A U.F.O. just became a C.P.

My 2-year-in-the-making U.F.O. (unfinished object) just became a C.P. (competed project)! FINALLY!
I started this quilt over 2 years ago. It was the Mystery Quilt for Lutherlyn's Mystery Quilt Retreat in 2008. I started it that January because I was testing the pattern to make sure everything was correct before we passed it out to all of the participants. It was my first quilt ever so I finished the top and then I didn't know how to do the borders, the backing, or the binding. So, I put it away for a while, worked on other projects, and learned more quilting techniques.

I have been working on it again lately. I promised myself that I would not start another Mystery Quilt (we do this retreat annually) until I finished this one. I finished the backing and binding in January but I didn't feel like it was compete. It is hard to tell from the picture but the dark green fabric has dragonflies on it. So, the last step to completion (and the most time consuming) was hand sewing dragonfly outlines into the big blocks: Honestly, if I knew how long it was going to take I probably would not have done it. But, I am happy with how it turned out so I am glad that I took the time to add the dragonflies.

This past weekend was the 2010 Mystery Quilt Retreat. I started this year's Mystery Quilt after I completed this one. I can't take 2 years for this one, it is going to be a baby/baptism gift for a friend very soon.

Lutherlyn hosts 4 quilting/crafting retreats each year along with a quilt show in October and a Quilt Auction in July. I absolutely LOVE the retreat weekends. The women who come to these retreat weekends are some of the kindest and most fun women I have every spent time with. This past weekend there were 65 women ranging in age from early 20s to early 80s and we all had a wonderful time together! Just another thing that I LOVE about my job and about the ever-growing Lutherlyn family!


Breakfast of Champions!

Just a quick post....

I made yogurt for the first time ever and I could not believe how easy it was! So, for breakfast every day I have been eating yogurt with a little bit of jam or apple butter mixed in it for some fruity flavor and some granola added for a little crunch. All things that I made! It is yummy and it feels great to know that I know exactly what is in it because I made every part of it. Just another step in the "real food" challenge.


Reel Food Challenge Update

Here is my weekly update on the eat-real-food challenge:

Things are going great for us, I have learned alot, tried some new recipes, done some research about local groceries, and adapted the way that I grocery shop.

I made granola for the first time this week. My friend at Life Under a Blue Roof gave me some that she made a few weeks ago and it was great. So, I found a recipe on the internet, found the organic ingredients that I needed (thanks to a special trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in Pittsburgh), and went to work. The first batch burnt (I think because I left out about 2 cups worth of nuts making the volume much less that the recipe intended). The second batch was perfect! We all love it. I have been mixing it in yogurt each morning for breakfast.

I also made strawberry jam and apple butter (that might have been last week). I omitted about 1/2 of the sugar called for in each recipe and they are both still sweet and very good. I am also mixing that into plain yogurt with the granola. I learned how to can when I made the jam.

I dehydrated bananas for the first time this week. We dehydrate apples as a regular snack weekly but I had never tried bananas before. Jeff and Eli like them. I am not crazy about them, I prefer the apples.

My next task is to try to make my own yogurt. As soon as the current bowl of yogurt is almost gone, I will give that a try. I like the plain yogurt with a little bit of fruit jam and granola added. I have always thought that store bought fruit yogurt was too sweet. Jeff, however, does not like it. He thinks the yogurt is too bitter/not sweet enough.

I realized this morning when Eli and I were in the grocery store getting some fresh fruit and veggies that I have not been in many other isles of the grocery store for a while. I have eliminated the few processed/boxed foods that we used to eat. I have been making our own bread so I have eliminated that from the grocery list. I got organic rice, pasta, and baking supplies in bulk from Frankferd Farms (a local organic farm/store) a while back and we are still using that. The produce department and the milk/eggs/cheese section is about all we shop at.

I did have an unfortunate run-in with a local girl scout at the Butler Farm Market last weekend. There was a troop of girl scouts selling cookies by the entrance of the store. They had a sign up that said "Sorry, we are out of Thin Mints". So, when they asked me if I wanted to buy any cookies I said, "No Thanks! Thin Mints are my favorite". Well, while we were shopping this girl came and found me in the store to tell me that one of the moms showed up with a new case of Thin Mints, "How many boxes should I put aside for you?" This girl has a promising future in sales.... I did manage to get away with just 1 box of thin mints.

That's what's going on with the eat-real-food challenge this week. My goal for next week is to make yogurt, plant some of my starter seeds for the garden, and do a little more planning for our garden (I just found out about a "cold frame", we are looking into that for lettuce and some other greens).


Update on our Eat Real Food Challenge

Here is an update on the "Eat Real Food" challenge:

I have learned alot this week and I feel great about the steps that we are taking towards healthy, more responsible eating habits.

I have made 2 loaves of bread in our new bread maker (wheat and french). They both turned out great and have been a great replacement for store bought bread. It does get stale much faster so we have a container in the freezer for any remnants (not that there is left over bread very often). I will make stuffing or croutons out of the leftovers some day. My husband likes fresh bread so much that I can experiment with pretty much any meals with any "earthy" ingredients that I want to. As long as there is fresh bread on his plate or the smell of bread baking in the air, life is good!

Elijah LOVES the bread maker. This is how he spends his time when the bread machine is mixing the dough (if you can't tell, there is a window on top of the machine that he is looking through):
*DISCLAIMER: At no point during the bread making process was my 19 month old left unattended standing on the kitchen counter.

Right now, my very first batch of jam is cooking (in the bread machine). STRAWBERRY! I have talked about learning how to can ever since we have had a garden but I just haven't done it. I am off of work this week with Eli so I got some canning stuff this morning, I have done a little research, and I am hoping to can some jam this evening. My primary goal in learning how to can is so that we can eat from our garden all year round. Last year I didn't plan our planting very well so everything was ready to harvest at the same time and it was ready so early that we were still eating most of our meals in the dining hall at camp when our veggies were fresh. So, I am making a plan for the garden so that the harvest is later and more spread out. Then I will can whatever I can so we can eat our garden veggies next winter.

Still looking for local options for organic chicken. I have found several farmers who sell it fresh in July-October but have not found any local options for frozen organic chicken. I am going to call a meat shop later today that I know has organic beef and bison, they might have chicken. The organic meat part seems to be the most expensive and difficult to find right now. So, I will keep looking. In the mean time, I will make a trip to "Trader Joe's" in Pittsburgh next week with Eli to get some organic meat and a wider variety of fruit & veggies (although not local).

So, that is where we are so far. Oh, one more thing. I took it upon myself to finish the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies so that temptation has been removed from the house.... a sacrifice I was willing to make for my family! ;-)


The "Get-Real-Food-Challenge" - Who's In?

I finally have some follow-up to my "Food, Inc." blog from a few weeks ago. Check out the "Get Real Food Challenge" link on the right of this page. It will explain what the challenge is. One of my friends had a link to this challenge on her blog and it fits in perfectly with the things that I have been thinking about lately.

So, here are the steps that I have taken and the things that I have committed to doing so far. I still have lots of steps to take but it's a start:

1. I quit using/buying "fake" butter (I can't believe it's not butter). I don't use butter very often so I decided that I would rather have more calories instead of more artificial ingredients and chemicals. There are over 25 ingredients in fake butter spreads and most of them are long, hard-to-pronounce, artificial ingredients. So, I started buying real butter.

2. I got a bread machine and I made my first loaf of fresh bread last night. It turned out great and was very easy to do. For some reason I have always had a fear of baking with yeast.... it just seemed so difficult and easy to mess up. Well, this was super simple and the bread is great. I am using organic ingredients and eliminating bread that was baked in mass quantities weeks ago from my weekly grocery list.

3. I have completely eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet. This wasn't a really big deal for me right now, I gave up caffine and pop years ago but I still put 1 packet of "Sweet n' Low" in my decaf tea every morning and I still get diet peach iced tea from time to time. I now have packets of "Sugar in the Raw" that go in my tea (it has a little different flavor than refined sugar). I only use 1 packet a day so I am okay with the small amount of extra sugar in my diet. As my sister would say, "It's better than brain foam" (she heard somewhere a long time ago that artificial sweeteners don't have a way of leaving your body so they create foam on your brain. I don't think it is very accurate but they still are not good for you).

4. I am being more intentional about planning meals that do not have meat in them. We didn't eat meat every day before but it wasn't an intentional decission... more just a function of what we had in the fridge and what meal I could make from it. So, I am now planning our menu a little more intentionally with less meat. We are having spinich and mushroom quiche for dinner tonight... should be good!

So, that is what I have come up with so far. I will keep you posted on our progress! I hope you will consider the real food challenge too!


19 Months!

Elijah is 19 months old today! Another wonderful month for the Roberts' family! Eli is growing and learning so fast. Some of this month's excitement:

- Elijah is talking up a storm and signing "more", "all done", "please", "apple", "eat", "drink", "ball", and "milk" (he says the words too so the sign is totally un-necessary but it is very cool to see how much he has learned and how much he is making the effort to communicate).

- We put a toddler potty in each of the bathrooms. Eli is nowhere near ready for potty training but we want him to get used to it being there and start to understand what it is for. I don't think he gets it yet. The extent of which he has acknowledged the potty is that he picks up the "bowl" (you know, the part that he will actually pee and poop in) and he does one of three things.... 1) he puts it on his head and says "hat" or 2) he puts it up to his mouth and says "cup" or 3) he puts crackers in it and stirs it with a spoon. Any way... BAD NEWS!

- When we say "smile for the camera" he squints his eyes and makes a sour face. It is very funny but not so great for photo taking:

- Eli goes to toddler story time at the Butler Library every Tuesday. I went with him the first time (and I will be going with him several times in March) and he goes with Jon every week. He loves it! They do puppets, songs, stories, dances, and coloring. His favorite song is "shake your silly out" and he loves to dance in front of the whole group (even where there is no music playing).

Just a small sampling of our month. We hope you are all doing well! We are ready to start playing outside again!

Deb, Jeff, and Elijah