September 30, 2012

{SavourTheSeason} Day 1: Pumpkin Pie Spice (to keep and to share!)


Start with two clean,small, pretty jars.


To each jar add:
  • 8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • and 1 tsp ground cloves
Shake to combine.


Add simple handwritten labels and a peice of ribbon or twine.


Keep one and surprise a friend or neighbour with the other. Enjoy liberally in muffins, pie, pancakes (Seriously yummy...try it!) and coffee.


This is day one in a 31 day series about celebrating autumn.  Together, for 31 days, we will bask in the simplest joys of a beautiful season marked by contentment, thankfulness, and fellowship.  Happy Autumn.

Posts in this series so far:
Day 1: Pumpkin Pie Spice (to keep and to share) - you're here!
Day 2: Twelve Things To Do This Fall
Day 3: DIY Fresh Sumac Wreath 
Day 4: Making Simple Thanksgiving Cards with Kids 
Day 5: How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree 
Day 6: Some Cozy Recipes you Really Ought to Try
Day 7: Homemade Spiced Cranberry Sauce 
Day 8: The BEST Apple Crisp 
Day 9: My Accidental Mantlescape
Day 10: Candy and Caramel Apple Slices
Day 11: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal 
Day 12: Rest
Day 13: Chicken Pot Pie with Cheesy Biscuit Crust! 
Day 14: Quick and Easy Fall Centerpieces
Day 15: Crockpot Spiced Hot Apple Cider 
Day 16: Simple Pumpkin Luminaries
Day 17: Hot Chocolate from Scratch 
Day 18: Cinnamon Sugar Cornbread Muffins
Day 19: Curling up with a Blankie to Watch a Movie
Day 20: Apple Pie Jam
Day 21: Twenty One Ways to Get Outside with Your Kids This Fall!
Day 22: Easy Flowered Headbands 
Day 23: A Beginner's Guide to Bread Making
Day 24: Two Ingredient Homemade Cough Syrup
Day 25: Thanksgiving Traditions and Ideas 
Day 26: A Simple Fall Picnic
Day 27: Odds and Ends Scarf
Day 28: Delicious Autumn Fruit Salad
Days 29, 30 & 31:  Maple Pecan Pumpkin Pie

You can add a button for this series on your own blog if you'd like.  Just cut and paste the code from the box below.  Thanks!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or follow me on Twitter!

September 27, 2012

Five Great Cloth Diapers {and a giveaway!}


Cloth diapering is a great choice.  But choosing cloth diapers is overwhelming, isn't it?  There are so many options out there. When my husband and I recently decided to make the switch to cloth we contacted some of the cloth diaper companies we've heard great things about and asked for a chance to review their products on our twin baby girls.  Today I am sharing my thoughts on five popular cloth diaper brands.

1.Apple Cheeks Envelope Cover with Bamboo Insert

The Pros:
  • I love the trim fit.  These diapers don't make my babies waddle like cowboys at all!
  • The colours are super cute. 
  • The large prefold-style bamboo insert is a great combination of absorbency and quick drying
The Cons:
  • The waterproof layer isn't quite waterproof enough for my heavy night-time wetters.  I need to use a different diaper or add a diaper cover at night time.
Conclusion: These are  fabulous day-time diapers.  Plus, they are made in Canada, which is a big plus for this Canadian mama. 

2. Bummis Easy Fit Diaper


The Pros:
  • The easy fold-out liner means that the diapers dry very quickly but also that there is no matching to be done when the diaper comes off the laundry line.  I like that.
  • It comes in some really cute fairy-tale inspired prints.  I want one of each! 
  • The minky liner is so soft that my husband commented that I should start making him underwear out of this stuff.   I'm pretty sure he was kidding...
The Cons:  
  • I wish I hadn't made the rookie mistake of choosing the hook and loop.  Next time I would pick the snap-up version; they are more difficult for wanna-be-naked babies to undo and they  are easier for laundering. 
The Conclusion:  Just a great diaper.  I don't know what else to say...I like it a lot!

3. Thirsties Duo All-In-One


The Pros:
  • Super absorbent
  • Easy.  No stuffing required, the diaper comes off the line ready to use.
The Cons:
  • This diaper took the longest to dry of all the diapers we tried. 
Conclusion:  This is a handy diaper to leave with care givers or to have in the diaper bag; it goes on just like a disposable and isn't intimidating for people unfamiliar with cloth diapers.

4. Fuzzi Bunz One-Size Elite


 The Pros:
  • Was definitely the fastest drying of all of the diapers we tried.
  • Adjustable elastic in the gussets and at the back to make for a snugger fit.
  • It comes with 2 minky inserts
  • My apparently nudist babies haven't figured out how to get out of this one yet.  It fits too snug for them to squirm out of and they can't undo the snaps.
The Cons:
  • Not always absorbent enough for night-time use, even with the extra insert.
Conclusion:  I like this diaper a lot.  The fact that my crafty clever babies can't figure out how to take it off is a big deciding factor for me.


5. Charlie Banana One Size Diaper


The Pros: 
  • It comes with two very absorbent inserts.
  • This is the only diaper we've tried  that can consistently hold up to a full night-times worth of pee (with the second insert in it ).  
  • Considering how absorbent it is, it dries relatively quickly.
  • I just kinda love the name of the company.  Does that make me shallow?
The Cons:
  • Even with just the one insert, it is a very bulky diaper. Which can be difficult when trying to dress baby in super cute snug fitting jeans.
The Conclusion:   I love this diaper for night time!!!  I strategically diaper all day so that I can always use this one at night.

{THE GIVEAWAY}
***This giveaway is now closed.  Winners have been contacted via email.***

A couple of the companies we contacted wanted to give one of my readers the opportunity to try out their diapers as well!  So today we've got two diapers up for grabs:

A Thirsties Duo All-In-One.



And a Charlie Banana One Size Diaper.



For a chance to win one of these great diapers, just comment below.  Make sure you leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win!

And please take a moment to "like" thirsties and Charlie Banana on facebook.

I will contact two randomly drawn winners on Monday! Good luck everybody.

***This giveaway is now closed.***

September 21, 2012

{Recipe} Homemade Wheat-Flour Tortillas


I'm not a kitchen Martyr.  I don't spend an eternity labouring in a hot kitchen to make something just to be able to say I made it myself. Not more than once, anyways.

But I promise that homemade tortillas are worth it. 
A) Because they have a way better texture than those gummy stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth store-bought tortillas.   .
B) Because they are way way cheaper.  Where I live a pack of ten wheat-flour tortillas goes for about 3 dollars.  In my books, that is way too much to spend on something that is mostly flour and water. 
C) Homemade tortillas have four ingredients, and none of them are weird preservative things you can't pronounce. 
and D) By my calculations they don't really take much time at all because I have to stand at the stove to cook whatever filling I'm making for the tortillas, I may as well be cooking tortillas while I'm there!
This recipe makes six small-ish tortillas. I normally double it for our family.

Into a food processor, measure 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp of butter.


Pulse until the butter is worked into the flour and the mixture resembles fine crumbs.


With the food processor running, add 1/2 cup of warm water.  Process until it look like this:


The dough should easily hold together into six little balls, like this:


Turn a pan, cast iron if you have it, on to medium to get good and hot.  Roll out your tortillas so that they are about 7 inches wide. I don't worry too much about making them perfectly round.


Cook each tortilla for one to two minutes per side.  They will begin to bubble a little like this:


And when you flip the tortilla it should have some beautiful golden brown spots.


Keep them warm under a clean dish towel or serviette until you are ready to serve.  They are best and most pliable if eaten fresh.


Serve with Lentil and Brown Rice Tacos or homemade fajitas or any yummy topping that suits your fancy.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

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September 20, 2012

Our Favourite Homeschool Resources


I occasionally get emails from moms venturing into home education who want to know how we choose our curriculum and what resources we love most, so I want to take a few moments to share the tools that work for us.  I don't claim to be a know-it-all expert on homeschooling (I'm pretty new to it too!), but I do know that sometimes it can be helpful to see how another family goes about things.

Here are some of the tools that are working for us right now...

Math:  I am a huge fan of The Critical Thinking Co.  Their math text books are colourful and engaging and they progress through the math skills at a pace that doesn't bore my children or leave them in the dust.  The books are pricey, so as I've shared before, I cut the spine off and put each day's work in a page protector to be completed with a dry erase marker.  This allows me to reuse the books for multiple children.

We also use the Building Thinking Skills books from The Critical Thinking Co.


Language Arts: My oldest daughter is in grade one and is doing A Reason for Handwriting and Spelling Workout.  She loves to read the Bob books to her younger siblings (and it has helped her to build a lot of confidence and realize that she really can read by herself) and we use the bingo cards and word searches from this book to practice sight words.


My 4 year old is in Senior Kindergarten this year and we are working together through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy Lessons.  I think the one-on-one time we spend snuggled on the couch with this book is at least as beneficial as the reading lessons themselves.

Science: My kids are fascinated with the sky and space so we are using Apologia's Exploring Creation With Astronomy as our science text.  Honestly, they would probably be a little  young for this course if they weren't  already so interested in the topic.  On the first page of the book they explain the benefits of presenting science topics in an immersion strategy (a whole topic of study all in one year) instead of the spiral method many of us experienced in school (touching on many topics of study year after year, going a little bit deeper each time)  and I was immediately sold on this curriculum.  I can't wait to explore all of the Apologia Exploring Creation books with the kids!

History: We are reading through the Mystery of History, Volume One. I love this book.  It presents biblical history and world history intertwined with one another, and it is very well written.  My husband and I are as excited to read from it as the kids are. (maybe more!)  We don't do all of the projects and activities the book suggests.

Latin: We've just started using Song School Latin.  When I ordered our curriculum for this year, Song School Latin was sold out so we only received it this week. So far it seems like a great way to introduce some Latin so that the kids (and the whole family, really) is ready for a more in depth study of the language later on.

Geography:We decided against a formal geography course this year.  In part because I was afraid of burdening my young children with too many academics and not enough getting dirty in the backyard, but also because I think that curiosity based learning is the best learning and we can foster plenty of curiosity and  some great question-asking just by encouraging the kids to explore atlases, maps, and our world map place mats.  We read books about interesting places and we curl up together on the couch and pour over the pages of our beginner's Atlas.


Other resources:  One of my favourite things about doing school at home is how we get to blur the lines between education and life.  We start our day with a riddle because my oldest daughter loves riddles. We refer to youtube videos and read interesting facts from the farmer's Almanac.  We pray for missionaries and then find them on a map. We take the long way home when running errands so we can drive past the Long Haired Highland Cattle because we read about them in Wee Gillis and find them beautiful.  We read lots of good books and watch documentaries together and sit on the back porch to observe the sky. 

Our Homeschool Goals: I think it would be overwhelming to consider the vast array of homeschool resources out there without knowing what it is we are trying to achieve.  By giving words to the dreams we have for our children's education we gain focus and insight into where to put our time and energy.

For us, our goal is to raise children who are very literate and have great critical thinking skills, who are passionate, curious and creative.  If they are those things, then we believe they will have no problem learning anything they need to know and excelling at anything they feel called to do.  And that's what we want for our children: freedom to go wherever God calls them.

So that's our homeschool in a nutshell.  Thanks for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

September 14, 2012

Announcing: 31 Days to...

Last October I was one of over 700 bloggers who took Nester's challenge to blog every single day for a month about a topic we are passionate about.  My 31 Days to an Organized Home was great fun, and exhausting, and a little bit chaotic. I think I've nearly recovered!

So this year, because I'm crazy, I will be writing for 31 days about another topic I just can't get enough of...


Autumn.

I love autumn.  I love the way the air smells, the comfort foods, the scarf-wearing weather.  I love rustic colours and hay bales and carved pumpkins. And I can hardly wait to share this passion with you for 31 straight (eek!) days!

There will be recipes, crafty ideas, and all sorts of fall inspired fun. Get ready to see a lot of autumnal words like "cozy", "inviting", and "pumpkin pie spice" around here! 

Right now our whole house is busy getting ready for October.  We're getting a head start on some projects and doing some very serious recipe tweaking and testing (the hubby loves that part!).  I'm even putting some casseroles in the freezer for busy bloggy days.

Together, let's savour the season this fall! 

Do you love fall as much as I do?  What is your favourite thing about the season? 

September 13, 2012

{Recipe} Lentil and Brown Rice Tacos


It's Eat Your Pantry Month here at our house and I thought I'd take a moment to share one of our absolute favourite pantry meals.   Lentil tacos are easy, super thrifty, and yummy too. It can even be stirred into regular cooked taco meat to feed tacos to a crowd on the cheap!


I normally use red lentils, but I know I've used other lentils in the past and they turned out just fine, so go ahead and use whatever you've got in your pantry!

In a small amount of oil, cook until fragrant:
  • 1 diced onion
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
Sprinkle with:
  • 2 Tbsp flour
 Stir and immediately add:
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp of onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring often, until the desired consistency is achieved.  (About 50 minutes.)

When you dump everything in the pan you are going to wonder if the 5 cups of water was a typo.  It will look something like soup.



But I promise, it will thicken up.





If you serve them on homemade tortillas with a few fresh toppings, I'm pretty sure you can feed your whole family for less than the price of a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Oh, and leftovers make for a pretty fabulous dip for tortilla chips!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  Please take a moment to "like" me on facebook or follow me on Twitter!

September 4, 2012

Our Homeschool Spaces


I've been dreaming of my someday schoolroom since before my kids were school aged.  It was going to have walls lined with beautiful books and a great big harvest table with benches on both sides.  I knew that there would need to be a big comfy chair for story time and a colourful rug to play on.

What I wanted for our schoolroom was a house!  Well, we don't have a school room, but we do have a house!

Most of our book work happens at our kitchen table.  Yesterday I hung my old mirror-turned-chalkboard on the pantry door as a place to write down the date, or our memory verse, or maybe to keep a countdown to Christmas once December arrives. I think I like it there more than I ever did on the mantle!



Last year we housed all of the school supplies on shelves in the kitchen, but now that space is used for the twins high chairs. I wasn't keen on adding another bookshelf to our living room, so I cleaned out most of my craft closet and made space for the homeschool supplies in there.





The kids gather around a chair in the living room with their storytime pillows and I read to them from their history book or a favourite story.   This year we are beginning to use The Mystery of History series, which I am really excited about.  It weaves biblical history and world history together seamlessly, telling the story of our world and our redemption at the same time. 


Last year I read of how Ann Voskamp's family lights a candle as they do school and I was touched by the ceremony of the matter.  I think our casual modern lives can so easily lack a certain sense of ceremony and tradition in the small everyday things.So this year we light a candle.  Not on the table, because there are a lot of little hands reaching and passing and playing, but on the stove instead.


I've posted a portion of Proverbs 16 on my window above the sink where I will see it a billion times a day. So often I need to be reminded it that it is not frustrated scoldings that will guide and teach my children's hearts, but gentle and loving instruction.  Sweetness of the lips increases learning.


Although curriculum and books are tools we enjoy as a family, I am leaning more and more towards exploring our whole world as a school room.  I want to raise kids who ask questions and create things with their hands and stand in wonder at the world God has made.  And I'm realizing that I don't need a schoolroom for any of those things.



 



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