Monday, February 18, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bedroom: Done

Finally! I know I've mentioned before that our bedroom was the last unfinished room in our house. When we bought our house, it was painted blue. Bright blue. Smurf blue.

You can see it behind Lissie here. Also, check out four year old Lissie--it's so strange to see her with all of her teeth!

It wasn't a bad color. It was actually very pretty, in some ways. It was just a very intense color, and I always felt kind of overwhelmed by it.

So I painted the room. I can't remember how long we'd lived here then, but under a year. I chose a pretty bluey-greeny-gray color (depending on the light) that every bedroom seemed to be around that time. I believe the exact color was Sherwin Williams Window Pane. And it was better. Sort of. It was definitely less intense, but one thing I didn't consider when choosing the color was that our north facing bedroom was already kind of gloomy. And in winter? Yuck. Seriously, it was cold, blah, and frankly, kind of depressing.

You can see it used in a sunny nursery on Apartment Therapy, where it's gorgeous. It doesn't even look like the same color.

Then I just kind of left it that way, for the next two years. Obviously, as you'll see in the other "before" photos, there was a lot more wrong with the room than just the paint color! But I knew I didn't love it, and I was never inspired to do anything with our room.

I finally took some pictures last month, and sent them to Ellen Kennon. I'm sure I've talked about her here before, because she's fabulous. She has helped me chose all of the paint colors in my house, and I don't know what I did before I knew about her--wait, I do know: I constantly repainted everything!

In my e-mail, I told Ellen that I wanted the room to feel warmer and cozier, and that I'd like a color that feels refreshing when I wake up in the morning. She sent back a list of five colors, and Brad and I quickly picked the one we wanted. Then, I ordered the paint, and due to a few mix ups, waited an agonizing month to get it.

And then, this:

So now when I wake up in the morning, instead of seeing this:

I see this:

The couch was moved to our porch, because nobody ever sat on it in our bedroom. This meant we could move the desk back to the other side of the room, across from the bed, which left space for us to bring the third dresser back up from the basement.

That gave me more drawer space--so no more t-shirts crammed in (and peeking out of) the drawers!

Ugh. Also, I moved a heap of "clean enough to wear again" clothes off the dresser before I took this picture:

Voila! No room for clothes:

Notice the pictures stacked under the dresser? I won't tell you how thick the layer of dust was, but I will tell you that there were more pictures stacked under the couch.

The blue plate is one of only two new things in this room. It's a "Pisces" (Brad's astrological sign) plate I found in a thrift store. I thought it was funny, and I liked the color, so I got it.

The other new thing is the gold branches on the wide dresser, also thrifted. Everything else was stuff I already had, and most of it was already in this room. It's crazy to me how different the room looks and feels, with just a few relatively simple (and cheap) changes. Unfortunately, it also means I really have no excuse for how bad it looked before!

Now, if I could just find the right curtains.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Math Cards

I've been wanting to make these, and the alphabet version, for a while now. Grimm's sells lovely sets of both, and I've gone back and forth about ordering them. The prices are reasonable, but we're on a tight budget right now, and I literally had everything I needed to make these. I haven't worked much with watercolors, so I wasn't sure how the letters and numbers would turn out, but I decided it would be silly not to at least try.

Fortunately, I'm mostly pleased with the results. I made three sets of numbers, plus the basic math symbols.

I took sheets of our 8x11" watercolor paper (already painted) and used my rotary cutter to cut each one into 12 3x4 inch rectangles.

I found that it was best to use cards without too many different colors (don't worry, I am saving the rest of these lovelies for another project!) and to use a darker color in a similar shade for the number.

They were actually very easy to make. If pressed, I might even admit it that it was kind of fun. Ariana stayed up late and helped me with them. Actually, she made one number, a slightly wonky "6".

And just when I started feeling superior in my watercolor number painting skills, she showed me these:

And these:

And then I totally felt like an artist, because some of the backgrounds she used were mine! But seriously, aren't they great? I can't wait to frame them. They're tiny, so I'm not quite sure how yet, but I'll post pictures once they are done.

I also have these, that we'll be using with the math cards. Here's where I deviate a bit from traditional Waldorf:

These are Montessori inspired bead materials that I have been making for what seems like years now. I changed the colors from the traditional Montessori colors, so they match the colors of our Cuisenaire rods, which we'll use later on.

We have "gems" to use too, of course, but after a certain point, I find that children (and by "children," I mean my one other child, who I homeschooled years ago) still like to use the beads, but are beyond needing to count out every number for every math problem, which can get a little tedious after a while. This is a nice in-between for them.

Monday, February 11, 2013

In Perpetuity

I don't know why I've been doing so many little wooden crafts lately. I think I love that they are quick to get out, set up, and put away. They also don't require a lot of space while you are working on them, and can often be finished within a few hours. I guess I actually do know why! They're perfect for me right now.

I saw a darling little perpetual calendar on Pinterest recently, which linked back to the Mamaroots blog. If you're not familiar with that blog, I suggest you get over there and start reading! Her calendar was a little different than mine, with unfinished wood blocks and a sweet gnome to go with the month: Mamaroots: Weekending and September Beginning.

I decided to paint my month blocks, because I just learned how to use watercolor paint on wood (not that it's difficult--you just paint it on!), so why not make everything rainbow colored?

I got a bunch of these unfinished wooden rectangles from a thrift store, in with some math supplies. I wasn't sure how they'd be useful for math, so I've been using them for crafts instead. These are wider on two sides, so I couldn't fit four months on each block, like I'd originally planned. I think it worked out well with two months per block though. The little card stand the calendar sits on is another thrift store find.

The small number blocks came from a craft store (Hobby Lobby, I think), and they also sell sets of stamps with all of the months and numbers 0-9. Which was perfect. Much better than my original plan of buying two alphabet sets of stamps (uppercase and lowercase), and stamping on each letter individually. I had enough trouble keeping the month stamps straight. I think that the other method would have been a perfectionist's nightmare!

I didn't plan on the cards. I bought these seasonal post cards by Ruth Elsaesser forever ago, when I was homeschooling Ariana (she graduated last year!), and sort of tucked them away and forgot them. I rediscovered them recently, and think they're perfect for this.

Lissie is in charge of changing the numbers each day, the months each month, and the little postcard pictures whenever she is ready for a (seasonally appropriate) change.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Caramel loving Feingolders such as myself will surely have noticed the dearth of caramel sauces in the Foodlist. I found exactly one listed, by Monin, which is a brand I have never seen for sale locally.

I seriously considered trying some off-list brands of caramel, but once I looked at the ingredients, I couldn't. I saw some with better ingredients, but they were pricy, and I want to dump a jar caramel on everything, so I couldn't justify it. I know you can make it, but all of the stirring and temperature taking intimidated me, and I never tried. So for a very long, very sad time, I went without caramel on my ice cream.

But no longer. Did you know you can simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk for four to five hours, and at the end you have caramel? I'm not kidding. It's like magic. I used Eagle brand (because it was cheapest, not because it's "most trusted").

I'd read about doing this, but it seemed too good to be true, and I was wary. Until friends brought some over one night. Clouds parted, angels sang. I was hooked.

This stuff has two ingredients: milk and sugar. It's practically health food.

First, remove the labels.

Then, put the cans in a deep pan, and add enough water to generously cover the cans. A stock pot is ideal, really, but let's not talk about the one I bought at a garage sale to use for canning, and how it sat unused in my basement for two years, until I brought it upstairs to make caramel. And let's definitely not talk about the horrible "what did they cook in this thing?" smell that lingered in my kitchen for two days, even though the pan appeared clean, and I washed it before I used it.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Check every so often, and add water if you need to, to keep the cans submerged. If the water gets too low and the cans are uncovered, they can explode.

I've read all kinds of variations on how long to let it cook. I found 4 hours and 45 minutes (give or take, it's not an exact science) perfect. I think that the longer you go, the thicker it gets, but my understanding is that it will never get as thick as caramel candy.

Once it's done, you do have to wait for it to cool to open it. I usually let mine cool in the pan until the water is lukewarm, then I pour out the water and add cold water. Once the cans are cool enough to handle, they are safe to open.

See? Magic!

Once the can is open, dump the caramel into a bowl, and give it a good stir. I also recommend adding  a half a teaspoon or so of sea salt at this time. If you like that sort of thing (I do).

Also, because the milk is canned, unopened cans can be stored in your cupboard for up to a year. So make extra.


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Snowy Day

This obviously wasn't staged. If I'd planned it, I would have used my camera instead of my phone!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Feingold Diet: Two Years Later

I'm a little late on this one! I realize Feingold is an understaffed volunteer organization, but I do wish they had a better notification system for the end of your subscription than "you know, I haven't gotten the newsletter in a while. I wonder..." Still, it has been such a blessing for us, that I really can't complain. 

I have noticed that I get a lot of visits to my site from people searching for Feingold information, but if you're unfamiliar with the Feingold diet (this also assumes you are curious about it!) here is a good place to start. If you're interested in reading more about our experiences with Feingold, I have talked about them here and here.

It has been a little over two years now, and we are all still following the Feingold diet. We've branched out a bit, and although we are fairly diligent, we have started experimenting with "unapproved" items here and there. We are still primarily eating stage one foods, because Lissie seems very sensitive to most salicylate containing foods in large quantities. She does seem to tolerate most, aside from tomatoes and apples, in small quantities, so we are happy about that.

If you are here because you are new to Feingold, I want you to know that as overwhelming as it was when we started, it is so easy now that I rarely give it a second thought. Please don't stress, you'll get there too! 

One thing that helps is that the Foodlists really don't seem to vary all that much from year to year. That makes it easy to keep track of acceptable brands. I wasn't much of a brand loyalist before Feingold, but still, I tended to buy the same products over and over. Now with fewer options, I just buy the same brands (of the same products) all of the time--which is actually easier in some ways! Of course, I do most of my own cooking. If you use a lot of processed products, then I can see where that could get boring after a while. 

Restaurants are a little trickier. You definitely have more options if you eat meat, so that's nice. Keep your restaurant guide handy when you travel! At home, I recommend finding a great local restaurant that actually makes the food. Go when they're not busy, and ask questions (you can always call ahead too). Get to know the people who work there. It might take a few tries to find "the one," but it's worth it. Seriously, we spent the first two years only eating at Panera or Culver's, but now we have three real restaurants we feel comfortable eating at, and it's so nice not having to suggest Panera for dinner with an out of town guest! Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against these places (though they obviously aren't the healthiest options), I just like variety. I am grateful for all of the companies that have gone through the effort of getting their products in the books, and I am happy to support them whenever I can.

Now that we have eating at home and eating in restaurants figured out, the part I hate most about doing Feingold is eating at other peoples' houses--but I love eating at other peoples' houses, so you can see my dilemma! Unfortunately, most people don't get it, or even if do they get it, they still don't quite get it. So that's an area where we tend to be a little more relaxed. I ask a lot of questions, and if something seems like it's probably okay, we eat it. It's generally fine, though not always for Lissie. Sometimes you do have to be assertive (and annoying). It sucks, but for us, the alternative is just not worth it. Maybe your reactions are less severe, and it is worth it. Lucky you! If you're not that lucky, I recommend, especially at first, that if you're going somewhere where you suspect that the food won't be okay, bring food. Pack a meal for the kids, or better yet, bring a dish to share. If that's not an option, feed them before you go. If neither of those will work, let them eat only the things you are pretty sure are okay, and stop for a burger on the way home (just don't tell anybody this is what you are doing!). Most people will understand. Even if they don't really understand. 

Now, onto our off-list experimenting. This is NOT something I recommend doing until you are comfortable with Feingold, your child has been on it for a while, and you know what reactions look like (don't worry if you don't know, you'll learn). Years ago, I read guidelines on how to test a wild food to find out if it is safe to eat (you know, in case I am ever stranded in the wilderness somewhere!), and I remember that it said that you should only test foods that are available in sufficient quantities to make it worth your time, because it is a process that takes several days and has the potential to cause severe discomfort. Are you seeing the similarities here? I try to keep those things in mind when we are thinking about trying something new.

When we try something that is not approved, it is generally something that is not listed in the Foodlist, or if it is, the approved brands are not readily available in our area. Occasionally there are things that are listed and available, but would be prohibitively expensive to buy in the quantities we'd like. If it's something I would only use a couple of times per year, we do without, but if it's something we'd like to use often, then it might be worth trying. Once we have identified a need, we look at the ingredients of the products that are available. Some foods are easier than others. Low or non-fat dairy products, for example, are things I wouldn't risk unless I was desperate. In a lot foods though, if you can find a product that "reads" clean, that's worth something. Of course, we Feingolders know to be wary of those tricky hidden ingredients. You might try contacting the manufacturer and asking about that type of thing (this isn't anything I have tried, but you could do it). If you do find an item you'd like to try, I recommend following the Feingold guidelines for reintroducing salycilate containing foods in stage two. My husband and I tend to eat more items like this, and only rarely allow the kids to try things. 

It's also helpful to remember that not everybody is sensitive in the same way. Just like some of us are more (or less) sensitive to certain salicylates or food dyes, some of us might be more sensitive to other risky additives. I have noticed that Lissie and I tend to share a lot of the same sensitivities (except, fortunately, I don't hit or bite people when I am reacting), so if we're considering testing something I can try it first. If I feel off after eating it, we've avoided a potential reaction in Lissie. This isn't one hundred percent effective, however. We've had a couple of bad experiences with products that look okay, and that I can eat without any problems, but that caused reactions for Lissie. I do wonder if Lissie might be less sensitive to preservatives than some other people seem to be, but maybe we've just gotten lucky in that area so far. "Natural" flavors, on the other hand, have been a big issue for us, so we're pretty cautious about those.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons
Photo credits:
Candy hearts: jamz196
Panera interior: ReneS'