Friday Favorites 03/06/15

It’s FRIDAY! I am thrilled to see Friday roll around this week. It is (hopefully) the last below zero day for the season , it’s the end of ISTEP testing at school, and it’s the official start of the weekend. Need I say more? Oh, and I get to share my favorite finds of the week.

 Friday Favorites 03/06/15  Friday Favorites 03/06/15

Favorite #1: Photo Editor by Aviary Friday Favorites 03/06/15

I have been using my iphone more and more frequently as my camera to catch pics of the kids and their sporting events, at home, and even for my blog posts. It’s always with me anyways and it makes one less thing to carry around. The pics are decent enough, but they often end up a little dark. I downloaded this free photo editing app a few months ago and I really love it! It is super easy to use and has the basic editing tools plus a few more that I am used to using on Photoshop. Since Photoshop just isn’t practical for my phone, I like the simplicity of tapping a few buttons and improving the sharpness , color, and lighting of my pics. There are also options for frames and text that are fast and easy. Best of all, it’s free. As Ken would say , “free is my favorite brand”.

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 Favorite #2: Everything Barnwood

I adore the current trend of creating new things from old and I have a soft spot for old -barns. The way they stand there with their graying wood, hand-hewn beans and history of families working and living together just makes me feel a connection with the generations before us. So I am loving all of the great ideas to make pieces of furniture or home decor out of old barns. It’s a piece of someone else’s story turned into my story. I ordered this coffee table from Echo Peak Design on Etsy and can’t wait to get it!

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Favorite#3: Crock-Pot Soap (otherwise known as Hot Process Soap)

I have been making soap for awhile now, but only in the last couple of months have I experimented with Hot Process soap. It’s so much easier than I thought it would be and the best part is that the soap is ready to use weeks sooner than with the cold process method. I love it!

What have you fallen in love with lately? I would love to hear about it!  If you want to see what other bloggers are favoriting this week or link up yourself, come on and join the party at Simply Sweet Home for Friday Favorites.

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Honey Pecan Granola Recipe

photo 2 225x300 Honey Pecan Granola Recipe

Yum! This stuff is seriously the best granola I have ever tasted.  Ken (my hubby) loves a good granola and I have been working on getting just the perfect recipe. A friend passed this one along last week and we are hooked! The flavor is just what you expect- warm, honeyed oat filled goodness – and the ingredients leave out all of processed stuff. One thing I especially love is that this recipe uses coconut oil and that is a superb way to increase our consumption of the “good fats” without even noticing. Not to mention that it saves us $ when I make it myself instead of shelling out $6 for 12 oz at the local farmer’s market.

When I find a recipe for something that I feel good about feeding my boys and they actually consume it willingly, you know it’s a keeper. My 3 boys have all been chowing down on this granola every chance they get (4 if you count Ken) and I may have snuck a few bites when it was so hot it burnt my mouth warm and fresh from the oven. It’s that good. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we have been!

photo 1 203x300 Honey Pecan Granola Recipe

 

HONEY PECAN GRANOLA

Mix together in a large bowl:

8 cups of oats (I use THESE Honey Pecan Granola Recipe  organic rolled oats, but any kind of rolled oats will do)

2 cups of pecans (you could use other nuts instead or mix it up half & half)

1 and 1/2 cup ground flax meal

Heat to boiling in a sauce pan:

1 cup of coconut oil

1 cup of honey

1.5 teaspoons of salt ( I use sea salt and it tastes great)

1/2  cup brown sugar

1/4  cup Maple Syrup (grade B is fine and more economical)

3 teaspoons of cinnamon

3 teaspoons of vanilla

Stir well and continue stirring while it boils for one minute. Then pour over the oat mixture and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated. Divide the mixture onto 2 greased (coconut oil is great) cookie sheets and bake for 10 minutes at 325. Stir the granola, paying attention to the edges and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. When this loveliness is done baking, spread it on parchment paper to cool. It’s quite delicious at this point if you want to give it a try! The granola stores well in quart-sized mason jars, but I couldn’t say how long it will keep because it has never lasted more than 3 days around here! This recipe will make approximately 4 quarts of granola.

Enjoy!!

Love from my kitchen to yours,

Megan 

 

 

 

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Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

image 225x300 Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies What do we do when it snows for the third time in 2 weeks and we find ourselves stuck in our house yet again? Bake our favorite chocolate chip cookies, of course! The mood was getting rather grouchy after I told the boys that their long awaited visit from special friends had been canceled due to the winter storm. Finding out that school tomorrow is also canceled helped a bit, and filling their tummies with warm cookies and milk brought the grins back to their little faces.

These chocolate chip goodies are the soft and gooey kind, chewy and melt -in- your -mouth scrumptious. I hadn’t made these in a very long time because we save them for those occasions where we just need some comfort food, regardless of calories or sugar. Our dear friend gave me the recipe years ago and it has stayed my go-to recipe ever since.  Simple, scrumptious, and perfect!

image1 225x300 Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s the recipe , because you know you want some  too!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Beat together :

3/4 c white sugar

3/4 c packed brown sugar

1 c crisco

Then add 2 eggs and 2 tsp vanilla

Beat til smooth.

Mix in 2 & 1/4 c flour

1  tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

Mix and add 1 bag of chocolate chips. Bake at 375* for 8-10 minutes.

 

 

 

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Happy 2015!

Another year has flown by and here comes 2015  already! That means I will be correcting myself for writing 2014 on all of my checks for a few months before I get it through my mind that it really is a new year. I’m not big on New Year resolutions because they tend to stress me out more than they actually improve my life.  Maybe less stress should be my resolution ,hmm? Anyways, happiest of wishes to you and yours for the brand new year!

 

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Grain Free Mug Muffin – Fast and Easy

I have been attempting to eat much less grain with the goal of eventually completely eliminating it from my diet. It is not an easy adjustment and sometimes I just want to eat some bread ! So. I have been experimenting with a few recipes for a fast and easy muffin made in a coffee mug. There were some that turned out ok, some REALLY bad and this one is the one that I actually enjoyed eating. It is slightly different in texture than what you would be used to if you use wheat flour, but since I have been(mostly) gluten free for awhile, it tastes better than some of the wheat alternatives. Sometimes you just gotta’ have a muffin for breakfast, and this one is super fast and can be made quickly to stop myself from eating something I shouldn’t. 

 

Grain Free Mug Muffin 300x300 Grain Free Mug Muffin   Fast and Easy

Grain Free Mug Muffin

Mix together in a coffee mug the following :

1/4 cup almond flour (I use Honeyville  Grain Free Mug Muffin   Fast and Easy )

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 Tablespoons of apple butter or applesauce

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1 egg

1 Tablespoon sugar (or equivalent  sweetener of your choice – I use Coconut Sugar Grain Free Mug Muffin   Fast and Easy  )

Stir it up and pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. It will be steamy when it comes out. Give it a few seconds to cool and you can eat it right out of the mug with a spoon or pour it out of the mug onto a plate.

This is my new go-to. I am thinking it might be good with chocolate chips or cocoa mixed in ,too.

This recipe can be adapted for Wheat Belly diet compliance if you choose sweetener that is allowed on the plan. 

 

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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!

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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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