Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Think of Her...

There are very few moments when I don't think of her. Every time I look at Lorelei, I see bits of Leila. The dark hair, the feisty personality. The constant movement. Leila was always moving when she was alive. She was always throwing her limbs around like she was dancing. A tiny, tiny dancer.

Lorelei is a ball of fire. She is moving every second that she is awake. I often capture videos of her dancing to odd sounds that most would not interpret as music like the dog panting after coming inside, the faucet dripping, the washing machine in spin cycle, or even Landon laughing. She hears music that no one else can hear and she is always smiling. She is my little miracle and she reminds me of that every day.

But no matter how individual Lorelei's personality is, I will always think of Leila when I look at her. Before Lorelei was born, I was afraid that this would be a painful experience for me: to look at one child and think of another. I even worried it would be painful for Lorelei when she was older if she felt like I wished she was her sister or something like that. But honestly, it doesn't feel like that at all. It is a very complex, difficult thing to describe, but when I look at Lorelei, I feel hope. I feel love. I feel complete. I miss Leila every single day, but I feel her presence with us, as though she is always with her sister.

**Author's note 6/22/2015**

I wrote this over 2 years ago and for some reason, I never hit "publish". I am not sure why. But as I read this, 2 years later, I am smiling because I still feel exactly the same way, and Lorelei has only grown into a more precocious and outgoing little individual. She still marches to the beat of her own drummer - heck, she DANCES to that beat, wildly and without abandon. She has taught me so much about life and self acceptance. I have never met a little girl quite like my Lorelei.

It's About Time You Knew the Truth

It's been almost 2 years since I last posted on this blog. This beautiful blog, that I started one day when I was feeling empty and needed somewhere to escape, and that I continued to run to for support when my days got darkest.

But even on the darkest of days, and boy have we seen some dark ones together, I never let go of hope, and I never allowed myself to appear anything less than hopeful and positive about the future.

And two years ago, I stopped posting. Right when my life started to seem to come together the way it was supposed to, and things in my world finally started to appear to be going beautifully, I disappeared. Without a goodbye, without an explanation, without fanfare.

I just *poofed*.

And for 2 years I neglected to give this blog, this little escape I had built for myself in the cyber world, any attention because I had allowed myself to believe a number of things that I think I have finally realized aren't true.

First: I believed my readers (if I really even have any...) only wanted to see positivity and happiness. Perfection, or some semblance of it. Or just someone who could fake it. And quite frankly, I stopped being able to fake it.

Second: I didn't want to bring any more tragedy, sadness, or negativity into the lives of the people who have read my blog and followed my story for so long.

Third: I didn't want to let you guys down.

So in order to not disappoint you, let you down, or allow you to see how truly flawed I am, I ran away. I ran away from my life in Texas, I ran away from my blog, and I ran away from a lot of pain I had never fully dealt with.

For the past year and a half, I have finally been doing something I should have been doing from the start. I put myself on the priority list. I wasn't at the top, as that spot is currently very firmly held by my children, but for the first time in years, I was ON the list. Maybe even second.

I finished school, or at least, I got my undergraduate degree. I graduated with honors, walked across the stage, shook hands with the president of my school, and was given my diploma (or if you want to get technical, it was this cool book thing that my diploma will go in when it is mailed to me. Because that's how they do it now, in case you wondered). But don't be fooled, my journey isn't over yet. I still have to complete graduate school.

I changed my life. Yes that's a big bullet point. But really, I CHANGED MY LIFE. I started eating right, I started exercising, I lost 30ish pounds, and I learned how to love the person in the mirror. For five years I looked in the mirror and became further removed from the person I saw looking back at me. I quietly and privately hated her. I struggled with body image, self acceptance, and had impossibly low self esteem. I didn't just hate the way I looked, I hated who I WAS. I hated my life, the way I felt, the things that had happened to me over the years. I blamed myself for Leila's death and never fully let go of the guilt, shame, and disappointment that losing a child can cause you to feel. But in the past year and a half, I have learned so much about myself and just how strong I am. It hasn't been easy, but I am still here, and I don't plan on going anywhere any time soon.

So here's the truth that I have come to realize: I am extremely, incredibly, without a doubt, riddled with flaws. I am so imperfect that I allowed myself to believe that no one would want to take the time to read anything someone as flawed as I am might have to say or share. But I finally had an epiphany I wish I would have had a year ago:

When I fall down, I have to get back up eventually, and as hard as it may be to get back up, when I succeed in doing that, I have learned something. I have conquered something out there that knocked me down, and may be knocking others down, too. If by sharing my journey, and all its ups and downs, I can help even just ONE person pick themselves back up and keep going, then this blog has succeeded.

So let me take one second to apologize for the flawed person that I am, but even more than that, let me apologize for not sharing that truth with you sooner, so that I might be able to help inspire or encourage other flawed humans out there who are just trying to make their way in the world.

I am not going to promise to blog more often, or to share recipes or craft ideas, because I really don't know what my involvement with this blog is going to be in the future. I just wanted to let you all know that I am still here, I still have love for all my readers throughout the years, and I am still pushing on, day in and day out.

Embrace your flaws. As soon as you do that, you will realize that they were strengths all along.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hello Summer!

Has it really been a whole month since I last posted?! Surely not!

Summer is in full swing here and we have been keeping busy with all kinds of fun activities.

This week I will share some tips, ideas, and fun crafts and recipes for you and the kids, but right now I am tired and have a super fun day planned tomorrow so I am just going to tease you with a few preview pictures and some photos of what we have been up to.

Creating habitats with Anamalz toys!

Leaving a morning surprise for my early riser in order to buy an extra hour of sleep! (Noodle blocks!)

A super cute summer dress 2 in 1!

Themed lunches

Super special Minnie outfit

Homemade fingerpaint and bathtub paint!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

DIY Household Cleaner using Soapnuts: How to Make Liquid Soapnut Concentrate

As you may have already read, I recently held a giveaway for NaturOli Soapnuts, which I used and reviewed. In my review and giveaway post, I talk about using soapnuts in your washing machine.

After I had been using soapnuts for a few weeks, I realized that I was going to run in to a problem. I was almost out of the 18x concentrated cleanser that they included in my order. It is amazing stuff and I used to to wash windows, pretreat clothes, wipe counters, you name it. It left my counter tops sparkling clean and my windows and mirror streak free and shiny.

I decided I needed to make some of my own, and it wasn't hard to figure out: concentrate = boiling for a long period of time until a reduced liquid is achieved. The process is pretty simple and anyone can do it at home, it just takes some diligence and patience. This is a great cleaner to use around the home and definitely a recipe to add to your all natural cleaner repertoire. Most importantly it is all natural, kid and pet safe, and doesn't use any harsh chemicals. One drawback is that since the only ingredients are soapnuts and water, it doesn't have any preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Because of this, it is probably best to produce it in smaller batches for immediate use, or larger batches with the intention of freezing for later use.

Soapnuts Concentrate Household Cleaner

10-15 soapnuts
2 cups water

Throw a handful of soapnuts into a pot. Make sure it is a pot that can withstand high heat.

Pour the water over the top. You will notice right away that the water is sudsy!

Boil rapidly for several minutes, stirring occasionally.

You should notice that the water will start turning a pale brown. Keep boiling until the liquid becomes darker and thicker, about 20-30 minutes. If the water gets too low, add more water. All in all, I used about 3-4 cups water and ended up with 6 oz of liquid when I was done!

After 20-30 minutes of watchful boiling, simmer for another 30 minutes. Check back frequently to stir the nuts and mash them gently with your spoon.

You will know your concentrate is down when the liquid has greatly reduced and turned a dark brown color. The soapnuts will be soft and mushy and much paler in color. Turn off the burner and let sit until slightly cooled. You will notice it has thickened even more upon standing.

While your liquid cools, place a mason jar or glass container in the sink with a funnel in it. Put a coffee filter in the funnel, and if you have it, a small mesh strainer on top of the funnel and coffee filter.

After the liquid has cooled for a few minutes, spoon out the soapnuts with a slotted spoon and place in a mesh strainer over a bowl.

Pour the remaining liquid through the strainer and funnel and let it drain into the jar. I had to let mine sit for quite a bit while it drained. Don't rush it or you may puncture your filter and have to start all over (guilty!).

 While you are waiting for the liquid to filter, let's squeeze as much precious cleaning power as we can out of the remaining soapnuts! Using a spoon, smash the soapnuts into the mesh strainer to remove as much liquid as possible. Then pour about a cup of super hot tap water (microwave it if you have to) over the soap nuts in the strainer, smashing as you pour.

I repeated this process a few times by using two bowls and filtering back and forth. When I was done, I ended up with about 8 oz of liquid soap nuts cleaner. It was about the same strength as what I was using for pretreating clothes and washing mirrors and windows so I was very pleased that I got this extra cup of cleaning power rather than just tossing the nuts into the trash. You can see the little measuring glass full of the liquid I was able to get from the used soap nuts. That would have all been lost if I hadn't done this last process! In the background of the above picture is my precious concentrated cleaner, still draining!

After your liquid concentrate has fully drained, you can store in a glass, airtight jar or container (I used a baby food jar), and use in your wash, or add an ounce to 24 ounces of water in a spray bottle for use around the house or for pretreating clothes.

It is important to remember that we didn't use any preservatives in this solution, so if you won't be using it all within a week or so, store the jar in the refrigerator or pour the liquid into an ice cube tray and store the frozen cubes in a baggie to easily grab one to thaw whenever you need it.

Another idea is to mix 5 oz liquid cleaner with 1 cups water and pour into an ice cube tray. Store the frozen cubes in a baggie in the freezer and throw a whole frozen cube into the wash. This will allow the solution to be powerful enough to do the job (based on using about 1 tsp per wash) but in a size that is easy to store and grab, rather than having to thaw out a whole cube and measure out 1 tsp every time you need to do laundry.

I hope you enjoy your easy to make, all natural household cleaner and pretreater. I know I do!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Banana Oat Pancakes: Easy and Kid Friendly!

I have been making pancakes for as long as I can remember. I mean honestly, I don't even know how long I have been making pancakes, but I have a feeling the number of years would probably make me feel old so we will just say "a long time". I have been making pancakes for a very very long time....

When I was younger, pancakes always came "from a box"... Jiffy to be precise. Then as I got older my Nana introduced me to her favorite "Krusteaz" which technically came in a bag... Then I moved away and had a child and decided that he would only eat homemade-from-scratch pancakes like my incredibly mouth watering Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate chip pancakes. But after a few years of making different versions of that recipe, I realized: there are FIFTEEN ingredients in that recipe. 15!!! Wow. Not only is that a lot of work and a lot of measuring (and we all know I loathe measuring), but that is a lot of junk in a breakfast food that really doesn't provide any kind of nutrition in the first place... 

So then I started adding more oats and whole wheat flour and less white flour and little to no sugar. I would add applesauce or a banana and use almond milk, sometimes I would add pumpkin... I reworked every version of a pancake recipe in every way you could think: but they always had flour.

Then a friend of mine said "Have you made banana pancakes yet?". And I kind of chuckled and to myself said "Well yeah I have made banana pancakes... ", referring to slicing up bananas and folding them into my batter, but instead I said "what do you mean?". And thank goodness I did because she said "all you do is mash a banana with an egg and cook it."


Apparently this recipe had been floating around Pinterest for a while and I have seen it but never really put much thought to it... I did try the banana and oatmeal cookies recipe that I saw on Pinterest and fell in love with them. So I decided to take my friend's pancake suggestion and merge it with the oatmeal cookie recipe and created a pancake that both my kids absolutely love... and so do I!

Banana Oat Pancakes
1-2 bananas
2 eggs
1/2 ish or so cup oats (I used quick because it is what I had. Old fashioned would certainly be a good choice but I would pulse them in a magic bullet or blender first to help the texture)
Healthy splash of vanilla (or a glug... more like a glug)
1 tsp cinnamon (it may look like a lot but these fragrant pancakes will be worth it)

Add Ins
Chocolate Chips
Chopped nuts
Diced strawberries
Whatever you can think of!
I got too excited and mashed the banana and egg with some oats before I remembered to take a picture... oops!

This is a perfect job for kids. Here Landon is mashing the banana up. It was so much fun talking to him about the way the masher made little squares, how it sounded, how it looked, what did he think it would feel like if he touched it, etc etc. Getting kids in the kitchen is a wonderful way to boost their vocabulary and create some great dialogue, learning opportunities, and new experiences. It is also a great way to get kids to try stuff they wouldn't normally try - something about helping to make it takes away the fear of trying new things!

Adding the egg and whisking it all up. Landon is an awesome egg cracker! I never would have thought a 4 year old could crack an egg but I decided to teach him one day and now he likes to crack all of the eggs by himself.

After Landon got all done stirring up the eggs, banana, and oats, we added the cinnamon and the splash of vanilla. I love vanilla and cinnamon and I wanted these pancakes to have a heavy scent that filled the kitchen... oh boy did they! I was also pleased with how the addition of the vanilla and cinnamon took the spotlight off the banana and made them more reminiscent of a pancake you would expect to find at IHOP or somewhere like it.

Drop them onto a hot griddle greased with coconut oil, butter, or whatever you like to use, and sprinkle with your add ins. We added chocolate chips for the two of us, and left them plain for the baby. I did not let Landon help with this part (anything involving the oven or stove is off limits for him), so he went to set the table while I finished up. I think I had them at medium heat and they probably cooked for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Flip them carefully. These little guys are tricky to flip because they tend to slip all over the place. It is more akin to flipping a fried egg than a pancake, since this is egg based, so be careful and patient when flipping or you will end up with a folded up pancake... but don't worry, it will still taste great! (I know from experience).

So there you have it. A delicious, easy breakfast you can make with your kids, by yourself, or beg your boyfriend to make for you. Whatever suits you ;).

I will also say: these freeze beautifully. Make them in bulk and freeze them to have on hand for an easy breakfast. They freeze so much better than regular pancakes which get soggy when thawed and reheated... These cook right back to deliciousness in the microwave or skillet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lorelei's Nursery Makeover: DIY Easy Frame Collage Tutorial Using Waxed Paper

About 6-7 years or so ago when I was in college, Pottery Barn had several uber cute pictures in their catalog of a collage of frames above a couch in a very expensive living room that I knew I would never be able to afford. But some very amazing and clever friends of mine recreated something similar in their VERY posh apartment that I have never been able to get out of my head (Jessica and Steven if you read this, yes I still think about your awesomeness!).

For years now I have thought about how cool their frame wall looked and I knew I was going to do it one day... But I never really had the time, place, energy etc... At my house in California I did something sort of like what I wanted to do, but it was on a very small scale and though I had always intended to expand it, it ended up smaller and smaller... See those frames on the right? That was my feeble attempt at a cool wall collage. Thanks to a stick horse that Landon used to strategically knock the frames off the wall, the frames ended up in pieces so eventually the collage was dismantled and the expansion of said collage never happened.

When I was planning Lorelei's room I knew I wanted a statement wall. Three of the walls in her room are white and I knew I wanted to put something spectacular on one of the walls. I also knew I didn't want to put the frames over her crib in case we had a rough storm and it knocked one of the frames loose while she was asleep (crazier things have happened!).

The biggest thing that I knew for certain was that I wanted to do this quickly and efficiently. I didn't want to spend hours measuring and planning and marking on the wall. I just wanted it to be easy and quick.

So after I prepared and painted and got all of the frames ready, it hit me.

I would use wax paper to make the perfect frame collage. Why didn't I think of this sooner? Surely this is genius in its purest form! Or just a happy accident, like most of my ideas...

So I started by playing around with the frames I wanted on my wall by shifting them around on the ground. Originally I started with a much larger number of frames. After playing around, I whittled it down to what you see here. Then I measured about how large my collage was going to be and wrote that measurement down.

Then I rolled out my waxed paper to just a little bit larger than my width (or length, depending on how you think, but I am talking about the horizontal length here) and tore three pieces in that length. If you have a bigger collage (vertically) than mine, you may need more pieces. But you get the general idea.

Once you have your wax paper, lay it out as straight and flat as you can, then tape in place carefully using Scotch or clear tape. I used big bright zebra tape because it was what I had on hand. After I got done with the tutorial I found my clear tape, but I was so glad I was done I didn't want to retake all the pictures just for the sake of the gaudiness sheer awesomeness of my tape. Oh and ignore the big bruise on my knee... and the fact that my knees were in this at all. I was trying to do this quickly so I snapped pictures as quickly as I could in between steps... oops!

Make sure the edges dont overlap or it will affect the straightness of your collage once you go to hang it on the wall. I used the edge of my wall to keep it straight and kept it there for when I laid my frames on top. Feel free to tape it to the carpet or floor to keep it from shifting. When you are ready to transfer to the wall, simply pull gently off the ground and fold the tape to the was paper so it doesn't stick to the wall in the wrong place.

Next lay the frames on top of the waxed paper exactly how you want it to look. I took a picture when I had my frames laid out to measure in the first step so that I could refer to it to get the frames perfect.

Using a black sharpie, carefully trace each of the frames as close to the edges as you can.

Remove all the frames and make sure it looks right to you before moving on.

Next decide how high up on your wall you want the collage to be, then hang the waxed paper collage on the wall. I decided I wanted the top of my collage to be exactly 12" from the ceiling. You can see I wrote that on the paper for my own benefit.

I wanted the whole collage to be almost centered on the wall (I chose to have it a few inches closer to the door than exactly perfect since the wall across from the door had a lot going on. I found this more visually appealing). I measured my wall and found where I wanted it to go, then measured 12" down from the ceiling and marked with a very small dot where the corner of my waxed paper template would need to hang. I repeated on the other side and taped the template in place. Then I measured again after taping to make sure it was perfectly even and didn't shift. Then I secured the bottom in place as well, making sure to smooth out the waxed paper carefully.

Then, starting in the upper left hand corner (because I felt like it), I placed my hangers on the wall. I used a variety of hangers I bought in a pack at Wal-Mart and chose each hanger based on the weight of the frame and the strength of the hanger. My favorite ended up being the little white ones because they were very easy to place and hang and very strong, but needed almost zero force to hang (a tiny tap from a hammer did it, but I could also press it in with my thumb) and left a tiny hole in the wall which was helpful if I needed to adjust it. This is due to the fact that they use gravity to stay put and don't actually need to be placed on a stud (though it wouldn't hurt!).

To  make sure I placed the wall hangers in the right spot I measured the hanger on the back of the frame and then marked it's placement on the template. I could have laid the wax paper over the top of the frames flipped back side up and marked them that way but I was anxious to get the collage up on the wall and this seemed just as easy and a little less complicated than  trying to keep the wax paper from wrinkling and slipping over a bunch of bulky frames.

As you can see in the picture above, I made a dot where the hanger on the frame is, but that isn't necessarily where the wall hanger needs to go: to make sure it lined up, I placed the receiving hook part of the wall hanger directly over the dot.

I hung the frame on top of the waxed paper to make sure I had it in the right spot, then moved on to the next frame. When I was finished, I stepped back and made sure I had them all how I wanted them to be, then gently pulled the waxed paper down, ripping it away from the nails and anchors and hangers. I didn't bother removing the frames because I really didn't have to, but if you are worried, feel free to take them down first.

Be careful when removing the paper if you don't want to remove the frames. Don't go nuts and rip it straight off the wall or you will likely get nailed in the head by a frame. Instead, first remove the tape, then pull straight down by pressing your hand flat against the wall on top of the waxed paper and drag it down. It should come away rather easily.

Now you are done! Dust off your hands and pat yourself on the back while you admire your gorgeously decorated wall!

 Ignore the empty frame... I haven't made up my mind what I want to put there or if I just want to rip away the back to expose the wall like in the other tiny frame.

Another empty frame to ignore, but I do have a project in mind for that one! Just have to do it! You can also catch a glimpse of my curtains I made. I just love how they turned out. And of course the Ombre Rosette Pillow and the Drab to Fab Rocking Chair Re-Do. I have had so much fun redecorating my baby girl's bed room!