finally add enough olive oil to make the mixture the consistency of beach sand. The reason we add the olive oil here is so we get a nice crispy crust without frying! You may need to pack on the crust with your fingers. Once you have a nice even coating place onto a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until the outside is crispy golden brown and the inside is cooked through. Turn once halfway through cooking to allow both sides to brown evenly. While these are cooking – make your pasta and any h’orderves/breads you wish to serve.

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While making dinner we gave the little girls projects so they could help with dinner too! They cleaned and set the table. Picked out which dish they wanted to use (they wanted to pull out the fancy glasses and parfait cups for this occasion), and then we had them create name cards for each person at the table. The eldest two girls wrote the names on the cards and all 4 girls helped to color and decorate them.

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Once the eggplant is done, the pasta is ready and the table is set it’s time to plate. We served the fruit salad in parfait glasses as a kind of desert salad. On a main plate add pasta, tomatoe sauce and top with a few slices of eggplant. Then top everything with freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

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Bon Appetit!

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My 2 cents on Miley, Kate, and My Daughters’ Self Worth.

From Kate Middleton’s tiny tummy and Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, to articles and opinions all over Facebook and twitter, my head is spinning with everyone’s idea of women and what their body roles and social expectations are.

I read an article posted by a friend, where the author of the post discusses why a mother should only talk to her child about her body on the technical issues and to tell her she’s healthy.  Granted, there were many good points in the article, such as how we women talk about ourselves and each other, affecting how our girls view themselves.  My main issue with the article is that each one of my four little girls will have friends, TV, and internet, among countless other venues including social media everywhere they turn.  I cannot fathom the damage I would have done to myself worth as a teen if I didn’t have a mom and friends to talk to.  From worrying about my “bubble butt” and hearing my friend call it a “Slammin’ backside” to talking to my mom about why cigarettes seemed so cool in the ads growing up and having her talk to me about long term–not so pretty–effects, it helped just as much as wishing my boobs were bigger and my tummy was flatter might have hindered.  I knew everyone else wanted that too.  It wasn’t just me.

Jealous Girls

Women compare ourselves to what we see.  I don’t know why we do, but I have yet to find another woman who doesn’t.  I want to be there to talk to my girls about what they are seeing and what that means for them.  With their own bodies, each one of my daughters have differences in appearance. Just between each other, and they notice.  All of them are beautiful, but different.  Kind of like chocolate. It can be shaped, colored, and proportioned differently and anyone with an ounce of honesty can say each one of these is desirable, purely based everyone’s love of the food in general.

Now, after listening, reading, watching and judging this past week, here’s my soap box rant.

Our bodies are what we make of them.  If you walk up to the most beautiful woman you can think of, she can rattle off ten things she’d change about her body if she could.  There isn’t any thing wrong with wanting to be more healthy or beautiful, but as with every other part of life, moderation is key.

My theory is that if we walk the walk and talk the talk of the kind of woman we want to be, we become that very thing.  Women who carry themselves with class and dignity, who treat themselves as if they are naturally beautiful …are.  We other women sense it, believe it and tell ourselves we aren’t that at all and simply wish we were.

Honestly,it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I don’t think Miley’s performance was that big of a deal.  I’m grateful that Miley’s performance is getting bad hype, though.  It gives me a chance to talk to my girls, who heard about it at school, about how we present ourselves and how having something to prove (like “I’m not a little girl anymore”) can back fire.  We can talk about how Miley is beautiful, but doesn’t always portray that.  My daughter noted she didn’t look like she felt good about herself.  I love that Kate Middleton looks great postpartum and I am so glad that she has the ability to feel the joys of motherhood.  I was able to talk to my girls, who heard it on the radio in the car, about how our bodies change many times in our life and every baby Kate has will add smile lines on her face, inches on her waist line and even if she doesn’t melt those inches off, she will still be stunning because of how she presents herself.

I talk to my kids about how working out to be healthy and have the energy to chase after your kids, or giving up a diet to really enjoy baking brownies with your little girl (or any other body altering thing), is a personal choice every mom has to make when trying to balance herself with her nurturing nature and other hats every woman puts on.  I talk to them about the wonderful women who never get married or who can’t have kids and it opens their minds to the many options and situations that are both a blessing and a curse, depending on the woman.  All of them have body issues.

We all want to be beautiful, to be complimented, to be graceful and charming.  We want to look like what our generation sees as beautiful.  It was something else many times and whether it is curves, or rail thin, or long legged, or plump, there are always other women wishing they felt like people looked at them the same way.

I worry that in our “You don’t need to diet, you’re perfect just the way you are”/”Eat healthy or you’ll get fat” society, it is confusing.  We need our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends to be there and talk about it.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a single womanhood issue that doesn’t have opposing opinions being shoved down our throats.  There are so many mixed signals we send each other:

Screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the film Charade

Screenshot of Audrey Hepburn from the film Charade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stay at home/work and provide.

Keep a clean house to be a good mom/let it be messy if you love your kids more than cleaning.

Don’t judge looks/that girl should never wear skinny jeans.

Natural healthcare/Professional healthcare

Be YOU! … Just not like THAT.

Be Grace Kelly AND Marilyn Monroe AND June Cleaver… ready go!

Going back to the idea that our self worth and sexuality starts at a very young age, sends my mommy instincts a whirl, wondering what my girls are going to tell themselves.  But I really don’t have to wonder.  They have the best source for their own well being right here.  Me.  –no pressure right?  But for me, I feel that everyone can be like their ideal role models–or at least aspects of them and I want my girls to talk to me about it.  The way my husband and I address these issues will effect so many parts of their self esteem and sexuality growing up.  I want them to see the good things and recognize the bad for what they are.

DAUGHTERS TALKING

What we should do is let our kids talk to us.  Ask our daughters what they see as appealing to them in their idols or role models.   Talk about why they feel that way.  It may surprise you that it is less her Prada or size 0 tag, or partying habits and more that she just seems… beautiful in general.  She has a quality… a confidence. So, ask if it is the way her idol looks, or if they want to feel like that celebrity or model must feel, being that confident or beautiful.  We can all feel confident and beautiful if we treat ourselves like we are, and act as if we are.

Marilyn Monroe

I am not built exactly like any woman I admire, but it doesn’t matter.  I have danced clumsily with my husband in the kitchen and felt like Grace Kelly.  I have had a meal baked, kids looking cute and had everything in place when my husband walked in and felt like June Cleaver… even though it was a little crispier than it should have been.   I’ve finally fit into that cute vintage dress and felt like Audrey Hepburn.  I’ve been on stage, looking great and felt like Marilyn Monroe.  But I’ve had pretty much ever insecurity a girl can have as well, and perhaps more frequently.

I believe we have these insecurities to be constantly trying to improve ourselves.  No, that’s not a bad thing.   If we stop growing, we lose out on so much.  It is why we are here, to get smarter and better and kinder and… well just insert the thing you desire of yourself: creative, strong, outgoing, or more quiet and reserved, etc.

Talk to your kids about what they see and think.  They’re smarter than we often give them credit for.

I want to note that I am not a perfect parent, and who knows what kinds of therapy my kids will need someday from my particular style, but I do know that I want my kids to be able to use what they see as a tool to feel better and strive to be better in a productive way.  Complaining forever more that society is evil won’t help them.  Admitting it is confusing and helping them figure out what works best for them might just work.

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by | August 28, 2013 · 4:51 pm

5 Days in Italy – Day 5

Day 2 Florence

Today with snacks in hand from the market you head across the river to the Pitti Palace for more relics and art. This great palace has been home to many of Florence’s great families and still boasts a beautiful and well maintained façade!

After the Pitti Palace head west to see Piazza Santo Spirito before heading back over the river toward the pig market otherwise known as Mercato Nuovo. Locals call this market Il Porcellino (little pig) because of the boar statue that stands at the end of the market. This market, like San Lorenzo Market is frequented by both locals and tourists alike and offers leather goods, jewelry, scarves, souvenirs and more. Take a gander about and start to consider how much room you have in your suitcase and whether you may need to buy an extra! 

As promised I am taking it easy on you in Florence. I have hit the top ten attractions in Florence and then some so now…shop! Shop until you can carry no more! Shop at the pig market, San Lorenzo Market, Santa Croce, the Ponte Vecchio and Mercato Centrale. For great shoes check out the shops at the east end of San Lorenzo Market and piazza! Some of the best places are in basements and around small alley corners. Never fear, just venture in – the shop owners are always happy to great and help tourists and locals alike!

Once you have shopped ‘til you dropped – if you have extra time you can always go back and explore some of the bigger attractions you feel you may have been rushed through before!

Food in Florence – This is the best food in Italy I swear!!! I prescribe gelato twice daily at minimum for positive mood enhancement and sugary sweet energy!

One restaurant (Il trattoria) in particular is off of Piazza della Signoria and near the Ponte Vecchio. On your way to the Ponte Vecchio find the B&B della Signoria (one street in), go down that street/alley (it will seem like nothing is there- keep going) you will see the small trattoria. Make reservations around lunch for dinner (or you won’t get in) this is the best restaurant and has amazing ravioli di noci! 

Okay – off you go, have entirely too much fun!

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5 Days in Italy – Day 4

Florence Day 1:

Okay, here’s the scoop, Florence is a lot smaller than Rome in terms of mileage so you can
literally see all the major sites on a quick walk about in a single day. HOWEVER, if you really want to see things in depth it is going to take a bit longer! Because I know shopping is a must I am leaving Florence a little more open than Rome (because the shopping is awesome here!) so….here goes.

Once again start off the day with a good hearty breakfast so you can really go, go, go.
First on the tour today is the Uffizi Gallery! Because this books up so quickly, and they only
allow a set number of patrons in at a time, jump online before you head to Italy and pre-book your tickets for the Uffizi and Academia. Then all you have to do is go to customer service and pick up tickets for your respective time slots!

The Uffizi Gallery is a show case of great Italian art and Florentine patrons. Although many
of the paintings and sculptures are portraits and busts this is definitely a must! The detailing in some of the portraits is so lifelike you can almost feel the fur collars and the beaded tapestries in the backgrounds!

After your tour through the gallery take your time wondering through the courtyard and then through the attached Piazza Signoria to admire the many statues they have on display as well as the many pieces of art the locals have for sale!

Next stop is across town to Academia to see the David. Although he towers above you, his life like features and the way the veining in the marble seem to somehow line up with where real veins and arteries would be will truly amaze! Walk around and get a good look from every angle before heading into the hall of busts and then back out onto the streets of Florence.

With the two major museums under your belt head east toward Piazza Santa Croce for lunch and shopping. This area has some of the most lovely leather purses and coats of all fashions and sizes! While there don’t forget to take a stroll through the church as well before heading off for the next adventure.

After lunch head back west along the Arno river toward the Ponte Vecchio (the bridge of gold) to see the shops before they close for the day. Also take the opportunity to admire the other goods being offered by street vendors along either side of the bridge. BUT don’t get your bags too full yet, you haven’t been to San Lorenzo or the Pig Market/The Straw Market (which has anything but live stock :- ) !

Next we head North back through the city to see the Duomo. Wander in through the main doors and admire the various shades of marble and the stunning carved doors as you do so! Once inside light a candle and then walk through this vast space to admire the grandeur of the frescos – especially those at the top of the dome! Once again don’t forget to look down. The floor of this beauty is just as impressive as the walls!

If you dare take the stairs up to the top of the dome to get a closer look at the fresco and then wander outside to get a striking view of the whole city below you. From here you can see Santa Croce, the Uffizi, Pitti Palace, etc. Although it is high up – I highly recommend this!!!!!

Then wonder back out of the Duomo and take a tour through the bell tower and baptistery. The gift shops here have some fun things to look at and keep in mind if you can’t find them from a street vendor for less!

Back out on the street head north toward the San Lorenzo Market. If the shop vendors are still out feel free to take your time wondering from canopy to canopy, but don’t wait too long to head inside to the food market for some dinner at the Spagittarian. This amazing market has meats, cheeses, fruits, wines, olive oil, lemon cello, and ready to eat meals! It’s a great time to grab snacks for tomorrow too!

Now wander back through the streets, bellies full and admire the city at night as you find your way back to your hotel for some sleep.

 

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Guest Post: My Fight Against Mesothelioma

By Heather Von St. James

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I did everything to prepare myself for motherhood. I read pregnancy books, made

changes to my diet, and visited the best doctors. I spent a considerable amount of

time planning my new life around my future child. After I gave birth, being a mother

was just what I had expected. When I saw Lily for the very first time, I felt like I was

the luckiest person in the whole universe.

Despite all the preparation for motherhood, the unexpected happened. I got

diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma just 3 ½ months after giving birth. My doctor

informed me that I would need to start treatment immediately or else I would have 15

months left to live. I realized I would need to gather all the courage I had in order to

survive and raise my daughter.

My husband and I decided that I should receive mesothelioma treatment in Boston.

This was a difficult decision for me to make, as it required me leaving Lily 1200 miles

away. Instead of spending time with my daughter, I was fighting for my life.

When I had my surgery, I didn’t see Lily for a whole month. During this time, I

underwent a surgery that required removing my left lung, as well as the lining of my

diaphragm and heart. The rest of the treatment, which required chemotherapy and

radiation, took a year to complete. Luckily, my parents offered to take care of Lily

in order to provide her with stability. I was also lucky enough to have a supportive

husband, as well as many other people in my life that did their best to help me

through this extremely difficult time.

Once I returned home, I was determined to do everything I could to be present in my

daughter’s life. We would take walks together, go to the park and play outside. Even

though at times I didn’t have the energy I desired, I still treasured every second we

were together.

In some ways, there is not much that has changed during the past eight years since

Lily came into this world. Cam, my husband, and I still cherish every moment we

spend with her. We truly consider ourselves lucky to have such a bright and happy

daughter. As she grew older, she came to better understand the challenges our

family faced and is aware of how happy we are to have her. She doesn’t really have

much recollection of her first year, but for me, it was a time that I will never forget.

Although we did not know what was going to happen, Cam I simply did everything I

could to stay happy and get through this difficult time.

Battling mesothelioma cancer was certainly a terrifying experience. Despite all the

bad, a lot of good has come from my fight. Our family has learned to take nothing

for granted and the difficult times we’ve shared have brought us closer than ever. I

shared my story with you so that others who are facing similar challenges can know

that you can stay positive as you battle your fights and know that you are not in this

alone.

 

You can find Heather here: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/

 

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