Fabulous Finds and a Friday Linky Party

One of the things I love about the blogging world is how easy it is to share information and help each other out.  I am joining the Fabulous Finds Friday linky party over at Mama’s Blog Central today. There is a linky party every Friday where bloggers can share their “best of” for the week and see what others have found,too. Here are my favorites for the week:

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-50 Freezable Whole 30 Recipes (found on Pinterest) because we are starting a new Whole 30 tomorrow and I need inspiration to prevent me from failing!

 Fabulous Finds and a Friday Linky Party Fabulous Finds and a Friday Linky PartyCoconut Oil (unrefined, extra virgin) because it’s my latest find for cooking and hopefully keeping my family as healthy as possible. I’m putting it in coffee, using it in skin care, and cooking with it. I even “heard through the grapvine” that it can possibly reverse dementiain the elderly. I’m going to have to research that one!

unnamed 150x150 Fabulous Finds and a Friday Linky Party

My new essential oil kit. Even if I did have a bad experience mixing up the peppermint and frankincense. I have  a lot to learn, but it seems to be working well so far ! My oldest son was coming down with a fever,cough and chills, sore throat,etc yesterday. I put him to bed with Thieves on his feet, covered his chest in peace and calming, and hoped it would do some small bit of good. It could be complete coincidence , but he woke up with no fever, and a few coughs this morning. It’s enough to impress me so far. I’m a skeptic by nature, but at this moment I am a fan!

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This post about Healing Herbs from The Paleo Mama that I ran across on Pinterest. I would love to learn more about herbs and how they can help us, so I bookmarked this to read later.

See the rest of the blogger’s favorite finds HERE  or share your own! Happy Friday and I hope you have a restful weekend!

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Weekend shopping spree shipping offer at Zulily

Zulily Logo Weekend shopping spree shipping offer at Zulily

Zulily has a weekend shopping offer to get reduced shipping for orders placed this weekend.  If you place one order and pay for standard shipping, then all subsequent orders get free shipping for the rest of the weekend until Sunday at midnight pacific time. So, if you have your eye on anything over there , it could be a way to avoid shipping charges (those can really add up). I haven’t browsed through any of their sales, so let me know if there is anything awesome over there!

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How to Take Great Photos of Your Kids With the Camera You Already Have

“You must have a really nice camera, because your photos are great!” That is something that I hear alot , and sure, I have invested into my equipment, but the camera does not make the photo! It helps, but with just a little basic knowledge, anyone can take sharp, clear photos of their kids to save those special moments for a lifetime. A professional photographer is a great advantage (and in my opinion a must for family photos at least once a year and for the big milestones), but that doesn’t mean you can’t love the photos you take every day. With that in mind, I wanted to share just a few easy tips to help you take better photos of your kids. Some of these tips may seem to contradict each other, but they don’t! Photography is open to interpretation and trying more than one idea can give you a great variety of photos!

littleboycrawling 300x239 How to Take Great Photos of Your Kids With the Camera You Already Have

Get down on the ground next to a crawling baby

1. Get on their level. I’m sure you have heard this before, but it’s true. A child looks best when you are on their level and not coming from the top and catching only the top of their head. You want to capture those sweet round cheeks in full glory, and capture their expression. To do that, get down, move around or even lay on the ground. You can experiment with angles , but remember that alot of what goes on with a child is in their immediate area, the space right in front of them. It will be easier to capture them, their interests, and to get their attention if you want them to look at you.

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Go ahead and get really close!

2. Zoom in. Get close. Go ahead and get that close up of just their face. Some day when they are 17 and you want to remember their smallness, a photo with their chubby face and wide baby eyes will be cherished. Then zoom in on their little hands, their tiny toes, or their messy mouth after eating spaghetti. Look for the little things and go ahead and capture them. Every photo doesn’t need to be the standard “smile for the camera” head and shoulders or full body shot. Notice the details and get them on film.

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Zoom out and get perspective

3. Go ahead and zoom out,too. Get the big picture. Sometimes the juxtaposition , or contrast of shape and size, can give you a great perspective. For expample, that little person walking on the beach looks adorable when it fills up the photo, but when you take a step back and capture the wide expanse of the beach and the little person is in the corner of the photo, you suddenly see just how small they really are. Or, let them walk next to an adult and capture the difference of size. It’s a good way to document their smallness with a reference point. A big tree, a chair, Daddy’s boots, all kinds of things can provide contrast to a small child’s size and let you show it in your photo.

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Lighting can add so much to a photo

4. Remember the light! Let me say this again, REMEMBER the light. If there is one thing and one thing only to remember about basic photography, this is it. Photography literally means “painting with light”. That means you are the artist and the light is your brush. Use it to reveal your subject to their best advantage. You want the light to be on the subject and lighting it up so that you can clearly see exactly what you want on film. The flash is harsh, and while it comes in handy for indoor situations, you don’t want to count on flash to cancel out bad lighting. Basic rule- face your subject towards the light and don’t backlight (don’t put a light behind them). For example,if it’s birthday cake time and your child is sitting in front a bright window with their cake and you try to take a photo from a dimly lit kitchen, its a bad idea. The light behind will cause a silhouette effect or cause the details of the subject to be lost and you will get a shadowy photo. Instead, move the child where a wall is behind them and a light is in front them or above them , and you will capture the details much more cleary. You can, however, go too far the other way and light things up so brightly that it washes out the colors of the image. An example of that would be if you took photos outside on a sunny day, at noon, in a white shirt. The sunlight is bright, it’s a bright time of day, and the white shirt will throw even more light back at the face and washing out will occur. There are ways to compensate for all of this, but as a basic tip, just be aware of your lighting before you click.Use what you have to your best advantage and take a minute to think about the lighting before you start snapping. You will be glad you did! One more tip on this subject- window light has a great softness to it and can be a wonderful way to practice with your lighting. Sit your child a few feet away from a window with gentle natural light coming in and notice how that looks. See the soft light on their face and how nice the details of the features look? You can even pull a white curtain over the window and filter it a little if its very bright out. Don’t let lighting scare you, because it’s easier than it sounds. Try a few things and see what you like best!

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Catch them playing and doing what they enjoy instead of posing every time

5. Don’t say cheese! Never, ever tell them to say “cheese”. We have all heard the phrase, and most likely used it at some point. But who really wants a pic of a grimace anyways? That produces a fake smile and an awkward photo. Instead, try to ask them about what they enjoy doing, or do something silly that makes them giggle. You can always have someone stand behind you and talk to them if you prefer not to do two things at once. Some of my favorite photos of my kids have been taken when they had no idea the camera was out. I do still take the obligatory “look over here and smile” photos , but I love candids. They capture who the children really are and don’t make the kids dislike the camera. Try to be unobtrusive and sneak a few shots and see what you get.

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6. Focus…this may seem really simple, but I have heard a few comments lately about photos that seem blurry. That is because the focus is off and can happen for a few reasons, but with a point and shoot camera, it’s pretty easy to correct. Instead of just looking through the lens and clicking, try this: Frame the image, and then press half way down on your shutter button. That should make a little square pop up on the screen. That square(s) is where the sharpest part of your image will be. That means it should be the most important part of your photo. If it isn’t, release the shutter and recompose the image and try again. Press the shutter button halfway down, and if the square is where you want your focus to be, press the shutter button the rest of the way and take the photo.

7.Shutter speed- This one is getting closer to the DSLR camera range, but can be useful when shooting in auto as well. Many cameras have different auto shoot options for different types of photos. These options are for the shutter speed and will help your images be crisp and clear when you use the correct setting. For example, most cameras have a portrait (icon that looks like a head and shoulders of a person) setting. Choose this when you are shooting a tradtional head shot that won’t be giving a lot of movement. This is a good choice if you are shooting a photo of an older child or adult who knows how to hold still. The sports setting (a little man running is the icon) has a faster shutter speed and will prevent some of the blur from taking a shot while someone is in motion. This is a great choice for toddlers and small children who go places fast and move constantly. One thing about the sports setting is that since the shutter is only open for a short time, it reduces motion blur, but also lets in less light. That means you need to be sure that there is alot of light for a photo taken on sports/action setting. Then there is the little flower icon. This is good for something up close, like a rose or a shot of your dinner,etc. The image will be very clear , but the shutter stays open a bit longer and that means you need to hold very still while shooting under this setting. If you don’t it will get blurry. Try composing your photo, focusing by pushing the shutter button halfway, then taking a deep breath and holding it while you press the button the rest of the way. If you aren’t sure what setting you want to use, then choose auto and then experiment with the settings sometime when it’s convenient.

8. Change up the angle. Look for ways to angle your photos that will provide a creative view. Shoot from above, birds eye style. Or, lay on the floor and look up. Turn the camera sideways and see what happens. Shoot over the shoulder of a child to see their view of the world, capturing a favorite toy in play or a book being read. Play with it and see what you come up with.

I hope these simple ideas can help you feel more confident with the camera that you already have and that you can truly enjoy taking great photos of your family! Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

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Wordless Wednesday – Family Photo Time

My husband has a huge family with 2 different cultures combined (amish and us regular folks). We all got together a couple of weeks ago and had a cousin take this photo. I love it because we haven’t all been in one place for years and I don’t know when the next time will be! LehmanFamily4x6 300x199 Wordless Wednesday   Family Photo Time

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Easy Gluten Free Muffins – Basic Recipe

Image 300x300 Easy Gluten Free Muffins   Basic Recipe

The longer we attempt to live a gluten free lifestyle, the more I feel the need for a breakfast staple like I used to keep on hand for the kids to grab at a moments notice. I miss the breads, muffins, and toast that can be prepared ahead of time and eaten throughout the week. Today I came up with a recipe for gluten free muffins that not only whips up easily ,but tastes really good! This is a basic recipe that you can make as-is and then  spread jam or butter and honey on, or toss in some mix-ins for a different flavor.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cup almond flour (the almond flour is the key to avoiding dry muffins)

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF flour (or other GF flour blend)

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 t salt

1/3 c melted butter

3/4 c milk

Optional :  1 cup of blueberries, chocolate chips, other fruit or other mix ins -add last

Mix all of the ingredients together well. Pour by 1/4 cupful into muffin cups. Bake at 325 degrees for 22-27 minutes depending on how well you like them to be cooked. I prefer them just a little brown around the edges. Cool a few minutes to make removing them from the pan easier, and chow down on what I promise will feel like a “real” muffin!

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Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day

IMG 20140422 103746 5092 183x300 Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day

One of my spray bottles full of countertop spray.

Happy Earth Day! Do you do anything to mark the day, or is it just like any other day for your family?

In honor of the day I wanted to take a minute to share some of my homemade cleaner recipes with you. They are super simple, super cheap, easy, and eliminate the harmful chemicals that are in many of the commercial cleaners available. The basic recipes use the same ingredients in different combinations, so you don’t need to buy a ton of stuff to get started.

A note on the essential oils: There are many types, many brands, many prices, and many opinions. I do not buy the more expensive ones because the cheaper brands seem to work just as well. I do buy name brand for the Thieves oil because I am  a junky. That stuff is amazing. It is more pricey, but it lasts quite awhile.

Here are my top 4 cleaning recipes:

1. Countertop Spray
I use this literally every single day to clean the countertops and the table before meals and after doing dishes. I spray it down, let it sit a couple minutes, and wipe it down.
Ingredients:
Water
White Vinegar (1/4 cup)
Thieves Essential Oil Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day
(25-50 drops depending on the scent level you prefer)
Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle( any spray bottle will work- an old one that you washed out or ones that you purchased specifically for this purpose. I use bottles similar to THIS ONE  Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day.) Fill the rest of the way with water. Add your essential oil and shake well. I shake it before I spray also because the oils tend to separate. Easy peasy and it does a really great job at cutting through grease,etc. If you don’t have Thieves oil you can substitute any essential oil with antiseptic properties (Tea Tree, Clove,etc) or just use it with vinegar and water.

2. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
-This is very simple- Just pour straight white vinegar into the bowl, let it soak, brush and flush. The vinegar will remove lime scale, dirt, and most iron deposits easily and just as well as the nasty chemicals. I do periodically use a chemical cleaner on the toilets, but the vinegar is much safer and great for regular use.

3.Shower Cleaner
Ingredients:
1 cup of white vinegar
Water
Tea Tree Oil Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth DayOrange Essential Oil Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day or Lemon Essential Oil Homemade Cleaner Recipes for Earth Day (25-50 drops)
2 Tablespoons of Dish Detergent
Mix all the ingredients together in a spray bottle. The vinegar removes the soap scum and mineral deposits while the oils disinfect and leave a nice scent. The detergent helps the vinegar and oil to stick to the shower walls instead of running down quickly. If the drain has iron or mineral stains you can also let a mix of baking soda and vinegar soak on it for a few minutes. It will foam like a volcano from 6th grade science class. When it stops, scrub it and it will be shiny again.

4. Window/Glass Spray
Ingredients:
1 cup of rubbing alcohol
3 cups of water
20 drops of essential oil of your choice for scent (orange works well, or lavender smells nice)
Shake the ingredients together in a spray bottle and use with microfiber cloths(or paper towels if you like them) to get a streak free finish on mirrors and windows.

These are just some of my “go to” cleaners because they take seconds to throw together and I feel so much better about what I am putting on my counters and surfaces that my kids come into contact with. What do you use to clean at home?

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Behind the Blogger Facade

This post is different. It isn’t full of sunshine or sparkles. It won’t tell you how to make the perfect crafty decoration for your perfectly maintained home or how to save your money without feeling the pinch of budgeting or make you feel badly for preparing dinner from a box when you were just too dog tired to do anything else. My perfect children won’t make you feel like your parenting is lacking or something must be wrong with you. You know why? Because today I decided that , come what may, I am going to be real.

I haven’t blogged at all in months. I tried. I thought about it many times. The post ideas that I thought of that seemed “right” and on theme with my blog of being natural, frugal, and happy just felt all wrong to me. The little blurbs about a free sample of some product to send for, a way to save money, or a cutesy craft felt shallow and hypocritical because in reality, I haven’t been very thrifty. I have done very few art projects compared to what I used to and I haven’t even painted my kitchen walls in the year I have lived in this house. My house isn’t spotless and I am not wonderwoman. But, you know what, I am not complaining. There is nothing shameful with being imperfect or with sometimes making mistakes. In the blog world it is SO easy to see the shiny side of everyone else. After all, the only side of a blogger that we see is what they choose to share. The same holds true for Facebook and other social media. If you don’t want to share your shortcomings, you don’t need to.Sometimes that is nice because you can be the best you possible, the you that you want to be anyways. Nobody need ever know that you burnt dinner last night or that your laundry pile is so huge you can’t find 2 socks that match today. But along with that benefit comes the fact that strong, competent, amazing women don’t feel like they measure up. And that is not ok with me. So, here I am , admitting for everyone to see that I am far from perfect (everyone who actually knows me is nodding, smiling and agreeing).

I love the fact that we can encourage each other by what we post and share online. There are thousands of resources available for us with the typing of just a few words into Google…recipes, crafts, fashions, fixes for about any problem we can come up with. The downside is that perfectly normal women end up feeling like LESS. They feel like they don’t measure up or that they should have tried harder. Women who raise children with love and security feel like their parenting is falling short. Women whose bodies have carried and nurtured babies want to cover their beauty because it doesn’t look like that model who isn’t really that thin anyways.I am not only talking about Hollywood. We all know that those “stars” aren’t realistic and that their lives are often in shambles because they spend so much time keeping up appearances. What is needling me is that we can sign on the web and find blog after blog of women who are supposed to be just like us who are only presenting their best side. I have been guilty of that, and maybe you have too. We don’t want to complain or seem discouraging, so we don’t share the struggles. But you know, it’s OK to feel discouraged once and awhile. It’s alright to be REAL and to admit that people have problems. It doesn’t make us less because we admit it, it makes us stronger. There exists such potential to uplift one another through our comments and our posts, but there is also an opportunity to conceal and compare. I whole heartedly give you permission to come talk to me and be exactly who you are. God doesn’t turn away in disgust when we fall short, so why should be do that to ourselves? He lifts us up, brushes off and sets us back on the path. So do true friends. How much better could we make the internet if we are more like that?

I have come to a place in my life where I just need to be ME. It may be considered shallow, wrong, negative, or any number of things, but from here on out this is the real me. I want a place to share my life, my joys,my triumphs, my happiness, but also a place where I can be open when the sky just looks grey. This blog has been silent because I haven’t been sure how to put myself into it…and without that, it seems to be useless. So, in the future , things around here will be real. I may loose every single reader because it may change into something that nobody finds useful. But, I will be here. My goals, my failings, my successes, my random ramblings, and my honesty. I want to share with you all, but it has to be genuine. So, feel free to step back from my blog if you want, but I prefer you to stick around and be real with me.

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Fast and Yummy Chocolate Cake in an Mug

IMG 20131123 1717032 169x300 Fast and Yummy Chocolate Cake in an MugSome days call for chocolate cake. Some demand a fast fix. This sweet little recipe is the best of both worlds. Grab your coffee mugs, a fork, and some basic ingredients to whip up this delightful little treat.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

Chocolate chips (about 1/4 cup)

1 egg

3and 1/2 tablespoons of milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

2 tablespoons self-rising flour (you can make this by mixing 1 cup flour with 3/4 teaspoon baking powder)

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large mug. Whisk in the egg. Add the  milk, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, and flour. Mix well and divide into 2 mugs. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips in each mug.  Microwave each for 2 minutes, remove and enjoy!

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Free Minion Rush Game App

 

 Free Minion Rush Game App Free Minion Rush Game App
Maybe it’s because I have 3 goofy boys, but the minions from Despicable Me are considered super cool around my house. I can’t wait to show my kiddos this new Android app that I just downloaded for free, Despicable Me: Minion Rush Free Minion Rush Game App .
They have seen this game before on someone else’s device and loved it, so I am saving it for when boredom sets in at basketball practice tonight. You can download it for free,too. It will definitely be good for a few giggles!

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread Recipe

 

GFPB1 300x217 Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread Recipe


As you may know, my oldest son has a gluten allergy. That has been especially hard for him when he sees his favorite treats being enjoyed by other people. I have tried to compensate by making as many of his favorites as I can in a gluten free form, but that just doesn’t work very well with most breads. I have found that quick breads with rich flavors of their own are the easiest to recreate without sacrificing the taste that we know and love. Too many gluten free breads are also crumbly and dry. This pumpkin bread recipe is a new favorite because it is both scrumptious and moist. We can barely tell the difference between “traditional” and GF!

Here it is: (or go straight to the printable version without reading the rest of this post)

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread 

Ingredients:
1 cup mashed pumpkin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup oil
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour blend
1 teaspoon xantham gum or guar gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/3 cup water or milk
Mix dry ingredients. Add pumpkin and eggs. Add oil and
water/milk. Mix well. Pour batter into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes depending on size of
loaf pans. Tops of bread will be domed and toothpick will
come out clean when finished baking. Let cool, then place on
cooling racks. Bread is very moist, so cutting when cool
works best.

The printable form of this recipe is HERE.

Note: The gluten free flour blend I reference can be one you create yourself, or one that you purchase. If you are new to GF baking, buying one (I like Bob’s Red Mill GF flour blend) may be easier. If you want to blend your own, I suggest equal parts of several different flours (rice, tapioca, quinoa, fava bean,etc) to get a more well rounded flavor and texture. The xantham or guar gum helps the texture to be less crumbly.

I really hope that this can help other families enjoy their fall favorites this year. Please, let me know what you think!

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